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Public Doesn’t See Much of Mayor’s First Meeting on Reparations and Universal Basic Income

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

Mayor Lovely Warren during the first meeting of the Reparations and Universal Basic Income committee. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group from City of Rochester Facebook feed.

Mayor Lovely Warren is exploring what a basic universal income would look like in Rochester, but residents got barely a glimpse at the first meeting of the city’s Reparations and University Basic Income (RUBI) Committee May 18.

Only the mayor’s introductory comments were streamed on the city’s Facebook page.

Media received notice that Warren, Chief of Staff Britteney Wells and Chief Equity Officer Cephas Archie would be with representatives of faith, community and philanthropic organization and that the event would be streamed starting at 2 p.m.

But the livestream ended after about eight minutes, when the mayor introduced Wells.

A follow-up news release stated that representatives from faith, community and philanthropic organizations will serve as committee members. Organizations that had a representative at the meeting included Rochester City Council, Ibero-American Action League, Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, Action for a Better Community, Monroe County Legislature, the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee and the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI).

Asked why the entire meeting was not streamed, city spokesman Justin Roj responded:

“Mayor Warren’s Reparations and Universal Basic Income (RUBI) Exploratory Committee is in the start-up phase. The membership is establishing sub-committees and creating a meeting calendar. RUBI obviously will include a robust public engagement and input process as it conducts its work. This will allow the entire community to understand its goals and the actions necessary to achieve them. We will share these opportunities and information at every step of the process.”

The mayor introduced the idea of reparations in March when she sent a letter to City Council and to agencies and organizations that work to reduce poverty and promote economic equity. She has talked about what other cities have done with the idea of reparations, and she cited the report from the city and county’s Commission on Racial and Structural Equity that highlighted disparities in wealth between minority and white families. Her Equity & Recovery Agenda includes several ways to combat poverty, such as using anticipated revenue from the legalization of marijuana to create a housing trust fund and an emergency fund.

How much of that was discussed in the initial meeting was beyond the ears of the public.

Warren did say that the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative published a list of principles to guide use of revenue from legalized marijuana.

Those principles call for:

  • addressing structural racism that has been inherent in drug laws and in the long-term impact of enforcement on Black and brown communities;
  • preventing and repairing harm caused by current drug laws;
  • using revenue to support communities most harmed byu criminalization of marijuana; and
  • ensure the legal marijuana economy is accessible to Black and brown residents and avoiding exploitation in communities that have been most harmed by marijuana criminalization.

Warren said the anticipated revenue from marijuana gives the city money it wouldn’t otherwise have. “It’s not often we have a new funding stream coming into the community.”

It will take more than a year for the infrastructure to be set up and for the city to begin receiving any money from legalized marijuana. She did not say how much money the city may receive, but she said it’s important to be prepared and for agencies to work together.