Our movements must be prepared to do whatever it takes to protect our communities and build a just world ourselves, regardless of what happens in the November election. Read on to learn more about big plans to end the year strong and enter next year even stronger!
Rochester for Energy Democracy (R.E.D.)
R.E.D. is a campaign started by Metro Justice to halt the pending climate catastrophe and ensure environmental justice in the long-term. We are striving to build an energy system in which communities -- not corporate investors -- decide what energy we use, where we get it, what we pay, and how that money can be used to benefit our community. The first steps towards this vision is organizing our neighborhoods for community-owned solar and replacing RG&E with a public, not-for-profit, cooperatively owned utility with an elected board, a green energy mandate, and concrete commitments to a just transition for energy workers.
Last time, we announced that we successfully finalized second-year goals to replace RG&E with a public utility by and for the people. We are now proud to announce that this past September, we also finalized second-year goals for our community-owned solar project! Our long-term goal with solar is to form an organization capable of sponsoring community-owned renewable energy projects that meet our principles of energy democracy. Such an organization could be an energy cooperative run by members with Metro Justice represented on the governing board. Our mid-term goals include completing our pilot project in the Plymouth-Exchange (PL-EX) neighborhood, which will then serve as a credible example for us to develop a template for similar solar projects at churches, other neighborhoods, and schools. A year from now, we aim to develop trainings that will enable communities to be informed owners and administrators of community-owned solar projects. We are developing a Community-owned Solar 101 curriculum, a training for community leaders who want to initiate the building of such projects, and a "training the trainer" seminar series. We also aim to conduct all the necessary engineering studies, acquire all the necessary permits, and secure the funding necessary to have our PL-EX solar farm ready to build in a year's time.
Our efforts to build a bigger and stronger base in our movement also progressed significantly! We began developing a variety of fliers, infographics, and pamphlets that can communicate our vision, goals, path to victory, and why public power would be better than RG&E in a concise, informative, and engaging way. You can also check out our updated webpage here! To continue building meaningful partnerships with other community organizations, we elected three liaisons to represent Metro Justice and R.E.D. at the Rochester Housing Justice Alliance; our first endeavor together was planning a rally and press conference against the expiration of both the blanket eviction moratorium and blanket utility shut-off moratorium scheduled for the first week of October. For our teach-in series to excite and organize more people into our movement, we finished outlining a program and decided we would approach the Rochester Justice Housing Alliance, Rochester Democratic Socialists of America, the Pl-EX Neighborhood Association, and the 1199 SEIU as partners for our first set of teach-ins.
Our Feasibility Study Working Group solidified a 6-month plan to identify and interview potential institutions to conduct a feasibility study for establishing our public utility, as well as secure funding! Lastly, several members of our committee testified against RG&E's proposed rate hike at the rate case hearing this past September. Even in the midst of a pandemic, RG&E is trying to raise rates on Rochester residents for the essential needs of heat and electricity, and is still threatening residents with disallowed shut offs. We deserve better, and we can have better with true public power!
Do you want to join us in halting the climate crisis and making energy a human right? Sign our petition here and then let's get to work, together!
Campaign for NY Health
Metro Justice houses the Rochester Chapter of the Campaign for NY Health (CNYH): a statewide movement for universal healthcare in NYS! Every New Yorker deserves comprehensive health care without expensive premiums, deductibles, and copays. Click here to learn more about the New York Health Act (NYHA).
Last month was a flurry of planning and organizing for Rochester for NY Health as COVID-19 and police brutality continue to exacerbate existing healthcare inequities. The shocking revelation of how Daniel Prude died under police restraint, in what should have been a non-violent mental health intervention last March, makes how deeply systemic racism affects medical access and police response even more clear. We desperately need universal healthcare, both in New York and nationally, so that we can take the first step towards building more appropriate medical alternatives to policing and ensure comprehensive healthcare for all.
For that reason, we renewed a commitment to a teach-in and organizing workshop that links COVID-19, racial justice, and alternatives to policing to why we must win the New York Health Act next year. Because of the focus on racial justice for this event, we prioritized our own member-leaders of color and leaders of color in partnering organizations as speakers and facilitators of different parts of the program. The program will combine information about the New York Health Act with stories from across Rochester about how our healthcare system affects Black Lives, facilitate relationship-building for future organizing together, and end with a clear call to action. Concerted, organized action during this coming winter and spring has the potential to win universal healthcare next year. This "Fund Healthcare Not Police" event is the launching pad for Rochester’s leadership in the statewide effort and bringing more people into the movement.
We also completed a campaign strategy plan for the rest of this year and next year, with special emphasis on growing our grassroots base and leadership. Now is the time to join in to #PassNYHealth this year!
We have monthly organizing meetings, now held over Zoom. Message us on Facebook for the Zoom link or RSVP here on our website for the next meeting, which will be held from 6 - 7:30 PM on Wednesday, October 28th!
Justice for Daniel Prude & Black Lives Matter
Photo by Reclaiming the Narrative
We have to yet to see full justice carried out for the Rochester Police Department's murder of Daniel Prude and subsequent cover up. In September, the (now former) Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary resigned by retiring early; he was followed by the rest of his command staff, each of whom either also retired or stepped down to posts they previously held. The cops directly responsible for murdering Daniel Prude have yet to face charges; however, NYS Attorney General Tish James announced that a grand jury will be formed to investigate the murder. All of these steps towards justice were accomplished first and foremost because of the people: because of our community's persistence and resiliency in continuing to mobilize in the streets, refusing to allow peace until there was justice.
Every officer and elected official responsible for Daniel Prude's murder, and the cover up, must face accountability and consequences. We also recognize that charges, resignations, or other consequences -- while important steps -- are not enough. Different leadership within an institution that was structured to oppress people of color and working people does not create the lasting systemic change we need to end police brutality. We will continue to show up and mobilize in solidarity with people taking to the streets to demand the defunding and the demilitarization of the police.
At Metro Justice, an internal caucus of Black member-leadership is discussing how to work with other BLM organizations across the nation to bring organizing knowledge, political analysis, and more to our Rochester community so that our local movement can continue to grow and build stronger long-term organization capable of sustaining change. We will also keep organizing for the long-term systemic change that can concretely implement what it means to defund the police and fund our communities, and are giving special attention to how we can explicitly center racial justice in all of our campaigns and solidarity efforts. Universal healthcare, energy democracy and utilities as a human right, safe and affordable housing for all, and greater membership and leadership of people of color in the labor movement are all central to our mission as an organization.
We will continue to do our best to send out updates via email and our Facebook on local BLM activity as we have them. For current, well-researched, independent, and local reporting, you can follow Reclaiming the Narrative on their Facebook page or website. You can also follow Free The People's Facebook page for announcements on actions.
Popular Education & White Supremacy
Elder Justice Committee (EJC) is one of our longest existing committees with some of our most dedicated members. Over the years, Elder Justice has gained statewide recognition for their work to ensure that elders live purposeful, self-directed, meaningful, and dignified lives in their homes and communities. A critical focus of this work has been transforming our nursing homes from hospital-like holding institutions into meaningful and nurturing homes where elders can continue to live truly fulfilling lives. A linchpin of this effort is winning the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act.
In September, Elder Justice held its first Zoom meeting since the outbreak of COVID-19! Currently, New York continues to restrict visitation to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, which continues to isolate seniors in these facilities from loved ones while making it difficult for loved ones to care for their aging relatives. Local, state, and national participants with Voices for Seniors has held rallies and meetings with legislators to amend visitation regulation. The number of visitors is restricted to 10% of the number of residents in the facility, and visitation times and days are also significantly restricted which is a hardship for families.
We are currently advocating for the following bills in the NYS legislature:
- S8633 (May)/A10836 (Cruz)– Enact the “Reimagining long term care task force act to study the state of long-term care services in this state.” Referred to Aging Committee on July 20th, 2020.
- A09530 (Gottfried)/S07034 – “To expand the Public Health and Health Planning Council to include additional consumer representation. Passed by both houses; Pocket Veto by Governor.
- A05616/S04486 (Weinstein) – “An act to amend the service law and pubic health law in relation to granting residents of Adult Care Facilities a course of action to seek appointment of temporary operators." This gives residents a right to obtain a court order. Would not need Department of Health involvement. An Adult Care Facilities is not a nursing home, but provides long-term, non-medical residential services to adults who are substantially unable to live independently.
- S03460 (Rivera)/A04416-C – Relates to violations of safety conditions in Adult Care Facilities by strengthening regulations and providing higher fines. Currently in Health Committee.
- A10857 (Kim)/S8756 (Tedisco) – Independent investigation in COVID/Nursing Homes including finding the real number of deaths of nursing home residents.
- S8958 (May) – Regards allowing visitors into nursing homes as Personal Care Visitors
Elder Justice's continual strong advocacy for nursing home residents has made an impression as illustrated by these quotes from Richard Gottfried the NYS Assembly Health Committee Chair:
- “Nursing homes have serious deficiencies in staffing and underfunding by Medicaid.”
- “We need to look at for-profit nursing homes.”
- “There are serious quality deficiencies and siphoning off money that should go for resident care”.
- “The nursing home immunity statute is an abomination.”
- “New York State DOH is keeping secret the number of nursing home deaths in hospitals [of residents sent from nursing homes].”
We will also be holding a joint meeting with new prospective Democratic legislators in Greater Rochester on Wednesday, October 14 at 10 AM via Zoom. We encourage all committee members to attend. It is our chance to speak about the important issues we work on and ask them their positions.
- MaryDel Wypych and Ken Traub, Co-chairs of the Elder Justice Committee
Rochester Mutual Aid Network (RMAN)
Metro Justice is honored to be the 501 c(3) sponsor of the grassroots Rochester Mutual Aid Network. RMAN is a partnership between the Rochester Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and a number of local charity and social justice organizations. RMAN is a cooperative network that was started to help our community sustain itself.
RMAN took a break for a part of September in order to restructure so that they are more sustainably able to fulfill requests for aid. Still, volunteers with RMAN continued to partner with Flower City Pickers at the Public Market to package and deliver fresh produce and bread to families! You can request aid, donate, or sign up to volunteer at their website www.rocmutualaid.com. RMAN has regular orientations and training for new volunteers; to receive updates, you can sign up on their website or follow them on their Facebook page. In these times of crisis, people shouldn't have to worry about where help is going to come from. It's going to come from our community, so let's get to work!
Build With Us!
Metro Justice is a grassroots community organization, driven by our members. Much of this work would not be possible without the contributions of both time and money by the hundreds of members who work hard everyday fighting for racial, social, and economic justice. The contributions of our members are what allow us to forgo big grant funding so that we can be solely accountable to our community instead of large foundations.
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Wishing you, your friends, and loved ones health, safety, and support.
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