State of the City 2016 - Mayor Lovely A. Warren

2016 State of the City Address page photo 

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Delivered April 13, 2016
Genesee Brewery
445 St. Paul St
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Mayor Lovely A. WarrenThank you Bob for that wonderful introduction. I am grateful for your leadership in the community, your friendship and partnership.

And thank you to Kris Sirchio and everyone at the Genesee Brewery for hosting us tonight.
I want to thank all of you for your warm welcome and for joining me here on this beautiful spring evening.

Allow me to acknowledge my great partners in Government…City Council President Loretta Scott and all of the Rochester City Council Members.

Thank you for joining me and thank you for working with me every day to improve our city and advocate for our citizens.

Before I begin, I want to thank my family -- especially my husband Tim and my daughter Taylor.

Taylor, in particular, plays a pretty big role in our city for a five year old.

You see, for the first time in history, Rochester has a Mayor who also happens to be a mom.

And for this Mayor, Taylor’s future and the future of every other child in our city is what motivates me.

That’s why I was so happy to have the students from Wilson Foundation Academy here.

Didn’t they do a fantastic job?

Tonight it is no accident that we are here inside the Genesee Brewery.

We’re here, because in so many ways this place embodies our city.

Like the video said: “Rochester – Our future is as bright as our past.”

But within the past decade “Genny” was faltering and found itself in difficult times.

This factory almost shut its doors and hundreds of people would have been unemployed.

In fact, when I was on City Council and Bob Duffy was Mayor he urged us to revamp the company’s water bills so that the doors could remain open.

That’s leadership.

When you see that people could lose their jobs you find a way to help and you do everything you can to prevent it from happening.


There are times when we will succeed…and times when we won’t…but the lesson in it all, is that we MUST TRY.

Brew House Attracts 300,000 Visitors

For example, this company faced significant opposition to its plans to expand its footprint to build the ‘Brew House’ and create more jobs…

As the North East representative and Council President at the time, I lead the neighborhood coalition who pushed back against the opposition and insisted that the Brew House be built.

We insisted that more jobs be created…that it was time that N.E Rochester received its fair share of investment.

We succeeded…and what did that success really mean?…

Well, the Genesee Brew House attracts 300,000 people to Rochester a year. Since it was built, Genesee has added 250 new jobs and invested 70 million dollars in this facility.

And now they are looking at a potential new investment, right here on this site, that would secure the existing 600 jobs here today and potentially create 100 new ones over the next five years…

A once great company staggered, but it regained its stride and is once again leading its industry.

The Story of the Genesee Brewery really is the story of Rochester…isn’t it?

A great city that in some ways lost its footing, but has once again regained its stride.

A great city that is ready to lead AGAIN.

In Rochester, I think we should certainly learn from our history.

In some respects, we would be smart to repeat some of what our city’s legacy holds.

We would be smart to reestablish Rochester as a city with ample job opportunities for all of its residents.

We would be smart to invest in making every city neighborhood safe and more vibrant once again.

We would be smart to restore schools as beacons of learning, with the goal of making them the best in the world.

And that is exactly what we are trying to do.

My focus…Our focus…remains, MORE jobs…SAFER more vibrant neighborhoods…and BETTER educational opportunities for ALL of our children.

Frederick Douglass once said:

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

I believe Douglass’s thought is just as powerful when we also apply it to our city itself….because I am working every day to build the strongest possible “FOUNDATION” for our city going forward…

…in the hope that we will never again need to fix broken neighborhoods, broken schools or the broken promise of the American dream that has bypassed generations of our poorest citizens.

We live in a great city …a city that has never let its challenges define its success.

Photonics Capital of the World 

We’ve been called "the Young Lion of the West," two spellings of the “Flower City" and the “World's Image Center."

And, after years of industry decline and turnover, this summer our future was solidified once again when I joined the Governor in welcoming Vice President Biden to Rochester, so that he could rename us yet again…this time we will be known as the “Photonics Capital of the World.”

So what does that mean?

It means that we will create jobs once again. We will be a leader in the photonics, optics and advanced manufacturing industries.

And as we work on job creation we have been blessed to have an energetic and active partner in our Governor.

His Upstate Revitalization Initiative will bring $500 million dollars to our region directly for job creation…

In fact, just last month, I joined Governor Cuomo at Eastman Business Park, where he announced two new companies and 1,400 new jobs for our city and region.

Our Governor is able to help us create jobs, because he is able to partner with our State Legislature…

I want to acknowledge the great work of Speaker Heastie, Majority Leader Flanagan…along with our local delegation in Albany…

…Assembly members Gantt, Morelle and Bronson, along with Senators Robach and Funke, who join us tonight…thank you for working alongside our Governor on behalf of Rochester and its citizens.

Downtown Development

And as we look to create more employment opportunities, we must also have a thriving Downtown.

That is why I am thankful for visionaries like Bob Morgan, Dave Christa, Ken Glazer, Tom Masachi, Patrick Dutton, Andy Gallina, Gilbert Winn, Tom Judson, Drew Costanza…and many more who are investing in our city like never before.

I am a firm believer you can accomplish so much more when you have partners.

In that very spirit of cooperation and partnership, I want to thank County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo for joining us tonight.
I very much look forward to working with you – The City and County together – to find innovative solutions to the challenges that we face.

With these community partners, the City is working to make Rochester a place where more people want to live, work and play.

If you live in Rochester, it is easy to see the progress we are making. But as it turns out, people from across the country have noticed too.

Last month, we hosted members of the Rose Fellowship.

Rochester was one of four cities chosen by the National League of Cities to study a land-use challenge.

They gave us some great advice on how to re-energize our Main Street, and I hope they learned a few things from the Flower City as well.

I want to recognize Commissioner Baye Muhammad, Team Leader Kevin Kelley and the rest of the team who are representing the City of Rochester as Rose Center Fellows!

Now, it’s true, Downtown is where many of us work and some live.

But the lifeblood of our city…its history and its culture…are found in our neighborhoods…

When I ran for office many people said that I had to choose between Downtown development and neighborhood development.

They said that there was no way that you can do both…but, I said that we can and we will do both…and we have.

I will never forget that fateful day when I stood alongside our Northeast neighbors at the zoning board meeting when many fought against the demolition of two dilapidated structures…Right here on this very site.

These buildings had long been a place for unsavory activity…a place where people frequented to buy and use drugs.

A place where neighbors often heard cries of despair but were too afraid to do anything about it.

I will never forget the words of Ms. Vearnette White a resident of St. Simon… right across the street…who stood before that board for the first time and faced all the opposition and said…just because I live in low income housing does not mean that I AM LOW.

Just because I may not have the income to move to a different neighborhood…it doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve to have a safe and clean environment to raise my family.

Just because I am who I am, does not mean that I don’t have a voice…that I can’t speak for myself.

Ms. White, and citizens just like her all across our city’s neighborhoods, are why I know and believe that we can and must do both.

Neighborhood Development

If Downtown is our heart then our neighborhoods are the veins and arteries that lead to that heart.

Filling in the Eastern portion of the inner loop was a start.

I’m thankful to our federal and state leaders for the financial support that allowed us to get that project going.

Their financial assistance allowed us to create nine acres of ‘shovel-ready land’ for sale and development right on the East side of our Downtown.

But, we can’t stop there. Our neighbors to the North deserve the same attention and thus we must insist that the Inner Loop North be filled in next.

That is why we have submitted a grant application, to the Regional Economic Development Council, as part of the URI…this grant, if approved, will allow us to begin the planning needed to fill-in the Inner Loop North.

But, I can’t move from the East district of our city without talking about essential projects in our quest to bring “Purpose Built Communities” to Rochester – focusing on the EMMA/Beechwood neighborhoods.

It is our sincere hope that working with our neighbors, our foundations and developers that we will bring new life to East Main Street…from targeted new housing development…to targeted homeowner and landlord assistance…and new infill housing…so that the eastern gateway to the city can be just as vibrant as the western gateway.

And the Southeastern Gateway to our city will forever be transformed because of the work of a great man, who we lost earlier this year, Mr. Anthony Costello.

Anthony’s vision and enthusiasm for Rochester will continue to grow at his transformative CityGate project and it will be a lasting tribute to his legacy.

His son Brett and his wife Elaine are here this evening. Thank you Elaine, Brett and the entire Costello Family for sharing Anthony with us.

And I am thankful to Bob Morgan…not only for his investment in Downtown…but also for his commitment to our neighborhoods.

After, many decades of staring at one of Rochester’s biggest eyesores…

…Bob has joined forces with the ARN Group to finally knock down the old psych center on Elmwood Avenue.

The City is proud to be an ally in helping to bring these transformative projects to completion alongside our private sector partners.

Including helping to secure over $1 million dollars from the state and federal governments to rehabilitate the Vacuum Oil site along the west bank of the Genesee River and demolish the old United Cleaners on Genesee Street.

These projects have been stalled for decades.

I remember as a young girl going to United Cleaners with my grandmother to pick up our family’s clothes

Frankly…some of those clothes were probably still there when they ripped it down…since they just locked the doors and walked away two decades ago…leaving a building that was a constant reminder to the community of what was.

But…after many years of waiting…the Southwest neighbors have finally seen this building come down, making way for new opportunities in Bulls Head and the Plymouth/Exchange areas…

In every corner of Rochester, we are demolishing old dilapidated structures, clearing the way for potential new development and new, affordable and market rate housing.
In the JOSANA neighborhood, we demolished a portion of the old DELCO facility on Orchard Street…and the Stadium Estates project is now entering its second phase of construction.

The Rochester Rhinos have a new owner and the City’s Stadium on Oak Street is under new management.

Thank you David and Wendy Dworkin for being here tonight and for investing in our hometown team and in Northwest Rochester.

In Marketview Heights, Nelson Leenhouts is on track to complete Eastman Gardens -- at the former Dental Dispensary …

And, after a decade of sitting on the shelf, I think it’s time to take the “La Marketa” plans down, dust them off and get this project done.

This year, I will ask City Council to make a firm commitment to getting the “La Marketa” project underway and we will work with our community partners to bring strategic housing investments into this important neighborhood.

On Hudson Avenue we are working with Depaul, CONEA, Conifer Realty, Jordan Health and our community partners to bring much needed quality housing to the area…

…and working alongside Conifer Realty and Assemblyman Gantt’s Office, we are finally building the House of Mercy a home that they deserve – where they can continue to do God’s work in serving our homeless population.

And, all over Rochester, the City’s progressive Land Bank…in collaboration with the Rochester Housing Development Fund Corporation…is turning abandoned homes into new homes for more families.

Thanks to these efforts ……the City’s first-time home buyers program has helped 670 people become homeowners since 2013.

Port of Opportunity

In Charlotte we are creating a ‘Port of Opportunity.’ 

The Marina is complete and full of water. This summer, boats will be docked and slips are being leased out as we speak. 

The Port Terminal Building will be home to two new restaurants…And I am looking forward to making Charlotte, a year-round destination where more Great Lakes cruise ships will dock and bring more tourists into our community.

Through the great work of the Rinaldi family the Culver Road Armory is bustling with new shops.
And just in case you haven’t heard, Fred is working with the City to design phase three of the Culver Road Armory project.

However, I don’t want to just single out the armory, because there are thousands of great locally-owned shops and restaurants throughout our city.

That’s why we started the ‘SHOP THE ROC’ program to encourage people to shop and eat at locally owned businesses.

I challenge every one of you to visit a local business in the next week and tweet a selfie with the hashtag SHOPTHEROC.

Speaking of getting out of the house and shopping, we all know that winter is hard on many of us, but it especially puts a strain on our disabled residents, who find themselves homebound when snow piles up on the sidewalks.

This year, in partnership with the Center for Disability Rights, we began the “Clear the Snow So All Can Go” campaign to encourage residents to clear their sidewalks and neighbors to lend a helping hand.

THANK YOU, ROCHESTER…because I think we came together really well this winter to keep the sidewalks open……

…and thank you, Stephanie Woodward from CDR, Commissioner Norm Jones and the DES Team for partnering together and working so hard to advocate on behalf of the disabled community!

Everyone wins when government and community work hand-in-hand.

Speaking of working together, the Police Chief and I recently released our city’s crime stats for last year and the report, by the numbers, was really good.

Key areas of crime – particularly the most serious or “Part One” crimes – remain at historic lows.

Homicides were flat and, all-in-all, anyone who saw this report and reviewed these numbers would have to draw some pretty positive conclusions.

However, we all know there is more to this story.

And the good numbers on paper don’t necessarily transfer into a completely positive reality.

While the 2015 stats are good overall, the culture of violence – and particularly gun violence and mass shootings that is plaguing our city – is anything but good.

The increase in illegal guns on our streets, combined with the willingness of people to use them, has shown itself to be a deadly recipe…

…One that we cannot and will not tolerate.

As your Mayor, I can honestly say that the lack of respect for one another, the overall willingness to settle disputes through gun violence, keeps me up at night.
I dread the 2, 3, 4 o’clock in the morning calls because I know it’s not good news.

I know a family has just lost a loved one to this culture of violence and no matter how hard they cry…he or she will not be coming back.

I also know that whomever committed this unspeakable offense will be held accountable.

They will be tried before a jury of their peers and once convicted and sentenced, another family has just lost a loved one.

I refuse to merely do nothing about this most pressing issue for our city.

To me the first and most obvious step was to curtail access to illegal guns and offer severe penalties for those who choose to carry, possess and use them.

That’s why, working with the State Court System, I brought together the Judges of the Seventh Judicial District with our District Attorney and Public Defender to create a Gun Part in the Hall of Justice.

The ability of civic leaders to get things done and work together to address pressing concerns is the hallmark of a quality community.

We are joined by District Attorney Doorley and Public Defender Donaher…Please help me thank them for their partnership.

Between all layers and levels of government, and across party lines, we work together in this community.

When it comes to gun violence, our community demands decisive leadership and action.

Working with City Council, the RPD was able to complete a successful ‘Gun buyback’ that resulted in more than 200 working guns being removed from our streets…and RPD seized an additional 493 illegal weapons…

Of course, we need all the help we can get to combat this problem, so I am particularly grateful that our Governor is joining with us in the fight against illegal guns.

Just last week, Governor Cuomo announced $558,000 dollars in funding for the Rochester Police Department under his Gun Involved Violence Elimination initiative.
But, we can’t just be punitive.

Our Pathways to Peace Program is designed to use direct outreach to connect with those most vulnerable to getting caught up in the street violence…and to point them down a different and more productive road.

This dedicated team has worked with over 7,500 young people and diffused more than 500 disputes that could’ve led to more violence.

Our Pathways team is here today let’s give these dedicated men and women a round of applause and thank them for their service.
And, as we promised in my budget last year, Body Worn Cameras will be deployed in July.

Important community input sessions were held and City Council did a robust community survey where nearly 3,000 people responded to help us develop the policies RPD will use to govern their use.

In everything we do, we want you the citizen to know that you are part of the equation in making these initiatives a success….and that’s how we build Trust…by foremost understanding that Trust is not something that is given…but something that is earned.

Since I've been Mayor, one of my major goals has been to improve the level of trust between the Police Department and the community it serves.

And in speaking about that TRUST, one very important relationship is between the Mayor and Police Chief.

I am happy to say Chief Ciminelli and I have that needed level of trust and mutual respect…I am happy to be working with him and the great women and men of the Rochester Police Department.

Their work is not easy, I thank them for an 80% homicide clearance rate…nearly double that of the National Average…they work tirelessly to hold people who commit crimes accountable…this year alone, nine of the homicides they solved were from cold cases.

I can assure the families of this city who have lost a loved one that we will not stop until the people who commit these heinous crimes are brought to justice…and through our partnership with the District Attorney and the US Attorney’s Office…our police department – and the major crimes unit in particular – ensured that those who perpetrated the Boy & Girls Club shooting will be brought to justice.

I remember talking to the families – of Jonah Barley, Raekwon (Ray-kwon) Manigault and Johnny Johnson – and promising them that we would do everything we could to bring those accountable to justice…and we have.

Please join me in giving Chief Ciminelli and the RPD a round of applause for working to protect and serve this community every day.

And as part of our effort to build trust, we have fully engaged one of our greatest, secret crime fighting weapons – our clergy – in our Clergy on Patrol Program…where police officers and clergy walk the streets together.

Please help me acknowledge and thank all of the ministers and members of our clergy who join us this evening…

Bright Spirits

Three very bright spirits who supported our community through our programs left us this year…Bishop Gregory Parris, Community Anti-Violence Activist Audrey Smith …and Elder Thomas Bannister.

I want to say how much they are missed, but also how we will honor their legacy as a community by moving ahead and carrying forward the work that they started.

And I want to note that our Fire Department is just as committed to public safety as our Police Department.

A few months ago, I announced the national ‘Insurance Services Office’ ranked Rochester a Class 1 city for fire protection.

Class 1 is ISO's highest designation. Prior to this, Rochester was a Class 2 city.

Of the more than 47,000 fire districts that are scored, Rochester is now one of just 178 municipalities – the only municipality in Monroe County – to be awarded the class 1 designation.

When I came into office, we re-established a true Community Outreach Unit and dedicated firefighters to work full time to teach our children and other citizens how to prevent a fire and how to stay safe if they're caught in a fire.

On that measure, ISO gave us an almost perfect score for our prevention and education efforts.

Just this past month our fire safety team installed 200 smoke alarms – that we received from FEMA – in homes for senior citizens…

…And overall our fire department has installed 1,654 smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in 2015…and 521 so far this year.

Our citizens’ safety is our number one priority.

Please join me in congratulating our first class team…Chief Schreiber, Commissioner Jones and Director Merklinger for all the work they and their departments have done to earn the ISO designation and the Fire Department for being Grade A ‘First Responders.’

Beyond our ISO classification, we have received even further validation that City Hall is running well and working to protect our citizens and taxpayers.

Excellent Credit Ratings

Standard & Poor’s upgraded Rochester's fiscal outlook from stable to positive and has joined Moody's in assigning the City with excellent credit ratings.

Once again the City of Rochester has proven to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s money.

But, the taxpayers are also counting on their government to not just be good stewards of their money, but to be honest…and above all, have integrity.

I believe that the political climate that we see going on today has created public disdain and distrust when it comes to government officials.

My having a BA in Government, a law degree and over 15 years’ experience in government has not prepared me for what I see and hear from our citizens today.

I think that as elected officials we must serve our community in such a way that they know and understand that we have their best interests at heart...

That is why I am proposing to City Council that we implement changes to our Office of Public Integrity, which were recommended this past year by Director Tim Weir…

…these positive reforms will put us on track to become fully accredited by the U.S. Inspector General’s Office.

Because…even though we believe we have hit our stride as it pertains to a resurgence of our city, it means nothing if we don’t have the public’s trust…and if we are not allowing everyone to participate in the economic recovery of our city.

Citizens that have been victims to a failing school system and slow-moving job market face many challenges in Rochester despite all the successes we’ve had.

So, while I’m excited about all the good that is happening in our community, I’m also saddened by the fact that we rank first in the nation, among similar sized cities, for childhood poverty.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Fighting Poverty

The Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative and my Office of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives are looking at ways to address this most challenging issue plaguing our community by finding new, innovative, person-centered approaches to the problem.

I am confident that with the support of the Governor, Majority Leader Morelle and our entire State Delegation, the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, County of Monroe, our business community, every level of government, non-profit partners like the United Way and the Rochester Community Foundation…

…we can find new approaches…we can reach our goals…and we can build a ‘stairway out of poverty.’

This past fall, IBM, through its Smarter Cities Challenge, developed a report with specific and actionable recommendations for the City and our partners to help us to build that ‘stairway out of poverty’ by bringing our community support agencies into better alignment.

And as we move forward this will help us ensure we are no longer working in silos…that our efforts will dovetail with the Anti-poverty initiative’s work and be integrated for tangible, real results.

Another way that we are building this ‘stairway out of poverty’ is through the federal government’s Investing in Manufacturing Community Partnerships (IMCP) program…having already secured more than $6 million dollars through the IMCP.

These funds are being used right now, by employers in this community to expand their businesses and create jobs.

They're partnering with the City to bridge the middle-skills gap - so our citizens don't get left behind.

I’m talking about people like Vincent Nero, who graduated from the YAMTEP program last week and the City’s Operation Transformation Rochester program last year.

YAMTEP is the Young Adults Manufacturing Training Employment Program, which we started in partnership with Tyrone Reaves of TruForm Manufacturing, along with the County, Wegmans, RochesterWorks, Pathstone, the Center for Employment Opportunities and the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce.

Vincent was hired by McAlpin Industries after he met Mark Lockerby, the company’s Chief Financial Officer at a YAMTEP class – simply because he asked about a job opening he saw on the company’s website.

That’s the kind of initiative they teach in these programs.

I applaud Vincent for demonstrating that initiative - and I applaud companies like McAlpin for giving our citizens a chance to succeed when others wouldn’t.

Mark and Vincent are here tonight. Let’s give them both a hand!

And I’m also talking about people like Ricky Bogan, another OTR graduate and a member YAMTEP’s first graduating class.

Ricky was hired by TruForm Manufacturing after he graduated. When he found out the man who trained and recommended him for the job was leaving to take another job, Ricky sent him a card to wish him well and say thank you.

And Ricky didn’t just say thank you for himself. He said thank you for his son and his family.

“You have put my whole life on a different path,” Ricky wrote. “Thank you for taking a chance on me. … You are a God send. … May you continue to change people’s lives for the better. … You have blessed my life and I can’t thank you enough”

WOW!

I mean, just WOW!!!!!!

“Thank you for taking a chance on me.” That is what these programs are all about.

I’m a firm believer in second chances and I know that there are many people that want to turn things around but need a little support and a little guidance.

Programs like YAMTEP and OTR do just that.

I should mention, through YAMTEP, we have even placed an employee right here at the Brewery.

Besides helping people become EMPLOYEES, we are looking at ways to help people become ENTREPRENEURS.

The City’s Office of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives has also been coordinating a project to develop worker-owned cooperative businesses as part of a comprehensive wealth building strategy for Rochester…and bringing a new, zero percent micro-loan lending program to the City through the international non-profit KIVA Zip.

This forward-thinking initiative will help micro entrepreneurs gain access to much needed capital to expand and build their businesses.
We have a budding entrepreneurial spirit here in Rochester…especially among our millennials.

We want to support their spirit and help elevate these entrepreneurs to new heights.

We have talked about addressing poverty and creating more jobs along with safer, more vibrant neighborhoods.

So now, I need to spend some time talking about efforts to bring better educational opportunities to every child and citizen of this city.

A focus on Early Learning

When I took office in 2014, my first act was to convene an Early Learning Council, tasked with issuing a set of recommendations on how we, as city government, could improve the educational outcomes of the youngest – from birth to age 3.

In our libraries and Recreation Centers we developed new programs and expanded existing ones, with the goal of increasing literacy rates among our children.

We secured over $500,000 dollars in grant and corporate funds to expand educational opportunities.

We are engaging parents through our literacy initiatives…

We formed local and national partnerships to expand our reach and advocate more effectively for the children that we serve.

We have implemented and expanded programs like “Raising a Reader”

…hired literacy aides over the summer in partnership with the City School District…

…implemented STEM Explorers…Earth Explorers…

…ARTSmart and other innovative programs for our youth to engage in during the school year and especially in the summertime.

We have advocated for, and were happy to receive, more funding from Governor Cuomo to enroll three- and four-year-olds in high quality Pre-K programs.

We’ve increased summer learning opportunities by 25 percent.

And here is something I think we can all be proud of, ROC The Future reports that 95 percent – Yes, I said 95 percent!!!! – of our 4-year-olds were enrolled in a high-quality pre-K program last year!

We have financially supported the efforts of GROW Rochester to screen children for developmental delays or other needs…in hopes that if we find problems early we can address them so that every child can have a successful academic future.

Thanks to former County Legislator Willie Joe Lightfoot, Brianna Chamberlain, my Office of Constituent Services and St. Micheal’s Woodshop…we’ve made strategic partnerships with our beauty salons and barbershops to create our“Story time with Style” program.

We have successfully given away hundreds of books through our barber and beauty shops since the program started.

And we have literally tried to enlist the entire community to help us encourage our children to read.

Our sororities, fraternities, civic organizations and churches all have donated books through our ‘Books and Bears’ Program.

Through all these efforts our library has given away over 1 million books since 2014 and we are still counting.

Yes, you heard me correctly… in the last 2 years we have put over 1 million free books into Rochester children’s hands.

And, we are encouraging our parents more than ever to not only read to their kids but to make sure they talk to them, play with them, have regular checkups with the doctor and feed them nutritious food.

City Council has just approved the sale of two former Rochester School Buildings which will allow new elementary charter schools…with a proven success rate in urban education…to begin serving two poverty stricken neighborhoods.

And in partnership with ROC the Future we have learned from their ‘State of our Children’ report that our overall numbers are improving.

The positive change we all want will not happen overnight and for me, the change needs to come faster, because our children do not have twenty years to wait for better schools.

But we can’t just keep looking at the very top of the mountain we are climbing without understanding the progress we are making.

More students are reading at grade level by the end of third grade; and more students are filing federal financial aid forms for college….

That’s because of the partnership we established with the Rochester College Access Network for FAFSA FEST…more than 456 students participated in this program.

And I was literally blown away over this past year when I went to the Convention Center for the UNCF’s “Empower Me Tour”….Where Councilmember Adam McFadden and the United Negro College Fund connected our kids with colleges and financial aid.

UNCF connected 59 kids with immediate college acceptances and they gave away $1.5 million dollars in college scholarships.

On College Signing Day, we will once again celebrate our city’s college-bound high school seniors by participating in the White House’s Reach Higher initiative.

And this past spring recess, we took 40 students – many of whom never travelled outside of Rochester – on a college tour.

Let’s recognize these future college grads and the staff who took them to see what their full potential could be…

You know, when I first heard those beautiful first grade students recite the poem ‘I AM SOMEBODY,’ during Black History Month at their school…

…I took a moment to look into their eyes, the same way I look into my own child’s eyes, I know that every decision and choice we make as leaders, as parents, as teachers, as a community can make the light in their eyes shine bright for education or slowly begin to dim.

When they’re 30 years old, I want the same children to still know and believe that they are somebody and they just very well may be that somebody that changes the world.

When I was in college I worked a full-time job so that I could pay my way through school and support myself.

I worked with young men between the ages of 13 and 21 at a group home. While there, I worked with a great group of people and we did all we could to reverse the damage that had been done to these young lives.

We were happy to save some…but unfortunately many returned to the very streets we were trying to save them from.

They were young, angry at the life that they were born into and had lost hope.

As I travel to many of our schools today, I see that same pain in many of the faces of our city’s children and I just know…that pain that they are dealing with…that anger…will consume them and that hurt will have them make choices that will forever alter their lives.

When I was running for Mayor, and obviously still today, right here and right now, I have continually talked about the importance of providing quality educational opportunities for our city’s families.
I introduced a seven-point education plan, which emphasized early education, such as expanding Pre-K programming…but the hallmark was the creation of “Beacon Schools.”

Today, I am proud to report that we have started the process to establish a Beacon School at School #17 in our JOSANA Neighborhood.

A Beacon School – or “community school” – re-imagines city schools as neighborhood centers that offer expanded learning opportunities, social and emotional support services, and parental resources.

My office of educational initiatives, partnering with the City School District, Farash Foundation, RTA and CGR created this neighborhood service-delivery model, which helps parents and families get the support services they need and helps children reach their potential in the classroom.

Now, I am setting my sights on working to not only create a Mayor’s Beacon School at School 17…but to ask the Commissioner of Education to allow the Mayor to have a say in the state’s new receivership program.

This week I sent a letter to the State Commissioner of Education and the Board of Regents to ask them to create a new Receivership District, which would create a comprehensive improvement strategy for all the schools that fall under state receivership.

Currently, 14 city schools are in some form of receivership...

…Four are slated to actually be taken over by the state in the next school year...

…And this past year, 14 more Rochester schools joined the State’s “schools in need of improvement” list.

That means, as many as 28 city schools could fall under the State’s Receivership Program in the next few years.

Under current law, an individual receiver could be appointed for each school.

Here in Rochester, that could result in 28 different improvement strategies – none of which would be required to work in concert with the other.
Some of our children are bound to get left behind under that model.

And that’s just not acceptable.

Rochester needs a comprehensive strategy that will bring success to ALL of our failing schools, so ALL of our children are given an opportunity to succeed.

The new Receivership District that I am calling for would be based on models that are already succeeding in places like Lawrence, Massachusetts, Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee – and our very own East High School right here in Rochester.

A Seat at the Table

Now, I know the new Receivership Law in New York is complicated and it truly does not give the Mayor or City government a say.

However, I am asking the State Commissioner of Education and the Board of Regents to ensure that someone locally is given the authority to work, in concert with our state leaders, to ensure that there is consistency, structure, and most of all accountability…

…to the taxpayers, teachers and parents of our community for anyone that is slated to be placed in charge of a school under the receivership model…

…And who better than the Mayor???

Let me be clear: This is not mayoral control.

I am simply asking for the state to allow the Mayor to be a part of the solution and to work with them to turn around these failing schools.

And I’m confident that by continuing to work together, standing behind the children of our city, we will continue to make progress.

To the young people in our city…Listen very closely to these words, spoken by our President, Barack Obama:

“As a nation, we don't promise equal outcomes, but we were founded on the idea that everybody should have an equal opportunity to succeed. No matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from, you can make it. That's an essential promise of America. Where you start should not determine where you end up.”

This is what drives me as Mayor.

When I sit in my office and start to feel stressed about the challenges we face in our city, I go into my conference room which is lined with photos of Rochester’s children.

I look at the smiling faces of them playing in our spray parks…bonding with our police officers and firefighters…of them reading in our libraries.

And I remember that they are counting on me, counting on us to leave this city a better place than we found it.

Back in 1975, when Kodachrome color slides and Kodak Instamatics were the latest technologies – Kodak researcher Steve Sasson built the first digital camera, right here in Rochester, not too far away from where we’re sitting right now.

What leaders of the company did not know was that four decades later we would be living in a digital world.

Unfortunately, they let that opportunity pass them by and Kodak was changed forever.

At this moment in time… we cannot afford to let good opportunities pass us by.

I ask that each of you join with me as we Reclaim Rochester.

As we reclaim our rightful place in history as the city that my grandparents and so many of your family members once knew.

As a city that led in the abolitionist movement…the Women’s Rights Movement…the LGBT Movement…the Civil Rights Movement…as a leader in jobs and in Industry…

Never Forget our Past

As we reclaim our city – I implore you to Never forget about our past.

Understand how it impacts our present and how it will help us ignite our future.

Now, let me leave you with this thought that Charles Darwin taught us...

…it is not the strongest of a species that survives or the most intelligent. It’s the one that is most adaptable to change.

So let’s adapt like this wonderful company the Genesee Brewery has done…

…and continues to do.

We will create more jobs….

We will bring more vibrancy and safety to our neighborhoods…

We will provide better educational opportunities for our children…

Let’s Reclaim our city, because, after all…

WE ARE ROCHESTER…and our future is as bright as our past.