• The Rochesterian in Your Inbox:

    Join 643 other subscribers

4b51f4aa-f527-4184-b647-0a3fb726dc8cWhen Detroit filed for bankruptcy, cities across the country asked if they would be next. Many face the same challenges of pension and employee costs, suburban flight, a declining property tax base, vacant housing, crime and struggling schools.

Rochester Mayor Tom Richards warned the city could go down the same path as Detroit if it’s not properly managed. But there are significant differences between the Flower City and the Motor City. City workers are in the state pension system and Rochester has not had the same management problems. (Detroit suffered through decades of having an extreme debt load and saw an explosion of even more borrowing under Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who was also convicted in a corruption scandal.) Rochester maintains a decent quality of life with libraries, police and fire services, parks and more. Rochester’s credit rating is stellar, and has remained so since at least the days of Mayor Bill Johnson.

In short, Rochester is a long, long way from being Detroit.

That’s why I was disturbed to hear people say after Lovely Warren was elected mayor, “Rochester will be Detroit.”

There are no facts to support any such prediction that the city will go down the tubes. Warren has no record of financial mismanagement or incompetence as City Council president. Her mentor, David Gantt, has had some minor scandals and questionable episodes (Fastrac on East Main, red light camera legislation that favored his protege lobbyist, collecting his pension early and playing politics with many major projects and the RCSD), but there’s nothing to suggest deep-seated corruption. Every longtime politician in Rochester has their issues.

Meanwhile, Monroe County is embroiled in a major corruption scandal and struggles to maintain a good credit rating. But no one says the county will become Detroit. Why is that?

We all know the answer.


Links of the Day:


– Cannot get my head around a $20 million state contract for a Rochester head-hunting firm.

Ginna is considered at risk of closing.

– Xerox fired someone for posting a selfie of herself on the job.

– Rochester has some super-wealthy Zip Codes, as this interactive map shows.

Rochester teachers who appealed their ratings tell me they were awarded a total of 1 to 2 points extra, not enough to make a difference.

– Syracuse’s mayor sometimes gets confronted in public restrooms. She’ll discuss policy anywhere.

Study will look at bike share feasibility in Rochester. Bob Lonsberry tweeted this is bike entitlement. But:



23 Responses to Stop Predicting Rochester Will Be Detroit

  1. “Her mentor, David Gantt, has had some minor scandals and questionable episodes (Fastrac on East Main, red light camera legislation that favored his protege lobbyist, collecting his pension early and playing politics with many major projects and the RCSD), but there’s nothing to suggest deep-seeded corruption. Every longtime politician in Rochester has their issues.”

    Perhaps we’ve identified our first problem. Shouldn’t any one of those issues call into question a person’s fitness to serve? And yet this particular individual is so entrenched that he will continue to hold his elected position until God calls him home.

    • November 13, 2013 at 8:29 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      I could make lists for Morelle, too, who backed Richards.

      • November 14, 2013 at 7:36 am John Moriello responds:

        Hey, my distaste for Morelle runs at least as deep as does my distaste for Gantt — and that’s my point.

        We’re way too forgiving of “public servants” of both parties (including Maggie Brooks). There’s this mindset of, “Oh, they’re all bad except for my (mayor / supervisor / assemblyman / congressman / etc.).”

        Rochester has elected a mayor who doesn’t seem to know where $40K in crucial campaign money came from and doesn’t seem to know why people in Buffalo brought so much support to the table either. Add in guilt by association stemming from her ties to Gantt and that’s as far as my benefit of the doubt goes with her administration until she chalks up some wins with her policies.

        Does the Lovely campaign cash issues put us on the path of suffering the sort of demise ultimately in store for Detroit? Of course not. But Detroit didn’t screw up all at once either — their mess is the result of lots of incremental steps taken in half a century of single-party rule — and that certainly does have a familiar ring to it.

        Rochester has a long run of mistakes of its own over the years, and the money has long since fled city limits — first to the inner-ring suburbs and then beyond. As long as people are comfortable there with their schools, their services (government and private sector) and public safety, cryptically asking why no one puts Monroe County in the Detroit category is unfair on your part.

  2. I look at the gun play in this city and i knew it would come to this. Being from the Bronx New York i seen a lot of crime and how the city handle it. Rochester is to soft on some of things they let go in high crime areas. Need to get people off the corners and be aware of the trouble makers. and have store keep there area clear. The big thing is people all the churches and store keepers need to care what happens on there street

  3. You say “we all know the answer”. I don’t. I have some ideas and thoughts, but they are many. Which one do you think we all know? When I think of “issues” within our local governments, I certainly think of the LDC’s that is a issue of perhaps people loyal to the county government getting a little bit of help in being awarded contracts. When I think of red light camera’s, I think of people loyal to David Gantt getting help in being awarded contracts. I would imagine incidents like these are prevalent in our government both county and city. It was reported that the LDC’S investigation was ordered by Louise Slaughter. If there was a legal issue with the LDC’S , I have no issue with anyone bringing it to the attention of the authorities. I do have a problem with selective investigations. Why not investigate the red light camera issue or the many other issues you mentioned and didn’t mention. This comes down to integrity of the individual politicians and also to the MEDIA to keep these politicians honest. Selective prosecution and biased reporting will enable the less scrutinized to become more brazen. It would not surprise me to see Rochester become the next “Detroit”. Not in the financial ruin of Detroit, but the potential for the old-fashioned corrupt politics of a David Gantt led government that will eventually collapse in scandal.

  4. November 13, 2013 at 9:48 am Clarissa Rising responds:

    David Gantt is a concern and Warren is as far as all the deals with Gantt happened with her help. All the deals with developers happened will her as City Council president and the sitting city council. I would think that some of the dealings with Gantt, corporations and with the superpac money should be investigated. After the Brooks debacle we need to make sure no dirty deals are in the past, present or future.

  5. Points well taken but you have to be careful about ROC’s current economic situation not being a serious problem.

    Rochester’s downtown and many neighborhoods are fragile due to their being exposed to massive government interventions in the form of urban renewal and later subsidized economic and housing development programs.

    The City is not densely developed and has a hard time spreading its non-taxpaying not-for-profit, central governments’, and industrial development agency subsidized tax forgiveness over the remaining solvent tax paying properties.

    The symptoms of this are starting to show up with the low-rise commercial buildings replacing razed property at mid-town and the opposition to modestly dense town home proposals on University Ave. by Gleasons.

    Rochester has to decide what it wants to do: give up their early mid-western urban frontier development pattern or start reusing its land with more fully taxed higher valued housing and commercial developments.

    Or, it can push for the elimination of the property tax as a Medieval anachronism or continue to go hat-in-hand to others for revenue sharing which always comes at a price.

  6. It will all come down to dollars and cents when Mayor Warren creates a budget.

    Good budgeting has three categories of expenses:
    1 – MUST HAVE- items essential to existing
    2 – WOULD LIKE TO HAVE – items that are good overall and can be a use of excess discretionary funds
    3 – WOULD LOVE TO HAVE – extravagant spending that benefits a few or funds a pet project with no realistic chance of payback

    She’ll have to avoid deficit spending.

    After her first budget, a comparison to the actual finances would be very informative.

  7. “Her mentor, David Gantt, has had some minor scandals and questionable episodes (Fastrac on East Main, red light camera legislation that favored his protege lobbyist, collecting his pension early and playing politics with many major projects and the RCSD), but there’s nothing to suggest deep-seated corruption. Every longtime politician in Rochester has their issues.”

    This is a real whopper of a statement, especially coming from a journalist that should at least try to keep up appearances of being neutral since they have to interact with both political parties in the course of their daily work. But you kind of throw that out the window, Rachel, when you refer to Maggie Brooks’ as “Teflon Maggie” in your Twitter feed, you pass on tweets from politicians like Louise Slaughter and then minimize what Gantt has done with the statement above. Of course that barely scratches the surface of what David Gantt has done locally that is questionable. Paying people to sue your primary opponents and then hiring a private investigator to go after anyone that signed their petitions is about as low as you can get – but that’s David for you. Good to see the local media has his back.

    I remember an interview that took place on one of the radio stations with Don Alhart where he said that he tried to do the best he could to not be partial to either political party. I think there is a real risk here with social media showing us what is really “under the hood” pertaining to a reporter’s biases, and you really stepped in it here. Maybe you should have hung out with Don a little bit longer as his class and integrity might have rubbed off on you.

    • November 13, 2013 at 10:39 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      What’s the “whopper” or bias here? I said you could make similar lists for every longtime pol here. I think it is weird you think I minimize those scandals / the list kind of does the opposite.

      “Teflon Maggie” was the point of that column.

      And let’s remember – Gantt is not going to be the mayor. Warren is.

      As for social media – I also RT Brooks.

  8. Rachel, one simple question.

    Do you feel you report political stories in a totally unbiased way?

    A simple one word answer please.

    • November 13, 2013 at 11:00 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      Any reporter who says that is lying. You have to put the facts out there and provide context in the best, fairest way possible. Everyone brings biases to table. Everyone. The key is to manage them. This is my blog and I do share opinions. This blog, however, I don’t think is chock full of them.

      • Rachel, I disagree with you. Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley, reporters of that era had integrity.
        The two key words are “reporting” and “commenting”.

        -A reporter does just that, reports the facts.

        -A commentator does what you described, adds context in their view of what is fair.

        When you cover a story about a robbery or a rape you use the words “suspect” and “alleged”. If it isn’t a political story you never take a side, even if you have a feeling about it.

        If you tell more than the facts, you’re not a reporter, you’re a commentator.

  9. And Rachel, I am not criticizing that you have views. I read and post here and I realize your position on issues.
    I was merely commenting that your views are quite evident.

    • November 13, 2013 at 11:33 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      On some things, yes.

      There is a debate in journalism right now about the “view from nowhere” and false equivalence.

      I still don’t think this post is pro-Lovely or anti-Lovely.

  10. November 13, 2013 at 11:45 am Kate Fall responds:

    Rachel, I feel like you understand the difference between impartiality and false equivalence, which I why I love following your stories. I think false equivalence is destroying journalism. You bring up a great point about the difference between the city and the county’s respective credit ratings. Why give a false equivalence pretending that there isn’t a difference? Your commenters have made some great points on the city’s land use. Should you be required to jump in and praise the land developments to be “fair and balanced”? Sometimes the truth sounds biased to one side because sometimes one side is right. Comparative credit ratings are facts.

    And I was not aware of the Gantt scandals (I live in the county, not the city) so thank you for informing me about them in a factual manner.

  11. November 13, 2013 at 1:59 pm Daniel O'Meali responds:

    I believe that there is enough blame to go around on both sides of the party lines.The quote that you started this blog off with is about wheather Rochester could go the way of Detroit. Yes it could and No it doesn’t have too. Are we a long, long way from that happening? I think not. We have a lot of good in the Rochester area. Reasons to be optimistic about or future. But as seen in Detroit one politician can bring the whole city crashing down around us. To many fast ferry projects (that we are still paying for) and we are sinking in our mess. Politicians need to work together, to bring us a brighter future and lead us to better economic times. Not handing out projects and jobs to their friends would be a start. More transparency would also help . Start thinking about what would be better for our community than themselves and their friends or donors. Until that happens we are living on a very slippery slope and the political BS could drowned us all.

  12. David Gantt “Fastrac on East Main, red light camera legislation that favored his protege lobbyist, collecting his pension early and playing politics with many major projects and the RCSD”

    Additionally, after Ms Warren lost election to the city council Gantt secured a 100K+ state job for the DEM councilmen in the northeast district so he would resign and Warren was “awarded” that seat on the council by in essence Gantt. The people had rejected her but Gantt used his position and our tax money to open the seat up for MS Warren.

    Gantt has claimed that Warren and Gaddy are like hie two adopted children. When Gaddy’s injected 40K into her campaign and provided additional services, MS Warren claimed she knew nothing about it….. Does any one really believe that?

    She received her start in Roch city politics, after losing an election, thanks to questionable political maneuvering by her mentor, a mentor who’s been know for shaky dealings and lack of concern over facial responsibility.

    Based on these items I don’t think the Detroit comparison is that much a stretch.

    And Maggies “scandals” are at this point name calling. One report cheated on expense reports …so what .. happens all the time. One Report got a DWI ..so what so did the DEM assembly woman (John) who was on the state DWI Assembly committee and still kept her job Robotrand went to trial ONCE and was thrown out of court as the judge ruled there was no case.
    The latest issues around LDC’s is led by a DEM AG with an obvious AGENDA and nothing has been proven yet.

    Some day hopefully, in this town we may see a reporter and channel not afraid to ask the hard questions and report fully the whole story on both sides with out bias. It happened nationally and FOX is a ratings leader, hopefully some one will pick up the concept and report like that locally.

  13. November 14, 2013 at 10:17 pm Kevin Smith responds:

    Detroit’s decline was primarily due to the outsourcing & automated advances in manufacturing, there simply wasn’t enough entrepreneurial activity to offset the rapid decline of manufacturing. Thus the city was on the path to insolvency.

  14. The occupants of city hall for the Detroit predictions. They are the ones that tell us the city has structural financial problems and won’t be able to survive on this path, yet they find money for marinas and plan to build a large pond in the old Erie canal bed. They cut public safety and services while doling out money to the politically connected. The idiots running rcsd keep getting reelected while graduation rates continue to decline. I think its a fair prediction. Ms. Warren seems to be willing to take on some of these problems but in other ways is business as usual. My main fear is she has a lot of grand expensive plans, but where will the money come from?

  15. Yes I could not understand how NO .. not one Reporter in all of ROCHESTER that I know of … could ask Mayor Elect Warren or Richards at the Marina Ground breaking ceremony, how they could justify spending 20 Million for making 80 boat slips in Charlotte, to be used by the rich mostly not from the CITY, while just a few days earlier those same political Leaders were complaining about a 50 Million budget Deficit.

    The local press is either not smart enough to put 2 and 2 together and ask the obvious question or .. they are too scared to put local DEM leaders on the spot, as they do so often with Maggie Brooks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *