LOCKPORT – The Niagara County Legislature last week directed all county agencies to stop using the phrase “mental retardation” and its derivatives.
The measure, sponsored by freshman North Tonawanda Republicans Randy R. Bradt and Richard L. Andres, renamed the county’s Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Subcommittee as the Subcommittee for People with Development Disabilities.
The state made a similar move a few years ago, changing the name of what used to be the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities to the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities.
Thomas A. Sy of Lockport, president and CEO of Aspire of Western New York, the second largest provider of services to the developmentally disabled in the region, hailed the county’s resolution.
“Many people don’t think of the R word as hate speech, but that’s what it feels like to millions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Sy told the lawmakers.
Also last week, as a member of Western Regional Off-Track Betting, which distributes profits to 11 counties, the Legislature passed a resolution opposing any new casinos west of Route 14.
The measure referred specifically to a planned new Seneca Nation casino in Monroe County, which the resolution argues would hurt the profitability of the “racino” at Batavia Downs.
Legislator Michael A. Hill, R-Hartland, said Niagara County has received about $250,000 a year from OTB, and the new Seneca casino also could endanger some 500 jobs at OTB.
The Legislature also voted, 11-4, to adopt a meeting schedule for the year that moves budget adoption from the third Tuesday in December to the second Tuesday of that month.
The Legislature has been voting on the county budget on the third Tuesday of December for the past several years, but Real Property Services Director John E. Shoemaker said five town clerks have complained that doesn’t give towns enough time to prepare information on local taxes.
Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, said he opposes any return to the old process of passing the budget on the first Tuesday of December, the same night as the public hearing, because it doesn’t give legislators enough time to propose amendments.
Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, said he thought the one-week window would be too short for the amendment process. He and the other three Niagara Falls Democrats voted against the change.
No one objected to the list of committees that Ross submitted. The committee chairmen will be Anthony J. Nemi, I-Lockport, Administration; W. Keith McNall, R-Lockport, Community Services; David E. Godfrey, R-Wilson, Community Safety and Security; Kathryn L. Lance, R-Wheatfield, Economic Development; and John Syracuse, R-Newfane, Public Works.
Also, Hill will head the Refuse Disposal District Board, and Andres, R-North Tonawanda, will be chairman of the committee that reviews requests for Niagara River Greenway projects.