Jobs, Education and Living Wage Debated at Rochester Mayoral Candidates Forum

A high-level face off in Rochester Thursday night, is giving future voters a potential glimpse of our community's future. Jordan Mazza shares the views expressed by Democratic contenders in the Mayoral Candidates Forum.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Council 66 union affiliates hosted Rachel Barnhart, Jim Sheppard, and Lovely Warren at an East High School forum Thursday night.

Audience questions from city employees focused on issues like jobs and education.

Former police chief Sheppard says he’s fought along with labor for a living wage.

“When we talk about jobs, it’s not enough to say you have a job to somebody,” Sheppard said. “We need to have livable wages. Because if all you get is a job and you’re making $10, $12 an hour, you’re not going to be able to live on that.”

Mayor Warren says conditions for working families have improved under her tenure.

“In every aspect, from jobs, to safe neighborhoods, to educational opportunities, the numbers have improved,” Warren said. “And no one can deny that.”

But former broadcast journalist Rachel Barnhart does deny it.

“The fact is we’re losing population, and we have not moved the needle on unemployment, jobs, and poverty, so she has to defend that record,” Barnhart said. “I’m coming in with new proposals and new ideas: adding child care slots, getting the city to step up the plate, adding a free fiber internet network for families that would also attract jobs, and talking about property taxes.”

Yet Sheppard says this race is more about leadership than ideas.

“It’s not a matter of ideas,” he said. “Because if I wanted great ideas, I’d Google them. What leadership does is influence the people to make it happen. So it doesn’t have to come from me; you surround yourself with the best people.”

Barnhart says Warren is surrounding herself with lobbyists in her claim that a City Hall-hosted job fair for ridesharing company Uber is an ethics violation.

“It’s the relationship and it’s the ability of city hall to be a check on this company or any company operating in city limits that is a deep, deep concern,” Barnhart said.

Warren says the job fair is part of her effort to connect residents with jobs, and that Barnhart’s ideas are not realistic.

“Unless you’re going to raise taxes astronomically, and she says that she isn’t, then what are you going to do? Who are you going to cut? How are you going to make this happen realistically?” Warren said.

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