Monroe County is ranked as one of the worst places in the United States for income mobility. That means if a child is born into poverty, her chances of getting ahead are worse here than most other places.
Meantime, the middle class is shrinking. Household incomes have shrunk over the last two decades when adjusted for inflation.
We must support policies that provide access to opportunity and support families.
Monroe County is falling short on assisting families in need when it comes to child care, early childhood intervention and child protective services. We must make sure these programs have the funding and oversight to successfully serve families.
Rochester would be a good place to pilot a Universal Basic Income program, which would guarantee a minimum income for individuals and families. We could also pilot supplementing Earned Income Tax Credit and spreading out benefit throughout year. The Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative would be a good partner for such efforts.
We must stop awarding tax breaks for luxury housing developments and focus on using our resources on creating affordable housing, eliminating vacant and abandoned properties and assisting the homeless population.
Innovation and Jobs
It’s critical to build on our history of innovation by investing and inventing. We have the assets to create jobs and build a thriving economy.
Monroe County owns a taxpayer-funded fiber internet network. Much of that network is dark. We should explore leveraging that network to bridge the digital divide and provide low-cost internet for small businesses. We should use this network to promote educational equality and create jobs.
We must invest in relevant and effective job-training programs. A recent report suggested 80,000 jobs in the Finger Lakes region could be lost to automation. We must work with Monroe Community College and the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency (COMIDA) on making sure our workforce is prepared for the future.
COMIDA should look at whether companies applying for tax breaks are located on transit lines. Job sprawl has left many people unable to get to work via public transportation.
Rochester is home to a vibrant arts community. The 21st Legislative District is home to Neighborhood of the Arts. The county should work with arts and cultural organizations and the City of Rochester to examine how we fund and support these efforts.
Transparency and Accountability
In order to build trust in government and elected officials, we have to make sure they’re held to high ethical standards.
We must limit the influence of money in politics to ensure fair elections. We need a public campaign financing system.
It’s time to bring Monroe County into the digital age with an online open records system. This will improve access and accountability.
The administration needs vigilant oversight when it comes to finances, as the state comptroller has found the county is in fiscal crisis. Legislators should not be afraid to call out wrongdoing and misspending. We should have an elected comptroller and a strong and independent ethics board.
We have to make sure voters are not disenfranchised when districts are redrawn after the 2020 census.
The county should enact a ban on pay to play, forbidding those who have current contracts or are bidding on contracts from making campaign contributions.
Fairness and Equal Rights
Monroe County must commit to a diverse workforce that serves all residents of our community. That means protecting women, minorities and LGBTQI individuals from discrimination in employment, housing, consumer protections, and foster parenting.
We must end the unfair Monroe Community College chargebacks that place a higher burden on city residents. The entire community has a stake in the outcome of educational and job skills training programs.
Opioid addiction must be treated as a disease, not a crime. It’s important to continue the important work of the Monroe County Heroin Task Force, which has begun to assemble data about this epidemic’s toll on the community. Bringing together stakeholders and experts can identify ways to solve this problem.
The Monroe County Sheriff has taken an important step in insuring inmates at the jail have access to medically-assisted treatment programs.
Protecting the Environment
Our region has incredible natural resources that need to be protected. We must actively support measures to preserve and restore the Great Lakes, combating invasive species and algae blooms.
Rochester is poised to have a booming green energy economy. We should work to attract investments to Rochester, which has expertise in material sciences and advanced manufacturing.
Monroe County must support policies that encourage use of renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.