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2013 Rochester, New York State of the City Address - Mayor Thomas S. Richards

2013 Rochester, New York State of the City Address - Mayor Thomas S. Richards

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Published by WXXI News
Text of Rochester Mayor Thomas S. Richards's State of the City address given May 6, 2013.
Text of Rochester Mayor Thomas S. Richards's State of the City address given May 6, 2013.

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Published by: WXXI News on May 06, 2013
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Mayor Thomas S. RichardsTranscript- 2013 State of the City Address
“Rochester: A City
Transformed
 Delivered at: School of the Arts, 45 Prince St.Monday, May 6, 2013
Welcome to the School of the Arts. Our choice of this marvelous place is deliberate.Each day the School of the Arts cultivates
the talents of our city’s
youth. This is a goodschool full of good kids with good teachers and it is not the only one. That is importantto remember, despite the well known challenges of our school district. Thanks to SOTAand the Rochester City School District for serving as our hosts this evening.I would be remiss not to thank the citizens of Rochester. I appreciate your support. It isan honor and a privilege to serve as your Mayor. Despite its challenges, this is mostrewarding job of my career. I appreciate each of you here tonight, for your commitmentand dedication to the future of our city. I have just completed my second year as Mayor.We have accomplished much and have set in motion much that will continue thetransformation of Rochester for its residents. But, we cannot do it in a vacuum. I amextremely grateful to our other partners in service to the citizens of our city.Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator KirstenGillibrand on the federal level. To Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy; your efforts have assisted Rochester in these difficult economic times andyou have given back faith to all New Yorkers in the functioning of our state government.My thanks to our Assembly delegation: Assemblymen David Gantt, Joe Morelle andHarry Bronson. T
o our Senate delegation: State Senators Joe Robach, Ted O’Brien
andMichael Ranzenhofer. Thanks also to our partners in County government, CountyExecutive Maggie Brooks and the County Legislature. And, my sincere appreciationgoes out to the members of the Rochester City Council. President Lovely Warren, Vice-President Dana Miller and fellow Council Members: Carolee Conklin; Matt Haag; AdamMcFadden; Jackie Ortiz; Carla Palumbo; Loretta Scott and Elaine Spaull. We haveworked in a cooperative and collaborative spirit to address the challenges that face our city. I also want to acknowledge our hard-working and dedicated City employees. Cityworkers provide the highest level of service to our residents and visitors and do so in acustomer-oriented fashion. My thanks also to School Superintendent Bolgen Vargas,School Board President Malik Evans and the other Board members from the schooldistrict. Bolgen, you have been an excellent partner as we work together to make our schools more effective. Finally, my sincerest thanks to my wife Betty, my family and my
 
 
grandchildren. Being Mayor takes a toll on all of them. They are my touchstone, helpingme to maintain balance and perspective.This is a unique time in the history of our city. We are seeing a fundamental change inour circumstances. The old politics of making promises and ignoring obvious realitiesare over. We need a new politics of governing for our city and we need to begin to
remake our city; not by pretending the new world doesn’t exist –
but rather by pullingtogether and facing our new reality with new policies and new actions. With the rightleadership and our collective will
 –
we can make our city a place where all of our residents can have the opportunity to thrive and prosper. Tonight, I want to focus on thenew reality we face and what to do about it.We are a city undergoing a transformation. Some of this is due to factors that havegripped cities like ours across the country. They include the loss of the industrial basethat was largely concentrated in the cities and was the source of stable employment for our citizens - employment that required skills and commitment, but not significant levelsof education and preparation. We are seeing a shift to a knowledge-based economythat is no longer rooted in large industrial facilities that were tied to a place. Thiseconomy places a premium on education and technical skills. Our society has seen ashift to suburban living and to suburban employment. That suburban shift has fostered achange in transportation and infrastructure investments. And the recent prolongedrecession and its impacts, have confirmed the economic changes that have beenoccurring over some time.Some of this transformation is due to factors that are particular to our community. Wedepended on a few large companies and we were dominated by one in particular. Theyprovided employment and civic leadership. This dynamic has not existed for some timeand the bankruptcy of Kodak provides symbolic evidence. These industries were alwaysrelatively high tech and attracted people with transferable skills. Downsizing oftenbrought separation plans that were relatively generous to the individuals affected. Theshift in the economic base that affected many cities was more gradual and, to someextent, milder here. Nonetheless, the change was real and it has had a real impact. As a result of all of this and other things as well, we are a changed city. We were builtfor 330,000 people, we are now 210,000. Kodak no longer employs 60,000 people. It isnot just that we are smaller. We are different. There is a dichotomy between asignificant part of the city and the suburbs in wealth, public education performance andrace. Our city has one of the highest concentrations of poverty in the state
if not inthe country
and that is disproportionately defined by race. Our school system isstruggling at a time when there is a premium on education. With large annual budgetgaps, it is increasingly difficult to fund our government. We are at a place where just twostate mandates completely swallow up our entire property tax levy.
The City’s dynamics
 
 
 –
its industry base
 –
its population base and its traditional funding streams are forever changed.So there is no doubt that we are a city being transformed. This is not a choice. It is afact. Our choice is whether this transformation will be for good or for ill. Our choice iswhether we will control it, or whether it will control us. I say these things, some of whichare hard to hear, not to scare or discourage you, but in the firm belief that if we are totake charge of our future we need to understand and be honest about our present. Iseek to get out in front and steer that transformation so all of us can remain and prosper in the city we love. My intention tonight is to show that we have started down that pathand how I intend that we continue. At the start, I see two key risks that can lead us astray. The first is to fail to understandwhat is going on
 –
to mistake the change as one of degree, rather than transformation
 –
 to mistake it as a matter of size, rather than of fundamental difference. In the face of anew and uncertain reality
 –
I understand the temptation to trivialize the challenges,particularly the financial challenges, and to substitute the traditional laundry list of promises of benefits to one individual or group. This strategy may sound good to therecipient, but we are way past that point. That is the old politics and we need a newpolitics of transformation.The second key risk is to not allow the changes to isolate the city and its people. Thereis a temptation to turn inward. To define the city in isolation. To define it in terms of onesegment or race or problem and to use that definition to political advantage. There arecities across the country that have tried this approach and none have succeeded. Acampaign may be won by a strategy of divide and conquer 
 –
but a city cannot begoverned that way. Again, that is the old politics
 –
and a certain path to failure.Successful cities have always had a constituency broader than themselves. In the lastcentury they earned it as the center of the broader community and to no small extent,we need to earn it again. We need to be seen as more than a place where some of uslive and work. We are, and need to be recognized as the cultural and financial center of the region. We need a broad spectrum of people to identify with the city
 –
its successand its future. We need those people to proudly say they are from Rochester, whether they live within its boundaries or not. This is no time to narrow the definition of our city.So how do we go about doing that? We start with public safety. Perhaps the most
fundamental purpose of government is the protection of its citizens. By far, the lion’s
share of the City
’s
budget is dedicated to police and fire services. But that is far from thefull extent of our investment in public safety. Clean water, street lighting, lead safe andaffordable housing, code inspections, after school programs, Rec centers and librariesare all pieces of the puzzle in keeping our citizens safe.

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