city of rochester

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.

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!

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.”  

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.