Rochester City Councilmember

Healthy Politics

Local politics is where democracy’s heart beats


While confidence in other forms of government decline, it has never been more clear that local politics is where democracy’s heart beats. With national politics inciting fear and acts of hate, we need to push forward a progressive local agenda in part by listening to new voices with fresh perspectives.

Proportion of people who have great deal or fair amount trust and confidence in local v. state government. Source:  Gallup, 2016

Proportion of people who have great deal or fair amount trust and confidence in local v. state government. Source: Gallup, 2016

There is an urban renaissance underway across the country. By bringing best practices and effective solutions back to Rochester, I will help us innovate and organize here. We need impactful middle skills job training programs, strong neighborhood associations, and flexible zoning regulations. I want to be a part of a City Government that re-imagines our land use policies to match the realities of rust belt cities, so that we can develop more forward-thinking initiatives and spaces like the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm.

Case Study: Lexington Ave Urban Farm

Photo credit: Foodlink, INC

Photo credit: Foodlink, INC

This project is a collaboration between Foodlink, Mary's Place, and Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services. It provides over an acre of reclaimed green space for 60 Nepali and Burmese refugees to grow food for their families.

This farm could be so much more. Currently it occupies only a fraction of the old subway bed. Lexington Avenue Urban Farm is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to beautify a large vacant area, grow food for area soup kitchens, incubate community gardens, and provide training for jobs in landscaping and agriculture for refugee families.

Yet, every time we have tried to expand this program, we have been met with the same resistance from City Hall's Real Estate department. They hope for taxable development in the future, so they won’t let us grow in the present. This conservative, risk-averse mentality stunts growth and must change.

Photo credit: Google Maps

Photo credit: Google Maps

We have a lot we can learn from other places:

  • Growing Power, Milwaukee, WI.  A network of urban farms that have successfully improved the health of surrounding neighborhoods and become powerful magnets for the kinds of scalable, low-capital investment that is crucial for revitalizing Rochester.
  • Supporting Neighborhood Associations, Oregon City, OR. Oregon City recognizes the importance of effective neighborhood organizations, and the City Commission offers administrative assistance to each organization.

  • Supporting Neighborhood Associations, Saginaw, MI.  Encourages neighborhood organizations to meet regularly and keeps the public notified of all events.

  • PILOT programs (Payment in Lieu of Taxes). Large non-profits do not pay property taxes because of their tax status and yet they enjoy the same level of service as the rest of residents (e.g. fire, police, sewer, trash collection). Some argue that asking non-profits to help offset some of these costs could help ease the strain on local budgets. For example: Crouse Hospital, Syracuse, NY. Agreed to pay the city $50,000 per year to help offset the cost of snow removal, fire protection, and other services typically funded through property taxes.