Thursday, September 15, 2005

Mayor's Race: What did it mean?

The dust is settling now. After a contentious primary, that always had more lurking beneath the surface than anyone really let on, as certainly as the sun will rise tomorrow, Bob Duffy will be the next Mayor of Rochester. John Paranello is more likely to don a cape and tights and stalk the streets at night, than beat Duffy in the general election. That isn't what I want to address here though. I want to get back to talking about what lurks beneath the surface.

Last month I had written concerning a City paper article which touched on factions in the Monroe County Democratic Party. The post can be found here if you want to check out my writing via Professor Peabody's Way-Back Machine.

Here's the gist if you don't want to take the jaunt at the link:

I want to focus on the city budget and the race for Rochester's Mayor.
Take this other article from the Democrat and Chronicle. The first part of the article begins by playing the "Pin the Tail on Albany" game, which I love by the way. However, we then get to this gem and a quote from Mayor Bill Johnson:

However, Johnson this week leveled accusations that the money was deliberately held up after the intervention of some City Council members.

"People are paying higher taxes for what may have been a political decision," Johnson said. "It's tragic that someone thought that by holding up this money, they thought they could take political advantage for one of the (mayoral) candidates."

That is quite a charge to level. And where does it come from? Well, mayoral candidate Wade Norwood comes from the political circle of Assemblyman David Gantt, who was the point legislator for this additional money. What could Norwood gain by getting Gantt to slow the state money's delivery into city coffers? Maybe to create an opportunity for Norwood by timing the delivery of the money? Or is this more about throwing mud on the Mayor? There is this from WHEC on the back and forth between Gantt and Mayor Johnson:
Assemblyman David Gantt said not getting the money from the state is the mayor's fault. Gantt says the mayor took too long to request the spin-up money. At Tuesday night's city council meeting, the mayor blamed Gantt, saying he needed to push a harder.

And I had this in there, too...
  • Former Monroe County Democratic Chairperson Molly Clifford was a major supporter of Mayor Johnson.

  • Councilman Wade Norwood is State Assemblyman David Gantt's former Chief of Staff.

  • Clifford stepped down from the Chair role after alleged problems with Assemblyman Gantt.

  • Clifford is currently running Bob Duffy's campaign. Assemblyman Joseph Morelle has since replaced her as Party Chairperson after stepping down as Wade Norwood's campaign chairperson.

    • What we saw yesterday, and indeed the entire primary race, is symptomatic of a party with significant divides. The question is: over what? And that question shouldn't go unanswered. Since Mayor Johnson won the Mayoral primary back in 1993, the defragmentation of the Democratic Party has not abated. I would say, given the rumored reasons for Molly Clifford's sudden departure from the Monroe County Democrat Chairperson position, those fault lines still exist and are as agitated as ever, despite Wade Norwood's indication otherwise during the campaign. Indeed, the outcome of that entire fiasco puts former Norwood campaign chairperson Joe Morelle in charge of the County party, while the departing Clifford will likely follow Duffy to City Hall.

      What the heck is going on?

      As far as I can tell the significant camps derive from Gantt and Johnson. Gantt as the old guard, and Johnson as the upstarts. I don't find myself particularly alarmed by any of this to tell the truth. You'll always find yourself dealing with conflicts within any party system. Especially when the party in question deals more with what action to take, instead of what things shouldn't be done.

      The real problem here is that the new party chair has indicated on more than one occasion that he does not want to see party primaries. Look, Joe Morelle is a good Assemblyman, a profound , and probably an excellent leader for the party. The problem is that he shouldn't ever try to be a king maker, or so blatantly try to set certain handpicked candidates above others. All members of the party have a say in this, and if we want to primary, then, by damn, we will.

      Monday, September 12, 2005

      Rochester Mayoral Race Will End the Moment it Begins

      The City paper has a crib sheet here for the Democratic primary for mayor tomorrow. The City paper write up is a little too simple for my tastes and falls into a "Quality A is bad for this reason, but good for this reason" kind of rhythm, but it does raise a few points worth some discussion. First and foremost, I think they have Councilman Norwood pegged down well. I have no personal issues with Norwood and I think he has served honorably. I hope he continues to seek office regardless of the outcome tomorrow. However, I cannot find support for him as Mayor. The truth is that I find his career-long association with Assemblyman Gantt problematic. Things that I've heard about Gantt have always made me question whether he operates with his constituents' interests at heart. I don't know. But the recent dust-up between Mayor Johnson and him when finalizing the city budget gave me little reason to change my mind.

      I don't know if I have the right to make any kind of endorsement for Mayor. I doubt it matters. If I could choose one person to run the show at City Hall for the next four years, I would have to choose the man that is there right now without giving any pause for consideration. Mayor Johnson has faced some difficult times, made tough decisions, and weathered some sharp criticism. Good leaders often face that. Under Johnson's stewardship, Rochester has seen some significant changes to its economic climate as well as its demographic make-up. Understanding the challenges that the future will bring, Mayor Johnson worked to develop a plan for the future with the 2010 Plan, create in-roads to area businesses by working with the Rump Group, and create a more hospitable political climate by partnering with County Executive Brooks. He has been a capable and accountable Mayor. Rochester was lucky to have him.

      Now, as surely as Johnson will leave office, the winner of tomorrow's Democratic primary will win the November election for Mayor. None of the candidates appear to be able to fill Mayor Johnson's shoes, but one must be hopeful that what we don't know about these men, may surprise us.

      It is my hope that Bob Duffy wins tomorrow's primary election. His executive experience, his ability to speak out, and his willingness to reach across all aspects of a community make him the most suitable candidate for the office.

      Chris Maj: Some say he's a dreamer...

      While I think it is great that young people are running for office, I wish Mr. Maj had a little more understanding of what he's running for. He's clearly an idealist. I won't knock him for that. I wish I could more idealistic. He may, possibly, be a visionary. It's debatable, and I'm not inclined to agree with that assesment, but I'll leave that out there because I'm sure someone will believe he is.

      What's the point?

      Mr. Maj needs to understand that by running for Mayor he is asking people to follow his lead. As a leader people want maturity, understanding, and sound judgment. I haven't seen this to a great degree in his campaign. I hope in later years, we see Mr. Maj again, and he displays more of these qualities.