Approximately 14.5% of households nationwide are considered to be food-insecure. So when Xerox's EBT system malfunctioned this weekend, millions of low-income Americans faced hunger in a nation that likes to pretend that this a problem only found in the Global South. Local food justice activisits Elizabeth Henderson & Jerome Nathaniel compiled this list of policies that they'd like to see City Hall enact, and shared it with us knowing that we'd be on board. Quality, organic foods are a human right, and as a member of the Rochester City Council, I will fight hard for these needed policy changes.
Food security is a human right
These proposals reflect the concept of Food Sovereignty, a key component of the global food justice movement. Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally meaningful food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees just incomes to all peoples as well as the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition. It ensures that the rights to use and manage lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food. Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social and economic classes and generations.
- value and support the role of food and agriculture in our region’s human, economic, and environmental health;
- support a food system that provides an adequate income to farmers and food entrepreneurs while providing all food workers with living wages and fair working conditions;
- sustain our regional agricultural resources to help ensure our future food security;
- support entities that produce, process, and distribute local and healthful food;
- achieve an end to hunger through universal access to ample, affordable, local, healthful, sustainably produced, and culturally meaningful food;
- support communities suffering high incidences of food insecurity and diet-related disease;
- provide for inclusive, democratic community participation in food system policy and program development and creative inter-departmental and inter-governmental cooperative action on food issues; and
- create a resilient regional food system that will better withstand the effects of climate change and other emergencies.
The state of the economy is on everyone's mind this election season. Which is only natural. Many members of our community are unemployed, underemployed, underpaid, or overworked. And at the end of the day, despite all our efforts, we still can't pay the bills. We ask for our society to help us our in our time of need, but are told there simply isn't enough to go around. Of course, our politicians have plenty of money available for bailing out Wall Street, bombing Middle Eastern countries, and incarcerating large segments of the population. But we aren't supposed to talk about that, are we?
Meanwhile, CEO's at bankrupt companies such as Kodak receive bonuses while they cut their workers' healthcare benefits and pensions. They receive annual salaries hundreds of times that of their lowest paid workers, despite those workers doing work just as essential to the operation of those companies. And once they've done their damage and had their fun playing with the lives of our community, they sell our companies to out-of-town and foreign corporations who lay us off and close our factories. You may say, “But that's just how our economic system works, right? Darwin's survival of the fittest?” The thing is, it doesn't have to. Cooperation is just as much a part of evolutionary biology as competition, and that should apply to our economic system, as well.
By most counts Rochester is a very LGBTQ-friendly city. My gay identity would be rather unhistoric when I am elected to City Council, as we first did that nearly 30 years ago. Rochester has had non-discrimination statutes on sexual orientation and gender identity in place for years, with New York State still lagging behind on this with the continued failure to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. We have the sixth highest population in the country of same-sex families. And our faith communities have led the way in a variety of traditions to bring inclusion to church and temple. While there's always more to be done to root out heterosexism and transphobia, Rochester's done quite well on this one.
Those who know me know that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA). On one hand I'm a strong advocate for mass public transportation who has no desire to ever own a car again, and thinks everyone should do the same. Then on the other hand there's the frustrated working-class bus rider with only so much time in the day and a system that doesn't fully meet their transit needs.
Recently, I had a very pleasant experience navigating the system, which is unfortunately not so frequent. And it is this incident that RGRTA should be aiming to have every rider trumpet to all their friends. I needed to pick up some campaign literature after work so that I could go out canvassing. Typically, this would entail me getting off of the Eastview (92) downtown, possibly catching the Monroe (7), and then almost definitely walking home from Boldo's Armory. However, this time I was able to make almost immediate bus transfers from the 92 to the 7, get off, get back on the 7 bus ten minutes later, and transfer to Plymouth (19) to take me home. Really, this is unheard of, but is exactly how a public transportation system should be working.
So what is it going to take to maximize RTS usage and increase annual ridership from 18 million to 164 million? A lot of hardwork and dedication from all community stakeholders. While as a City Councilmember I wouldn't have direct control over how the transit system is run, here are a few things I'd like to suggest as options for RGRTA to explore.
Due to the rightward march of the Democratic Party and the stronghold that corporations have on the two-party system, many activists on the Left have abandoned electoral tactics to advance our agenda for social and economic justice. It doesn't have to be that way though. In the United States, the Green Party has 134 elected officials at last count and continues to grow. And in every place that has an elected Green, you can see clearly that there is a different way of doing politics. The list of Green-initiated policy goes on and on, but in this post I wanted to review an innovative program that one of these elected Greens has recently been at the forefront of, and has even made national media headlines for. And that would be the use of eminent domain by the City of Richmond, California to rescue homeowners from bank foreclosure. Richmond is the largest city in the country led by a Green Party mayor, Gayle McLaughlin, and if Rochester votes Green this November we could see this program come to our own community.
It's early summer in Rochester, one of my favorite times of the year. The sun is out and the temperature is comfortable (most of the time). But probably what I enjoy most right now is the abundance of fresh fruit that I am able to harvest within a 5 minute walk from my front door Right behind my house we have a white mulberry tree which is at it's peak. But I've also been able to take advantage of the numerous cherry trees and juneberry bushes that I've been able to identify in my immediate neighborhood and down along the Genesee River. I've also identified pear, peach, and apple trees which will ripen later in the season. The majority of these trees are on public property, available to anybody who knows that they're edible and ready to be picked. Unfortunately, much of the fruit doesn't get eaten, falling to the ground instead. I would encourage anyone interested in fruit foraging to make sure you have a knowledgeable friend identify the fruit first, but there is an existing abundance within our City and I would encourage you to share in this public resource.
The following release was originally issued during my campaign for State Assembly in 2012. Although not as dire as last year's threat of bankruptcy, today's news that Hickey Freeman may face a transfer in ownership yet again, highlights the instability that corporate ownership brings to workers in our community. If those in power had heeded my advice, we wouldn't be dealing with this only 7 months later. It's time for us to elect politicians that lead in the way we need. Support Green Rochester. Vote Row F.
Due to other commitments, I was unable to attend Monday evening's State of the City event where Mayor Richards outlined where he sees Rochester as being, and where he wants to take us. Basically, free publicity for his upcoming campaign. But imagine my surprise when reading reports of this event, when I found references to something the mayor is calling citizens budgeting. While I don't have all the details, it looks to me like the mayor has been reading my platform. If you look at my platform you'll see that I've been advocating a process called participatory budgeting, as well as being on record for this during my campaign last year as well. So just in case the mayor tries to implement this before he loses to Alex White in November, I thought I'd make sure he fully understands the process so that he gets it right the first time.
Today is May Day, or as most of the world knows it, International Workers' Day. And I am proud that it is on this beautiful day, that I have announced my Green Party candidacy for the Rochester City Council. As a member of the working class, I think that it is fitting that this is the day that we chose to publicly launch Green Rochester. For as we must challenge the inequality of the worker-boss relationship, it is also important that as the People of Rochester, we continually challenge the political policies and parties of the boss. It is imperative that we build a peoples' political movement to take power from those who currently use their wealth and influence to perpetuate economic inequality. And together we will do so.