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Tuesday 28 September 2021
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Mayoral Candidates Address Key Issues Facing City

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Below are responses from incumbent Lovely Warren and challenger Malik Evans to questions from Minority Reporter/La Voz staff.

Lovely WarrenLovely Warren

What do you think are the two most pressing issues/problems facing the mayor of Rochester in the next few years? What experience do you have and how will you solve them?

My priorities remain the same: More jobs, safer-vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities. These goals have always been about creating equity and fairness for everyone, and they’re even more crucial now, as our community must pull together to overcome and recover from the economic devastation resulting from COVID 19.

I recently unveiled my ERA agenda, detailing my administration’s plans for an equitable recovery. It is my belief that both academic and technical education are key in obtaining better jobs, and job opportunities are paramount to improving life for our residents. Additionally, when there is equity, jobs and opportunities for homeownership, neighborhoods become safer and more vibrant over time.

During my tenure as mayor, we were able to bring unemployment and crime to historic lows. We hit our stride and were looking forward to building on our prior successes. However, our world changed when COVID-19 hit.

However, under my leadership, city government did not give up. We banded together to protect our circles, keep construction on time and on budget, fed our children and seniors, supported our restaurants and businesses with millions of dollars in grants, and helped our
tenants and landlords with CARES act funding.

There was no blueprint for how to manage a city during a pandemic, but we ensured that our employees and residents had access to proper PPE, were provided with exceptional service by not missing a single trash or recycling pickup, and responded to our citizens’ calls to 911.

We accomplished all of this while continuing to build on our investments of over $340 million in construction so that thousands of people could take care of their families. We helped to build or renovate 3,800 affordable homes, removed officers from schools and ensured transparency by bringing body worn cameras to our community.

I wish to continue implementing new projects, create training programs and opportunities, and bring more business to our City so we can continue to lift our citizens up, giving them a better chance at life.

What are the potential ramifications of the recent marijuana legalization for city neighborhoods? What are your plans to make legalization a benefit to the community?

The tax revenue associated with the legalization of marijuana in NY State is anticipated to be up to a half-billion dollars annually. I want to make sure those dollars are not simply vacuumed into the state’s general fund. The funds that result from marijuana legalization must be used to make amends for the decades of damage done to minority communities. To this end, I propose that the state designate that a substantial portion of the tax revenue from marijuana sales be required to fund equity initiatives in communities. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to advance equity in Rochester due to the legalization of marijuana. To ensure we do so, our residents must be included and have the opportunity to lead in the cannabis industry.

We also recently had the first meeting of our Reparations and Universal Basic Income (RUBI) exploratory committee. It is examining how we can potentially use revenue from marijuana legalization to help residents “Buy the Block” and increase homeownership. RUBI will also look for opportunities to begin a UBI pilot in Rochester that will have the potential to grow and expand as we demonstrate its success.

After the independent investigator found that city officials withheld information on the death of Daniel Prude, how will you restore trust in city hall among city residents?

Our community is committed to reimaging and improving policing. There’s certainly more work to be done. However, we have made real change before and I know we can do so again. During my tenure as Mayor, I have led the effort to bring body worn cameras to Rochester, create the Police Accountability Board, restore community policing, create the Gun Part in the Hall of Justice, eliminate red light cameras and proposed that all newly-hired police officers live in our City.

In addition, my recent budget proposal fully funds the PAB with $5 million so it can begin its critical work and hear cases. I also proposed the creation of a civilian Public Safety Commissioner to oversee RPD, RFD and 911 to ensure they truly protect and serve our community.

Recently, in partnership with the City Council, we adopted our response to the Governor’s Executive Order 203, including: providing my office the ability to fire officers for cause, revising the federal consent order to allow us to increase the number of Black and Brown officers, as well as numerous policy changes to limit the use of force by officers.

Importantly, we created our Person in Crisis (PIC) team to provide a non-law enforcement response to mental-health and addiction-related 911 calls. The PIC team is currently more than doubling in size from 13 to 40 employees to address the tremendous need for their services and to ensure co-response with RPD officers. Many have tried to disparage the PIC
program without giving it a chance to get established and help those in need. It has made tremendous progress in just the first four months it has operated in our City and I know over time it will only increase its positive impact.

In total, these efforts are about achieving a single goal dramatically changing how we provide public safety in our community to address the systemic racism and inequity that have plagued RPD since its inception. I am not the first Mayor to try to address this problem that has been with us for decades. However, I believe my record shows that I am truly dedicated to addressing this issue once and for all. Yet, I know that it will take not just my efforts but the partnership of all of our elected officials, particularly our state delegation to achieve lasting success.

How will you work to eradicate institutionalized racism and improve race relations in the city?

For all of my life and professional career, I have been dedicated to fighting injustice and achieving equity for Black and Brown people. I’m thrilled and energized that this call for justice is now known worldwide. Now, it’s my job and the work of our entire society to put this call into practice. My record as mayor shows I’m committed to doing so.

To that end, I have proposed meaningful policies in my Equity and Recovery Agenda (ERA) and my call for reparations. To achieve equity in Rochester, we must begin to undo the damage done by redlining and other elements of systemic racism. Homeownership is fundamental to the American Dream and creates a pathway to the middle class and beyond and impacts families for generations. This right was long denied minorities and the damage must be undone via new policies and pathways. I encourage you to review all of the ERA agenda and our accomplishments to date at cityofrochester.gov/sotc2021. It clearly shows that I am dedicated
to addressing the issues necessary to create equity.

The recent spike in violent crimes is not unique to Rochester. This year, there has been a 30% increase in violent crimes in most large cities in the United States. That being said, there is much to be done to curb the violence in our City and it will require considerable effort from a variety of sources and entities. To that end, on May 4, 2021, City Council Vice-President Willie Lightfoot joined me in announcing the launch of the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS). This new City office will put the job of neighborhood safety and violence reduction where it belongs: in the hands of the community. The ONS will provide us with the ability to effectively improve violence-reduction by giving the community a greater role in public safety with a unified strategy. This way, we can place the citizens of Rochester at the forefront of our mission to create safer and more vibrant neighborhoods, which is an important aspect of the Equity and Recovery Agenda and my efforts to create more jobs and better educational opportunities.

How would you address the root problems behind Rochester’s spike in violent crimes; homicides, carjackings, robbings, gun violence, etc?

The Office of Neighborhood Safety will be created within the Department of Recreation and Human Services. The mission of the office is to adopt a “whole city approach to reducing violence” by facilitating the coordination and development of a communitywide violence reduction strategy. Existing anti-violence programs to include Pathways to Peace; the ROC Against Gun Violence Coalition; and the Youth Advocate Program, could then coordinate their strategy and efforts. In July of 2021, we will hold a Violence Prevention Summit for community organizations so they can develop a comprehensive violence reduction strategy. This strategy would then guide funding streams from public and private sources and develop systems for oversight, accountability and public reporting. We have many programs and initiatives across the city, both public and private that are dedicated to stopping violence. What is clear is that the coordination and effectiveness of these programs must be improved. The Office of Neighborhood Safety is a large, coordinated step in that direction.

 

Malik EvansMalik Evans

What do you think are the two most pressing issues/problems facing the mayor of Rochester in the next few years? What experience do you have and how will you solve them?

We must address the increased levels of violence and a lack of economic opportunity. Gone unchecked, both will continue to create an unsafe and unaffordable place for our residents. I plan to work with community-based organizations and community members to help combat these issues. We must ensure that we cultivate a community of entrepreneurs and that we retain existing businesses and support new ones. Small businesses are critical in helping to build generational wealth and having a stable middle class. In terms of violence we must address root cause problems of violence. This means investing in our people through job training and working collaboratively with partners to get illegal guns off the street. As outlined in my compact with the community.

What are the potential ramifications of the recent marijuana legalization for city neighborhoods? What are your plans to make legalization a benefit to the community? 

Black and Brown people have disproportionately been victims of the war on drugs and imprisoned for nonviolent drug charges, which include cannabis possession. It continues to harm families and neighborhoods. I am hopeful that this new legislation will reduce the inequities we see from these charges. At the same time, it would be foolish to think that this legislation alone will solve everything. As mayor, it is my duty to work toward equity in Rochester. This starts by investing in Black- and Brown-owned dispensaries so that those most affected by mass incarceration have an opportunity to participate in this new business and improve their socioeconomic status. I will also make sure that part of the revenue gained by legalization will go to these impacted communities to rebuild what was taken from them when family members were in prison.

After the independent investigator found that city officials withheld information on the death of Daniel Prude, how will you restore trust in city hall among city residents?

I believe in transparency. It is important to me that city residents know that elected city officials must be held accountable and that it is our duty to build trust. If we are not working for the residents, I want them to make it known and push us to work better. My goal is to hold more open forums as a chance to talk to the community. I also want to make every plan that the city council and I are working on known to the public so they can comment on it and know that they have a voice. We must also ensure that there are multiple voices at the table and that the voices are listened to. Bodycam footage must be released in a timely manner and should not be concealed.

 

How will you work to eradicate institutionalized racism and improve race relations in the city?

Rochester is an incredibly diverse community, yet many people of color face discrimination and racism daily whether it be at their jobs, in the community. One step I will take to ensure that we have an effective system that invests in neighborhoods that have been left behind for generations. We must look at all systems – police, housing, education and health. Black and Brown communities are significantly more likely to live near environmentally dangerous sites that impact their air and water quality, so I will focus on environmental justice efforts in these communities. We must address mental and environmental health as a way to combat institutionalized racism and increase the overall wellbeing of our communities.

How would you address the root problems behind Rochester’s spike in violent crimes; homicides, carjackings, robbing, gun violence, etc.?

We must empower our youth to prevent future generations from falling victim to these cycles of violence. One of my main goals is to invest in youth development programs to prepare students for college, internships and other career opportunities outside of school alone so they will have the resources to have a good quality of life instead of participating in violent crimes. My Youth 2 Work program proposal is one proposal that addresses root cause issues. I understand that this alone will not solve everything. We have a serious gun violence crisis in Rochester. As mayor I will hire a gun czar to prevent the illegal flow of guns into New York in an effort to limit the amount of guns on the streets and reduce gun related violence. We must take a multi- faceted approach to stop the spike in violence.