Alex White’s New Deal for Rochester isn’t about keeping a promise to the next generation of politicians, it is about keeping a promise to the next generation of Rochestrians. The schools we all want will not come from yet another restructuring plan or mayoral control, but from investing the money we need to put more teachers in the classroom. The economy we all want will not come from simply replacing Kodak and Xerox with a handful of wealthy land developers, but from making it easier for Rochestrians to run a local business and to hire local people. And the safe streets we all need will not come from cameras and harassment, but by putting more police officers on the streets patrolling in our neighborhoods.
The change we want will not come from outside our community, but from the people within our own city that have for too long found city hall self-absorbed and unresponsive. Join Alex White’s campaign for a New Deal for Rochester and let’s work together to build a Rochester we can all be proud of.
Educating Rochester’s next generation should be a top priority, but for too long, city hall has been providing a minimum of support to our schools and we have all seen the minimum results. Mayoral control, elite segregation or private charter schools will only further starve our public schools by taking more money out of the public school classroom. How can we ever hope to solve our city’s problems if our children have a worse education than we had?
Alex White’s New Deal for Rochester calls for fully funding our schools by increasing city hall’s contribution to education and putting more teachers into our classrooms. In reality, there is only one thing a mayor can do for our public schools and that is to pay for them. The New Deal for Rochester does just that by fixing our property tax system so that our children don’t have to suffer just so that wealthy landlords can get tax breaks.
Rochester is no longer a company town, yet subsequent administrations seem stuck in the past, looking to rekindle the big business boom of yesteryear with big developers, big colleges or big health care companies. Even after years of trying, it still hasn’t worked because our economy has changed. How many more stories about skyscrapers that turn into three story buildings must we go through before we adapt to the new economy?
Alex White’s New Deal for Rochester shifts the focus of our economic future to the local business and the entrepreneur. The New Deal for Rochester calls for an end to the failed nuisance point system that harasses local businesses and a complete overhaul of city hall’s permitting process to allow Rochesterians to more easily start and run a local business.
The crime rate in Rochester is higher than 95% of the cities in America and it is clear that our community has lost faith in the police. Patrol officers have been trained to patrol, yet many have been reassigned to administrative, maintenance, or public perception tasks. Restoring confidence in the police department is paramount to reducing crime in Rochester. Though it has taken years of mismanagement to get to this point, we can turn this around and make our city safer by getting back to basics.
Alex White’s New Deal for Rochester puts these patrol officers back on the streets doing what they do best- patrolling our neighborhoods. With police on patrol, we can prevent crime and conflict before it happens.
The New Deal for Rochester would also establish an independent civilian review board to provide citizens a mechanism to have their concerns heard and addressed quickly. This board will have the ability to independently investigate complaints against the department or individual officers and provide an independent arbitrator to rule on their findings. Years of mismanagement may have created an antagonist relationship between residents and the police, but together we can restore confidence in the police department and reduce crime in Rochester.
Paying the Bills
Simply put, Rochester’s biased and inaccurate property tax assessments have created this city’s structural deficit and prevented investment in our schools and neighborhoods. We can not afford to spend our tax money on
Alex White’s New Deal for Rochester calls for a reassessment of all city property to their full market value. We lose millions every year from these assessments with little to show for it. The New Deal for Rochester puts an end to the failed trickledown approach to economics in our city and returns funding to our schools and neighborhoods. No more tax breaks for wealthy landlords. No more public funding for projects without a public purpose. And no more giveaways until our schools improve, our citizens have jobs and our streets are safe.
About Alex White
Alex White is not a career politician, but a former public school teacher, small business owner and Director of the Rochester Good Business Alliance. For nearly two decades Alex White has been a leader in our community working with neighborhood and business groups throughout Rochester to find practical solutions to real world problems. He will bring his business and community development experience to the mayor’s office and a new direction to the city of Rochester.
The City recently reported that the overall crime rate from last year to this year has remained stable. Under our current circumstances, business as usual is not good news. Rochester has the highest crime rate in the state and one of the highest in the nation. Furthermore, despite the supposed steady state, calls to 911 in Rochester are up 13% this year.
This evening, city council takes up a new law called the “Drug Free Zones” but what this legislation really does is create “Rights Free Zones.”According to the legislation, these Rights Free Zones will be established arbitrarily, throughout our city by the Rochester Police Department in order to combat Rochester’s drug problem. While we can all agree that drugs are a problem in our city, it is clear that laws like this are not only unconstitutional, but also ineffective.
There are many things in our city which have slowly watched their funding decline. One of these is our Libraries. Council has cut their funding in the last six years leaving libraries with 1.5% less funding than they had in 2007. While these cuts are not large they have had a huge impact upon our Libraries, one example is that this summer our libraries were not able to be open on weekends.
Throughout this campaign season we have listen to mayoral candidates talk about public education in Rochester. By now, we have all heard the statistics about graduation rate, test scores, and dropout rates. We have heard stories about families moving out of the city as they do not believe RCSD provides a viable option for their children.
Often it is the little things that matter.
I was at a public meeting where someone complained that the street drains for the sewer system smelled horribly. He said that he could never remember it being so bad and asked what had happened. Of course the city officials had no idea.
Although I am not sure of the exact reason in his particular case, often smelly sewer drains are the result of a particular method of street repair meeting up with an antiquated sewer system. In Rochester our sewers combine rain and snow runoff with waste water from the buildings. This is an outdated model which many older cities still have.
Recently we have been using a street repair method called mill and fill. It involves applying oil to the street surface, and then spreading a layer of loose stones. As cars drive over the stones, some are pushed down into the street making a new surface. Others are pushed to the edge of the road. Unfortunately, the city roads have curbs, and when pushed up against the curb these stones have no where else to go, so they find their way to the sewer grates and fall in.
This is where the odor problem begins. In the sewers, the stones form a hard aggregate and water is strained through it. Eventually soft materials get clogged in the mixture and that hardens into a concrete like mass. This creates an uneven surface where more material gets trapped. What is all this material making up the clog? It's the sewage from the surrounding buildings, and the result is a stinky sewer.
Under normal circumstances we would clean this out with high pressure water. Unfortunately, that does not remove the stones, and unless they are removed, the process begins all over again, and the smell remains.
Walking the roadways in the summer has become a lot less pleasant because of the city's decision to patch rather than fix the roads.
I was at an event about problems on the west side of Rochester. One of the speakers brought up a speech by Martin Luther King from the late 60's that addressed poverty in our communities. Almost as a response to this call Rochester tried to solve these problems by building.
One of Rochester’s most persistent problems is its high crime rate. It does not matter whether we are talking about violent crimes, property crimes, or vehicle crimes, Rochester’s crime has been excessive for years. Presently the crime rate in Rochester is higher than 95% of the cities in America! Though it has taken years of mismanagement to get to this point, there are many things we should do which would make a dramatic effect on reducing this.
If you heard me the other day on WDKX's WaterCooler, have been at the number of community forums I've been invited to, or talked to me one-on-one, you know that I like to talk about numbers: tax breaks, tax assessments, grants, loans, etc.
Generally, Green Rochester candidates don't worry about what other candidates are saying during election season. When the City is not going in the direction it should be, the incumbents will put their action (or inaction) in the light it needs to be for people not to rebel and vote against the status quo. But during a few of the Mayoral forums, Tom Richards has said that my numbers are wrong.
It is interesting that the current Mayor has started to question my numbers. It seems the City would like to dispute my facts. The problem is that most of my information is publicly available to everyone on the internet. I spend many hours looking at the City's own website in order to find the information that I cite. If you would like to look it up for yourself, here's what to do:
Perhaps the most startling facts I bring up are about taxes. A good example is Brooks Landing which is assessed at $1.5 million and paid $1321.70 in taxes last year. This information is available for anyone on the City of Rochester website. On the home page there is a link entitled Online Property Information. This is a great place to find out who owns a property, whether they are paying their taxes, when the structure on the property was built and when it was last sold. This page is a great place to start when you want to challenge the assessment of your property and as you can search by address, owner, or use a map to find properties, it is very user friendly.
Often I find a project and want to know more information about that project. The City maintains an interactive property map at http://cityofrochester.gov/properties.aspx?id=8589944885
Now this is not the most up to date information and seems to frequently miss things, but it does allow you to find many projects the City is spending our money on, see what is planned, who is building it, and what the City is providing to help the developer. I have never seen one where they oversell the city contribution but often this section is not complete.
To get the total story on corporate welfare, you often have to look at City Council. From the main City's web page, if you go to Meet The Rochester City Council, there is a section on the right called "Spotlight On". In this section, there is a link for City Council legislation, meeting minutes and proceedings. Every month there is a complete listing of everything the Council is considering, what the agenda is, and any legislation passed.
Finally if you need to look up the rules and laws of the City of Rochester, I use the City Code and Charter Online. If what you are looking concerns the structure of the government this is usually in the charter. If what you want is to see what the City laws are then you want the code.
With these you can check my work and keep yourself informed as to what the City is doing.
If my facts are wrong, then the current Mayor should look into that as I'm using his numbers.
Rochester's economy has been suffering for many years. Unemployment usually runs 50% more than the state level and poverty has risen to 31%. With Kodak in bankruptcy, Hickey Freemen being sold every few years, and the sale of Bausch & Lomb to Valeant, the old industrial base in Rochester, seems to be headed towards extinction.
Bausch & Lomb had made Rochester its home for almost 160 years and for years they seemed very happy to be one of the anchors of our economy. In 1995, B&L built a new skyscraper in the heart of our city to house its corporate headquarters. At the time, such a move was questioned, but their CEO wanted to tie B&L to Rochester and a huge hard to sell piece of real estate was thought to be just the tool. As such an investment would make both sales and moving the company more difficult.