the Poverty Problem in Rochester

In my years of community life, I have talked to thousands of fellow citizens.  Everyone seems to want the same thing:  prosperity for our community and safety in their neighborhood.  While this is universal among voters it is not what we have experienced in Rochester this millennium.  We have heard the reports about poverty in Rochester, but what is missing is the link to our political leaders who have actively prevented solutions to what ails us.

Those in office have used the same techniques for years to fight poverty and they continually fail.  They throw increasingly generous tax breaks at rich people, hoping that their windfall will trickle-down to the rest of us.  The people we have been electing believe the problem is we have not given enough wealth to the very rich.  Has that worked?

While usually we see corporate welfare as a national problem it has reached its corrupting tendrils  into our local government as well.  According to city records, Rochester has granted more than $30 million of annual tax breaks to a third of the largest properties in Rochester. 

This only scratches the surface of our benevolence to the haves as Rochester consistently assesses large properties for a mere fraction of their construction cost.  This is not for job creation either as 85% of these tax breaks go to landlords who only rent the property to others who rarely benefit from the City’s handout.

This failed technique has existed for years and is only getting worse.  In the last 4 years, City Council has approved over half-billion dollars in tax breaks, loans, grants, and assistance to the wealthiest stakeholders in our community. Council passes these benefits, almost unanimously, including my opponent.

The problem is what is called “opportunity costs.”  When our elected officials give our money away to developers who do not need it, the rest of us end up with higher taxes to pay for our bare essentials.  Then we can not afford things we need to solve the problems of our city.  So we end up providing fewer summer jobs to students, have shorter library hours, and provide less help for housing repair and assistance. In other words, we can not even think about spending money on things that deals with poverty, homelessness, or any other problem we have.  In short, the have-nots are continually denied prosperity.

The real problem for me is every time my opponent, Adam McFadden, votes to give millions to a project, like Eastman Gardens, the City does not have money for crucial programs.  A perfect example of one is  full-day preschool, which would help children prepare for K-12. 

Weekend library hours to provide more reading programs, computer accessibility, and access to resources could be available with this money. 

Summer employment for high school students disappears every time he votes to give away more of our tax dollars..  These jobs would teach valuable job skills, provide money to the poorest of our community, and provide an alternative to gangs and drug sales.

The tax breaks that developers do not need could pay for increased recreation department hours.  This would reduce crime and provide and alternative to drugs and gangs. 

This money could also be used to provide start-up capital so that residents of Rochester can create the businesses of tomorrow

Individual Development Accounts could help people save money for personal improvement by providing matching funds which can be used to buy a home, start a business or pay for education. But we will never have them as long as Adam McFadden and the rest of City Council continues to hand over our money to people who don’t live in our community.

This is what I am fighting for: to stop giving away our money to millionaires so that we can start bringing prosperity to all our residents.

Listen to Alex...

...on Transforming Rochester on Rochester Free Radio. You can see when it's on at the Rochester Free Radio show schedule.

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