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10 Responses to Top Rochester Stories of 2011

  1. I would have put Chris Lee higher on the list, but otherwise, good work!

  2. Nice list! But I’d put the mayoral election story first, before Kodak. ‘Dak is big, no question, but not as big as it would have been if the company hadn’t already been so diminished in numbers (sales, employees, facilities, etc.) — in a sense, it’s a story that’s been unfolding for nearly a decade.

    The mayoral race, on the other hand, was a major turning point for leadership in a city that has (rightly) prided itself on good government and progressive leadership. Instead, a handful of key government and political leaders drove the city over a cliff politically — and the rest of the community leadership combined wasn’t enough to stop or turn it aside. Most visible results were the year with 3 mayors and the first racially polarized electoral returns in a mayoral race that I can recall — in a city that prided itself as being by and large beyond that (unlike a nearby large city notorious for its racially charged politics). But the damage is deeper and more longer lasting than that.

    Although arguments could be made for the preeminence of either of those stories, they’re both hugely symbolic of a city that’s been knocked off its high horse (if there had been any doubt or denial). So perhaps both stories deserve to be tied for #1. That would leave a hole in the list — what could fill it–?

    A story which didn’t necessarily have a headliner moment with a press conference or a perp walk, but significant nonetheless: a sense that the City Formerly Known as Smugtown might be in danger of being eclipsed by its upstate neighbors. Effective this year, both Buffalo and Syracuse are in partnerships with Say Yes! to Education — but not the city in between once noted nationally as a leader in urban education. Also, in the competitive sport of bringing home the bacon, the greater Rochester area got a pat on the head for its regional economic development plan while watching its neighboring regions to the east and west taking home the blue ribbon. The reaction? A collective yawn from some, a knee-jerk attempt to claim “the State always passes us over, because they know we already have our act together and aren’t as desperate [or whatever denial statement]” from others. While the fact was, if you looked at the plans, and watched them presented in Albany, the Rochester/FL regional plan and presentation were simply not as good as what others took to Albany.

    Both of these situations, combined with the mayoral fiasco, the Kodak going on life support, the revelation that Rochester was always considered a small-potatoes stepping stone by the school superintendant, the ad-hoc transactional nature of the tug-of-war over where to locate MCC’s city campus, and other members of top-ten list combine to give a picture of a once-proud city being given an “intervention” by events and being confronted as never before with staggering signs of decline.

    What to keep an eye on next–? I think the preservation or loss of the Cataract Building could prove highly symbolic of which way the city is going to go: a renovation in some form of a tired, careworn — but still grand — building as a symbol of renewal, or allowing yet another potential asset from the city’s best days to slip away to become just another memory of a “once upon a time” city.

    • I don’t disagree about the significance of the mayoral election. But if something bad happens to Kodak, it will have deeper ramifications. Kodak still has 7,000 workers and a huge real estate footprint.

      As for Say Yes, I am skeptical of tuition guarantees. It has yet to move the needle in Syracuse. Furthermore, some in Syracuse say Say Yes ends up sucking philanthropic dollars that would have gone elsewhere to its organization. I think the jury is still out.

  3. December 22, 2011 at 5:14 pm Jim Memmott responds:

    A good list, but no weather?

  4. Good list. I would have considered the sale of the Amerks to new Sabres owner Terry Pegula as a candidate. The newly revived Sabres/Amerks affiliation may very well have saved professional hockey in Rochester considering the staggering financial losses the previous owner was absorbing.

  5. December 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm Gary Craig responds:

    If you’re considering sports stories, Abby Wambach’s AP honor, plus the World Cup run and the notice it received, would be a good choice. However, that doesn’t have the direct local impact of these stories, or the Sabres/Amerks. (Please, Jim, don’t encourage weather stories.)

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