11 December 2013

Rochester NY - Economic Disaster Area

The poverty rate in the US has not changed much over the past several decades. No surprise there [1]. That things are bad all over, however, is small consolation to those of us here in Western NY. The Rochester Area Community Foundation as just released this report (pdf) identifying the City proper and the surrounding area as an economic disaster area. At a time when (1) the outgoing Mayor claimed that matters of poverty and inequality fell outside his job description; (2) the Superintendent of schools is lecturing parents and communities about "responsibility,"while proposing that we turn public schools over to be run by local colleges and Universities and (3) local "faith leaders" (why can we not just call clergy, clergy?) are harping about the need for moral renewal as a remedy for the area's problems, this report is a breath of fresh air. It identifies reality - the primary local problem is poverty. And that will not be fixed though denial or hectoring or administrative readjustment or moral uplift or philanthropy or by a combination of those things. It will be fixed by developing strategies for creating accessible jobs that pay a living wage. There are ways that this task might be addressed - I posted on this example from not-so-distant Cleveland some time ago - but that will require major institutions in town (including the University of Rochester) to acknowledge the problem and their potential role in remedying it. That, in turn, will require political pressure, since powerful institutions never take the initiative in situations like the one we confront.

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