Celeste meets with community activists and members of Indivisible Mohawk Valley
Renewing Democracy: What would a robust democracy in Utica look like?
Transparent government - How often have you heard about a big public project AFTER it was too late to have a voice in it? When was the last time the public had any real input into the annual city budget? The City can't keep operating in the dark if we want to build a Utica for all of us. I will insist that Common Council adhere to New York State Open Meetings Law, which dictates how all public meetings must be run. This includes public notification, publishing of meeting agendas, minutes, and all proposed resolutions, laws, and any amendments that are a subject of discussions.
I will bring legislation that requires notice of all public meetings be both posted on the web site and sent to the media 72 hours in advance. The City should maintain an updated web page with a complete, central calendar for Common Council and City departments. The current Council calendar is BLANK. Moreover, meeting agendas, minutes, and proposed resolutions cannot be found anywhere on the web page.
Engaged Electorate- How many times have you felt passionate about an issue in Utica, only to find that this passion is sapped by roadblocks placed by an administration that is less than transparent, and difficult to contact? It is understandable that residents are not active and engaged when City officials feel the need to mandate change from the top down. An informed electorate is an engaged electorate — Utica's future lies with residents mandating change.
To keep people in the loop. I will hold Constituent Hours for residents of the 3rd Ward EVERY WEEK. We have knocked on over 2,000 doors during this campaign in order to talk to everyone. I will continue to communicate with the Ward through a newsletter and neighborhood meetings. I promise to let you know about legislation and projects that affect our neighborhoods, BEFORE actions are taken, and I will respond to resident's communications. I am always happy to hear from the 3rd Ward:
Facebook: Celeste Friend For Utica Common Council
web page: uticaforall.com
Creating a Vibrant, Livable Utica: What kind of economic growth do we want? My budget priorities will be to support existing small businesses and lend a hand to entrepreneurs establishing new small enterprises.
Upon joining the Council, I will immediately establish a business advisory committee, and a separate citizen advisory committee in the 3rd Ward to guide policy. As an example of how the City can help push economic growth, a small investment in providing more parking in the area of UTCA on Genesee St will increase business at area cafes, pubs, and restaurants. Those profits will stay in the area if we target local independent business. Your representative must listen to the community.
I will take your voices into account and I will take every opportunity to explain the reasoning behind my Council votes.
Unions created the middle class in this country. A component of the local economy should be union-run training and apprenticeship programs. I support local apprenticeship programs like that created by IBEW Local 43. The Central New York Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee is one of the finest electrician training facilities in the nation, combining an Apprenticeship program with a continuing education component. Programs like the IBEW's are currently under attack at the federal Dept. of Labor level by undercutting a system of union-run and state-certified training for building and construction trades. The Dept. of Labor's move would allow substandard, nonunion training programs as has happened with many for-profit colleges. I oppose these federal actions. Utica must find a way to support union-run programs. We have seen how poorly the industry-led, market-driven approach has worked in the privatization of for-profit prisons and colleges.
We must build upon the resources we already have: a wealth of immigrant cultures both old & new; affordable housing stock; proximity to rural and natural resources. We need to make tax dollars work for Uticans.
I would prioritize fixing aging infrastructure to mitigate flooding and undertake street repairs. While canvassing we have heard so many stories about building code violations, cars blocking sidewalks, flooding, and unsafe sidewalks. I would add to the current fund the City uses to defray owner's costs to repair sidewalks. Very few residents even know that such a fund exists, in large part because of the lack of communication. I will fight for funding an engineering flood mitigation plan for impacted neighborhoods in the 3rd Ward.
Livability in Utica: What is the quality of our every day lives? We should be able to walk everywhere and walk safely, and we should have easy and nearby access to small businesses.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed the Complete Streets Act on August 15, 2011, requiring state, county and local agencies to consider the convenience and mobility of all users when developing transportation projects that receive state and federal funding.
Locally, this instruction to consider all users has largely been ignored. I support more projects like that being constructed in downtown Utica, which has considered the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. We must tie our city together with safe ways to connect disparate neighborhoods.