GENEVA — One of the things the creators of the city’s newly adopted Comprehensive Plan and Community Decision-making Guide wanted was “actionable items.”
In simpler terms, that means taking the document’s goals and making them happen.
One of those items was a proposal for an initiative called the Economic Opportunity Task Force, a multi-pronged effort to address the city’s high rate of poverty. While the proposal was lauded by community activists, there were concerns that the city had not dedicated funds to see the project come to fruition.
In the comprehensive plan section recommending the task force, the city writes that to “address the city’s high poverty rate levels in a more coordinated manner, an Economic Opportunity Task Force should be established with a dedicated person responsible for overseeing implementation, coordination and collaboration between local government agencies, service providers, employers and educational institutions.”
The task force, the plan said, “will take a very comprehensive view of economic opportunity and the factors that promote or diminish upward mobility — education, transportation, housing and workforce development.”
The creation of the task force was not the issue, noted Ward 6 resident Jim Meaney. Rather, it was that the document did not appear to adequately fund the initiative, other than what was described as “marginal coordination costs.”
Meaney had expressed this concern at a previous public hearing on the comprehensive plan, which was adopted Sept. 5. However, he said after last week’s Council meeting that stories in the Finger Lakes Times in which he was quoted as saying the comprehensive plan did not do enough to address poverty were inaccurate.
He elaborated to say his criticism was in the need for adequate funding for the initiative, not whether the document outlines an action plan to combat poverty.
He said at the Council meeting that such an effort in Geneva requires more than “marginal coordination costs,” and pointed to a similar anti-poverty initiative in Rochester. There, the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative has a pool of $6.5 million, a full-time director and two staff members.
He suggested at the Council meeting that a comparable level of spending on a similar initiative in Geneva would be some $260,000 over 15 years.
Meaney and others concerned about task force funding were pleased to learn from City Manager Matt Horn that the plan was modified to address that issue. It now “calls for the addition of a staff person” and funding of $250,000 to $1 million for 15 years.
“We’ve allocated some funding for 2017 ($12,000) to get some capacity building moving for the economic opportunity concept,” Horn said Thursday. “The Comp Plan doesn’t give specifics, so I anticipate this will be a central focus of Council’s annual planning retreat in January.”
As for the full comprehensive plan, Meaney and members of Council lauded the work that city officials and community members did to make the document a reality.
However, the plan does not include any extra language expressing opposition to landfill and mining operations that Ward 4 Councilor Ken Camera had requested. Other Council members said the comprehensive plan adequately addressed the issue. His amendment to add additional wording was defeated.