Mayor Robert J. Duffy honored the legacy of Rochester's founders Monday night as he delivered the 2009 State of the City Address on the eve of the 175th Anniversary of the City's incorporation.
"The city’s birthday has given me cause to reflect on our history, especially how our city has re-invented itself as times change," Mayor Duffy told about 500 listeners in the Strong Auditorium on the University of Rochester's River Campus.
The inscription on the gravestone of Col. Nathaniel Rochester in Mt. Hope Cemetery -- which translated from Latin tells visitors "If you seek his monument, look around you" -- provided the thematic framework of Mayor Duffy's address titled "ONE CITY, ONE FUTURE – BUILT ON A SOLID FOUNDATION."
The inscription means that the city itself is the enduring legacy of Rochester's enterprise, and Duffy said that remains true today because the city's leaders, including Rochester and Eastman Kodak Founder George Eastman, have always embraced change.
"As I near the end of my term, the words of Nathaniel Rochester and George Eastman resonate," said Mayor Duffy, who began his four-year term in 2006. "Like them, I see a future full of promise and possibility. I want to create immediate, visible and positive improvements to our city."
Mayor Duffy turned to the core priorities of his administration -- public safety, education and economic development -- to describe the changes that have taken place under his term and the changes he envisions in the next four years.
On public safety,
he noted that violent crime is on the decline largely because new officers have been added to the Rochester Police Department, new hiring policies reduce vacancy rates on the force and other initiatives have improved patrol efficiency.
"What’s new is a more flexible, preventive police presence – assigning officers where they are needed most, based on statistical crime patterns," Mayor Duffy said. "Our officers are driving the streets, pedaling bicycles, walking beats, riding on horseback and working with the community to confront small crimes before they escalate to bigger ones."
In the next four years, Mayor Duffy said he envisions more upgrades to crime-fighting technology and reductions in response times.
Mayor Duffy said Rochester remains the state's most generous city in terms of funding its school district, a new City program is helping ex-offenders and high-school dropouts find jobs and the Rochester Literacy Movement is finding new resources to help people learn to read. In the next four years he said he will helping the Rochester City School District improve its graduation rates and reduce truancy rates.
On economic development,
Mayor Duffy cited the work of Gov. David Paterson and a host of other parties who helped Rochester launch the Midtown Rising project, in which Midtown Plaza will be replaced with an almost 9-acre development site anchored by the world headquarters of PAETEC Holding Corp. He also noted that the Economic Development Department has attracted or retained 350 companies that represent 1,400 jobs.
In the next four years, Mayor Duffy said, he expects to see more revitalization neighborhoods in all four city quadrants, downtown and at the Port of Rochester.
Mayor Duffy also cited the importance of customer service, an internal priority of City workers. This has lead to the creation of the 311 call center to improve access to City services, the launch of a new City website and re-opening of Durand Eastman Beach to swimming. The creation of the new Department of Neighborhood and Business Development will among the first results for the next four years. Others customer-service results will include technology upgrades to improve service delivery, departmental streamlining and more enhancements on the City website.
But Duffy said government alone cannot enact the changes that will improve Rochester. Paraphrasing George Eastman's famous slogan, "You press the button, we'll do the rest," Mayor Duffy called on listeners to be part of the change that is coming to Rochester.
"We’ll lay the foundation. You do the rest."