Utica residents got to weigh in recently on how the city will go about its effort to improve the lives of lower-income residents.
People packed the gymnasium at the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School during the poverty town hall meeting, casting their votes for five projects aimed at eliminating the barriers that prevent people from moving out of poverty.
The most popular project was a 24-hour child care center. Shamika Rather says she recently had to quit a job because of a lack of child care options.
"We need those," Rather said. "24 hours that gives parents more flexibility for secure child care. It would give me more options for work."
The second-place proposal was a job corps to assist younger residents with developing job skills and finding work. The administrator of Utica's poverty reduction initiative Dietra Harvey hopes to get the two projects off of the ground next year with part of the $1.5 million in state money and local partnerships.
But Harvey says first, they must ensure those projects also includes an anti-racism component, which many in the community say is at the heart of Utica's poverty problem.
"Do we know exactly what that's going to look like? Not today, but we do recognize that we can't sleep on it and we can't let it go so we're making it a priority and a must," Harvey said. "The successful organization that responds to the project that we put forward will also have the responsibility to address racism in our entire community."