Warren: Rochester’s best days are ahead
David Riley, Staff writer
Despite all its challenges, Rochester is on the right path.
This was Mayor Lovely Warren’s overarching theme in her State of the City address Thursday night. She acknowledged the city’s deep-seated problems — the third highest childhood poverty rate in the nation, too much crime, too few students leaving school prepared for college or a career.
But Warren painted an optimistic picture of a city starting to overcome these struggles.
Her evidence: New statistics show that violent crime is at its lowest level in a decade. Development is sprouting, from downtown to the CityGate project. The city is investing in educational programs for youths at its recreation centers and libraries.
“Some may say that our future does not seem that bright,” Warren said. “But to me, our best days are ahead.”
Warren spoke at Joseph C. Wilson Magnet High School, her alma mater. She described a rocky start there, but said the school helped prepare a “girl from the neighborhood” to become the woman who is now mayor.
The State of the City speech was a first for Warren, who began her first term last year. The address is traditionally a mayor’s opportunity to take credit for accomplishments in the past year and lay out a vision for the next.
Warren said she took office after shootings had risen and as neighborhoods felt abandoned by the city in favor of downtown development. She said she has pursued three core goals, which have become Warren’s mantra: More jobs, safer streets and better schools.
On the employment front, the mayor vowed to deliver 1,000 jobs during her first term.
She described efforts ranging from the regional — helping the Finger Lakes area gain access to $1.3 billion in federal funds for high-tech manufacturing jobs — to the local, including a new initiative to offer high-speed, fiber-optic Internet to downtown businesses.
Warren detailed development not just at Midtown and the Sibley building, but in neighborhoods, including a $284,000 grant to revamp Bulls Head.
On safety, Warren said new statistics show that major and property crimes are at their lowest levels in Rochester in 25 years.
She acknowledged afterward that crime also has dropped nationally, but credited Police Chief Michael Ciminelli for contributing to progress.
Warren said nonetheless, too much crime remains, and she touted efforts to improve relations between police and the community, including plans for a new model for police patrols. She also acknowledged slain Officer Daryl Pierson; his partner, Officer Michael DiPaola; and Pierson’s widow, Amy, who was in the crowd.
“I choose not to accept any more children dying in our streets,” Warren said. “And I do not ever want to attend another funeral for a fallen officer in our city.”
The mayor often touched on the subject of poverty, speaking highly of her administration’s plan to create worker-owned businesses in poor neighborhoods and of a new state task force charged with eradicating poverty.
“The time for more studies and committees is over,” Warren said.
The mayor, a Democrat, also credited a politician across the aisle: Republican County Executive Maggie Brooks. Warren said they worked together to overcome a political impasse over the CityGate project last year.
As she ended her speech, Warren struck a personal note, describing herself as a product of the city who knows firsthand what it means to be poor.
“It’s not something I’m just talking about,” she said. “I get it.”
Warren said she ran for office to be a champion for people in poverty.
“With all of you as my witness, the one thing this mayor will never do is allow us to stop moving forward,” she said.
Robert Duffy, the former mayor and lieutenant governor and now head of the Rochester Business Alliance, attended Warren’s speech. Afterward, he credited her for the city’s progress, particularly on development and crime.
“There’s a lot to be proud of,” Duffy said.
Mayor Lovely Warren gives her 2015 State of the City Address at Joseph Wilson Magnet High School in Rochester on Thursday.(Photo: SHAWN DOWD/@sdowdphoto/ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
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