Community Education Series: PART 4
Engagement or Entrapment?
City Council told the Rochester Downtown Development Company (RDDC) to provide “robust community engagement”. Instead, Public engagement and feedback overseen by the RDDC has been far from genuine. RDDC members and BID affiliates filled feedback sessions and ‘Walkshop’ events. Board members routinely swayed discussions and mentioned pro-BID talking points. Consultants recorded them as general feedback. The RDDC filled their sessions with leading questions.
As concerns about the BID grew, the RDDC canceled and failed to reschedule promised events, effectively silencing and keeping dissenting voices undocumented.
Clearly, this not neutral community engagement! It’s not surprising, considering the RDDC’s direct involvement in operating and planning the ‘Partnership for Downtown’ (PDR), the shell company set to transform into the BID management company. Essentially, if a BID passes, the RDDC gets a name change and continues to provide mostly the same services, but they won’t have to rely on membership for funding
The RDDC frequently shows community leaders and big business owners supporting the BID. But what’s missing? They don’t tell us that these “community voices” actually stand to gain from the BID or are Directors on their Executive Board.
Their actions erode community trust, a hard-earned but easily lost asset, and is not fair to the community.
Back in 2020, in the wake of Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the RDDC said they’d stand up for community and challenge structural racism. Despite their pledge, the RDDC remained unswayed even when advocates brought forward detailed academic research and held a panel discussion about the displacement of Black communities in Washington, DC and the issues facing unhoused residents.
Instead of stopping their BID effort or changing their approach, the RDDC and its BID allies attempted to divert attention from concerns. They targeted artists of Color and groups working with unhoused neighbors and substance abuse for incentives and opportunities. Time after time, RDDC efforts are not centered in serving community, but serving themselves.
It’s true that BIDs can bring things like parks and street art, but there are other ways to make those things happen that don’t drive up the cost of living and negatively impact racial and economic equality. The RDDC isn’t talking about those options. Are they really listening to what the community needs? Or is the RDDC just trying to bundle their BID with some things the community wants? Is that really doing what’s best for our community, or only for their group and their paying members?
Moving at the Speed of Trust
The Draft District Plan, released on November 28, is only open for public comment only until December 31. The RDDC will then use public comments to adjust the plan in hopes of it passing. There is only one public open house regarding the plan Wednesday December 13 from 5-7 pm at the Central Library, 115 South Ave. Attendees are encouraged to check in with advocates by the elevators to register their “NO BID” stance. Advocates will directly report to the City Council the number of attendees opposed to a BID. If you attend, you do not have to answer any questions that you think could support the BID effort. Just say no bid and go!
Make sure your voice is heard, they are…
The RDDC currently has an online survey about the district plan that requires answers to questions for submission. Rather than using the RDDC form, we suggest contacting city council directly to tell them “NO BID” Click here to generate an email and tell them: “No BID. No way, No how!” (Its even more impactful if you tell them why!)