The holidays are often a time for people to relax and wind down. City Council President Greg Rabb, however, spent December attending a conference in Syracuse and staying in contact with Vice President Joe Biden.
On Dec. 6, Rabb was invited, along with other elected leaders from Upstate New York, to join in on a conference call with Biden to discuss important national issues and their impact on local governments. Following the call, Rabb was also allowed to submit questions and requests to Biden that he was not able to ask during his time on the phone.
"He talked to us for about an hour about what local leaders needed from the budget to do their jobs. He hadn't mentioned the Community Development Block Grants yet, so I brought it up in the email that I sent to him," said Rabb. "The CDBG funding has been cut a lot over the years, and we need that money for both the downtown revitalization as well as the neighborhoods. Cutting that type of funding is making it harder for us to do our job."
According to Rabb, while Jamestown is willing to make sacrifices in order to help the country as a whole thrive, the U.S. can't continue to cut its way to prosperity.
Rabb was also able to bring the issues of tax exempt financing to Biden's attention. In recent meetings of both the City Council and the BPU Board of Directors, resolutions have been passed urging the elected federal officials of New York to protect municipal bonds from losing their tax exempt status. The exclusion of interest on these bonds is a critical financing tool, especially during difficult economic times when job creation and rebuilding infrastructure are at the forefront of concerns for local economies.
"We use municipal bonds for so many different things in Jamestown," said Rabb. "Primarily they're used for low and moderate income neighborhood improvements, but recently we've also used them to make more of town compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and doing targeted demolitions. There isn't a lot of money set aside in the executive budget for demolitions, so these bonds really help in regards to that."
"Those bonds are needed to do any kind of major infrastructure improvement," continued Rabb. "If they got rid of that exemption, it would mean the cost of borrowing would go up, making it more expensive for us to complete any type of large project."
An invitation was also extended to Biden, inviting him to visit Jamestown in the future. According to Rabb, the visit would be held with the purpose of showing Biden what Jamestown has been able to accomplish in the community through partnerships between the public and private sectors, along with the adoption of the downtown urban design plan and neighborhood development plan.
"Both of these plans are models for what small cities can do with help from all levels of government, as well as the private sector, including the U.S. government," said Rabb.
In his final request to Biden, Rabb asked that the federal government continue to support funding for community colleges, including Jamestown Community College.
"Community colleges like ours are on the front line of providing education and training critical to maintaining American leadership in industry, the arts and the sciences," said Rabb. "I care about the community colleges. Economic development isn't just about the buildings; it's about educated people that can do the jobs that are necessary in the 21st century."
RABB ATTENDS CONFERENCE
One week after the conference call with Biden, Rabb was invited to a conference with other elected leaders in Syracuse that focused on revitalizing the legacy cities of Upstate New York.
"We were broken up into four groups during the conference," said Rabb. "I was placed in the entrepreneurship group, which focused primarily on developing business through entrepreneurial ability."
According to Rabb, he was the only elected official in the group, but he continued making the case of the necessity to look at how the government was structured in New York state.
"The lieutenant governor was there, and he took all of the ideas from the four groups in order to put them into a report to be released sometime in the future," said Rabb. "I wanted to make it known that I feel that we're running municipal government in the 21st century on a 19th-century model, and it's just not sustainable in the long run."
Rabb believes there needs to be drastic reforms made in regards to the structure of the government and that is the responsibility of the state.
"Myself and the other leaders of Jamestown will always make sure that the voice of the city is heard," said Rabb.