Former Police Accountability Board member and candidate for Rochester City Council At-large, Miquel Powell believes the power of change begins with the mind. Powell, who grew up in the Scio Street neighborhood says, "I grew up in a single-parent household in an impoverished neighborhood riddled with drugs and crime. I was influenced early and became a part of it at around the age of 13. It is only by the grace of God that I was able to escape that lifestyle.
In the 80s and 90s Scio was saturated with crime and poverty. Unfortunately, little has changed. Powell stated, "Today the neighborhood looks a lot better than it did back then. However, many of the resources that we had, were eliminated and nothing was ever put back. There has been an unacceptable amount of neglect for this area of the city."
The City Council hopeful found his passion for helping others and decided to equip himself with the necessary tools to serve his community. He is currently studying for his master's degree in social work at Suny Brockport. Powell stated, "Social work is my passion. I started my educational journey at MCC as a Human Service major in 2009 after being released from prison in 2008. Once I graduated and transferred to SUNY Brockport, I took on social work as a major. I believe that helping others is my life's work.
Powell believes his dedication to helping others and his knowledge in social work make him the most suitable candidate for City Council. Powell explained, "Among the most important skills, social workers obtain in social work are using evidence-based practices to guide decision making, using certain theories/ techniques to create behavioral changes and the idea of inclusive policies. These are all things that I am educated on being able to apply to daily lives. Especially when working with the most impoverished/ vulnerable citizens. I think these skills are what is missing from City Council and its ability to be effective. Most of the current elected officials are “status quo” politicians who appeal mainly to a certain sub-group of our community. I think it is difficult for them to reach others in the community because some of them are disconnected from the larger groups in the city. The skills, tools, and ability to bring people together is something a social worker does by nature. It is taught year after year how to work with all individuals in all systems of society. I think current members are missing “vision”. I have been to many cities across the U.S, and Rochester, NY can be one of the best places in the world to live and visit, but for some reason- it is not. I contribute that most, but not entirely to the fact that our leaders lack vision and a true historical point of departure when making decisions on behalf of the city. There is no way our downtown should not be a thriving business district and world headquarters for major companies (like it used to be). There is no way our most undervalued neighborhoods still lack intentional investments. Rochester is only as strong as its “worse” neighborhood. To have a city council comprised of mostly Black and officials of color- it is an injustice that our city ranks 2nd as the worse place in America for Black people to live. It is almost criminal."
Powell is putting his money where his mouth is. In 2017, he founded The Reentry & Community Development Center in the same community he is demanding others invest in. The Reentry & Community Development Center is located at 437 North Street, Rochester, NY 14605. The center provides weekly support groups, case management, and free hygiene products to men & women who are recently released from jail or prison.
He wants to see more investment into neighborhoods like the one he grew up in. "I would like to see an intentional investment into the area. We need homes and spaces for businesses. I would also like to see more green spaces too. I started an advocacy initiative called the Scio Street Homes & Business Development Project. We were asking the City of Rochester to invest $5- 7 million dollars in homes and businesses. I met with Mayor Lovely Warren in 2020, but she was not interested in investing in this area. I was told that the city “already invested there”. She wasn’t even willing to help use city resources to resurrect the Weld Street Park, so kids can have a decent place to play. The old park still sits as an empty field."
When asked what his planned action items are if he is elected, he stated, "First, itemize the RPD budget to determine their true cost of operation. Second, formulate with community support a Comprehensive Anti- Gun Violence Plan. Third, Advocate for the massive development of single-family homes in our most undervalued neighborhoods. Forth, bring small businesses back Downtown. I believe I will win this election. And when I do, the democratic promise of safe and vibrant neighborhoods will be a sure thing. I know it will take a lot of work. I will need continued help and support from the community. I want to focus on restoring downtown Rochester to a thriving business district. I want to work on a system where we will not have “empty lots” sitting around in our neighborhoods for decades. We need/ demand single-family homes in our communities where people can own their homes. And I will also focus on using City of Rochester resources to address gun violence."
Many incoming politicians will say anything to get elected, however, Powell ensures us he is not one of them. "It is true politicians will say anything to get elected, and they also do not have to do much to stay elected or to keep getting reelected. I think voters really should pass out some pink slips this election and vote for change. I always say that the current condition of our city is a direct result of our leadership. If you are unhappy with downtown Rochester, historically oppressed neighborhoods, and high crime/murder rate- you must also be unhappy with your current leaders in office. The two are not mutually exclusive. If politicians point fingers anywhere other than City Hall; their services should be null and void", Powell asserted.
We asked, what makes you different? Powell stated, "I think what makes me different is my mentality. I think in a way that is aligned with helping the most vulnerable population maximize their fullest potential. As social workers, we are educated and bound by a code of ethics to always advocate for them and to never do any further harm. Also, I have been a community activist for many years. Most of our elected officials have never been on the side of those demanding change; they have in many cases always served as “gatekeepers” from real change and stood in the way of progress. One of the reasons I am running is to be a voice of those who I have already been serving."
Powell wants voters to know that he is committed to serving the City of Rochester. Something that he has done for many years.
Voters, who want to support Miquel Powell's campaign should email: