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Brooks’ performance gets solid grades

Maggie Brooks is wrapping up her 12-year tenure as Monroe County executive, and the majority of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll gave her performance solid grades.

Roughly one in five gave Brooks a top score of A for her overall performance, compared with 11 percent who delivered a failing grade. The plurality—27 percent—handed out a B. Nine percent of Democrats gave Brooks an A, compared with 13 percent who gave her a grade of F. She fared better with Republicans, with 28 percent handing Brooks an A, and 7 percent giving her an F.

A Republican, Brooks took office on Jan. 1, 2004, as the fifth Monroe County executive and the first woman to hold the office. As county executive, Brooks’ priorities have included stable property taxes—she has held the rate flat, though the levy has increased—and job creation. She also has focused on mandate reform and environmental sustainability.

Brooks was a strong proponent of the proposed Renaissance Square project, but declared it dead after then-Mayor Robert Duffy pushed for changes to it. Her administration also faced controversy stemming from alleged ethical and financial abuses involving Robutrad Corp. and local development corporations.

Brooks’ approval ratings were positive in the areas of community leadership, economic development and fiscal management. Her approval rating was lowest in the area of integrity and ethics.

On community leadership, she received a favorable rating from nearly two-thirds of the respondents.

Overall, the plurality of respondents said that compared with January 2004—when Brooks became county executive—the overall state of Monroe County is better. Among Republicans, 53 percent say the state of the county has improved; among Democrats, 27 percent say the county is better off.

Limited by law to three terms, Brooks could not run for re-election. She will be succeeded by County Clerk Cheryl Dinolfo, a fellow Republican, who defeated Democrat Sandra Frankel in the November election.

Nearly 670 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Dec. 14 and 15.

How would you grade Maggie Brooks’ overall performance since becoming county executive in January 2004?
A: 21%
B: 27%
C: 23%
D: 18%
F: 11%

What is your opinion of County Executive Maggie Brooks’ performance in the following areas?

Community leadership    
Strongly approve: 24%
Approve: 41%
Disapprove: 24%
Strongly disapprove: 11%

Economic development: 59    
Strongly approve: 17%
Approve: 42%
Disapprove: 29%
Strongly disapprove: 12%

Fiscal management     : 55
Strongly approve: 20%
Approve: 35%
Disapprove: 23%
Strongly disapprove: 22%

Innovation     50
Strongly approve: 12%
Approve: 38%
Disapprove: 34%
Strongly disapprove: 15%

Integrity and ethics    
Strongly approve: 12%
Approve: 26%
Disapprove: 22%
Strongly disapprove: 40%

Compared with January 2004, when Maggie Brooks became county executive, how would you describe the overall state of Monroe County?
Better: 40%
Worse: 31%
Unchanged: 29

What is your political affiliation?
Non-affiliated: 38%
Republican: 35%
Democrat: 21%
Other: 6

COMMENTS:
Consistent, steady, fiscally responsible. She kept her eye on the ball.
—Tom Zimmerman, Z2 Architecture PLLC

Like most party hardliners, Brooks chose politics and getting re-elected to be more important than truly looking out for the Monroe County community. Instead of leading the county Legislature, she chose to only lead her fellow Republican members and ignoring completely any Democratic minority attempts to legislate compromise. Her scandals were “business as usual” with patronage-filled positions selfishly working for themselves and getting caught.
—Steve Lipson

When Maggie Brooks took office, one of her declared objectives was to keep property taxes stable. She did that over 12 years in spite of many unfunded mandates from the state. Another focus of her administration was job creation. With the tax burden of New York State and the Obama deficit and economy, this was almost impossible. Maggie Brooks did so well she allowed Cheryl Dinolfo to walk right in as her successor as county executive. I was sure Maggie Brooks would beat Louise Slaughter, but she left that job for Mark Assini in the next election.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D., Vanguard Psychiatric Services P.C.

She is/was a spender. Intentions were good but carry out—not so good!
—John Sackett, Sackett Farms

Monroe County seems to be in denial about the city of Rochester. Divided politics give us wealthy suburbs clustered around a city that is failing educationally, economically and culturally. This has not changed during Ms. Brooks’ tenure, if anything it has gotten worse with our city now among the poorest in the nation. It seems like Rochester and Monroe County are on different planets.
—Wayne Donner, Rush

Maggie continued the environment of the "good old boys" network, where you got contracts and made money if you contributed to the Republican Party and initiated insider contacts. She is a total disappointment.
—Rick Corey, Penfield

Maggie has been a fine politician but a poor leader of government for the people. While she has never missed a photo-op and can recite praise for another politician at the drop of a hat, she has failed big-time on issues of real importance. The standard of living in the county has dropped (in real terms) due to reduced employment and reduced average wages. Poverty has sky-rocketed, in part from increasing neglect by the county executive and the suburban Republican-dominated Legislature. Taxes? Well, regardless of her rhetoric, everyone has paid more to the county each year, and the county has increased its spending each year. In terms of executive judgment, Maggie has had a poor track record in terms of selecting managers with integrity. (Airport, Water Authority, IDA, etc.) Sadly, I expect her successor—a product of the same manipulative political system—to be no different.
—Dorver Kendig, Webster

I feel she had strong community and fiscal leadership, but weak on innovation and economic development. The state overall is poor with integrity and ethics at all levels. The growth in poverty and inability to grow middle skills jobs has hurt the community. Hard to say she alone did a poor job or has left the county worse off, as almost every county in the state (outside of NYC) is worse off due to the high taxes, overregulation and continued poor strategy on retaining college graduates and businesses.
—Keith Newcomer

Maggie is too young to retire. I would like to see her lead the effort to separate Upstate from NYC to form a new state.
—Jim Cronin

Maggie Brooks has been a paradox to me. On one hand, she has maintained stable property taxes and solid job creation but appears to have fallen short on sound management practices. For example, it appears she doesn’t know what many of her managers and committee appointees are up to. Yes it is not possible—nor practical—to know what every manager does every minute of the day, but there have been enough lapses of poor judgment going back several years to warrant asking the question, "What did Maggie know and when did she know it?" In almost every instance when corruption or malfeasance was uncovered, Maggie was quick to react to fix it. Was it too little, too late? I’m not surprised that Monroe County Executive-elect Cheryl Dinolfo has chosen a retired supreme court justice whose integrity is beyond reproach, who has stated he plans to shut down the county’ s several LDCs. Remember Maggie supported them right to the end. However, one has to ask had she had a non-partisan person or committee to investigate and vet these corporations or individuals maybe we wouldn’t be questioning Maggie Brooks’ judgment. Because of these glaring problems during her administration l can’t give her anymore than a C grade.
—Peter Bonenfant, Fairport

Considering state and federal mandates, Maggie’s management and responsiveness to changing economic dynamics is and has been excellent. Surviving as a Republican in a heavily Democratic state and nation, consistently cooperating with mayors and other political leaders from opposite parties should be recognized and appreciated. Congratulations, and thank you for your service as county clerk and leadership as county executive.
—Bob Scott, Bob Scott Productions Inc.

She was a breath of fresh air when she took office, and expectations were high. It’s hard to say how her ideals became less than what she originally espoused, and the community realized a diminished return.
—Tom Sargent

Violence, unemployment, drugs, school district. She was only in it for her own gain/ego and the above problems keep getting worse.
—Maggie Thomas

12/18/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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