October 23, 2003
Fighting For Rochester’s Future
The Democrat & Chronicle
Today, the Democrat and Chronicle Editorial Board presents its choices in Rochester’s City Council and school board races.
We carefully weighed information about each candidate, gathered from interviews and talks with people who know them personally and professionally.
We looked for thoughtfulness, the ability to work with others, fresh ideas and the ability to focus. Those leadership attributes are critical if the city is to live up to its potential, and if the school district’s many problems are ever to be turned around.
Stevenson, McFadden and Giess
On Nov. 4, voters must select three City Council members who can help lead the city through present challenges toward a more diverse economy, better schools and healthier neighborhoods.
Their shoulders will bear the responsibility for turning Rochester back into a destination that attracts people from Monroe County and beyond.
Five City Council positions are up for election. Benjamin Douglas and Bill Pritchard are unopposed for the Northeast and at-large seats, respectively.
Adam McFadden, Bob Stevenson and Lois Giess have the skills, energy and commitment to fill the South, Northwest and East district seats. They are the Democrat and Chronicle’s choices for four-year terms on City Council.
Stevenson, a Democrat who has represented the Northwest District for the past 16 years, shows no sign of slowing down. At 75, he exhibits uncommon energy and enthusiasm. The “breadbasket,” as he calls his district, has 90 percent of the manufacturing zoning in Rochester and was hard-hit by recent layoffs.
As chairman of the council’s Parks, Public Works and the Environment Committee, Stevenson has sought and received state brownfield cleanup funding to make polluted land available for development. Stevenson leads the effort to get smaller companies, like the hundred or so tool and die companies in the northwest, to pick up where the big employers left off. When Sealtest Ice Cream vacated its plant, Stevenson worked to get DiLisi Foods to take it over, providing 60 jobs for city residents. Success like that should be duplicated.
Stevenson should also lend his expertise in economic development to other areas of the city, particularly downtown. His Republican opponent, Luis Perez, 48, declined an invitation to be interviewed by the Editorial Board and a request for a phone interview.
In the South District, McFadden has community connections and creativity that make him the best candidate to fill outgoing Councilman Tony Thompson’s seat. He is president of the 19th Ward Community Association and also a supporter of the neighborhood activist group Interfaith Action.
McFadden, 32, comes to the table with fresh energy and new ideas. He suggests making Midtown Plaza a high-tech center and he rightly insists that this community needs a fitting memorial to Frederick Douglass. His independent attitude will be an asset in a City Council that is likely to be all Democratic.
His opponent, John W. Smith, 62, showed passion and a commitment to change the city. His campaign, however, was long on criticism and short on new ideas.
McFadden is the best choice. He should strive to maintain his independence and community-based attitude as he moves to City Hall.
Lois Giess, the current City Council president, deserves another term representing the East District. Don’t let her mild-mannered demeanor fool you she works hard for her constituents. Giess led the Newcroft development project that cleaned up abandoned and abused properties in the area around Woodstock Avenue and East Main Street. Her lobbying brought in state brownfield cleanup money, and more than 20 homes are scheduled to be constructed on that site next year.
After running unopposed for many years, Giess faces two tough challengers in this election. Jason Crane, who is chairman of the Green Party, is a thoughtful and sharp candidate with a commitment to ending lead poisoning that Giess should adopt. He should keep an eye open for another elective office.
Anthony Giordano, a Republican running as an independent on the Citizens for Change line, is a community activist with a strong commitment to social justice. His call for a more accessible and people-friendly City Council is a valid one that Giess should embrace, particularly when running City Council meetings.
Candidates such as Crane, 30, and Giordano, 35, offer hope for the future of this community. For now, Giess’ connections, experience and ability to navigate the system make her the best choice.