A Conversation with Councilwoman Carol Conklin

A Conversation with Councilwoman Carol Conklin

In about a minute or less describe what a typical day for a council member is.

I generally spent 5 to 6 hours in the office most days. typical day there is no typical day some days I just catch up on emails do some reading and research other days its spending time with constituent problems. Researching legislation that’s been submitted by the administration it’s a hodgepodge of things. I think whether you ask somebody in the Congress or the City Council or any legislative body they pretty much would answer you the same way

This [Job] is one of the lowest common denominators in elective office but it’s pretty much the same going all the way up with her its the state or federal government.

What do you think the best investment you made to get where you're at today?

Community involvement.

What was the last book you read?

I always ask that question during Council Confirmation Hearings. 

I just finished reading a book today that I wouldn't recommend to anyone. “Circling the Sun” by Paula McLain. I picked it up because it was it Beyrl Markham, who was the first woman to fly self solo across the Atlantic from England to North America in 1936. I thought it would be a fascinating read and most of it was just about a stripper. The parts detailing her childhood and life in Africa were wonderful the love stuff was sophomoric.

How Much do you read in a given month?

After I read an awful lot of. 8 or 10 books not including magazines and daily newspapers. I have a huge collection of novels that I have collected over the years. I love books I wish I had more. 

Whats a talent you don't have but wish you did?

I would love to be able to sing. I have a terribly flat voice and I cant carry a tune. 

Is there something you wish you spent more time doing? 

There is never enough time to do the things I like to do. Travel, reading, my family; there is just never enough time. Time flies by.

You have done a good amount of traveling with the sister city program and without. Do you have a favorite place?

Well I think favorite has to be defined in what regard. If its favorite for moving emotionally then I would say standing at the American cemetery in Normandy and viewing 10000 crosses is probably the most emotional experiences. Being in Russia last may and watching a silent protest march with people holding up pictures of relatives who dies in World War II, in a city smaller than Rochester. Standing on the Great Wall of China, Visiting parts of Ireland that my grandparents came from.

It's like saying which one of your children do you love the most, you cant honestly answer that.

Whats your biggest accomplishment so far?

My four children and everything that they entail; their children and their children's children.

Is there something you would still like to accomplish?

We still have horrid childhood poverty a poor educational system. yeah there's a lot more I'd like to be able to do or be a part of having done. 

How do you think Rochester has progressed in the 12 years you have been on City Council?

If you look at Rochester from its beginning in the 1800s Rochester has always been a progressive city but whether it's been for abolition, woman's rights, gay lesbian transgender GLBT rights. I think we have always been a very progressive city and I that's one of the things I'm proudest of Rochester is how truly progressive we have been over the years we still have a long way to go with racism we still have a long way to go with poverty but I think there is really a will here to solve of our problems.

You mention poverty, especially children poverty what are some of the things are city needs to continue to address?

I think poverty and education are closely related. we had a segregated school system we sit in the middle of a very rich suburbs with children receive a wonderful education Id be a silly dreamer to think that metropolitan school district is in my lifetime. I don't see that coming but that's the ultimate answer to the poverty issues and the school issues is a metropolitan school system. Just like we should have a Metropolitan Police Department. I mean the fact that are wealthiest suburbs Pittsford, Fairport, Penfield none of them paid to have the police force to get the sheriff's office. We pay for the Sheriffs office that we don't get it in the city and you know he died Metropolitan Police and a metropolitan school district would be overnight solutions to many of our problems. 

Do you think we are working towards those goals?

Not in my life time unfortunately no.

Are there some short term goals we can work towards to fix the problems our city has?

I work closely with the Finance Committee and something we are not not dealing with is our tax structure. I think is some after tax structure is terribly antiquated  it is styled tied into the industrial, north eastern, cities like Rochester was. Our tax base is  an ineffective way to continue funding government. we got to find some new and creative ways to fund government grants not with tax money. 

In the last couple years the city has gotten a number of grants from federal subsidies. Have they been helping? 

Well. There is an awful lot of federal dollars to flow into the school district along with federal dollars. Although Federal dollars into the city of Rochester has really shrunk over the years. When I first started for the city and the 70's there were huge amounts of federal dollars pouring into the cities in community development, in the comprehensive employment and training act. Now you see grant coming in for homeland security. Which just buys toys for boys. unemployment Dollars have shrunk over the last 30 years. our community development dollars consistently shrink because the current Congress places no value on cities. So no, we don't have that many federal dollars coming in. not compared to some of the Federal Reserve Dollars. 

That money buys us robots with guns, command vans, rifle scopes for AR15 rifles for the SWAT team. Everybody need a new rifle and everybody needs a new scope for that riffle. 
If you could have had any other job what would it have been?

I've enjoyed all my jobs from being a little pukey Junior Accountant when I first started working. 
I think one of the tricks in life is to be satisfied where you are and I basically loved every job I ever had. 

This one I enjoyed very much and I am leaving it in two years with No regrets. I think its important that you need to like what you're doing and be satisfied or get the hell out and do something else. 

What are your plans for after you retire? 

I'm going to do some volunteer work and I shall continue to travel and spend time with my family and you add those three things up and that is a full retirement.

What do you collect? 

I collect scads of different things. I have a collection of campaign buttons to go back to Franklin Roosevelt.  I bring out Christmas things and I have all these little things I picked up over the years. 
I collect all kinds of stuff. you know one point that collected shells why would anyone collect shells I mean but I have no idea. I think I'm just a pack rat. 

Is there something you know you should throw out but never will?

There is a term that museums use is called a deaccessioning and I have been doing that I'm going through and I'm starting to give stuff away and clean up. last week I gave my daughter 2 antique pieces one was the covered candy dish in another was a vase.

I mean I'm not planning on dying in the very near future, God willing, but my grandmother gave away things while she was alive. so that's what I'm trying to do.

Homelessness has been a continual problem these last couple years. Is there a way we can fix it?

I certainly don't have my degree in social work. I view the homeless as two distinctly different categories. There's the chronically homeless and those are people addicted.  There is people who are either addicted to drugs alcohol who have mental illness issues and  I don't know what you do for that category of people. You know Gracy Miller, god love her, provides a haven for those folks then you have the the cyclically homeless. There are so many people that live paycheck to paycheck to paycheck and never have any savings never have any money the fact remains you've got you've got a whole group of people that need help. I don't think were answering that. The city with very limited resources tries to address the issue. The County which has the major responsibility for Human Services has basically walked away from poor people whether it's giving them child care, whether that's giving them then social services, whether that's giving them burial money. They are meant to serve the poorest of people and that who Government should be taking care of. 

If there is one thing you an accomplish while you are still in city council what would it be?

You know it's not one thing. When I look back on my government experience the last 12 which is been an elective office. Your question is what's the one thing I could accomplish? I think to be really honest very few things are accomplished by one person. You need you need to work collaboratively you need to build up support you need to be people along with you and that's how you get some accomplished. We need the visionaries and you need the folks who you know can can excite people but we need folks were willing to work together to make something possible. so if it's sort of an indirect answer but I think its a good one.