Disabilities Issues Survey

The following are my answers to the 2019 Disability Issues Survey. 

1.  People with disabilities and seniors are often stuck in nursing facilities due to a lack of accessible housing. Particularly in the City of Rochester, there are limited options for someone who wants to transition out of a facility and into housing in the community.  If elected, what will you do to ensure that disabled people and seniors are not forced to live in a nursing facility instead of independently in their community?

As we know, most government resources for people with disabilities come through the County or the State.  But one thing the City of Rochester can do is to drastically increase the amount of accessible housing in the City limits.  I am committed to a drastic overhaul of zoning codes in which all development is mandated to use universal design.  Developers will scream about this, but I think it is a valid use of the City’s lawyers to take this to court citing Olmstead and other precedents.

 

2.  The City of Rochester has already shown interest in Visitability and has worked with Center for Disability Rights on an ordinance that would require new homes built in Rochester that are from City-sponsored programs to have at least one no-step entrance, a first floor bathroom and a 36-inch clearance passage for all main floor internal doorways.  What would you do to make apartment complexes more affordable to the Disability Community?

The City has to stop using County statistics when concluding what is “affordable”.  Currently we use the County’s Average Median Income (AMI).  The City’s AMI is less than half that.  If we use the City’s, then mandates for developers to integrate affordable housing into their projects would actually create affordable housing instead of the miscarriages of justice they build now. 

The City also needs to start lobbying the Federal Government to lift their restrictions on the integration of affordable housing with market rate housing.  Currently, they forbid any project to do this when HUD money is used for a project.

The City (and County) needs to treat housing as a human right and not as an economic driver.  My platform has other, more efficient, holistic, and effective ways of spurring economic growth.

 

3.  The United States Supreme Court decided in 1999 that all individuals with disabilities have the right to live in the most integrated setting. Regardless of age, type of disability, or level of need, states cannot force people with disabilities to live in institutions. This ruling is most commonly known as the Olmstead decision. All States/local governments are required to comply with Olmstead.  What is your plan to promote independent living for seniors and people with disabilities and ensure Olmstead compliance within the City of Rochester?

I want the City of Rochester to earmark 30% of its Community Development Block Grant money it receives from the State and Federal Governments for retrofitting homes and apartments in order for people to stay in their homes. 

 

4.  People within the Disability Community need transportation that is accessible, affordable and dependable in order to secure employment, access health care, shop for necessities and engage in their communities. Many of us need access to paratransit to continue to be a part of our community.  In fact, without paratransit, many of us would be in danger of being institutionalized.  Paratransit services cost much more to operate and are more expensive for the consumer than regular fixed route services and receives federal funding only for capital expenses. If elected, how will you support appropriate funding for paratransit services?  

I would like to see all public transportation be free – including paratransit.  I honestly believe that would take dissolving the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority and replacing it with an entity that does not come with a for-profit business model.  I would also like to see the replacing entity be democratically-run by actual members of the community who use public transportation.

 

5. There are approximately 35,000 people with disabilities living in Rochester and disabled people account for 22% of people living in poverty in Rochester.  What will you do to ensure that disabled Rochestarians have full access to the community and the City’s services?

I would like every program, service, and building run by the City of Rochester to adhere a locally-created set of accessibility guidelines that goes far beyond the ADA.  To do this would require financial and human resources to make sure the City complies with its own standards that are established ahead of time and not just when someone with a disability wants to come to a meeting.  I want to make it protocol for a checklist be used to make sure that every meeting, event, and service provided by the City is accessible BEFORE the public is aware of its taking place.  This can easily be paid for by leveraging Federal and State funding, grants, and by revamping how we spend our tax revenue.  My ideas on the latter can be read at https://www.daveforchange.org/budget.

 

6.  People with disabilities are limited by their transportation options in our city. This leads to having to plan their lives days in advance or opting to stay at home. For people living in nursing facilities or institutions, getting out into the community may be the only freedom they have. In the City of Rochester, we have nearly 10 taxi companies and none of them have accessible vehicles. This is not only an ADA violation but it’s effecting the disability population who just want access to same day rides.  If elected, how will you support the Disability Community in creating more accessible transportation options?

My main economic development idea is to use public money that we usually give away to developers to build downtown housing we do not need and instead give it to actual citizens of Rochester to create cooperative businesses that fill the gaping holes we have in our society.  One such possible business is a cooperatively-owned ridesharing service in which the drivers actually own and run the business.  These drivers would include people with disabilities.  This could be just a paratransit operation, but it is probably a better business decision to make it an integrated company of paratransit and non-paratransit trips.  You can read more about my ideas on cooperatives at https://www.daveforchange.org/cooperatives.

 

The survey is sponsored by AutismUp, Center for Disability Rights, New York Disability Vote Network, Regional Center for Independent Living, Rochester ADAPT


Adopt the ETPA

Recently, the NYS Legislature passed the Housing Stability and Tenant Act of 2019 (HSTA).  It is a set of updates to a number of Campaign logotenant protection laws.  It was a nice step in New York recognizing that housing is a human right.  You can get a summation of the law here.

But there is an opportunity to solidify this right in Rochester. 

The Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974 (ETPA) allows municipalities to adopt even stronger rent, eviction, and maintenance tenant protections.  The ETPA allows for:

  • A Rent Guidelines Board to establish rent control within a municipality.
  • Further eviction protections to make sure tenants are not evicted without just cause.
  • Allowances for a reduction in rent if a landlord reduces services.

Thanks to HSTA, Rochester can now opt into the ETPA.   This would effectively double the number of rent regulated tenants in the City of Rochester as the Rochester City-Wide Tenant Union estimates that ETPA would affect between 9,000 – 12,000 units.

Important Note:  This would only apply to buildings that are 6 or more units, built before 1974, AND not already regulated by the State or Federal government.

To adopt ETPA, there must be a rental vacancy survey done by an independent entity.  The survey must show a rental vacancy rate of less than 5% in the specific units that would fall under ETPA.  Then, Rochester City Council would have to pass a local resolution in favor of ETPA followed by the Mayor signing off.

I have begun working with like-minded activists in Rochester to make ETPA a reality in Rochester and when elected to City Council, I will vote in favor of adopting ETPA.  For a further understanding of my philosophy on housing, read my complete platform plank


Children's Savings Accounts

Rochester’s rate of poverty is unacceptable.  We have done nothing to address this problem other than studies and cosmetic gestures.  But Dave for Change logowe can do something concrete to make sure our children have a future.

The market will not lift people out of poverty.  In fact, the success of capitalism relies on people at the bottom being stuck there.  People stuck in generational poverty are too concerned about surviving to fight for fairness and equity.  Until the demise of our capitalist system comes about (and it will happen), I am focused on the creation of “wealth” for those who do not have it while hastening the replacement of our current financial system.

As a step toward a society in which the basic necessities (food, clothing, shelter, health care, etc.) are seen as a human right, I propose that every child born in poverty in the City of Rochester be given a city-sponsored, interest-bearing savings account at a participating local credit union.   These will be called Children's Saving's Accounts (CSA's).  Each child will get $50. 

The individual, other family members, and specific City employees who will run this program can make deposits into this account, but there cannot be a withdrawal until the child graduates from high school, and then the money can only be used for education, buying a house, or starting a business; three wealth-building activities.

Money to pay for this will be from the general budget (see the post called “How Can We Pay for Everything?”) as well as from grants and private donations. 

Other stipulations will have to be set up in order to make this run smoothly and prevent fraud, but this is the framework of the concept.  Such things that will be needed to be worked out will include:

  • What happens to the money if a child moves out of Rochester?
  • Can a person take money out before reaching 18 years old if they graduate from high school early?
  • What happens to the money if the child dies?
  • Making sure this savings is not included in calculations for other social services.

 

Other aspects of this program would include:Fancy white people in fancy dress at a political gala

Both the Mayor and the County Executive have fancy, expensive galas in which people with money dress up and put their cash into campaign coffers. The City and volunteers should hold an annual Gala as well. In this case, people with money will dress up and give their money directly to children in poverty as the proceeds would be put directly into CSA's.

Of course, people with money don’t have to go to a gala.  We could just put a poverty tax on every downtown condo with the proceeds going directly to these accounts.  Or we could do both.

In theory, the use of Credit Unions would be temporary.  At some point we should be using a newly created City-owned bank or a State bank, if Albany can figure out how much of a good idea this is.  But even if we stay with Credit Unions, this should help Rochester as Credit Unions tend to loan people money in ways that commercial banks will not.

The interest on such accounts should be higher than a regular savings account; at least back to the 2% or so that they used to be before commercial banks became such a rip-off.  Remember, one of the reasons Credit Unions are better than commercial banks is because their motives are not supposed to be profit-driven.  They’re supposed to be helping their members and the community in which they live. 

This idea of Child Savings Accounts is not my idea.  It is being done all over the country.  Click here to find out more.

How can we make this concept better?  Let's discuss it in the comment section below.

UPDATE:  A great idea came from Joe DiFiore during a Facebook Live chat.  Incentives can be woven into the program to increase savings.  For example, for every $100 saved, a $10 bonus is added to a child's account. 

 


Why Labor Day is So Important in Rochester

Monday, September 2nd is Labor Day.  I hope you get a chance to come downtown to either watch the parade or march in it (more about that below). 

Our elected officials and those who work for them can't get a handle on what to do about poverty.   For decades they've insisted on this capitalistic philosophy of giving rich people what they want in the hopes that their wealth will flow down to us.  It hasn't happened in Rochester, just like it hasn't happened in any other place in the world.  Getting out of poverty requires the opportunity to earn a decent living.  The problem is workers do not get to enjoy the fruits of their own labor.  The profits go to the people who already have money.  That is why supporting democracy in the workplace is so key to our financial health - both collectively and individually.

There are a couple of ways we can have a more democratic workplace.  One is creating cooperative businesses as well as converting established companies.  I've been discussing this in my campaign since the beginning, but in case you missed it, you can see more here.  The other way is to establish unions in our workplaces, which is the main (but not only) focus of Labor DThe Union Strong logo of the AFL-CIOay. 

Organized labor gets a bad rap.  It's been under attack by the rich for decades.  And some are pretty top heavy with a very hierarchical structure.  Those two things are related.  But if it wasn't for labor unions the concept of a weekend wouldn't exist and we would have no child labor laws. 

And that is why you should join me this Monday at the Rochester Labor Day Parade.  I would love it if you marched with us, but even if you can't, please come and watch.  If you want to participate, we are meeting on Alexander Street, just south of East Avenue at 10am.  The parade starts there and ends at W. Main & Fitzhugh Streets.  If you just want to watch, the parade starts at 11am and you can watch downtown from East & Alexander, to Main Street and down to the County Building. 


Rochester 2034 Plan

I submitted the following comments:

Having the main goal of this plan to increase density of population in the City of Rochester is a mistake.  Throughout this draft, the creators admit that there is already too much housing.  To create more would exacerbate a problem we already have. 

The focus for every section of this plan should be on grassroots economic development with the emphasis on locally-owned cooperative businesses.  Money that is currently used to go toward grants, loans, bonds, and other creative support to large corporations and developers should be focused on the creation of smaller, locally-owned cooperatives.  At minimum, dozens of cooperatives would open every year in every part of the city with the specific emphasis on more distressed parts of the city.  The businesses would focus on goods and services that are needed to alleviate poverty in Rochester. 

Libraries, Recreation Centers, & Schools:  The plan praises libraries yet we cut funding every year.  They should be open 7 days a week for most of the day and evening.  Buses as mobile day care centers?  How about creating cooperatively owned & run day care centers within schools so that we don’t have to bus children across town.

Public Health & Safety:  We need to start de-emphasizing the police.  We continue to rely on police officers to deal with issues that they are not trained for.  Increase mental health counselors that respond to calls and add peer addiction counselors as well.  The economic development focus I’ve outlined above will also reduce crime.

Natural Resources:  Don’t just identify the city’s tree canopy – plant trees!  You mention other cities starting edible forests.  Yes!  Create greenspace (and more parks) in residential neighborhoods.  We can’t just preserve resources to fight climate change; we have to create more of that infrastructure.  (see below)

Climate Change:  Most of this is just data gathering, planning, encouraging, etc.  We have to be more aggressive.  Zoning changes to demand that all new buildings are at least carbon neutral are necessary.  We can’t wait for other cities to do it.  We should be a leader on this and if we tout it correctly, will help with economic development.

Urban Agriculture:  Wow.  You only talk about community gardens here.  Again, think economic development.  Change zoning to allow for agricultural businesses.  Use vacant land to spur locally-owned cooperative working farms.  This can be done all over the city.

Transportation:  We’ll have to use money we save on ending corporate welfare to…

  • Help pay for more RTS buses on the road. (15 minutes per bus from 7am – 11pm)
  • Create county-wide paratransit without limitations
  • Electric trolleys that focus on crosstown traffic that links RTS’s hub-and-spoke system.
  • Work toward a free public transportation system in Rochester. It will spur economic development, create community, and fight climate change.

Bike Lanes:  Keep making dedicated bike lanes, but we’re leaving behind the people who live in Rochester right now.  We need a solution to help older people who will not be riding bikes and those working multiple jobs to survive to move about the area.  (see above)

Economic Development:  Too much focus on innovation and technology is a mistake as by definition, these jobs can function almost anywhere and not even all within a company within one city.  Opportunity Zones are just more tax breaks.  Savvy business owners do not worry about paying taxes as they need the City’s services (fire, police, plowing, sewers, etc.).  It’s all focused on traditional capitalistic ideology which we know leads to peaks and valleys.

Various points:

“Pop up” businesses are cute, but they are not true economic drivers.

“The Market” only cares about profit, not how our city functions. 

(p. 108) Really?  Making RPD the arbiter of entertainment permits?  Again, let’s de-emphasize the police’s role in society.

Do citizens have a say in the legalization of commercial uses of buildings in residential areas?

We have to insist that our local architects and planners use carbon neutral designs.  No exceptions.

Most of us in the city have recognized that our “proactive code enforcement” isn’t really working and many times is used to harass people.  City workers who drive around looking for infractions do not create a climate of community.  Go to a complaint-based system.

Change zoning and promote front yards as gardens.

Drive up housing costs?  Where are our poor people supposed to go?

The plan promotes the use of vacant lands by the community, but only until a developer wants to make money off of that land, then the community is out.  This is either an over reliance on trickle-down economics (that we know does not work) or that our government does not really function for its citizens.

 


End the Local War on Drugs

It’s not getting better.  There are still too many people dying of opioid overdoses in Rochester (as well as the County, State, & Country).  The situation brings in a host of other issues such as capitalism, racism, and more.  To make things worse for the City, most of the resources used to prevent and deal with opioid and other addiction is County, State, and even Federal-based.

So what can our City government do to help?

First of all, incarceration is not the answer.  Yes, there may be the immediate effect of helping someone detox, but many times, people in jails doA woman and 3 men standing in a park around a table.  There is audio equipment on the table. not detox in a safe manner.  But there is not an effective emphasis on the reason for people’s addiction.  This means a sober person is more likely to relapse as their underlying cause for addiction has not been addressed.  This is actually a waste of money and other resources that could have been used toward a more effective form of treatment. 

Second, because many local resources for those dealing with addiction go through the County, as a member of City Council, I would support in any way I can ideas presented by the Green Party of Monroe County.

Third, use money that we save from ending corporate welfare in Rochester, to help fund outreach for those in crisis.  Part of that could be for my last part of my plan below.

Lastly, I would incorporate peer drug counselors into a plan to overhaul of the Rochester Police Department.  This way, people who have already experienced addiction, are sober and have been trained as counselors, would be dispatched on calls that are drug-related.  (See my upcoming platform plank on changing the police department.)

A long-term solution to reduce the number of people in the City addicted to opioids and other substances would be to focus – as I have been doing – on some of the root causes of addiction.  Trauma causes people to self-medicate which leads to addiction.  That’s one of the reasons I focus on reducing poverty, ending violence, and improving schools.


Resources: (taken from Monroe County's Website)

East House:

easthouse.org/

Fairport Central Schools Presentation:

howaddictionhappens.com

Helio Health:

https://www.helio.health/treatment-programs/inpatient-detoxification/

Mission Recovery and Hope, Inc.

1350 Buffalo Rd. #31

Rochester, NY  14624

(585) 944-4270

missionrecoveryandhope.org

Open Access

(585) 627-1777

835 W. Main St., Rochester, NY 14611

Walk-ins welcome 24/7

ROCovery Fitness

(585) 484- 0234

https://www.rocoveryfitness.org/

Recovery Support Navigators

Family Navigator: (855) 778-1200

Peer Advocate : (855) 778-1300

www.RecoverySupportNavigator.org

Rochester Regional Health:  Open Access

Brighton:  2000 S. Winton Rd., Bldg. #2, Rochester, NY  14618

EBHC:  81 Lake Ave., Rochester, NY  14608

Greece:  1565 Long Pond Rd., Rochester, NY  14626

RMHC:  490 E. Ridge Rd., Rochester, NY  14621

S.O.A.R.S., Inc.

(585) 771-0896

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1056414427727599/

Veterans Outreach Center:

https://veteransoutreachcenter.org/

Warrior Salute Veterans Services:

http://www.cdswarriorsalute.org/


City Council's Sad Vote on the Education Referendum

At this point in my activist life, I shouldn't be surprised by tonight's sad vote at City Council, but once again, Lucy pulled the football out. 

Ten days ago, Mayor Warren put forth legislation for City Council to vote on that would put a referendum for voters on the November 5th ballot.  If voters approve it, then City Council will ask the New York State legislature to consider state legislation allowing the State Department of Education to take over the City School District.  Councilmember Malik Evans, didn't seem to think that people in the audience understood this.  We did, but more on that later. 

There wasn't a lot of notice about this bill.  It wasn't able to be discussed much - I am assuming that this was on purpose.  It was put up for a vote tonight.  Even with such short notice, there were a number of people and organizations that showed up to speak against this.  Here is what I had to say:

It was a long night.  City Council had to vote on the budget tonight - part by part.  The vote on creating the referendum was the very last thing.

Before it was voted on the Mayor spoke.  It was nonsense.  She, then later followed by Councilmember Evans, tried to float this ridiculous idea that this referendum was actually democracy in action.  Evans, after insulting us by "explaining" the bill to us, kept calling the referendum a "poll".  So before I get to the actual vote, let me address this ridiculousness.

No one thinks the Rochester City School District is where it needs to be.  But dissolving the elected City School Board is taking away people's right to vote.  It's voter suppression.  So while Evans kept insisting that this "poll" was to see if people wanted to change the way the school district is governed, I see this as a referendum on do we want to voluntarily have our right to vote taken away.  And I have a problem with any elected official who needs a "poll" to know if the people want less of a vote.

So, after the Mayor, Councilmember Ortiz spoke against the bill, followed by Councilmember Clifford.  Then Evans' sad remarks.  Councilmember Patterson then had a less coherent version of Evans' words.  Then Councilmember Spaull spoke against the bill.  All 3 members of City Council who spoke against the bill only talked about how this all came about too quickly, nothing about the merit of the bill itself. 

So then they voted:  Evans, Gruber, Scott, Lightfoot, & Patterson for; Clifford, Ortiz, & Spaull against, & Harris abstained. 

We will be voting on this foolishness this November.  So like the Police Accountability Board referendum, I will be commenting on this throughout my run for City Council.  But to sum up quickly: PAB yea, State takeover of schools nea. 


Land Use & Development

I am a current member of Our Land Roc, a coalition of community groups and local residents who seek “to cultivate a more equitable, sustainable, and collaborative approach to development in the City of Rochester.”  I have helped develop Our Land Roc’s proposals and as a member of City Council write and/or vote for the following legislation:

*Before a project is approved there must be a timely and comprehensive notice to affected neighborhoods.  Currently, the process is piecemeal and many are left out of the loop.  People whose lives are affected by development should have the ability to participate in the decision-making process.

* The people living in an area to be affected by development should have a say in if/how that development takes place.  Therefore we should mandate that all development projects include a Community Benefit Agreement.  This is a contract between a developer, city officials, and impacted citizens to address common interests and concerns.  I would argue that a CBA should be done for any project that makes someone money.

*Our Land Roc calls for Inclusionary Zoning.  I will be specific.  Projects usually include some type of affordablA picture of a list of City of Rochester foreclosures published in City Newspapere housing.  The problem with this is what is considered to be affordable.  Currently, we use “area median income,” (AMI) but we use the County’s AMI which is $68k.  Therefore, “affordable” for many projects is in reality not, as the City’s AMI is only around $31k.  Therefore we have to use the City’s AMI when putting provisions in projects.

*Also, changes need to be made to the City Charter that would change zoning in two ways.  First, new development must have at predetermined number affordable units for the lowest income level families.  It is the goal of Our Land Roc that every neighborhood be comprised of 50% affordable units – be it either apartments or owner-occupied houses.  Second, all development (housing or otherwise) must meet a strict environmental standard.  This includes energy efficiency, pollution, and energy production (via solar, wind, etc.).   With the alarming news that keeps coming out about climate change, I am not opposed to regulations that make all new projects, no matter how big or small, carbon neutral

*We must end tax breaks for development.  While we have ways in which we will save money in our budget, the results of decades of giving away hundreds of millions of dollars of our tax dollars have shown little overall results other than this money leaving our community.  If a project needs tax breaks to be financially viable, then it is not a project that should take place as it is not sustainable.  Instead, we will use the tax money that comes in to provide infrastructure that businesses need such as improved roads, better schools, cheaper and renewable energy, and more. 

*Our Land Roc is a huge supporter of Community Land Trusts.  Not many know this, but we actually have a CLT in Rochester!  The City of Rochester should do more to support City Root CLT’s mission.  One way is to literally give away as many of the abandoned houses that curse our city as City Root can handle.  Then use City resources to help City Root fix them so that families can occupy them once again.

 *Our Land Roc also calls for Participatory Budgeting.  I’ve already posted a platform plank on this, which you can see here.

* * *

Much of Our Land Roc's mission and this platform plank deals with housing.  You can see my platform plank on housing here.


Real Economic Development

Our city government both ignores and attacks citizens who do not have.  As long as we live in a capitalistic society, government should be used to offset the inequality that capitalism creates.  Instead of giving tax breaks, grants, $1 properties, and loans that never get paid back to rich out-of-town developers, we should be using our money to create real opportunity for our citizenDave at a table in the libary reading Local Senses. 

We must shift more of our public economic development resources to the creation of worker-owned businesses, the kind that are run democratically by the workers.

In 2013, a number of Greens ran for local office.  Our biggest issue was the transformation to a more democratic local economy.  While none of the Green candidates won that year, our focus on co-operative economics spurred the creation of the Market Driven Community Cooperatives Initiative, which led to Own Rochester, a local non-profit whose mission is to foster the growth of worker-owned businesses.  Both the MDCC & Own Rochester are too small. 

More resources to help train more groups of people to start businesses and convert already established companies into democratically-run ones are desperately needed. And the money we usually give to large, out-of-town developers should go to help start hundreds of coops in the City of Rochester. 

Such businesses that should be encouraged would be ones that focus on the daily needs of our community:  food, clothing, shelter, health care, day care, etc.

I will propose and support legislation as well as advocate for city budgets that provide funding and other resources to start locally-owned, cooperatively run businesses in geographical areas where people need the basic necessities.  I would like to see the governmental infrastructure we already have be repurposed to help create specific kinds of businesses, such as:

Food

Urban Farms that would be surrounded by symbiotic businesses such as restaurants, grocery stores, and food production that would buy directly from the farms themselves.  Also connected to this could be my idea for municipal composting.

Clothing

New and/or used clothing stores would be vital to poorer neighborhoods, particularly with the closing of the Volunteers of America stores.

A cooperatively-owned department store downtown.

Shelter

Repair shops that specialize in the fixing of appliances, both large and small, to prevent such items ending up in landfills and reducing household costs for families.

Manufacturing businesses that create goods and materials made from recycled materials that can be bought from our own municipal recycling plant.

Health Care

Currently we have a cooperatively owned acupuncture clinic in Rochester.  We need the same for other types of health care that address physical and mental needs. 

We need gyms and yoga studios that are not just on Park and University Avenues that are affordable for everyone.

Day Care

Lack of day care is one of the leading causes of poverty in Rochester.  We need more day care centers in the city that are affordable and cooperatively-owned.

These businesses are not to attract suburban patrons to the city.  These businesses are to help Rochestarians take care of themselves.  Adopting this economic philosophy will reduce crime, solidify neighborhoods, improve our schools, and more.


How would we do all of this?  It's not that difficult.  Like we do with other parts of our budget, the City would put out something similar to Requests For Proposals (RFP) or a list of the kinds of cooperatives we want to establish.  Groups of people can express interest in a specific co-op or individuals who want to participate can be teamed with other like-minded individuals.  Resources that already exist can be used to create business plans. The money we have been giving to rich, out-of-town developers can instead be given to these people to create much-needed, viable cooperative businesses in the areas that need them the most. We already have the governmental infrastructure to do these things, we just need the political will to make it happen.

This is just a brief description of how this could work.  The specifics would have to be worked out in a transparent, collaborative fashion.  The benefits to adjusting our economic development philosophy to focus on locally-owned cooperatives is clear.  We will be better off investing in dozens of new businesses in a year than a handful of big-ticket projects in which all the development money (and future profits) leave town.


The Environment

There really is no more pressing matter than climate change.   It has already started affecting every Rochestarian whether they realize it or not.  The City does have a Climate Action Plan, but it’s not enough.  I’m not going to spend time picking the plan apart, instead I am making specific recommendations of what we should be doing and speed is important.  We cannot wait for “market forces” to save our planet as the market is interested in one thing only: profit.

At the State level, there are competing ideas to reduce climate change.  The one that is the most promising is the call to be Dave with a pitchfork turning soilcompletely renewable by 2030.  Whether this is the plan that gets put into action or not, there will be funding to make changes at the local level.  Therefore we should leverage this funding to make systemic changes in how we do things in Rochester.

Probably the number one thing in Rochester that is negatively affecting climate change is the way we move from one place to another.   We have to change the way we get around.  That means we have to greatly reduce the number of cars on the road.  Understand, this means that we have to change our lifestyle.  The problem is our infrastructure is designed to make that difficult, therefore we have to focus on changing our roads and public transportation system.

In an informal poll on the campaign Facebook page, people cited convenience as the number one reason they don’t take the bus in Rochester.  They just don’t come often enough and do not conveniently go to the places people need to go.  Another stumbling block is that while most of the riders of RTS are from the City of Rochester, the bus company is not specifically controlled by a City entity.  This is actually a huge problem. 

Building energy use has a major effect on climate change.  Both large buildings and individual houses use non-renewable energy and emit climate-changing pollution.  But changing both of these factors is not a burden, but an economic opportunity that has not been taken advantage of yet. 

Many have called the empty lots in our city and eye sore.  I look at them as more opportunities that we’re not taking advantage of.  We could be using these spaces in ways that reduces climate change and enhances neighborhoods at the same time in ways that are not obvious.

Keeping in mind the thoughts above, I propose the following that I will sponsor legislation and/or vote for: 

*A radical rewriting of our zoning codes that insists that all new development be as close to 100% renewable as possible.  Developers should have to jump through as many hoops as possible to be allowed to continue to build projects that rely on fossil fuels.  These changes in the zoning codes should also include the allowance of wind turbines in the city limits – both smaller, household sized as well as larger commercial ones. There should also be provisions in the codes for an increase in cooperatively-owned, commercial urban agriculture.  (A platform plank on urban agriculture is coming.)

*We have barely begun to use open city spaces for solar farms.  We must invest in more of these, to be tied into an eventual public utility that I propose in another section of my platform.  Wind turbines should be put into city-controlled areas of Durand Eastman Park as well as Lake Ontario.  We must start investing in geothermal energy as well. 

*Not only should we focus on the environmental effect of new projects, but we must work to retrofit our existing buildings.  Funding should be made available for rooftop gardens, more trees, and to paint roofs white

*We should start planting zone-appropriate fruit and nut trees on public land in the City.  I would even be so bold as to suggest Parcel 5 as a place for some of these trees.  Neighborhood groups, schools, and even certain businesses can be incentivized to be the stewards of trees planted in their areas. 

*We must thoughtfully begin the use of mycoremediation for soil remediation, particularly in the poorer parts of town where people live on or near former industrial sites. 

*We must begin the process of creating a municipal composting system in Rochester.

*We should ban the sale of anything with single-use plastics in Rochester.  It can be incremental, but it must start now and the pace must be relatively swift.  (More on this coming soon)

*I’ve saved the most difficult for last.  We must collectively take action – citizens and councilmembers to get more control of RGRTA.  As they continue to contract their service, eliminating more and more suburban routes, their service is more city-concentrated than ever.  But we do not have control over how the entity operates or makes decisions.  This would entail changes in state law.  It will be a difficult process, but one that must be taken if we want public transportation to truly have a positive effect on Rochester’s environment.

Every single idea I have expressed above is not only an environmental-saving opportunity, but a chance to reduce poverty and improve our overall fiscal health.

Expanding public support of cooperative businesses could foster all of the initiatives I’ve described here.  The investment of public money in these efforts would produce countless green jobs that we need in our struggling city.