This year's general election has none of the excitement of the September primary for Rochester mayor, but it is an important election, in MonroeCounty and in the city. In the county, all 29 seats are on the ballot --- with more than 40 candidates running. No newspaper can do justice to every candidate in that size race, and we haven't attempted to.
Besides, in MonroeCounty, the overriding issue is really one of partisan politics: should the Republican Party continue to control the CountyLegislature, a domination that has the legislature acting as the servant of the county executive? Or should Democrats have more voice?
It's certainly no secret that the philosophy of this newspaper is strongly liberal, which means we usually find more common ground with Democrats than with Republicans. But we base our endorsements on candidates' qualifications and where we believe they'll lead the community, not on party affiliation.
We've been dismayed, for instance, that some Democratic candidates for CountyLegislature are criticizing County Executive Maggie Brooks for doing what she absolutely had to do: let taxes rise modestly to reflect rising property values. Brooks' predecessor, Jack Doyle, brought chaos to the county's finances by cutting taxes while expenses rose. It got him re-elected, but we'll pay for it for years. Rather than dump on Brooks and Republican legislators for doing the right thing, Democrats should have praised them.
That said, the way Republicans exercise their control, refusing to consider anything a Democrat proposes, robs about 300,000 Monroe Countians --- those represented by Democratic legislators --- of a voice. That is childish, and it is harmful to the county's future. There's no guarantee that a Democratic Lej majority would act differently, but at least there's a chance. And there would be far more oversight of the administration than there is now.
On to our endorsements:
Bob Duffy was not our choice in the Democratic primary; we preferred, with reservations, Wade Norwood, who is not on the ballot in November. But as we said before the primary, all three of the major Democratic candidates --- Norwood, Duffy, and Tim Mains --- are more than qualified to be mayor.
In the general election, our endorsement goes to Duffy. We continue to worry that it will take him a while to get up to speed, and that his interest in forming committees and study groups will cause him to react too slowly to crucial problems. But he's a popular, charismatic man with valuable experience. And we believe he can pull the community together to address its problems. Whether Norwood's supporters, including State Assemblymember David Gantt, will get behind him is a great concern. But if they do not, it will not be Duffy's fault.
Tim Mains' intelligence, vision, and scrutiny on City Council have served this community well, and we are very, very sorry to see him leave elected office. Our failure to endorse him, as we said before the primary, is due to our concern about whether he would be able to sell his vision --- whether he could lead City Council, corral the state delegation, and inspire a weakened, divided Democratic Party in this crucial time in the city's history.
Republican John Parrinello is bright, dynamic, and experienced, and a City Hall with him in charge would be a lively place indeed. We disagree with him philosophically on some issues --- public safety and education, for instance. And we don't agree that there should be a casino in the heart of downtown. Our principal objection, however, is his alignment with the Steve Minarik-Jack Doyle faction of the local Republican Party. The last thing the community needs is those folks in control of the city and its contracts.
Chris Maj has brought youth and energy to the campaign. And he seems to have learned as the campaign progressed. But many of his ideas are uninformed and naïve, and by no means does he have the experience and knowledge necessary to run the city.
Five of the nine Rochester City Council seats are up for election. All are at-large seats, so voters have five important decisions to make. Our endorsements go to Republican Christopher Parris; Democrats Carolee Conklin, Dana Miller, and Bill Pritchard; and Saul Maneiro, who failed to win nomination in September's Democratic primary and is running on the Independence and Working Families lines.
In our City Council interviews, we looked for basic knowledge of how city government works and of Council's role; an understanding of the complexity of Rochester's problems; a willingness to question the mayor and fellow Councilmembers; and an indication that criticism and analysis would be informed and temperate.
Monroe County Republicans have fielded a full slate this year, with candidates running for every office on the ballot. That's particularly important in the City of Rochester, where Democrats hold every seat on both City Council and the School Board. City Council in particular needs different eyes and different views. Very little that comes before it has a Democratic or Republican approach. And City Council is losing the two Democrats who most often argued against the majority viewpoint: Tim Mains and Brian Curran, who did not seek re-election.
We interviewed four of the five Republican Council candidates: Paul Dreas, Nicholas Manuele, Priscilla Cromer, and Parris. (Michael Roberts didn't respond to our request for an interview.) All four are strong city advocates and recognize the city's strengths, its potential, and its enormous challenges.
Of the five, however, Parris has the greatest knowledge of crucial city issues. Young (25), well informed, and enthusiastic, we believe he would be a thoughtful critic. He clearly has complaints about the Democratic-dominatedCity Hall, but he shows a willingness to listen and to insist on adequate information rather than lobbing cheap, easy accusations.
He has an uphill battle to win election in this heavily Democratic city, but he is a stronger candidate than some of his Democratic opponents, and he merits the support of voters of any party.
The four Democrats we endorse are exceptional candidates. We were particularly sorry to see Saul Maneiro, who is program manager for the Housing Council, fail to win in the Democratic primary. Young, bright, and loaded with experience in community work, we found him to be one of the best candidates in the field.
Carolee Conklin is completing 12 years as City Clerk, which has given her both management experience and a familiarity with city issues and government's approach to dealing with them. Dana Miller is a Xerox manager who has been involved in an impressive list of community activities, from neighborhood associations to government commissions. And Bill Pritchard, who was appointed to Council two years ago to fill a vacancy, is an energetic, thoughtful person who has made a specialty of working on downtown issues.
You can find a more extensive discussion of all three in our pre-primary endorsements on our website, www.rochester-citynews.com.
Also on the ballot:
• Democrats John Lightfoot and incumbent Gladys Santiago, both of whom won in the Democratic Primary. They're conscientious candidates, but neither has the depth to be a strong councilmember at this important time.
• Yusuf Sharif, running on the World Citizens line. Sharif's experience --- working in Rochester schools, participating in inner-city street patrols, and operating his own new restaurant --- is valuable, and with a bit more knowledge of city government, he'd make a strong candidate in the future.
• Pete Buckley and Mike Loewke, who failed to win the Democratic Primary and are on the Independence line. While Buckley doesn't have the depth of knowledge of the four Democrats we've endorsed, he is bright and capable and could serve the crucial role of critic if he didn't become obstructionist. Loewke would be a strong critic of City Council, but we found his discussion, and his criticism, shallower than we'd like.
• Harry Davis, Christopher Edes, and Max Kessler in the new Red, White, and Blue Party. Of the three, Davis knows the most about city government and Rochester's challenges, but Edes and Kessler --- both Libertarians --- are interesting candidates. We'd have liked more depth from all three, however, and more concrete ideas.
Getting the right mix on the Rochester School Board is important. With the retirement this year of Rob Brown, the board is losing one of its brightest, most insightful, and most politically savvy members. All of the candidates running for the three open seats on the board are concerned about Rochester students. The differences are in two areas: knowledge of the district and approach to service on the board.
Our choices: Incumbent Darryl Porter and newcomers Ivonne Martinez and Tom Brennan. Porter and Brennan were winners in the Democratic primary; Martinez is one of three Republicans running for School Board.
Porter is a third-term board member with extensive involvement in the community, and he is thoroughly familiar with the district and its problems. This is Brennan's first race for the Rochester board, but he has served on both the Hilton School Board and the BOCES board, and he has a deep knowledge of the problems of Rochester's schools and urban schools in general.
Martinez is a Rochester native making her second run for the School Board. Although she has no children of her own, she has served as a mentor through the Red Cross and has worked with young people through local Hispanic community organizations. And she has been actively involved in the lives of her niece and nephews, visiting their schools, meeting with teachers, and serving as a role model. A social worker, she recognizes the impact of poverty on children's lives and education and supports Superintendent Manuel Rivera's Children's Zone concept. She would be a quick learner, and she would be a strong representative of Rochester's Hispanic community and a role model for its youth.
The remaining candidates are Democrat Cynthia Elliott, Working Families candidate Glenny Williams, and Republicans Adam Junod and William Stark. Elliott is a bright, intensely concerned Rochesterian with important experience at Baden Street Settlement, Lewis Street Center, and Westside Health Center. She would undoubtedly be a strong School Board member, but as we noted in our Democratic primary endorsement, we are troubled by her hostility toward the board, the school district, and Superintendent Rivera. We're concerned that her presence would generate friction that this district and this city can ill afford.
We have the same concern about Williams. He is a hard-working, dedicated community activist --- he has been lobbying tirelessly for a strong lead-paint ordinance, for example --- and he has been involved in school district issues for years. But as with Elliott, we worry about the harshness and narrowness of his criticisms. Strong opinions are valuable, but Williams' approach could undermine his effectiveness on the board.
Twenty-year-old Adam Junod, an EastHigh School graduate now studying political science at MCC, brings enthusiasm and recent, first-hand knowledge of Rochester schools to the campaign. And his youth would certainly not be a handicap. He needs more familiarity with how the district works, however, and more understanding of the roots of the district's problems.
Retiree William Stark is obviously concerned about the school district and about the impact its problems have on the city and the region. But he lacks the knowledge about the district that we want to see in a candidate. Like Elliott, he is a harsh critic of the district and of Rivera. While criticism should be welcome on the School Board, it should be based on knowledge and understanding. Stark's sometimes are not.