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Candidates' rap sheet

Raps and raves on the Dems' mayor wannabees

There's been no shortage of words from the Democratic candidates for mayor. Former Police Chief Bob Duffy and City Council members Tim Mains and Wade Norwood are bright, experienced, and innovative. And since last winter, they've been spelling out what they'll do if Rochesterians elect them.

But who's really best qualified to be mayor? What's their management style? What are their weaknesses? Here's a snapshot of each, in the words of people who know them well: critics, supporters, and those who have worked closely with them.

The rap on Wade Norwood

No administrative experience

Bob Duffy served as police chief for seven years. Tim Mains headed the Teaching and Learning Center in the Greece school district and has been principal of School 50 since 2002. The mayor's office is no place for on-the-job management training.

Too much politics

Norwood has been in politics most of his adult life, serving on City Council and as State Assembly member David Gantt's special assistant. He hasn't held positions where he had to act independently. In addition, his political ties are a handicap. He'll owe too much to too many people.

Can't say no

 Norwood gives advocates on both sides of an issue the impression that he supports them. He didn't insist that his managers tone down his uncharacteristically harsh campaign. He wouldn't distance himself from a T-shirt with racial overtones. And he defers too much to Gantt. He'll find it hard to make the tough calls a mayor must make.

Thin record

Norwood has been on City Council for 15 years, and he has headed one of Council's most important committees, Housing and Economic Development. In that time, he has been a quiet presence, accomplishing little of note. Despite his time in government, polls show that he isn't well known.

The rave

He knows government

Norwood's lack of actual management experience is offset by his deep experience in City Hall and in state government. He knows how city and state governments work. He is exceptionally bright and naturally eloquent. And Harry Truman had no administrative experience when he was elected president.

Politics is important

The mayor's job is political, and political knowledge and experience will become increasingly important as the city's finances grow tighter. Rochester needs more state aid. Norwood knows how state government works, and he has important connections. His supporters include nearly all City Council members, who are confident he can do the job.

He's a listener

Norwood is a consensus builder. His style is not one of making enemies, and he listens to advocates on both sides of an issue. Building consensus hasn't kept him from taking a strong stand in the end. And in his campaign, he has been discussing what he sees as faults in the Duffy record.

No headline grabber

Rochester's strong-mayor system allows little visibility for Council members. The only Council members who get media attention are mavericks and obstructionists. Norwood is collegial, works hard behind the scenes, and doesn't seek credit. His many accomplishments include shepherding the revision of the city's Zoning Code and the Police Citizen Review Board legislation, securing funding for numerous programs, and keeping Hickey Freeman in Rochester.

The rap on Bob Duffy

Poor marks as chief

Rochester has the state's highest per-capita murder rate. His police reorganization plan isn't popular with police and some residents; it eliminated close police-community relations. And police officers don't like him; the union has endorsed Norwood.

Consultation king

He makes decisions by consultants' reports. And when he discusses serious problems, he often says he'll start by appointing a committee to come up with solutions.

The wrong experience

His management experience is in a paramilitary organization, not applicable to leading hundreds of civil service employees. He doesn't know how City Hall works. And his lack of political experience will be a handicap in dealing with state and federal government and in leading the Democratic Party.

Talk, talk, talk

Duffy talks too much. Every topic gets a rambling, 20-minute discourse, often more anecdotal than substantive. Listeners' eyes glaze over. As mayor, he'd have trouble communicating his vision and leading his staff.

The rave

Strong results

The number of homicides fell during Duffy's tenure, as did the overall number of major crime incidents. Rochester's crime rate is linked to its high poverty rate. City Council discussed and approved the reorganization plan, and the draft of a new study indicates that it improved response time and cut overtime pay. Many residents like the reorg. The police union's distrust of Duffy dates to his investigation of department corruption in 1990.

He's inclusive

Duffy likes analysis and wants the facts before he acts. He also believes in involving the community in decision-making, and one of his strengths is his ability to bring people together. He has a participatory, inclusive leadership style.

Look at the record

He demonstrated creative leadership by starting numerous innovative programs in the police department, including anti-gang programs and the use of state and county law-enforcement officers to help city police in high-crime areas. He promoted women, African-Americans, and Hispanic officers to ranks higher than they had ever achieved. He worked with state and federal officials on crime-prevention efforts. His supporters include many experienced Democratic politicians.

Talk's not fatal

It's true that he's a talker. Part of the problem is his enthusiasm; he's a hyperkinetic kind of leader who shows his enthusiasm. But he's able to focus. And if this is the worst thing people can say about him, he's way ahead of the game.

The rap on Tim Mains

He's abrasive

There's a difference between being book smart and people smart. Mains hasn't accomplished as much as he could on City Council because of his "difficult" personality. It gets in the way of his ability to lead. And it would hinder his relations with City Council, department heads, and county officials.

He's a micromanager

Mains is detail oriented to a fault. Running a large operation like City Hall, that would be a big impediment.

The rave

He expects excellence

He is exceptionally bright, and he has high standards, high expectations of himself and those around them. He is tolerant of people with less intelligence, less education or wealth, but intolerant of people who have much and squander it, intolerant of mediocrity. He will not let people slide. He may have his abrasive moments, but he has heart. He cares. His students see it, and his friends and associates see it.

He keeps involved

Mains is well liked by his staff at School 50 and is respected as a good manager. He gives clear directions and sets a standard and doesn't then walk away from the task. He stays involved and likes being a hands-on manager. He is a teacher and a learner, and he can breathe life into projects that other people can't.

He has an incredible depth of knowledge of City Hall and urban issues and a strong vision. No one understands the city budget better than Mains. He understands the levels of government and has thought about how things work. He is bright enough to attract the right people to work for him. And as a gay man, he has faced hostile environments and has prospered. He has clear vision and the energy to see goals accomplished.