Vision for Monroe County, New York

Rochester, New York | Photo Credit Linda Schamberger

I will relentlessly promote one message in this campaign and in my work on behalf of our community: Monroe County, New York – a great place to learn and work.

Education

World class educational institutions fuel the economy of Monroe County: University of Rochester, RIT, St. John Fisher, Nazareth College, SUNY Brockport, Roberts Wesleyan, and nearby SUNY Geneseo and Houghton. The most important educational institution in Rochester – in terms of opportunity and social mobility for all of our residents – is Monroe Community College. MCC ranks as one of the most important responsibilities of the Monroe County Legislature. As your legislator, I bring 45 years of experience in education to the work of keeping schools open and safe during COVID, of promoting education as the gateway to success for all, and of keeping MCC robust, sustainable, and accessible for all students. Teaching and advocacy for learners is my life’s passion

Growing Our Economy: Making Monroe County an Entrepreneur Incubator

Our community thrived when entrepreneurs led the way: Eastman, the early Haloid/Xerox inventors, Carlson, Wegman, Golisano, Polisseni, Kate Gleason, John Purcell. Corporate welfare has shown little by way of results. We must support entrepreneurs and small businesses with deep roots in our community, not corporations that care little about our citizens. By leveraging our world-class educational system, Monroe County can rebrand itself as the place for entrepreneurs to build businesses that benefit from our outstanding natural resources, highly educated workforce, excellent and affordable housing stock, and great schools. This message must be sent to all who wish to start businesses but especially to our younger entrepreneurs. We can accomplish this with a microloan program, with promotion and shared supports for startups, and the encouragement that makes the difference for the intrepid among us who create jobs. Job creation – not social programs or public policy argument – has to be job one. If we love workers – and my life has been defined by work and support for those who work – then we must focus on job creation. Entrepreneurs represent the most cherished values of our American culture – risk-taking, self-governance, self-reliance, vision, individualism, dream-seeking – and I’d like to see Monroe County nationally known for its celebration and support of entrepreneurs and small businesses. Under the leadership of County Executive Adam Bello and Ana Liss, Economic Development Officer for Monroe County, our county has routed millions of dollars to businesses challenged by the COVID crisis. 55 businesses in the 18th Legislative District received Monroe Fast Forward grants averaging $12k to assist in their survival during 2021.

Support for Public Sector Employees

I have been a champion for public sector employees for four decades, serving as an advocate for Fairport teachers. My philosophy is simple: we need the fewest possible public employees whom we support with fair and competitive salary and benefits so that our employees are of the highest quality – so that the services they provide are of the highest quality. Staffing must be accomplished so that overtime abuse is a thing of the past. Monroe County has outstanding public sector employees and we must keep it that way. I am proud of Sheriff Baxter and County Executive Bello for their negotiation of fair contracts for county employees.

First Responders and Our Justice System

As a teacher, I have been in a sense a “first responder” along with nurses, bus drivers, and all who directly work with citizens.  Responsiveness to the needs of the people requires steadfast commitment to the dignity of our fellow citizens. Our brothers and sisters in law enforcement, in the fire departments, and on our emergency medical teams put their lives on the line for the safety of our community. As a local justice for ten years, I witnessed first hand the importance of professional and dignified treatment of the community by all in the justice system. As a county legislator, I focus on building the best possible relationship between the people of our community and the public servants who provide access to justice and public safety. Strengthening the respect that goes both ways – between those who serve and those whom they serve – will always be my top priority. Recent tragic encounters between citizens and first responders remind us that all stakeholders must constantly work together in good faith to develop more responsive ways to keep all in our community safe. Seamlessly integrating mental health services with law enforcement must not be a hope but a reality. I support the Bello Administration’s work in this area: justice for all demands that we continue that work.

Our Youngest Citizens

One question will determine our legacy as a civilization and in each of our communities: How did we treat the most vulnerable among us? As a justice and as a teacher I have seen the lifelong consequences of children who did not receive intervention services during the formative years from birth to 7 years old. As a county, we must take action – complaining about NYS is not enough – to put in place needed services for young children. Again, we are talking about compassionate first responders, not people behind desks, but qualified professionals who support our youngest learners in their reading readiness, their nutrition, and their social growth. During the contentious arguments regarding fully opening schools I have been a voice for a safe opening, even as I was in the classroom teaching every day. Some want to stake out extremist positions for closing schools completely, others for acting as if COVID is not a threat: I reject extremism in all its forms and especially when it relates to children. Opening schools – and schooling itself – should never be win/lose between warring camps, but a working consensus forged from the diverse views of parents, students, and taxpayers. This is the work of leadership.

Tribalism

As an East Rochesterian, I believe in ONE ER. As a longtime Fairport teacher and Perinton resident, I believe in ONE PERINTON. A Democrat my entire adult life, I view political affiliation as an identity marker way down the list of who I am. I am a teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a member of the Church of St. Jerome, a Fairport Rotarian, etc. The tribal point of view gripping our nation and some in our community does nothing more than divide us. I view every member of the community as a member of my tribe. In my service as your legislator I have seen first hand the long tradition of hyperpartisanship in county politics. It’s a disgrace. Political parties are mechanisms for electoral choice and policy development but in and of themselves produce no value: only positive action on behalf of all citizens produces value.

We can do better. We can come together as a community to solve the serious issues we face. It starts with our recognizing all that we hold in common.