Decision 2023: Mark Assini discusses why he should be Monroe County Executive
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Election Day is Tuesday. The big race we’re watching locally is the race for Monroe County Executive. News10NBC wanted to hear from both candidates.
After spending 10 years as a county legislator, eight years as Gates Town Supervisor, and the past few years in the private sector, Republican Mark Assini said he was ready to retire. But he says the problems of crime, homelessness and economic struggle made him realize he needed to return to public service.
Brett Davidsen: “What do you think your biggest accomplishment was when you were town supervisor?”
Mark Assini: “There’s a couple things, if that’s okay. First, we were probably one of the most efficient town governments in this entire region. When I took office, the tax rate and what people actually paid was higher than it was when I left office. We were able to share services and we were able to buy equipment used and come up with a formula for that. But the bottom line was we were able to do everything, including building a brand-new library for the community and opening a rec center for families of all ages and do it without ever raising taxes.”
The topic then quickly turned to pressing issues like public safety. Assini blames criminal justice measures passed in Albany like bail and parole reform for the spike in crime.
Brett Davidsen: “You said you would work to reverse those measures. But police chiefs and district attorneys and other town leaders have also tried to do that with little success. Why do you think that you would be able to change minds in the leadership in Albany?”
Mark Assini: “Those laws have to be repealed. And I would be, if I’m the county executive, I would be the chief advocate for this community. I would have the bully pulpit to pursue this. And one of the things that this community has failed to do is properly explain to the neighbors throughout this county what is actually happening and why these laws need to be repealed.”
But Assini says the real way to cure the crime problem is to reach struggling families. He’s introduced a program he calls “Rochester Families First.”
Brett Davidsen: “Tell me about that. You referred to it as a mission. Mission work in our city, right? How would that work?”
Mark Assini: “I will be pulling the faith leaders in with social workers in the county in Monroe. We have a very large social worker team. I would ask the school districts to participate, and the idea would be to identify specific families one at a time. Having the faith leaders, working with the social workers, working with the districts, the school districts, to go and specifically mentor that family.”
Then there is the ongoing opioid crisis that has taken more than 200 lives in Monroe County this year alone.
Brett Davidsen: “What more should we be doing?”
Mark Assini: “Well, Narcan is an important tool to save lives. But that’s not the way to solve the root cause of the problem. First of all, we have to help people that are in trauma right now that are addicted. There aren’t enough detox beds in this community to be able to help them. We have people with a long, long waiting list of getting detox services and getting rehab services. We have to find a way to get that done.”
Perhaps the issue Assini has been most vocal about is the asylum seekers bussed from New York City to Rochester. There are hundreds now staying at the downtown Holiday Inn. He says although New York City is footing the bill for the migrants, local taxpayers are still on the hook.
Mark Assini: “Regardless of your status, you get health care, free health from the government. The other thing is that anybody going to school, that’s not free. Lunches aren’t free. Books aren’t free. The busses aren’t free. The fuel to drive people to school, is that free? All those things cost money. And I’m sure you’re going to have to make sure staff is there to be able to address, you know, some of the special needs that individuals have.”
Brett Davidsen: “Let’s move on to taxes here. It’s no secret New York has one of the highest tax burdens in the nation. Monroe County has one of the highest effective tax rates in the country.”
Mark Assini: “Let me correct you. Number one.”
Brett Davidsen: “So, what can you do to make a noticeable difference when homeowners receive their tax bills?”
Mark Assini: “So right now in the budget, they’re billing you for 5000 people roughly, and it’s a little bit higher, but there’s only 4000 on the payroll. There’s a thousand people that you’re being billed for that you’re not getting any services for.”
Mark Assini: “There is plenty of money in the budget to stabilize taxes, to squeeze it down without affecting a single service.”
We discussed a number of other topics, including housing, homelessness and economic development.
See the full interview below.