The four candidates actively running for Rochester mayor debated a number of subjects Monday night including what they would do about things like poverty, mayoral control of schools, Parcel 5 and immigration.
The debate televised on News 8 WROC-TV with the help of the League of Women Voters included incumbent Democrat Lovely Warren, Republican Tony Micciche Green Party candidate Alex White and Independent candidate Lori Thomas. When it comes to poverty, Alex White believes the organizations that really can make a difference are not getting the support they need.
“We know that problems are about things like transportation, low minimum wage, the lack of job skills, and we keep cutting funding to many of the organizations that would actually do these or help with these," White said.
Lori Thomas says finding ways to foster home ownership is what will really make a difference.
“(Who) live within the city paying taxes, instead of creating affordable housing where the money doesn’t go back to the city because the 30 year tax breaks are being given to these contractors who are creating affordable housing, people need to own their own homes," Thomas explained.
Lovely Warren says she realizes there's a long way to go, but says her administration has already taken a number of positive steps.
“We started with programs to help with job development, partnerships with manufacturing companies, as well as making sure that we give people better transportation options, it’s the reason why we fought for ride sharing," Warren said.
And Tony Micchiche, wants to see enterprise zones set up in the city to encourage businesses to get established in various neighborhoods.
“Bringing business back into the neighborhoods and communities where the people are; taking a property that’s boarded up and putting it back in service helps the tax base," Micchiche said.
The candidates also had varying views on plans for Parcel 5, with Warren defending a proposal for RBTL and Developer Bob Morgan to put in a performing arts center, apartments and other amenities at that location, while her opponents have their doubts about that plan.
On the issue of Rochester being a ‘sanctuary city,’ one that does not actively provide information about a person’s immigration status to federal authorities, Micciche thinks that violates federal law. But Warren says that’s not the case, and White and Green also expressed support for the city’s current status.
When asked about the property tax situation in Rochester, Alex White criticized tax breaks given to large developments, while Warren said those incentives were needed to fill vacant buildings that weren't providing any tax revenue.
On the topic of a civilian review board of the city police department, Warren praised the job many cops are doing but also said she does support taking a look at the review board situation and says the city does hold officers responsible when they don't act properly. White wants to see a panel with independent investigative powers as well as a bigger emphasis on solving conflicts. Thomas supports the idea of a police accountability board and having better cooperation among police and people in the community.
The candidates were also asked about the pitch that Rochester and Buffalo have made to get Amazon to put its second headquarters in this region, and what they would say if Amazon's CEO called them to get more information.
Micchiche said he would tout the base of local colleges and the talent pool as well as a number of small businesses that could support the effort; White said that Amazon wants things like a walkable city and light rail, areas he says the city doesn't have but could work on; Thomas says it would be a great opportunity, and says that Rochester has the space and the workforce, but not in the manner right now that would suit Amazon, and Warren mentioned recent surveys that ranked Rochester's attributes highly in the Amazon HQ interest by cities and said that with 19 colleges and universities, fiber internet downtown and a great talent pool, Rochester would be a logical choice.