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City of Rochester

    Mayor Robert J. Duffy's Inaugural Address - January 1, 2006

     Thank you so much, I am absolutely honored to be here and honored by your presence.

    First of all I want to thank one person who's most important, I want to thank God for this opportunity to serve.

    And next, I want to thank my beautiful wife Barbara, our two beautiful daughters Erin and Shannon for their support and guidance and steadfast commitment to me throughout out my marriage, throughout their lives and in this quest to lead our city. And I also want to thank my dad, Neil, my mom, Catherine, who are here. Family is so important to me and I am blessed with a great family. My immediate family up here, my family in the front rows and everyone in this room is part of that family. I thank you for this support. I need your support now more than ever. Before I go on, I want to point out that Barb swore me in today. Barb is my best friend of 20 years, and my wife. And I'm just honored to have her here today. She has given up so much for me, throughout my career and it just is a great day to have her here and play an active role in this.

    Next, I would like to honor Mayor Johnson. Mayor, I thank you for the years of dedicated service and sacrifice you have offered (applause) You were reading my mind, I was going to ask for that. Mayor, I would like to thank you for the years of dedicated service and sacrifice you offered this city and our community. Your tireless devotion to Rochester is evident to us all. It is truly an honor to follow in your footsteps.

    I want to thank all of our elected officials.

    I would like to extend my special thanks to:

    Congresswoman Louise Slaughter ,

    City Council President Lois Giess and members of City Council.

    The members of the Rochester City School Board.

    Assemblyman David Gantt the Dean of our hard working state Assembly delegation and our equally hard working State Senate delegation.

    I would like to thank County Executive Maggie Brooks and the members of the Monroe County Legislature.

    I also want to acknowledge publicly the help that County Executive Brooks has offered already. Maggie, thank you for your presence here today and please know how much I look forward to working with you as I begin my term.

    The relationship between the City and County is so important because our futures are linked. County Executive Brooks sent a powerful message during her inauguration when she left the podium to embrace Mayor Johnson. I would like to return that same message today as we begin 2006 with a spirit of teamwork and cooperation.

    To our great community and all of you who voted for me and supported me during the campaign: Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to lead. To my campaign team - I can't express my gratitude for your endless hours of hard work and sacrifice. I will never forget what you did for me.

    And to my transition team to all of those who worked on committees and on issues teams this community owes you a debt of gratitude and I owe you my enduring admiration and thanks. Finally - I want to thank my chair of the transition committee and my dear friend - Chief Robert Warshaw.

    He has virtually moved to Rochester to help bring us from campaigning to governing. Chief we couldn't have done this without you - I thank you for your time - talent - loyalty - and most importantly - your friendship. Thank you.

    Many city employees are here today. I want to thank you all for your dedicated service to our citizens. It is truly an honor to once again join your ranks and work alongside you. I want to thank union leadership for all of their support, especially Tony Gingello - Joe Montesano - Adam Urbanski - Dan DiClemente and others.

    I have a very direct and simple message for all city employees. Rochester's revival begins with us - You and I - We are a business that is struggling to survive. We have to provide the most incredible customer service possible to our residents and business community so that we can keep families and businesses here and attract new ones as well.

    Our futures will depend on our ability to do this. Every single city employee plays a crucial role and I will need your full support and commitment as we move forward. And I ask you for that support.

    Today is an incredible honor - to be sworn in as your mayor. This city has given me more than I can ever repay. I love Rochester and I have great hope and a vision for our future.

    I can tell you now - that I will make mistakes and I will invite disagreement and debate. But I can promise you - I will never violate the trust that you have placed in me today and I will never let you down.

    And I will not be alone in putting this vision into reality. I am proud to have assembled what I think is the most talented, diverse and high powered staff in our city government's history. And we're not done yet. It is a group that is dotted with CEO's, presidents, vice presidents and community leaders.

    It is a group of people we had to actively recruit from careers they had no intention of leaving. What is most gratifying about this outstanding team is the reason that made them accept this new challenge when they weren't at first inclined to ? and that is their spirit of public service. I am very proud of these appointments. I can feel their passion and commitment and we all want to be a part of this exciting time in our city's history - when we are clearly at our "tipping point". I would like to have our new staff stand and please meet them with a round of applause.

    I know that sometimes change is very difficult. But the stress and uncertainty of these past few weeks will culminate in a new level of greatness that will serve the interests of our entire community. I ask you now to stay the course - from this change we will emerge a stronger - more unified - and more prosperous city for all of our people.

    Now let me talk about our city and our future. It's a future built on Hope - Unity - and Commitment.

    I believe our city's best days are ahead of us. I believe our city's future is not only of vital importance to people who live in the city, but also to those who live in our suburbs and beyond.

    I know the challenges that we face are immense: We will have no fear in taking them head-on:

    Our poverty levels lead the state;

    We are the only upstate city showing no signs of coming out of the recession;

    Manufacturing jobs continue to dwindle as does overall employment in fact Rochester has the highest job loss of any upstate city.

    We face many issues educating our children including an alarmingly high drop out rate;

    There are too many violent deaths on our streets and we have a crime rate that must be brought down to improve our quality of life;

    We have budget issues including a $26 million dollar gap:

    We have serious community discussions ahead of us on major community projects and programs such as the Fast Ferry.

    Finally, we have a self image and morale problem.
    I am not afraid to talk about these problems because I know in my heart that all of these can and will be overcome. In fact - I'm excited and honored to have the opportunity to take these on with this great community at my side.

    I see these challenges as opportunities. These are opportunities for us to show the world - what and who - Rochester is. This is a time to remind ourselves of who we were and what we will be again.

    We are the home of Frederick Douglas, Susan B. Anthony, and George Eastman. We have a history of facing challenges and never backing down.

    Our history reflects a community that stood up against injustice and fought to protect those in need.

    Our history shows that Rochester faced economic challenges with its spirit of innovation and then became the image capital of the world.

    It is now time to resurrect that same spirit of toughness - unity - hope - and prosperity.

    We are the only people who can fix our problems. And if we have the unity of purpose - I know we have the talent - commitment - and political will to do it. Our destiny is in our hands - and we must welcome this challenge - and not seek to assign blame.

    There is one thing that we can all agree upon, and one thing that we can come together and rally around - and that is our children. The health, safety, and future of every single child in Rochester is what we will fight for and what we will be measured by.

    Hope, Unity, and Commitment

    I love the quote "A leader is a dealer in hope". We have to create and restore hope.

    Why does an 18 year old child take another life for $20? Why does a 15 year old child drop out of school to sell drugs?

    Why - Because they lack hope. They can't see their future. Our challenge is to get our children to see a future with hope and opportunity. This is how we begin to reverse the cycle of violence and despair that too often captures our young people.

    Our poorest children must see that if they work hard and stay in school - they will have a chance to go to college - to have a job that pays enough to own a house, a car, and to raise a family. That is the American Dream, and it has to be a dream shared by everyone.

    Hope - Unity - and Commitment

    Let us look at what tends to divide us - politics - race -religion - geography. We need to commit to work to break down those barriers. Our future depends upon our sense of unity of purpose. We must look at our community as family. And when times are tough, families pull together and draw upon each other's strengths. We are a family and now is the time to show it.

    Today I ask you to look in the mirror - to ask yourself each day what did I do today to improve Rochester - and what can I do tomorrow to have a positive influence for a child - for your neighborhood and for our community.

    Then, look out the window - and find that opportunity. Every child in our city is an opportunity. Every street in our city is an opportunity. And every job you can offer to someone offers opportunity.

    We are a community of great wealth and great poverty. Our future success depends on our ability to connect our great assets with our greatest needs. We are two cities today. In the future, we have to work and commit to be one. One city.

    Hope - Unity - and Commitment

    This city is my responsibility. It is your responsibility as well.

    I have 3 priorities and they are clear and they are linked together

    Public Safety
    Economic Development
    Education and they are linked.
    Public Safety
    We are going to make our streets safe and do so without apology. The first priority of government is to protect its citizens. Our homicide rate is a failing grade on our community's report card and we must change that - and we will.

    We will fight to insure that we stop the growing membership of Families and Friends of Murdered Children so that in the future mothers will not have to feel the pain and devastation that people like Audrey Smith and others have been forced to endure. And Audrey is here today. Audrey, will you stand up? Let me give her a hand.

    Public safety will be everyone's responsibility and you will see a relentless and uncompromising approach to change the culture of violence on our streets to a culture of opportunity and respect.

    Economic Development
    We will work tirelessly to keep our existing businesses and jobs here in Rochester while also partnering with our business community and universities to attract new companies here. Every single job that we create will be celebrated as a success. Our customer service and support will be so good that we will be nationally known as a magnet for new and expanding businesses. Stop and think about this for a minute. We talk about Rochester, we talk about our morale, we talk about our self image.

    We are the home of Baush & Lomb, Hickey-Freeman, Eastman Kodak, Pae-Tec, Paychex, Wegmans, and Xerox, among others. That is a source of pride. I am honored to be wearing a suit from Hickey Freeman like many in the audience are, that was built, this was made on North Clinton Avenue, in our City. And people around the world wear suites that were built on our North Clinton Avenue right here in Rochester. That is about our image, that is about our morale.

    Education is the bridge to our community's future success. Education is also the bridge to building hope for our young people.

    This job does not belong only to the school district and its teachers and to government - but also to the business community - the higher education community - the faith community - our neighborhood leaders - our-not-for profit leaders - and most importantly - our parents and families. We must focus on what we can do, not what we cannot.

    I look forward to the coming days and weeks when we will share and begin to roll out our strategies to accomplish our goals in these three priority areas. And every strategy will be based on partnerships with the mothers - fathers - families - community - neighborhoods - colleges and universities - the faith community our not-for-profits - organized labor and the business community.

    I have been overwhelmed by the offers put forth by people and by organizations to get involved and help. I can assure you that there will be a seat at the table for everyone.

    I will open up the doors of City Hall to our young people to be at that same table and to be actively involved with creating their future and their future opportunities. We have to listen to our children, we have to listen to our teenagers. They speak the truth. They know we give them the opportunities and we have that path put forward. We will see great success. They will never disappoint us.

    I said my priority areas were uniquely linked. If there's one message to take away from my talk today - is just that. Education - Economic Development - and Public Safety are all joined at the hip. You cannot fix one with out the others.

    The best social program is a good job - and the best deterrent to jail is a high school diploma and a college degree.

    And to my left, your right, are two outstanding elected officials, our DA, Mike Green, our sheriff, Patrick O'Flynn. And our goal should be to take work out of their offices, out of those jail cells every day, because if we do our job, with economic development, with education, Mike Green and Patrick O'Flynn will be like Maytag repair people. That is our goal.

    Children who are in school and who are involved in after-school programs and employment - are not on the streets and being lured into drug dealing and violence.

    Education makes our children employable.

    Jobs are the greatest way to fight poverty and crime.

    Jobs reduce drug dealing and teenage pregnancies.

    Jobs build our economic base - and make our children and grandchildren want to return here to raise their families as we have raised ours. I don't want to see my children and my future grandchildren only during the holidays. Our kids will stay in Rochester if there are opportunities and excitement.

    Jobs strengthen and offer hope to a community.

    We must make it clear that every time there is a murder in a neighborhood that's one less person that could have contributed to our community - one less person to raise a family and buy a home.

    We must make it clear that every time drugs are dealt openly or a shooting occurs in a neighborhood - that's one more reason for someone to leave the neighborhood or one more reason for a family not to move in.

    We must make it clear that every time a burglary, larceny, or property damage occurs in a neighborhood - that's one more business that will close up shop, one more empty storefront, one less reason for someone to start a business in that neighborhood and one less job for a person in need.

    Education public safety and economic development are forever linked.

    When I invited you today - I captioned this event One Community, One Vision. Our city and our suburbs are linked. People outside of the city do care! Over and over this year - I heard from different people - from all walks of life - that our community needs to focus on our common purpose and strengths, not on our weaknesses or our differences.

    Our futures are connected: a strong city means strong suburbs. After all, "You can't be a suburb of nowhere". A strong - vibrant - attractive city must be the core of our community.

    Before I go on, there's one point I would make. That is something that has been put forth for so long, about these walls and these divisions. They are not there. Everybody has an investment here in Rochester. I see it, I feel the passion. I feel the caring that people have. We have to capitalize on that if we are to be successful in our future.

    We have the ability not only to reinvent our government - but also to reinvent our community. We need to pool our resources and focus our energy.

    I did not choose to run for mayor because I wanted to start a political career. I chose to do this because I love our city and I love our community - and I believe in my heart that our best days are ahead of us and - not behind us.

    If I had done this for the wrong reasons, I can assure you as I've told many friends, my good dear friend and wife, Barbara would have my clothes folded on my front porch when I came home at night. It is for the right reasons. And I'll tell you why.

    I am sick and tired of seeing children die and seeing lives wasted - and seeing our beautiful city erode. We can do better and we will do better.

    It is about pride - and it is about believing in ourselves and in each other.

    It is about being uncompromising on what is right

    It is about focusing on priorities and results.

    It is about community leadership and community service at all levels.

    It is about having citizens lead the charge and the change.

    It is about putting people before politics.

    It is about open and honest government- at all levels.

    It is about uncompromising customer service and unparalleled customer satisfaction.

    It is about strong families, successful schools - safe neighborhoods - a vibrant Downtown - good jobs - and a growing economy.

    We certainly have our challenges - but they represent great opportunities.

    I am a kid from the 10th Ward - who has never backed down from a challenge in his life - and I don't intend to start today.

    Our future is about hope - unity and commitment.

    You have placed your faith and trust in me. I shall neither forget nor abuse that faith and trust. I believe in you - I believe in our city - and I believe in our community.

    There is an old saying: "Pick the hill that you want to die on" - It means you can choose the place to make your stand - Well, I have - and this is it. I intend to fight for this city's future and for the future of our children. Together we can do this. I need to have you, standing shoulder to shoulder with me to make this happen.

    I consider it an absolute honor and privilege to serve as the mayor of this great city.

    Thank you for this great opportunity and may God bless you all.

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