Vision for High-Tech Investment
We have one of the preeminent educational universities right in our own town and yet we see too many companies setting up shop elsewhere in the county, and even out of state. Henrietta is well-positioned to be a high-tech hot spot within the state: we’re intersected by two major interstates, we possess an abundance of restaurants and retail stores, we have low taxes, and we’re home to a hotbed of innovation. What we do not have is a clear vision—and that is what we need.
RIT was recently named the lead institute for REMADE, a federal manufacturing initiative that could bring in over $100-million in federal, state, and corporate investment. If we want to keep the companies that grow out of this effort (and others) in Henrietta, that doesn’t just happen—it takes a town board working hard to make it happen.
This doesn’t mean simply rezoning a handful of parcels scattered across the town and saying, “We’re now shovel ready.” It means proper zoning for commercial and light industrial properties in and around the university (and other developments that have already begun construction); it means planning those areas so that the roads and services for the area are sufficient to support the new development; and it means working collaboratively with industry and community leaders to make it happen.
Vision for a Town Center
When Pictometry was growing, we were approached many times to relocate to other areas in Monroe County that seem to do a much better job of attracting and keeping burgeoning companies. I was insistent, however, that Pictometry remain in Henrietta, and I worked with our developer to secure a new site within the existing office park and to build the new facility here. Now, every time I drive south on West Henrietta Road and see that building on the hill, I know I did the right thing.
Currently, I am helping four other start-ups get off the ground, including making a major investment in one of them. When they graduate from the RIT Incubator, I want to see them find well-priced, high-quality office space right here in Henrietta. Sadly, one of them will not—they are moving to Pittsford because they want the feeling of a village center, with restaurants and services within walking distance. By working with multiple players who understand the importance of this initiative, I believe we have the potential to create that environment within Henrietta. There are office parks with nice green space just south of the RIT campus. If we mixed in a restaurant or two and some housing, along with walking paths and gathering areas, you could have a nice area that would not only keep companies from leaving in the future, but potentially attract some back.
Vision for Green Space
At the same time, I also want to preserve the semi-rural nature of our town . . . and the two ideas are not conflicting. We have plenty of areas that can remain rural while still being able to provide growth in areas that are already being developed. When I was going to build my new house, I only looked at land in Henrietta. I loved that I could build my house in a rural area, surrounded by horse farms, but still be close to stores, restaurants, and businesses. Now, that rural nature is being threatened because one of the parcels on our road is slated to be rezoned as industrial. Sadly, our location is not alone. When our citizens move out to the more rural portions of the town because that is the life they want to lead, you do not expect to see the feel of your neighborhood drastically change in a short time period; and certainly not without having a voice in the process.
To combat this issue, I want to create a referendum such that future boards cannot rezone major districts and try to change the nature of the town against its collective will. I would work with the town attorney to lay down a plan of action for achieving this goal, including a 10-year and 20-year growth plan, and publish it publicly so that people purchasing new properties can get a good feel for how their prospective homes might change before they buy them.
Trust that Your Voice Will be Heard
The current administration does far too much behind the scenes. They do not provide open and honest answers to town citizens asking legitimate questions about potential conflicts of interest. They work on major initiatives done largely behind closed doors with hand-selected companies with minimal oversight and no ethics reviews. We want to change that.
To begin with, we will remove the 2-minute limit per guest at town meetings. Henrietta is the only local town to implement this: it was only done in response to a Jack Moore scandal, and it has to stop. If you take time from your life to come to a town meeting and ask a question, it deserves an answer. If we cannot answer it right at the meeting, we will research the question and append the answer to the minutes.
Not everyone has time to come to a town meeting to be heard. Hence, we will also be adding significantly to the town web site to increase the two-way communication with our fellow citizens. This will include an online petitioning system using software created by the RIT Student Government, which will allow anyone in Henrietta to create a petition that others can sign. When a petition reaches a signature threshold, initially set to 250 signatures, then we will guarantee a response from the town, including doing the necessary research to make it an informative response.
Trust that the Town Acts Ethically
Furthermore, we plan to create an Ethics Review Board to assess proposed actions and boards for potential conflicts of interest before the actions are taken or the boards empowered—something the current administration has failed to do, even though it has been called out specifically for this insufficiency at town board meetings and in state audits.
Most importantly, we will end the practice of false and misleading statements regarding the actions of the town government and board. No more counting developments-in-progress as empty space. No more saying there are no proposals on the table when there have been. No more skirting referendum laws by holding off making capital payments until after everything is rezoned.
We Need to End Cronyism
This administration appears to be rampant with cronyism, whether it involves no-bid purchases from the Town Supervisor’s primary place of business or his family’s farm, or a large percentage of proposed rezoned lands belonging to the people involved with making the rezoning decisions (or their family members). This is not only corrupt, but it also takes money out of the pockets of every citizen in Henrietta. This needs to end.
We Need to Listen to our Citizens
Our plan is to use the Town Master Plan as a guide. So, when 87% of town citizen respondents say that preserving green space and the semi-rural nature of our town is their number one priority, we will live true to that priority instead of trying to rezone hundreds of farmland acres for use as multi-family dwellings or industrial parks. We will advocate on behalf of the town: even when some of the top priorities are beyond the purview of the town government, we will work with County and State representatives to try to make those things happen. Road improvements and more sidewalks and shoulders on county and state roads are two perfect examples of that initiative.
We Need to Represent Everyone
Additionally, we will create an Advisory Board that will serve two main functions: first, it will allow for additional insights, ideas, and viewpoints from the Henrietta community to the board and administration, which will help them do their jobs in a way that better serves the community; second, it will provide additional oversight of the Town Supervisor and Town Board to help restore trust in the town government. Toward these ends, it will be a diverse board, with representation from a wide range of constituents, including residents from the various portions of Henrietta and one representative each from the development community, school system, Henrietta business leadership, and Henrietta business union. There will also be a focus on guaranteeing racial, gender, ethnic, and wealth diversity within the membership, so as to provide a truly broad perspective.
The current administration has wasted a lot of taxpayer dollars through poor planning, poor decisions, and the need to defend questionable behavior. Furthermore, they award major contracts and perform multi-million-dollar projects without proper ethics review, town input, or inadequate financial oversight. In doing so, they have burned through nearly all of the town’s reserves. I don’t trust them with my money and neither should you.
Implement Cost Efficiencies
Personally, I am fiscally frugal. That does not mean I want to slash and burn programs—it simply means I want to run programs as cost effectively as possible and spend tax payer money (your money!) prudently and with proper oversight. I get very frustrated, for example, when I see how much we’ve spent on our Rec Center and how little we’ve gotten for it: nearly $240 per square foot for what is essentially warehouse space. There are no locker rooms, no air conditioning in the gym, and not even an air handler that can deal with gymnastics chalk. So, what did we spend all that money on? Especially considering we used our highway department to prepare the site and our parks department to do the landscaping.
One of the keys to our success at Pictometry was cost efficiency. As a start-up, we did not have a lot of cash to throw at a problem—we were always looking for the most efficient way to get a particular task done, and we always asked the hard question as to whether an expenditure made fiscal sense. Even after we became highly profitable, we never lost this fiscal discipline. I intend to bring that same mentality to the town government.
Keep Money in Henrietta
Wherever possible, we will work to keep your money in Henrietta. If there is a Henrietta company that can provide a competitive bid on a project, we will use that company. Similarly, there are a number of developers who have invested heavily in the Town, so when scoring responses to bids, that investment in our town will be taken into account. We want to reward people who work locally because the town benefits when we do.
Keep Taxes Level
Moreover, our financials will be completely open so that our fellow citizens can be assured that we are spending their money wisely. We will mitigate any potential conflicts of interest before expenditures are made to ensure proper, ethical treatment of your tax dollars. We will fight to keep taxes level or decreasing, and we will be cognizant of our actions regarding your other taxes as well. Large, multi-residence complexes typically result in more tax expenditures than tax revenues, largely because of the increased burden they place on the infrastructure and school district. This affects your school taxes even if it does not affect your town taxes. We will work to keep those burdens to a minimum.
I’m Running for Doing What’s Right
As I became more knowledgeable about what the current administration was doing, I became angrier and more determined to try to do something about it. Fortunately, I was in a position to do so, thanks to the success of my company, Pictometry. Rather than just complain about the nonsense, I can now try to stop it.
Once I considered throwing my hat in the ring, I was approached by the Henrietta Democratic Committee about seeking their endorsement. I have never been a “party man” – even though I have always been registered to one party or the other, I have never been in lockstep with any one party’s beliefs or the other. I support or oppose an idea because I think it is a good idea or a bad idea. I don’t care which letter comes after the name of the person who put it forth. That is why the recent national trend toward putting party ahead of country has been so disturbing to me.
I’m Running for Better Ideas
Even here locally, I have seen this tendency rearing its ugly head. The Henrietta Republican Party has a corrupt and self-serving individual running this town, and instead of replacing him with a better candidate, their slogan this summer was, “Through Unity Comes Victory.” Rather than promising that they actually have better ideas, they’re just saying that as long as all Republicans remain loyal, they’ll win.
I’m Running for Diversity
Like many Americans, I have some conservative beliefs and some liberal beliefs. I am a big believer in fiscal responsibility and sensibility—I believe that our representatives, regardless of their level, need to be as frugal as possible with taxpayer money and work to reduce the cost of government. As someone who believes that everyone should have a shot at the American dream, however, I am also a big believer in diversity and inclusion, regardless of the discriminating labels society may have placed on you.
I’m Running for Fiscal Frugality
Fortunately, the Henrietta Democratic Committee is about creating an open and inclusive government while sharing my beliefs about fiscal sensibility. I don’t mind paying taxes if they are going toward something that benefits the community. But I hate to see it wasted in the ways it has been recently, whether it is the 10% increase in expenses we saw in Jack’s first year in office, him burning through all of the $14.5-million surplus he inherited, all of the money spent on the farmland rezoning effort, or the countless legal bills we are paying due to Jackwell documented discriminatory and retaliatory behavior.
When involved in start-ups, you learn to do more with less. I want to bring that same fiscal frugality to government without sacrificing openness and diversity. I want to see a town government that serves everyone in Henrietta, regardless of their background, and not just relatives or good friends of the Town Supervisor.
I need your help to make this happen.
I’m Running for You
I am honored that the Henrietta Democratic Committee has endorsed me as their candidate. I have joined the Henrietta Democratic Committee and proudly accept their nomination. Just as I have always supported the best candidates based on the best ideas, irrespective of party, I hope you will do the same. With my commitment to fiscal responsibility, high degree of ethics, many years of creative problem solving, and solid track record of making sound decisions, I firmly believe I am the best candidate for the job. I hope to have the chance to prove that to you through my actions as Town Supervisor.
Thank you for your support.
Pol. Adv. Paid for by Stephen Schultz for Henrietta Town Supervisor. Treasurer XXXXXXXXX