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The next four years

In an interview with the Rochester Business Journal a little over a month ago, Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy gave this assessment of his first term: “We have accomplished a lot in four years, but we’re nowhere near where we can be. We are light-years away from our potential. I believe we can do so much more.”

The public’s assessment, it seems, would be similar. In this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll, three-quarters of respondents gave the mayor an A or B for his first-term performance. Only 4 percent said he had failed. Yet many poll participants commented that much remains to be done.

The mayor can point to a number of first-term achievements, not the least of which came right at the start: shutting down the city’s money-losing fast-ferry service and selling the boat. He also has proved to be an able steward of Rochester’s finances in a difficult fiscal environment.

At the same time, many of the challenges that confronted Mr. Duffy when he took office nearly four years ago remain. These include deeply rooted poverty—as noted here recently, the portion of the city’s population living below the poverty line has grown over the last several years—and a declining manufacturing base.

The economic downturn and the shrinking of Eastman Kodak Co. are big factors in these challenges. Simply stated, the city does not entirely control its own destiny.

The trick is knowing what the city can and should do to shape its future. As Mr. Duffy noted in his State of the City speech in April, city government’s No. 1 job is building and maintaining infrastructure and ensuring public safety. “It’s a spin on George Eastman’s first slogan,” he noted. “We’ll lay the foundation, you do the rest.”

Beyond that, it is critically important that the city makes sure the Midtown redevelopment and other big projects launched over the past four years live up to their promised potential.

Finally, new challenges—and opportunities—will arise in Mr. Duffy’s second term. It is his job to put the city in the best position to respond to those.

11/06/09 (c) 2009 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.


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