Picente Forcefully Rebukes Albany; Local Efforts Will Address Crime, Mental Health and Housing
Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente took aim at Albany a scathing State of the County Address on Wednesday, calling out actions by state lawmakers as among the largest issues facing county residents.
"Bad ideas. Worse execution. With zero input from local governments and agencies that actually do the work every day," Picente said during his hour long speech at the newly-rebranded Munson. Referring to issues like bail reform, mental health, housing for the homeless, the Republican County Exec also chastised the state's top down approach to solar energy development, ''that looks to turn prime farmland into solar panels,'' with no input from local government.
"...this law needs to be changed immediately. It makes our streets less safe," Picente said of NY's bail reform laws, outlining a local plan to add security cameras at all county owned or affiliated facilities, and along high-crime, high-density main streets. "When a crime is committed in these locations, we will see you, catch you, and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law," he vowed.
Languishing Youth/Mental Health
"Too many young adults are not connecting to opportunities that are all around them," Picente said, before moving into the results of a youth survey conducted by the county. It found an whopping 37% of high school students said they stopped doing usual activities during the pandemic, 25% felt they had no one to talk to, and 13% had considered attempting suicide, he said.
To address it, Oneida County will move to place more mental health professionals in schools to assist the limited number of social workers and counselors provided today. He drew comparisons to the Special Patrol Officers added to schools across the county several years ago as a way to address the need for increased safety for students and faculty.
Saying it is not just a Utica problem, Picente called upon local organizations like Red Cross, Salvation Army, Community Foundation, Cornerstone Church, United Way, ICAN, Rescue Mission and other to collaborate to find solutions to house the homeless.
"Our Department of Family and Community Services...tonight, when the sun goes down, we will have assisted in placing between 75 and 175 people in temporary housing. Tomorrow we will be doing the same and every day after,'' Picente said, pointing to the Veterans Outreach Project and the Tiny House Project and local examples of what he hopes the community partners can create.
"I am in no way against renewable energy," Picente said, pointing to the county's own electric vehicle charging station plan, solar projects and local action to make county operated facilities more efficient.
"What I am against is the idea that Albany knows better than Camden or Deerfield or Marshall when it comes to how we want to develop our community. They [the state legislature] do it with no regard to our land, our region or our future. It must stop," he said.
During the course of his roughly 60-minute address, Picente also highlighted past achievements and new local initiatives to boost the agriculture industry and said Griffiss International Airport is primed for more expansion, investment and jobs.
"We are no longer the community that asks 'What If?', instead, we ask 'What's next?'," he said.
The entire 2023 State of Oneida County Address was streamed on the county's facebook page and is viewable here.
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