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Meeks, Clark expect to hit the ground running

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Democrats Sarah Clark and Demond Meeks were sworn into their New York state Assembly seats Thursday. Both seats were vacant and the new Asssembly members started their work immediately.

Assembly member Sarah Clark - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Assembly member Sarah Clark
Clark now represents the 136th District, which is made up of Irondequoit, Brighton, and parts of Rochester. She spent much of her career as an aide in the U.S. Senate offices of Hillary Clinton and Kirsten Gillibrand. The seat has been vacant since early this year, when Jamie Romeo, the Democrat who held it, was appointed Monroe County Clerk.

Clark said one of her chief objectives is improving the “childcare eco-system.” She said the state’s childcare subsidies are insufficient for many families and availability is also a concern.

“We have a bunch of different ways to look at it to make the system work a little better in terms of both affordability and also how we pay those who care for our children,” said Clark.

Meeks was elected to the 137th district seat, which covers Gates and parts of Rochester. That seat became vacant after David Gantt, who held the position since the 1980s, died in July. Meeks interned in Gantt’s office as a teenager.

Meeks has a background as a labor union organizer and he said he’s already been holding public meetings in the district.  He plans to work to boost civic engagement in his district by “helping individuals understand the processes as it relates to voting," he said. He added that he expects to focus his efforts on economic concerns and expanding access to healthcare.



Assembly member Demond Meeks - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • Assembly member Demond Meeks
On Friday, Clark and Meeks intended to begin work on what they said was a mutual passion: education funding. They had plans to meet with Assembly member Harry Bronson and Rochester City School District Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small. Both Clark and Meeks are Rochester school district graduates and they said it is underfunded. Both aid they are willing to fight for more money from  the state.

Clark said it's time to reexamine the state’s school funding formula.

“We either need to fully fund the current formula or need to figure out how to redo the formula and make sure that the schools are getting the resources that they need,” said Clark.

Meeks agrees. He also said he wants to bring more opportunities for students in the city school district to learn trades.

“There are a number of trades that people could graduate with and hit the ground running and provide for themselves and their family, if necessary,” said Meeks.

The two new Assembly members acknowledged that with the state facing a major budget deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing funding won't be an easy task. Both are hoping a federal stimulus program in the near future will help the state bridge the gap.

“The leadership of this country actually plays a part in that,” said Meeks. “Making sure that resources actually come back to states. And that’s one of the things that Gov. Cuomo was pushing for, that the current president actually cut the check and help the state out. And I think you will see needed change with the new president.”

James Brown is a reporter for WXXI News, a media partner of CITY. He can be reached at jbrown@wxxi.org.

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