Of City Council's nine seats, five are up for election this fall. These are at-large seats, which means that in the September 13 Democratic primary, voters can choose five of the nine candidates on the ballot.
The nine have remarkably similar opinions on several issues. Most support continuing subsidies for the fast ferry, at least temporarily, if the ferry is making progress. They oppose a casino in downtown Rochester but are willing to consider one somewhere else. All are concerned about making City Hall more helpful for small businesses hoping to open or expand in the city.
All want the city to at least consider consolidating city and county services such as civil service, economic development, and water.
Four of the nine are exceptionally strong candidates and receive our endorsement:
Carolee Conklin. City Clerk for the past 12 years and deputy clerk for nine years before that, Conklin brings unique experience to this race. She knows city government well. She has managed an important area of the bureaucracy and has initiated systems that streamline operations, saving time and money and providing better service to the thousands of people who get licenses from her department each year. The clerk's office uses customer-satisfaction cards, and she wants that expanded throughout City Hall.
Issue briefs: Supports the ferry but notes that its economic benefits extend well beyond Rochester; other areas of government should be supporting it as well, she says. Is concerned about reports that some residents don't like the police reorganization, but would not, she says, undo reorg based simply on anecdotal evidence. Doesn't want the city to continue subsidizing entertainment businesses in the High Falls area; the private sector, she says, will do that development if there's a market. Supports having the school superintendent report to the mayor.
Saul Maneiro. A graduate of Wilson Magnet High School and the University of Rochester, Maneiro is a bright 29-year-old with an extensive background in community work. He has been program manager for the Housing Council since 2002, was a legislative assistant to former State Senator Richard Dollinger, has been a tutor in the Rochester school district, and has worked in numerous Latino organizations. That work shows in his deep familiarity of issues, particularly in the area of housing and neighborhoods.
Issue briefs: Wants a greater level of cooperation among the city and county, particularly in economic development, but warns that the city's interests must be protected. Applauds continuing market-rate housing development downtown but wants a better mix, with more affordable housing. Opposes having the school superintendent report to the mayor.
Dana Miller. A Xerox manager, Miller has an almost staggering history of community involvement and leadership. He chairs the City Planning Commission, is a member of the Genesee Transportation Council, and served on the city's Environmental Commission, Economic Development Commission, and 2010 Renaissance Plan Stewardship Committee. He is a former president of the 19th Ward Community Association and has been president of the Sector 4 Common Council. He served on the committee that helped draft the implementation plan for the police reorganization. Thanks to that experience, he has a deep understanding of city challenges --- he's one of the few candidates who mentioned the effects of sprawl on Rochester and its housing, for example.
Issue briefs: Wants stronger City Hall oversight by City Council and a closer coordination between the mayor's office and Council. Wants the city to be more aggressive in seeking state aid. Says current county economic-developments through such programs as Empire Zones have encouraged businesses to move from the city to the suburbs. Says the city should determine how well the police reorganization is working before abandoning it.
Bill Pritchard. Appointed to fill a vacancy two years ago, Pritchard has already built a strong record, taking leadership on such issues as downtown parking and downtown housing. And he is a thoughtful analyst and advocate for city needs. A former legislative aide, he is currently senior director of major and planned gifts at the University of Buffalo's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He has chaired the City Planning Commission and has been president of the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley.
Issue briefs: Wants stronger City Hall oversight by City Council, stronger economic-development funding and efforts. Is working with School Board member Malik Evans to fund more neighborhood services. Is skeptical of consolidating city and county economic-development departments, given the county's political strength and the city's own development needs but supports consolidation of the water authorities. Stands behind Council's vote favoring police reorganization; believes some changes are needed but wants "one year of clear data" first. Opposes public subsidy for the ferry, which he calls "a luxury form of transportation."
Worth considering: Two of the primary candidates piqued our interest, but weren't nearly as strong as Conklin, Maneiro, Miller, and Pritchard:
Pete Buckley. A former city architect, now a project director with the Pike construction company, Buckley has also started, then sold, his own businesses: the Merchants Grill and a specialty food market at the Public Market. His discussion of city issues is less substantive than that of the four strongest candidates, but he recognizes the complexity of such issues as the reorganization of the police department, consolidations of city and county water services, and a casino development. One of his strengths --- if it doesn't serve purely obstructionist purposes --- is his argument that City Council has been a weak overseer and has been too "clubby."
Issue briefs: Supports extending subsidies for the ferry if necessary; wants school funding to stay at the current level; opposes having the superintendent report to the mayor; supports the Urban Land Institute report on razing much of Midtown Plaza; supports tax incentives for business development if they're carefully monitored; strongly supports Tim Mains' Pioneer Tax Credit. Wants more emphasis on housing development.
Lovely Warren. One of the youngest candidates running this year, Warren recently received her degree from Albany Law School and is deputy counsel to State Assemblymember David Gantt. She has thoughtful comments about Rochester's lead poisoning and about assessing whether city-county consolidations would truly save money and what impact they would have on unemployment. With more experience in city issues --- and more familiarity with the school district's challenges --- Warren could well make a strong member of City Council.
Issue briefs: Opposes public subsidies for the ferry; would wait until studies are completed before determining whether to undo the police reorganization; opposes increased funding for the school district, saying that raises for administrators have been too large and enrollment has declined. Suggests considering tax incentives and loans to landlords to help with lead-paint abatement.
Also on the ballot: One of the most important roles of City Council is oversight of the mayor's administration. That requires knowledge, intelligence, and creativity. Criticism alone is not enough. Neither are enthusiasm and familiarity with city neighborhoods. We're not endorsing the following, principally because of the lack of depth on city issues:
John Lightfoot. An environmental inspector for the county, Lightfoot has been active in the Southwest Area Neighborhood Association and Sector 4 and is a Scoutmaster. He wants more services to help senior citizens maintain their independence and wants the school district to develop stronger programs related to students' emotional health. He is familiar with some of the needs of his southwest area neighborhood, but before serving on City Council, he needs to become far more familiar with the complicated challenges Rochester faces.
Mike Loewke. A former County Legislator, Loewke is a plumber and city landlord, and he successfully sued the city over payments for work on the Blue Cross Arena. He's a strong critic of City Council, opposes filling in the subway tunnel, criticizes the city for having higher water rates than the county, and says Council hasn't provided enough oversight of the administration, particularly of the ferry. He opposes razing Midtown Plaza and opposes having the superintendent report to the mayor. He suggests solving traffic problems in the harbor area by building a garage in Greece and developing a light-rail system to Charlotte.
Gladys Santiago. A City Councilmember for more than nine years, Santiago is senior vice president of Ibero-American Action League. Santiago is a passionate advocate for the concerns of Rochester's poorer residents, particularly the Latino community. But her Council experience should have given her greater knowledge of the issues facing the city. She says she has not given much thought to the possibility of consolidating city and county services, for example. On the issues: She wants Rochester's mayor to be a stronger advocate for state funds, supports the school superintendent's Children's Zone proposal, opposes public funding for the ferry, supports a casino, wants more information before deciding what to do about police reorganization, and believes there hasn't been enough effort put into redeveloping Midtown Plaza.