County Legislator and mayoral candidate James Sheppard released his platform today. He held a press conference on the steps of City Hall, saying in part, "my love for this city and concerns about its future are what drive me every single day. Make no mistake about it. I care deeply, and I am motivated to run for mayor, purely because I know that we can do so much better."
Sheppard's platform was assembled with the help of people across the community, from all walks of life and with different experience, expertise and perspectives. Sheppard has been collecting feedback since his formal launch in January, through countless one-on-one interactions, participation in dozens of neighborhood and community meetings, feedback solicited through sheppardforrochester.com, email blasts and social media. Sheppard and his team were proud to unveil his guiding vision; informed, as it should be, by those he serves.
Sheppard's vision is one that overhauls the way that City Hall currently operates. "We need to bring back the days when neighbors felt supported," he said. "People knew who to call, concerns were addressed, and support and resources were provided to bolster their good work. Sadly, though I'm sure that the mayor is well-intentioned, her execution has been poor and any positive results achieved have been far too limited. Not only is it difficult for our citizens to navigate the bureaucracy at City Hall - City Departments do not have the necessary guidance, support, or resources. When your own team is unclear about your priorities and how they're meant to be achieved, how can they be expected to effectively serve Rochester citizens?"
Sheppard's platform, available here and hitting mailboxes throughout the city in the coming days, is focused on the following areas:
Rochester has a violence problem. The inability to acknowledge it is a prime example of Mayor Warrant’s lack of leadership. There is no sense of outrage, no strategy, nothing beyond a 90-day public relations plan. You can’t fix a problem if you pretend it doesn’t exist. Let me be clear. Public safety is my #1 priority. I will not stand by and wait for the next homicide; we will focus on deterring crime before it happens.
The best way for our residents to get out of poverty is through good-paying jobs. We will get Rochester working again by supporting our current businesses, attracting new ones, and helping our citizens get the training they need to fill the jobs our businesses provide. I hear every day: “City Hall has no vision, no plan. No one knows who to talk to.” That will change. We will bring in new leadership to make sure Rochester prospers. I will appoint an Economic Development Commissioner who is a seasoned professional, with significant experience in business development and a proven track record in creating jobs. City government cannot create all of the jobs we need to support our citizens, but we can support the businesses that will.
Lovely Warren pledged a renewed focus on Rochester's neighborhoods when she ran for Mayor in 2013. She said that poor neighborhoods, especially in the city's Northeast, were being shortchanged. What has changed in 3½ years? Very little. Housing foreclosures and vacancies are up. In fact, the City of Rochester has the lowest homeownership rate in the region, and its median home value has dropped 10 percent since 2010. The message many of our city's residents receive is that the American Dream is not for them. Our neighborhood associations have felt so isolated from City Hall that more than half have banded together in hopes that their joint voices will be heard.
No one wants the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative to fail, and I intend to work with its stakeholders as Mayor to make sure the City is a full partner. But in the meantime, our residents are hurting. We need to take steps now to ease the burden of structural poverty.
While the Mayor does not have direct control over schools and educational attainment, the City of Rochester can be a supportive, forceful and responsible partner with the Rochester City School District. It is in all of our best interests to have the RCSD succeed in improving educational outcomes for our students. Under a Sheppard administration, we will be ready to take on this critical challenge. We will change the way we approach education in the city of Rochester through a student and family first agenda built on a foundation of unity, transparency and inclusion.
The full platform addresses each of these critical areas and calls for specific policy changes and program ideas to address. This release is just the beginning to the roll out of many important issues not specified in this overarching platform, which require focused attention, in-depth analysis and unique policy prescriptions. Sheppard looks forward to continuing to discuss his approach to these and other important issues and challenges as the balance of the campaign unfolds.