BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Republican candidate Chrissy Casilio sparred over Poloncarz’s response to the December 2022 blizzard, with the challenger asking the incumbent if he has “ever taken accountability for anything.”
The historic blizzard crippled Western New York for several days and killed nearly 50 people, almost all of them in Erie County.
The response by the county has been scrutinized. A report on the blizzard, which was released in August, had several parts edited or redacted.
Poloncarz defended his response to the storm, saying that the storm came hours earlier than forecasted and county officials did everything they could do in handling the storm, which included hurricane-force winds.
“I was the first elected official to declare a state of emergency. I was the first local elected official to actually issue a driving ban,” Poloncarz said. “None of the towns did it, none of the cities did it until I did it. A lot of people need to realize that any supervisor, any mayor could issue that driving ban at any time, but none of them wanted to do it until I issued it.”
Casilio’s father, Patrick Casilio, is the town supervisor in Clarence. Poloncarz said that Casilio’s father told him that he did a great job in storm response.
The state of emergency was announced on the evening of Dec. 22, but the driving ban was not issued until about 9:30 the next morning. Poloncarz said this was because the county wanted to give overnight workers a chance to get home. He noted that many who died were not in cars, but were people who died in their homes or homeless people who died outside.
Casilio attacked Poloncarz’s response to the blizzard.
“I’m just curious if you’ve ever taken accountability for anything,” Casilio said. “You are the highest elected leader in Erie County. The buck stops at you, and you have yet to say you’re sorry and have yet to admit any fault that you may have.
“You had 12 years to come up with a plan,” she added. “This is Buffalo, New York. You had days where the National Weather Service was telling you that this would be a historic storm and you cut it down to the hours.”
Poloncarz criticized how Republicans responded to him both in the midst and the aftermath of the storm. He added that he cannot be held responsible for all of the deaths and has taken accountability for what happened.
“We worked very hard. I feel the pain of so many people. I was the one that would get the numbers and the new deaths and I actually saw some of the dead bodies in the cold storage trailer behind our emergency operations center,” Poloncarz said. “So I feel everybody’s pain.”
Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.