CENTER FOR DISABILITY RIGHTS
OCTOBER 19, 2017
NEW YORK STATE CANDIDATE FORUM
6:00 P.M. ET
Services provided by:
Caption First, Inc.
P.O. Box 3066
Monument, CO 80132
This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.
Hello, everyone. If you could kind of sit down, we’re going to start. I want to thank you all for coming out tonight to the candidate forum. This is one of my favorite events. It gives you an opportunity to go and talk to the candidates running for office. So I’m not going to stay up here too long. I just want to introduce our moderator, Ryan Chalmers. And I’m going to leave it to him.
(Cheering and applause)
RYAN CHALMERS: I apologize, I’m not used to using microphones. I talk with my hands. I’ll just say that right now. I apologize. I want to thank everybody for coming out. I’m Ryan Chalmers. I grew up here in Rochester. I moved away to Illinois, the University of Illinois for ten years. And I just started to move back here in March. And just started working a little bit a month ago for the Center for Disability Rights. So I’m working with the development team there. I won’t go into much about me. I don’t have much of a story to tell.
But I want to thank again all of you for coming here. When I was a young kid, growing up I really didn’t take advantage of opportunities like this. And so really it’s an honor for me to be up here, being able to listen to each individual and have their voice here. So I want to thank everybody for coming out. And so basically what we’re going to do I don’t believe, has Todd Baxter arrived? Perfect. We will have Todd come up. We will ask one initial question from the Center for Disability Rights, and then we will open it up to the audience if they have any questions as well. How are you doing, Todd?
TODD BAXTER: Good. How about you? Do you want me to sit up here?
RYAN CHALMERS: That would be great. All right. so Todd is running for Monroe County Sheriff.
TODD BAXTER: I went to Jefferson high school, spent 20 years in the Army, 22 years as a civic police officer, I was a captain in the city of Rochester, and chief of police. While the police was imploding. Five cops got arrested. My job was to try to move that place forward. We did that in four years. The last three years I’ve been running a nonprofit, the oldest one in America, veterans, going through struggles in society, trying to get them engaged and back into a productive life.
I ran a homeless shelter there. Most of them were suffering post-traumatic stress, and many of them were addicted. That’s what got me to leave law enforcement. They did it totally different than any other shelter. Guys two years really working on the underlying causes. It wasn’t just system. I fell in love with that place. I’m running for county sheriff because I think there’s more we can do with the jail. The jail is an opportunity to fix some things that have gone wrong in society. It’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity.
Some folks are worthy of an opportunity. And we provide that chance and opportunity to some folks that have never had it. That’s a quick introduction to myself, and I would love to answer any questions.
RYAN CHALMERS: All right. So we have our first question here. Lately we’ve seen in the media cases where a Deaf individual doesn’t appear to be complying with orders and the officer or officers have taken that as an aggressive act. Being that Rochester boasts the highest population of Deaf individuals per capita, what will you do to prevent more of these cases from occurring?
TODD BAXTER: As a city police officer, we had an officer involved shooting with a person who was Deaf in the city of Rochester. We went through significant training as a police officer, better ways to communicate, identify, and deescalate, slow things down, better forms of communication. The problem is that was the last training I had. And that was decades ago. And a lot of stuff law enforcement is asked to do is in a difficult environment. We only train them two days a year, maybe three. You go for a week. Your favorite sports team trains five or six days a week for a game. We’re asking a lot of law enforcement to be able to identify things, make decisions, and communicate. Yet we don’t provide training. One of the things I would do is provide more training. A simple thing that came out of the questionnaire was post arrest, should a person that’s hearing impaired be arrested, what information we know by law, interpreters are available. And we call on interpreters. But even after that, a person is left there with a lack of communication. Do they know the arresting officer’s name, the charges that have been placed on them?
These are simple things that a person that has a difficulty communicating with the law enforcement officer can do. You’re absolutely right, we have the largest community and we do the least amount of training sometimes. I train law enforcement. We train all the time. You can’t predict but we’ve got to try and foresee some of these things. You know, interpreters are great. Bring them out. But, you’re not going to call an interpreter at a traffic stop, unless the person who stops you requests one. Trying to have a conversation writing notes is very effective sometimes.
I think the best part of that is we’re doing things differently. When’s the last time a city police officer walked around a school campus, as an example. Those are great opportunities. Why don’t we build an environment where we try to build a relationship. Simple things like that.
RYAN CHALMERS: Thank you. Does anyone in the audience have a question?
AUDIENCE: I’ve got two. The first one I’ve been asking everybody. The first question is, how are you getting deeply involved as the previous Sheriff did? He was a great man. He showed up. He told jokes. I think he even gave money here. And then the second question is, are you in favor of child protective services helping kids against abuse and bullying?
TODD BAXTER: You’re absolutely right. He was a very humorous guy. I could never keep up with his jokes. I’ve worked with people in the veterans community. We built something that is very powerful, with mentors in the community that can assist and guide you. Our mentors were there for posttraumatic stress. It’s a great way to do things. I think about people that are inside the jail looking for that mentorship when they leave, someone to guide them through the next steps in their transition.
And mentorship the drug treatment court, as an example, peer to peer mentorship, that’s exactly what they do with the veterans, a veteran who may have gone through the same thing or may or may not. So, peer to peer mentorship is great. And I’ve supported that and I like that. The second question was child protective services? We’ve all seen in the last couple weeks a horrific trial we all got to witness, and the testimony that came out of that, the treatment of that poor child, and what the child went through, and things we had failed to do.
I’ve been a police officer for almost 30 years. There’s nothing that breaks a cop’s heart more than a child being harmed. Those are the ones that stick with us. My first – case was a child was mauled by a dog – It’s still there with me. It’s been almost three years. Here’s what I believe. We have protective services in a society, police being one, child protective, probation, parole. When we have a gap in those services, they all fall apart. They all have to be equally funded.
If one is not funded properly, the system breaks down. I’m a big advocate of making sure they’re all supported. We’ve seen the studies here on Rochester on the caseload in child protective services. It’s not fair. It’s a burden on them. I can’t even imagine so we have to do more. And I know that we need more resources. And I think that’s a great idea.
RYAN CHALMERS: We have another question here by Jonathan.
AUDIENCE: Hello. I have here the county Sheriff’s office strategic plan. And my question is, I was told that this has already been approved and has been passed without any Deaf community input, feedback. Is there a way that we could revisit this? Is there a way that we could do something, that we can be more involved as far as the Deaf community is concerned and having some buy in in the strategic plan here?
TODD BAXTER: That’s dated 2015, I think. And one of the goals of the 2015 plan is improved relationships with the Deaf community. In fact, the Deaf community wasn’t consulted in that, not a step in the right direction.
I didn’t know that. One of the first things I would do, when you take over an organization you do an analysis, strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, threats. You make a strategic plan of what your goals are. And one of my goals is to work with the largest Deaf community in America, one of the largest Deaf communities, and have law enforcement responsibility. I would definitely think that the Deaf community would be part of the strategic plan.
I don’t know how to identify the goals. You do. What do we need to do to improve our goals? You’ve got to talk to people that you’re trying to police and serve to understand what they need. Not what we need, but what they need.
AUDIENCE: I kind of feel like the strategic plan here, the main focus is on Henrietta. We’re losing track of the other areas of the county. I’m not thinking about just that town. I’m thinking about not RIT. But there’s other parts of town. You have 13, 14 towns within Monroe County, within Rochester itself. So I’m feeling like Monroe County, great for Henrietta, but we need to also focus on the other towns in Rochester. And one other question that I have, as far as the prisons, do they have videophone or any VRS capability in the prisons?
TODD BAXTER: So I’ll answer the second question first. I don’t know the answer to that question. And the first answer, so, when folks go through an in service training, law enforcement officers, most often the training is done those two days a year at the public training facility. All law enforcement officers go through that. In the police department, the sheriff’s department, you go through the same instruction. So if it’s a class you’re trying to put on, everybody gets it across the board.
So if there was training to be done I’ll go back to the strategic plan. The fact is it was in there. I don’t know if it’s being implemented.
RYAN CHALMERS: All right. We have time for one more question. Stephanie?
AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is Stephanie, I’m the Director of Advocacy at the Center for Disability Rights. It might be well known that some of our group regularly gets arrested. So we’re pretty used to the process of going into county jail. We have encountered portions of the jail that are inaccessible to us, particularly when it comes to accessible bathrooms. When you’re in jail for ten hours, you have to pee. But also, with the transportation process. Recently in Ohio we were removed from our wheelchairs and put into inaccessible transportation. I’d like to know what you’d do to ensure that people with disabilities have access and are treated with dignity and respect as anyone else who’s being arrested.
TODD BAXTER: That’s one of the first things we bid on and buy vehicles all the time in law enforcement. We buy buses. We buy vans and cars, obviously. The ability to buy a wheelchair accessible vehicle is almost a no brainer, why wouldn’t you have one? Someone in a wheelchair like yourself who gets in a situation needs transport, right? That would be the first step.
There’s multiple opportunities to transport someone. Particularly going to jail. There’s opportunity, right? I think that’s the simplest way to do it. In the interim we do it with ambulance services and things like that are secure enough to transfer someone a lot of times we use ambulances for transport. No problem. There’s other ways to transport. We transport people in custody all the time. Did that answer your question?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
RYAN CHALMERS: All right. Thank you very much.
TODD BAXTER: Thanks.
RYAN CHALMERS: All right. Running for Judge, can I get both Charles Crimi and Joseph Nesser to come up, please. You have a moment to introduce yourselves.
CHARLES CRIMI: I’m Rochester city clerk Judge Chuck Crimi. I moved here when I was 11. So I went to the Georgetown University Law School and came back here to practice law. In 2007 there was a vacancy in Rochester city court caused by one of our judges being elected to the state Supreme Court. And then Mayor Bob Duffy appointed me to the vacancy. And I was fortunate to be elected that fall to a ten year term. So city clerk terms are ten years.
You can tell from the math its 2017, so the ten years are up, and I’m seeking reelection. Rochester City Court is a very busy place. As some of you may know, we’re best known, I guess, if you want to characterize it, as doing a lot of criminal cases. We arraign all felonies in the city of Rochester. And we also handle all misdemeanors and violations. We also do a significant amount of civil work, both general civil, lawsuits over $15,000, as well as landlord/tenant. We do an enormous number, about 35 of those a day.
So it is a very busy place. I have enjoyed the work I’ve done, challenging though it may be at times. And so I’m seeking reelection to Rochester City Court.
JOSEPH NESSER: Thank you. My name is Judge Nesser, and I’ve been married for 20 years to my wife Helen. And we have a 15 year old son. I’m also a graduate of the Jesuit high school. I graduated from St. John Bishop College. And I graduated from Ohio Northern University School of Law. I was in practice for 21 years with a concentration in family law. And in family court, mothers get attorneys, fathers get attorneys, and children get attorneys. And I tried over 400 cases to decision. I think that’s important if you’re going to be a judge, especially a judge that presides over a lot of trials.
And in addition to that, in family court, it involves custody and visitation cases, neglect and abuse cases, juvenile delinquency cases where children under 16 commit offenses that if they were adults would be characterized as crimes, although now they have raised the age where it’s going to be next year it would include 16 year olds. And then the following year, 17 year olds, which I think is in a good thing, because in the United States, New York and this other state, there’s only two states in the United States that don’t have the raised age.
We also preside over persons in need of supervision cases, children who are not committing crimes, but they’re AWOL from their homes, missing persons reports are filed against them. I always start with adoptions, because after that it goes downhill.
In 1999, I received an award for representing children in family court. And I decided that I wanted to run for family court because my main focus was to protect children. Matter of fact, that’s been my mantra. It’s a great message. I’m running for family court to protect children. It’s on my T shirts and lawn signs. So with the grace of God, I was elected in 2007 to start my term on January 1st, 2008. Ten years later and 13,000 cases later, here I am. I want to run again.
It’s a high stress, high volume, like city court. I love what I do. I love protecting children. And I also received in 2010 the Italian American civic leader award, and received the certificate of recognition last year from the county legislature for being co chair of National Adoption Day, which by the way is on November 17th if anybody wants to stop in. National Adoption Day is a day in family court to make people aware of the thousands of children who are in foster care that need a safe and loving home.
Two things that I wanted to talk about briefly, we have this big day in not only my court, but in all the courts. It’s called and roles. And the two biggest the complaints that I had in private practice was basically getting into the courtroom once you were in the Hall of Justice, and secondly, disposing of the case. I’m on a pilot program, case calendar where I’ve paired up with a magistrate, and another Judge paired up with a referee. And we have different time slots and schedule cases on a staggered basis so that people aren’t waiting for hours to get into the court.
In addition to that, we’re expected to close our cases within six months. And I’ve been very successful with our team. Not just me, our team. We’ve got a very good team, keeping the standards and goals at zero or close to zero. Another thing we’re working on, I’m with a group called Free. Facing race and raising equity. And the FRRE group, I’ve worked with an office in Moses and Mike, Sarah, Gwen, and Jennifer Perry.
And we’re trying to implement what’s called a responder program in the city school district to reduce the truancy rates. One school district had one of the worst truancy rates in the United States, which coincides with being one of the districts in the United States. And it’s not been implemented in New York. It’s implemented in a few other jurisdictions. It’s been successful in reducing the truancy rate. And we reduced the truancy rate; you get much better results, because kids don’t get into trouble when they’re in school less likely than if you’re not in school. So, my goal, my mantra is to protect children. That’s what I love to do and that’s why I’m running for reelection.
RYAN CHALMERS: Thanks very much. Our first question for both of you is: Disabled people look into a variety of career options in the court system such as lawyer, judge, or law clerk. If elected, what would you do to ensure that a greater number of people with disabilities get all these kinds of positions in your court?
JOSEPH NESSER: An attorney that I know, he was disabled. I never actually asked him what was the matter, but he was in a wheelchair. He’s since moved to a different area. But I mean, it’s up to that person. I mean, there’s nothing to stop a disabled person from going to school, going to law school. I don’t know if any of you are familiar with Dr. Charles. He’s a broadcaster. Years ago he dove into the water and I don’t know how, but his head jammed into the sand and he broke his neck.
He was in the hospital for many months. And he applied to Harvard Medical School. And I saw the documentary on him. He was actually reading bringing his books in. And people put the books up, and he’s reading all these textbooks while he was on his back. He eventually graduated from Harvard Medical School to be a psychiatrist, and then became involved with politics. So there’s nothing stopping anybody who wants to apply and pursue their career options. That’s basically it.
CHARLES CRIMI: In our court, all staff, our employees, unified court system. They are not hired by individual judges. So part of the answer is, the unified court system all have the jobs online. We have vacancies in city court. So I would urge people, if they meet those requirements, to apply for the job. As for the jobs that Judge Nesser and I hold, we aren’t partisan political elections for judges. So if you’re interested in being a city court judge outside of being an attorney and having experience in our court, as Judge Nesser said, in this court, having the experience dealing with the varied cases that appear in his court, you have to be engaged in the political process.
So if you want to be elected like Judge Nesser and I am, then you need to become active in whatever political party you feel most comfortable with. And apart from that, our staff positions, secretaries, law clerks, our clerks’ offices, our clerks in the courtroom, our court reporters, they’re all employees of the Unified Court System. We post the jobs qualifications; you are more than welcome to apply. In fact, we would encourage you to apply.
RYAN CHALMERS: Great. Does anyone in the audience have questions?
AUDIENCE: Good evening, judges. I found that the courts, particularly the city court system, is very inaccessible and poses many barriers to people with disabilities, whether they are physical barriers of not being able to enter into the courtroom. And we’ve also encountered barriers of stereotypes and statements from other attorneys who view people with disabilities as incompetent or less than, or unable to parent in cases of family court.
So the National Council on Disability has put out a lengthy report that parents with disabilities are often discriminated against in the court system and lose their rights as parents because of their disabilities. Knowing that all of these barriers exist, what would you do as judges for our community to ensure that people with disabilities have the same access, and that our disabilities aren’t used against us within the court system?
Well, two things. One, we’re tenants of the building. We do not own the building. We do not run the building. The County of Monroe owns and runs the building. So questions about certain aspects of building design, we have, as far as I know, no ability to control that. That’s the county.
AUDIENCE: You’re a judge. You could push some things around, couldn’t you?
Judge Nesser: We can.
Judge Crimi: Sure. Not push things around. The chief judge just announced within the last month, advisory to assist us in addressing issues concerning folks with disabilities. So we have two members, commissioner and county court judge are members of that. And I will raise that specific concern about how the courtrooms are configured. I know particularly in parts one and five courtrooms, it’s very difficult for an individual if they are dependent on a wheelchair from the courtroom because of the way it’s configured.
I think in response to the survey to them for that specific concern. We can advocate (inaudible).
The courtrooms are only so big. I know in the Hall of Justice, the entrance has a ramp and an elevator to get you to the first floor. You go through the metal detectors then they have an elevator to take you to whatever floor you want. Getting into the courtroom, the doors in family court are wide enough for a person in a wheelchair to get through.
Now, in regard to I think one of the issues was in family court that the kids not be taken away because you have a disability. I’ve never actually seen, in my 30 years in family court, a child taken away from a parent because of disability. I recently had a case where the mother was blind. But I never really considered that. Everything seemed to be going well. She seemed to be raising her children fine, so there was no issue.
She was before me on other issues where coming into her home and using drugs in the house. That’s what I was concerned about, not the fact that she was blind.
The other thing I would add to the second part of the question, I think I speak for Judge Nesser, we don’t tolerate untoward behavior. So whether it’s a question of individuals in a wheelchair, the color of their skin, their sexual preference, when those things happen in my courtroom and I’m sure Judge Nesser does the same thing, it is not tolerated. I have told lawyers to apologize to a witness on the stand because I didn’t like the entire question. I’m sure it’s that way with Judge Nesser as well. We just don’t tolerate it.
Does it happen? I can’t say it doesn’t happen. But at least for myself, the rare times that something happens, it is addressed immediately and corrected immediately.
And there were a few times I’ve had a child that is transgender. They may have been known by a male name and now want to be known by a female name. I make sure that everybody addresses that person by the name they want. And we haven’t had a problem.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
RYAN CHALMERS: Any other questions?
AUDIENCE: Yes, sir.
JUDGES NESSER AND CRIMI: Hi, nice to see you.
AUDIENCE: Good evening, everyone. So, my question is in 2013 I was pregnant with my son. I was married at the time. The father of my son was not living in the home. So when my son was he asked for DNA the DNA. So the case and given full custody of my son. Eventually, my son started to walk so his father took me back to court.
JUDGES NESSER AND CRIMI: Who had custody after your son started to walk?
AUDIENCE: I did.
JUDGES NESSER AND CRIMI: Okay. So your ex brought you back to court and said there was a change of circumstances, now that your son is mobile, you’re not able to care for your son because you have a disability. Is that accurate?
AUDIENCE: Yes, sir.
JUDGE I know that in family court, if you’re starting without any order, the standard is what’s in the best interest of the child. So normally the mother gets an attorney, the father gets an attorney, and the child gets an attorney.
And the attorneys get permission for the attorney for the child to speak with their respective clients, mom and dad, and they always have the requirement to speak with the child if the child is old enough, or at least inspect the residence where the child is, for each residence. They give a report to the court. And then if we can come to an agreement, fine. If you can’t, then you have a trial. If there’s already an order, the noncustodial parent has to show a significant change in circumstances, right.
And again, it goes to best interest, what’s in the best interest. Of paramount concern is what’s in the best interest of the child. Home environment, who’s been the primary caretaker, financial position, if the parent can provide for the daily activities of the child. I mean, I can’t address your particular case, because I don’t have all the facts. But I mean, what the courts try to do now is, especially from the beginning they try to work around each person’s work schedule to afford as much time as possible to be fair.
It used to be that the mother would obviously be the primary caretaker because that’s the mother. That’s not the law anymore. The law is it should be on an equal footing and each parent should be on the same footing. And you just take each case as it comes. And again, those factors, if there’s any alcohol there’s a lot of alcohol and drug abuse. Oh my God, it’s ridiculous right now. I get more people that are losing their kids for heroin, a lot of heroin. And alcohol is used. And you have a co occurring disorder of mental health issues, which really escalates issues.
But I look at all the factors. I just take it as it comes. You know, you go by a case by case basis. But if the child is doing well with one parent, I certainly don’t want to upset the apple cart and uproot the child, especially after any radical changes. The judges rely pretty heavily on the attorney for the child’s recommendation. You’re not married to it, but you rely heavily on it, because they’re not representing fathers or mothers, they’re representing the kids and that’s their charge.
And the older the child gets, the more weight the child has with their request. Obviously a 15 year old, their request is going to carry more weight than a 5 year old, they’re older, more mature, and more articulate. I don’t know if that answers your question at all.
AUDIENCE: My son, he was requesting that visitation stay the same. Because there was nothing wrong with me when the settlement was done there was nothing changed.
JUDGE NESSER: A lot of people don’t have cars. They have to rely on buses.
AUDIENCE: I should’ve been in your courtroom.
RYAN CHALMERS: One more question?
The takeaway from the process and this discussion tonight is, the individual disabled are not mutually exclusive. Anybody else have a question?
RYAN CHALMERS: Yes. Can you move the microphone?
AUDIENCE: So, everybody knows who took down my confederate flag.
Then African Americans Trump. So now instead of African Americans that are being owned, it’s people with disabilities, disabled people. Because now if that’s where you go turn into (inaudible).
JUDGE CRIMI: I think the point that I’m trying to make, and I think Judge Nesser as well, is that if you have a disability, whatever it may be, that’s not a basis to treat you differently than folks that don’t. So I think that’s where your question was going. And so that’s my commitment to you, that in my court, people will be treated not identically, because no two cases are identical. But people will be treated fairly based on the facts of their particular case and their particular situation.
I generally much more than that. If you just take it on a case by case basis, treat people respectfully.
RYAN CHALMERS: All right. Thank you both very much.
RYAN CHALMERS: Now can I get those running for city council to please come up. Each of you have a minute to introduce yourself. Would you like to start?
MITCH GRUBER: Hi, everyone. I am running for city council as a Democrat. I’ve been working at Food Link for the past nine years. Before that I was a teacher. Food Link is the emergency food network’s wholesale entity. We work with a lot of organizations that do work with the entire community of folks with a broad range of disabilities. So obviously, the ARC of Monroe, Christian services, I could go on and on. And on top of that, my mother for her whole career was an occupational therapist at a school. So the issues we’re going to talk about tonight are near and dear to my heart.
MALIK EVANS: Thank you. I’m running for City council under working families. I look forward to hearing your questions. I’m glad you’re having this forum. It’s very important that folks who are most affected by a lot of the things that happen across this country learn to advocate for themselves. There’s currently a bill, I don’t know if you all are aware of it, it’s called the ADA education and reform act.
That’s something that we have to pay attention to in Rochester and make sure that we don’t try to pass. You know. Anyone that doesn’t know what that is, that basically would gut parts of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. I remember learning about that act because I have a cousin that had spine bifida, and as a young kid the importance of passing that ADA. The reform act would basically gut parts of that and ignore complaints about places that are not complying with the ADA.
So, I want to ensure that we won’t allow things like that to happen in Rochester. And I look forward to hearing I think that access is something that I have spent my career, financial access, or physical access is very important to me. It’s about equality and making sure that everyone has proper access to all thank you for having me.
PAMELA DAVIS: Running for city council on the working families party line. I agree. Access is very important. Being treated with respect is very important. and the dark ages are over. I see a great future for Rochester and the country. And I want everyone I think that has been lacking severely, starting at the federal level all the way down. Start as a city council and move our way up, locked in arms together with the community.
MARCUS WILLIAMS: Marcus C. Williams to be precise. I’m running for city council. I was running as a Democrat for the primary. I did not win, but I’m continuing to move forward because I feel that right now there is no time like the present. We have to get more done and prepare for the future because the majority of the people who are running for and on city council right now have great plans and great intentions. But the fact of the matter is that they’re not preparing us for the future that is already here.
When I move around town and when I speak to different people, everybody feels very neglected by the people who are running for political office. We see it in Congress, we see if from our President, we see it from our city officials. And we need more people to come out and actually talk to us, sit down with us, see what our needs are and present plans and solutions to us for the things that we know and we see every day in our lives, you know.
And that’s why I’m running, because if we don’t do something now, two, three, four years down the line it’s going to be too late. Now is the time for action, to do something, to stand up so that you can be heard, because lately, and for as long as I can remember, nobody’s really been standing up and saying what’s going on right now is not good enough. We need strive to move forward faster and better, and actually listen to the people that we represent.
And I want to represent you. And that’s why I’m running as a write in. Please, when you get your ballots this fall, go to city councils, run down to the bottom past everybody’s name, and the blank box in the bottom, write in my name. If that’s how I get elected, that’s how I can start taking action for our community. Thank you, guys.
ANDREW HOLLISTER: Hello, everybody, I’m also running for city council. You know, I want to thank everybody for showing up. This has got to be probably the biggest crowd I’ve seen at one of these forums. And I know it was really hard for some of you to get here. I’m really glad that you made it. I’m running for city council because this city has been my home my entire life. I’m starting my family. A lot of people have told me the city is not the right place to start a family, that the suburbs are a better place.
I’m running because I want to bring change so that people around the city and in the city feel that the city can be a place to grow a family, to raise a family, and to have the same opportunities and same accessibility that people in the suburbs have. I do not have all the answers. And I know you guys came to hear what we have to say, but I’m here to hear what you have to say. I know I don’t know what I don’t know. I’m looking forward to hearing your input on what we can do to make the government better.
RYAN CHALMERS: Thank you. The first question, in Rochester, we have a number of organizations and businesses who would section 14C certificates via the fair labor standards act. This allows them to pay people with disabilities lower than minimum wage and in some cases, pennies to the dollar. If elected, what would you do for Rochester’s disabled community who deserve to be paid minimum wage?
MITCH GRUBER: I’ll happily start with that one. I’m very excited about I believe this Tuesday school of holy childhood is opening a bakery in a brand new location. We’ve been partnering closely with them on the project where I work at Food Link. The reason why they’re doing this, I believe, there’s lots of reasons, but partly they do want to have integrated workspaces that offer not the small wages that are being currently offered in their school right now, but they want to have a real workforce that integrates folks from all over the community with all different levels of ability and talent on the workforce, and give them a space to be able to learn how to be expert bakers, and earn minimum wage.
I think that’s an incredible project. And I’m around the nonprofit sector and see a lot of organizations that work with the DD population who are integrated in workspaces and building more opportunities to allow folks to earn minimum wage. I want to support those projects and I believe that we need to stop having these isolated workspaces where it becomes half job training, but half really just low wage labor. It’s to build programs that work for everyone. And that’s not preparing anyone for the workforce.
I’ll be very supportive in terms of integrating all people into the workforce. Be sure that all folks because some of the disabled have the same basic needs that a person who is not disabled will have in terms of food and shelter. That means they are going to have to be able to make at least minimum wage. The other thing, too, is that there are, I think, great opportunities in terms of training, job training.
We can help people move up the economic ladder, paired with a also work to ensure that people are able to advance in their careers, regardless of their physical or mental disability.
Thank you for bringing up that topic. I did not realize and as you see, I do take notes. I know that I don’t know everything. I want to learn more and be able to represent everyone to the best of my ability. Paying anyone less than a minimum wage is despicable. I’m definitely for the 15. I would like to see a living wage. And not only are there common minimum levels of sustenance with housing, shelter, etc., but you have other challenges as well like special equipment that you might have to replace and repair, things that come up. And that should be affordable to everyone.
MARCUS WILLIAMS: Okay. So, how many people how the here have applied for a job online? Anybody? Yeah? It’s becoming more common. And for a lot of people with disabilities, one of their first choices, instead of going out to places where it might be difficult for them to get access to, they go online. Except when you have to go to four or five different job websites to find one position that’s accessible to you, and then how many jobs do you have to go through because they don’t have a distinct area for jobs that are helpful for people who have different issues that might want to actually rejoin the workforce, or go back into another field that they haven’t been in?
Jobs are out there where people can access them. They just need to be put into an option where they can access them. My suggestion is this. I say we put forward a city funded job website where all of the jobs in the surrounding area can be posted for free. I own my own small business. When I want to hire, if I want to put it on a reputable website, it’s $500 for one job. That’s too much. And being a small business, wanting to grow and hire more people, I need that type of resource.
But you all need one focal point where you can choose from jobs that fit you. So this would be one section of a website where it would specifically focus on the people who have different disabilities and pair them with jobs. So you could check it out on the website in the disability section. And there would be different categories that you could check off to see which qualifications fit you, okay? And then you can see all the jobs at one time in Rochester and the surrounding suburbs. And that would help benefit people, make jobs more accessible, and it would help increase employment, because if you have access to the job and you can see it, you can actually apply for it.
And that’s something we need, something that’s practical. Because saying that we’re going to make everything equal and everything is not realistic. We know the world doesn’t work like that. No matter what we promise, it’s not going to be that way. But we can connect you with jobs that are paying what they’re supposed to be paying. And the jobs that are able to support you and help you support yourself. Because that’s what’s important, being able to get in the workforce, and being able to be treated as somebody who is capable.
So I’m not familiar with that business structure and regulation, but what I will say is I have an issue with an unfair advantage, especially when it comes to business practices. No different than when developers get additional subsidies over somebody else to build something in the city, I don’t see why we would go to some businesses and say it’s okay for you to pay people less and everybody else has to pay people more.
We really need to focus on programs like Rochester Works. I don’t know how many people are familiar with that, but it’s an awesome program that helps employers hire people and train them at the same time. And they get paid the full amount that they would get paid as if they were working outside of the program. That’s something that we’ve seen be very successful. It’s a county level program. I think it’s federal money. So it’s not necessarily a city issue. But I would like to see people integrate in something like that as opposed to telling some businesses it’s okay to pay people less.
Because whether we like it or not, that’s an unfair advantage for that business as well over other businesses. So it doesn’t just hurt the people who are getting paid less, it hurts all the business around them as well.
RYAN CHALMERS: All right. Thank you. Question from the audience?
AUDIENCE: So, one of the things disability rights inaccessible businesses. And what frustrates a lot of people is they say this business is new, why does it even let them open if they’re not accessible, they’re not complying with the law? For us it’s frustrating when we see it in neighborhoods that are better off, like on Park and Monroe Avenue. But it’s heart breaking, also, when we see it in neighborhoods that are more impoverished, on Portland avenue, a lot of disabled people are in those neighborhoods.
We recognize business owners may not have access to funds to make their business accessible. At the same time, the disability community is limited in their options to where they can buy groceries. That corner store might be the only place near them, but it’s not accessible to them. As city council members, what would you do to make sure that we’re being fair to businesses, but businesses that aren’t accessible accountable and helping businesses to become more accessible to that access for people with disabilities in that neighborhood is available as well? Everybody.
I think one of the things that we can do the question is when we are providing or going through the zoning process, we should be asking, will this business be accessible for all to help that business find funds, find ways they can make their business more accessible. This is definitely true because people sometimes forget that a lot of our residents living in poverty are also disabled people. It’s also important Rochester 35% of the people are disabled. I think that’s the number.
So it’s critical that we do that. And I make this argument with a lot of things. When you are looking at something from a disabled person’s lens, or from someone that’s living in poverty, you’re helping the entire community. It’s going to benefit everybody. You have to give people that mindset to start thinking that way.
35,000 people. My answer was actually owner responsibility for making those changes, because they are renting space. And putting in ramps, widening roadways, anything needed to make the establishment accessible. It’s a public space; it should be open to all of the public, period. And having a jobs program incorporated, I see that as a win win. And it’s lifting everyone out of poverty. And I would like to have more input when these types of things come up.
As a person that’s involved in a neighborhood association, we recently were contacted. And our association could not afford a professional and very skilled ASL. We also had a wide variety of nationalities in our neighborhood and the surrounding area. Since we are unable to afford it I would like to that can course or classwork kind of benefit so that the person who is learning can do well. And a phenomenal thank you for coming, gas money, something that is accessible, groups.
But the point is, bring more community together, more input, and hearing all voices.
Being a business owner myself, I recognize that there are a lot of things that when we move into buildings and occupy difference spaces that we don’t consider, honestly. And we don’t do it on purpose. My building is fully accessible to all different types of people, even if they’re blind. The floor plan is very open and accommodating. But a lot of the buildings in Rochester are old, you know, structurally that they’re not sound enough to make the improvements that are needed, or the owners themselves aren’t familiar because they don’t have backgrounds with anybody that has additional needs or things like that.
So a lot of people don’t make that their first priority. Now, it should be on the city, with everybody in the city that has issues with disabilities and accessibility. They should be looking out for them. They should sit together. They should set up a way to go out and assess different businesses. We have a list of all the businesses that are active in the city. We should be able to go out and assess their accessibility. And we should look at how we can improve the neighborhoods that are impacted most by inaccessible businesses.
Because like you said, in more affluent neighborhoods there are issues, but also in more poverty stricken neighborhoods there are issues. But there’s got to be specific areas where we can say, okay, this area has a lot of accessibility issues. How can we start and improve here. We have to have a plan. We have to have a starting point. But we have to have people come to us and say, this is what we need. We’re not going to stand for it anymore. Something has to get done.
Has anybody in here seen the Rochester city code, or read through it? It’s over 1300 pages. If I were to sit it on the table, it would be about this high. If we want to tackle these type of issues, it’s really, really important for us to work on streamlining the city code and making it simple enough for business owners to find in city code what the requirements are. Be0cause I can tell you right now, I haven’t met a single business owner who actually knew what the compliance requirements were until all the work was done and they were getting fined by the city for it.
So one of the things that we really need to do and not only that, but the city needs to be reminded of their own code because it’s that extensive. We need to streamline it, condense it down, make it so business owners know what’s required. Next, we need input from the community. This is something we could do. Let’s team up together. Let’s build a business awareness package, make sure it’s available to every single business owner.
What type of disabilities can they expect to see in their area and how can they accommodate them? Everybody I meet is more than willing to help and make a difference if they know about it. And I started by saying we don’t know what we don’t know. And that’s why we need to hear from you guys to see what we can do to help you, because if I don’t have that disability or don’t have a friend that has that disability, I don’t know that I’m not servicing you and not taking care of you in my place of business.
The example used in the questionnaire, I think it was about a clubhouse. It talks about all the hard work. I would guess I could be wrong that the clubhouse didn’t put up a lot of resistance to wanting people not to doing it, but to wanting people with any disability, with anything at all. They don’t want to turn away business. The question is what are they capable of doing and what access to capital do they have. And I think that one of the the other example you used, the corner store, trying to connect them to some of the existing city grants that exist.
There are dollars out there. The question is, do small, independent business owners know how to access grant programs. Do they know how to get access to capital? A lot of those things already exist. It’s important to have activated, energetic councilmembers who help business owners link to those services. This is not an issue, I don’t think, of very many store owners actively wanting to keep people in wheelchairs out of their businesses. It’s about not having the money or building that allows for it. So how do we connect them to the resources to help them get there.
If I’m wrong, if it’s discriminatory and they don’t want people in there, that’s a whole other issue that the city absolutely needs to address. Thank you.
RYAN CHALMERS: Questions from the audience?
AUDIENCE: What can we do to make life better? You can’t go out when you want to. So you can’t get access when you want to. You have to make a ride at least three days to a week out, or they aren’t going to give you a ride if you want to, even though the law says.
RYAN CHALMERS: Is this question to everybody?
AUDIENCE: Yes. The question is to everybody.
Okay. Thank you for your very sincere question. That is a very large problem. Not just with that line, but RTS as a whole. They need to sit down and the city actually needs to go through what their game plan is for transportation, because right now it is extremely subpar and inadequate. There are distances that you want to travel and places that you want to get to that are very difficult depending on what day of the week or what time of day that you want to get there.
And if you have to make plans days or weeks out and you need line accessibility, how do we know that something isn’t going to happen in that extended time? It shouldn’t be more than scheduling two days out if you really need something done. And RTS does not go through and assess how that’s affecting the people that are attempting to use their service, you know. They do have people who go through and check to make sure that they’re being efficient as far as money goes, but when they reassess the bus lines themselves, we don’t see much improvement.
The schedules always seem helter skelter, and the vehicles aren’t very eco or capacity efficient the way they should be for the time and place in which we live. And I would like the city to actually start a mandate that if you’re going to be providing transportation in the city that at least every two to five years there is an assessment on your service.
I’d like to see another jobs program, if you will, of utilizing the technology, something that’s much more immediate. You want to go to the movies; it’s in half an hour. If it’s with the distance that you can safely travel, I’d like to see some new vehicles. I’m sorry. He was talking about buying different vehicles. I would love to see more electric vehicles being purchased.
And again, jobs program. And having this be a system for people with physical disabilities. I think it’s a long time coming and overdue.
I agree. I think there needs to be other options. The problem is that right now, there are not those other options. And this really is a quality of life issue. There’s no reason why someone that wants to go out on a Saturday night and have a good time should be denied that access because of their lack of transportation, the equipment that they have to have. Come up with a business model that will work, while at the same time they are accountable to all of you in this room. I’ve got for high school students. So that’s something that I would definitely be willing to advocate on.
The line is something that I hear a lot of complaints about in terms of their accessibility and availability, trying to find other competition that could come in and fill the gap that the line has, while at the same time holding them accountable. I would also encourage you to talk to the board of governors city council but I would ask that would be appointed what their plan for the line is and strategies.
Thank you very much for the question. I think it’s utterly shameful what the transportation issues are for anyone with disabilities in the city. I come from the lines of thinking in particular about grocery shopping. And in 2013 when I started the curbside market, the program, the first vehicle we had was not wheelchair accessible, and I realized what an absolute oversight that was. And really, a poor, poor choice of vehicles on our end.
So the next two vehicles now we have a three vehicle fleet. Two of them are, in fact, wheelchair and walker accessible, which I think is really important, because obviously for a lot of folks transportation does a lot of things. Saturday night is important, but being able to go buy food is probably the first and most important piece of transportation. So I think it’s shameful. But I’ll also say that I want to be realistic about what city council can do. A lot of this stuff, in fact, a lot of the money flows from the county.
When it comes to the bus system, the county is the entity that really has a whole lot more authority than the city does. But what I will say, this is a place for any of you individually to be activated. Right now RGRTA is about to go through a whole process called Reimagine RTS, I believe it’s called. There’s going to be community forums. There needs to be a loud voice that lets people know that these are issues that need to be addressed now.
You know, I’m a historian on the city. You look at what the city’s bus lines are; many of them are simply extensions of the trolley lines from the ’30s and ’40s. Public transportation has not been revisited in decades and does not take into account the realities of 2017, including a lot of people requiring different alternative modes of transportation. We need to bring that to the table for Reimagine RTS, and I would be more than happy to provide dates to make sure that that does happen.
So definitely competition in the transportation industry I think is really, really important. I’ve been to cities where there are multiple transportation providers, and the transportation is significantly better than ours in all areas. And I think if everybody were to look around right now, you’d probably see a lot of construction going on in Rochester. And I think one of the things that we should be doing or looking at is what other cities do. The bus stops are at the same height as the bus, so people in wheelchairs ride the buses with everybody else in other cities.
And they don’t have to rely on special transportation. I know that doesn’t resolve all the issues, but that’s something we can look at today as we’re doing construction, making sure transportation is accessible right from the bus stop onto the bus.
RYAN CHALMERS: Thank you. We have time for one more question.
AUDIENCE: I have two, actually. Sorry. The first one, do you have any ideas or plans about what to do about the lack of sidewalks being cleared in the wintertime? I have to ride I have a hard time getting anywhere in the wintertime. I have to ride my chair almost in the middle of the road, you know, upsetting traffic as well. And I know the plows come through and end up plowing it to the side, all the snow ends up at the ends of the sidewalks where the ramp actually is.
So either the sidewalks are clear but the curb isn’t, or the whole thing is piled up and you have to ride in the middle of the street in your chair. My next question is about the construction of roads and sidewalks. Getting here I had to drive on the side of the road at least halfway here because the construction workers left the curbs three inches high so there’s no way we can get onto the sidewalk. And that’s been a struggle. This summer I’ve noticed it especially.
So I’m wondering if there’s any way to make it so they don’t leave the sidewalks like that, or the roads torn up for weeks and months at a time so that wheelchairs get stuck. I got stuck in the middle of the street once just trying to cross the street. And I almost got ran over because it was just impossible to cross.
So I think probably everybody in this room shares your frustration with the streets and sidewalks in the wintertime. I see a very simple solution to that is we should look at what the suburbs are doing with their sidewalks. They don’t have a plow that just comes through and pushes the snow aside and makes it really rough and hard. They actually have a snow blower that comes through and you go there in the wintertime, you can see bare sidewalk anywhere that they do that.
The city, for whatever reason, doesn’t do that. That’s something that everybody I know who wants to use the sidewalk does. They end up walking in the street. The people drive in the street. They’re worried about hitting people. And sometimes they say, why don’t people just walk on the sidewalk?
As far as the other question, I really think communication with the city is really important, making sure that you call the city every single time you’re stuck not being able to get through, and really putting pressure on them. Because if nobody’s calling, I don’t think it’s going to get resolved. I don’t know if that’s something you’re doing actively, but we need to put more pressure on the city so the city is listening to people. And what’s going to happen is the city’s going to put pressure on the construction workers to make sure that when they leave the job site for that day, that that’s left in such a way that people can access the street and the sidewalk.
Have you noticed any temporary ramps put in? As you said, there’s a three inch gap and that’s unacceptable that you should have to be in the street like that, putting yourself in danger. It’s not right. Regarding the snow, as Andrew said, we all do deal with the snow. And I know in the suburbs, a lot of them don’t even have sidewalks, unfortunately. So that’s also an issue. But the downtown area does get cleared very well on our city streets. I’d like see that same kind of thoroughness in clearing other streets.
If it’s a team of people going to those curb cutouts, everything. We need to be helping each other. Again, I will echo Andrew. Definitely make the call each and every time. Thank you.
Is it just me or does anybody else feel like they’ve started to plow the actual sidewalks of the city later and later in the afternoon? When I was little they used to come out in the morning before school. I used to walk to school. I used to walk from down by Thurston and Arnett all the way down to 19th, okay. And that’s a long walk, you know.
I had to wake up extra early because unfortunately, we had recently moved. I couldn’t get the bus schedules for school. So the streets now in my neighborhood where I live in the southwest, they come 4:00 or 5:00 in the evening to come push snow across the sidewalk that’s already been melting from the day. How is that acceptable? How is somebody getting paid? That’s my question. Why are we paying people to drive a tractor at 5:00 p.m. in the evening when they haven’t been out all day?
Why should you have to suffer through that, why should I have to suffer through that, and why is that a job that somebody’s getting paid to do? If they’re getting paid to do the job, either we need to reassess the way that we’re paying people, we need to reassess the times that we’re hiring people for, or we need to reassess the amount of vehicles that we have to do the plowing itself. When was the last time we bought new machines? I’m not sure, I don’t know. I don’t have this information.
How many machines do we have? I’m not sure. I would like something like this to be looked into and I’m sure you would, too. And I would be more than happy to champion that, because that’s a real serious issue for everybody, especially if you’re in a wheelchair or if you’re in a power wheeled vehicle, you know. It’s really difficult. What are you going to do? But do what the city lets you and ride in the street where it’s dangerous for your safety. And you deserve better than that. We all do. I’d definitely look into that for you guys.
I know this is the last question. Residents also have to have responsibility to clear their sidewalks. I get upset when I don’t see people shoveling from in front of their sidewalks. I know I do. From a PSA standpoint, residents of Rochester, encourage people, whether you rent or own, you have I shovel my sidewalk. Comes and shovels. I make sure I’m out there. Work. That’s another lesson. As residents, we have these responsibilities to clear that snow for disabled folks, for kids, for people that are walking. It’s important for us as residents to make sure we do our part.
You know, that’s a great question. And I think that the unfortunate truth is that a lot of the legalities are already written in. The question is can we force it? And I would you know, although Pam and Andy are right in a sense, call the city, and 311 is an important resource, I would argue that that’s one of the key roles of city council at large. And you need to feel like you have council people that you can call in to that will actually listen and will do something about it, because certainly, you know, as an elected official, if I’m so fortunate to win, I will have the opportunity to have my voice heard.
And I think that’s an incredibly important subject. And it’s not because the law isn’t there. It’s because it’s not being enforced properly. We need to make sure that your concerns and your complaints are not falling upon deaf ears. I would be more than happy to do that. Thank you.
RYAN CHALMERS: All right. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
RYAN CHALMERS: All right. Alex White, running for Rochester mayor, please come up.
ALEX WHITE: Hi, everybody. I’m Alex White, I’m running for mayor with the green party. It is great to see so many familiar faces here today. I’m a small business owner who actually got really upset over actions of the city when they were trying to put a business with us. And they wouldn’t listen. They wanted everyone to have their picture, their home address, their phone number, their social security number, on a certificate hanging by the door, visible to customers.
And they somehow didn’t see how we thought that was a bad idea. It took us three years to reverse that. And that process was so infuriating. I could not believe that we couldn’t make them see what a bad idea this was. And I remember calling it the identity theft law. And, you know, I remember a city council president telling me to stop doing that, because that’s not what it is. So I understand a lot of the frustrations that go on every day in living in the city of Rochester.
And I don’t want to try to say that I understand your frustrations, because I don’t. But what I can tell you is that I want to. And win or lose, I want to help you get what is right and just for you, and your family, and your friends, because my experience is, you know, well, quite simply, why am I the only one here tonight? I mean, we don’t have elected officials who greatly care. And we didn’t have a single incumbent from city council here.
So there is a ton of work to do. And we’re going to have to do it together.
RYAN CHALMERS: Thank you. First question, paper is not always an accessible way for someone to fill out a form, permit, or license. What do you do to ensure access for people with disabilities who need permits, licenses, or forms in an alternate format?
ALEX WHITE: We need to completely revamp city hall’s physical space. And I don’t know if any of you have been in for a business permit. I don’t know if any of you have been into the clerk’s office, or tried to pay a bill at the payment office. None of that is accessible, not a single one of those things. And we don’t have video stations for filling out forms. And I have no idea what you do if you’re on your own and you come in to fill out a form, because quite simply, at the moment, we require you to get instructions from somebody.
And they often don’t have them written out to hand you to read. So, you know, we need to relook at our process of how we handle input and intake of information, and how we access that information institutionally for the city, because and we have to look at the space. We have to make it so that there are counters at the right height. We have to make it so that you can actually when there are windows that you have to pay at, so that the window isn’t so high that when you’re in a chair or you can actually get to it.
And, you know, the city says it would cost a lot of money. Well, if they had built it right the first time and some of these things, like at the planning and zoning office, that desk is not eight years old. ADA has been on the books for 27 years and they put in a counter that’s not accessible. So I have no sympathy. They need to fix it. I’m not always going to know, okay. And this is one of the problems the government has had for years. It’s filled with old white people like me who only know the concerns of old white people.
And we’ve gone out of our way to make it more difficult to include other people in it. And the one thing we need and I think about this more in the planning, design, engineering we need some people with disabilities in those offices so that when something comes up, they can say, uh, no. This is just designed wrong. Because having people this would be a hiring preference in my mind. Having people with that life experience would help prevent the problems that you experience every day.
RYAN CHALMERS: Thank you. Now we’ll open up to the audience. Does anyone have any questions?
AUDIENCE: I was just wondering ordinance that we’re trying to pass.
ALEX WHITE: Am I wrong, was it ’99 that the lawsuit went through requiring this to be the back? So we’ve gone 18 years and we haven’t put in the law required by judges? I mean, I brought up my experience with fighting the city over something completely ridiculous because you’re fighting things that are completely ridiculous over, and over, and over again. And I don’t understand. You know. I took care of my dad for eight years. I bought a city house that was near where my business is so I could walk.
And, you know, I didn’t at the moment consider things when I purchased it. It was only my father’s accessibility. When I had to put in ramps, a new bathroom, and put in a new entrance door, all those things you have to do. And what occurred to me was, I just made my house much more valuable, didn’t I? Why on earth do we allow any sort of reconstruction, to require them to meet this, because it’s in everyone’s best interest? It expands your potential customers. If you’re renting it, it makes it more valuable at the end.
And the one thing I’m certain of, we’re all going to get old. And my dad didn’t need this when he was 30, 40, or 50, but it happens. And having buildings that are already accessible so that when anyone reaches that point in their life where they need it, just strikes me as the right thing to do. And I’m completely behind it.
AUDIENCE: Hello, Alex. My two questions are, so what are you going to do about the because sometimes that’s inaccessible. What are you going to do everyone in terms of the polling booths, in terms of running for office, in terms of forums, whatever. And the second question is, as mayor, like, what are you going to do with healthcare? I mean, Trump says we’re going to do this. So what are you going to do in terms of healthcare? Thank you very much.
ALEX WHITE: Access and accessibility, because I took care of my dad, it’s something I have some understanding of. And, you know, it is completely unacceptable that today we still have things that are inaccessible. And the city needs to have a zero tolerance policy on that. We don’t, but we need to. And that’s one of the things that I feel I bring to this office, is, you know, I believe firmly Americans have a right I don’t feel it’s a fair consideration on every side on any of these issues.
And I feel that discriminating against residents of your city is just wrong. And so if there are issues that need to be fixed and sometimes you have to provide the money to do it. And that is the other thing the city never wants to do, is to spend one dime to help anyone who has a problem with it. Now, as far as healthcare, boy, I wish the city could set up its own universal healthcare system.
ALEX WHITE: I have looked at plans. I’ve talked to people. I’ve run through numbers. It just doesn’t work. The state is probably the smallest group that could do this. And even New York State would be kind of pressed on a real healthcare system. Trump, he’s just awful.
ALEX WHITE: Okay? You know. He is just awful. And I’m not afraid to say that. I’m not afraid to advocate.
ALEX WHITE: And if I’m in the mayoral position, I’m certainly not afraid to use that pulpit to argue on behalf of what I believe is the only solution to healthcare. And that’s single payer universal healthcare for everyone, and covering everything.
RYAN CHALMERS: We have time for one more question.
AUDIENCE: Alex, how would you work with city council in fixing the transportation issue and lack of anything accessible within the City?
ALEX WHITE: Well, this is a big question, so bear with me on this. Accessibility was one of my many objections to Uber and Lyft. And I feel it’s a problem with our taxi cab companies. I think that being we permit this; I think the permit should require a percentage of the available services provided by a company to be handicap accessible with no size restriction. So even if you have one car, okay, you have to have a number of accessible cars. And let’s say I say 25%, if that’s enough when we look at things.
And I intend to work with groups like CDR and come up with the correct numbers so that there’ll always be cabs out there that are accessible and to say, if you have one cab, 25% accessible, we round up, that’s one. There’s no reason not to. Second, there is the huge issue with Lift Line. Why are there not people with disabilities on the board there?
ALEX WHITE: Just saying. The city appoints some people to the board. And I think someone with disabilities would be absolutely essential to sit on that board. Lift Line does such a bad job of what it does. I mean, it does get you to places and whatnot, but it’s not hard to come up with ways to make it better. And tiny amounts of money might fix this problem. So I feel that the city, if RGRTA which operates Lift Line does not take it seriously, the city has an obligation to its residents to form its own bus service, and to then petition the state petition the federal government, they are meeting the obligation, they should get the federal money from transportation away from RTA so the real, effective bus service can be provided.
Now, let’s talk about sidewalks. Particularly the first thing is I rode my bike here today. I do a lot of active transportation. And one of my pet peeves is when they’ve done construction and both sidewalks are closed, okay? There is no excuse for that but bad planning. The city engineers who sign off on all of these projects need to consider active transportation for people is a primary consideration for any road or construction project so that there will always be sidewalk access.
Second, the sidewalks for all the construction projects, at least one of the sidewalks has to always be accessible at the curb cuts, whether that is ramps or whether that is asphalt. I don’t care. It has to be done, because that is a primary means of transportation for many people. And even those of us who are relatively able sometimes trip and fall on those things. And there’s no excuse for it. In the winter when it snows, when I ran for mayor in 2011 in the special election, I came here and got that question.
I’ve had six years to think about it and I have studied what the city does. We have a lot of things we do horrifically badly. When we plow the streets, we do it with employees who work for the city. When we plow the sidewalks, we contract it out to the lowest bidder who provides us the lowest service. We presently have no specific plan to deal with bus access with curb cuts, we have absolutely no means for dealing with making sure that you can get onto the sidewalk or onto the buses from the sidewalk, we need to have people assigned to that.
We need to bring this in house to the city, because we plow almost four times the roads for half the money. And those roads are bigger and require more service almost twice the service they get with the sidewalks. And we do such a bad job on the sidewalks. Sure we need some different equipment. And the city presently, owns about 70 sidewalk plows, but it’s about time we sold off some of them and got the correct equipment to keep the sidewalks clear.
The problem with our present ordinance is that there are lots of places which are not presently owned, whether they’re vacant lots or state land. And the state is not sending anyone out to shovel the sidewalks. I have to cross over 490 in the winter to get to my house, and I walk a lot. And there is no way that is even remotely accessible. And you’re basically in the middle of the lane when you’re going over those bridges. So the idea that we can rely on the property owner to keep the streets clean is unlikely.
There are too many spots in which you can’t get through. And if there’s one spot in a sidewalk that you can’t get around, it doesn’t matter if 50 people shoveled their section perfect. If one doesn’t, that sidewalk’s no good. We need a universal approach to this. And the city like everything else has to stop being afraid to put a little money into it. And the money’s out there because we have allowed so many businesses, large properties that have expensive apartments.
We get that money; we can then start using it for the people of this city and their needs. And that is what I’m offering as mayor a focus on you, not on other people. Thanks very much for having me here today.
ALEX WHITE: Thanks, everyone.
So we are just about at the 8:00 hour. I just want to say thank you very much for coming out. Thank you so Ryan for moderating, you’re awesome.
And I hope I see everybody next year.
Oh! And you may have noticed we do have captioning in the background. And so this will be turned into a transcript. Once it’s sent to me and I can make sure its accuracy, then it will be posted on the CDR website and a link will be put on social media as well. So you’re welcome to check that out once I’ve put that up. Thank you.
(Session concluded at 7:59 p.m. ET)