My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Blueprint for the City of Rochester



MY BLUEPRINT FOR THE CITY OF ROCHESTER
By Raymond A. Grosswirth

I want to begin by thanking a few of my Facebook friends, who have e-mailed me messages designed to encourage me to consider running for Mayor of Rochester. While I am flattered that anyone would even think of me in a mayoral position, I simply must state that I have no intention of placing my hat in the ring. Furthermore, I don’t meet the legal requirements for a candidate, as specified in the City of Rochester’s Charter. Specifically, a candidate for the Mayor of Rochester must have been a resident of the city for at least two years immediately preceding the election. (Although I spent most of my life within city limits, I have been a resident of the town of Henrietta, New York for the past 17 years.)

While I have been grateful for my Civil Service employment at City Hall for the past twenty-three years, I am also looking forward to my retirement in May of 2011. Could I be coaxed back to City Hall to work in an appointed position by a mayor I support? Perhaps. However, my plans right now are to get back to my many creative pursuits, which have been somewhat on hold during the stressful four-year period of my present position at City Hall.

Now that it is perfectly clear that I am not running for Mayor of the City of Rochester, this is not to say that I don’t have ideas for the City’s future. I will briefly outline these ideas, based partly on the fact that I am both a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. Therefore, if I were a candidate for Mayor, I would be pushing for drastic cuts in wasteful spending, while at the same time, preserving vital services that are expected from taxpayers.

WASTEFUL SPENDING: TIME TO TAKE ACTION

In the context of my twenty-three years at City Hall, I have seen from the ground up how money is spent. Especially over the course of the past four years, my present position as the City’s Accounts Payable Supervisor has allowed me to view documents that have been the springboard for multi-million-dollar expenditures.

I have openly questioned (often to deaf ears) why the City of Rochester is spending literally millions of dollars each year on consultant fees. After all, isn’t there enough talent within the ranks of City employees to make decisions that are often a matter of common sense? Do we need to pay a consultant $10,000.00 to determine whether or not a proposal is a good idea? Do we need to pay a consultant to determine whether or not departmental consolidations make sense? Do we need to pay a consultant to determine whether or not a youth intervention program makes sense? In short, one consultant fee after another has cost taxpayers countless millions.

In conjunction with consultant fees, I oversee much of the paperwork associated with the City’s professional service agreements. It is fair to say that the City engages in professional service agreements with just about every outside entity imaginable, again costing taxpayers countless millions. While it is certainly important to provide City business to private vendors whenever possible, the City must also continue to look within, to see how much in taxpayer revenue can be saved by allowing City employees to perform functions that are solicited elsewhere at great cost.

I have long questioned the manner in which public works projects are put out for bid. If all legal requirements are met, it is quite common to award contracts to the lowest bidders on such projects. However, the lowest bid quickly escalates to huge dollars after ‘change orders’ are submitted by contractors awarded the contracts. Fortunately, my complaints on this matter have received an ear and perhaps methodologies will change.

CITY AND COUNTY CONSOLIDATIONS

When I ran for public office in 1983, I supported a proposal to merge the City of Rochester’s Police Department with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, which would have created a metro police force. There was widespread support for this proposal, resulting in a voter referendum. Unfortunately, the proposal was rejected. (City residents overwhelmingly supported it; County residents rejected it by a narrow majority.) I think that given the current tight budget that exists at both the City and County levels, it is perhaps time again to consider a police consolidation plan.

As with any government entity, schools swallow up a huge chunk of budget allocations. In Monroe County alone, we have multiple school districts, inclusive of the Rochester City School District. I therefore have to pose a simple question: Does a metro school system make sense, given today’s financial realities? It is certainly an idea worthy of some dialogue.

On a weekly basis, I see hundreds of taxpayers standing in line at City Hall to either pay bills or fees. The same scenario plays out on a weekly basis at the Monroe County Office Building. A simple question: Why not consolidate the City and County clerk’s offices? It would amount to one-stop shopping and paying for taxpayers.

DOWNTOWN AND NEIGHBORHOOD DEVELOPMENT

Downtown Rochester is in the process of undergoing major structural change. I would certainly like to see the downtown district return to the glory of yesteryear. The New York City Times Square district is a perfect example of what can be accomplished with proper planning, combined with enhanced public safety considerations. For example, during a recent visit to the heart of New York City, I never felt endangered, due in large part to the large presence of police officers at every intersection. This will be key to the success of downtown Rochester. People want to feel that it is safe to venture downtown in the evening. Therefore, as plans continue to enhance entertainment and business venues, public safety must be a primary factor if downtown is to come alive with prosperity.

CRIME AND YOUTH DEVELOPMENT

As with any major municipality, most violent crimes occur at the hands of youth and young adults. I fully support any programs that deter such violent activity. However, any initiatives must begin at home. Therefore, any taxpayer funds spent on deterring crime must also be targeted toward parenting skills that will help our youth grow to become responsible adults. I have no magic solution on this topic. The City of Rochester has made great strides toward combating crime and addresses root causes. However, more must be done, whereby the dialogue must continue between youth, parents, schools, police, professional counselors, religious communities and advocacy networks.

I have provided what amounts to a very brief blueprint for the City of Rochester. I want to wish Mayor Robert Duffy well as begins his new post as Lieutenant Governor of the State of New York in January. He has done a superb job as Mayor and his shoes will be hard to fill. He has selected Tom Richards as Rochester’s new Deputy Mayor, and the expectation is that Tom will take over as interim Mayor at the appointed time. Tom will do a great job, and whether or not he decides to actually run for the office at the time of the next election is an open question. In the meantime, I hope that Democratic committees will consider Molly Clifford as well. She has enormous talent and should be given every consideration.

As I go about the business of planning for my retirement from my long-time position at City Hall, I will pray that the City of Rochester continues to thrive as one of America’s finest cities.

UPDATE - DECEMBER 16, 2010:
Molly Clifford announced today that she will not be a candidate in the special mayoral election in March. I was prepared to support her candidacy and then perhaps seek a position in her administration. However, I have no doubt that Tom Richards will do a spectacular job after winning the special election (victory is assured). My hope is that he will appoint Molly Clifford as Deputy Mayor. They would be a dynamic team.

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