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Credit: City of Rochester

Credit: City of Rochester

The Democrat and Chronicle released a poll showing three of four people in the Rochester area don’t know about the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative.

Despite the D&C’s constant attention to the RMAPI, few people are interested. In addition, the group has done very little marketing. Actually, RMAPI hasn’t done much.

RMAPI’s goal is to reduce poverty by 15 percent in five years, 30 percent in 10 years and 50 percent in 15 years. The group also wants to increase the number of families that are self-sufficient, though it admits it has no idea how it will measure success.

Already, one full year has been spent assembling numerous committees and sub-committees, developing strategies and simply taking stock of the problem. There’s still no plan to reduce poverty. There’s barely a plan to come up with a plan.

That said, placing special focus on poverty is a very, very good thing. It’s wonderful there are so many stakeholders from all segments of the community at the table. I know many people involved and they are taking this very seriously. They are giving their time and expertise. It’s great people are talking more about poverty. But as the poll showed, no one is listening.

At least not yet.

I’m cautiously optimistic about RMAPI. But I’m also worried this is already a vanity project for politicians including Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assemblyman Joe Morelle, Mayor Lovely Warren and everyone involved in the Finger Lakes Economic Development Council. The United Way also stands to benefit, as it’s steering the $500,000 initial grant. There’s already a staff, including the $95,000-a-year director. The city obtained $6.5 million in additional funding to the project. RMAPI could end up being a nice vehicle for officials to say they’re doing something without really doing anything.

There’s reason to be cynical. The governor says he’s duplicating the RMAPI in other areas of the state, using it as a model. That is ridiculous, because RMAPI hasn’t accomplished one stinking thing yet. RMAPI doesn’t even have a road map for tackling poverty, but it’s already a model? This kind of work will take undoubtedly take time.

Here’s what is happening: Elected officials are jumping on the solve poverty train because they think this will make them look good to voters. The D&C poll showed it won’t. DO something to make the lives of poor people better, and they might start paying attention.


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16 Responses to Poverty Poll Shows Prob

  1. I’ve had misgivings from the start about yet another committee being formed to address a problem that needs hand-on fixing rather than press conferences and subcommittees, but I couldn’t formulate in my mind why this “effort” rubbed me the wrong way so quickly … until now.

    You nailed it precisely:

    “But I’m also worried this is already a vanity project for politicians … “

  2. It’s been 50 years since President Johnson announced a “War on Poverty”.
    50 yrs, $22 Trillion spent on anti-poverty programs.
    Effect on poverty rates in the US?
    1963: 15.8% poverty
    2014: 15.5% poverty.

  3. February 1, 2016 at 8:00 am Animule responds:

    We’re not asking the right questions about this. Why are we throwing tax dollars at an anti-poverty initiative when there is no evidence whatsoever that mountains of money have made any difference in reducing poverty levels in the past?

    Look at the Rochester Area Community Foundation – the source of the poverty poll you reference. According to a September/October 2015 interview with Jennifer Leonard (the CEO of the RACF and pulling in close to a quarter million in salary per year) published in 55 Plus magazine, the Rochester Area Community Foundation has grown 10-fold since 1993. Leonard says that the organization has $330 million in assets. In the same article, Leonard acknowledges that the poverty rate in the city of Rochester is rising and is now more than 32%. A 10-fold increase in funding and an INCREASE in poverty. How is that possible?

    Or look at the local United Way. According to an early 2015 City Newspaper interview with outgoing CEO Peter Carpino, the Rochester United Way has the second-largest endowment of any United Way in the country, second only to Seattle (the population for the metro area of Seattle is about three times that of Rochester, NY).. Carpino estimated that the market value of that endowment was $110 million. You add the RACF numbers together with the United Way numbers and you are within shooting distance of a half a billion dollars. Yet where is the evidence that this money has made any difference whatsoever in reducing the poverty rate? In light of these failures, why must tax dollars now be directed toward this effort, an effort that has made little or no difference thus far? Where is the accountability?

    • The mission of the RACF and United Way is not solely to eliminate poverty. While RACF has given many grants to help neighborhoods, foster racial and ethnic understanding and strengthen education efforts, it also supports the Arts, historical sites, and the elderly. Local colleges and the animal welfare are also helped.

      The agencies aided by United Way are too numerous to mention but cover many many facets, from single parents, to food cupboards to agencies for the disabled.

      Many donors to United Way and RACF have a say in what area their donation is spent in.

      To call out the names of the CEO of each agency only shows that you read City Newspaper.

      Both of these agencies fund areas that help those in poverty take a step toward getting out, either in helping a single parent work by funding a day care center or taking care of an elderly parent. They fund education in many ways so that those in poverty can learns a new skill or trade or maybe get their GED so they can get a better paying job.

      The fact that these funds are large is good, because much of the money RACF holds is in the form of Endowments which means the donor requested the principal remain intact but the income be used for programs. The more they hold, the more income is generated and the more that can be given to the Community.

      Some of these funds are donor restricted and the custodian MUST follow the donors wishes; they do not have discretion of how to spend it.

      To insinuate these agencies are neglecting the issue of poverty shows a clear misunderstanding of their workings.

  4. Let’s hope the plan is to teach people to fish instead of giving them a fish.

  5. Rachel:
    Are you honestly surprised? I predicted and wrote you regarding the fact that this is going to fail in the long run, but will benefit the politician in the short run. Big talk, more commonly known as the “political verbal dance”. OK, enough of the I told you so,…where then do we go from here.

    First of all try your best to read through the IBM project poverty proposal. Trouble sleeping,…read this. There are some 64 pages of repetitive and borderline useless information. Give this to read to someone in poverty and ask them what this says,….they won’t get through the introduction. It is a pathetic effort that will not give the poverty initiative any traction. It is written by those who haven’t walked the walk, but for some reason feel qualified to resolve the poverty issue. What it will do is postpone what needs to be done. The solution to poverty is not an overnight effort, it is generational. But that is no excuse for not beginning that effort TODAY. We need a clear understandable pathway that will chip away at poverty. A road map that can be read and comprehended by those who need to implement and those who need the assistance to rid themselves of dependency and poverty.

    Let me explain the rather obvious. What do ALL of the members of the poverty initiative have in common? What made them successful? What has been the foundation for their career and social standing in the community? EDUCATION! Yup, that simple, education. There is not one member that doesn’t have at the very least a bachelors degree hanging on the wall. They may have worked hard to get where they are but without that educational foundation, they would be in a very different place. So why is it that the word “education” is only printed in one or two places within 64 pages of this IMB report?! Don’t they want anyone else to succeed? Are they trying to keep this educational solution a secret? What gives?

    So, what needs to be done. We need to implement an educational enhancement the parallels the academics. Urban education is not on a level playing field with the suburban effort. Therefor we need to provide that enhancement to give them an equal opportunity to succeed. That begins with birth and ends/begins with a career/profession. I have a plan on paper, in booklet form, that outlines this program. If you gave this to someone in poverty, they could actually identify with this effort. It gives the student a reason for staying in school, attending, graduating with a relevant education that will allow them to provide a living wage and or go on to additional education. That is what eliminates poverty over time. Notice I said, over time, not overnight. This type of effort needs to be applied across the board within the urban educational setting. Not a program here and a program there and another someplace else. This “shot gun” approach is not getting the job done.

    By the way, I do this voluntarily. I am not looking for a dime. (unlike the common care folks who profit immensely from their “contribution” to education)

    So Rachel,….sound interesting? Can you give me a chance to sit down and show you this plan? Take a chance, you have nothing to loose and everything to gain. Or are you going to insist on the poverty initiative “team” approach, talk the talk with no walk.

    I’ll be waiting for a reply.

    • You’re right on with the $95,000.00 salary assessment. Of the $500,000.00 start up “donation” $200,000.00 plus has already been spent. Results,…zero, zip, nada, nothing.

  6. February 1, 2016 at 11:28 am theodore kumlander responds:

    the 95K a year Director tells the whole story. Like most Poverty programs or studies it will become feeding trough for over educated and under employed professionals. Instead of actually helping the Poor.

    • What are the duties of the job?
      What are the responsibilities?
      What skills do you want the Director to have?
      What is the time commitment for the job?
      What would be a fair salary?

  7. February 1, 2016 at 11:32 am theodore kumlander responds:

    Speaking of Poverty . i watched Beasts of No Nation. If you want to see real Poverty go to Africa. I can not imagine it could be any worse than there, but there probably worse places.

  8. February 1, 2016 at 11:15 pm Mary Ellen Belding responds:

    In my opinion, Dr. Brock is a Man of courage, integrity and tremendous motivation and quite capable to attack the poverty issue, full force. However, in my opinion, this is another political attempt to veil the lack of commitment from local political leaders, as they use a man of character and determination to be the fall guy for issues he will never be able to control. These are the same issues that have been in Rochester for the last 4 administrations and nothing has changed. Not because the problem is insurmountable, but rather, they don’t want it to change. Rochester is considered a “Labor Surplus Area” in Federal Government terms, this allows Rochester more grants, funds, and tax dollars to reduce the unemployment rate, as well as lower the poverty numbers.. This money has never been utilized for what it was meant. Just read the paper about the LDC’s or the Rochester School Modernization Program, or the COMIDA dollars and Federal HUD Grants given to out of State Developers. When has the money gone to the poor? How many jobs were actually created? The leaders at the City of Rochester scammed the homeless into leaving their possessions at Sanctuary Village over a year ago, as they secretly trashed their belongings and the only possessions that they had. It was announced that another Developer will begin building there, as the Grocery Store that opened in College Town 1 year ago is leaving. The Real Estate downtown is half empty and the people that did move in received unbelievable tax and mortgage incentives. The same waste, fraud and corruption continue and the issues with the poverty and crime continue.

    I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dr. Brock and if he received the support from the community leaders to get the job done, there is no better candidate. However, this is just another move in the Public Tax Dollar Thievery that has been so popular in the Political Play Book for years. God Speed Dr. Brock.!.

    • February 2, 2016 at 9:15 am Josh j porte responds:

      I believe you to be correct,..sadly. Every insincere effort by policians is usually well “insulated” by a fall person. The fall “institution” for East High? The U of R. Watch it unfold.

  9. No one actually wants to solve poverty, there’s way too much money to be made. All these non-profits pay hefty salaries, they dole out grants to friends, politicians get elected, and I the ground the corner stores, slum lords, furniture renters, used car sales etc are making money. Poor people are a great industry, no one wants to see it go.

    • February 8, 2016 at 10:12 am Some Guy responds:

      So true. This is a town of poverty pimps, honest people steer clear of these self-professing do-gooders who basically pimp out poor people and live far better off taxpayers and uninformed donors than they could ever hope for in a free market.

      • There was a day when I would have lashed out at that statement. While I still, deep inside hope differently, I am coming to the point where I agree with that assessment. That’s only after 4 and a half years of trying to communicate some possible ideas to combat the poverty issue. Very few,…very few even respond. The public “good-do-ers anger me to no end.

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