and Carol Elizabeth Owens
Former Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren gave her farewell address on Wed., Dec. 1. Warren’s parting speech comes nearly two months after she took a plea deal to satisfy pending criminal charges. She was required to resign prior to the end of her mayoral term as part of the negotiated plea deal.
She also released a book about her tenure and legacy as the city’s mayor. The book is titled, “A Lovely Legacy: Belief Made Real,” and is distributed to City libraries and recreation centers. In addition, Warren released a video address on the City’s website and social media platforms.
She also governed during her farewell tour.
In her final act as mayor, Warren submitted legislation to Rochester City Council to create a Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) Pilot Program
Warren introduced the idea of reparations in March when she sent a letter to City Council and to agencies and organizations that work to reduce poverty and promote economic equity. She formed an exploratory committee of representatives of faith, community and philanthropic organizations to look at reparations and universal basic income. In May, the committee held its first meeting and the city held virtual listening sessions in the fall.
Warren has pushed for ways to increase home ownership, saying that is a way to create generational wealth, and included Housing Trust Fund in her Equity & Recovery Agenda.
In announcing the GBI legislation, Warren said, “The quickest path for Rochester families to escape poverty and build generational wealth is through the establishment of a guaranteed basic income. While the city alone cannot achieve this goal for all of our families, we can demonstrate the powerful impact that a guaranteed basic income would provide. My hope is that a successful pilot would spur our community’s non-profits, private donors and, ultimately, other levels of government, to embrace this effort and make guaranteed basic income a cornerstone in our efforts to achieve equity.”
Her proposed legislation calls for a two-year pilot. In the first year, it would provide for $500 per month to 175 city families who live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. In its second year, the program would provide a different 175 families with a GBI of $500 per month. The pilot program would cost $2.2 million.
The city received $202.1 million from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund established by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The city included a GBI program in its Strategic Equity and Recovery Plan, which was shared with City Council in September. The GBI pilot program is an eligible use of the ARPA funding according to Treasury Interim Guidelines Expenditure Category: 2.3 Household Assistance: Cash Transfers.
The legislation would allow the city to establish a contract with The Black Community Focus Fund, Inc., led by Rev. Myra Brown, for $50,000 annually to administer the program. In addition, the Reparations and Universal Basic Income (RUBI) committee would be authorized to develop final selection criteria and establish metrics and reporting to measure the pilot’s impact in fighting poverty and achieving equity.
The proposed legislation will be considered by City Council during its December legislative cycle. Mayor-elect Malik Evans sits on City Council.
As for her legacy she leaves to the city, Warren said in her video address: “We showed the world what the people of Rochester are capable of; created new opportunities across the city for all of our people,” Warren said. “We celebrated our diversity and the richness of the many cultures and traditions that make up our neighborhoods. We demonstrated beyond a doubt that the people of Rochester, regardless of their zip code; regardless of who they love; regardless of the color of their skin; can succeed.”
Warren, 44, served two terms. She was the city’s first female mayor and first African American female mayor. Her mayorship ended at midnight on Wed., Dec. 1. James Smith was sworn in as mayor on Dec. 2 and Tassie Demps was sworn in as deputy mayor.
Warren was the first mother to be mayor.
“I knew every decision I was about to make as Mayor would be held against the test of a mother’s love for her child,” she said. “Parents want what’s best for their children, which is why, as I governed, I let my love for Taylor, and the children of Rochester, be my guide. So as we close this chapter of Rochester’s story, our story, I’ll finish where I started: with a message to our children.”
“I hope you will read this when you are my age, when you are an adult and you have children of your own,” Warren said. “Because I think history will show that this is when Rochester made its good better; and it’s better best. When its first woman mayor decided to manage our city for growth instead of decline.”
Warren’s final address encouraged the children to be “beacons of hope and resist the temptations of division and anger that are becoming increasingly prevalent in Rochester and across the nation,” and she ended it with a stanza from the poem, “Don’t Quit,” by Edgar Guest which her father gave her in her childhood. “’So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit. It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.'”
“I have no regrets,” she said. “I fulfilled the promises I made eight years ago. And so many people helped me along the way. And our work speaks for itself.”
To view Warren’s address and find a copy of “A Lovely Legacy: Belief Made Real,” go to www.cityofrochester.gov/ALovelyLegacy.