Newly-re-elected Erie County Legislature Chair April Baskin said there is a lot for legislators to do this year and she hopes they can work together after a rough election campaign.
County Executive Mark Poloncarz stayed on the 16th floor of the Rath Building, Democrats retained control of the Legislature and Baskin will stay on the podium, now as a fairly senior legislator with so many personnel changes. Her predecessor, now Buffalo City Judge Peter Savage, showed up Thursday to swear in the Legislature.
Baskin said one of her key projects has been police body cameras. She said a late-night incident on Sunday shows the value of cameras, with both Buffalo Police officers wearing them in an officer-involved shooting.
"It's incidents like this and it's incidents that we have seen within the last two years as to why transparency and accountability and having the technological advancements available to be able to enhance that is a priority for me," she said, "and I'm glad that we have body cameras here. I'm glad that we're going to have some cameras over in the jail and I think we will just have more transparency."
Baskin said new state laws will allow basic changes in the way the criminal justice system operates, potentially allowing cost cuts in the Holding Center budget, which has been seeing fewer residents.
"We're going to let those experts do what they need to do to set the structure behind that, but what we are going to do at the county is keep an eye on that budget," Baskin said. "Whenever we see an excess in funds or a decrease in head count and more financial resources to make Erie County a safer place, that's where our focus is going to be and we're going to be making sure we're doing that to the best of our ability."
With fewer Holding Center residents, Baskin wants money shifted to programs to work with those people who were arrested and who would formerly be held. They are now on the street awaiting court action and possibly needing job training, social services and education.
The chair also said she wants more economic development in her own East Side district, a fairly common attitude across the legislative body.
"Economic development is something that's an important topic in my district," she said. "I want to make sure that all families that are currently living in poverty, facing poverty, frequenting the Rath Center for services, have every single opportunity and access to get out of that situation and then to have access to jobs."