The New York Health Act could serve as a lifeboat for residents of New York state if the Affordable Care Act gets repealed or defunded in Washington. If you're saying But I never heard of such a thing you aren't alone. Mainstream media has said nothing about it even as they imply that the demise of “Obamacare” is a done deal.
The New York Health Act would set up a state-run single payer system for everyone in New York. It would be funded by a payroll and an income tax which would be progressive. Those who earned more would pay more. It is very similar to what candidate Bernie Sanders proposed during the 2016 Presidential campaign. It enshrines Health Care as a basic right, not a privilege or a commodity.
The New York Health Act has passed the Assembly twice. Let me say that again.
The New York Health Act has passed the Assembly twice. Once in 2015 and again in 2016.
The bill, number A.5062 was introduced by Assembly Member Richard N Gottfried. It currently has 60 co-sponsors. The Senate version is number S.3525, its sponsor is Senator Bill Perkins. It would cover all New York residents regardless of immigration status. All necessary medical services would be covered including primary care, specialists, hospitalization, dental, vision, mental and reproductive health and prescribed medical devices and supplies. The savings for New Yorkers are estimated to be between $26 and $45 billion per year. A provision provides for negotiation of the price of drugs and medical devices.
One of the major reasons for job losses, especially manufacturing jobs, in New York is health care costs. Every other industrialized country as well as many developing countries already have health care coverage for everyone. In New York as well as the rest of the US, health care costs employers an average of 12 percent of payroll cost. The Act would provide a more level playing field for business in New York.
Small business is what grows the economy and the act would make it easier for small businesses to start and grow because they wouldn't have to worry about constantly increasing health insurance costs. Small Business owner Callie Currin explained it this way in her testimony to the legislature: New York Health would allow me to base my hiring decisions on whether I need another employee to get the work done, not whether I will be able to pay their ever-increasing insurance premiums. On the other side, workers would not be forced to remain in a job, or a marriage, that they hate, just to keep health insurance. It will make starting a new business easier.
The NY Health Act is already endorsed by many large unions including the AFL-CIO, SEIU, Teamsters, Teachers, Nurses, Communication Workers, Auto Workers, University Professions and many more. Also endorsed by the Green Party, Working Families Party, NY Academy of Family Physicians, NY Academy of Pediatrics, Public Health Association of New York, the League of Women Voters and 98 members of the state legislature.
Some of the questions that have been asked and answered
Will I be able to keep/choose my doctor?
Yes, and more so than under the current system. There will be no network restrictions. Patients and their doctors will make health care decisions, not insurance companies. There will even be coverage for those who travel out of state, if the services are deemed medically necessary.
Won't it raise my taxes?
The payroll tax will be added but in almost all cases it will be less than what is currently being taken out for private insurance. That is if you are fortunate enough to have an employer that provides insurance at all. And if your employer doesn't provide it, now someone will at less cost than you would have to pay for individual private insurance. If you own property your taxes will likely come down because local governments will no longer be burdened by Medicaid and insurance costs for their employees.
Won't this lead to rationing and long waits like in Canada?
We have rationing and long waits already and who is doing it? Insurance companies. Care would be allocated based on medical need not company profitability. One in every three Americans including those with insurance puts off medical care because of cost concerns. If anything there will be less “rationing.” There isn't rationing in Canada either, this is more industry propaganda. Canada's system provides excellent coverage. The delays come from issues in their delivery system. It is difficult to maintain large hospitals in a country with a small population (less than that of New York state) spread out over huge distance (3 times the size of the US excluding Alaska). Long waits are often for cosmetic or elective surgery, not life-threatening conditions. It is also worth noting that the Canadian system started in the province of Saskatchewan, with roughly the population of Buffalo.
What can I do to help make this happen?
Contact your New York State Senator! Tell him or her to support S.3525. Locally Senator Rich Funke is an ardent opponent. Keep contacting him and let him know it is what his constituents want!
Once passed by the senate the bill will need Governor Cuomo's signature. If he can fix health care in New York right, there will likely be a seat with his name on it waiting in the Oval Office should he choose.
For more information go to www.nyhcampaign.org
For full text of the bill go to http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us and type a5062
What Black Lives Matter Means: Rochester’s Black Lives Matter at School and The Importance of Education
Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.
—George Washington Carver
On February 17, 2017, history unfolded in schools throughout the Rochester City School District when students were introduced to Black Lives Matter at School, an educational initiative dedicated to generating discussions about Black lives.
BLM at School was the social justice brainchild of parent/activist Mahreen Mustafa George, local organizer Afro-Latinx Queen, Rochester city activists, and teachers. “I got involved after our varsity boys’ soccer team took a knee during the playing of the national anthem during one of their games,” explained George, whose children are RCSD students. “A few weeks later, schools and educators in Seattle Public schools took steps to affirm and understand that Black Lives Matter and they garnered national news coverage. Myself and the other founding members talked about this action and it led to us saying that we needed to sit down together and see if we could do something similar here in the RCSD, given that our community was already taking part in actions supporting racial justice.”
“BLM at School,” stated Afro Latinx Queen, “is about having the opportunity to have difficult conversations in the classroom and guiding the dialogue for it to be more productive and not traumatizing for either party and learning about restorative practice.”
The organizers reached out to schools such as World of Inquiry School to introduce BLM at School into the classrooms. Teachers, parents, community members, and even former students participated in this initiative, using peace circles to connect with pupils about a wide range of topics pertaining to Black empowerment. Those involved also had the opportunity to discuss oppression, how it affects people of color, and solutions to eradicate it. In the Black Lives Matter at School Facebook group, participants proudly uploaded footage of students actively listening, engaging with one another and the volunteers while discussing the politics affecting Black people regularly.
The BLM at School committee studied various resources and curriculums, including the BLM at School Week in Philadelphia. In early 2017, many teachers in the city’s schools incorporated activities into their lessons throughout the week, introducing everything from “science lessons about the biology of skin color for high schoolers” to “The Revolution Is Always Now” coloring pages for very young students.” Unlike the initiative here in Rochester, the one in Philly was neither sponsored by the school district. However, it opened the door for a much-needed discussion about the importance of Black liberation.
As groundbreaking (and well meaning) as BLM at School is, it was also considered controversial. Like any incentive focused on social justice, BLM at School experienced some resistance from some educators, administrators, and even the members of the Rochester community. Many White parents expressed their concerns or overall distain about BLM at School, arguing that 1) it was associated with the national movement and 2) that the event itself would promote violence—particularly against law enforcement. It was furthermore considered divisive by alienating White people, who proposed an “All Lives Matter at School” Day.
And while a cluster of city schools openly embraced BLM at School, there were some who did not. In fact, one school was so resistant to the activity that threatened the educational future of its students. Brenda Pacheco, principal of Rochester’s School of the Arts, issued a statement threatening to suspend students who participated in a planned walk-out. When the notification reached social media, members of the community inundated the school’s administration with emails, phone calls, and resistance. Meanwhile, SOTA students exercised their right to peacefully protest by walking out minutes before dismissal, chanting alongside supportive community organizers.
As I watch the protest live on social media, I realized that the crux of the Black Lives Matter at School was to emphasize the importance of education. The majority of schools in the United States do not properly teach the history of Black people or non-Black people of color. In fact, students will more likely read some skewed version of how Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation. Black students are rarely exposed to their own history, identity, and culture in the classroom, this exclusion of information deliberate on the part of the administration.
And the authority figures in urban school further play a significant role in how Black children view themselves. It is no coincidence that most of the educators in city schools are White and uneducated about the systematic oppression inflicted upon the Black students they teach. Many of these students reside in impoverished neighborhoods and live in unhealthy environments, not learning the coping skills necessary to overcome adversity—let alone their own history. While struggling with adversity in their immediate environment, these students enter the classroom to consume information about people dissimilar to them.
Contributing to the disconnect is that these White educators often dismiss the intellect of their Black students. White educators who do so compare these children to that of their White counterparts—possibly due to scientific racism. Conversely, studies have shown that Black students benefit from engaging with Black teachers because the latter understands them and will more likely recognize their potential.
“A lot of our children of color are misunderstood,” explained Afro Latinx Queen, “mostly due to staff not knowing how to deal with our kids because they are uneducated about trauma within our communities. Instead they turn to feelings such as intimidation or fear.”
This is why I firmly believe that personal/political and even spiritual empowerment is the crux of systematic change. When members of a disenfranchised group acknowledge their worth, they will employ every source within themselves to resist anyone, anything that states otherwise. The SOTA students were educated enough to acknowledge the bullshit Pacheco tried to pull on them. By studying on their own, researching Black Lives Matter and the incident that spearheaded the movement to begin with—on top of internalizing their own significance, they practiced their right to state that they mattered by engaging in civil disobedience. But most importantly, these students also need supporters in the community to validate their efforts in regards to achieving empowerment. It is paramount for educators, community members, parents, and even former students to collaborate with one another to ensure that BLM at School continues to thrive in the RCSD.
Black Lives Matter at School, to me, is an initiative that was a long time coming. Black children need to know the accomplishments of their elders and contemporaries. Because if our children knew their history, they will then become educated. They would then inquire about the structure of their surroundings and who truly benefits. And, once realizing the truth, the pupils become empowered to the point of wanting to challenge the various industrial complexes that oppress them.
Related: An Evening of Empowerment with Angela Davis | World of Inquiry #58 Soccer Team Protests National Anthem | How to Help Black Lives Matter (and Other Causes) While Dealing with Mental Health Issues | B.L.A.C.K. addresses community after 73 protesters arrested | BLM @School: Reflecting on the Day and Moving Forward
ELECTION TEARS & REVENGE
Not a day passed following the Sept. 2013 Democratic Party Mayoral Primary in which the opposition wasn’t plotting revenge. Rochester's legacy white political elite were reeling from their defeat to a young black woman from the 19th Ward – Lovely Warren had just won the Party designation for Mayor – a historic first for the city that was once home to Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. But this achievement did not set well in the “progressive” hearts of this political faction, despite their Democratic Party registration.
The polls said their incumbent Mayor 1% would win, they had mounted a clear campaign cash advantage, three times the number of ads on TV, the white mainstream press in their back pocket, all the major worker unions’ (read: white workers unions) endorsements, and symbolic blessings from the figurehead of white power in Greater Rochester - conservative radio host Bob Lonsberry’s endorsement.
Tom Richards campaign sign outside Workers United on East Ave. (Rochester Indymedia)
Despite all the advantages, the establishment had somehow lost the primary. But rather than concede defeat and support the Democratic Party’s chosen candidate, the white institutional players (Ken Warner, Molly Clifford, Carolee A. Conklin) used the Independence Party. The Independence Party in Rochester is white Republicans who know they won’t be electable in an urban setting if they call themselves Republicans, so opt for the euphemistic “Independence Party.” Warner and his Republican friends created a Turn Out for Tom last ditch effort in the final weeks before the general election.
Their beloved candidate, former CEO of RG&E, was not used to losing, but desperate to rally his white-racist base, Tom Richards went on the Bob Lonsberry show the day before the election. Recall Bob Lonsberry was kicked off the radio temporarily in 2003 for racist remarks against former African American mayor Bill Johnson.
Mayor 1% got trounced again in the general election, this time by a 16% margin as compared to the 15% defeat in the primary. Instead of spending a few days or months of introspection, the white privilege faction doubled down on retribution, either that or depression. Many of those at City Hall, who had backed the Turn Out for Tom campaign could be seen weeping at work for the entire week following the election.
There exists an obvious conflict within the Democratic Party, but as with any conflict or argument, the way forward might be to listen to what the other side is attempting to say, rather than just thinking about what you are going to say next. For the past four years, the white political elite have not bothered to listen and have been in campaign mode since day one of Lovely's Warren's term in office.
THE RISE OF THE NEW JIM SHEPPARD CROW
Soon after Lovely Warren was elected, Jim Sheppard announced his resignation as police chief. He was very clear to state at the time that his resignation had nothing to do with the new Mayor:
"I'd be doing this whether Mayor Richards was in, or not," said Sheppard at his out-going announcement.
Fast-forward to January 16, 2017 with Sheppard explaining his retirement on the Evan Dawson show:
“Once she announced she was gonna run, I knew that, uh, um, from my perspective, um, that was not administration I wanted to work in.”
The reinvention of Jim Sheppard began just a few months into his retirement. In March 2014, Sheppard took a job with Center for Youth. Was there any coincidence that this new employer’s executive director was Elaine Spaull, an ardent supporter of the Turn Out for Tom campaign? As city council’s East District member, and despite her year-round tan, Spaull represents the whitest and most affluent section of Rochester.
Sheppard directed the Center’s New Beginning Program, which mentored at-risk males, helping them in their academic and everyday lives. This had do be a redemptive activity for Sheppard, given his past career of doing nearly the opposite, as chief of racial profiling and criminalization of young black men and women.
Rochester’s legendary racist police history is chronicled in July ’64, a documentary about the rebellion of blacks against the Rochester police in 1964, an uprising that required the National Guard to quell. Fast-forward to the 1990’s and five police officers, including current Locust Club president Michael Mazzeo, facing a 19-count federal grand jury indictment, alleging police brutality, conspiracy to violate the civil rights of suspects, embezzlement, among other crimes. This RPD despotism is well documented in Ted Forsyth’s Drudging Up the Past on Police Union President Mike Mazzeo and Taunja Isaac’s documentary Minus 25, The Betty Tyson Story. Now skip forward to 2010-14, the era of police chief Jim Sheppard, and once again Rochester makes national news for all the wrong reasons.
In 2011, Emily Good, a young white woman, was arrested for videotaping police from her front yard. She was videoing two young black men being stopped and frisked by the RPD. “I don’t feel safe,” said the arresting officer of Good standing in her pajamas with her cell phone. The video went viral, the story was picked up by CNN, and other major news outlets. Chief Sheppard, at the press conference the following week, backed up the arresting officer’s conduct.
In the summer of 2013, Benny Warr, a disabled African American man was waiting for a bus when two white police officers maced and threw him out of his wheel chair to the ground, where he was kicked, punched and kneed. Again the video goes viral and gains national attention and again the police chief is supportive of the arresting officers. Tache Young, the young woman recording the incident, is overheard saying, “you can’t even call the police on the police.”
“We’re doing what they want us to do,” said Sheppard, referring to requests made but the neighborhood business association for clearing the block. The RPD apparently took orders from the business association that made it criminal to be on the sidewalks congregating—even though, according to James Muhammad of the Jefferson Avenue Business Association, at a community rally in support of Mr. Warr on May 18, 2013 said “We did not give the police the task to do what they did.”
Later that summer of 2013, Brenda Hardaway, a pregnant black woman, was slammed against the side of a house, punched in the head, and then tackled to the ground. All of this was caught on video, the story was picked up nationally by CNN, Huffington Post, USA Today. What was Chief Sheppard’s response this time? His officers showed “tremendous restraint.” The local NAACP called for Sheppard’s resignation.
Then in December of 2013, three young black men from the Edison Tech basketball team were waiting for a school bus to take them to a sports scrimmage, but instead they were arrested for loitering. Their arrests drew sharp criticism from their coach and school officials. Chief Sheppard: “the police were justified in making the arrest.”
In summation, being the leader and spokesman for police brutality, justifying the beating down of pregnant women, people in wheel chairs, and wrongful arrests of black boys, is qualification for mentoring at-risk young black men at Center for Youth. And 1 plus 1 equals 3. This is the leadership logic of Rochester’s “finest.” As in the case of police union leader Mazzeo: the more criminal your record, the higher you will be promoted.
Sheppard, despite his messaging as “policing in the spirit of service”, amped up the philosophies and practices of New Jim Crow policing while chief. City Councilman Adam McFadden has referred to the former police chief as “James ‘stop and frisk Sheppard” and the charge isn’t unjustified.
Former Mayor Richards and Sheppard together authored “Operation Cool Down” which was proposed as the benign heir to their predecessor’s “Zero Tolerance” program. The result is black neighborhoods are blasted with more policing, more stops, more searches, all justified in the “spirit of service” and for “public safety.” Or in the case of Jim Sheppard, even greater divine callings: “Everything in my police career was about saving lives.”
Yet his crusade lacked acknowledgement or awareness of the mounting academic and video evidence of police criminality sweeping across the nation at the time. In his chapter titled “Criminal Justice” for The State of Black Rochester 2013, Sheppard cites numerous statistics that indicate crime disproportionately occurring in majority black neighborhoods. “Implication: Police go where the crime is,” Sheppard writes, justifying his over-policing of Black youth. But there is a problem with Sheppard’s logic, as clarified here by Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness:
Subjecting people to stops and searches because they live in “high crime” ghettos cannot be said to be truly race-neutral, given that the ghetto itself was constructed to contain and control groups of people defined by race. Even seemingly race-neutral factors such as “prior criminal history” are not truly race-neutral. A black kid arrested twice for possession of marijuana may be no more of a repeat offender that a white frat boy who regularly smokes pot in his dorm room. But because of his race and his confinement to a racially segregated ghetto, the black kid has a criminal record, while the frat boy, because of his race and relative privilege, does not. Thus, when prosecutors throw the book at black repeat offenders or when police stalk ex-offenders and subject them to regular frisks and searches on the grounds that it makes sense to “watch criminals closely,” they are often exacerbating racial disparities created by the discretionary decision to wage the War on Drugs almost exclusively in poor communities of color.(Alexander, pg. 132)
Despite The New Jim Crow appearing on the New York Times Best Sellers list for over a year from 2010-11, and being the most read criminal justice book in the country at the time, Jim Sheppard admitted to not having read it, when asked by a Rochester Indy Media contributor outside a public event in 2012. How could it be that someone at the pinnacle of the criminal justice system had not read probably the most important book on his profession in the past 30 years?
Ream Kidane, a Rochester activist, had read the book. He held a book review of The New Jim Crow on November 13, 2012 at the Central Library in downtown Rochester as part of the library’s lunch-time lecture series. Just a year earlier Kidane had been arrested in Washington Square Park along with 30 other protesters as part of the Occupy Rochester movement. The one doing the arresting was none-other-than the police chief himself - Jim Sheppard. Rochester became the first city in New York State, under then Mayor Tom Richards, to forcibly remove protesters of the Occupy movement.
Occupy organizer Ream Kidane arrested by Chief Jim Sheppard (Courtesy WROC-TV)
Now fast forward to November 14, 2017, Sheppard in making his mayoral candidacy announcement, recalls his response to the Occupy movement:
“When the going gets tough, the leader is out front. I remember dealing with the Occupy Rochester movement. I met with them, I listened to them. I told them what my responsibilities were in terms of public safety and I treated them with respect. I was embarrassed to see how (Mayor Warren’s) administration to the Black Lives Matters protesters. 75 arrests and I watched it LIVE on tv as a local tv anchor repeated, ‘Where’s the mayor?” Where’s the leadership, what’s the plan. This administration was not there. I will be.”
So instead of watching it LIVE on television, we are to believe that this former police chief will be there on the street “respecting” the protesters next time around. But in this announcement, it is not even clear if Sheppard is supportive of Black Lives Matter. If so, why was he watching it on TV? Shepard has shown up when white people are marching for everything this past year, why not for when black people march?
PROTECTOR OF THE 1%
And judging from his record with the Occupy movement, would the BLM movement even want the former chief to be there. What would Sheppard's “plan” be? Here is Kidane’s response regarding Sheppard’s account of Occupy:
“I’m not sure why he chose Occupy, of all things, to emphasize. He arrested everyone in the park on two separate nights! His tactics were heavy handed. They had riot cops there frequently and had high level crowd control vehicles. As a police liaison, I didn't have a single conversation with him, nor did they reach out to us except to coerce us to leave. Others may have spoke with him. We won the right to occupy the park because they figured they'd have a battle on their hands, not because they were interested in "working with us.” This is not a defense of Warren, obviously, but damn Sheppard.”
So correction to Sheppard's story: he didn't listen to them, he didn't respect them, he arrested them all.
“He was doing the actual arrests himself because he couldn't trust his officers,” added Ryan Acuff – an activist who recalled the numerous episodes leading up to the Occupy encampment, where the RPD were out of control. Acuff added jokingly, “I guess if you call arresting 40 or so people, respecting them...”
The reinvention of Jim Sheppard continued on March 22, 2016, when he held a book review of Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The book references the events of Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, and South Carolina in discussing the themes of slavery, police brutality, and mass incarceration. Recall that the book reviewer this day is the former chief who arrested the fellow who had done the book review of The New Jim Crow, only 4 years prior.
For observers with memories longer than a milli-second, the transformation from chief defender of police brutality to staunch social justice advocate is astonishing. Are we to believe that a man who over and over told black youth and black people in general that they didn’t matter during his four years as police chief, has had a miraculous change of heart? When it counted, on his watch, with every major spectacle of police abuse and brutality that earned national attention, Sheppard not only was unable to tell the black community in Rochester that their voices mattered, that the Rochester police were indeed out of control, he managed to do the opposite, confirming his public support for the New Jim Crow tactics of his true “brothers” in blue.
Ken Warner with Sheppard at majoral candidate announcement (Courtesy of davyv.blogspot.com)
It is obvious then why Sheppard earned recently the endorsement of established racist Bob Lonsberry in his Jan. 14th column “Sheppard For Rochester.” It is obvious when at nearly every public appearance Sheppard makes, he is flanked by white establishment player Ken Warner. Warner, when he is not leading back-door Turn Out For Tom political coups, is the Executive Director of UNICON – a partnership of unions and contractors, the same contractors that were indicted by the FBI in 2014 for bid rigging and falsifying contracts with black-owned companies. It is obvious who is running his campaign. Sheppard promises to bring Democratic Party unity, but with Ken Warner as his key political advisor, it's equivalent to calling for 'peace in the middle east' and hiring Dick Cheney as your envoy.
Finally, what message does it send that the proper path to Mayor is through the police department? The message that is understood by people of color is that they live in a police state, and that every few years the guardians of white power feel the need to put the black population back in their place. We have seen this counter-revolution to the #Black Lives Matter movement gain footing nationally with calls by the new president for a return to “law and order” in addition to an increase in police killings of citizens in 2017. This regression need not gain traction in Rochester.
Rochester Indymedia and Open Mic are going to be cross posting and collaborating in the coming months on various stories. This is one of the first pieces to be cross posted. We're excited to be working with Open Mic! Check out the original article here: http://www.openmicroc.com/exploring-mayor-lovely-warrens-time-in-office/
Sharing the background of many of Rochester’s black residents, Mayor Lovely Warren’s grandparents migrated north seeking better economic opportunities. And like many of our grandparents, hers didn’t find it either, settling instead for labor.
Graduating from the Rochester City School District, she went on to college, law school, then became a lawyer before working in the community and later leading City Council as the youngest to ever do so.
And then that granddaughter of migrators, sharecroppers, laborers, became Rochester’s first black female mayor.
Mayor Lovely Warren took office in January 2014. However, it hasn’t been an easy three years. In fact, the first year of her term saw a number of scathing reports and criticism from the community. She created security positions in her office, claiming she was being threatened, and then gave them to family members. She was constantly criticized for her handling of the press and many were worried that she wasn’t as good of a pick for Rochester as they’d first hoped.
Going into 2017, Warren hasn’t announced yet if she’ll campaign for re-election. Already James Sheppard, County Legislator for the 23rd District, has announced his campaign for her seat and Rachel Barnhart who recently lost a bid for the State Assembly against Rep. Harry Bronson is toying with a mayoral run as well. Both have charged that Warren has made no change, prompting OM to look at Warren’s time in office.
We looked at four pillars as we examined her “legacy:” development, social justice, violence and crime, and putting Rochester on the map.
Rochester’s bright history as the home of Kodak, Xerox and Bausch & Lomb is long gone. And Mayor Lovely Warren in an interview with OM in early January said she sees the current state of the city as at the moment before reaching similar prosperity and growth.
“If you look at the history of our city we’ve had periods of challenges,” she said. “And we didn’t look at those and cower down. We changed with the times and we reinvented ourselves and that’s what we’re going through right now. A reinvention. Those periods of decline and struggle only prepares us for the prosperity and success. I believe that’s the path we’re on.”
But that’s not what many in the city see today.
Blame a lack of former administrations’ ability to prepare the city for changing industry, or blame the people, either way Rochester’s presence is a sagging ghost of its former self. And while there have been great beautification efforts by local artists and organizations, it’s often hard to look past the abandoned buildings and crumbling homes.
“Do we need development? Look at the neighborhoods,” said George Moses of Northeast Area Development (NEAD). His office in the Beechwood neighborhood has seen incredible change in the community in the last five years or so, including huge changes to the local schools, funding and simply, attention. More families are moving in.
“But it’s a challenge. You have so many different perspectives,” he said. “So, when you say build, what is that build? Putting in some residential, putting in some type of commercial, so that not only people here…can enjoy it but others outside this community can come in and enjoy those things. The correct balance is how you include people in the neighborhood.”
He compared her approach to development to that of former mayor Bill Johnson, saying they both had a residential focus: “Bill Johnson was neighborhood-based and a little ahead of the curve on development but he was on the right track. Then you have the Duffy and Richards administration that happened in between which actually went away from neighborhoods. So, take that into account. Most folks feel they were more corporate but basically just away from neighborhoods. So, it’s a swing back to neighborhoods again.”
“Ever since she became mayor, I’ve seen a lot of construction,” said Paula Brown, a Rochester resident who said she doesn’t know much about Mayor Warren but that she likes that the construction includes other parts of Rochester, mentioning specifically the building on North and Hudson. As a resident of the Winton neighborhood, she said she often sees changes to Browncroft Boulevard and similar streets.
However, James Little who lives just a street over from the Susan B. Anthony house criticized the Mayor for not including the city’s west side too when developing small pockets of homes, and building commercial structures such as over near the Public Market. A number of homes there in the Avenue D section and near Clifford Avenue have gotten new facelifts or new builds altogether.
“We have crime too and I feel like she’s only investing in areas over there because they have the Public Market,” he said. He added that he lives blocks from Susan B. Anthony’s house and while they’ve gotten a coffee shop, some new storefronts the community is still pretty much the exact same.
And Edgar Harris, a city resident, said parts of Clifford Ave, East Main Avenue and Genesee need work too. Rochester’s high rates of poverty factor into this. 16.2 percent of Rochester lives in extreme poverty and recently the rate of Rochesterians living in poverty rose too, from 31 percent to 33 percent. We are one of the poorest cities in the nation when compared to similarly sized metros.
“For Rochester, for a long time, we never realized or recognized we had a poverty problem. We didn’t recognize the struggles the poor or working poor were going through,” Warren said.
So while this means Warren’s work is especially necessary, considering today’s rates of poverty, it also means there’s a lot to do.
Some of Warren’s other major projects include working to continue filling in the Inner Loop, which began with Richards’ administration, fleshing out the Pier at Charlotte further and rebuilding/repopulating downtown.
The Inner Loop was projected to cost $21 million with the city fronting about $400,000 for the filling in. That section of the Loop was chosen because traffic wasn’t as high and it’ll cover a little under three miles of the Loop.
“I’m really excited about the Inner Loop project, not only as a citizen, but as a planner and business owner,” said Glenn Kellogg, owner of Hart’s. Hart’s is one of the newer builds downtown and though it began construction with the Tom Richards’ administration, Warren’s office has been credited with being more helpful by the store’s owners. “To be able to get rid of an overly complicated highway system that actually did a lot to divide and destroy communities is really exciting. The prospect, as a business owner, to be in the center of new neighborhoods and communities while these areas are being built is really great and partly influenced our choice of location.”
One of the things he says has been an issue is that “Rochester doesn’t have a good history of planning efforts. They announce a new place but it fails to articulate a vision for itself. When it comes to the where and the how, Rochester’s officials tend to skirt around the difficult political questions surrounding new developments and doing what it takes to finish them.”
The project has made national news with New York Times and the Atlantic both lauding the city for repairing transportation policy from the 1950s- when the Loop was first created.
“We’re a long way,” said Moses, reflecting on what growth needs to happen. “Of course, it’s taken decades to get here. The conversations, the courageous conversations are happening. I’ve been a part of them and I’ve seen her speak her truth.”
“She’s doing a good job showing we can build, but what about the people,” said Little. “We voted for her and we don’t got as much money as maybe some of these businesses but a vote is a vote and my vote means the same as theirs… or you’d think. I’d like her to do more over here.”
Mayor Warren is also leading Rochester during one of its most tense times in history.
During her term, RPD experienced one of the first cop fatalities in decades: Officer Daryl Pierson. Ignoring allegations of brutality, she sought to unite the community and police by having a service for him. Already tense relations between the community and police would only get worse. In fact, in July, a Black Lives Matter Protest resulted in East End being shut down to traffic and saw one of the highest arrest rates in the nation for similar protests. She’s also seen the questionable and controversial arrests of Avenue A and at the Puerto Rican Festival. Outside of the police relationship, she’s seen an autistic runner pushed over because of his color, a local suburb circulate fliers to stay white and, past issues of race, two LGBT flags burned down, among many, many other incidents.
She’s been criticized heavily from both sides; many believe she’s too soft and has been too friendly to protestors, others believe she has not done enough to support protestors and isn’t doing enough to support her community.
“I think Mayor Warren wants it both ways,” said Bernard Flack, an 18-year-old who participated in the July protest. “She likes getting the black vote but then when we need her to represent us she pulls the ‘Two Rochester’s’ crap and leaves us hanging.”
Flack is referencing the popular ideology that Rochester is split into two: a progressive and wealthier part that includes much of the city’s south sides and suburbs and the other part in the inner-city that sees higher levels of crime and where our nationally ranking child poverty rate has found a home.
“I don’t doubt that she understands what’s going on but I think she’s so concerned with getting re-elected and being able to work with the ‘other side’ that she doesn’t even work with us. Where was she during the protest? She sent officers to do the work she should’ve been doing,” he added.
It’s important to note Warren hasn’t stated yet whether she’ll run, when asked about this, Flack responded that he still believed she does most of her work “for appearances.”
It’s a point she’s been attacked on repeatedly with County Legislator James Sheppard folding it into his campaign for mayor. In his announcement last Saturday, Sheppared repeatedly drew comparisons between him and Warren, stating that above all, he’ll be there for the people in a way he claims she wasn’t.
In a July press conference she told Open Mic Rochester: “I understand why they went to East Ave. I definitely understand that. I understand the philosophy behind it however, the question becomes do you want to create a race riot in the middle of the city…?”
She said she trusted her chief to handle protestors and said she believes ending the protest before it turned tenser between patrons and protestors was a good idea.
“As mayor of this city, I happen to represent all of our citizens,” she said, discussing balancing citizens’ conflicting interests with her own identity and understanding of the black community’s frustration. “And I believe that that is what I’m doing. First of all, I’m a black woman. I’m not removed from this. My family still lives on Jefferson Avenue so I see it every day. I live in this community, I’m a part of this community and I’m not exempt from what people are feeling or how they’re expressing themselves.”
“It’s very contentious,” Warren said, describing the relationship in the January interview. “We can’t work that way. It has to be a partnership and going from zero tolerance policy to really saying, ‘how can we work together and be respectful and let people know we’re being serious?’ That’s so very important.”
Though Representative Ernest Flagler-Mitchell (D-29) is very outspoken about his support of movements like Black Lives Matter, he said he understands why Warren can’t always do the same and, past this, he doesn’t blame her for it. Speaking about the July 2016 rallies, he recognizes that many wanted Warren to be there in support, but said her not being there may have played a part in what she could do to fix the problem objectively.
“Being black while in office is a challenge. Being a black woman is more of a challenge,” he said. “Some folks don’t want to see her as mayor. They will never accept her as mayor because she’s a black woman. You have to ask yourself, if she were a black man or white, would she be facing the same challenges she would as a black woman?”
“I don’t think it’s about color,” said Flack. “It’s like Clinton. I want a female president. I want a black female mayor but I think there are better voices out there than hers.”
Violence and Crime
Rochester’s crime is at a historic low. According to Wayne Harris, Deputy Chief of Community Relations and Engagement for RPD, in fact, it’s at a 25-year low.
Part 1 crime, deemed the most dangerous by the FBI, fell to a 25-year-low in 2015, according to a press release from the Mayor’s office. Reported homicides were 36, one more than the previous year but consistent with the five year average. And the homicide clearance rate was 80 percent.
“Rochester’s streets are safe and getting safer,” Mayor Warren said in the same release. “The men and women of the Rochester Police Department are working in partnership with the citizens of this community to push our crime rates down and build viable neighborhoods where more jobs can be created and educational outcomes improved.”
However, gun crime continues to rise, the statistics reflecting a truth many in the community not already know but have experienced firsthand. A number of high profile shootings occurred during the mayor’s term, from the use of a stolen AK-47 to murder three at the Boys and Girls Club in 2015 to various shootings in the neighborhoods.
The conversation on illegal guns and gun use is happening in every major city, from New York to Chicago and Los Angeles, even prompting Senator Bernie Sanders and 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to address the issues in their campaigns for president.
Locally, Flagler-Mitchell has charged forwarding, proposing locking up guns in safe and holding the owners accountable for lost or stolen guns, a policy many said actually blamed gun owners.
However, although the city has mostly struggled to contain gun violence, Harris quickly pointed out officials have had more success in finding lawbreakers and solving crimes.
“Statistically we look great. I don’t think she’s been soft at all on crime,” he said, addressing a common complaint lodged at Warren. Sheppard in his speech directly criticized for her not being present at the Boys & Girls club, and said he’s specifically running for mayor because of how little change he has seen in the city.
Harris pointed out that if you see crime as a symptom you really have to change the whole footprint of a neighborhood. Communities must change to encourage youth to live positive lives and to protect residents from outside crime. Drugs, for instance, has been a particularly sticky point in the city and over the summer it resulted in a controversial arrest near one of the city’s most popular open air drug markets: Avenue A. The intersection is a popular spot for those seeking heroin. However, even more interestingly, more than half of the cars that visit are from out of the city, showing the city is a hot spot for a number of issues but that work across towns and the county itself may be necessary.
The prevalence of illegal guns, lingering poverty rates, rampant drug activity and gangs means that while Warren may have put a dent in local rates (whether you argue these are due to her work or simply the result of structural forces already in swing), there’s still a lot more work to do.
Putting Rochester on the map
Mayor Warren has spent much of her past three years putting Rochester (or herself, if you ask her critics) on the map. She’s consistently angled herself to be part of national discussions, has visited the White House a few times, and campaigned in other states with Clinton in this past election. She said she’s working to remind the nation of Rochester’s history.
It’s a history that’s already there, she argued, she’s just reminding people we exist.
“It started when I became mayor and I’m all about ‘Rochester’s not dead. Rochester’s a vibrant city,'” Warren said. “We have great people that live here, great businesses and just so many assets but if I don’t tell our story who will? If I don’t go and say to the president, or vice president, that I have a city that I love a city that’s struggling right now, but we believe if you focus on it our challenges are so concentrated we can overcome?”
And it’s not just about getting more people talking about Rochester. Warren aims to strategically advocate for the city, arguing how its future in photonics for Rep. Louise Slaughter made it perfect as the future home of the industry. She’s also advocated for more funding for the city. Though it’s not especially noteworthy that a mayor advocates for her city, many complain it’s how she does it.
“She’s ambitious,” said Flack. He said that she does so much work getting money into the city and yet “we see no change.”
“I think this mayor seat is just a step for her and that’s why she’s flying all over. Rochester is just a step for her,” he continued.
However, even before she began to network and angle her way into conversations, her mere presence was actually noteworthy in itself, bringing Rochester attention just like Svante Myrick, a young black mayor, brought to Ithaca. By being the first black female mayor, who’s also incredibly young, she created a conversation by simply winning the election.
“As we prepare to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in New York State, it is important to recognize that with her election, Mayor Lovely Warren broke a local glass ceiling as our first female Mayor to the City of Rochester,” said Jamie Romeo, chair of the Monroe County Democratic Committee. “Her example has continued to empower the next generation of leaders, in particular the young girls and women in our community.”
“If I don’t talk up Rochester who will?” -Warren
“I really think in her last year, we’re getting to a place where the community can finally see the effects of the efforts she’s putting out there,” said Flagler-Mitchell. “Of course, there’s a lot we will never see, because a lot of it is policy and unless we look deeper at the policy, we don’t get to see stuff that’s hard to see.”
Flagler-Mitchell believes that one of the best qualities about Warren that allows her to lead Rochester is that she understands more of the community. Moses added that she is genuine and interested in action.
During the last four years, Kellogg said he has seen a lot of progress for new businesses and how they’re able to succeed in the Rochester area. Kellogg views Rochester as being in a historical turning point, like the Mayor mentioned, where it may be able to revitalize and promote its community for the future, though he doesn’t necessarily attribute the turning point specifically to Warren.
However, when it comes to social justice and community her work is still murkier. Balancing competitive needs from two Rochesters isn’t easy and both have come harshly down upon her; one as too soft and the other as too rigid and unwilling to listen and work together.
“This last year can really make or break Warren,” said Flack. “As bad as it sounds, we don’t really know what she’s done in the past years so if she can make this a good year she can get a lot of great attention. And you see with the rd light program, she knows this. But I want it to be real, not ‘oh, she works with us for the next 10 months, gets in office and then dips again.'”
Undoubtedly, her three years will be cast in shadow. National and local discussions on criminal justice and community tension, high rates of poverty and Rochester’s transition into a new work industry clouds much of the conversation. However, if you ask Warren herself, she says she is confident she was successful and has made Rochester better. And not in the sense that most politicians do, typically trumping up their accomplishments.
No, she said, she’s made the city better because she knows she’s improved life for at least one Rochesterian and given them reason to continue on.
Rochester Indymedia related links: Thousands Gather Locally to Oppose Trump | Dept. invites public to make police union contract modification proposals | B.L.A.C.K. addresses community after 73 protesters arrested | Public Health or Profit? The Rochester Red Light Camera Controversy | Alex White Speaks About the Cost of Corporate Welfare in Rochester | InfoDoc on Rochester's failed Body Worn Camera draft policy | Suspended Justice: Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline | City of Rochester Changes Name to Pierson | George Douglass evicted! Shame on Wells Fargo! | Rochester Police harass community space (again) | Edison Tech student athlete files civil rights lawsuit against police | Homeless displaced again as City destroys tent city | Rochester Brings the Fight For $15! | Ban the Box Passes in Rochester!
For the second time in a week Washington Square Park and the surrounding sidewalks were packed with people protesting President Trump's executive order to ban immigration from certain countries. The ban included seven predominantly Muslim countries among them Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia and Yemen. By "coincidence" it did not include other nations in the area where Trump has business interests. Photos below.
Dr. Ted Barnett teaches people the health benefits of eating an oil-free whole-food-plant-based vegan diet in the CHIP Program. (Photo: Michael Israel)
Dr. Ted Barnett, a radiologist, teaches people the health benefits of eating non-processed vegan foods. He is the founder of Rochester Lifestyle Medicine and operates the Complete Health Improvement (CHIP) Program. The CHIP program teaches patients with chronic medical conditions how eating an oil-free whole-food plant-based vegan diet and living an active lifestyle can help them prevent relapses and can even reverse some of their health problems. Some of the many conditions that the CHIP program address includes coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Following the CHIP program before a health problem has occurred is much more of an ideal solution than using the CHIP program to treat a serious health issue that has already occurred.
Dr. Ted Barnett talks about how to sign up for the CHIP program. (Video: Michael Israel)
This February, Rochester Lifestyle Medicine is offering two programs for people hoping to improve their health with a plant-based diet. One of the programs is an eighteen-week program called the CHIP program. The other program is a six-week lecture series about the health benefits of going vegan. The Chip program will take place at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) and will include a six-month membership in the health club that is operated by the JCC. The six-week lecture series will take place at Highland Hospital and will include speakers and videos about the benefits of eating non-processed vegan foods.
The six-week lecture series and the CHIP program both encourage people to adopt a whole-food plant-based diet. The CHIP program includes medical consultations while the six-week lecture series just teaches about eating whole-food-plant-based vegan foods. People who have a medical condition that they want help with would get more help with the CHIP Program. People who want to go vegan for environmental or political reasons and not for medical reasons would benefit from taking the six-week lecture series to learn how to eliminate animal products from their diet and how to cook vegan foods that taste delicious. Kitchen Verde, a local caterer that prepares oil-free whole-food-plant-based vegan dishes that taste delicious, caters many events that are run by Rochester Lifestyle Medicine. Offering good tasting vegan foods lets people who want to start eating vegan foods know that they don’t have to give up food that tastes good to start eating heart healthy foods.
To promote a vegan lifestyle, the Rochester Area Vegan Society (RAVS) which has been directed by Ted and Carol Barnett for over 20 years, hosts a monthly vegan potluck dinner in Rochester. People who are not members of RAVS are free to attend the dinners as long as they bring a vegan dish to pass and a three-dollar fee to help support the costs of renting the space where RAVS meets. After the potluck dinner, a lecturer usually discusses issues surrounding food choices and how they affect human health, the environment, and the animals.
For more about the lecture series, click here. For more about CHIP, click here.
January 21 2017. Between 2000 and 4000 people gathered locally for a rally in Washington Square Park. It was held in solidarity with the Women's Solidarity Rally in Washington DC at the same time. The rally in the park was joined early on by marchers from an earlier rally at the Liberty Pole organized by Metro Justice and Rochester Against Trump. Those groups also held an event the previous day, Inauguration day of the 45th President.
Speakers were featured from local groups who stand to be affected by the Trump administration's proposed policies. These groups included women, immigrants, refugees, LGBTQ people, the disabled, Muslims, the media, people of color, those concerned about the environment and health care, labor unions and many political opponents.
Speakers included Mayor Lovely Warren, Brighton Supervisor Bill Mohele, and Harry Bronson of the 138th New York Assembly district.
These were intended to be peaceful rallies. Police in DC reported no arrests. Unfortunately that was not the case in Rochester where 7 people were arrested on what sound like "trumped up" charges.
Video of all the speakers below
Jan 21 March part 1
Jan 21 march part 2
Last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied an easement permit needed by Energy Transfer Partners to drill underneath the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to complete a critical phase of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
While the Army Corps' decision isn't a final victory that guarantees the end of the pipeline, it is a major step forward that came as a result of determined resistance by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and thousands of their supporters who traveled to North Dakota to join the protest encampments. Mara Ahmed, an artist and filmmaker who blogs at MaraAhmed.com, describes her delegation's trip from Rochester, New York, to Standing Rock--and what she learned along the way.