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Meeks, Clark sworn in, expect to hit the ground running

Demond Meeks (Left) and Sarah Clark (right) were sworn into New York State Assembly sets Thursday.

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

Clark fills the 136th District seat, 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 Gillbrand. The seat has been vacant since early this year, when Jamie Romeo was appointed Monroe County clerk.

The Democrat said one of her chief objectives is improving the “child care eco-system.” She said the state’s child care 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 but also how we pay those who care for our children,” said Clark.

Meeks was elected to the 137th District seat. That seat became vacant after David Gantt, who had held the position since the 1980s, died in July. Meeks interned in Gantt’s office as a teenager. 

Meeks is also a Democrat. His background is as a labor union organizer, and he said he’s already been holding public meetings in the district, which covers Rochester and parts of Gates. Meeks said 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 expects to focus his efforts on economic concerns and expanding access to health care. 

On Friday, Clark and Meeks intend to begin work on a mutual passion: education funding. They have plans to meet with Assemblyman Harry Bronson and Rochester City School District Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small. Both Clark and Meeks are district graduates and they say it is underfunded. Both say they are willing to fight for more. 

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. 

With New York state facing a major budget deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the two new Assembly members say increasing funding won’t be easy. 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 Governor Cuomo was pushing for that the current president to 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 with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.
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