News & Opinion » Editor's Notebook

Image City has an image problem


Raise your hand if you got a text or other message from an out-of-town friend over the last year whose substance was along the lines of, “What the hell is wrong with your city?!”

Yeah, us, too.

You’re not alone if you’re tired of Rochester making national news for all the wrong reasons.

Oh sure, we get a warm fuzzy from CNN once every four years for the throngs of people who visit Susan B. Anthony’s grave on Election Day. But as far as news under Rochester datelines go, the bad has outweighed the good way more often than not over the last year.

The death of Daniel Prude and the weeks of civil unrest that followed made headlines coast to coast. The mishandling of the situation by Mayor Lovely Warren and her administration only exacerbated the attention.

A month later, Warren was indicted on felony campaign finance charges, plunging the city into more turmoil. She has pleaded not guilty and that case is pending.

Over the winter, Rochester police used pepper spray on a 9-year-old, handcuffed girl, rightly prompting outrage across the country. That was followed by an incident in which a police officer tackled and pepper-sprayed a woman with her young daughter nearby. The woman had been accused of shoplifting.

Then there was the arrest of Warren’s husband on drugs and weapons charges in May. Prosecutors allege he was a player in a cocaine ring and said he had guns in the home he shares with Warren and their 10-year-old daughter. This at a time when gun violence in the city is on the rise.

Can you blame your out-of-town friends for thinking Rochester is an unruly place where lawlessness is the order of the day?

These headlines are Rochester’s face to the rest of the world, including to people of influence in Washington and Albany and businesspeople who may be looking for opportunities to invest.

Image City has an image problem.

That problem is not the fault of any one person in city or county government, although the mayor’s personal circumstances have been aggravating factors.

But at the end of the day, the people who run things in this town bear some responsibility for how it is perceived.

Anyone wishing to alter Rochester’s image should consider the primary election on June 22 an opportunity to do so — and by “anyone,” that is to say enrolled Democrats.

In races for mayor and City Council and some County Legislature seats, the Democratic primary is the only election that matters. The winners either run in the general election unopposed or face token opposition.

Too often, though, primary races are settled by motivated voters who represent a small fraction of those eligible to cast a ballot. Turnout is notoriously low, in part because too few people take the time to get to know the candidates.

The field is crowded this year, but this edition of CITY looks to help Democrats cut through the clutter with a comprehensive voter guide and coverage of the races that matter most.

We hope everyone finds some value in it and, as always, we thank you for reading.

David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at