In an effort to discuss their recently developed 2020 Blueprint, which outlines recommendations for policy changes in Broome County, the Roosevelt Network hosted a panel with local executives and Binghamton University faculty on Thursday.
The panelists present were Broome County Executive Jason Garnar, Susan Ryan, councilwoman for Binghamton’s 11th district and adjunct faculty in environmental studies, Robert Holahan, associate professor of environmental studies and political science, and Randall Edouard, dean of students.
The event began with a brief presentation by Roosevelt Network members explaining the policies outlined in the blueprint. The five areas that the blueprint covers are environment, health care, student affairs, criminal justice and poverty and homelessness.
For environmental concerns, the blueprint covers the implementation of policies that would reduce red meat consumption on campus and implement an on-campus community garden. In addition to this, it suggests the creation of a free clothing box on campus, a zero litter plan for Broome County and the transition of all Broome County transit buses to electric.
In regards to health care, the plan proposes a grant to help the shortage of health care workers, the expansion of Decker Student Health Services and an increase in funding for the University Counseling Center.
For student affairs, the blueprint outlines the implementation of a Harpur College student mentoring program to supplement the demand for more Harpur advisers. In addition to this, the plan proposes the hiring of more counselors trained in treating sexual and interpersonal violence and states its support of the Violence, Abuse and Rape Crisis Center (VARCC) on campus. Presenters said these changes would contribute to creating a safer and more responsive campus environment.
In regards to criminal justice, the plan suggests the implementation of a Broome County Assisted Diversion Program to “combat the growing rate of incarceration in Broome County.” The blueprint also outlines the creation of an Independent Oversight Board for the Broome County Jail in order to “ensure transparency between the public and Broome County Jail,” and “ensure safe and acceptable conditions of inmates.” Finally, the plan seeks to establish a Mental Health Crisis Team as a 24-hour alternative to the police.
For poverty and homelessness, the blueprint suggests the expansion of multi-unit zoning in Binghamton and Johnson City. According to the Roosevelt Network, this would decrease the cost of living in the area and develop affordable housing. In addition to this, the plan seeks to improve upon the current iteration of the Broome County rent control program and expand transitional housing to decrease homelessness in the area.
Following the presentation, panel members were asked some prepared questions by members of the Roosevelt Network.
When asked what he thought the most important part of the proposal was, Garnar said that he believed every item on the blueprint was important, and Broome County had already begun to implement some of the suggestions made in the plan.
“We just purchased three electronic buses from a local company, BAE Systems, that we just put into the fleet last year, and we’re going to be purchasing more electronic buses as we start to swap out our older buses,” Garnar said. “You talk about mental health being so important, especially during this pandemic … We do have a mental health diversion program, it’s not 24/7, but our plan is to build it into a 24/7 program. We would like to increase [the program] to provide more services.”
Before the meeting ended, Ryan shared her thoughts on the blueprint and the Roosevelt Network as a whole and stressed the importance of participating in advocacy as students.
“Thank you all for your incredible work,” Ryan said. “It’s quality, it’s bipartisan, it’s intelligent, thoughtful, evidence-based policy-making and that’s what we need in this country.”