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2022 State of the County Address

Good afternoon and thank you to Jon Dandes for your gracious introduction. Jon is the ultimate civic leader, and I frequently seek his counsel when making important decisions. Our community is indebted to him for his leadership and contributions, including volunteering as our COVID-19 Vaccine Czar. Jon is also the Past Chair of the ECMCC Board of Directors, where we worked together to save County taxdollars while also renovating the hospital’s emergency department. Thank you, Jon, for your introduction and your leadership.

Thanks also to the members of the Erie County Legislature, recently elected Comptroller Kevin Hardwick and Sheriff John Garcia, Clerk Michael Kearns, and District Attorney John Flynn for being here today.

Thanks to John Murphy for being our host here today at the Buffalo Bills Fieldhouse. Although this facility belongs to Erie County, it is rare for us to open it up for community events, and as Coach Levy used to say, “where else would you rather be than right here, right now.”

Finally, thank you to everyone in attendance today and welcome everyone at home watching us on television or streaming online.

The last time I gave the State of the County address in person was more than three years. We were finalizing my 2020 address when COVID-19 hit and canceled the event altogether. Although I was able to deliver a pre-recorded virtual address last year, it was not the same as being together. I am so happy to be here with you today.

During the past two years we collectively went through a traumatic experience. After many dark days, the light has returned.

We have gone from the fear of dealing with a deadly virus to having strong supplies of safe, effective vaccines, and experiencing a return to normalcy. Through it all, Erie County has been there, leading the way. Let us hear from Deputy County Executive Maria Whyte to learn about what Erie County did:

Even before the first cases were recorded in WNY, Erie County worked to stop the spread of the virus in the community, and then did all we could to protect our community from this invisible threat.

- Erie County hosted more than 700 COVID-19 testing sites, administering more than 35,000 rapid tests and collected more than 12,500 PCR samples.

- They operated over 660 vaccine clinics, administering more than 235,000 doses. They even got creative with their vaccination clinics, administering doses at local breweries and restaurants, nail salons, and cultural organizations. They even held prom-themed clinics for teens;

- Erie County served as the central hub for COVID information. Their call center fielded over 270,000 phone calls, each representing a person with a question, concern, or need that we helped to address;

- Erie County distributed hundreds of thousands at-home COVID tests to our community and seven million masks and counting to countless organizations.

Thank you to Erie County’s staff for doing all you did to save lives and protect our community.

Thank you Deputy Executive Whyte and I want to publicly express my gratitude to every Erie County employee who has been on the front lines of this battle. Dr. Burstein and I were the faces you saw on TV, but there were thousands of county employees and other community heroes working to protect the public.

If you worked on the front lines to help stop COVID, whether it was at a clinic, hospital, correctional facility or as a clerk at a supermarket, or behind the scenes to protect others, like so many in Erie County government, please stand up so we can give you a well-deserved round of applause. Thank you!

Of course, we know that the pandemic was not only a public health crisis – it affected nearly every part of society. So, we created three task forces to handle the most urgent needs that arose during the pandemic: child care, housing, and business assistance.

Our emergency childcare task force focused on making sure parents who were essential workers had access to child care so that they could go to work. This task force was the driving force behind the virtual learning support centers, which provided working parents with a safe, staffed venue for when schools conducted their classes virtually. This initiative was so innovative, it was recognized by the National Association of Counties with a 2021 National Achievement Award in the Children and Youth category.

We assembled an affordable housing task force to help families stay in their homes due to economic hardship caused by the pandemic. The task force established an emergency rental and mortgage assistance fund, covering up to five months of payments for qualifying families. This initiative allowed 2,190 families to stay in their homes while providing relief to the applicant’s landlords, many of whom rely on rental income to repay their mortgage.

Our business task force was set up to help facilitate the needs of the local business community. Initially, the task force focused on explaining ever-changing state lockdown regulations and helping businesses obtain personal protective equipment.

In conjunction with 43 North, the group developed a Back-to-Business grant program to make up for the gaps in the federal Paycheck Protection Program. In total, 1,399 small businesses were provided $19.2 million in direct financial assistance.

Additionally, the business task force established the Shop716 e-gift card program that poured $1.2 million back into our economy and supported our small businesses when they needed it most.

The response to the health crisis, and the work of our three emergency task forces, show what our County government can do when needed. We tackle challenges. We innovate solutions. We provide leadership.

Although our COVID response has much to be proud of, we must not forget that this virus has cost our community 2,738 lives. Each of those lives represents an empty chair at the dinner table where a loved one once sat – a parent, child, grandparent, brother or sister. We must never reduce the pandemic’s toll to solely a number – but remember that each person lost was a cherished member of a family and our community.

We want to get back to normal – but we must acknowledge that what we knew before is not really coming back. Not with so many of our friends, families, and neighbors gone. Not with one million of our fellow Americans lost. Not with our children experiencing two years of grief, anxiety, and depression. Not with the political divisions in our community deepened ever further. What the future is will depend on the decisions we make here and now.

Although we are entering the endemic stage of the crisis, we are still faced with many challenges. We can choose to ignore these challenges and allow trauma, economic hardship, and political division to spread in our community as devastatingly as any virus.

Or we can take collective action to address these new challenges - and build a community defined by resilience, prosperity, and solidarity.

It will take just as much time and attention to address the post-pandemic challenges as it did the initial crisis. Nevertheless, I am confident we can overcome these challenges and build a better future for all.

First, we must do right by our kids. Although they generally were not at risk for the most severe health consequences, we asked the youngest members of our community to sacrifice much so that their teachers and relatives could be safe.

Children went without school, and when they initially returned, they learned from home remotely. Although Erie County tried to fill the gap by developing virtual learning support centers, it was not a substitute for having children in a classroom with their teacher.

Eventually, children were able to return to school, but only in a highly controlled environment. But it wasn't just in-person education they sacrificed - they also gave up t-ball games, piano recitals, middle school dances, and graduation ceremonies – and it was only a just few short weeks ago they were allowed to take off their masks for the first time since the pandemic began.

There was good reason to shut down schools early on. On multiple days in April 2020, more than 1,000 New York residents died from COVID, and more than 60,000 have perished since the pandemic died.

While it is true that children are less susceptible than adults to the worst outcomes of the COVID-19 virus, it is also true that schools are a particularly ripe environment for the transmission of diseases. If left unmitigated, our schools would have been a massive source of virus transmission. We asked much from them. Now we must repay this debt.

Today, I am announcing my Back-on-Track Agenda to help our children recover from the pandemic. This Agenda will begin to address the gaps caused by the loss of in-person schooling and reduce the likelihood of future schooling disruptions.

The first thing we will do to get students back-on-track is continue tasking our dedicated school COVID resource team in the Health Department with assisting all county school districts and charter and private schools address health issues of our school-aged children. We created the school resource team during the height of the pandemic to assist educators with state mandates and health concerns, and now we will continue this team to assist all local districts with health concerns.

The second part of the Back-on-Track agenda will make it easier for parents to address youth mental health issues: we will develop an app that allows parents to identify the mental health services available in our community.

Erie County is blessed to have many mental health resources for children. However, parents often don’t know where to turn to find the help their children need. We will develop an app that allows parents to input their child’s issues and needs and provide them information on the agencies who provide the services required. This will help parents get their children back-on-track.

The third part of our Back-on-Track Agenda is changing a long-standing policy of our library system. Starting May 1, the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library will no longer fine children – or anyone - for returning a book late. Numerous studies have shown that late fees are ineffective at getting books returned on time, but they successfully stop low-income families from patronizing their Library. The small amount libraries collect in late fees is not worth the cost to families. Thank you to the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library system for working with me on this initiative, and welcome new Director John Spears.

The final part of our Agenda will have our children breathing easier - literally. The CDC recommends schools use a HEPA filtration system to improve air quality. Students attending schools with this type of system have been found to have fewer illnesses and increased attendance. Unfortunately, many schools cannot install this type of filter into their existing HVAC system or are forced to use less effective filters instead.

To make sure every student in Erie County has this level of protection, we are purchasing a mobile air filtration system for every classroom in Erie County. That is one mobile filter system for every public school, charter school, and private school classroom.

The best part of the mobile air filter systems? They are made in Buffalo at Austin Air, just minutes away from downtown. Here is Lauren McMillan from Austin Air to tell us more:

We are proud to partner with Erie County to provide every classroom with an Austin Air HealthMate. We are the only clinically proven manufacturer of medical-grade HEPA air purifiers. Our purifiers remove up to 99% of all airborne contaminants as small as 0.1 microns, including viruses, bacteria, dust, dander, and allergens. We assemble these units in our 480,000 square foot factory on Elk Street, where we employ 150 residents – many of whom are parents. This partnership will protect the children of our employees, which makes this initiative very special to everyone here. We will begin delivering these units to schools in the next few weeks and will be available to help protect our children if we get another spike of COVID. Thank you, Erie County, for partnering with a local company on this initiative and allowing us to make a difference in the lives of Erie County children.

Thank you Lauren and to all at Austin Air for working with us to protect our children as well as joining us here today. It is critical we help our children recover from the pandemic, and my Back-on-Track Agenda will help us get there.

It is not just children who need help – we also need to support parents. The lack of affordable, high-quality childcare has caused millions of women nation-wide to drop out of the workforce and prevented employers from hiring many working parents. The Buffalo Niagara Partnership has even identified affordable childcare as one of their top policy agenda items in 2022.

To help us examine why the market failed to provide the needed amount of childcare in our region, Erie County commissioned a study from Cornell University. The study confirmed that childcare does not provide adequate levels of pay for those who work in that field. Additionally, it found gross disparities exist between the needs for equitably accessible childcare and current funding models.

Erie County’s childcare subsidy, offered to low-income families, provides childcare providers with a rate calculated by New York State. This rate is disturbingly low considering the cost of care and results in poverty wages for childcare employees. Individuals who want to care for children simply cannot afford to and move to other jobs that pay more.

Think about it. The individuals tasked with caring for our region’s children during their most formative years are paid some of the lowest wages of any worker.

That is why my administration asked New York State to significantly increase the childcare allocation to Erie County by $20 million. Although more funding is needed to increase the number of families who can access this program, we must first increase the subsidy we provide childcare providers. Increasing our subsidy would increase the pay for childcare workers to a livable wage and help providers retain their employers. Ultimately, these funds will ensure parents, especially working women, have access to affordable childcare and enable them to enter or return to the workforce.

We also need to make sure that Erie County residents are trained for the jobs that are available. Using $1.6 million of federal American Rescue Plan assistance, Erie County created the Erie County Healthcare Careers (“ECHC”) program to train low-income individuals for some of the most in-demand, good paying healthcare jobs, such as RNs, LPNS and surgical techs.

Administered by the Workforce Investment Board, slots in this program are in such demand that we invested another $1.3 million of county dollars so more people could be trained. These jobs are available now, will get even more plentiful in the future, and with Healthcare Careers Program they will be filled by county residents.

Now we can’t talk about workforce development without talking about SUNY Erie. The College must transform from an institution designed for the 1970s to one designed for today. The College has experienced a significant decrease in enrollment while trying to maintain staffing and infrastructure designed for a bygone era. The financial stress caused by the pandemic has pushed this issue to the forefront, and the College must take substantial action now, or it will face bankruptcy.

I have been working closely with new SUNY Erie President David Balkin and others about the operational changes needed to make the College successful. SUNY Erie is an essential resource to our community.

That’s why we are investing $2.5 million of last year’s county surplus in an early retirement incentive for faculty and administrators, which will result in annual savings of up-to $6 million, putting the college on much better financial footing. Thank you to President Balkin and the unions representing the faculty and administrators for working together to craft an early retirement plan that will help stabilize the college’s future. These efforts will allow SUNY Erie to continue to prepare our community’s workforce.

Educating a person for a future career only works if the person has a stable, affordable home to return to every night. As such, we need to get serious about affordable housing.

Annually, Erie County receives millions of dollars in federal funds to assist with the construction of new affordable housing units. To ensure we are getting the best bang for our buck, in June we will convene stakeholders at a countywide Live Well Erie Affordable Housing Summit to identify and innovate strategies needed to increase and preserve affordable housing in Erie County.

We must work together to better address the affordable housing needs of our community and ensure everyone has a place from which to build their dreams of a better future. Stay tuned for more details about this summit.

Child care, job training, and affordable housing are just some of the things we are doing to help out working families.

When Erie County adopted its 2021 budget at the height of the pandemic, we were ready for the worst possible outcome. My administration's decade of financial prudence had prepared us for a worst case scenario and we would have been able to withstand the painful economic downturn.

However, Congress adopted the American Rescue Plan, which hastened the economic recovery and provided $350 billion in direct relief to state and local governments: $189 million of which was directed to Erie County. I thank President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and our own Congressman Brian Higgins for being such strong advocates for the Rescue Plan’s passage.

Utilizing $90 million in direct Rescue Plan assistance and $34 million in unanticipated state revenue, last year I released the Reinvest in Erie’s Neighborhoods and Employ our Workforce, or “RENEW” Plan. This funding presented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make major one-time investments in our County.

Thank you to Legislature Chair April Baskin, Majority Leader Tim Meyers and other legislators for working with my team to craft the RENEW Plan and then adopt it. Thank You!

A major component of the RENEW Plan is investing in our Blue Economy and few things are more critical to that than keeping Lake Erie clean. Our County Sewer Districts do that by operating and maintaining six wastewater treatment plants, nearly 100 pumping stations, and enough sewer pipe to practically stretch to Disney World. Maintaining this infrastructure is not sexy, but it’s necessary.

Erie County allocated $32 million of RENEW plan dollars for infrastructure improvements throughout all seven Sewer Districts. This year, we will kick off several construction projects, bringing critical construction dollars into our economy.

In addition, several large capital improvement projects are in the design phase, including an $80 million expansion of the Southtowns Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility. When completed, this project will be the largest single investment in the County's sewer infrastructure in more than 40 years.

Ensuring our drinking water is clean is a key function of how we protect the public’s health. Another important public health initiative we have undertaken with RENEW Plan funding is establishing the Office of Health Equity.

This new Office, headed by Director Kelly Wofford, helps ensure all minority and disadvantaged residents, including in rural areas, have equal access to preventive health care. It will also seek ways to promote health and prevent diseases prevalent among disadvantaged populations.

Under the leadership of Chairperson April Baskin, the County Legislature passed a local law that added the Office of Health Equity to the County Charter - ensuring this work will endure for decades to come. Thank you to Chair Baskin and the other members of the Legislature who supported this Local Law.

Another key area of RENEW Plan investment is in our incredible parks. Erie County has more than 10,000 acres of parks, forests and so much more for you to enjoy. Since 2012, my administration has invested more than $55 million in our Parks System, but there is always more to do.

In 2018, our Erie County Parks Department completed its Master Plan, and it has since served as our blueprint for improving and preserving these community assets. Thanks to the RENEW Plan investments, we have supercharged the Plan’s implementation by investing $14 million in capital projects systemwide, some of which have already been completed, like the renovation of the Como Lake Park Lighthouse.

The most prominent RENEW Plan investment we are making in our County Parks is the restoration of the historic Wendt Beach Mansion in Evans. Unfortunately, due to neglect and disinvestment by previous administrations, it fell into disrepair. I have spoken frequently of protecting our legacy by being good stewards of the treasures bequeathed to us by prior generations. Unless we make the requisite investment needed to preserve it, the Wendt Mansion would likely be demolished. Parks Commissioner Troy Schinzel will tell us more about our plans for this facility.

As part of the $14.3 Million overall investment in County parks, the RENEW Plan allocates $6.7 Million towards Wendt Beach Park, including renovating the Mansion and the stables, as well as improving roadways and parking lots. These investments will restore Wendt Beach Park to its former glory. I am most excited by the investments we are making in the Mansion. Although the building needs a lot of work, it is easy to see its potential. I have never seen a facility quite like this, and your breath will be taken away when it is fully restored. After this work is complete, we plan to rent the Mansion an operator who will run it as a venue or event space. I hope every Erie County resident will have the opportunity to walk through this unique asset when it is complete.

Thanks Commissioner Schinzel and the parks department staff for all you do to create a better Erie County.

Our fantastic County parks are not the only community asset where major changes will be seen. Before the start of the pandemic, we were planning to build a new, state-of-the-art downtown convention center.

However, no one should be surprised to hear that the economic context of a new convention center changed after the pandemic struck. A national State of the Hotel Industry Report forecasts that this year, just 58 percent of business meetings and events will be held.

We would not be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars if we went forward with a new Convention Center with so much uncertainty in the convention industry. So, rather than invest $400 million in a brand-new convention center, using RENEW Plan funding we will instead invest a fraction of that amount on a new façade that will modernize the facility. This will help the Center remain competitive in the present convention industry while we wait to determine if a significantly larger investment is needed.

At my 2019 State of the County address – I proposed building out a countywide open-access broadband fiber service network - "Erie Net." I said then, this network will bridge the digital divide in our community, so every resident has access to affordable, high-speed internet at their home, and as we learned during the past 2 years, boy do we need it.

This past year the Legislature approved the management plan for Erie Net and our request for $34 Million of American Rescue Plan assistance to install more than 400 miles of fiber-optic lines countywide. We are now completing the network design and will start construction later this year.

Thank you to the Legislators who have supported this project – we are well on our way to affordable high-speed internet for all.

The pandemic hit small businesses hard, and they continue to experience significant challenges. Through no fault of their own, many business owners now struggle to keep their businesses afloat.

I want our business community to know that Erie County still has your back.

Beginning in May, using RENEW Plan funding, the Department of Environment and Planning will start accepting applications from small business owners for its enhanced storefront revitalization program. We will grant up to $40,000 to small businesses to renovate their storefronts to increase foot traffic into their stores. $10 million has been allocated for this program and our goal is to upgrade hundreds of storefronts countywide. Soon we will announce how business owners can apply for this program.

Because Erie County was in a strong financial position before the pandemic, we can afford to be generous now and invest in much needed programs, but that doesn’t mean our tax rate will be going up.

In fact, because of our strong fiscal governance, our 2022 budget reduced the property tax rate to the lowest level since the establishment of modern county government in 1960.

At a time when prices are going up, isn’t good to know your tax rate has gone down. Thank you to the County Legislature for working with me on this important accomplishment.

Despite the reduction in the tax rate, our 2022 County budget makes new investments into our community:

We increased funding for law enforcement in Erie County by adding new positions in the District Attorney’s Office, our forensic crime lab, and E-911 call center.

We enhanced programs for seniors, with expanded nutrition services, wellness programs, and new recreation activities.

We increased support to arts and cultural organizations and the libraries.

We invested $10 million into a new anti-poverty project in collaboration with the Federal Reserve Bank to help lift individuals and families out of poverty.

These investments will make our community safer, healthier, and more prosperous.

We have also been able to reduce our outstanding general debt. Erie County has $140 million less in debt than in 2012, my first year as County Executive - a 36 percent reduction. This has freed up our borrowing capacity to increase investments in County infrastructure and take on new, large capital projects that we might not otherwise be able to support.

For example, this year we will invest $45 million in our roads and bridges. The Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council recently released its regionwide 2021 highway quality ratings, and Erie County roads were given their highest rating in decades. After the $45 million we are investing this year I expect our rating to increase again in future reviews. Thank you to the staff of the Department of Public Works for all you do to create a better Erie County.

In addition to investments to improve Erie County’s roads, we are strengthening our local economy. The capital budget also includes $2 million to continue work on two critical economic development projects: the Agribusiness Park in Evans and Renaissance Commerce Park in Lackawanna.

Working closely with the ECIDA, we are developing the 240-acre Agribusiness Park in Evans. We’ve completed the Master Plan for the site's development and are now designing the road and infrastructure for the site. Erie County also partnered with the Town of Evans to construct a new 1.5-million-gallon Water Tower on the parcel to provide water to the Agribusiness Park and improve water pressure to many Evans residents.

We have also made significant progress at Renaissance Commerce Park since we began the effort to return this site to productive use in 2012.

In 2021, TMP opened their new 290,000 square foot manufacturing facility on the site, where they produce the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser for Procter & Gamble. Who doesn’t love the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser!

Also in 2021, a new 150,000 square foot industrial and manufacturing facility is being constructed by Uniland Development Company, with completion expected by summer 2022.

Additionally, Uniland just announced plans to develop a second 170,000 square foot manufacturing and warehouse building on the site and we are designing the expanded road, water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure that will allow for future development on the site.

With our partners at the ECIDA, and help from New York State, we’ve transformed 150 acres of the former Bethlehem Steel site from an industrial wasteland to a 21st century business park. Some said it couldn’t be done, but we did it, and the best is yet to come.

Today, I have discussed how Erie County has responded to the pandemic and how we are responding to its aftermath. However, these efforts will be for naught if we continue to let our polarized society tear us apart.

We have all felt the impact of this extreme polarization - affecting our families, friendships, neighborhoods, and even faith-based institutions. Ultimately, this polarization has eroded the fabric of our community.

Although Erie County cannot stop the forces driving polarization, we can invest in the things that bring us together. More than ever, we need venues and institutions that bridge our differences and create a stronger sense of community.

We need ties that bind us together, so we are not so easily torn apart.

One of those ties is our incredible arts and cultural community. Arts and culture bring people together physically and help enrich our lives.

Today, I am announcing a new $25 million fund to support the capital efforts of all arts and cultural institutions, including small- and medium-sized ones. Melissa Brown, Executive Director of the Buffalo History Museum, will tell us more about the impact this fund will have on our local arts and cultural community.

Erie County has been a tremendous partner to arts and cultural organizations, providing millions to organizations big and small for operating support. The County has also occasionally provided larger organizations with capital funding to support major expansions and renovation projects. The Buffalo History Museum, like several other large arts and cultural organizations, has benefited from the County's capital support, restoring and enhancing this facility for years to come. However, this opportunity has not yet been available to small- and medium-sized organizations. That is why I am so pleased to see County Executive Poloncarz introduce an initiative that would set aside $25 million for capital improvements for all organizations. I know the benefit of Erie County's investment has had on the Buffalo History Museum - and I am so excited to see this opportunity shared with organizations of all sizes to increase their impact on our community. This investment will be transformational for many organizations and the overall arts and cultural landscape.

Thank you Melissa and thank you to you and your team at the Buffalo History Museum for your collaboration on Erie County’s bicentennial celebration ending this month.

Oh, and there is just one more thing.

Nothing brings our community together quite like the Buffalo Bills. It doesn’t matter where you live, your age, or political persuasion, we all bleed Bills’ red, white and blue. The team is ingrained in our hearts and souls.

However, the modern NFL is one where there is no guarantee a team will stay in its home location. Since I negotiated the last lease extension in 2013, three teams have moved to new markets: San Diego and St. Louis to Los Angeles and Oakland to Las Vegas.

Our population is growing and our community is strong. Losing the Bills would be a huge psychological and economic blow to our region. That is why it was so important to negotiate an agreement that kept the team here but was also fair to the people of Erie County. That is exactly what we did.

When construction is completed, the Bills will call the new stadium home for at least 30 years – until 2055. The county will be contributing $250 million towards construction, but then nothing going forward, a key term I fought hard to get.

Let me repeat, Erie County will no longer be in the football business because we will no longer be subsidizing the team annually, thereby savings tens of millions of dollars in the long run.

I also fought hard to get a project labor agreement for the new stadium. This will ensure the people who truly benefit from the construction of the stadium are the local men and women of labor who build it.

Yes, $250 million is a lot of money, but knowing it will be invested back in our community to the men and women who work on the project fully justifies this investment.

Thank you to Governor Kathy Hochul for your steadfast resolve to keep the team in Buffalo and investing in this important community asset, as well as to Terry and Kim Pegula for your commitment to our community and significant personal investment in this project.

Where other communities failed to come together to keep their teams we rolled up our sleeves and worked hard to reach an equitable agreement that is good for our community.

In a time of divisive government, where it seems nothing gets accomplished, we proved we could work together to get a complicated agreement negotiated.

Now it’s up to Josh Allen and the team to win that Super Bowl.

The new Bills stadium is emblematic of our community. We are moving into a brighter future for all by building upon the foundations of the past. We are investing in the people and places that are the bedrock of our county, while boldly creating a new path forward towards a greater future.

The people who attend Bills games, the History Museum, our county parks and so many other places in 2055 will probably not know who we individually were, but they will know we cared enough to invest in these incredible civic assets so they could enjoy them as well.

As we leave here today, let us remember the incredible work and sacrifices made by so many during these past two years, but also reflect on the sacrifices and actions taken by those who came before us.

Every generation is handed the torch of leadership, to build a better future for tomorrow. Yes, the burdens we have faced have been great, but let us go forth together, united in our resolve, to create a more prosperous, resilient, and equitable future for all.

Thank you and Go Bills!!