[Christine Corrado greeting Tom Upson on Avalon Drive in the Meadowbrook neighborhood. Always opening their door, Tom and Meg Upson are frequently canvassed by candidates, see The early birds get the worms; Signature gathering in Brighton, On the electoral road with Rajesh Barnabas, Albert Blankley, Robin Wilt and Van White Photo: David Kramer 6/8/21]
During this election season, I walked with Rajesh Barnabas (D, WF), Monroe County Legislature candidate (24th District), Albert Blankley (D), the other candidate for the same seat, Robin Wilt (D, WF), candidate for re-election to the Brighton Town Board and Van White (D, Monroe County Judge) as they canvassed in my Brighton neighborhood for the June 22nd primary election. [SEE ALL ARTICLES AT END]
Recently, I joined Brighton Town Councilmember Christine Corrado (D). Christine was appointed in 2018 after the passing of Jim Vogel. In 2019, she was elected to retain the seat for the remainder of the term which ends this year. Now, she is running for re-election to the seat for a second term for the full four years.
After the primary, I will be joining Patrick Reilly (R), candidate for Brighton Town Council. As seen in Voting early at Empire State College and celebrating Loving Day at Brighton Town Park, the voting has begun.With a long career in teaching, communications and higher education advancement, Christine is outgoing, well spoken and well versed in many subjects, as well as fluent in Spanish. Although their time at the institute did not overlap, Christine bonded with Tom Upson over shared experiences at RIT where Christine was the Director of Parent Giving & Associate Director of the Fund for RIT.
Christine said Tom looked like he was in the academic side, spinning complex theories. As Tom was on the mathematics faculty for decades, he modestly nodded in the affirmative. As the conversation warmed, Tom used his old line that he actually could not vote for Christine in the primary because he was a registered Republican — who had not voted Republican since 1956 for Eisenhower when Tom was in the service! Christine replied that she’d be honored to have Tom’s vote in the November general election.Talker: Tell us about your professional and personal lives?
Christine: My husband, our teenage daughter, and our three cats have lived in the Willowbend Neighborhood of Brighton since 2007. We chose Brighton for its genuinely friendly small-town feel and because the town’s core values—sustainability, education, and diversity—align with our personal values.
My professional path has been long and winding, beginning as a teacher of Spanish in the U.S. and English in Spain, passing through a short stint in the field of property and casualty insurance, then on to marketing, small business management, higher education development, non-profit leadership, and freelance writing and voice over acting. Believe it or not, all that plus a passion for community engagement leads straight to service in local government!
Talker: When reflecting upon your own philosophy of governance, which leaders or thinkers are influential? What are your primary sources of information?
Christine: I believe deeply that open access to government leaders and community assets is essential to civic engagement, democracy, and the well-being of all in our community. My perspective on the role of government was forged while I was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a famously progressive and liberal community centered around the Wisconsin State Capitol. There I found inspiration in the historical figure of Robert “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, a Progressive (with a capital P) politician, governor of Wisconsin and U.S. Senator at the turn of the last century. He developed a fierce opposition to corporate power and political corruption as a young man, and his belief in the power and wisdom of the people to govern themselves resonated with me then and now.
Our own Louise Slaughter was clearly cut from the same cloth as Fighting Bob LaFollette. I looked up to her long before I met her, and I was thrilled that our paths crossed—and our values aligned!—thanks to our shared campaign manager, Elaine Leshnower. In the same vein, I have tremendous respect for Senator Elizabeth Warren and I strive to emulate her penchant for planning practical and detailed solutions to remedy the underlying causes of inequity in our country.
As for my information sources, I’m a news hound. We subscribe to the Democrat and Chronicle and the Rochester Business Journal (I encourage everyone to subscribe, too. Local journalism is indispensable!) and we always pick up City Newspaper. For national perspective, we subscribe to The Washington Post, and for international insights, I read El País (Spain) fairly regularly. I also listen incessantly to public radio, both WXXI for local perspective, and other NPR stations around the country (especially WBEZ in Chicago and KCRW in Santa Monica, CA) for national perspective, as well as international radio including CBC (Canada) and Cadena SER (Andalucía, Spain). Yeah, I’m a little obsessed with staying informed.Talker: In December 2018 you were appointed to the Brighton Town Board. What have you learned about the office during your tenure? Why are you running for re-election?
Christine: I was honored to be appointed to succeed Jim Vogel after he passed away. He left very big shoes to fill after his years of dedicated service and leadership in our town. Since my appointment in 2018 and subsequent election in 2019 to keep the seat through the end of the term, I’ve learned that although Town Councilmember is officially a part time job, if you’re truly dedicated to good governance for the good of the community, it’s really a full-time-PLUS job! Truly, there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not doing something on behalf of the community, whether it’s preparing for a Public Safety Committee meeting, responding to a resident’s call about forming a trash district, to collaborating with officials at the County and State level to get good things done in Brighton. Thanks to prior service on the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Envision Brighton 2028 Comprehensive Plan Update committee, I had a fairly good understanding of the many interconnected moving parts—and people—that make Town Hall function effectively. What I didn’t know then but understand completely now is that government moves slowly, but steadily towards implementing change. The slow but steady pace is a feature, not a bug, as it ensures that changes and improvements will be sustainable, not rash and impermanent.
That slow, steady pace is actually a part of why I’m running for re-election. Just under four years in office isn’t enough time to get all the good work done! I’m committed to ensuring equity, accessibility, and engagement in Brighton. To do that, we need to fulfill the many good ideas in the Envision Brighton plan, especially more walkable, bikeable “complete streets;” even more vibrant commercial corridors along Monroe Avenue, South Clinton Avenue, and West Henrietta Road; ensuring access to our shared assets like our parks, library, and (soon to open) Winter Farmers Market; more extensive and reliable public transit; and so much more. The list is long, and every item on it takes not only time, but also effective collaboration with community members and fellow elected officials. One term is hardly enough!
Talker: What challenges has the Town Board faced during the pandemic and how has the Board collectively responded?
Christine: Good governance requires engagement with the community. Closing the doors to Town Hall for everyone’s safety was hard. Public meetings are not just legally required, but they’re the foundation of democracy and civic engagement. Governor Cuomo’s executive order to permit governing bodies to hold public meetings virtually was essential. Pivoting to Town Board meetings by Zoom was both challenging—we had to learn a whole new way to conduct our meetings almost literally overnight—and rewarding, as we not only learned to Zoom well, but we also found new ways to connect with constituents through technology.
Talker: You served on the “Envision Brighton 2028” Comprehensive Plan Update planning committee. To what degree has its vision of Brighton been realized?
Christine: The beautiful thing about a community’s comprehensive plan is that it’s a big vision (it’s three volumes and a total of 265 pages long!) and an even bigger long-term project with a ten year horizon. The tricky thing is that it’s implemented steadily and incrementally, so it can be hard to measure precisely what’s been accomplished and what’s still a work-in-progress. That said, the plan provides the guiding principles in the Town Board’s decision-making and for the many professionals in Town Hall who bring much of the plan to fruition. We’re making good progress on initiatives like expanding our trail network and making smart connections for pedestrians in high foot traffic areas (such as the new mid-block crossing that connects the Brickyard Trail to Buckland Park and the Winter Farmers Market site). We’re seeing developers and smaller property owners reference the vision in their proposals to the Town’s various committees, shaping their projects to meet the community’s vision. And with this well-crafted vision for our Town’s future, we’re able to make a strong case for grant funding from and partnership with County- and State-level entities. I encourage folks to read through the plan. All three volumes can be found on the Town’s website.
Talker: Council Member Robin Wilt wants to implement more inclusionary zoning in Brighton. Do you agree? If elected, what concrete steps will you take to achieve that goal?
Christine: Suburban municipal land-use zoning is, by its very definition, exclusionary. It is designed to segregate, if you will, one function, such as housing, from another, such as industry. And while that may seem desirable—who wants to live next door to a factory?—an awful lot about zoning divides people from the functions that make a community vibrant and sustainable. Much of our current zoning code requires huge setbacks for housing, more parking than necessary for commercial properties, and impossible standards for filling in the dwindling space—both large parcels and small lots—available for development in our relatively landlocked town. In fact, under current zoning code, beloved neighborhoods like Roselawn or Monroe Meadows, with their mix of single-family homes and duplexes on small lots with integrated shared commons or pocket parks, bordered by small-scale apartment blocks and mixed-use ground floor retail with residential above, all with sidewalks and along public transit routes—could not be developed in Brighton today without granting significant code variances. Yet, such compact, mixed development is precisely what is needed (and wanted!) to expand affordable housing options for a range of ages and income levels in Brighton. The solution to this conundrum is to revise or even completely replace the current exclusionary zoning code with an inclusionary form-based code that will result in attractive, sustainable, multi-generational, mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhoods. Of course, revising zoning code is a slow, steady process that benefits from guidance from planning experts, a process I’m currently pursuing.
Talker: In March, you joined other community members in a clean up at the Brighton section of the Highland Crossing Trail. How do you encourage Brightonians to participate in these fun and community-building activities?
Christine: Whether it’s an official Town-led initiative like Clean Sweep (which, sadly, had to be suspended again this year to protect folks from COVID-19) or a grassroots activity like the trail cleanup led by Chrissy Platt, I’m so excited to see Brightonians contributing to community momentum. Some people are more comfortable getting involved simply by shopping at the Brighton Farmers Market each week, connecting with vendors and other shoppers. Others, like Angelina Shimkus, who hosted a delightful “Kindness Rocks” painting party at Buckland Park just months before the pandemic, have an idea and spontaneously run with it, bringing others along with their creative enthusiasm. And others, like Hyeuo Park and his efforts to make his neighborhood streets safe for little kids and adults alike, channel their community-building work through Town Hall by bringing their neighbors together to present ideas for safety features to the attention of committees of the Town Board. This can-do, get-it-done spirit is one of the hallmarks of Brighton, and I love it. We see an opportunity to make a difference, and rather than assuming it’s someone else’s responsibility, we rally friends and neighbors together to be the change we want to see.