10 Things We Can Do Right Now to Revitalize Rochester (Without Extending Massive Tax Breaks to Amazon)

(Originally published at Medium)

Mega-corporations like Amazon should not be lauded for extorting massive tax breaks from underresourced cities. An economic revival doesn’t hinge on the goodwill of corporations and their billionaire investors. Here are 10 things we can do right now to reduce poverty, create jobs, and spark the local economy without displacing residents, radically altering the character of neighborhoods, and deepening the wealth divide:

1) Worker-owned co-ops

Worker and community benefit are at the center of the co-op model. Cooperatives can empower communities and provide sustainable, living-wage jobs in neighborhoods with limited private investment. See: Cleveland, OH

2) Efficient, high-frequency public transit

It’s no secret that Rochester and its surrounding suburbs are designed for car-owners. An efficient, high-frequency transit system allows for greater access to a quality jobs, services, and recreation. See: Portland, OR

3. Inclusionary zoning ordinance

Inclusionary zoning supports mixed-income neighborhoods by requiring new development projects — even so-called “luxury” ones — to include a certain percentage of affordable units. See: Montgomery County, MD

4) Public fund to promote Black-owned businesses

The average white-owned business generates nearly ten times the annual revenue as a Black-owned business. BOBs regularly lack equal access to start-up capital, investor networks, and often do business in underserved communities. It’s important that these enterprises have the same opportunity to grow and thrive. See: Detroit, MI

5) Community land trusts (CLTs)

Community land trusts stabilize housing prices in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, while also helping to build stronger and more connected communities. See: Burlington, VA.

6) Small business incubators

Incubators can accelerate the growth and heighten the odds of success for new business enterprises. See: New Orleans, LA

7) Municipally-owned gas and electric

RG&E is currently owned by AVANGRID, a publicly-traded, for-profit energy provider. Municipally-owned electric would lower costs for residents and lower costs associated with owning and operating a business. See: Fairport, NY

8) Participatory budgeting practices

Participatory budgeting is a democratic process that invites community members to decide how a portion of the city budget is spent. It enables citizens to shift money and resources to priority areas. See: Greensboro, NC

9) Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs)

Too often private development benefits a small handful of wealthy individuals at the expense of the larger community. Community Benefits Agreements are contracts negotiated between developers and community members to ensure that projects benefit all parties involved. See: Detroit, MI

10) Long-range arts and culture plan

Art is an intangible asset that contributes meaningfully to the identity of a city. Cities rich in culture are places where people want to live. Rochester can bolster its local arts scene through collaborative, long-term planning. See: Boston, MA

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