Spotlight: The Rochester Mayoral Election
by Kasey Mathews | published May. 6th, 2021
Reporter has previously covered the importance of local elections and representation. One such election is upcoming.
The Rochester mayoral election will officially be held Nov. 2, 2021. However, because Rochester leans so heavily Democratic, it’s widely forecast that the Democratic candidate for mayor will safely win the general election. Therefore, many Rochester residents have their eye, instead, on the Democratic primary, to be held June 22, 2021.
There are a number of candidates campaigning for the Democratic nomination, the two foremost being mayoral incumbent Lovely Warren and challenger Malik Evans. Both Rochester natives, the two agree on many issues; but on many others they tend toward differing solutions.
Know Your Candidates:
Warren was elected as the 69th mayor of Rochester during the 2013 election. She is the first woman and second African American mayor in Rochester history.
Prior to her time as mayor, Warren served on the Rochester City Council. Elected to it in 2007, she would go on to assume the role of city council president 2010 – 2013. During this time, she represented the poorest areas of Rochester, and saw it had been traditionally treated as the city’s “junk drawer.” As councilperson and mayor, she’s since made investment in northeast Rochester and other disadvantaged areas of the city a high priority.
“When I was on city council, the investments in northeast Rochester, if they were like $3 million it was [considered] a lot,” Warren explained. “Now ... we have over $100 million being invested in northeast Rochester.”
Those investments include infrastructural improvements, affordable housing and programs that support upward mobility for residents in the area.
“The best way we can help a child is to make sure their parent has access to a good, well-paying job.”
Warren can often be found walking her dog Rocco through her neighborhood on the east side of the city. She and her family enjoy local spots such as Savoia Pastry Shoppe and Donuts Delite.
Evans was first elected to the Rochester Board of Education in 2003, and later went on to serve as board president for six years. At the time of his first election, he was the youngest ever member of the Board.
In his time on the Board of Education, Evans has worked to expand access to pre-K education. He also worked on a billion-dollar modernization effort for city schools. Evans’ efforts also ensured school nurses would be available in every school within the district.
“We opened up the new experiential learning school, which was Walter Cooper Academy #10,” Evans further said. “And then we expanded the World of Inquiry School, which was a highly regarded experiential learning school ... from K-6 [to] K-12.”
“On one hand we want to make sure that our community is kept safe. But on the other hand we have to make sure that our police are respectful to our residents."
Currently, Evans serves on the city council, chairing the finance committee. For this, he draws upon his career experience in banking, previously serving as a vice president at M&T Bank Corporation. He now works as the financial wellness manager at ESL Federal Credit Union.
From his home in the Cobb’s Hill neighborhood, Evans mentioned it’s a short distance to Genesee Valley Park and Highland Park. He enjoys the local restaurants, as well, with his favorites including The French Quarter and Jines.
“One thing about me," Evans added, "is I’m known for knowing all the different types of restaurants in Rochester, and I love supporting local restaurants.”
While each candidate’s full platform can be found on their respective campaign websites, they each simplify them down into a few key categories.
For Warren, those categories include jobs, safety, education and equity.
Warren stated that “the best way we can help a child is to make sure their parent has access to a good, well-paying job.”
Rochester has a large number of working poor, and a notable part of Warren's efforts has been to ensure adequate pay, job training and career placement. Through the RJob program Warren helped champion, around 100 people over the last three years have been able to undergo training and achieve placement in lucrative careers, with a 100% placement rate.
“You don’t give someone a fish, you teach them how to fish,” Warren said.
Through this program, she aims to provide the tools necessary for the accumulation of generational wealth in otherwise struggling families.
This ties together with her plans for safety and education as well. In her time as mayor, Warren emphasized infrastructural improvements, including repaving major roadways through poorer neighborhoods such as Hudson Ave. and Genesee Park Blvd. Combining this with a focus on increased home ownership, equipping recreation centers with “learning lab” spaces and the construction of new affordable housing, Warren works to ensure families have the tools they need to succeed.
Evans agrees that job placement and home ownership are key to the accumulation of generational wealth, which in turn is a crucial part of bringing life and prosperity to poorer neighborhoods. His plan calls for focus on economic empowerment, trust and transparency, youth development, public safety and neighborhood development.
Rochester is among the worst cities in the nation for childhood poverty, and Evans strongly believes that the best way to address this issue is through job placement and economic empowerment. Rather than focusing on larger corporations, though, Evans dedicates himself to development of small businesses.
“If one in three small businesses created one job, America would be at full employment,” Evans pointed out. “That shows you the power of small businesses.”
For neighborhood development, Evans looks at not just home ownership, but wants to pursue environmental justice and green energy throughout the city.
Arguably the biggest focus for Evans, however, is public safety. He looks to put a higher focus on mental health and de-escalation, as well as investing more in prevention rather than intervention.
“On one hand we want to make sure that our community is kept safe,” Evans said. “But on the other hand we have to make sure that our police are respectful to our residents, that we are leading with a community-center first police department where particularly people of color don’t feel singled out and brutalized by the police.”
The Rochester mayoral race is hotly debated, and much of it boils down to the Democratic primary on June 22. You can find help through the voting process at rit.edu/elections, and can learn more about each candidate through both their campaign websites, as well as other online resources such as Ballotpedia and local news media.