‘I have 30 days to look ahead’: Mayor James Smith details plans for month-long term

Local Politics

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — It’s official. Thursday marked the beginning of a month-long term for Rochester’s new mayor, James Smith.

Smith will be the city’s 70th mayor in history.

It’s an unusual situation to have a mayor for only a month, but it’s all part of a plea-deal Mayor Lovely Warren agreed to last month.

Smith says he’s ready for this term, even if it’s short-lived. He says something that’s helped with nerves, is Mayor Warren’s guidance as she hands over the torch.

“Mayor Warren certainly equipped me pretty well, having been her deputy mayor I’m pretty up to speed as you would hope on where we are as a city,” he said. “But also personally I think of her as family.”

He says this certainly isn’t a task he expected, or even wanted to take on. But he’s all in.

“You know my interest is here right now, I have 30 days to look ahead, not rear view mirror,” he said. “I need to make sure the refuse is picked up, I need to make sure when you call 911 someone answers, if you need firefighters they’re able to respond and have resources they need.”

And it’s no secret Rochester has struggled with an uptick in gun violence these past few months. The city is on track to reach 80 homicides for 2021. Mayor Smith says he’s been in frequent communication with Rochester Police Chief David Smith on this, and says some ideas include a thorough inspection on bail reform.

“I think we need to look carefully at the data, I don’t know that we’ve done that,” he said. “I don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bath water and decide bail reform doesn’t work, I think we should say, there’s some things that need to be tweaked and it’s the same thing with policing in our community.”

Another area Smith is looking to improve in his month-long term, is incentivizing the vaccine. He recently got over a case of COVID himself, one his doctors say could’ve been a lot worse, if he hadn’t been vaccinated.

“I was pretty sick for a bit with COVID but I had a pretty good outcome, and you know my doctor is pretty convinced it’s because I was vaccinated, and frankly so am I,” he said.

Smith says this term is all about looking ahead, and making the transition to mayor-elect Malik Evans as smooth as possible.

“One thing I know is I can’t make holistic change happen or sweeping reform in 30 days but I’m happy to do anything we can to switch tactics, or put resources in a place to move the needle in the right direction,” he said.

Smith is also Rochester’s first openly gay mayor. He appointed Tassie Demps, the city’s director of human resources, as Deputy Mayor. She is the city’s first African-American woman to hold the title.

Rochester is also in an emergency order for uptick in gun violence, that will either expire or be renewed on Dec. 12. Smith says he is in communication with RPD Chief Smith on this, but has not made a decision for renewal yet.

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