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[UPDATED] This week in the mayor's race: Friday, February 17 

Let’s talk for a second.

Are you feeling spent? I am. But like a junkie, I can’t stop paying attention to every soundbite, every Tweet, every minute of Melissa McCarthy on SNL. I’m infected with politics.

It’s affecting us locally, too. This year’s hotly contested mayor’s race has wound people so tight that even a routine crime report has a couple of the candidates at each other’s necks. (My boss may write more about this in her column next week, and I don’t want to steal her thunder.)

I’m on vacation next week, so I’d like to step away from this column on a positive note.

I truly wish the best for everyone in this race. To do otherwise is to wish failure on a potential mayor and on the city. How destructive would that be? This is my home.

(I’ve only ever, in my long journalism career, secretly rooted for one candidate to lose. And if you knew who I meant, you would’ve been right there in my kitchen with me, dancing, when the election results came in.)

I am a Rochester story, and I’m proud of it. My family has been here since the turn of the 20th century — my great-grandmother, Rose Natale, rode the Jack Rabbit at Seabreeze.

My father grew up on Whitney Street and my mother on Bartlett. I drive by her old house sometimes and try to bring to life in my imagination all the stories I heard growing up; how they’d drag a picnic table out to the center of the yard and the whole neighborhood would come over to talk, laugh, and share what little they had.

“We were poor, but we didn’t know we were poor,” my aunt likes to say.

My father drove me around when I was little to show me the street corners where he used to sell newspapers.

My father’s family never left the city; my aunts live in JOSANA, Lyell-Otis, and other city neighborhoods. My mother’s family left, like so many others, after the riots in the 1960’s. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents I never knew are in Mt. Hope, and Holy Sepulchre.

My father eventually landed a job at Kodak, which finally gave my parents stability, security, and the ability to send their children to college and on to better lives than they ever had.

Three generations of my husband’s family worked at Kodak, too. One of his uncles is still there, somehow surviving layoff after layoff. My husband’s aunt, Rita, helped found the Group 14621 Neighborhood Association.

All of this is a little “Our Town,” I know, but my point is that I know what’s at stake and I am deeply invested. I tip my hat to those who believe they have the guts, grit, and smarts to lead this city and I appreciate their willingness to serve.

Rochester belongs to all of us; we are all in this together.

UPDATE #1

Mayoral candidate James Sheppard held a press conference this afternoon to talk about refugee services. He said that, if elected, he would: 
  • Create a refugee liaison in the mayor's office to advocate for refugee issues, seek funding, and to lead the effort to coordinate volunteer organizations and faith groups who want to support Rochester's refugees;
  • Create support centers in targeted city recreation centers to provide English lessons; assistance with green card and citizenship applications; job training; and space for refugee agencies to provide services;
  • Conduct a top-down review of city departments to determine the steps necessary to ensure services are accessible to refugees;
  • Translate all city informational materials into the five most commonly used languages among Rochester's refugee communities and provide translators at public meetings.

    UPDATE #2

    A story last week on the possibility of combining the city and county water systems drew a lot of attention — and some scorn, particularly concerning how much the city's water system earns and what it's worth. Edward Doherty, retired vice president of the Rochester Area Community Foundation and former commissioner of the city's Department of Environmental Services, reached out with the following information:

    "There are two numbers in the 2016-17 budget (p.7-60) that lay out the transfers from the water fund to the general fund (the water fund is the only city fund that generates sufficient income to cover all its capital and operating expenses, and transfer money to the general fund)."

    "The first number is the "Contribution to the General Fund," which amounts of $5,373,600. This contribution is authorized in the city charter. Some call it a "profit," but the real idea is that it compensates the general fund as a payment in lieu of property taxes (a private utility would pay taxes). The second transfer is $2,452, 800 and is an administrative chargeback. This directly reimburses the general fund for central service expenses, such as legal, accounting, purchasing, communication, human services, etc. While the city could certainly reduce some of these costs if it no longer had the water system, that reduction would actually be quite minor (parts of lawyers, accounts, budget analysts, etc."

    "So, the bottom line is that the city general fund would lose nearly $7.8 million in annual income if it sold the water system. If you take a 20-year perspective, the break-even sales price would need to be $156 million."

    UPDATE #3

    Mayoral candidate Rachel Barnhart sent over the following statement on sanctuary cities. (Rochester has been a sanctuary city since 1986 and recently reaffirmed that status)

    "Rochester should be a sanctuary city in practice, not just policy. Unfortunately, our relationship with the Monroe County jail means undocumented immigrants have no protection. I'm calling on County Legislator James Sheppard to introduce legislation making the county a sanctuary county. In addition, we also need to ensure police are not practicing racial profiling or zero tolerance. Those kinds of initiatives are known to sweep up undocumented immigrants for minor offenses. I'm afraid Rochester's policies on this issue, while moral, have no real teeth."

    "Rochester should welcome immigrants, who have been the backbone of our economy for our entire history. Immigrant  communities have been shown to have more entrepreneurs and less crime. My administration will welcome their contributions and will support immigrants and refugees in any way we can."



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