People living in the City of Rochester's troubled neighborhoods can't wait for committees and studies and prayers to pay off. Yes, they are interested in longer-term discussions like neighborhood schools versus school choice, but they also want to know how to help themselves, their neighbors, and their children right now.
Police Chief James Sheppard and City Council President Lovely Warren, who is running for mayor, held events within one day and less than two miles of each other last week in southwest Rochester. Sheppard had one of his recurring "Shop Talk" events at Junior's Barber Shop & Unisex Salon on West Main Street, while Warren discussed education, crime, drugs, parenting, and other issues at a campaign stop at the Iglesia Educational Center on Thurston Road.
Warren talked about her education plan, which includes expanding city children's access to high-quality early education and recruiting high-performing charter operators to open schools in Rochester. Warren said she doesn't want to get rid of the city school district, but given its poor record of success, she said city parents deserve choices.
Sheppard, naturally, took questions on public safety issues, including youth fights, dog fighting, drug sales, and use of force by police.
But the common thread at both events was regret for what attendees said was a loss of community cohesion. Young people, especially young males, lack positive adult role models in their lives, they said.
"Not everybody's a gangbanger or hanging on the corner," Sheppard said. "They just need to know someone cares. Those little conversations you have with people make a difference. It's not just about cuffing those boys up."
Karen Iglesia, founder of the Iglesia Educational Centers, said the young men she sees sometimes refer to the "3 c's" as the only ways out of the 'hood: the classroom, the cell block, or the cemetery.
"I need you. You're my history," a woman said to a young man at the Sheppard event. "Why are we killing each other? Our families are so destroyed. We see each other killing each other in droves. We don't have to know you to hurt."
"Not everybody's a gangbanger or hanging on the corner. They just need to know someone cares. Those little conversations you have with people make a difference. It's not just about cuffing those boys up." RPD Chief James Sheppard.