Request for state funds led to anti-poverty task force
Patti Singer, Staff writer
A request for the state to fund one agency’s work with the needy became Rochester’s marching orders to devise a new way to end poverty.
Even though it has been several months in the making, the task force is not as fully formed as Hochul made it sound when she said that it could be replicated across the state.
Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren also vowed a new system that would get people off what Warren called “the treadmill of poverty.”
More than 60 organizations — including business groups, children’s advocates, faith organizations, health care providers, colleges and philanthropic groups — had signed on to a vision statement that pledges to eliminate childhood poverty by “ensuring that every child will have the opportunity to achieve the American dream … . ”
The list was released for the first time Monday to the Democrat and Chronicle.
How to incorporate neighborhood groups and public comment into the discussion still needs to be decided, although Morelle said reshaping the approach to poverty will involve the people the new system is being designed to help.
“One of the principles is it has to be from the bottom up instead of top down,” said Morelle, D-Irondequoit.
Lisa Bodenstedt, who lives in the southeast part of the city and read about the task force in the Democrat and Chronicle, said that approach would be crucial to success. She said people living in impoverished neighborhoods have solutions but may not have the means to put them in place.
“If people living in those neighborhoods were asked what they felt their needs are, that would be going right to the source,” she said.
Morelle acknowledged that the taxpayers may be reluctant to spend more money on old ideas. “Whatever they see it as, the last thing they’re prepared to do is double down.”
Morelle said that he would have more details about how the task force would function after talking to the governor’s office about its expectations. “Since the governor asked us to do this, I want to deliver a quality product for this community, but I also want to remember we’re trying to deliver on the governor’s program.”
The task force was announced the same day Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a 10-point plan to attack poverty and inequality statewide. Both are part of his 2015 Opportunity Agenda, which he has been touting ahead of Wednesday’s State of the State address.
The task force, which has Morelle and United Way president Peter Carpino as the de facto leaders, was born from a visit the two made to Albany about a year ago.
In preparation for the United Way’s request for money to expand home visitation programs, their staffs put together the reasoning for the request, Morelle said.
“People still think of Rochester the way people talked about it in the ’60s and ’70s, the boomtown of Kodak and Xerox,” he said. “This is part of our challenge. As much as we wish Rochester was like that still, it’s not.”
About a week later, Morelle followed up and learned their report hit some nerves.
As has been well documented over recent years by the Rochester Area Community Foundation, Rochester ranks among the top metro areas its size in childhood and overall poverty.
Morelle said the governor’s staff asked whether funding specific programs was bold enough to really matter.
“My honest response was ‘no,’ ” he said. “They want us to think bigger, broader.”
In August, he said he and Carpino convened a group of organizations and agencies to do just that.
The group expanded over the months, but didn’t want to reveal itself until it was more confident in the response from Cuomo. Morelle said there is no guarantee of state funding, but the implication is that since Cuomo is spurring on the task force, he has a stake in the outcome.
As for when the community would begin to see action by the task force, Morelle said work groups were being developed. He said he and Carpino would be talking with Warren and County Executive Maggie Brooks.
Morelle said that it could take five or 10 years to see results, but much of the redesigned system should be in place by the end of the year.
“That may be unrealistic,” he said. “Part of this is figuring it out. If we had the answers, this would be easy. … There’s a lot to do, and I think we’re up for it.”
The Rochester Anti-Poverty Task Force
The following agencies and organizations, under the leadership of Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, the United Way and Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks have signed on to a vision “to eliminate childhood poverty by ensuring that every child will have the opportunity to achieve the American dream, to live in a stable family environment where the promise of economic mobility is a reality.”
• Action for a Better Community (ABC)
• ABC Save our Youth Project (SOY)
• ACT Rochester
• Alternatives for Battered Women
• Association of Town Supervisors
• Baden Street Settlement
• Bivona Children’s Center
• Boys & Girls Club
• Catholic Charities
• Catholic Family Center
• Center for Governmental Research
• Charles Settlement House
• Children’s Agenda
• Children’s Agenda Interfaith Collaborative
• Children’s Institute
• City of Rochester
• Council of Agency Executives
• Crestwood Childeren’s Center
• Empire Justice Center
• Empire Justice Center / C.A.S.H.
• Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield
• Farash Foundation
• Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency
• Flower City Habitat
• Heritage Christian Services
• Hillside Work-Scholarship
• Housing Council
• Huther Doyle
• Ibero-American Action League
• Jewish Family Services
• Jewish Foundation
• Law Enforcement Council
• Monroe Community College
• Monroe County
• Monroe County Family Court
• Monroe County School Boards Association
• Mt. Hope Family Center
• Nazareth College
• Perinatal Network of Monroe County
• Rochester Area Community Foundation
• Rochester Business Alliance
• Rochester School District
• Rochester Institute of Technology
• Salvation Army
• St. John Fisher College
• St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center
• Temple Sinai
• THC at Pathstone
• University of Rochester
• University of Rochester Medical Center
• Urban League of Rochester
• Veterans Outreach Center
• Villa of Hope
• Visiting Nurse Services
• Volunteers of America
• Warner School of Education
• YMCA of Greater Rochester
• YWCA of Greater Rochester
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