EMBRACING OUR “CITY OF THE ARTS” James Sheppard’s Public Art Platform

Rochester is a City of the Arts:  From the Eastman Museum, Garth Fagan Dance, Eastman School of Music, Memorial Art Gallery, RPO, Geva, Rochester City Ballet, Rochester Lyric Opera to the countless organizations that celebrate local and regional talent, there are so many individual artists, right here, right now, contributing to the culture that is critical to our quality of life.  

But recent discussions regarding the development of Parcel 5 highlight the issue of whether the City has lived up to a decade-old commitment to publicly fund the arts. It also reminds us that we should expect more from private investors to include public art in their projects.

The City of Rochester has a Percent for Art policy.  It has been on the books since 2007, and requires that capital funds be allocated annually for public art installations. The law also stipulates that the administration develop and implement a process for the equitable distribution of funds for arts and cultural programs.   

The Sheppard Administration will adopt and fully fund the Percent for Art policy.

Public Art Installations

Every year, 1% of City capital funding will be set aside for public art – sculpture or other architectural enhancement. The goals of the Public Art program are:

  • To promote awareness of, and opportunities for, the development of Public Art.  

  • To create high quality public spaces through the integration of art, urban design and architecture.

  • To incorporate art into the public arena to contribute to the unique identity of the City of Rochester and to enhance the City as a location for diversified economic development.

  • To encourage the involvement of artists in the design and development of public spaces and streets by facilitating collaboration among artists, planners, architects, landscape architects, urban designers, and neighborhood groups whenever possible in the total design process.

  • To ensure that the selection of all Public Art is subject to a clear and equitable review process.

It is well-established that public art is a vital component to thriving, growing cities, and is essential for both economic development and quality of life.  The Liberty Pole and the Albert Paley Main Street Bridge enhancements are two prime examples of how our downtown life is enriched by public art.  We will create more of these opportunities throughout our city.

Arts and Cultural Programs

The City annually invests a significant amount of money and in-kind services to support a number of cultural events and institutions – for very good reason. Whether large (e.g., Jazz Fest, MusicFest) or small (e.g., RPO on the Town, Clarissa Street Reunion), these programs and events contribute to our vibrant city. But, these funding decisions are made without process. We must be able to communicate to the public why we support one and not the other.   

As called for in the Public Art ordinance, the Sheppard Administration will establish and implement a process that clearly lays out how program funds will be distributed. I am committed to implementing this policy to ensure that tax dollars are being spent appropriately and fairly without favoritism for events and organizations that matter to us all.

Public Art Committee (PAC) and Master Plan

I recognize that neither I nor most City staff members are experts in public art. We will engage City residents, artists, arts patrons, neighborhood groups, building and landscape architects, and urban planners to guide our Public Art planning, including the development of a Public Arts Master Plan. Successful integration of Public Art into City culture will result from the engagement of these interested parties at the earliest possible stages.

Under my administration, Rochester will truly reflect the value we have for our arts communities by resurrecting and fully supporting the Percent for Art policy, making a real commitment and celebrating our well-deserved reputation as City of the Arts.

Sheppard is looking forward to hearing the input from Rochester's arts community on the Parcel 5/Performing Arts Center proposal at the City Council's Arts and Cultural Committee meeting, which takes place today, Thursday, at 4PM in Council Chambers.

SHEPPARD: WARREN FAILURE KEEPS STUDENTS OUT OF SCHOOL - Monroe Students Forced to Spend Another Year Across Town

Rochester, NY – Mayoral candidate James Sheppard today called Mayor Lovely Warren’s educational record a “failure of integrity and leadership,” citing the delays in construction of the Monroe High School campus that have forced students to spend an additional year on the John Marshall campus in Northwest Rochester.

“This did not have to happen,” Sheppard said. “Lovely Warren was so busy trying to dismantle the Schools Modernization project that she single-handedly caused this project to fall apart. Students should be going back to school at Monroe this week. Instead, they are taking the bus across town to Marshall, and their families continue to wonder how long it will be before they can get back to normal.”

Last year, Warren’s move to replace Facilities Board members and reject money-saving Project Labor Agreements sent the multi-billion dollar effort to modernize City schools into months of contract renegotiations, unnecessary lawsuits, and court time. The result? Continued delays and more taxpayer money wasted. 

Mayor Warren claimed that she wanted changes in the Schools Modernization project last year to improve minority hiring, despite the fact that independent auditors found that contractors had been exceeding the 30% MWBE goals. Given last week’s Democrat and Chronicle article that outlined the Warren Administration’s efforts to change an internal audit to make their own MWBE hiring record look better, Sheppard called Warren’s actions doubly shameful.

“For many of our students, school is the place they come to for stability,” Sheppard said. “And families have a hard enough time without having to worry about where their children will be going every year. Treating them like pawns in a chess game so that Mayor Warren can control this project is just plain wrong.”

ANOTHER VIOLENT WEEKEND: NOT A WORD FROM CITY HALL? City Hall Looks the Other Way: No Plan, No Leadership

September 5, 2017 – This past Sunday, we saw the shooting death of one man and the shooting of three others in three separate instances. One family lost a loved one to murder, and another’s is now a murderer. Three neighborhoods suffered another long night of violence, sirens and tumult. Parents are trying to explain this horror to their children. Our city lost another citizen.

The street names are familiar:  Trenamen, Seabrook, Central, Lyell and Saratoga. The two people shot on Lyell Avenue were leaving a bar with a group of other people. The shooter didn’t care and fired on the group. The shooting on Seabrook Street happened at 9:30 at night, with families outside in the neighborhood.  Three houses were hit by gunfire.

Lately, these stories, homicides and shootings are reported and treated as a matter of fact by the media – as well as by this Mayor. What is Mayor Warren doing about this almost daily violence? Where’s the outrage?   Where’s the plan and the citizen engagement? Where is the leadership?

Lovely Warren refuses to even admit there is a violence issue. Last year, when homicides were up by 30 percent, she responded with silence, or worse, with happy news that overall crime was down – saying we are safe and getting safer. Ask folks on Trenaman, Saratoga, Central, Lyell and Seabrook if they are safe and getting safer.  We were told that the police reorganization would help solve this – instead, it has been rejected by both citizens and police.

A public survey done last year by our own Rochester Police Department showed that almost 75% of City residents felt less safe under this half implemented program and 8 of 10 police officers felt that they were less effective. And with crime rampant and arrests down by 12%, it’s no wonder they feel that way.

It breaks my heart to see what this lack of leadership is doing to our neighborhoods. Those on the front lines of day-to-day gunfire, shootings, stabbings and violence not only bear the brunt of this violence, they have received no respite, no help and have no hope that things will get any better.  Instead, we have press releases and public relations stunts like infrequent walks with clergy and 90 day community outreach plans when times get tough.

This will change under a Sheppard administration. On day one, we will begin to implement real crime reduction strategies and improve community/police trust, including:

  • Two additional RPD section offices by 2019, without delays or excuses;

  • A culture change in the RPD, “Policing in the Spirit of Service,” to improve police/community relations;

  • A “guardian,” not warrior, approach to policing;

  • A staffing overhire to ensure 100% coverage;

  • Coordinated use of all available county, state and federal law enforcement agencies;

  • Reestablishment of my “Chief on the Street” program;

  • Revised testing and hiring processes to identify and recruit people with key values and character traits and promotions for those who meet community standards.

Most importantly, there will be transparency in our law enforcement efforts. My administration will share quarterly crime statistics widely – however good or bad they may be. True leaders don’t flinch if there is bad news -- they get to work and solve the problem.

Finally, I will lead from the front, not the top. Those families and those neighborhoods that have been terrorized over the past few days deserve to have the Mayor’s full attention, and to know everything the Mayor plans to do to solve these crimes and end these tragedies.  That’s real leadership, and it’s what our City needs right now.

I Condemn President Trump's Actions on DACA

I condemn President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program.

Nearly 800,000 young people in our country are now at risk of being deported--most from the only country they have ever known. This is a tragedy—not only for these families—but for all Americans. Ripping families apart for no good reason diminishes all of us. It also weakens our economy. But ultimately, as President Barack Obama reminded us, “…this is about basic decency.”

Congress has only six months to pass legislation to protect these individuals. I urge those who share my indignation to contact members of Congress. We need to express our support for passage of humane immigration policy which protects both our security and the values on which we were founded as a nation.

Labor Community: We Stand With Shep

The people who work hard for us every single day - driving our buses, serving our food, building safe cars, bridges, buildings and homes for our families, making sure our electricity functions and our roads are paved - these are the people who have come together in unison to say: it's time for a change. Thousands of people from across the political spectrum have joined to lift their voices up, and say, no more. We need new leadership.

I am humbled by this broad coalition of support. I am ready to get our community back on track by continuing to stand with the men and women who work for a better Rochester each and everyday - with their sweat equity. I will continue to stand with them; for workers' rights and economic opportunity, and against cronyism and political expediency.

I want to thank those in labor who have stood proudly beside me and most importantly, for all you do for us and for the cause day in and day out. I appreciate you. I am most grateful for your efforts - and for your dedication to our community.

Voters throughout our great city have a critical decision to make. I am proud to accept these endorsements, and look forward to continue taking my message to voters over the next 10 days - that I am the right leader to usher in a new era at City Hall. One focused on transparency, inclusiveness, and delivering measurable results for all of Rochester's citizens.

Together, we can build a better City for all of us!

Sheppard Thanks Chamber of Commerce Thankful Debate is Finally Moving Forward - the People Deserve to Hear from All of Us

Today Lovely Warren succumbed to pressure brought by the community to participate in a public debate. For days I have been calling on Mayor Lovely Warren to participate in televised debates she previously agreed to. But she has resisted. It was always disingenuous for her to say that she could participate in a candidates’ forum, but was not well enough to take part in debates with the candidates who will actually be on the ballot onSeptember 12th.

Most recently, Warren tried unsuccessfully to dictate the terms of a Chamber of Commerce candidates’ forum on economic development. She did her best to avoid public scrutiny and limit the need to have to explain her actions.

Despite criticism from some quarters, I have been firm in my resolve to keep the Mayor’s feet to the fire and hold out for a three-person debate that includes all of the Democratic Primary candidates. These have occurred for every single mayoral race since the first election in 1985. When an incumbent is in the race, it makes no sense to have a “debate” without them present. To suggest that we ought to proceed without Lovely Warren in holding a debate designed to determine whether she has earned the right to be re-elected is, frankly, ridiculous.

I'd like to thank Bob Duffy and the Chamber of Commerce for their thoughtful statement which helped force Warren’s decision today. The citizens of Rochester deserve this debate. I am looking forward to the opportunity.

IT’S TIME FOR ANSWERS: SHEPPARD CALLS ON WARREN TO DEBATE Withheld Audit, Parcel 5 Among Issues Demanding Explanation

Citing the need for transparency on issues ranging from a secret audit on money spent in the City’s MWBE program to the future of Parcel 5, Mayoral candidate James Sheppard called on Mayor Lovely Warren to participate in previously agreed-upon televised debates before the primary.

“I’m sorry that she doesn’t feel well,” Sheppard said.  “But it’s a critical time.  As Mayor, Lovely Warren owes it to City residents to answer questions about changes made to the mysterious MWBE audit, about the unpopular and unfunded theatre at Parcel 5, and about the continued lack of transparency in her Administration.  It’s time to debate.  The election won’t wait.”

Sheppard further called on Warren to release the draft MWBE audit that was the subject of a Democrat and Chronicle article last week.  Sheppard says voters need answers on why the audit had been changed after it was reviewed in an obvious effort to soften the damning findings. In addition, it was very clear the harsh audit was being held until after the election and came to light only after it was obtained by the Democrat and Chronicle. Sheppard renewed his call for an overhaul of the Office of Public Integrity.  “Amending an audit at the request of the department under examination defies all commonly accepted principles,” Sheppard said, referring to the standards of the National Association of Inspectors General.  “And for the Director of Public Integrity to treat it as ‘business as usual’ is even more cause for alarm.”

Sheppard said that upon taking office, he would submit legislation to City Council to upgrade the Office of Public Integrity to meet national Inspector General standards.  Having these standards in place, he said, would ensure transparency and restore trust in City government.

“From the flawed Request for Proposal process that brought us an unfunded Performing Arts Center at Parcel 5, to this WMBE audit, to the hiring of unqualified friends and family, City taxpayers have lost faith in their government to do what’s right,” Sheppard said.  

“And unfortunately, Mayor Warren is avoiding yet another opportunity to explain her actions by withdrawing from the televised debates,” Sheppard said.  “As a leader, you don’t get to pick the time to lead.  You can’t say it’s okay to speak at one forum in front of business leaders but not in front of the whole community.  The time to lead is now.”  

Withheld City Audit Slams Warren Administration on Lack of Oversight of Minority and Women Contractors - The Stunning Lack of Transparency Continues – Audit in Limbo since December 2016

James Sheppard, Democratic candidate for Mayor, today called upon Mayor Lovely Warren to immediately release to the public the audit conducted by the Internal Audit Department to assess the effectiveness of her efforts to ensure local minority and women-owned businesses get their fair share of city contracts.

According to a report in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the draft audit has been circulating since last December, with some of the more damaging findings eliminated in recent drafts. “Lovely Warren has been quick to criticize the efforts of others, including those involved in the first phase of the School Modernization Program” Sheppard said.. “How ironic that she has not moved expeditiously to address these glaring deficiencies in programs directly under her control, instead wasting eight months arguing about how best to deflect responsibility. When your own auditors label the city’s minority participation numbers “unreliable” and “over-stated”, you have a serious problem.”

The truth is the City’s program is a mess and Mayor Warren has done nothing to correct it. At least the School Modernization Program has an independent compliance officer that issues public reports. Consistent with this administration’s total lack of transparency, they have resisted finalizing and releasing this report, instead trying to water down its findings. Sheppard added that the degree to which this audit is being manipulated for political purposes has underscored exactly why he called for an independent Office of Public Integrity back in June.

“Four years ago, Lovely Warren attacked prior administrations for their oversight of M/WBE programs,” said James Sheppard.  “She’s had four years to address the issue and has done nothing about it. Conducting audits of programs needing review should have been put in motion on Day 1 of her administration, not three years down the road.  The result?  There are no controls in place and very limited documentation is needed to sidestep the rules. She has done nothing to address this broken program and her own belated audit shows it.

If Mayor Warren was serious about improving minority and women-owned business opportunities in Rochester, at a time when the unemployment rate in the minority community stands at an appalling 18%, she would have taken several steps:

  • Identify and implement program improvements, including better tracking and documentation of compliance and better training of M/WBE program participants
  • Update the outdated disparity study that supports the program’s hiring goals
  • Better, more consistent enforcement of the waiver program

Lovely Warren is quick to criticize others and to take credit for anything positive.  But when problems arise, her answer is to try to avoid responsibility.  Rochester deserves better.

Under a Sheppard administration, commissioners and directors will be held responsible for tangible results. Audits – good or bad – won’t be hidden from the public. Instead of friends and cronies, the best and brightest will be brought into government to give our citizens the competent, open and ethical government they deserve.

Open Up The Process And Let The Public Ask The Tough Questions

I’d like to thank the members of the Rochester City Council for holding this forum and allowing the citizens of this community their first opportunity to share their opinion about this critical piece of downtown’s future. 

I hope it is not their last opportunity.

This project deserves a full and open hearing, and deserved it from the very beginning.   This RBTL proposal was accepted by Mayor Warren without details, without financing, and without support.  In fact, it was common knowledge that the City was in negotiations with a different developer, who only learned that his proposal was no longer in the running from a newspaper reporter. 

This does not instill faith in the City’s development process, nor the people who lead it.  Even more reason to do everything possible to open up the process and let the public in on the deal.

But instead, very valid questions that have been raised by members of Rochester’s highly respected arts community -- and by so many others – from the appropriateness of the public investment, to the revenue projections, to the size of the building – have been met with defensiveness and deflection.

It is disingenuous at best for a Mayor who purports to lead the “City of the Arts” to shut out and shut down it’s own arts community.

What is the Administration afraid of?  That people might ask questions about how this City will support another public project, when so many others that were supposed to be self-sustaining – the Convention Center, the Blue Cross Arena, Frontier Field and the Soccer Stadium – are not? 

That an organization that sends 60% of its revenues out of the City will now own two major parcels of the Center City when they have had trouble operating one?

That the arguments the RBTL has used to garner support for the project – attracting shows like Hamilton, providing more space for operations, the revenue projections – have time and again proven to be false?

Yes, these are tough questions.  But like them or not, people have the right to ask them.  Just as they have the right to ask about so many other projects that have fallen on deaf ears – like Cobbs Hill Village, the EMMA neighborhood, and the Port. 

After all, this is not the Lovely Warren Performing Arts Center.  Or worse, Lovely Warren’s Fast Ferry.  The same people who paid for that mistake – the citizens of Rochester – have the right to demand that it not happen again.

Sheppard Demands Answers on Parcel 5

Mayoral candidate James Sheppard expressed support this afternoon for the arguments being made by Geva and other Rochester arts organizations regarding the need to slow down and answer questions about the ever-changing downtown performing arts center proposal being promoted by Mayor Lovely Warren and one of her senior campaign political advisers, Arnie Rothschild.

“Ever since Mayor Lovely Warren announced in April that she was completely disregarding the results of the City’s formal application and review process to select a new Performing Arts Center project that had never been evaluated for the parcel 5 site, there have been a growing number of unanswered questions about this backroom deal.”

“We should all be very grateful to the leaders of our arts community—from Geva to the RPO to the Arts and Cultural Council --for stepping forward to express their serious concerns and to ask the tough questions.  Frankly, these are the questions that the Mayor should have been asking from the beginning.  But she apparently has been more interested rewarding a supporter than in looking out for the taxpayers of Rochester.”

Chief among the questions that demand answers are:  How would this project be funded?  What would be the impact on City taxpayers?  How would a project of this scope impact Rochester’s arts community beyond its only beneficiary: the Rochester Broadway Theatre League? Will the project even fit on the site?   What will happen to the Auditorium Theatre?

“Over a month ago I called on the Mayor to go back to the table on Parcel 5 and conduct a full and transparent process that takes into account the real costs and benefits to our community. Today’s news conference reinforces exactly why so many have lost confidence in this administration and their commitment to do what is right.  We must demand a new and objective analysis marked by transparency and community involvement."