It’s fair to say Mayor Lovely Warren has had a rocky first year in office. Let’s take a look back at good, the bad and the ugly.
- Mayor Warren Goes to Washington: The mayor established relationships on the federal level. She met with the Vice-President on creating more manufacturing jobs, drew attention to the plight of young black men as part of the president’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, talked to the president about being mayor of a city with a large number of poor residents, helped secure funding for port dredging and helped to get Rochester selected as a “Manufacturing Community,” making the area eligible for federal dollars.
- Mayor Uses Muscle: Lovely Warren secured the necessary votes among Democrats on the Monroe County Legislature to move the Costco and MCC downtown campus projects forward.
- Mayor and Maggie: The mayor and county executive share a good relationship. Maggie Brooks endorsed Warren for the position, an unprecedented move for a local Republican.
- Facilities Modernization: The mayor pushed to get more provisions for fiscal accountability in the second phase of construction.
- Party in the Park: This is a minor win, but moving it from the parking lot seemed like a good idea. We’ll know when the attendance numbers come back.
- More AIM Aid: This is sort of a half-win. Rochester got an extra $6 million from state lawmakers in the budget, but the city still gets the lowest amount of aid per capita compared to other cities. It also has to give the school district $119 million every year, while Buffalo and Syracuse can give far less to their districts. In addition, the state ignored the mayor’s request for $100 million for a performing arts center.
- Focus on Early Learning: Warren formed an Early Learning Council and has tirelessly promoted reading among young children. It’s too early to say if these efforts have paid off.
- Bloomberg Grant: The mayor helped to secure a $1.95 million grant to fight poverty using innovative techniques.
- Inner Loop: The mayor helped secure the final pieces of funding for the project to move forward. The project to fill in the Inner Loop started way before the mayor took office, but she’s been executing it according to plan.
- Police Reorganization: The mayor’s plan to create five police sections is extremely expensive and some say it’s not necessary, as crime has declined dramatically. But she is fulfilling a campaign pledge to bring police officers closer to the neighborhoods they serve. If this works, it will be a big part of her legacy.
- Transgender Benefits: Warren announced transgender city workers would have their treatments covered under medical insurance.
- Hart’s Grocery: The city played an active role in getting this downtown store open. The store received a tax abatement and federal loan.
- Uncle Reggie: The scandal now known as “Uncle Reggie” involved lying and nepotism. Hiring her uncle and another man as highly-paid security guards didn’t go over well. Neither did lying about how many times her uncle was stopped on the Thruway with her in the vehicle. Neither did ignoring reporters.
- Port Rollout: The mayor inherited this project, so it’s not fair to blame her for the plan to build a marina and develop the surrounding land. (Though she was on City Council and didn’t voice objections.) But when the project started to become real, Charlotte residents went beserk. It didn’t help that residents weren’t involved in the developer selection process and that the developer’s basic designs fell flat. As a result of the outcry, the city later involved residents in the design and planning.
- Officer Daryl Pierson’s death: This tragedy could have happened under any mayor, but it counts as a significantly awful event in her first year. Warren showed grace and leadership in the days following the shooting. The city did an excellent job planning a funeral that touched thousands of people. However, the feelings of goodwill evaporated when Warren posted about the Ferguson grand jury decision, saying Officer Darren Wilson had no regard for human life. This outraged supporters of police officers, who believe Wilson had no choice. The Pierson family jumped into the controversy, making harsh comments about the mayor. It was an ugly episode.
- St. Patrick’s Day Parade: The city removed the parade from East Ave. without soliciting any public input. When the public got wind of the plan, people were outraged. The move was a huge blow to East End businesses and patrons. The city backtracked, offered alternative routes and held a public hearing. A final route was chosen that goes down part of East Ave. The city claims the detour is temporary and necessary because of the Inner Loop project, but officials did a very poor job explaining their reasoning.
- Deaths of Larry and Jane Glazer: After they died, the city went out of its way to say everything would be the same, that development at Midtown would proceed according to plan. We now know that’s not true. The city has a dilemma on its hands with Parcel 5, which Larry Glazer had been eyeing. I suspect no one wants it now. Proposals are due January 15.
- Rochester Housing Authority: The mayor engineered the replacement of nearly all board members, who promptly fired the executive director and replaced him with a city councilman. The mayor claims she had nothing to do with this, though her associates were quietly warning the media weeks beforehand this would happen. Now the previous director has to be paid a yet-to-be-revealed sum that’s sure to be embarrassing. Councilman Adam McFadden was forced to resign as the new director when HUD started sniffing around. At any point during this process, the mayor could have roundly condemned these shenanigans. Instead, she protected her board members. This poorly-executed political patronage scheme has severely tarnished the agency.
- Staffing Problems: The deputy mayor was arrested for drunk driving. A city attorney with a previous DWI was promoted to a high-level economic development job, but got demoted after clashing with his superiors. The chief communications director, who clashed with reporters, was recently demoted to a job of “executive assistant,” but is still earning $98,000.
- Homeless Fight: The city ticked off a lot of bleeding hearts when it bulldozed the tents where homeless people had been staying. The city said the tents were not safe or sanitary and offered brick-and-mortar shelter to the residents. This kind of housing does not meet city code, nor is it appropriate to allow such a development on city land. But advocates claim they had no warning about the city’s intentions to plow the place down. In yet another City Hall “do-over,” the homeless have been given a short reprieve and their tents can stay up through New Year’s Day.
- “Stay in Your Lane”: People angry about how the homeless have been treated messaged the mayor’s Facebook account. A Facebook message sent from her account in return told people in the suburbs to mind their own business and “stay in your lane.” The city said Warren’s account was “compromised.” Here’s the big problem with that theory: Hackers don’t quote city talking points. The episode appeared to be another example of a City Hall that can’t get its story straight.
- Polarization: The mayor has become a polarizing figure. People love her and people love to hate her. Some of her detractors are very racist. Some of her supporters think she gets more scrutiny because of her race. Warren has fierce defenders and fierce detractors. Some of this is her fault, as this “bad” list contains entirely preventable situations. But some of the criticism against her is profoundly unfair.
It would be nice to see Warren become a more unifying figure in 2015. She can change the conversation and public perception by racking up wins and avoiding stupid mistakes. There’s plenty of time left in her term and I don’t believe we’ll see another year like this one.
Links of the Day:
- After major pushback in the Southern Tier, Cuomo is now interfering in the casino site selection process. (Does anyone believe he didn’t before?)
- “Gov. Andrew Cuomo is now muscling in, promising to save New York’s deficient school system…”
- This story of a Buffalo start-up needing venture capital from Buffalo to stay in Buffalo comes across like a shakedown. I realize VC is hard to come by in Upstate New York, but nothing suggests they have to move if VC comes from elsewhere.
- Finger Lakes wineries are fighting a gas storage plan.
- This makes me not want to see “Selma.”
- Guidance counselors are not a priority in many high schools.
- Let’s help out the historic train room in Rochester, a hidden gem.
- Will the ice bike be the next iconic Buffalo thing? Its developer hopes so.
Pedestrians are People, Too