Strong neighborhoods are the foundation of a successful city. I served as the President of the ABC Streets Neighborhood Association from 2009-2013. From that, I gained experience working with City Council and the Mayor on neighborhood issues as well as listening to neighbors’ ideas and concerns. While most of these interactions ended in a positive outcome, I saw areas to improve how government can work for its people and be a source of good. My leadership has empowered my neighbors and allowed them to make improvements on quality of life issues and demand accountability from our elected officials and I will continue to use that experience for the rest of our community. As your council member, I will work with neighborhood associations throughout the city to create individual neighborhood plans. I understand that different neighborhoods face different challenges, and therefore a tailored plan is needed to help each neighborhood succeed.
Growth v Gentrification
I, like you, am excited to see the growth of our downtown. It is gratifying to see the seed of development begin to germinate and grow. With new housing stock, hotels, and entertainment venues as well as a grocery store downtown is feeling alive with activity.
With all this activity could come a phenomenon known as hypergertrification, defined as a mature stage in the gentrification process when merely affluent residents are displaced by the truly rich, and when commercial real estate properties reach a market value that makes it difficult for ordinary families to pay the asking price. What I will watch for is that we don’t encounter neighborhoods that exclude families because of income.
I know that growth is needed and welcome as downtown has more than its share of empty storefronts, a vestige of its previous more commercial status. But it also had an assortment of small, independently owned retail establishments — a bookstore, some coffee shops, grocery store, restaurants — catering to the middle class that lived nearby. As a member of council, I will do everything in my power to keep growth moving forward at a pace that allows all Rochesterian’s the ability to live, work and play at an affordable price. A possible solution is to provide that tenants in good standing had the right to negotiate 5-year leases with their landlords and will impose mediation when no deal could be reached.
Growth for the City v Towns
As many of you know, the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency (COMIDA) is tasked with providing economic incentives to promote the economic wellbeing for the families of Rochester. For too many years, COMIDA has used that authority to shift jobs from the City of Rochester to many of our towns. This has caused a shift in the jobs that are available to the hardworking men and women of our city and has hastened the exit of many of or retailers and service-providers.
Where we once were able to schedule a doctor’s appointment close to our jobs downtown and then pick up our dry-cleaning during lunch and make a quick stop at Sibley’s on our way home. Through COMIDA efforts that same job has moved out of the city, away from easy public transportation, accessible neighborhood childcare, and the services that we once used has followed the jobs sometimes with the help of a COMIDA tax break.
The bottom line is depressingly familiar. If you asked whether the tax breaks and subsidies actually created jobs, most elected officials and economic development experts can’t say for sure. All they knew — or so they say — was that they didn’t dare not put these incentives on the table, for fear that the companies would locate or relocate elsewhere. I believe that this is a shell game and it is time to look for a fresh approach.
Consolidation v Service Sharing
Former Mayor Bill Johnson, while running for county executive, floated the idea of government consolidation. That idea was derided and dismissed and was not the route that the voters were willing to go down. So if consolidation is not an idea that the families are ready to embrace, I would like to offer the idea that is used in many other communities, including our own, of service sharing.
Service sharing may not save a great deal in tax dollars, but it turns out sharing has a lot to do indirectly with saving money. According to many studies, jurisdictions that share have greater capacity to deliver new services. That’s why it’s no surprise that sharing is most common in areas like disaster preparedness, local anti-terrorism efforts, cybercrime and programs to fight the opioid epidemic. These problems have all became headline issues in recent years. Rather than create new, jurisdiction-specific programs, many localities have built these efforts as shared services. Without that sharing, these new essential services might not exist.
Inter-local service sharing is complex, difficult work, and the return on investment is not always clear. It doesn’t save money in the traditional sense. But it does create flexibility and a bit more certainty in the increasingly uncertain world of local government finance. As your member of council, I will work with our partners in the town and the county to identify and implement shared services across governmental lines.