Other than contributing to their budget, neither City Council nor City Hall has a direct effect on how the Rochester City School District operates. This is actually a good thing. Leave education to the educators. But the number one thing that the Mayor and City Council can do to positively affect our schools is to alleviate the abject poverty we have in Rochester.
So if Assemblyman Gantt and Mayor Warren are so concerned with our schools, they should work with City Council to:
- Increase library and recreation center hours.
- Exponentially expand our teen jobs program.
- Reduce crime.
- Create worker-owned businesses.(link coming soon)
- Treat housing as a human right.
- Implement Restorative Justice.
- Make Participatory Budgeting a systemic practice.
The City of Rochester also needs to start funding the City School District at the level they are legally required. I am actually surprised that the District has not sued the City yet as we have kept funding the same for years even though our property taxes have gone up. Legally, a percentage of that increased revenue is supposed to go to RCSD. You can learn more about that here.
Mayoral control of school districts has been tried in other places and it has NEVER worked. Our elected representatives should focus on their own responsibilities before they start messing with other parts of government.
Want to REALLY fix our schools? Here's how you do it.
I will advocate for a budget that increases library hours.
Our goal should be to have libraries open 7 days a week. While libraries do enhance our quality of life, they are also enormous economic drivers. There are the obvious educational benefits to libraries, but they are also enormous resources for those looking for jobs and job training. Many libraries in Rochester also serve as meeting places for community groups.
Having libraries open longer gives our teenagers more to do in the short-term and increase their real-world skills in the long-term. This has an effect on crime in our city. The money saved from ending corporate welfare as well as improvements to the City’s budget is where the money will come from to increase hours.
Housing is a human right. There is absolutely no excuse for anyone in our community to be without a clean, safe, affordable place to live. With that, I will propose and/or vote for the following legislation:
*For every dollar the City of Rochester uses to promote the creation or rehabilitation to rental housing, the same amount must be used to promote single home ownership (not expensive condos). This includes but is not limited to grants, loans, and tax breaks.
*All new housing built in the City of Rochester must use Universal Design principles.
*Designate 30% of Community Development Block Grant money into a fund to retrofit houses for accessibility.
*A property and school tax cap for elderly and impoverished homeowners.
*Create an environment so that the Rochester Housing Authority can focus more on home ownership than rentals.
*Expel banks from the City of Rochester who participate in redlining.
*Expand the use of eminent domain to take over slumlords’ property and abandoned houses and give these houses to those who will live in them.
*Change our housing inspection system to one that is complaint-based.
*Where safety issues are concerned, the City will fix all housing that the owner refuses to and then bill said owner.
*Gentrification without displacement. This includes the freezing of tax rates in areas that experience new housing projects that drive up property values.
*Not allow the Rochester Police Department to participate in foreclosure evictions. It's not their job to do the bidding of banks.
The reason for the increase in focus on home-ownership is two-fold. One, the owning of a house is the acquisition of generational wealth, a key to breaking the cycle of poverty and helping balance the economic inequality we have in Rochester. Two, as you can see in current and future platform posts, I propose that we take over through eminent domain, abandoned houses in the City. By rehabbing them (through various non-profits as well as by the City itself), we will create home-owning opportunities, thus improving neighborhoods.
But it is understood that it is not appropriate for everyone to be a home-owner. Therefore, in keeping with the concept that housing is a human right, we must strengthen protections for tenants while not severely punishing landlords.
*Universal rent control in the City of Rochester.
*Just Cause Eviction legislation that does not allow landlords to evict people without an appropriate reason.
*A housing court that allows tenants to bring landlords to court for substandard housing and landlords bringing tenants to court for lease violations. (See an example here.)
*Adopt Inclusionary Zoning in Rochester.
While there was a recent improvement on how the City uses the concept of Area Median Income (AMI) to get developers to build affordable housing, the truth is, it still has not changed the fact that what is deemed "affordable" for many of our citizens isn't. Currently, we use the AMI of Monroe County to define the "area". That makes the median income much larger than it should be for those in the City.
*I will propose and support legislation that uses the AMI of the City of Rochester instead of Monroe County in the development of all affordable housing.
See platform plank on Land Use. (TBA)
See platform plank on homelessness. (TBA)
UPDATED: A day or so after I posted this, RMAPI released information on the initiatives that Monroe County residents can vote for. I have to admit, I'm fairly impressed. While there are a few that are just long-standing, local non-profits tying enhance their operational budgets, there are some really good, independent initiatives here. You can vote on them online at https://pbstanford.org/rochester2019 or in person at the dates and places in the graphic below. I highly encourage everyone to participate. And when elected to City Council I will try to make this an continuous endeavor as outlined below. Go Vote!
Right now, Rochester is participating in a form of Participatory Budgeting (PB) through the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI), though few people know about it and it does not go far enough. I advocate for a PB system to be enacted across the City with at least $1 million a year to be given to 16 sections of Rochester. These sections would be each quadrant divided up into 4 sections each.
Participatory Budgeting is a democratic way of using public money. Those interested in participating, develop and decide on projects that meet the needs of the people who live in that area. The planning and decision-making are done by the residents of each area. If there’s a project that two (or even more) adjacent areas want to share, all the better.
Ideas for safety, economic development, education, fighting climate change, food creation, and more are all on the table.
The process for PB is not a representative one; people are not elected to boards to do the work in private. Every citizen who wants to participate does. PB has been used by thousands of countries, cities, school districts, and more. There are enough examples of PB so that we do not have to develop guidelines from scratch, but whatever we do, the proceedings MUST be as democratic and transparent as possible.
This investment into our community will cost $17 million a year. (I’m actually overestimating the administrative costs.) This money will come from the money we save in the budget that I will be outlining during the campaign - I'll add the link when the plank is released.
UPDATE: City Council tabled the Mayor's PAB proposal and proposed one of their own. It's good, but there are a couple of weak spots that could leave the eventual PAB ineffective and a waste of money.
1) City Council's version has the majority of members of the PAB appointed by elected officials. This politicizes the PAB too much. Our original version has the majority suggested by the Police Accountability Board Alliance (that City Council has to approve anyway). City Council's version needs to change this.
2) City Council's version has the City's lawyer be the legal counsel for the PAB. The City's lawyer also represents the City itself and the Police Department. This is inherently a conflict of interest.
City Council has set up 3 community forums for people to give feedback. I have been to the first and will be at the other two. Please consider attending.
Monday, January 28th: 5:30 - 7:00pm @ Danforth Recreation Center, 200 West Avenue.
[Updated] Thursday, February 21st: 5:30 - 7:00 @ City Hall Atrium, 30 Church Street.
All over the country, we have been trained to believe that the police have our best interests at heart. But a thoughtful look at the reality reveals that this isn’t the case. Historically, police departments in the United States were invented to be slave catchers. Throughout our history, the police have been used to protect the elite and their riches. And just recently, the Supreme Court has ruled that the police have no obligation to protect citizens.
These national issues are mirrored locally. There are countless instances of police being abusive to citizens in the city – particularly in depressed areas where mostly people of color live. And when police are called out on it, nothing happens. Barbara Lacker-Ware & Ted Forsyth did an exhaustive study on this and it shows the need for a true citizen-run Police Accountability Board (PAB). [See the report here.]
I have been involved with the Police Accountability Board Alliance for a while. Our proposal for a true Police Accountability Board should be adopted by City Council and approved by the Mayor. The Mayor, in true political fashion has just submitted legislation that proposes a watered-down version that will uphold the status quo thus throwing away hundreds of thousands of dollars.
City Council should not approve the Mayor’s attempt at subterfuge. Instead, they should continue to work with the PABA for a true Police Accountability Board that has the following pillars:
- An agency independent of city government, separate from RPD.
- The power to independently investigate complaints of police conduct.
- Subpoena power to compel the production of evidence and witnesses.
- Disciplinary power, using a disciplinary matrix.
- The power to review and evaluate RPD patterns, practices, policies, and procedures to recommend systemic changes and to prevent misconduct from happening in the first place.
From listening to people all over the city, crime is a major source of stress right now – in spite of statistics reported by the media and police department.
My approach to City Council solutions is multi-faceted. The number one way to almost eliminate crime is to eliminate poverty. The “easy” way to do this would be to radically change our capitalistic society. While the Rochester City Council will never be able to achieve that, we can work to make the economic conditions better for those who are in need. We can reduce crime by:
*Providing more training and resources to create co-operative businesses.
*Focus these co-operative businesses on areas of need in our communities: food, clothing, shelter, day care, health care, etc.
*Advocate for a city government concept of housing as a right.
*Advocate at the state and federal levels for single-payer health care that includes mental health.
*More detox and rehab beds for people with addiction.Read more
The two white adult racists who tore down the Frederick Douglass statue (John R. Boedicker, 20, of Endicott, Broome County, and Charles J. Milks, 21, of Kenmore) ... lets not "throw the book at them." Hear me out on this. We should use this as an opportunity to transform our criminal justice system. Why these white guys? Because we're all paying attention, that's why. We're all pissed, that's why. The media's paying attention, that's why. I'm sure all the status quo politicians are paying attention, that's why.
So we use restorative justice practices - not just to pay for the damage, but to make them interact with members of the black community who fight systemic racism on a daily basis. Make them leave the community they invaded to get their drink on better than they left it. And all the while, keep the cameras on them, so that they know that we all know who they are.
And when it's "over", we use them as a shining example of how restorative justice works and that we shouldn't be throwing people away. And we INSIST that we start using restorative justice practices with our black and brown brothers and sisters and we don't let up until the politicians in charge make this the law.
We all know that the people in charge are not going to create any kind of progressive change because of something a black or brown person does. Throwing these white guys in jail will not change anything. My interest is not in "saving" these two racists. This is an opportunity for systemic change. Let's take advantage of the situation.
What do you think?
UPDATE: After a conversation on Facebook about this idea, I was encouraged to expound a bit more on my idea - particularly in terms of exactly who would be facilitating such a process within our criminal justice system. While it would not be appropriate for me to call out specific individuals for doing this work, I agree that those who do should have a solid background in the historical perspective of the systemic racism that oppresses everyone. By no means should members of the judicial system or law enforcement be responsible for deciding who will facilitate restorative justice practices.
UPDATE: It's a legitimate point that a lot of white people are calling for RJ in dealing with these two adults, but nary a peep when someone of color is mentioned in the news. For the record, I've been advocating for Restorative Justice for a while. Here's an example. https://archive.org/details/TransformingRochester92
Members of our city government are currently being investigated for corruption by Federal agencies. That is an appropriate way to find out what, if anything, is going on. But, to stem corruption and perceived corruption within out City Government, I will propose and support legislation stipulating that:
*No company, non-profit, union, PAC, individuals employed by such entities, nor unaffiliated individuals, will be allowed to do business with the City of Rochester if they have given political contributions of any kind within the last 10 years. Proven efforts to get around this will result in a permanent ban from City business. The 10 year time period would be effective from the time of the passing of legislation, though any contracts already signed would be honored.
*No former employee of the City of Rochester, nor the company they work for after working for the City will be allowed to do business with the City for 10 years after their employment. This is only if the person takes on a managerial position within their new company or runs their own business. Current contracts will be honored, but not extended.
*Former employers of current City workers can only do business with the City of Rochester when there is solid proof that there is no other appropriate company to fulfill a crucial need of the City that directly involves constituents.
I would also like to create a task force to investigate City officials who own and/or are connected to other residential properties in the surrounding suburbs to make sure they actually live in the City of Rochester.
[Note: My legislation would be for all people employed by the City of Rochester, contractors, and elected officials.]Read more
I will not vote for a project that includes local corporate welfare.
Corporate welfare consists of government handouts to corporations (usually larger ones) to create and/or retain jobs. Tax breaks, PILOT’s (payment in lieu of taxes), and municipal construction of dedicated infrastructure are only some of the ways our elected officials undermine the fiscal health of our city. While this practice is by no means just a Rochester issue – virtually every municipality participates in corporate welfare in some way – Rochester has been giving away the store for decades. Among the reasons we should stop this practice include:
*It does not work. In almost every instance, corporate welfare does not create the jobs it promises to.
*It creates unfair competition between the companies that get corporate welfare and already existing (usually local) companies.
*When corporations get to not pay their taxes, you and I have to make up for the loss of tax revenue.Read more