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Warren and her opponents square off 

Rochester’s mayoral campaign kicked off in earnest Monday night, with Mayor Lovely Warren’s annual State of the City address and her opponents’ responses.

It was already obvious that at least the first stage of the campaign, leading up to the Democratic primary in September, won’t be a genteel one. Her opponent Jim Sheppard, for instance, has insisted that under Warren, the city has been “pilot-less,” marked by “gimmicks” rather than accomplishments.

Warren’s State of the City could be seen as her response to that charge.

Typical of these speeches by public officials, the bulk of Warren’s address was a list of developments initiated or continued during her three-plus years as mayor. It was a diverse list, ranging from major downtown projects like a performing arts theater and housing for Midtown’s Parcel 5 to a new House of Mercy building for the hard-to-serve homeless.

While some of her critics have accused her of favoring downtown development over city neighborhoods, Warren’s list included home-renovation efforts in the EMMA and Beechwood neighborhoods, new housing in the Josana neighborhood, the new marina in Charlotte, affordable housing in the Upper Falls and Hudson Avenue areas, a spray park at the Campbell Street recreation center, expansion of the Genesee Brewery.

In her campaign four years ago, Warren suggested that she would be heavily involved in education. For the most part, she’s been relatively quiet about the topic. But in Monday night’s address, she cited city partnerships in programs to screen 2- and 3-year-olds for developmental delays and to expand pre-K programs. And she cited the City Hall-school district partnership to make School 17 a “Beacon School,” with support services for neighborhood families.

The pending arrival of Uber and Lyft; support for bicycle riders in the city; a no-interest loan program; bond-rating upgrades; police body cameras; job training programs, including one to train and hire city residents to install LED lighting in local institutions, starting with Rochester General…

Support for transgender residents; children’s books in barber shops; van pools to take city residents to jobs at the Del Lago casino; an increase in the number of women and people of color in the police and fire departments; a solar farm at the former Emerson Street landfill; a defiant stand on continuing Rochester’s status as a Sanctuary City…

It was a lengthy list, and Warren got plenty of applause from the audience of mostly invited guests. Bob Bartosiewicz, whose CGI Communications hosted the event, was effusive, about his company’s choice of downtown Rochester for its headquarters and about what’s happening in Rochester right now.

Warren’s opponents, not surprisingly, are seeing something different. “In her State of the City address,” former television reporter Rachel Barnhart said in her e-mailed response, “Lovely Warren continued her campaign of denial and alternative facts.”

“It was disappointing to hear so little about poverty,” Barnhart said, “and so much about how downtown has become a playground for the rich. It was unfortunate she did not offer any long-term plans to create jobs and improve neighborhoods.”

And in a bitter, personal response statement, Jim Sheppard painted Warren as someone uninterested in the city’s poverty and the people living in it. He cited rising rates of aggravated assaults, rape, and shooting victims and said her administration has been marked by “a lack of measurable results, taking credit for others’ initiatives, obfuscation of facts….” He accused Warren of a lack of transparency on such things as the Parcel 5 decision, the Inner Loop project, and the unraveling of the port development, and of meddling in the operations of the Rochester Housing Authority and the school modernization program.

Rochester’s story is “a tale of two realities,” Sheppard said. “The one you’re living, and the one that Mayor Warren is attempting to sell you.”

This fall, voters will decide which portrayal is closer to reality.

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