Informed Optimism: The Right Approch to Rochester’s Future

I always preach positivity and optimism as keys to changing the conversation about Rochester’s future.  In order to enact the change we want to see, we must first open our eyes to the good in our city, and the good that has yet to come.

But let me be clear.  When I speak about positivity, when I speak about hope, the implied and essential companion is information.  Far too often, we make guesses based on our gut, or things we’ve seen, or outcomes we want rather than looking at numbers, feasibility and best yet, examples in other cities.  Because let’s face it, we all want to believe we know what’s best!  It’s human nature right?  The armchair quarterback, the “hindsight is 20/20 guy,” the “see I told you so” pariah.  The fact is, very few people really understand what makes a successful city, or what makes a failed one.  

Thankfully, the last 20 years or so have brought an enormous amount of data (which is available to all of us) that gives us a pretty good roadmap as to what creates thriving, prosperous communities.  All we have to do is go out there and explore it.  What you’ll find is that the issues effecting Rochester are far from unique… That’s right, we’re not special!  Many cities wrestle with the same questions we have, while others have tangled with them and either found solutions, or made the wrong choices.  By informing ourselves of these instances, we can make better predictions about what could potential becoming a positive map to Rochester’s future.

Want to build a sovereign land casino in Downtown Rochester?  The lights and bells seem like an exciting idea until you read the data showing the resulting decimation of local economies.  Think creating an urban green space in the former Midtown parcel is a waste of taxpayer money?  Look at how similar spaces are attracting business to urban areas.  Wonder why bike lanes are all the rage?  Read up on how cycling infrastructure routinely causes upticks in economic growth.  Want to understand the Inner Loop East project?  Read how similar projects have revitalized cities across our great country.

The fact is, what many of us consider “common sense” solutions to urban problems are often not common sense at all.  After all, “common sense” means different things to different people.  For example, if you look at urban data, common sense tells us that the less we use our car and the more we walk, bike and use effective public transportation, the more economically sound our cities are… But if you say this to the average Greater Rochesterian, they inevitably look at you like you have a Garbage Plate on your head.

I’m optimistic about Rochester’s future.  I’m confident in our direction.  I’m hopeful for a better tomorrow while still loving our city today.  But always accompanying this hope is a wealth of descriptive data that I have sought out, cross-checked and researched.  I am confident because for the first time, Rochester’s community leaders are beginning to make decisions about this city based on hard data that has been proven to work, not pipe dreams and hunches. 

True optimism is accompanied by facts, numbers and a truth that nobody can deny.  So let’s take that first step toward a positive outlook while staying informed about what really works.  Only then will Rochester embrace a vibrant future!

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