At first, I was not sure what I wanted this to be about – either about a specific issue within City’s Urban Journal or the state of City Newspaper as a whole. Let’s start with the issue.
In the June 2-8, 2010 issue of City Newspaper, Mary Anna Towler suggested that Tom Richards, the city’s corporation counsel, be named Rochester’s interim mayor in the aftermath of Bob Duffy getting ready to leave town on Andrew Cuomo’s coattail. I will do my best to summarize her reasoning:
Downtown has been “slowly, but solidly” growing and Mr. Richards is a business-oriented person who has been involved with ongoing business negotiations. This is the main reason for him being mayor, and there is my issue.
We constantly hear from folks that the abject poverty in Rochester is a root cause of so many of our ills. Yet the people elected to represent us, to guide us through dealing with this issue, continue to focus on trickle-down solutions. I’m not saying that we should not be encouraging downtown growth, the biomed industry or other white-collar businesses. Heck, even a renewed focus on the growth of blue-collar businesses would be nice. But neither will deal with what is arguably our biggest problem; the thousands of untrained, uneducated adults in this city who have no prospects in leading a life that is not government-funded. You can throw money at them or you can treat them as criminals. Neither will alleviate what ails this city.
So I take exception to Ms. Towler’s assertion that a business person is the only one who can lead us out of the mire we are stuck in. While I do agree with her analysis of the make-up of our City Council having a strong neighborhood-service background, it has not translated into citizen-centered solutions. (Turning our streets into surveillance camera-drenched battlegrounds is not going to get anyone out of poverty.)
I do not know Mr. Richards and I am not critiquing his ability to be mayor. But what this city needs is a mayor, city council and school board that are willing to give people bootstraps to pull up who have never owned boots. If the government is going to be in the economic development business, it needs to develop an economy for those whose only participation in it is buying unhealthy food from corner stores, not just for those who want to build theaters and parking lots.
OK, that’s the complaint. Stay tuned for my solutions.