We have ourselves a new mayor of Rochester.
But before we look down the road at what Bob Duffy can expect – let’s tie up some loose ends after his inauguration day.
First, it appears that Bob Duffy has made a tradition out of something that appeared to be an off-hand gesture. Two years ago, when Maggie Brooks was sworn in as county executive – she decided to extend an olive branch to Mayor Bill Johnson. This was after a campaign against Johnson for the job (a race she won easily). Brooks bounded off the stage and hugged the big lug. Detente by embrace.
Well wouldn’t you know that Bob Duffy had to replicate the bear hug, jogging away from his podium to find Brooks. If only this new tradition for new county executives and Rochester mayors had been in place earlier. Imagine how different it would be had Jack Doyle embraced Johnson. How about if Bob King and Tom Ryan had just such a moment. Could you see it?
Now let’s get at the speech itself. Duffy reached out to city employees, praising them and telling them he wanted to work in partnership to better the city. He also made note of union leadership. The former chief of police mentioned the head of the teachers union (Adam Urbanski), and the leader of the non-teaching school workers (Dan DiClemente). The former top cop also mentioned by name the top municipal employees’ leader (Tony Gingello) and the head of the firefighters union (Joe Montesano).
But the ex-police chief someone left out the name of Ron Evangelista – the head of the Locust Club, the city union for police officers.
Gee, do you think it was because the Locust Club endorsed his primary opponent, Wade Norwood? Or because the union ran anti-Duffy radio spots (scroll down for audio clips)? Or because of Evangelista’s letter in response to Duffy declining the Locust Club endorsement?
Nah… I’m sure that’s water under the bridge.
Also of note in Duffy’s speech was his return to the three main priorities of his administration – public safety, education and economic development (as if those priorities would be any different for anyone else who would take over as mayor of the city). That last priority – economic development – gets a big mention even though he has yet to fill the job of economic development commissioner (one of the few appointments Duffy has yet to make).
Does it signal a false interest in economic development. No. Instead it may tell us that Duffy is interested in radically altering the economic development function in the city. During the campaign we heard him say that he would like to merge the economic development department with the city’s community development agency. There have been bigger discussions around combining the city and county economic development efforts. Bet on this change coming soon.
And finally, a place in the speech that may give hope to the lovers of metro-government. Those advocates have to be feeling pretty low with the departure of Mayor Johnson – who talked about smart growth and metro government and consolidation at turns. During the campaign to replace Johnson – the issue was barely raised.
Well there was one passage late in the 30-minute speech that might give a glimmer of hope to those hoping government merging isn’t dead. Duffy talked to those who lived outside the city – about how the fortunes of Rochester mean everything to them as well. He said: "You can’t be a suburb of nowhere." A strong, vibrant, attractive city must be the core of our community. We have the ability not only to reinvent our government but also to reinvent our community."
It’s no clarion call for consolidation. It’s barely a nod. But maybe for those mourning the death-knell of the concept – it might be something to hold onto.
Okay, now that that is out of the way – on to the Duffy era. Fasten the safety belts.