Rochester is in desperate need of an inclusive, positive vision from City Hall based on effective, competently implemented results. Jim Sheppard spent decades as a police officer, serving people, especially young people. That incredible history of public service, combined with his experience as Chief, effectively managing serious issues such as Occupy Rochester with minimal arrests, as well as his vision for a positive, inclusive, capable government that motivates all people to participate and grow this city, is exactly what Rochester needs. Rochestarians still feel significant economic anxiety, racial tensions are far too high, police-community relations are more strained than ever, and the local political rhetoric from certain candidates is downright poisonous. We deserve better, and Jim Sheppard offers it.
It's obvious that Lovely Warrens' supporters were far more enthusiastic about their candidate than Tom Richards' supporters were; his simply didn't show up. I think it is doubtful that Richards will continue on the Independence and Working Families lines, but stranger things have happened, and it would be one hell of a race. I hope Alex White and the Green candidates for City Council and School Board get a fair airing before the November election. No candidates should be crowned victors before the votes are cast, as tonights results certainly proved. Lovely Warren and the rest of the incumbents re-elected tonight should face honest questions about their vision for Rochester. The Greens do have an alternate vision, and Rochestarians are not without a choice come November, even if most people think it has already been made for them.
Also, just a note, the Green Party and Occupy are not the same group. There are many devoted and intelligent people active in the Green Party who never set foot at Occupy. The Four Pillars of the Green Party are 1) ecological wisdom , 2) social justice, 3) grassroots democracy , and 4) nonviolence, which to me is not a bad framework to approach public policy. Rochester needs a government that is inclusive, invigorating, focused on the entire fabric of our community. We have too much potential as a community to keep limping along like this. We need to give people a real stake in their neighborhoods, a real voice at the table, and empower them to help drive this city forward, which is what the Green Party puts on the table.
Our current budget situation is pretty dire, we are at the point of closing down libraries and recreation centers, delaying critical infrastructure projects, and cutting community and youth services. I would say that asking whether the amazingly low property values these deals grant and the low taxes they allow businesses to pay is good for Rochester is a perfectly fair question. I don't disagree that we should encourage businesses to grow in Rochester, but at what cost? How many jobs is a recreation center for at risk inner city youth worth? 10? 50? 200? We're talking two issues, the taxes these deals set and the assessments granted, and I don't think it is unreasonable to ask that Rochester businesses deal with a higher level on both of those scores so that we don't pass all of the pain of our budget crisis to the residents who live here. Having a serious conversation about the budget and not talking about the tax breaks and property assessments for major development deals is unproductive and shortsighted. Tom Richards and Lovely Warren won't even talk about this issue, and Alex White is making a valid argument. Maybe Rochester simply cannot afford these deals at the levels we have been granting them, we are simply passing on too much pain to the people who live here, we're at risk of slashing the social fabric of Rochester in this budget season, and I think we need to change our priorities to benefit everyone in Rochester and not just the businesses that operate here. I think everyone would agree that Rochester needs a new economic vision, and 40 years of one party Democratic rule hasn't brought it.
I like the idea of state guidelines, but I like the idea of more community oversight and veto over these tax-break packages. The list of COMIDA board members is mostly business executives of varying fields, with a union member and a few lawyers. I'm not saying these people aren't qualified or are evil or malicious, but it means that these tax breaks are being given out by a very narrow slice of the Rochester community. I would advocate for more community members, perhaps a rotating member from a neighborhood council, maybe a college professor, community advocates on issues like housing or poverty. We need to stop letting these tax breaks be given out by the business community, and deal with them holistically with the whole Rochester community in mind.
This is simply a symptom of decades of one party control in Rochester. The Democratic primary is the only election that matters, so you get either 'fake' Democrats like Tom Richards, who would be a Republican in any other town in Monroe County, or machine Democrats like Lovely Warren, who have no real convictions other than what it takes to win the Democratic primary. She switched her rhetoric on same-sex marriage ASAP after the grumbling started, proving she will say whatever she thinks voters want to hear. We need a genuine electoral alternative in Rochester. We need to start holding Democrats accountable for their decades of uninterrupted Imperial dominance in City Hall. What has it brought us? Whether we get a 'fake' Dem like Richards or a machine Dem like Warren, Rochestarians lose. We need viable alternatives if we want to have any chance of creating a prosperous future for ALL Rochestarians.
Her first response would seem to be the more authentic one. I would respect her more if she was more clear about her reservations, even if I disagreed with them, rather than saying what she thought people wanted to hear.
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