Community Insights Campaign Aims to Amplify Voices Silenced by Biased “Community Engagement” Process
ROCHESTER, NY – The BID Education Committee announced Tuesday the launch of the “Local Voices Speak Up” campaign. The community-led campaign will gather and share community feedback on the draft plan for a downtown Business Improvement District, with the goal of elevating voices that were overlooked or excluded during the official feedback process, which ended December 31st.
Critics say the official process was deeply flawed, noting that it was held between November 28th and December 31st during one of the most hectic times of the year, and that it was controlled by the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation (RDDC), the organization that would manage the proposed BID and all of its funds. Additionally, RDDC’s problematic process has denied residents and small business owners the opportunity to vote against RDDC’s creation of a BID.
As part of its grassroots community feedback tour, the BID Education Committee has launched a series of video testimonials from community members to social media. The series shares concerns about how a BID would affect local culture, small businesses, increase policing, and limit the use of public spaces, as well as the potential for union busting.
The perspectives shared in “Local Voices Speak Up” highlight the biggest issue ignored by the RDDC’s marketing efforts: BIDs tie voting rights and representation to property ownership. “The people of Rochester deserve a seat at the table. Just because I don’t own land in the city doesn’t mean that my voice shouldn’t count.” said Chris Thompson, local entertainer and advocate, “We’ve moved past land ownership as a criterion for participation in government…It was a racist and sexist as policy in the 1700s and 1800’s, and it’s racist and sexist now.”
Several videos in the series also highlight personal experience with BIDs in other cities, including Clara Riedlinger, local photographer and videographer “I have lived in other cities with BIDs, and I really do not like the culture that they create… I think that they suck all of the cultural identity out of a city… makes them into cookie cutter commercial zones that could be found anywhere.”
Along with the video series the BID Education Committee will present at upcoming neighborhood meetings; and mobilize community members for Speak to Council sessions of Rochester City Council beginning January 18th.
“The community has not been given an option to truly weigh in on whether we want a BID or not. This is the kind of grassroots community engagement the community deserved before this process began last year,” said Kelly Cheatle, a member of the BID Education Committee. “Unfortunately, the RDDC doesn’t appear interested in average residents, renters, and small business owners – especially those who are skeptical of this proposal – having a real say in the future of our downtown. It’s time for City Council to hear directly from the community, not just through the RDDC filter.”
For more information and upcoming events by the BID Education committee, sign up for their mailing list at NoBIDRoc.com.
Note to Editors: The video series is available on our YouTube channel for news outlets to use. Please visit https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5UTs5-uCDnST-jFkhqnSGlDDv8CPzkJi for access.