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Politics

The way the political land lays 

Politics

Just like anyplace else, politics in Rochester are a complicated affair that, when you get right down to it, aren't really all that complicated after all.

Take a bunch of ambitious, outgoing men and women, add the lust for power, sprinkle generously with cash, and voila... you've got a crazy, quirky kind of world only an American-style democracy could produce. Rochester's no exception to this, and on the surface, it's pretty much like any other mid-sized Rust Belt metropolis.

The city, a melting pot of races and ethnicities, is heavily Democratic (about three registered Democrats to each Republican) and, in many neighborhoods, very poor. The suburbs, overwhelmingly white and wealthier by varying degrees, are somewhat more conservative; with a few exceptions, Republicans tend to dominate the further you get from downtown.

First, the city: Rochester's City Hall is still getting its sea legs in the first year of Democratic Mayor Bob Duffy's tenure. The popular former police chief won a primary against City Councilman Wade Norwood, the party's pick. Now Duffy's administration has the task of remaking City Hall in its own image after the 12-year tenure of the last mayor, Bill Johnson. Every single councilmember is a Democrat, a fact that doesn't necessarily mean they always get along with Duffy, or each other.

Two blocks south, the CountyOfficeBuilding hosts an entirely different kind of government. Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, a Republican, is finishing up her first term in office after defeating then-Mayor Johnson in 2003. The 29-seat CountyLegislature is also dominated by Republicans, so Brooks' legislative agenda rarely runs into any snags. That's a source of much frustration for the minority Democratic caucus --- mainly from the city and inner-ring suburbs --- who routinely sees its proposals tabled or otherwise pushed aside. Last year, term limits enacted in the '90s kicked in, kicking out 10 veteran legislators. With a crop of new faces, both sides say they plan to play nicer from now on.

When it comes to national politics, the Greater Rochester area is also a bit of an oddity. Despite the Republicans' slight edge in voter registration, MonroeCounty went to the Kerry/Edwards ticket in 2004. The GOP here is a shade purpler than the regime in Washington these days. MonroeCounty is also strange in that significant portions of it lie in four separate congressional districts --- the 25th, 26th, 28th, and 29th.

The 28th, which includes the city (but stretches all the way to Niagara Falls and Buffalo) is held by Fairport resident and House veteran Louise Slaughter. Slaughter's a Democrat in a strongly Democratic district, but every other district here skews Republican and has a Republican in its seat. On the east side, a few towns are lumped into the 25th district, which is dominated by Syracuse and held by a representative from there, James Walsh. On the west side, Hill heavyweight Tom Reynolds' 26th district stretches from suburban Buffalo into a few Monroe towns. What's left over --- all or part of nine towns covering the southern swath of the county --- goes to the 29th district, represented by Hammondsport's freshman Congressman Randy Kuhl.

In case you still think there might be some rhyme or reason (other than getting incumbents re-elected) to the peculiar district boundaries, consider this little tidbit: Confused in the wake of a joint press conference by Slaughter and Kuhl to announce some federal money for the airport, we emailed a Hill staffer to ask whose district actually contains the facility. The airport terminal, the staffer explained, is in Slaughter's district, while the runways are in Kuhl's (allowing both to take credit for the pork-barrel spending it gets). Ah, the joys of gerrymandering.

If we still haven't managed to confuse you, just you wait. It's a midterm election year, and contests in all four of these districts are just around the corner.

In This Guide...

    Take a closer look

    You could easily spend your life in Greater Rochester driving between work, home, and Wegmans. Many people do.

    Where's the party?

    Festivals
    Lakeside Winter Celebration Date: February

    Sculptures, butterflies, and giants,oh my!

    Daytrips
    Anyone who complains about the traffic in Rochester has never driven in Boston or New York or Cleveland or Pittsburgh. Granted, more traffic means more population and more opportunities for diversion within those metropolises.

    A town in the know

    Universities
    One of Rochester's most important assets is its academic community. There are over a dozen centers devoted to advanced education within the Rochester-Finger Lakes-Genesee Valley Region, and they add vibrancy to the area's employment, culture, and quality of life.

    Park it

    Parks
    From the beautiful Seneca and Highland Parks, both designed by 19th-century landscape genius Frederick Law Olmsted, to Durand-Eastman Park, where you can feel the immensity of that Great Lake, here is just a partial list of some of our favorite parks in the Monroe County (256-4950, www.monroecounty.gov) and City of Rochester (428-6767 or 428-6755, www.cityofrochester.gov) systems. Cobbs Hill Park Culver Road and Norris Drive

    Not above name dropping

    Legends
    Rochester can boast a fair number of interesting citizens who continue to walk among us, but many that have shuffled off this mortal coil remain the subject of endless fascination. These former Rochesterians may not be as well known as groundbreaking giants like abolitionist Frederick Douglass, activist Susan B. Anthony, and inventor George Eastman, but their place in history is nonetheless guaranteed.

    Sporting goods

    Sports
    Last year, Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal named Rochester the number one minor-league sports market in the country. The city boasts pro sports franchises that are both storied and cutting-edge, some steeped in tradition, others still growing out of their infancy.

    From getting lost to finding your Irish

    Recreation
    Wanna work off a few pounds? Gotta burn off some work-related frustration?

    Eight days a week

    Nightlife
    You've only got seven, but there's something to do eight days a week. Monday.

    Live and active culture

    Arts
    They say you shouldn't talk religion or politics at the dinner table. Sound advice.

    Are you there yet?

    Families
    Got kids? You've come to the right place!

    As American as pasta e fagiole

    Food
    You can eat apple pie and hamburgers for only so long. If you're seeking ingredients to build meals in honor of your (or someone else's) culture, here's a list of some independent ethnic grocery stores.

    Welcome to the 'burbs

    Suburbs
    Rochester owes much of its development and prosperity to the GeneseeRiver, which cuts a path right down the center of the city. In the early days, many of the neighborhoods in the city, as well as suburban villages, began as small settlements that depended on the river to receive and sell goods.

    The best parts are often hidden

    City neighborhoods
    "Cool" in Rochester is the youth-oriented Park Avenuearea, or the East End-Alexander area on a summer night, with crowds from clubs and bars spilling out onto the sidewalks. But there's lots to experience in the city.

    Your Rochester to-do list

    Try to see what's on TV on the ceiling of the Bug Jar. Board the Mary Jemison or the Sam Patch from Corn Hill Landing.

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