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Mayor Warren Introduces “Equity & Recovery Agenda” To Address Rochester’s Historic Inequity & Racism And Prepare For Post-Pandemic Recovery

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Mayor Lovely A. Warren today introduced her Equity & Recovery Agenda or ERA Agenda, a bold strategy to drive Rochester’s post-pandemic economic recovery with initiatives that recognize and reverse the effects of the historic racism and institutional inequality, as well as, prepare for a post-pandemic recovery.

“We must act now to address these disparities, and make sure the Rochester that emerges from the pandemic finally delivers the equity our citizens deserve,” Mayor Warren wrote in the document. “We must seize this opportunity to confront the lasting effects of slavery, legal segregation as well as institutionalized racism and structural inequality. We must recognize that this is the time for a new era of equity and recovery.”

The ERA Agenda builds upon the success of Mayor Warren’s first seven years in office with a determined and unapologetic recognition that Rochester’s most pressing challenges, including poverty, crime and educational disparity, are the direct result of polices and laws that have perpetuated the unfair and unequal treatment of minorities.

In response to the social-gathering limitations of the pandemic, the 2020 State of the City was presented with today’s release of the first in a series of short films that highlight the need for an Equity & Recovery Agenda. “State of the City Chapter 1 – Boiling Point” calls attention to the death of Daniel Prude and the disproportionate racial impact of the pandemic as a catalyst for much needed change.

The ERA proposes 11 initiatives to confront four issues that reveal the greatest manifestations of racism and inequality: Housing, Crime, Jobs and Education:

Creating the City of Rochester “Housing First” Trust Fund

Recognizing that too many families must spend a disproportionate share of their incomes on housing expenses, the ERA calls for the creation of a self-perpetuating trust fund to direct revenue toward programs that promote home ownership and prevent the catastrophic consequences of evictions. The fund would combine resources from the government, education and the private sectors to stabilize the area’s housing market and help families establish sustainable housing budgets. The Fund builds on the success of Mayor Warren’s existing commitment to fair and affordable housing, which has led to the creation of more than 3,800 affordable homes serving more than 9,000 residents.

Create the “ERA Emergency Fund” to Prevent Families from Falling Into Poverty

An ERA Emergency Fund will provide micro grants of up to $2,000 to help individuals and families prevent temporary financial setbacks, such as unforeseen medical expenses, lost work time or vehicle repairs, from becoming life-changing events

.Both the Emergency and Housing funds would be paid for from a variety innovative sources, including a tax on legalized marijuana sales and revenue agreements with non-profit entities, including the University of Rochester.

Create an Office of Neighborhood Safety – A Whole City Approach to Reducing Violence An Office of Neighborhood Safety would coordinate and dedicate resources from several Departments, including the Rochester Police Department and the Department of Recreation and Human Services, toward violence reduction. Mayor Warren will convene a task force develop a plan for the new Office in time for inclusion in 2021-22 City budget.

Reforming our Police Department and Honoring the Life of Daniel Prude

Much needed police reform would allow the tragic death of Daniel Prude to serve as a catalyst for much-needed and long-overdue police reform. This reform is already underway with the appointment of Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, the call for a police-residency requirement and the creation of the Office of Crisis Intervention Services.

“Nothing we do will restore Mr. Prude’s life, but we can apply the difficult lessons learned to prevent future tragedies,” Mayor Warren wrote in the ERA agenda.

Make Every Elementary School a Neighborhood Community School

The ERA agenda renews the call for the City, Rochester City School District, Monroe County and others to ensure that the full range of community school services are available at every District “neighborhood elementary school,” starting with School 22 in the Upper Falls Neighborhood. This proposal builds on the requirement issued by the RCSD’s assigned monitor’s direction to develop a feasibility plan by May to make every elementary school a neighborhood school.

Leverage Our Investments in Infrastructure to Ensure and Expand Employment for City Residents

Building on the success of her efforts to direct more City spending on roads, buildings and other infrastructure toward Minority and Women Owned Businesses (MWBE), Mayor Warren intends to increase the City’s MWBE public works procurement goals. Since 2018, when the goals were last increased, Rochester has increased its MWBE contracts by 300 percent, to $27 million.

Mayor Warren wrote: “These higher procurement goals will ensure that we help more Black and Brown families build wealth and ultimately lift up our entire community.”

She will also push trade unions to recruit and train more minority workers among their ranks.

Valuing Those Who Are Caring For Us and Our Loved Ones – Providing A Living Wage For Health Care Workers

In 2021 and beyond, Mayor Warren will elevate and amplify the call for state legislation that mandates a $15 minimum wage for health aide and nursing assistant positions so the pay for their work reflects its value to the community and those they serve. Mayor Warren noted this proposal has a personal element as her mother, who recently passed away, was a Home Health Aide for most of her career.

Expanding Urban Farming to Create Entrepreneurs and Fight Food Deserts – RocCity HomeGrown

Mayor Warren has tasked the City’s Office of Community Wealth Building to establish RocCity HomeGrown, an initiative to establish urban agriculture to help families grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables or create small food businesses. The initiative would create an urban-farm database of quality parcels suitable for community gardens and develop programs to address startup costs and develop neighborhood markets.

Create a New Americans Advisory Council

Recognizing the city’s growing population of residents from other nation’s communities, a New Americans Advisory Council (NAAC) will improve communication with the traditional and emerging leadership among these communities to improve the delivery of City services. Mayor Warren has tapped Bijaya Khadka, an outspoken advocate for local refugee communities, to serve as founding chair.

Create an “Arts Equity Fund” – 1% for the Arts to Support Diverse Voices

Dedicating 1 percent of all capital project investments to an Arts Equity Fund will generate hundreds of thousands of dollars to commission local artists to create public art that promotes equity and inspires empathy and understanding. The fund would be administered by a City Arts Commission. Working Towards a More Sustainable Future – Equity Through Environmental Stewardship Mayor Warren will continue and expand upon an aggressive “green agenda,” to reduce the City’s contribution to Climate Change and help the community become more resilient to the growing number of climate events – such as severe winter storms, extended heat waves and flooding – that lead to economic disruption. Efforts will help residents reduce their utility bills and encourage investment in sustainable infrastructure.

Moving Forward

In the weeks and months ahead, Mayor Warren will generate a community discussion on the need for the ERA and opportunities to improve upon it.

“My work, and our shared work, in achieving the ERA is just beginning,” she wrote. “Yet, when we look back at where we started and what we have already achieved, it is clear that we can succeed. To do so, we will need to embrace the spirit of Rochester that has allowed us to reimagine and recreate ourselves since the beginnings of our great city.”

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