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Here’s why we can’t wait another 20 years

When Anne Kress became Monroe Community College’s president, she started cleaning out her new office and was surprised to find some "overheads" about building a downtown campus.
 
Later that month, I attended an event where she was speaking, and she pointed out that overhead projectors hadn’t been used for presentations in more than 20 years-a long time to wait for a project to finish.
 
Some weeks later I was speaking at a Rochester City Council meeting about the bus terminal and was surprised when Councilwoman Jacklyn Ortiz-someone I respect and support-said she wasn’t sure we had "discussed" it enough.
 
I reminded her that the first time I was in a conversation about the project was 20 years earlier, when she was 12 years old. I hadn’t known she was interested; otherwise I would have called her.
 
 It has taken more than six years to get the funding for half of the I-390 Corridor project, and by all accounts there’s no end of waiting for the rest. And this is a project that the Center for Governmental Research says will create 20,000 jobs.
 
Recently I was chided for my criticism of our lieutenant governor and what we get in state aid. I pointed out that it wasn’t that long ago that Mayor Bob Duffy told us we should support him for statewide office because he felt he could do more for Rochester in Albany than as mayor.
 
But when I find out from the State of the State speech that Buffalo is getting $1 billion and Rochester isn’t even mentioned, and when every upstate city wins the regional economic development council competition except Rochester, I feel compelled to speak out. And when I read the headlines that Kodak is going bankrupt, that the recent grant we needed to fill in part of the Inner Loop has gone to Syracuse for bike paths, and that we still have no word on the equalization of Aid and Incentives to Municipalities funding, I’m not sure being told that "this is just the first quarter" is the response I need.
 
Before I go on, let me say that I think I can be at least a little critical of the lieutenant governor because I was one of a couple of dozen supporters when he wanted to be mayor and almost no one else was supporting him. So if I have a word or two to say, I think I deserve to be able to say it.
 
I have been a longtime advocate for community economic development and have gone begging to Albany countless times. We always seem to come out behind Buffalo.
 
Years ago I was told that Buffalo did better because when its delegation went to Albany, the members put self-interest aside and spoke with a united voice. Rochester, I was told, didn’t do the same and had to change.
 
We have.
 
Our delegation has some of the most talented, experienced, senior members in the Legislature. And though our lawmakers didn’t get along 10 years ago, two in particular-Assemblymen David Gantt and Joseph Morelle-now get along famously.
 
Ten years ago, our county executive and mayor were famous for not getting along. If they were walking on the same side of Main Street, one would certainly cross so as not to share the same sidewalk. Now their cooperation is remarkable.
 
And let’s not forget the Community Coalition. Sponsored by the Rochester Business Alliance, it brings everyone to the table-business, labor, non-profits, educational institutions-all asking for the same thing as community priorities, all going to Albany to speak with one voice.
 
Oh, by the way, did I tell you that our former mayor is now the lieutenant governor?
 
We’ve done our part.
 
Don’t just take my word for it on this problem of inequity. Read the remarks of our current mayor in Albany budget hearings. If we don’t get help now, Rochester’s fiscal problems will be truly dire.
 
It is vital that we get the attention we deserve in Albany this year.
 
Lt. Gov. Duffy may rightfully point out that he is in the first quarter of his term in Albany and we should wait and see, but back home in Rochester, it’s the fourth quarter of the playoffs and the two-minute warning has just sounded.
 
We can’t wait another 20 years.
 
Kenneth L. Warner is executive director of Unicon Inc., Unions and Businesses United in Construction.
 
1/20/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email
rbj@rbj.net.

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