· Non-partisan school board elections -- It is time that we get politics out of education and return to non-partisan elections for the school board.
· Vote on school budgets – Every year the city school district is short of money and the city complains about the amount of taxes which they have to go to the schools. All but 6 districts in the state let the voters ratify the school budget and it is time that Rochester joined the ranks of districts with empowered voters. I will lobby Albany for the right of our citizens to vote on the Rochester City School District's budget.
· Share city / district resources – This has been considered before but it was found that no savings could be found even though both entities have a number of similar departments some of which are very small. Consolidation would, if nothing else save the tax payers administrative costs.
· End "chargebacks" – The City presently charges the school district for many services which the City provides such as trash and water. It is time to recognize we are one government and end this accounting trick to get around the state mandated level of funding the City must provide.
· Day Care in Schools – We need to do what we can to encourage students to not to have babies, including providing condoms and sex education. But for those who have children, we need to make sure that both the teenage parents and the newborns are taken care of. Therefore, we need to have day care in our high schools, partially-staffed by trained and certified students, thus helping with career education. Both male & female parents would both need to work in the day care, thus earning child-care certification. Parenting classes that include the fathers should also be provided. Day care in schools can also provide wrap-around services for both the teen parents and babies. Make sure parents have some kind of internship / job training during summer breaks. The babies in these day care centers need to be tracked to make sure they are not lost in the system.
2 Public Safety:
· ID more & facilitate the creation of more organizations (like Grace House) that help ex-offenders integrate back into society.
· Partner with MCC and other Colleges to help released offenders with next level of education.
· Restorative Community Policing – With the highest crime rate in the state it is time to take a serious look at how we are policing the city. Our present strategies are neither reducing crime nor solving crimes at an acceptable rate, this needs to change. We need to focus on solving problems in our community and patrolling our streets. There are enough resources to have 2 officers per square mile of the city every hour of the day.
· Registered sex offenders are living near schools in violation of our laws. We need to work with the community and experts in the field for proven and appropriate ways to handle these members of our society.
· Increased recreation – Studies have shown that recreation reduces crime particularly among youth. Yet Rochester has halved recreation funding over 7 years. It is time to include recreation funding in our plan for public safety and use it as a tool for crime reduction by funding it more appropriately.
· End Stop And Frisk – This includes such ineffective violations of civil and human rights such as "Operation Cool Down". This is a police strategy which engages youths with a purpose of providing an excuse to search them. Less than 12% of the stops find anything wrong, but the procedure alienates the targeted community, reduces closure rate on crimes, and disproportionately targets minorities. Further it ties up resources that should otherwise be used to actually fight crime.
· Reduce poverty through job creation – A study by the US government Accountability Office released in 2007 shows that there is a clear link between crime and poverty. If we want to do more than just harass criminals we need to find ways to fight poverty and the best way to do this is with jobs. I feel the aggressive programs for job creation outlined below will help reduce poverty in our city and this will help reduce crime.
· Noise, parking and nuisance – Our police department claim they do not have time to deal with these problems yet these are often the signs of drug dealers or gangs. These offenses must be taken seriously.
· Five precincts – It is time to admit that the east-west policing strategy is a failure and that we need to have closer locations for the officers to work out of. This would reduce costs in gas and save time which could otherwise be spent fighting crime.
· Civilian Review Board: The rift between our community and the police requires a completely independent Civilian Review Board with a budget, subpoena power and the ability to send police found guilty to an independent arbiter. This will help restore confidence and accountability in the RPD.
· Corner Stores – We have to stop harassing stores with zoning. This is expensive to implement and ineffective as far as stopping problem stores. Use laws that are in books to crack down on bad stores: alcohol & tobacco to minors, single cigarette sales, etc. Have police work with the neighbors to take control of the corner stores and turn them into good neighbors.
· Eliminate the point system – This administrative system is a poor tool for dealing with bad property owners and often results in making people homeless, property vacant, and convincing businesses not to call the police. Its punitive nature, behind closed doors application, and arbitrary assignment of points is the very example of bad government. We can do better to police business and housing.
· Dogs and other animals should be given the benefit of the doubt. We need to develop a clear policy for the use of force against animals so that only in extreme cases will lethal force be used against animals.
· Red Light Cameras – When the contract is up in 2014 we should end their use.
· Blue Light Cameras – These provide neighborhood peace of mind but fail to reduce crime. We can neither afford to monitor them appropriately nor maintain them adequately and so should remove them unless.
· Downtown Safety Patrol – This is supposed to be non-police assistance. They are retired police officers making $18/hr. Give jobs to unemployed people who live in Rochester. Pay $12/hr plus benefits instead.
· Fair Tax Program – Every year Rochester has a budget deficit. Every year at least a hundred of the largest projects pay taxes at an exceptionally low rate. It is not a coincidence. The tax breaks and low assessment of so many large buildings force us to cut programs which help citizens and prevent us from funding schools, police and fire adequately, because our city leaders' priorities are to give tax breaks rather than paying for essentials. This must end. All properties need to be fully assessed and the tax breaks for the wealthy need to end if we are to grow our city.
· Late Payment Rate – The interest rate paid on late payments to the city is presently set at 18% which was 3 points over prime when it was set. But that rate is now 14 points over prime and that is usurious. This should be set to 3 points over prime and the rate should change monthly.
· Strategic Purchasing - We must stop bypassing the Request for Proposal (RFP) procedure. Presently, all purchases over $10,000 need to use RFP but much of the City's spending does not do this. As a result, we overpay by million of dollars each year on goods and services which would have been reduced if we used the procedure already in place. To further add to savings, we must consolidate duplicate services with the City School District.
· There should be a complete audit of the entire city government.
4. Poverty and Jobs:
· Transform the way the City supports and fosters small businesses - At a local merchants association meeting, a city zoning employee mentioned that the city codes and regulations are too extensive for one person to know them all. This over regulation has created a nightmare for businesses who find no end to their problems. From restrictive and discriminatory sign regulations to a myriad of property codes, many business owners end up having their openings delayed due to bureaucracy. When they do open, parking problems haunt them while police treat victimized businesses as criminals. Further, our present system of permits, inspections, and tickets is an expensive way to regulate. We need to overhaul the system, creating a business checklist which regulates only what is essential and rewards compliance rather than punishes every minor failure.
· Create a new business incubator - I will create a grant contest where any city resident can apply to receive a business grant to open a business in the city. The applications will be reviewed and the most promising ones will receive help from the local business and academic community to create a business plan. These will then be reviewed and grants ranging form $3,000 to $100,000 will be given out based upon the projects' need and chance of success. The winners of these grants will be teamed with mentors who will help the winners successfully launch their business.
· Import Replacement Strategy – Get local institutions that are not going anywhere (i.e. Wegmans, U of R, etc.) to determine which goods and services they are using that they get from out of town? Then create co-op businesses in the city to provide those things. An example of this is Evergreen Laundry in Cleveland.
· Individual Development Accounts - Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) are matched savings accounts that help people with modest means to save towards the purchase of a lifelong asset, such as a home, business or education. The account is non-transferable and tied to the individual. We should begin an IDA program where every baby born in the City is given $250 in an account. Then raise limited matching funds to encourage young people to save money to buy a house, higher education or start a business. There would need to be exemptions made for people not to lose pubic assistance.
· Urban Farms – Use vacant urban property to create local, intense agriculture for local use. Can be connected to land bank, IDA, Import Replacement Strategy.
· We must create ownership through co-operative businesses, turning poor workers into owners.
· Use project labor agreements on all projects to increase local and minority labor.
· Reinstate the Joint Training Partnership Act – This provided summer hiring programs for teens in the past.
· Summer employment – We must increase funding for youth summer employment.
· Vacant Home Rehabilitation – Presently there are thousands of vacant homes in Rochester. The City needs to organize a co-op to rebuild homes and offer them for sale to increase home ownership and to provide quality housing for those in need.
· Move the City's cash holdings to a smaller local bank in return for that bank offer local micro loans to city residents. At the same time, we should lobby Albany to be allowed to use local credit unions for City transactions.
5. Energy and the Environment:
· Begin the process to create a Public Utility -- 37 different towns and cities in NY have municipal utilities and their customers pay between a third and a half of the rest of the state. It’s inexplicable why Rochester is not one of these, particularly when we already have a municipal water authority which could be expanded to handle the administrative part of this endeavor. Cheaper electricity would attract business and manufacturing, providing needed jobs. Best of all, for many in Rochester, this would mean a yearly savings of over $1000. To many this may seem like a fantasy but Fairport Village Electric already provides its customers with rates a third less. This is an idea that has waited too long and we only need the resolve to implement it.
· Include renewable energy systems in the building modernization plan for Schools – This will help save the City School District money through reduced energy costs. It will also decrease the carbon footprint of the city and help keep our air healthy and clean.
· Switch the city’s fleet of vehicle to renewable energy – The increase in both popularity and effectiveness of alternative energy vehicles has made it practical to save the city money and keep our environment clean through the use of electric vehicles. In conjunction with a public utility and renewable energy at the schools, this will greatly reduce the operation costs of our fleet.
· Provide a property tax credit for installation of clean renewable energy systems.
· Push for home pick up of electronics at least monthly.
· Explore energy generation through wind turbines at Durand Eastman Park, low flow turbines on the Genesee River, energy transference walk ways, and solar panels on city buildings.
· Make tree lined streets a priority – Whenever the city removes a tree they need to replace it and make trees a mandatory part of all street redevelopments projects.
6. Quality of Life:
· Expand street cleaning – Increase street cleaning so that more streets are done and that it is done as long as there is no snow to get in the way. To facilitate this we must not privatize plowing.
· Create Neighborhood Councils – These would resemble the sector system and would make decisions on parking, development in their neighborhood and beautification. Would also allocate money to these councils for participatory budgeting.
· Use the Land Bank to create a real Urban Homesteading Program. Any person who buys a house that is fixed up in our program must live in them for 5 years. Grant money awarded for fixing or buying houses are not to increase this five year limit.
· Create a tax break for renovations on owner-occupied property. The home owner can get 25% of the cost of the renovation back over 5 years, up to a maximum of 25% the total yearly tax rate.
· I will work to increase accessible, affordable housing. Fifteen years ago downtown Rochester had 60 percent affordable housing. Today the number is below 40%. Also, thousands of once affordable homes have been lost due to neglect and demolition. With an average household income of only $29,000 it is imperative that we maintain a large and readily available supply of livable and accessible low income housing options. After all, housing is a human right.
· Make the city quieter – I will work with the police to more strictly enforce the noise ordinances.
7. Downtown Development:
· We MUST stop creating development both downtown and in the rest of the City on the backs of African-Americans and Latinos. If developers want to swoop in and gentrify our neighborhoods, they will do it on their own dime and pay fair taxes. In the meantime, I will work to create locally-based development where our money stays in Rochester.
· With the housing that has already been committed downtown, combined with the upcoming bus terminal, we should stop promoting more housing downtown and instead work to create, locally-owned, co-operatively run entertainment and retail businesses. Where there is not demand we will be happy to create public green-space.
· The exception to a halt in increasing housing, we should encourage colleges that already exist in our area to expand downtown and include dorm space.
8. Quality of Government Issues:
· I will increase access to city decision makers though greater use of radio, TV and internet -- Too often it seems that our leaders make their decisions in a vacuum. Separated form the people these decisions will affect and devoid of any input from residents. This is easily fixed with all the modes of communication at our disposal. As Mayor, I intend to have open dialogue using all means possible to explain what is happening at City Hall and to get feedback from residents. I will make myself, or a high ranking member of my administration available, to the public at least one a week. I will work with my administration to produce a monthly call in show on cable access. I will make myself available once a month to 1370 Connection on WXXI- AM; the Bob Lonsberry Show on WHAM-AM; and the Wakeup Club on WDKX-FM. We will also use other internet based media to share ideas with interested residents.
· I will make an effort to attend all neighborhood council meetings and at least one meeting of each block group each year.
· Encourage the development of more walkable neighborhoods.
· I will stop the city’s promoting of illegal laws and activities -- There have been a multitude of actions by the city that have been struck down by the courts, such as the teen age curfew, administrative search warrants, restrictive hours for bars, and the failure to follow the contract of our firefighters. Legal actions against these activities have been expensive and time consuming. While it might be impossible to never have an action struck down by the courts we can do much better, and need, to in order to save money. It is time to stop the avoidable squandering of people's tax dollars.
· I will work with the Police Chief to reduce police expenditures -- In the past 5 years funding for the police department has risen 23% almost twice the rate of the total budget. This might be acceptable if the crime rate had fallen 20% but it has not. It is time to accept the fact that more spending on police will not make us safer. We need better policing strategies not more police expenditures and it time to get police spending under control.
· I will evaluate city spending on programs to make sure they serve the public good rather than being just some form of patronage -- Whether it is community grants or funding for local services, our government spends a lot of money on non-governmental organizations. All of these groups have laudable goals but not all the money is spent wisely. It is time to evaluate these groups on their impact on the community. I will review all such agencies to make sure our tax money is well spent and that these funds are getting into the hands of those that truly need them.
· I will work to find local ways to hold other elected officials accountable and reduce corruption.
· I will have an open contracting and employment process which will not favor donors, friends, or family -- As mayor I will have a transparent and open application process for all contracts and employment. Using the internet and local papers to provide greater transparency to my administration, I will avoid the deals which have characterized our government for years.
· I will find savings in our budget so that all new programs will be budget neutral -- Despite the aggressive programs outlined above, our city can not support any more taxes. Even though we need to do many things to improve our city, we must fund them without borrowing or increasing taxes. There is enough waste and misappropriation to fund these programs and I would like to find ways to decrease taxes not increase them.