A large majority of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll give Robert Duffy a good grade for his overall performance as Rochester mayor, and two-thirds say the state of the city is better now than it was before he became mayor five years ago.
Duffy soon will leave office to become New York’s lieutenant governor. His tenure as mayor began in dramatic fashion: Days after taking office in January 2006, he shut down the city’s money-losing fast ferry service to Toronto.
Other major developments and issues of the Duffy era include the closing and demolition of Midtown Plaza, the debate over the now-abandoned Renaissance Square project, mounting budget challenges and Duffy’s proposal for mayoral control of the city schools.
More than 75 percent of Snap Poll respondents graded Duffy’s overall performance A or B; 14 percent gave him a C. Similar questions were asked in Snap Polls conducted in January 2009 and January 2008. In those polls, roughly 90 percent of respondents approved or strongly approved of his overall performance.
When it comes to economic development, his approval rate in the new poll is 75 percent. That’s down from 84 percent in 2009 and 86 percent in 2008.
In the area of fiscal management, Duffy again garnered high approval ratings, though down slightly from 2008 and 2009. In this poll, 84 percent said they approve or strongly approve of Duffy’s fiscal management. In 2008 and 2009, 88 percent approved.
More than 530 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Dec. 13 and 14.
How would you grade Robert Duffy’s overall performance since becoming mayor in January 2006?
What is your opinion of Mayor Duffy’s performance in the area of economic development?
Strongly approve: 21%
Strongly disapprove: 6%
What is your opinion of Mayor Duffy’s performance in the area of fiscal management?
Strongly approve: 32%
Strongly disapprove: 4%
Compared with when Duffy became mayor in January 2006, how would you describe the overall state of the city of Rochester?
Here are some comments from readers:
Instead of a grade, I would like to give Duffy an incomplete. There are too many things he didn’t finish, and I can’t give a grade at this time.
Hey, let’s face it, Duffy took on a tough job with the mess (Mayor William Johnson Jr.) left behind. The city hasn’t gotten any better, but it hasn’t gotten any worse. The problem isn’t just the city of Rochester; it’s an issue through the state, with those pencil-necked geeks in Albany doing nothing to help any of the upstate cities. Hopefully Duffy won’t forget where he came from and who got him where he is politically today.
—Jim Duke, Victor
Mayor Duffy and his very talented and capable team’s task was to undo the damage to our city from the Johnson administration. Budget deficits in the future will be measured in fast ferry units: 1 unit to equal $35 million.
—Kenneth Merzel, Ovation Realty Group Inc.
Bob Duffy is a rare politician in that in addition to his good judgment, he is a person of integrity and honor. He is deeply committed to community service. He also built and managed a very good staff to further support our city. He will be difficult to replace.
Mayor Bob Duffy and cabinet/team have done an excellent job. Rochester is much better today because of Mayor Duffy’s hard work and commitment to make our great city a better place to live in! We are going to miss you!
All Bob did was manage to get rid of the fast ferry. I really cannot recall any more positive changes that occurred while he was on the watch. Look at the Police Department (crime rates) —there still seems to be a murder du jour in this city—the taxes and the Midtown/Paetec debacle. These are not positive things.
—Frank Muto, president, FJM Inc.
In my opinion, Duffy deserves a B+. If he and Tom Richards obtain a signed commitment from Paetec to move downtown, he will deserve an A+.
—Stuart Small, Pittsford Insurance Agency LLC
Both Bob Duffy and Maggie Brooks are valuable assets to Rochester. In particular, they propose new initiatives to make Rochester come alive again and improve economic development. Very small businesses and startups still need new paths for financial growth.
—Ed Schlueter, president, Medgraph Inc.
I think overall Bob did a good job as mayor. No politician is ever going to get 100 percent blessings from the voters, but as proven in his victory in the last mayoral election, he was the people’s favorite. I wish him well in his new position and hope that since he is an upstate resident, he does a lot to help improve our business climate.
I hope that as Duffy goes to Albany, he will be able to keep his ethics and his faith intact and will not be swayed or driven to the kind of attitudes we see from so many of those currently in Albany.
With Mr. Duffy’s expertise in law enforcement, I find it appalling that safety in Rochester is worse than ever. It’s the one area I expected a dramatic improvement.
—Karen Kall, On Kall Marketing
He needed to get control of the city school spending to make any real control of the city’s fiscal situation.
He was a meteor: Lots of anticipation, flashes across the sky but in the end—no heat/no light. He said he wanted to be mayor but not a politician and in the end he didn’t want what he said and became what he wouldn’t. He said he wanted to take strong positions, get things done. He never found a clear voice about the Renaissance (Square) because he didn’t get that voice telling him it was OK. Thank you, Louise. He did surround himself with some strong community leaders but then slapped down a popular chief of police. At this writing, he still has not closed the Paetec deal and his Albany "partners" have not delivered. Thank you, Joe. What does he have to say about a special election? The media fell in love and then fell asleep. I have about as much confidence now in the guy who has become the politician.
Duffy did a good job of sustaining what is a hopeless case. Too bad he decided to be part of the corrupt, inept Albany establishment.
I’ll remember him as saying no. No to the fast ferry. No to the bus terminal/arts center. No recognition for the good things that have happened in city schools. No to Midtown Plaza. Five and more years of discussion, discussion and discussion about Rochester’s future, and no vision to lead it there. I want a mayor who can say yes. Yes, there are positives in our schools and we can build on them. Yes, we have great colleges and universities, and we can build with them. Yes, we have a wonderful river and can find all kinds of ways to open it up to public view.
I’ll miss him, but I believe he’ll work hard for upstate, and therefore his departure is our gain.
—Pete Bonenfant, Fairport
There are two yardsticks against which to measure Mayor Duffy’s performance. First, compared with the previous two “strong mayors.” The other against our expectations of him, because he stands out so strongly in popularity and achievement. Compared with previous mayors, he gets an A. He has materially altered how city government meets its obligations to citizens. He has streamlined departments and held the line on taxes. The most visible, and early accomplishment was halting the fast ferry and then selling it. He created the office of public integrity, and sold the Hemlock watershed, while protecting its environmental integrity. He invested heavily in public safety, enhancing the overall perception of our city. And without question he raised the profile of Rochester at the state and national level, bringing in untapped sources of revenue for economic development projects. As far as the second measure of meeting our expectations (because he’s so unique in his role as a public official and cheerleader) he gets a B-. Starting but not getting school reform to a more concrete level is an incomplete; he may be able to push for completion in Albany, but without a strong and effective local advocate, school reform may not happen. His ability to implement succession planning was not as good as it should have been, and his selection of department heads has had mixed results. No matter who succeeds him, they will have big shoes to fill, and he will be missed. It’s also not clear if he has inculcated a new corporate culture in City Hall, that will maintain the inertia of change and accountability he is famous for.
—Frank Orienter, Rochester
(c) 2010 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.