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Sheppard kicks off mayor's race 

We've got ourselves a mayor's race, Rochester.

James Sheppard made it official this morning at a press conference at the Workers United union hall on 
click to enlarge James Sheppard announced his candidacy for Rochester mayor this morning. - PHOTO BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN
  • James Sheppard announced his candidacy for Rochester mayor this morning.
East Avenue. It was an exuberant affair with an hour's worth of speakers praising Sheppard's integrity, commitment, compassion, and work ethic. They included preachers, union leaders, an East High teacher, a young person mentored by Sheppard, and others.

A couple of the speakers took shots at current mayor Lovely Warren, saying that the city has become more divided under her leadership and that Warren lacks real accomplishments. Warren's promise of a city that people can believe in has become a dream deferred, said the Rev. Marlowe Washington, invoking the writer Langston Hughes.

Sheppard criticized  the growing poverty rate in the city and the strained relationship between police and many people of color in the community; he said he was outraged over the arrests of more than 70 activists during a Black Lives Matter rally last year.

"I know we can and we must, get this city working together again: not just jobs, but working together, through communication, coordination, cooperation, collaboration, towards (sic) a unified vision — followed by action that delivers measurable results," he said.

Sheppard said that the city is losing ground and losing hope.

"For many, it's a daily drumbeat of despair — and frankly it breaks my heart," he said. "It's not working. This administration is not working for our city."

It should be noted that Sheppard and Warren probably don't have the best relationship. Sheppard resigned as Rochester's police chief shortly after Warren won election as mayor; the word was she was going to replace him.

A Warren surrogate sent over a lengthy statement in response to Sheppard's announcement. It accuses Sheppard of using "heavy handed" police tactics and makes a number of other accusations that CITY will need to vet before printing. A portion of the statement is excerpted at the end of this post.

Sheppard, who currently serves in the Monroe County Legislature, faces a tough battle to get the Democratic endorsement. In addition to Warren, he will likely be challenged by Rachel Barnhart, former WROC-TV reporter and anchor.

Barnhart is expected to announce soon. Her campaign spokesperson, Joe Rittler, sent over the following statement this morning:

"James Sheppard may be supported by one of the two Democratic political machines in our area, but there are serious unanswered questions about his past support of discriminatory policing policies, among other things. Voters deserve a candidate who will genuinely support policies that treat people of all races equally. Our friends and neighbors have an important choice to make this September and we look forward to helping them make an informed decision."

Robert Scott Gaddy, a Barnhart supporter and operative, has been all over Twitter in recent days, criticizing in harsh language Sheppard's performance as police chief; essentially accusing him of racial profiling. Gaddy and others are likely referring to the police crackdown called "Operation Cool Down," an RPD initiative started in 2012 in response to a surge of shootings in the city. Sheppard was chief at the time and billed the program as "proactive policing."

Sheppard's supporters say that Gaddy and others are using racial buzzwords such as "stop and frisk" to provoke an emotional response in the African-American community.

It's going to be ugly, friends.

Statement from Gary Rogers, spokesman for the Friends of Lovely Warren Committee(excerpt):

"...under Mayor Lovely Warren's leadership, our city has seen an unprecedented period of growth and progress with construction and investment, not only throughout downtown and our center city, but more importantly throughout our neighborhoods as well.

Mayor Warren was born in Rochester, grew up in the city's 19th Ward and she continues to live with her family off of Clifford Avenue in Northeast Rochester. She has returned our police department to a neighborhood based patrol model, introduced body worn cameras, and actively engaged the community to improve police relations, all while bringing crime to a 25-year low.

She has engaged and partnered with neighbors from the grassroots to fight the challenges of heroin on our streets. Mayor Warren's careful fiscal stewardship has resulted in two bond rating upgrades for the City, she has brought hundreds of millions of dollars in investment by the state and federal governments along with progressive policies always focused on bringing more jobs, safer more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities to every resident of Rochester.

Mr. Sheppard's candidacy for Mayor, after serving only one year as a County Legislator without any results, is offensive to the people of Rochester."

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