1 Poverty and Jobs –
Income inequality is the problem which is tearing apart America. The rich keep getting richer by transfer wealth from the poor to the themselves. Worse of all our governments are complicit in this transfer by helping make this happen.
In Rochester this is the case. While poverty has grown from 20% to 33% in the last 37 years our city has found ways to given hundreds of millions of the wealth developers most of whom live out of town. For years we have been giving loans which we forgive, huge tax breaks and other assistance to developers which has done nothing but increase their profits. To counter act this I propose the following.
- Stop giving tax breaks.
- Stop funding large developments which do not create long term jobs.
- Find ways to end the tax breaks to the wealthy
- Require full repayment of all loans on schedule.
- Use the same tax foreclosure process on large properties as on small ones.
- Use project labor agreements on all projects and the CIP to save money and increase local and minority labor.
- Create independent development funds for all children born to Rochester parents which the children can use for college tuition, home ownership or trade school.
- While we have started market driven coop business program this program still has yet to start a single coop. It is time this started to create jobs for people by combining the purchasing power of institutions in our city with coop businesses we create.
- Turn vacant land into urban farms to help produce food and provide income for residents.
- Presently the largest employer of students in our city are drug deals and many who do not work for them resort to crime. It is time that we guarantee every student who passes their grade a summer job.
- By most recent surveys there are more than 3000 vacant homes in our city which are depressing our neighborhoods. This houses need to be fixed to restore our neighborhoods and this will help provide hundreds of jobs to our residents.
- Reinstate the Join Training Partnership Act – This provided summer hiring programs for teens.
- As more and more people start home businesses it is time to change zoning rules to reflect this allowing for home businesses to allow more people create successful businesses.
- Instead of providing millions to billionaires to build buildings we do not need I will create a small business incubator which will help residents create successful small businesses.
2 Public Safety:
For too long we have viewed crime in a vacuum and treated it entirely as a police problem when it really is a society problem. For 50 years Rochester has been a state leader in crime and it will remain this way until we start to address the causes which have led our city to this position. We need to start addressing this as a problem of addiction, poverty, failing education systems, and weak family and neighborhood support systems. As mayor I will approach public safety from all angles to help make our community safe by
- Work to more effectively integrate people back into society after incarceration including more career training and job placement.
- 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.
- Increased recreation – Studies have shown that recreation reduces crime particularly among youth. Yet Rochester has reduced recreation funding by a third in the last decade. It is time to include recreation as part of a plan for public safety and use it as a tool for crime reduction.
- Pathways to peace was an extremely successful program for reducing gang activity and crime in our city yet funding and personnel are at a 10% of the total when the program was at its height. Rather than waiting for a crime to occur Pathways to Peace works with at risk individuals to reduce the chance of problems and deserves more resources.
- One of the reasons for so much gun violence recently seems to be simple arguments gone bad. It seems too many people lack the conflict resolution skills to avoid a violent outcome to a simple disagreement. We should start teaching conflict resolution at the elementary level and train all library and recreation center personnel in deescalation techniques to help reduce shoots.
- The number of shootings in our city is unacceptable and has been going up for years. Many of our worst neighborhoods seem like armed camps and too many people feel they need a gun to be safe in our city. We need to reverse this by putting more officers on the streets and in publicly visible areas to help make restore a belief in the safety of our public spaces.
- End stop & frisk. Whether it is called operation cool down or standard operating procedures Rochester police have been targeting young black men in our society at a statistically unsupported rate. This creates distrust in one of our most vulnerable groups. No evidence has ever been presented to show that targeting people based upon skin tone to create opportunities for a search has ever reduced crime and needs to stop in Rochester if we are going to solve our public safety problem.
- 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 will help reduce poverty in our city and this will help reduce crime.
- Noise, parking and nuisance – Our city claims they do not have time to deal with these problems yet these are often the signs of drug dealers, or gangs. Nuisance offenses need to be taken seriously and should be enforced. As much of this is falls under the purview of the code enforcement bureau it is important to change the hours of their employees to be able to deal with these problems as they can be writing the tickets for this. They also need to start issuing tickets to the people causing these problems rather than the property owners who can not enforce these.
- To help with nuisance enforcement the city should create and maintain a directory of residents. We should also expand tenant training courses and use these and public service as punishment for nuisance violations.
- Civilian Review Board: The rift between our community and the police require a completely independent Civilian Review Board with a budget, subpoena power and the ability to send police found guilty to independent arbiter. This will help restore confidence and accountability in the RPD.
- Corner Stores – 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..
- Downtown is neither the least safe nor the most in need section of the city. Yet we have a Downtown Safety Patrol which provides paid additional coverage to the streets of our downtown district. If this section is to be kept it should be deployed in more vulnerable neighborhoods with an eye on bringing added security to troubled areas.
- Restore the Teen Court program.
- All police and fire vehicles will carry overdoes kits and all Fire and Police personal will be trained in their use.
Rochester has a structural deficit which results in a shortage every year. So every year we beg Albany for more money, raises taxes, and cuts programs. Rochester's financial problems are behind so many of our other problems and fixing this should be a primary concern of our city. In order to do this we should.
- For years Rochester has been giving away millions of taxes for years to our largest buildings. Presently this amount to more than $50 million every year. Meanwhile we raise taxes on everyone else so our largest properties pay next to nothing. We need to stop giving away our tax revenue on new projects and do what is possible to recover as much of this revenue as possible.
- Besides tax breaks we also under assess most of the large properties in Rochester. Whether they were sold for $39 million but still assessed for $16 like the Xerox Tower, or built for $49 million and assessed for $7 like Erie Harbor, we need to correctly assess all properties for their construction or sale price.
- Late payment rate – The interest rate paid on late payments to the city is presently set at 12% which was 3 points over prime when it was set but at 9 points over prime is usurious. This should be set 3 points over prime and the rate should change monthly.
- Complete audit of the whole city
- Strategic sources of purchasing to reduce costs. Many companies use this process to control costs and usually see a 12% saving. As Rochester has never explored this our city should be able to find significant savings.
- Stop bypassing the Request for proposal procedure – presently all purchases over $10,000 are suppose to use RFP but much of the city spending does not do this. As a result we over pay by million of dollars each year on goods and services which would have been reduced if we used the procedure already in place.
- Consolidation of services with RCSD and county were applicable.
Rochester’s education system is the worst in the state and is behind many of the city’s problems. It is time for the city and the county to stop fighting over whose fault this is and instead come together and solve this problem. As things are set up our School board runs the schools and our city raises the taxes that pay for this. It is time for these two entities to work together to provide a safe stable environment for our students. To do this we should do the following items.
- Our school board election should be nonpartisan to remove politics from our children's education.
- In 2004 our city gave the schools $119 million and this amount has remained unchanged for over 12 years. Over this time inflation has reduced the purchasing power of this money by 25%. It is time for the city and the school to work together to fund the education we need.
- Presently the city charges the schools for everything they can figure out including plowing the school parking lots with city plows. We need to end charge backs and stop nickel and diming the schools.
- One of the best ways to improve education is early childhood education. So we should provide full day preschool for all 3 and 4 year olds.
- Provide funding to stabilize adult education in the city and have the OACES program expand there job training activities.
5 Energy and the Environment
In the 21st century there will be many challenges which will affect all cities. We know gas prices will go up, climate change will increase weather disasters, and energy use will rise. We should plan for these known changes now, to put our city in a better position to deal them in the future. As a result I will do the following.
- Create a Community Choice Aggregate to procure supply and distribution of energy for Rochester Residents at lower prices and from green sources. Create the program with drop out clauses to ensure maximum participation.
- 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 what 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 these tasks. 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 RCSD money in the future through reduced energy costs. I 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.
- 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, energy transference walk ways, and solar panels on city buildings.
- Make tree lined streets a priority – When ever the city removes a tree they need to replace it and make trees a mandatory part of all street redevelopments projects.
- Provide additional subsidies for solar panel on all housing in Rochester and implement a plan to do this by 2030.
- Seek federal funding for the construction of a light rail system for the city.
- Use zoning and federal clean up money for brown fields to encourage manufacturing in our city.
6 Quality of Life –
When residents are asked about problems in their city they usually mention city quality of life issues. From corner stores to vacant houses to young men hanging on the corner these are the things which need to be fixed. So I would enact the following things.
- 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 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.
- I will increase funding and personal for Pathways to Peace who will work to help get young people off the street and into job training programs.
- Create a tax break for renovations on owner occupied property. The home owner can get 25% the cost of the renovation back over 5 years long up to a maximum of 25% the total yearly tax rate.
- I will work to increase accessible, affordable housing. With an average household income of only 29000 it is imperative that we maintain a large and readily available supply of livable and accessible low income housing options. After all, housing should be a human right.
- Make the city quieter – I will work with the police to more strictly enforce the noise ordinances.
- Open and operate a Day center for Homeless people in Rochester including a work program to help provide them with some day income to reduce begging.
7 Downtown Development –
Downtown has long ago stopped being a commercial hub of the city. We have spent the last decade trying to turn it into a luxury housing district with government and legal services. This transformation has been accomplished through lavishing millions of tax money on developer to finance this transformation. This is wrong in so many way as we should not be taking money from our Black and Latino residents to provide things for wealthy white residents. To correctly develop Rochester I would call for the following.
- Require all new development with more than 8 residential units to have 25% low income housing.
- Bid out the management of all government run facilities like the War Memorial, parking garages, and Convention center.
- Work with tenants of the War Memorial to find a permanent solution to providing them with a high quality facility in Rochester.
- Plan more open space for public use downtown.
8 Quality of Government Issues:
Anyone who has to do business with the city has experienced the unique sort of customer service which Rochester has become known for. Recently our leaders have become less transparent, less responsible to their residents, and harder to get the city to work with community groups.
- 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 form 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 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 a variety of radio shows. 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.
- I will close the Municipal violation bureau and move all services to Rochester City Court where they belong.
- 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 – Since 2010 funding for the police department has risen 23% almost twice the rate of the total budget. This would 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 make sure there is FREE public parking at all city government buildings.
- 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.