Tocsin Magazine linked up with Rochester City Councilmember Jose Peo to learn more about that 14.5 million dollar mystery company, not being “Brown” enough, and more.
Tocsin: Hello Jose, thank you for speaking with me. Let’s start with the 14.5 million dollar mystery company Mayor Lovely Warren and Mitch Gruber battled over. Who did you side with Lovely or Mitch?
Jose: I actually met personally with the commissioner, who was putting the whole thing together. So, I had more information because it's in my district. That’s why I said yes to it.
Tocsin: So, you know the company?
Jose: Yes, it's already created. They are just revamping it to do this specific teaching.
Tocsin: Is it true that the board for this company consists of city employees?
Jose: I believe there are two city employees on the board. I saw the list not too long ago. I believe there are five current board members. Two right now are city employees. They will be the minority vote.
Tocsin: Are you all concerned about this company hiring Mayor Lovely Warren once she leaves office?
Jose: She stated that’s not going to happen. I take that at face value, and the commissioner told me as well. I trust the commissioner, Commissioner Daniele Lyman-Torres, who has done a lot of good work. She’s never done me dirty. I’ve worked with her on multiple things. The vote "yes" on that was more of the confidence in her, than on anything Mayor Lovely Warren was trying to put together.
Tocsin: Just to confirm, you had the information on this company, but Malik didn’t, correct?
Jose: If Malik didn’t know, I don’t know if he reached out to the commissioner. Anytime there is a question I have, especially pertaining to my district, Northwest is my main focus of responsibility; I can’t focus on the rest of the city. But, if it pertains to Northwest, I reach out to the appropriate commissioner on a topic that there may be some questions and I’ll meet personally with them. That's how I get my information. So, if any other council member wants to ask me about legislation for the Northwest, I tend to know more.
Tocsin: So, this isn’t some phantom company?
Jose: They’ve been in business for seven years. They’ve been doing something similar, but this is specifically geared towards teaching people urban agriculture. They are moving from what they were doing before to this. So, they have already been doing this, but they have been kind of dormant lately.
Tocsin: So, you have been pretty vocal in the past. Why do so many Black people have an issue with you?
Jose: Yes, I’m very vocal. I think people don’t like that from a politician. I personally see it as my art. My art is how I handle my position. I’m not going to be here to act like LaShay Harris or Willie, or Mike. I am not here to act like anyone else; I'm here to simply be me. I’m in this position for a reason and people love that I’m transparent and straightforward with them. I had written a post back in April timeframe, after a few weeks of back & forth with the rest of the council, because their focus was all about the impact of COVID more on the Black and Brown communities than it was on the White community. And I was saying, OK what are we doing about it? As City Council, what are we doing about it? We need to help people understand they need to stay home for the next two weeks, they need to wear masks, they need to focus on their health, and they need to wash their hands. Why aren’t we putting out that information? We are too busy talking about stuff that we don’t have any control over. I got a lot of "this is not your fight," "this is not for you," basically saying I was not part of the Black and Brown community. So, I’m sitting there like I’m Puerto Rican, what are you talking about?
Tocsin: But people don’t consider you that type of Puerto Rican if that makes sense. They consider you more of the White Puerto Rican. Why is that?
Jose: The way I dress, the way I talk. I think that’s exactly what it is.
Tocsin: Do you think that is it?
Tocsin: So, if you spoke differently, do you think you would be their type of Puerto Rican?
Jose: That’s what I have gathered from what some have told me. I always ask when they say "you don’t look Puerto Rican," I’m like "what does that even mean? Should I be carrying a flag over my shoulder or something?" But, if they saw where I came from, where I grew up, who my family is, they would know I’m the type of Puerto Rican who can relate; I just carry myself differently is all.