The great poet and humanitarian Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time”. These are wise words and important to remember when deciding our next Mayor in the City of Rochester.
In 2013, many in the community were reeling from Lovely Warren’s win in the Democratic Party Primary. Warren’s upset was a blow against integrity in government and a progressive agenda for Rochester. When asked in one of the early caucus meetings before hundreds of Democrats whether she supported the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, her answer was, “I support the law”.
She was a leader that often-exhibited leadership qualities and tactics that were used to intimidate and punish anyone who would dare go against her. Many believed she was not prepared to be Mayor. All points that Warren herself has proved to be true during her Mayoral term so far.
Let’s look at the facts:
Anti-Public Education Agenda: Lovely Warren was a supporter of Mayoral Control (Editor’s Note: She has not supported mayoral control as mayor but did in this 2010 article), though in her plan she said none of her strategies for improvement required control but instead “mayoral leadership.” She has pushed for the elimination of the Democratically elected school board. During her term as mayor she has advocated for increasing Charter School development in the City of Rochester and more control over schools by the Mayor.
Nepotism: In her first 90 days, Warren, in decisions steeped in nepotism and cronyism worked to circumvent Civil Service laws to fire the Chief of Security and replace him with two new positions, one to be held by her Uncle Reggie.
Dishonesty: Warren was caught speeding not once, but twice, on Interstate 90 while being driven by her uncle in a new government funded escort car. When asked about the situation she lied about the incidents not happening until police reports were made public proving otherwise.
Public Corruption: Public statements were made by the Mayor asking that that the Facilities Modernization Program’s companies be placed under investigation by the FBI. What we have learned about this project however is that it is her actions regarding the replacement of board members and the steering of contracts to a company connected to the late Conservative Republican Assemblyman Bill Nojay (a Trump delegate) and Lobbyist Robert Scott Gaddy that are being investigated by the FBI. Gaddy is a long-time David Gantt and Lovely Warren supporter.
Campaign Finance/Pay-to-Play: During her 2013 election, Warren benefited from $40,000 from a hidden Political PAC powered by Robert Scott Gaddy and a shell company in Florida created by Assemblyman Bill Nojay. The company was created to hide his involvement.
Public corruption/Pay-to-Play: Warren expedited the replacement of Board Members of the Rochester Housing Authority (RHA) to orchestrate the firing of Director Alex Castro (one of the highest ranked Latino officials in Rochester) and place campaign surrogate and friend City Councilman Adam McFadden in the Director’s role despite universal public outcry. A decision that was later rejected in an investigation by Federal Housing and Urban Development authorities forcing Adam McFadden to resign.
Cronyism: Warren failed to hold her mentor David Gantt accountable for the mismanagement of his properties; instead, he was awarded close to $200,000 in a grant for derelict properties that he built up numerous code violations [on] and failed to pay the taxes. All this while scolding Mayoral candidate James Sheppard for his issues with one property he owned that he paid all taxes and violations he owed despite repeated vandalism and sold the property at a loss, but kept it on the tax rolls.
No Christmas for the homeless: In an act of elitism and cowardice, the Mayor had the homeless tent city demolished close to the Christmas holiday. An event that earned national attention and led to a social media scandal where the Mayor lashed out at people for criticizing her.
And the list goes on…..
When individuals in the community were reeling after Lovely Warren’s election it was in part because we were unaware what type of leader we were going to get. Warren’s record as a leader to that point was not something that inspired hope in those who hold progressive values. We were afraid that she would govern like her mentor David Gantt or like she had governed as City Council President. These were legitimate concerns that were justified by her actions when she took office and continue to be justified today. Lovely Warren has been a train wreck for the community.
When considering Republican influences on the candidates for Mayor, the record is clear. James Sheppard has never sought Republican endorsements and assistance. Rachel Barnhart’s campaign is being funded by Republican operatives. In fact she still owes close to $20,000 in loan payments to the company of Arnie Rothschild. Rothschild is a key strategist for the Republican Party and a supporter of Lovely Warren’s 2013 and 2017 Mayoral Campaigns.
[Credit: Monroe County Board of Elections]
Lovely Warren, sought Republican endorsements and assistance numerous times and it is a commonly held belief that she has created a non-aggression pact with the Republican Party to ensure their control of the County Legislature and County Executive’s seat. Let’s look at the facts:
James Smith: Warren hired former Deputy County Executive under Republican Maggie Brooks, James Smith, as her communications director. The same James Smith who was indicted in the Robutrad scandal (Editor’s Note: Smith was also acquitted after deliberations that lasted two days). He also served under the Brooks administration during the implementation of the corrupt Local Development Corporations that led to the indictment and conviction of several of Maggie Brooks’ top aides, including her husband.
Arnie Rothschild: Warren hired Arnie Rothschild as campaign and media strategist, paying over $100,000 for his services since 2013. (Board of Elections, 2016)
Please note: Both Gaddy and Rothschild have single handedly launched and funded Rachel Barnhart’s campaigns for Assembly and for Mayor, including a $20,000 loan she has yet to pay back (Board of Elections, 2016)
Cheryl Dinolfo: Warren refused to endorse Sandy Frankel for County Executive, citing her strong relationship with Republicans Maggie Brooks and Cheryl Dinolfo (Democrat and Chronicle, 09/28/2015)
Maggie Brooks: Warren sought out and accepted Republican Maggie Brooks’ endorsement in the 2013 Mayor’s Race. (Democrat and Chronicle, 11/01/2013)
Bill Nojay: Warren benefited from $40,000 in campaign contributions, over half of which was paid to the late Republican/Conservative Assemblyman Bill Nojay by lobbyist Robert Scott Gaddy. Money that was hidden through a secret Florida shell Company. (Democrat and Chronicle, 05/23/2016)
Gary Rogers: Warren’s campaign has employed Gary Rogers, a Republican conservative suburbanite as her campaign spokesperson.
Lovely Warren has benefited from $40,000 in PAC money from Republicans, endorsed Republicans, paid Republicans and hired Republicans to help get her elected and help her while in office. Republicans connected to some of the most conservative and racist factions of their party and those who we believe have been or are currently under investigation by the NYS Attorney General, NYS Comptroller and Federal Bureau of Investigations.
In her term as Mayor, Warren has supported over 15 campaigns against endorsed Democrats since 2015 and over 1,000 party primaries since 2005.
But…but…Bob Lonsberry says he supports James Sheppard…
Yes, Bob Lonsberry has said and written about supporting James Sheppard for Mayor. He has also defended and written about defending Lovely Warren and endorsed Rachel Barnhart. None of these were sought after. If you have a problem with what Bob Lonsberry does in support of these candidates, take it up with him and every other progressive liberal guest who goes on his show, including Former Mayor Bill Johnson since 2003.
Conflict in the Democratic Party
David Gantt and Lovely Warren have run primaries against local elected Democrats almost every year, representing over 1,000 local election challenges in races spanning from county committee member, to Mayor, to flirtations with running for Congress against Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. It is hypocritical to shame other Democrats for taking a stand and then taking part in the same challenges she has regularly taken herself.
In fact, the author Rajesh Barnabas is part of this rich history by supporting Carrie Andrews in 2005 against George Moses (Lovely Warren Supporter and Rochester Housing Authority President appointed by Warren). The reasons we ran against Moses were some of the same reasons we ran against Warren. Pro charter school agenda, shady business dealings, arrogant leadership.
Redefining James Sheppard
Barnabas brings up that what Sheppard stated upon leaving the police department as Chief and what he states now regarding why he left are different. I agree the two statements were different. I think Sheppard was trying to be diplomatic and not disrespectful, but in the end, he should have been forthright from the beginning. He left because he questioned the transparency and integrity of the incoming administration and wanted no part of it. You would have to speak to Sheppard directly about why these statements are different, but many people wanted to give Warren a chance when she first started, Including me. I was one of the first Democratic leaders to reach out and meet with her right after the election.
Sheppard’s Policing Model
Barnabas outlines clear points of contention that he has with the behavior of officers while Sheppard’s was Police Chief. Barnabas calls out the Emily Good, Benny Wahr and Brenda Hardaway incidents with the RPD, but fails to highlight that these events happened under a City Council with Lovely Warren as the President and Adam McFadden as the Public Safety Chair. He also fails to highlight the hours, days and weeks of community meetings Sheppard took part in to be transparent and open with the community, including taking corrective action. It is also clear Barnabas has a disdain for police in general, which he should also address.
While he should engage with Sheppard’s record, he should also not be giving a pass to Warren on her policing record which factually has been more aggressive and less transparent than Sheppard’s. Here are some examples:
Occupy (Sheppard) vs. Black Lives Matter Protest (Warren)
During the Occupy Wall Street Movement, Occupy Rochester set up a tent city in Washington Square Park downtown. Through the work of labor leaders, progressive leaders and a group of progressive veterans of war, the City was convinced to bring these individuals to the table to come up with an amicable way to allow these individuals to protest. After negotiations, it was set that the Occupy Rochester settlement could stay for the time being if they were adhering to fire code, not closing the park to others and the site remained safe and sanitary.
After two months of maintaining the encampment, the negotiated time expired and the protesters decided to hold a protest on leaving. Protest leaders notified the RPD and Mayor’s office of this action ahead of time to allow City Hall to plan accordingly. Due to this negotiation, 16 protesters were peacefully detained and then released without incident or charges being filed.
This was over two months after Occupy Wall Street was evicted (Editor’s Note: This made Rochester the first city in NY to shut down an Occupy protest. This article also notes 32 were arrested but this one states 16). In fact, Rochester then was the longest running occupy site and a model for how other cities worked together with protesters across the nation.
According to media interviews made at that time by the same leaders Barnabas interviewed, there were 16 arrests, (not 40) and protesters could occupy the park during park hours after they were evicted. These are very different than the recent statements made on memory by the occupy members. Evidence that is verified in interviews given by these same individuals to the press during the occupy movement.
Again, I get it. Don’t give in to the man, but don’t misrepresent the facts either. Facts that you can find in a simple google search that takes three minutes.
Regarding the heavy-handed policing, they may be referring to what happened on the Main St. Bridge. Yes, there were problems with that protest, one part of which was that protesters did not have a permit to block traffic and did it anyway, but that actually is not my point. My point here was that Sheppard was not the police chief at the time, it was Chief Moore, the one who now works for the Republicans in the County Office building currently.
Black Lives Matter Protest
Last year, along with protests across the United States, Black Lives Matter protesters held an action in downtown Rochester. During the protest police dressed in full tactical and riot gear to physically confront the protestors. Over 71 protesters were arrested, including two black reporters from Channel 13 news. While this was happening, there were multiple questions and calls for updates and information from City Hall that were not answered or addressed. The Mayor was attending a concert at the time. A press conference would not be held until around 2am that morning after the 71 arrests, which were the highest rate of arrests in the United States, outpacing NYC, Los Angeles and New Orleans.
These are two distinct differences in the approach in policing of both administrations. While Sheppard was open, inclusive and came to solutions through dialogue and open communication, Warren in contrast has led a police force with heavy handed police tactics, a lack of transparency and communication (Editor’s note: Warren doesn’t lead the police force, RPD Chief Michael Ciminelli does and she often allows him to make decisions in this capacity)
The results speak for themselves.
Occupy Rochester and the way they worked with City Hall and the RPD became a national model on how protestors and a City can work together (Editor’s note: both the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP condemned how Occupy was handled)
Black Lives Matter Protests under Warren became the highest amount of arrests in the County and made National attention for the heavy handed police tactics.
Additionally, the Mayor’s recent choice to bring back former Police Chief Cedric Alexander should be equally scrutinized as it is a signal that the Mayor wants to continue these types of aggressive “law & order” police tactics. Alexander is who Warren wanted to bring in as Police Chief since her election and she is a supporter of Cedric’s law & order philosophy and the use of Swat teams in full riot and tactical gear to police street corners. Additionally, Alexander’s police record out of Georgia has been highly criticized and has led to his inability to land the Chicago Chief of Police job as recently as last year.
Further, Adam McFadden, Chair of the Public Safety Committee is a proponent of this type of militarization of the police force, advocating for Police Jump out squads on corners such those enacted by Alexander. Lastly, Operation Cool Down was enacted while both Lovely Warren was City Council President and Adam McFadden was chair of the Public Safety committee of City Council. Where was this outrage about the program then? In fact there wasn’t and it was not until this year when Sheppard chose to challenge Warren did McFadden begin to use the label “Stop and Frisk” to label Sheppard. Hypocritical.Warren’s handpicked Deputy Mayor and choice for police chief has a very questionable police record stands in stark contrast to Sheppard’s record. They are not the same.
Sheppard Progressive Credentials
James Sheppard has a history of progressive activism. Here are some examples:
1. Supported NYS GENDA. Was the first police chief in NYS to publicly stand up for this important legislation.
- a) In contrast, Lovely Warren supported the Defense of Marriage Act
- James Sheppard is one of the only Police Chiefs to support Raise the Age. This point in particular speaks directly against Barnabas’ Jim Crow claims.
- Just yesterday, Rochester residents with the support of elected officials like James Sheppard and Molly Clifford received a grant to help fight those battling addiction. Taking proactive steps to help our community.
Sheppard supported this important legislation at the Center for Youth Rally, joined by Elaine Spaull and Rosemary Rivera among other progressive advocates in Rochester.
I like Ken, I view him as a close friend and very smart political strategist who has helped many progressive candidates win elections, including Rochester’s first African American Mayor Bill Johnson. He has supported and run the campaigns of countless minority leaders in both the African American and Latino communities. To call Ken, who happens to be Japanese and Irish, the white establishment is ridiculous. In fact, he is so not the establishment, he has been an enrolled member of the Working Families Party since 2015 and recently started to work for the WFP. Seems to make the “Elite White Democratic Establishment” claim seem a little delusional.
Looking at Barnabas’s attack on Unions, we find that the trade unions did meet their diversity requirements set for the project, which is demonstrated in public records online for the Facilities Modernization Program (FMP) and the recent public hearing at City Hall called by Councilwoman Jackie Ortiz. Testimony can be found by Robert Brown of the Laborers who reported that it was the Mayor’s meddling in the project that has led to the problems. Before you call him white, he is not. Let me highlight that Bob Brown is one of the longest serving African American Labor Leaders in the History of Rochester.
“Bob Brown, a member of the appointed board who voted to keep the PLA, said he had no clue to the other members’ motives. “When they came into that room, they came to vote ‘no.’ There was no discussion,” Brown said Monday.” (Democrat and Chronicle, August 8, 2016)
Furthermore, if you ask the president of the RTS Bus Drivers Union and the President of the Laborers, you will hear about how these two majority minority unions have been neglected by Mayor Warren. These are major reasons they are supporting James Sheppard.
Lastly, I would agree with Barnabas when he states…”We have seen this counter-revolution to the #Black Lives Matter movement gain footing nationally with calls by the new president for a return to “law and order”… This regression need not gain traction in Rochester.”
He is right, but if his intentions are for a better Rochester and not personal grudges as a progressive community our targets should be Lovely Warren and the Republican establishment supporting her. Because when it comes to James Sheppard, he’s out there walking the talk as a sought-after voice for community engagement and social justice, as exhibited by his recent guest speaking role at the black lives matter program hosted by the religious community and local Rochester youth.
For me the answer is clear, I stand with James Sheppard.