Nine-County ‘Report Card’ Shows Region in Trouble

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Ann Johnson, Director, ACT Rochester
Over 200 people from government, business, nonprofit and education sectors from the region attended the announcement of the 2013 Community Report Card by ACT Rochester Thursday morning at the Rochester Museum & Science Center.

Hosted by the Rochester Area Community Foundation, ACT laid out an actual report card for how well nine counties in the region is faring in education, health, housing and six other areas compared to New York State. The grades would show a continuation of highs and lows, with room for improved performance.

These counties include Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates.

“The report shares with the community how we really are doing. The report is very accurate; there is no embellishments or scale sliding,” Ann M. Johnson, ACT Rochester Director said.

Charts, graphs and series of indicators within each topic area, when viewed together provide an overview of the progress and problem spots.

“We know the city has problems but there are so many different indicators as reasons why that it’s challenging to know exactly what they are as a whole,” said Johnson.

The areas where our region is in worse shape than the state, by 10 percent or more, are the arts, community engagement, financial self-sufficiency, and public safety. The longer-term deteriorating trends are disconcerting for three of these four categories, with the exception of public safety.

Our regional unemployment rates generally have been lower than the U.S. In the past 10 years there have been three years when the region and U.S. were tied. Until 2013, the region exceeded the U.S.

“This is very concerning,” Johnson said. “It begs the question, what are doing? What are we going to do? The child poverty rate in Monroe County has gone from 19 percent to 21 percent, which is now higher than the New York state rate of 20 percent. That’s horrifying.”

Johnson said there are race disparities that are mind blowing. “…We’re a segregated community. People of color are not doing well. A lot of people have left the city. We don’t have a clear understanding why and because of that there’s no way to decide what to do.”

“We always talk about Rochester being an affordable place to live. Our research shows that it is for certain people. But minorities are owning less homes,” Johnson said. “Typically, you’re supposed to spend 30 percent of your income on rent. We have found that whites in the city spend 34 percent of their income on rent. African Americans spend 51 percent, Hispanics spend 55 percent and Asians 55 percent. How are you ever able to save to buy a home when you’re paying this much in rent?”

When asked about an A, B, C, D, or F grade for the city, Johnson said, “Again, there’s no one reason why these trends are happening and because of that there’s no way to make decision of how to fix it. If there was a grade scale, there is no grade because if you’re looking at things in total, you may create more problems because you miss the details of the all the different situations that created that picture.”

ACT Rochester has promoted three components; learn, connect, and act. Last year, ACT Rochester focused on educating the region about its data

“We had a great crowd, it was really successful. This is 2nd annual report card,” Johnson said.

ACT Rochester has several partners including the Facing Race, Embracing Equity Initiative, YWCA’s Racial Justice Committee and Stand Against Racism Subcommittee, and Unite Rochester.

For more on the regional and Monroe County Community Report Card and detailed Trend Snapshots, visit ACTRochester.org.