One-third of all residents – and more than half of children – live in poverty. The city’s unemployment rate is 14 percent, and it’s even higher for African American and Latino residents.
It’s imperative that we bring jobs and opportunity back to the city. Here are several of our initiatives:
CHILDCARE FOR STRUGGLING FAMILIES
We will add 1,000 childcare subsidies. The city would work with Monroe County to administer the additional subsidies. These subsidies would supplement, not supplant, services already provided to city families.
The cost of this initiative would be roughly $6 million, or $6,000 per child. This would double the amount of local spending. It’s possible the state would match this additional spending.
Barnhart would reduce administrative bloat at City Hall and find other efficiencies to fund childcare. Under Lovely Warren, the city has added $44 million in spending, with few results. Poverty and unemployment remain high. Families are struggling to make ends meet.
According to the Children’s Agenda, only 22 percent of local families that need subsidies are being served. As a result, thousands of parents are unable to afford safe, nurturing childcare.
Barnhart would work with local experts and Monroe County to structure these additional subsidies to meet the greatest need. Barnhart would also talk to economic development agencies about encouraging and incentivizing companies to set aside funds for their employees’ childcare needs.
Locate Jobs in the City
The city must aggressively recruit businesses to locate in the city. A key component is improving the business environment, adding key infrastructure and easing barriers for entrepreneurs.
The city has farmed out much of its job creation efforts to outside agencies with little success. We will be laser-focused on creating jobs in the city.
One key component of attracting businesses is cutting property taxes. We must make Rochester financially competitive.
We will create a Business Center, a one-stop-shop for any business looking to open in the city. This office will not only help businesses navigate necessary permits, but it will provide educational resources on how to succeed. Businesses should not have to wade through red tape at City Hall. We’ll make it easy for them to open their doors.
We must locate jobs near people. In some city neighborhoods, one-third of residents don’t have vehicles. That means they rely on transit. But only two-thirds of jobs in the Rochester metropolitan region are in places served by buses. Even worse, fewer than one-third of residents can get to a job within 90 minutes on a bus. If a job is located within city limits, city residents can get to work.
In addition, the city must strongly urge the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency and Empire State Development to consider a company’s location before awarding tax breaks and grants. Firms located on transit lines would get priority.
We will have a Jobs Office, where people in need of work can stop in and be connected to employment, job training or education. This will be part of developing a comprehensive and systematic approach to job training. Right now, there are multiple programs, creating confusion and redundancies. We have to map out who is doing what. We have to create efficiencies, identify core needs and figure out a holistic strategy. A piecemeal approach will not be transformative for the vast majority of residents in poverty and in need of skills to obtain work.
Internet for All
We will install fiber internet to every home in the city. The service would be free at the speeds currently offered by internet service providers. Households wanting gigabyte service would pay. Businesses that want to tap the system would also pay an affordable rate. This initiative would level the playing field for the city’s children and attract businesses looking for low-cost fiber. The city will share the costs for the fiber network with the Rochester City School District and a private vendor.
Transparency and Support
We must reform the practice of awarding low-interest loans and grants to businesses. The city’s current system is opaque. It’s not clear who is getting this funding and whether the programs are successful. We have to be transparent about who is getting the grants and the criteria used for evaluation. We also have to market these programs.
All large grants and loans are conditional on providing workers with good wages and benefits, including paid sick leave.
The city will hold best business plan competitions and seek private sponsorships. This will entice companies, possibly from outside the area, to take a hard look at locating in the city. These competitions will also generate excitement.
The city will support a sharing economy. We will support shared workspaces, community-owned commercial spaces, cooperatives and pop-up shops.
We need our storefronts filled with retail and offices. The city will encourage pop-up businesses and short-term leases to entrepreneurs. We will also maintain a city database of all vacant storefronts and commercial spaces. We’ll post the list online, so it’s easily accessible to prospective businesses.
The city will respect labor contracts. The mayor will have a good working relationship with union representatives. The city will work with all local labor unions to promote growth of unionized labor in the community.
There will not be a casino in the city. Casinos are bad economic development policy. They prey on the poor and destroy lives and families. They do not create wealth, but suck money from other goods and services. If a casino opens in Rochester, residents won’t suddenly have more money to spend. Some will choose to spend their cash at a casino instead of stores and restaurants.