Warren gets personal in TV debate


This is a corrected version of this blog. 

Locally produced TV often has an unintended comedic element, and it was a bit strange to see Rochester mayoral hopefuls Tom Richards and Lovely Warren sitting side by side at News 8’s anchor desk last night. Mostly because the pair made a credible News team! duo.

The 30-minute debate covered familiar ground. Richards, the incumbent, spoke of a city in transformation, while Warren said that Rochester is already transformed, with some people benefiting and others losing out – depending on which part of the city you live in.

Richards talked up the construction projects happening around the city, including projects and investment in the neighborhoods. He said that Rochester has more minorities working in construction jobs than any other city in the state.

“Results count,” he said. “And results are happening.”

Warren, who is president of City Council, talked about the need to deal with what she called the city’s skill-set deficiency, so that Rochester residents are prepared for the jobs that are available.

The pair also debated education, intermunicipal agreements, and crime. Responding to a question from debate co-moderator Rachel Barnhart, Richards said that Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard is doing a good job and that the city should keep him. Warren didn’t address Sheppard’s fate in her response.

Richards and Warren were also asked about keeping a performing arts center downtown. Richards said he’d like to, but the city can’t afford it. The last estimate had a prospective center losing $4 million to $5 million a year, he said. Warren said that she supports having a performing arts center downtown, but she didn’t address finances.

The debate lacked sparks right up until the closing statements, when Warren brought up Richards’ departure from RG&E. Richards received a generous severance package, Warren said, while many employees lost their jobs.

It was a sharp sting that Warren saved until the end, when Richards wouldn’t get a chance for rebuttal. It was also the most personal this campaign has gotten thus far.

Richards has said previously that he was pushed out after the merger and that the $10 million he received in severance was mostly in stock options. In the D and C this morning, Richards says that he was forced out of the company because he wouldn’t lower the sale price. Doing so could’ve hurt stock prices, he said, and employees’ retirement plans.