Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren was at First Church of God on Monday to taking questions from community members about a variety of issues including the RASE Commission, her recent indictment on campaign fraud and the issues surrounding the Daniel Prude case and to talk about her vision for the “future of Rochester”.
Warren was there on invitation from Reverend Lewis Stewart, President of the United Christian Leadership Ministry of Western New York, Inc.
Many of the issues and questions were centered around the Commission on Racial and Structural Equity (RASE) as well as mental Health in Rochester and the Rochester Police Department among others.
Fred Tanksley, of the Take It Down Planning Committee questioned why aren’t community members who are directly affected a part of the (RASE) commission?
Warren said the RASE committee was open for any to apply and was not meant to exclude anybody. “The goal was to make sure that everybody had a voice that wanted to sit at the table. It wasn’t meant to be exclusionary; it was meant to be inclusionary,” said Warren.
Warren said her thought process was not to have political influence over the commission, but to gain understanding and change the system. She said the focus was to change the city of Rochester for people of color. “We have a majority black and Hispanic community that for decades have been forgotten about,” said Warren.
Warren said at times the community looks for government to do what they necessarily don’t have the ability to do. “It’s someone else’s wheelhouse, meaning it’s the state or the County and the federal government. When it comes down to racial and structural equity, the system is designed to do exactly what it is doing,” she said.
“The results that we see are by design. And if you don’t look at the system through a racial and structural lens, you’ll never be able to change it because you’ll always think that it’s okay, because the results that you’re getting are intended to be that way.”
Warren also discussed housing developments and other programs including more entrepreneurial programs through the Office of Community Wealth Building. She said the city has been partnering with local churches. The first housing project is a partnership with Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church and with First Genesis Baptist Church. She said it’s important for the faith community to be involved in housing development, “because it’s about the holistic approach.”
“The investments that we make, the city must come first,” said Warren.
Ashley Gantt, of Free The People ROC and American Civil Liberties Union said “I’m definitely on the front lines (of city protests). I have to say just for the record, I do not agree with what Sandra Doorley is doing. I do not agree with what’s happening to you. I know what white supremacy looks like when I see it.”
She asked Warren if the community would be invited to conversations regarding the soon to be expiring 2019 police contract and if the city is a part of negotiations. “I know that the police contract in 2019 is expired, but we’re still working off of that contract. How does the community participate in that?”
“This is where you look at structural and institutional racism,” Warren said. “Right now, we’re not in negotiations regarding the contract. We’re not at the table. So many reasons as to why we’re not at the table.”
Democratic Minority Leader Vince Felder addressed systemic issues and said he and other legislators including the Black and Asian Caucus are restructuring the city’s mental health program FIT, the Forensic Intervention Team to be a 24 hour program.
“One of the things that bothers me is that, if somebody had been available that night when Daniel Prude was out there, maybe that wouldn’t have happened,” noted Felder.
“We want to make sure that at the very least that we try to prevent something like that from happening again, in the short term and in the long term and have a structure in place that really meets the needs of our people.”
Warren addressed her recent indictment, “I may be the face of this, but I’m telling you, this is not necessarily only about me.” Warren said it is a larger systemic issue.
“I love my city. And I fight for my city each and every day. May think about things differently. But from the day I took office, I was fighting against the system that didn’t want to change,” said Warren.
“I will continue to fight against a system that doesn’t want to change. It fought me twice. And they lost. Now they think that I’m done, but I’m not. I’m just getting started!”
Stewart also announced an upcoming press conference that UCLM has scheduled Thursday, October 15 at 11 a.m. at First Church of God, 334 Clarissa Street to highlight UCLM’s support of Warren.
“We feel that there are many machinations going on in our community, especially as it relates to some of the politicians. And we need to be honest about that. And these white politicians, they have a political agenda, and that political agenda is to undermine the mayor. And we know who they are. We call them out by name…one is Rachel Barnhart. And the other is Sandra Doorley. And so, we do not want the mayor’s position to be weakened,” Stewart said.