In the campaign leading up to Rochester’s Democratic mayoral primary, City Council President Lovely Warren often referred to "two Rochesters" and the need to bridge the gap between them.
As her economic and community development plan puts it: "One Rochester is growing, prosperous and has a bright future. The other, often invisible Rochester is characterized by high rates of unemployment, crime, poverty and despair."
An effective get-out-the-vote effort among her supporters no doubt helped Ms. Warren achieve a stunning upset victory on Tuesday. But just as clearly, her "two Rochesters" message resonated with many voters.
There’s no denying the economic divide that exists in Rochester; indeed, both Ms. Warren and Mayor Thomas Richards say it may be the most critical issue facing the city.
Economic opportunity requires job creation, which can occur only if businesses are willing to locate and invest in the city. In that regard, it appears Ms. Warren has another gap to bridge: the one between her and many people in the business community.
In an RBJ poll conducted shortly before the primary, roughly 90 percent of respondents favored Mr. Richards. In another RBJ poll conducted the morning after the primary, nearly 80 percent said they were pessimistic about Ms. Warren’s ability to lead the city, if elected mayor in November.
Many businesspeople understandably like Mr. Richards’ private-sector executive experience and think he has done a good job since taking office in April 2011. It’s also likely, however, that many have not looked closely at Ms. Warren’s economic development ideas. After all, few people gave her much of a chance to win.
In fact, she is keenly aware of issues facing city businesses, especially small firms. And her personal story reveals determination and other character traits that entrepreneurs and business owners admire.
If Ms. Warren becomes Rochester’s next mayor-and few today would bet against her-both she and the business community will need a strong working relationship built on trust and mutual interest. Without it, try imagining a thriving city.
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