A Green New Deal for Rochester
The Rochester Green New Deal consists of three points:
1. Community-Based Import Replacement
2. Urban Agriculture
3. Streamlined Bureaucracy to Stimulate Economic Activity
According to the US Census, the poverty rate in Rochester is over 31% and child poverty is over 45%. Our schools fail more than 50% of our children. Our neighborhoods are full of empty lots and abandoned homes. It seems that our number one industry in many parts of the City is drug sales. Unemployment is much higher than the county average of 7.4% and even higher among African Americans. Every year, Rochester spends millions on building projects, which does not improve our economic condition. To fix this, Rochester needs its own New Deal and the Green Rochester slate has developed an economic plan that lifts all boats.
First, we should use Community Based Import Replacement to create stable businesses that cannot leave our area for cheaper labor oversees. This is a process where the purchasing power of local institutions is used to foster and create businesses that are owned by the city residents who work here. Institutions like the University of Rochester, Wegmans, MVP Health Care and even the City of Rochester itself, will figure out what they purchase from outside the city and we will create local businesses to provide them with these products at their present cost. The workers will cooperatively own these businesses. The Evergreen Cooperative in Cleveland, Ohio is the shining example of how this works.
Next, we should use the acres of empty land which dot our city for Urban Agriculture particularly in distressed parts of the City. This will entail high density, for-profit production of food which, again, will be owned by those who work the land. As the City currently owns much of this land, we will give away parcels to groups of neighbors who will own and work this land. Food produced will be bought by the Rochester City School District, the City for summer meal programs and new cooperative businesses that will be also fostered by our economic development department. Potential businesses that would buy from or provide goods to these farms include restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, hardware stores and the like. This will create microeconomic systems that will keep money circulating within a community as opposed to our current system that sees the majority of resources leave the community into the hands of out-of-town corporations.
As any small business owner in Rochester will tell you, the hardest part of opening a brick-and-mortar business in the City is the labyrinth one must endure that is made up of zoning codes and permit regulations. The system is so complicated that city officials have confirmed that no one person can understand it all. There are even instances where you need a permit to get a different permit. The various permits that are needed to start a business routinely total thousands of dollars. In addition to these inhibative costs, our codes often delay the opening of businesses for months and are more restrictive than any municipality in the area. To make matters worse, the City does not enforce codes and regulations consistently. Their decisions seem to be arbitrary. Our Mayoral candidate, Alex White, has personally helped many business owners navigate the nonsensical whims of our City Code. The role of government should be to help not hinder and it is clear that unless you are well connected, our city government is no help.
When elected, Alex White, along with members of City Council will work for a Streamlined Bureaucracy to Stimulate Economic Activity by creating a system of regulations that are fair, consistent and transparent. This will facilitate, not only the creation of new businesses, including those outlined above, but will support already existing businesses.
The Green New Deal will not be without a cost and this will be funded by an end to the endless handouts to out-of-town developers and Fair Tax Assessment on all properties. In 2012, the City invested $79 million into large projects such as College Town and Holy Rosary Apartments. For too long, we have waited for the billions of dollars invested in projects such as these to trickle-down to the rest of us. It is not working, as poverty has increased 50% in the last decade. These project are bad investments for the City of Rochester and it is time for the low interest loans, loans repaid by taxes, one-dollar land sales, grants, and special tax agreements to end.
These projects have not, and will not, create permanent jobs or necessary housing. The project owners are developers who then, rent the spaces and apartments created. Companies that rent the commercial spaces and create permanent jobs do not pay a lower rent and the building owners get the tax breaks.
The low-income housing projects that have been, and are being built, are in addition to existing houses we already have. We should be using local, union labor, to refurbish abandon houses into single family homes instead of more large projects that will become what the name implies – "projects". Furthermore, many of these projects get and retain low tax assessments. For some properties, these low assessments continue indefinitely, saving the owners thousands of dollars every year but costing the city millions.
*Reassess all the large projects in the City at a rate that is closer to construction costs. If projects in the city would only be assessed at half their construction value, we would raise over $40 million a year.
*Stop using PILOT programs on projects that only create buildings rather than permanent jobs.
When these two things are done, we will have a surplus not a deficit. This will solve the need for constant budget cuts as it would stabilize our finances, allowing us to start investing in the people of Rochester, to help them create the institutions which will grow our city deep into this millennium.
A Green New Deal for Rochester
Something needs to change. Supporting local businesses and small business owners is just the start.