As committees of the Monroe County Legislature review County Executive Adam Bello’s proposed 2021 budget, members of the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus want their colleagues to do a line-item review through the lens of equity.
“We have to change the way we look at the city and how we fund … in the city versus how we do in the county,” said Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell. “I believe for so long the focus has been on building the county but leaving the city, which is a huge part of the county, alone.”
The caucus presented a list of budget recommendations at a news conference Nov. 23 in the legislative chamber at the County Office Building.
The Black and Asian Democratic Caucus was formed in August to focus primarily on issues communities of color. The caucus is made up of Flagler-Mitchell, Frank Keophetlasy, Calvin Lee Jr. and Sabrina LaMar, who represent the county’s most-challenged areas.
The desks for the four in the chamber are between the desks for the Democrats and Republicans.
“We are in the middle so that we can negotiate on either side to get what needs to be done,” Flagler-Mitchell said. “For us, it’s about purpose over party. The purpose is changing the conditions of our districts and trying to get folks opportunities in the inner city.”
The recommendations covered diversity, workforce development, criminal justice and public safety, housing and social services. Among them:
- Expand the commitment to diversity by examining policies that have adverse effect on communities of color among the county workforce
- Create and fund programs and form a partnership with the city on job opportunities for city residents
- Use COMIDA funding as incentives for companies to create jobs in areas struggling with employment
- Expand services for the homeless and reevaluate the way housing subsidies are distributed.
- Work to increase home ownership for people of color
- Reevaluate how social services levies sanctions
- Fund and increase wraparound daycare centers.
Flagler-Mitchell said the caucus is reviewing the budget to see where dollars are allocated. The caucus position is that money tends to flow out of the city because many people who work within the boundaries of Rochester – including public employees – live in the suburbs.
Of the approximately two dozen recommendations, Flagler-Mitchell said the caucus will focus on diversity, workforce development for students and adults, and promoting arts and cultural institutions that don’t tend to receive county money.
Regarding funding from the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency, legislator Vince Felder, who is not part of the caucus, said the agency should use incentives to get companies to locate in the city. He said there are vacant buildings and lots that could be used, and bringing industry to neighborhoods spurs other business to open and give neighborhoods hope and opportunity.
The full legislature is scheduled to vote on the budget on Dec. 8.