2017 State of the City Address

 2017 State of the City banner 

Delivered Monday, April 24, 2017

CGI Communications, Inc., 130 E. Main St.

Thank you…thank you all for that warm reception. Wow! It’s been almost four years!

I’m so excited to join you all here this evening to talk about the progress that we have made by working together here in the City of Rochester.

Mayor Lovely A. WarrenThank you to my friends and colleagues on City Council, under the leadership of Council President Loretta Scott. I’m grateful for your partnership as we chart our city’s course together.

And thank you to Cheryl Dinolfo, our County Executive for being a great partner.

And to all of the elected officials, members of my administration and other dignitaries who were introduced by our new Deputy Mayor, Cedric Alexander.

Let’s give a warm Rochester welcome to Dr. Alexander on his first day back at work on behalf of the citizens of Rochester. I look forward to the great things we’re going to do together!

I also want to take this moment to thank Carlos Carballada for stepping in to help lead the team as Deputy Mayor.

Key to the City

At this time, I’d like to ask Carlos to please come up and join me on the stage.

Carlos, you already have the key to our hearts. Here is a small token of our appreciation for all that you have done for the City of Rochester…A Key to the City… In recognition of your commitment to the City of Rochester, along with your business acumen, friendly temperament and customer service focus, you have greatly enhanced the day-to-day operations at City Hall.

You are a steady leader…a wise counselor…and most importantly, a strong advocate for our “customers” - the citizens of Rochester.

Please join me in giving a big round of applause for Carlos Carballada!

Thank you.

And of course, I’m also thankful for the support and energy I get from my husband Tim and my daughter Taylor and my family. Thank you all for putting up with the demands of my job and for supporting me.

I also want to thank Bob, and his team here at CGI, for hosting us. Most importantly, I want to thank him for locating his business in Downtown Rochester and investing his time, energy and treasure in our Center City.

CGI, like many other businesses, could locate anywhere in the country - but Bob chose Rochester and we’re grateful for that.

Thank you to Reverend Simmons and Pastor Hernandez for such inspirational and heartfelt invocations.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to all of Rochester’s clergy. Many of whom are here this evening. And I want to particularly thank Pastor Hernandez and Rabbi Kilimnic, who have served the faith needs of our community and now will enjoy a well-earned retirement. Please join me in thanking our clergy.

I would also like to thank our young students from the ROC Music Collaborative and from East High for those wonderful and powerful performances.

The ROC Music program started at the Gantt R-Center under the leadership of Dr. Alexander Pena and now we have young people from all over our city learning classical music.

This year they played with the RPO and world renowned classical artist Yo-Yo-Ma. We’re so very proud of all them. I also want to thank Superintendent Shaun Nelms, his team at East and the University of Rochester.

This year in partnership with Aaron and Kelly Metras of Selena’s Mexican Restaurant, they opened up the Rochester Youth Culinary Experience at Village Gate.

This working restaurant gives students hands-on experience running a business.

Mrs. Davis’ sixth grade class recruited me to join them in the fight against hunger. I join them in wearing these blue bands for UNICEF. Together we are counting our steps on a mission to send food packets to starving children.

And, of course their choir did a phenomenal job singing the song “Powerful.”

This performance reminds us that young people are powerful and they do have a voice - a voice that must be heard.

Let’s give these students a round of applause.

And, Mayor Johnson, I want to thank you for that kind introduction and for being a mentor and a guide to me along this journey. I’m not sure if you know the impact that you’ve had on my life and that of my family’s.

A Mayor must be present in the community


In 1997, my grandparents, Cecil and Margaret McClary, celebrated their Golden Anniversary. Mayor Johnson, you came and presented them with a Proclamation and declared it their special day in the City of Rochester.

Until the day he died, my grandfather talked about that day…how he appreciated you taking the time out of your schedule to come and present them with a Mayoral Proclamation.

It was then that I learned that a Mayor must be present in the community - you must be willing to give selflessly, to have compassion and recognize others.

Mayor Johnson, your compassion and love for our neighborhoods…and the people of Rochester…was evident throughout your tenure. And we see the benefits from your leadership today in neighborhoods like the South Wedge and the 19th Ward.

I want to thank all of my predecessors, including Bob Duffy, who is now President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce who joins us here tonight;
as well as Tom Richards, for their willingness to serve and continue to serve, the wonderful people of Rochester.

Most of all, I want to thank you, the people, for believing in Rochester.

We are working together.

And together, we are reigniting our City.

We have lit the flame of hope. The flame of promise. The flame that allows all of our citizens to realize the American dream.

I’m proud of the progress that we’ve made -- and the progress that we will continue to make.

Four years ago, I stood before you and I asked you to believe in our future.

I asked you to believe that our city’s future is as bright as our past …

… to believe that with the right leadership, the right vision, that we would bring jobs, make our neighborhoods safer and give our children a fighting chance at life by creating better educational opportunities.

I asked you to believe that we could do both. That we could do it all. That we could invest in our neighborhoods and invest in our Downtown -- and we can invest in our people.
Well, I’m here to tell you that we are getting it done.

We are on the right track.

And, that’s why we are all here tonight. To talk about the many opportunities we have and are creating for our citizens and their families.

And we’re doing it…together.

As you look around, you can literally see the progress and the promise that is taking shape right here on Main Street.

From this vantage point it’s obvious - because it’s right here before our eyes.

But I’m here to tell you, the flame of progress you see on Main Street is taking shape all over our city.

We’re here in a building that was recently acquired by CGI.

With almost 300 employees – an increase from 37 when they moved to Downtown in 2005 – CGI is one of Rochester’s fastest growing companies.

Bob isn’t just investing in his business here. He’s opening a vintage car museum in this space, which will promote tourism - and that creates jobs, helping our restaurants and our hotels thrive.  Behind me, you can see more signs of our city’s progress as the $18.5 million dollar renovation of the Hyatt Regency Hotel continues.

We worked with developers Dave Christa and Bob Morgan to transform this iconic hotel into a Downtown destination.

The makeover of the Hyatt will bring the first Starbucks to Downtown Rochester. And by year’s end, we will welcome Morton’s National Steakhouse.

Now that’s progress!

That’s jobs.

That’s opportunity.

Our Main Street won’t just be the home to great companies…but it is…and will be home to businesses, fine-dining and entertainment venues that will keep people Downtown well after 5 o’clock and open our Center City.

Tower 280, Windstream, the Sibley Building, the Metropolitan, 88 Elm Street, the Democrat and Chronicle, the Alliance Building and the Hilton Garden Inn are all at the core of our City’s progress…and they’re helping us reignite our Main Street.

And literally, starting today, we will finally transform our Main Street and bring much-needed on-street parking, bike lanes and more pedestrian-friendly walkways to Downtown Rochester.

Golisano Center for the Performing Arts

The Downtown you see today will not be the same Downtown you see a year from now. From street improvements to businesses to welcoming the Golisano Center for the Performing Arts and Midtown Tower to Parcel Five.

When it’s complete, about 800 jobs will be created between construction and permanent jobs for the performing arts center, retail and restaurants.

I want to thank Tom Golisano and Bob Morgan and the Rochester Broadway Theatre League for making this project possible.

You know, our Downtown is really a collection of neighborhoods and business districts with distinct personalities and unique opportunities. A good example of this can be found at the Inner Loop.

Home Leasing has already built Charlotte Square; the first new housing development here. And soon, we’ll be moving forward with other developments to connect the East End to the Neighborhood of the Arts.

We’re going to expand the Strong Museum of Play…

…build a new family friendly hotel with a water-play feature …

…more housing, retail and office space …

…and more green space to further enhance the beauty of our city.

In place of the concrete moat that generated no revenue and no economic activity, we’re seeing this area catch fire, building off the great investment of Glenn Kellogg at Hart’s Local Grocer and the Arbor Lofts event space.

The success of this project has already gained national attention.

The New York Times highlighted it last fall. And the Atlantic Magazine’s Citylab said:

“If any city is going to break the stranglehold that mid-century transportation planning still has on so many American cities, it might just be Rochester.”

The flame is burning brightly in Downtown. And employers recognize the potential of our Center City.

Creating and Retaining Jobs

Companies like Datto, Five Star Bank, M&T Bank, Bergmann Associates, Branca Restaurant, Liu Engineers, CGI, Key Bank, ESL, High Tech Rochester and others have all reignited Downtown with new jobs and new opportunities.

Please join me in giving a round of applause to show our appreciation for all of the developers, businesses and people who are investing in our city…lighting up our skyline and demonstrating their confidence in Downtown Rochester.

And this growth isn’t just limited to Downtown.

In the last three years, working together, we have created or retained more than thirty-thousand jobs across the entire city, ensuring that the flame of our city is burning even brighter.

Unemployment in Rochester has gone from 9 percent to 6 percent.

Downtown is the place of work for almost 50,000 people, making it the largest employment center in our nine-county region.

But thousands more people are working all across our city in our neighborhoods. And those job centers are just as important as Downtown.

Neighborhoods: The Lifeblood of the Community

Our neighborhoods are the lifeblood of our community. So when I visit our commercial corridors along the streets and avenues, I see thriving centers of commerce and employment.

Thus, we’re paying closer attention to our commercial corridors. Our business development team and street managers seek every opportunity to support our business owners.

And that’s why the occupancy rate for our business districts has increased from 54 percent to more than 70 percent in the last three years.

In fact, I was honored to receive the 2017 Partner America Small Business Advocate Award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors because we support our businesses here in Rochester and they are growing.

That honor really belongs to our many small business owners, whose work makes our neighborhoods more vibrant.

By investing in our people, our businesses and the public infrastructure in our neighborhoods…from Bulls Head to Beechwood, from Edgerton to East Avenue…we are bringing vitality to every corner of our city.

In Northeast Rochester, we’re about to finish an over $10 million dollar expansion of the Rochester Public Market. This investment is going to add more than 60 new vending spots to the Market that will lead to job creation. And for the first time in more than three decades, we broke ground on a new housing development on Hudson Avenue.

Upper Falls Square Apartments, a $50 million dollar affordable housing complex, being spearheaded by Depaul Properties and Christa Construction will transform 3.2 acres of vacant land.

I want to thank Delaine Cook-Greene of CONEA…the Coalition of Northeast Associations. Because of her leadership and stewardship, development is now taking place on Hudson Avenue.

This includes the expansion of PUC Charter School; new housing; and the relocation of the House of Mercy.

That’s right! A new home for our most vulnerable citizens.

By working with Dick Crossed, Conifer Realty, Assemblyman David Gantt, the State of New York, Sister Grace Miller and Ed Hourihan, the new House of Mercy opened in March, becoming our city’s first, state-of-the-art, low-barrier shelter for our most difficult to place homeless.

Thank you all for not giving up on this community. Please join me in giving Ms. Greene, Sister Grace and the teams that worked on these projects a big round of applause.

And we also need to recognize the Rochester Fire Fighter’s Union for building their new Union Hall on Hudson Avenue.

Our firefighters, led by Chief John Schreiber, are the best in the country, bar none! They’re our first responders, the men and women who risk their lives - and save lives every day.
I can’t thank them enough for their tremendous commitment to Rochester; a commitment that extends above and beyond the call of duty.

And on St. Paul, the Genesee Brewery is expanding and will add an additional 128 new jobs – half of which will go to economically challenged residents from our city. This business almost closed its doors, but with the City’s help, it is now thriving.

Now moving to the Southeast, in the EMMA and Beechwood neighborhoods we’re upgrading our housing stock in partnership with PathStone, Action for a Better Community and Northeast Area Development.

Together, we are investing more than $1.5 million dollars to help homeowners renovate their homes.

And this investment is going to complement the construction of a much-needed affordable and market-rate housing complex by Connected Communities in partnership with Home Leasing and Hillside.

It’s been more than 50 years since we’ve built new housing along that stretch of East Main Street. I’m grateful for the public-private partnership that is making it possible.

And I am elated that it will bear the name of the Warfield family.

Vernice Warfield has lived in this neighborhood for 65 years – and she still lives there at the ripe old age of 102.

Her son Thomas is here tonight. Thomas, please give your mom our best.

In the Northwest, we completed the Ridgeway Avenue road reconstruction project, and we’re about to start on the re-alignment of Dewey Avenue and Driving Park. We’ve built 105 new homes in the Josana Neighborhood and we’re moving forward with phase two of that development to add 46 more homes.

I want to thank Cornerstone Housing and the Josana neighbors for their continued support of these projects.

And, this summer the Campbell Street R-Center is going to get a long-awaited upgrade that will bring new life to that neighborhood.

We’re going to install a spray park and open this center to the community by tearing down dilapidated structures and installing new lighting.

A Port of Opportunity

In Charlotte, the new Marina is complete and slips have been sold. In fact, the Marina is outperforming our expectations and everyone can see that it is a “Port of Opportunity.”

We have a very involved neighborhood and business association in Charlotte, and new people are at the table.

We’re going to make sure those voices are heard and that’s why we have partnered with the Center for Design to hold a charrette for this area to make it a year round destination.

And thanks to the help of Governor Cuomo, Bob Duffy and our state delegation, Eastman Business Park is now the development hub and headquarters of the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics, which will re-ignite that part of the city, bringing exciting next-generation job creators to our region, making us truly the Photonics Capital of the World.

In the Southwest, we’re leveraging the value of the Genesee River waterfront. Much of the Corn Hill neighborhood has finally been taken out of the flood plain because we’re using state funds to make long-needed repairs to the west river wall. This is going to give homeowners a welcome reprieve on their insurance bills.

And we’re cleaning up the Vacuum Oil site where DHD Ventures plans to build a new housing development that will be the pride of the Genesee.

In Bulls Head, we are setting the stage for revitalization by land banking properties and tearing down vacant structures that have been a source of blight in this community for far too long.

And we’re bringing long overdue investment to Genesee Valley Park. We re-surfaced the tennis courts last year and this year, we’re going to upgrade the play apparatus and community room.

And, in the South Wedge, we’ve finally brought on the LED lights that the business community has been waiting for.

And in our quest to create jobs for residents all across the city, we’re excited to welcome ride-sharing services such as Lyft and Uber this summer.

Ridesharing is going to create opportunities for drivers and riders - and it’s going to make our streets safer reducing the number of drunk drivers.

But we also recognize that our citizens with disabilities have concerns about accessibility.

That’s why we’re proud to work together with the Center for Disability Rights. Stephanie Woodward from the Center is here tonight. Please join me in thanking her for her continued advocacy.

And our bike-share program got a boost last week when we learned our application for nearly $3 million dollars in state and federal grants was approved. This money is going to fund Shared Mobility Programs, including bike-share, and create more walkable, bike-able streets.

You can expect to see our first new Zagster bike-sharing stations open this summer.

Walkable, Bikeble Streets

I also want to thank Mike Governale and the people at Re-Connect Rochester for working with us to make our streets more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

Now, even though we can see the flames of hope and promise brightly burning in Downtown and in our neighborhoods, we know there are still those among us who are struggling to make ends meet.

That’s why I created a Research and Development Department in City Hall…the Office of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives.

Three years ago, I charged them with the task of finding fresh, new ideas to create pathways to prosperity.

And this group of Rochester’s finest young professionals immersed themselves in the roots of Rochester’s troubling and persistent challenges. And they came up with some innovative and progressive solutions.

Solutions like Van Pool; Kiva crowdfunding; and our new Market Driven Community Co-op.

The V-Ride Van Pool gives people in our community an opportunity to share a ride to work. These vans are currently going to the del Lago Casino in Waterloo and the Pactiv manufacturing plant in Canandaigua.

Kiva is a national crowdfunding platform that gives micro-business owners a chance to take their businesses from dreams to reality with access to zero-interest loans.

In just over six months, Rochester’s Kiva program has already facilitated about two dozen loans totaling more than $130,000 dollars to Rochester’s micro business owners. I’ve even made a few loans myself.
And when I visited these businesses, I met people like Zaaqi Johnson, owner and operator of Zoc’s Gourmet Burgers and Shakes. He’s now employing people in his restaurant, located in the same neighborhood where he grew up.

And people like Isse Abukar who used his KIVA loan to start his own cleaning business.

Isse came to Rochester as a refugee to escape a civil war that divided his home country of Somalia.

Now he’s here with a new lease on life, taking care of his family by growing his own business and living the American dream of promise.

Ladies and gentlemen, Isse and Zaaqi are here with us tonight. Please join me in congratulating them for not letting their flame of hope burn out, and for holding firm to the American dream!

We’re not just focused on making people employees here in Rochester. We are focused on making them employers, and KIVA is allowing us to do just that.

And earlier this month, we launched ENEROC, a Market Driven Community Co-op business.

Modeled after the Evergreen Cooperative in Cleveland, our Community Co-op creates jobs for our residents by partnering with our city’s largest employers and institutions – like our hospitals and universities.

ENEROC will partner with prime contractor Lumalon and install LED lighting and solar panels for local institutions, beginning with Rochester General Hospital.

We’re thankful to its board of directors, our anchor institutions and our foundations for their support.

Our market driven community co-op program could not have been successful without the help of people like Dr. Eric Bieber and Dr. Mike Waller of Rochester Regional Health, along with Gary Rogers and Christine Whitman who led the team in hiring our first business manager, Doug Caswell.

Let’s give them and the first employees of ENEROC a round of applause.

ENEROC also provides a great example of an exciting new trend in our job-creating efforts: the ability to create jobs by making Rochester a cleaner, greener, more sustainable city.

And it’s not the only example.

Our Department of Environmental Services is working with a host of community partners, including the People’s Climate Coalition; Dr. Susan Spencer; and other governmental agencies, like the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. EPA.

Sustainable Rochester

By working together, we are creating a sustainable Rochester …

… by reducing our carbon footprint, completing our single stream recycling rollout, installing energy efficient lighting, and constructing our very own solar farm at the old Emerson Street Landfill.

And we are creating jobs while we do it.

This year, DES partnered with Operation Transformation Rochester and the EPA to launch the Rochester Environmental Job Training Program to help our residents gain the skills to work in this growing industry.

And as we award government contracts worth millions of dollars to remove brownfields and other hazardous-waste sites from our neighborhoods, we’re going to make sure the citizens of our neighborhoods are among the workers getting paid on those contracts!

And we’re moving forward with other innovative solutions to help our citizens enter the workforce. By partnering with community based organizations like NEAD, Baden Street, Abundant Life and CEO, we hired people to clean up our commercial corridors.

And we’re working with businesses like TruForm Manufacturing and other governmental and community partners to put people to work through the Young Adult Manufacturing Training Employment Program -- or YAMTEP.

People like Jermel Board, who was featured in our opening video, and Malik Jenkins are taking advantage of the city of Rochester’s job training programs. Malik has a powerful story, he grew up in foster care and joined the OTR program, where he found a mentor in City employee Paul.

While in our program, he obtained his high school diploma, secured his own housing and a job as a security guard. But Malik didn’t stop there. He is now in our Re-Job program, where he will receive licenses in construction and we hear that he aced his job interview, so he will begin his new career in environmental construction next month.

Please, let’s have a round of applause for all of our program participants and the staff who work in these programs. They are truly making a difference.

And I have no doubt our efforts to create a sustainable Rochester are a leading reason why our city is becoming so attractive to the millennial generation.

Friends, I’m here to tell you that we have finally stopped the “Brain Drain.”

The millennial population in Rochester grew by almost 9 percent, which outpaced the national average of 6 percent…and in fact…we had the highest rate of millennial growth of any upstate city.

That’s a far cry from the gloom and doom some people are trying to sell you. I’m here to tell you, they’re wrong!

You know, I’m a little too old to be considered a millennial, but believe me, their voices are heard all over City Hall.

From our robust College Fellowship Program, to the Office of Innovation, to my Chief of Staff Alex Yudelson and in every department across our city, we believe in harnessing our young people’s talents…not just listening to their ideas but implementing them.

We’re thankful to the Rochester Young Professionals and the Urban League’s Black Young Professionals for their willingness to work with us. Let’s not allow cynicism to blow out their flame.

As you can see, our community is changing. And it is important that the government changes with it.

Finding New Better Ways to Serve Customers

That’s why we’re so happy to have been one of four cities selected to participate in the National League of Cities’ Rose Fellowship Program; and to work with Novak and SCI Consulting, to help us identify new and better ways to serve our citizens and customers.

This year, our bond rating upgraded by two Wall Street rating agencies…which not only saves our taxpayers money on interest payments, but validates the excellent job we’re doing.

I am thankful to our state and local leaders for fighting for Rochester and our region. By working together, our city government has received more than $75 million in additional funding over the last three years.

I am also proud to join leaders from our region on the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. Under the leadership of Danny Wegman and Dr. Anne Kress, we have been awarded $141 million dollars in CFA funding and won the top prize of $500 million dollars for the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The flame that we lit in Rochester is now spreading throughout our nine-county region.

And, we’re leading the way in opening our government to the people and making it more transparent. We launched a new online FOIL system…with a local company called General Code. It’s always nice when you can keep government dollars in the local economy.

And we’re improving service delivery at our Neighborhood Service Centers by making our business permit process more customer friendly and bringing much-needed reform to our nuisance point system.

And this year, we will separate the Bureau of Planning and Zoning to create separate bureaus, so we can do a better job of planning for our city’s future.

Our employees in our Neighborhood and Business Development department are working alongside our community to create jobs and drive investments in our neighborhoods. And as we make those investments, we are making our neighborhoods safer.

Making Neighborhoods Safer

I’ve said it time and time again…we can’t legislate morality, but we can and we are making the systematic changes to improve public safety. And we know government can’t do it alone. That’s why our Police Department is working together with our neighbors to make our neighborhoods safer.

And they’re getting results.

The most serious crimes in Rochester are at a 30 year low! And shootings last year went down more than 22 percent. That was a point of focus last year and I am thankful for our success.

But our work isn’t done.

I’m proud to say, under the leadership of Chief Michael Ciminelli, the Rochester Police Department is holding people accountable who operate outside of department protocols and working with the community like never before.

In the last three years, we re-organized our police department to bring back true community policing. And now we’re moving to the next phase, identifying neighborhood section offices.

We introduced body worn cameras, which allows us to increase transparency…and accountability. We created the RPD Open Data Portal on our website, which gives citizens access to an unprecedented amount of police-related information.

We created the Blueprint for Engagement…and in fact, in the last three years, the Chief and his team have held more than 3,000 meetings with members of the public.

And we worked with our partners in the 7th Judicial District, the District Attorney and the Public Defender, to start a gun-trial part at the Hall of Justice…the first of its kind in the country…a court that focuses on people who carry illegal guns.

Let’s give a round of applause for our Chief and the brave men and women of Rochester Police Department and our citizens who work with them. They all deserve credit for these historically low crime numbers.

However, reducing crime takes the entire community, we must recognize that there are many issues and we can’t arrest our way out of them. True community policing takes partnership, leadership and opportunity.

For example, last summer when we had our Clergy on Patrol walk on North Clinton Avenue, we walked with Miguel Melendez of IBERO and Officer Eric. They showed us the devastating effect the nation’s heroin epidemic is having on this neighborhood.

He told us stories about people like Ida (EE-duh) Perez, who was featured in our opening video. She inherited her parents’ home on Scrantom Street…she and her neighbors would wake up in the morning and find used heroin needles.

They had been working with the Police Department to combat drug sales in the area. But we all knew that we had to do more.

So we came up with an innovative approach to help the neighbors take back their community.

We deployed our DES crews to the area in a way we had never done before.

We opened up sight lines and removed hiding places for drug sales by cutting away vines and weeds and installing brighter LED lighting. We worked with local businesses to remove fencing that was blocking views.

We cut off hidden shortcuts that had become pathways for drug dealers.

And the Police Department stepped up its presence to make arrests and deter sales.

And we found that most of the people that were using this neighborhood as their personal shooting gallery were not from the City of Rochester;
that in fact, they were from places like Medina, Clifton Springs…and even as far away as Niagara Falls.

I know personally the effects that drug use can have on a family. But this detail showed me the effects that it can have on a neighborhood…on entire communities.

Communities across our country are dealing with these same challenges. But even with this effort, we knew we needed to do more.

So I convened a task force that includes members of the healthcare community, the Monroe County Health Department and area treatment experts to look at creating a safe sober site. And I want to thank the County Executive for allowing the health department to be a part of this effort.

And we are grateful that in this year’s budget, Governor Cuomo and our state legislators allocated money towards combating this heroin epidemic.

We are not going to give up on this neighborhood. We will continue to work in partnership to help all of our residents. Miguel and Ida are here tonight, let’s give them a round of applause and thank them for carrying the torch for their neighborhood.

Improving Educational Opportunities

And of course, the best way to create more jobs and safer more vibrant neighborhoods is to improve educational opportunities.

Frederick Douglass said: “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

Many of you know how much of an influence my grandparents and family have had on my life and how their experiences have shaped me into being the leader I am today.

In the 1960s, my grandparents moved to Rochester from the Jim Crow south to find a better future for their children.

And, I often talk about my grandfather Cecil; but tonight I want to share a story about my grandmother, Margaret.

A woman who was quiet and precious.

She would always tell me to “do the right thing, even when you have to stand by yourself…you do the right thing.”

When she came to Rochester, the only job that she could get was cleaning rooms at Strong Memorial Hospital.

She and my grandfather struggled. But they worked hard because they knew that their sacrifice would give their children’s children access to a proper education, and a different path.

I would often look at my grandmother’s hands; the hands that picked cotton; the hands cut tobacco; the hands of a sharecropper; the hands that cleaned toilets.

Hands that were strong but fragile.

She and my grandfather made the sacrifices so that we could … so that I could… so that my cousins could… hold firm to the promise of a better tomorrow.

And today, in 2017, the rooms my grandmother cleaned at Strong Memorial Hospital are now being visited by my little cousin Caleb McClary, a Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. He is finishing his first year as a medical student at the University of Rochester and my “not so little” cousin Caleb is here tonight.

Caleb, I want you to know that our grandparents are looking down on you and we are all so very proud of you.

But our family’s history and story isn’t unique. Across our city, other families are building upon the sacrifices of the people that came before them. I want every child in our city to know that they can…and should…dare to dream.

We have to continue to work together to remove the barriers that hinder our children from believing that they can achieve their dream.

I am happy to join with Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Morelle, Assemblymen Gantt and Bronson, Senators Robach and Funke and all of our state representatives, the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative and others as we work to build pathways to prosperity and help fulfill Rochester’s promise…and ignite the flame of tomorrow.

It is why I was proud to co-chair the Youth, Education and Families Committee of the National League of Cities to lead cities around the country in a discussion on childhood trauma and its long-term effects.

It’s why I was happy to partner with GRO Rochester to screen our 2- and 3-year-olds for developmental delays. Research shows that we can reverse some delays with early intervention.

And, already, more than eleven hundred children have been screened and they are getting the help they need.

It is also why I was proud of my three-to-three initiative where we joined forces with community partners and lobbied the state for additional funding for Pre-K programs.
And as a result, Pre-K enrollment in Rochester has increased by twelve hundred percent.

And we are not giving up on our older students. Programs like P-Tech, Hillside Work Scholarship and Pathways to Public Safety Careers are helping us find innovative solutions to educating our children.
In fact, the City’s Pathways to Public Safety Career program has a graduation rate of almost 90 percent.

And, in the past three years, our R-Centers have expanded educational programming in the STEM and arts fields.

And, we’re partnering with the School District to improve data sharing. If a child skips school, they sometimes will still come to our R-Centers, and we want to know about it so that our staff can help them turn it around. And after a decade of failed attempts we finally found a way to provide our students, who use public transportation, with safe passage to and from school.

I want to thank Bill Carpenter of RGRTA, Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams and the Rochester City School Board for their willingness to partner with us and parents so that we can all help our children succeed.

And our Rochester Public Library has given away more than two million books to our children – one million of those in just the past 12 months. And because they eliminated the daily fines for children and teens, circulation increased by more than 16,000 items over the previous year.

And, the return rate of these items has gone up! That just goes to show that punitive measures aren’t always the best way to effect change.

And we know that helping our children learn isn’t limited to the classroom, R-Centers or libraries.

Every adult in our community can make a difference. That is why I was happy to launch our Story Time with Style program, with Willie Lightfoot, we put children’s books in barbershops and salons. We encourage the stylists to have children read to adults while they wait. They also allow them to take books home.

And it’s why I’m proud of our Pathways to Peace team. Not only are they diffusing dangerous situations in our community, they’re also in our schools, working with our students to help them find alternative solutions to violence.

Rochester is very blessed to have a caring, compassionate community. We have everyday role models who are making a big difference in the lives of our children. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today had it not been for my mentor, Assemblyman David Gantt.

So I want to make sure that our children have access to mentors and role models, too.

That’s why we moved the Pillars of Hope program into the Mayor’s Office. We more than doubled the number of schools that host Pillars from 5 to 12 and brought on teams from major businesses like RG&E and Wegmans.

It’s also why we signed on to President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative that made it possible for the City, in partnership with the school district, to win more than $1.6 million dollars in education grants.

Our Reach Higher and HBCU College Fair not only highlights students who achieve, but in the last two years, students from Rochester have been offered over $2 million dollars in scholarships to historically black colleges and universities. I want to thank Councilmember McFadden for his leadership in bringing the HBCU College Fair back to Rochester.

Please join me in thanking our Pillars of Hope teams, role models and mentors who have volunteered their time and talent to be part of these programs. You are shaping the next generation of leaders with inspiration and distinction.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that we should be satisfied with the educational outcomes in our city.

That’s why we’ve taken direct action starting with School Number 17 and supporting its Beacon School model. Working with the new superintendent, we’re going to create more of these neighborhood schools that are the hub of their neighborhoods providing a full menu of support services to children and their families.

We are in this together. I believe in school choice and I’m convinced that through innovative educational partnerships, we can and will, make a difference.

You know, since the day I took office three-and-a-half years ago, I have been focused on three goals: more jobs, safer, more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities; and we have seen significant progress in each of these areas.

But, recent events have shown me the importance of other goals that don’t fit so neatly into those three categories.

Progressive Values are Hallmark of Rochester

Since the days of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, progressive values have been the hallmark of our city.

And, they still are.

In the last three-and-a-half years, we passed the ban-the-box ordinance that made it illegal to ask job applicants if they have a criminal record before they interview.

We extended our City health benefits to transgender employees and their families.

We joined the fight to pass GENDA in support of our transgender citizens.

And we stood with Governor Cuomo and SEIU-1199, along with other unions, in the Fight for 15. I made a commitment to them and I stand by it. By 2021, all full-time City employees will earn no less than $15 dollars an hour.

And, it is our progressive values that compel us to make sure our City’s workforce reflects the population it serves, especially in our uniformed services.

And that’s why the majority of all new hires in the Police and Fire Departments have been women and people of color since I’ve become Mayor.

You know, I feel blessed to lead a city at a time when cities are becoming a beacon of hope in the defense of the American dream.

But, to be honest, I never expected, that in 2017, we would still be fighting this hard for the rights that are supposed to be inalienable.

I have to tell you, every time I see our community step up to these challenges, my heart bursts with pride.

I was proud of our city on Election Day when 10,000 people stood in line for up to two hours in Mount Hope Cemetery to pay homage to Susan B. Anthony.

Proud to know Rochester now plays a leading role in helping our state celebrate 100 years of Women’s Suffrage.

My heart overflowed again in January, when I joined thousands of our citizens as we rallied at Washington Square Park, in solidarity with women across the nation and world.

And that sense of pride returned again when I stood with hundreds of people on a bitter cold day to proclaim our support beneath a banner that hung from City Hall – that said Rochester is a Sanctuary City. We are a community that is united and strengthened by our diversity.

Having been elected as Rochester’s first woman Mayor 104 years to the day that Susan B. Anthony cast her illegal vote, I truly believe Rochester, today is a living example of the words that President Obama spoke when he said:

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

At this critical time in our country’s history, we have emerged as a force for positive change.

And as your mayor, it makes me very, very proud to stand with you.

Because I know … I know that someday my daughter Taylor and her friends will look back on this time.

… and someone will recite the famous quote that says,

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
“Because I was not a Socialist.

“Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —

“Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —

“Because I was not a Jew.

“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

But Taylor and her friends will say, that in Rochester, NY that was not the case.

That we stood up for the people of our city.

We spoke truth to power …

We worked together so that all of our citizens could participate in the economic recovery.

And they will say that their city – the city that we love, the City of Rochester, New York – was on the right side of history.

I ask you to continue to join with us as we re-ignite our city.

Don’t extinguish the flame of hope …

The flame of promise …

The flame that allows all of our citizens to realize the American dream.

May God bless you all.

Thank you and have a good night.