Rochester City Newspaper recently reached out to the city council candidates to get their positions on several important issues to voters. We wanted to share Andrew’s full answers here:
Thirteen people are running for the five open City Council seats in the November election. Why should voters want you to be one of the five who join Council in January? What strengths do you bring that they don’t?
I love Rochester. I grew up in the 19th Ward. I went to school at Wilson. I started my business on Thurston. I intend to raise my family here in Rochester .
But I’m also frustrated. I’m frustrated that when I tell people I’m going to have children, they ask when I’m moving to the suburbs. I know why they ask that; because our community faces high poverty, poor performing education systems, serious violence challenges, and dwindling job opportunities.
I see a city whose policies are often stifling and archaic. It’s time we had true opposition on city council. We need a fresh independent voice to drive the change that’ll bring young families and jobs back into the city.
As a lifelong resident, small business business owner, and independent thinker, I’ll bring these perspectives to city council and advocate for policies that’ll break Rochester out of stagnation and into prosperity.
What committees would you hope to serve on?
I hope to serve on the Business and Economic Development, Public Safety, and the Education Ad-Hoc Committee.
One of the key roles of City Council is to provide oversight for the mayor and her administration. What do you think the current administration has done well? What would you criticize it for?
One of good decisions the Warren administration has made is to allow FOIL requests online. It was long overdue. Making government transparent and accountable is very important to me.
But the biggest thing that Mayor Warren deserves criticism for is misrepresenting the jobs numbers in Rochester. There are now fewer people working than when she began and masking the problem doesn’t make it go away for our neighbors suffering in this economy. Rochester needs policies that create jobs here.
One of the issues City Council will likely face in 2018 is police oversight. In response to complaints about police use of force, citizens groups are asking for a reform of the civilian review system.
What is your opinion about the current review of police actions, by the civilian review board and by the police department itself? And what changes, if any, would you push for as a member of City Council?
Our current Civilian Review Board is made up of citizens from the community appointed by the Mayor. When speaking with people in our community about the Police Accountability Board proposal, they all want a more transparent review process.
I’ve also spoken to a number of police officers in our city who have served for many, many years. What doesn’t get discussed very often is the point of view of the officers who’re on the street. The officers I’ve spoken to support reform, because they want a clear review system that citizens can trust. They want a process that gets bad police officers off the street while protecting the good ones. The police I’ve spoken with see this as a way to protect themselves and the community the same way body cams do. The community and the police want changes to the civilian review board, but the process has been stalled for years. As a candidate that has support from the Rochester police Locust club and the desire to drive reform, I’m the best person to advocate for changes to the civilian review board on City Council.
What is your opinion of the city’s downtown development initiatives, and what changes, if any, would you push for?
There’s no disputing that fresh development can bring life back into a city. But it needs to be the right development and it cannot be on the taxpayers dime. As a city we have let hundreds of millions of dollars go in the form of corporate welfare and tax subsidies. Often, these deals leave us with millions gone and few (if any) long term jobs to show for it.
Rochester’s development initiatives should be focused on providing the best policy and infrastructure to create a strong local jobs market. We can improve roads, sidewalks, and streetscapes. When we take on these type of development projects downtown, I will push for planning that takes all modes of transportation into account: bicycles, pedestrian, public transit, and cars all need to be considered when we take on these projects. Furthermore, our downtown development needs to keep our growing population of downtown residents in mind. If we want that emerging community to thrive, we can’t neglect green spaces, basic amenities, and other public features that make downtown a great place to work, live, and play.
The new City Council will probably vote on a proposal to have RBTL and Morgan Communities build a theater and an apartment building on Parcel 5 of the Midtown site. If you are on City Council when that proposal comes up, how would you vote and why?
Many voters I’ve spoken with are worried that Mayor Warren and the RBTL are over-promising on the financial sustainability and economic impact of this project. Rochester has a long history of chasing big flashy projects to make our city a destination. We take big risks with taxpayer money that don’t pay off. These projects won’t make Rochester a destination. Jobs will make Rochester a destination.
It’s unlikely I would vote yes on building a performing arts center on Parcel 5. The project I like the most is the Visionary Square proposal. It can be a public square for downtown residents and workers. It creates opportunities for small businesses to emerge within and around parcel 5. And it would allow for large community events like fringe fest and jazz fest to continue in the heart of downtown. I look forward to working with community stakeholders to make this proposal successful.
One of the biggest challenges facing the City of Rochester is its concentration of poverty? What role do you think the city should play in reducing that poverty? And how effective do you think the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative has been?
I’m heartbroken that Rochester ranks nationally not just for poverty, but extreme childhood poverty. Unfortunately, many of our city’s policies create unnecessary barriers to solving the poverty challenge. If we want to truly make a noticeable impact on poverty in our city, we need to be willing to take on bold steps to generate jobs. We can empower people to build a more prosperous future.
City council needs to focus on our permit process, fees, and zoning. These are the things that drive businesses out of our city or prevent entrepreneurs from starting in the first place. Working with City Government should be the easiest part of opening a small business and creating jobs, not the hardest. We need to give more neighborhoods the opportunity to become zoned for mixed use so they can have micro economies in their neighborhoods. Imagine the potential of every neighborhood in the city having access to local produce, small shops, and jobs within walking distance! It can be done someone just needs to push for it. I will be that person.
RMAPI is a well intentioned program that works to solve the immediate condition of poverty, but hasn’t proposed bold solutions that would tackle the root causes of poverty in Rochester. I’m concerned about the transparency of RMAPI funds. Solving our poverty crisis is not merely a matter of more investment in direct aid programs or services, it’s changing Rochester at a policy level to spur the growth we need to lift people out of persistent poverty. We cannot afford to fail in this effort.
Are there other issues that you hope to be addressing on Council?
I hope to address our constant spending issue. It is terribly frustrating seeing our City Government spend millions of dollars a year on interest. Those funds could be used on programs for our youth, on neighborhoods, or remain in the pockets of Rochester taxpayers. It is just as frustrating seeing us spend more money than we take in each year. This is not sustainable and we need to resolve our spending issues before Rochester becomes the next Detroit.
I also hope to address the issue of voter accountability. Many voters tell me they feel as if once an official in the city is elected they are no longer accountable to them and it is hard to get them out. I intend to propose term limits for the city. I also intend to push for elimination of the at-large seats in favor of smaller district seats. This would give us a total of nine districts where your city council members would be responsible for and accountable to a handful of neighborhoods instead of the entire city. This will give every neighborhood much more say in what happens in the city.
* What neighborhood do you live in?
I spent most of my life in the 19th Ward where I grew up, I then moved to the Lyell-Otis neighborhood. My wife and I just recently moved to Charlotte.
* What is your profession?
I run a small IT company building web apps and designing network infrastructure.
* What neighborhood, civic, and other organizations have you been involved in that are relevant to your candidacy?
Worked at Boys and Girls Club, Volunteer EMT, Youth outdoor education organization, I work with the red cross to facilitate emergency communications during time of crisis and natural disasters.
You can see City Newspapers Article here: https://www.rochestercitynewspaper.com/rochester/round-2-for-city-voters-in-the-race-for-mayor-and-council/Content?oid=4582315