Rachel Barnhart formally announced her plan to run for mayor of Rochester on Monday, calling for a 50 percent cut in property taxes in three years if she is elected.
The three years would be used to plan for the tax reduction, she said, a roughly $70 million loss in revenue based on a total levy currently of around $140 million, she said.
Rachel Barnhart: “I’m running because we need change." (Photo by Anne Saunders)
Her goal is to make the cut without any reduction in services. In fact, her plan calls for additional spending on several new initiatives, including subsidized child care to 1,000 more families, fiber internet service citywide that would be free to most homes and a new jobs office at City Hall, among other things.
To compensate for the lost tax revenue, Barnhart said the city should look at selling the city water system to the county. She also predicted lower taxes would increase investment in the city and encourage more families to move in. And she pledged to fight in Albany to increase the city’s share of state aid.
“We believe the key to filling that revenue gap is long-range planning. We’ll have three years to do it. And we don’t think the hole is going to be that big, particularly if people start coming into Rochester and start paying taxes,” she said.
Barnhart is the second Democrat to enter a race that is widely expected to be a three-way primary contest. Last month, James Sheppard, county legislator and former city police chief, announced he would run for the seat currently held by Lovely Warren.
Warren has not said whether she will seek re-election, but she has the largest campaign coffer of the existing candidates if she enters the race.
“I’m not running because of Lovely Warren, and I’m not running because of Jim Sheppard,” Barnhart said from a conference room at the Hilton Garden Inn on East Main Street. “I’m running because we need change. And I have a plan and a specific vision to bring that needed change to Rochester.”
“If we don’t do this, we will continue to manage the city’s decline and the status quo for the next four years,” she said.
Asked about her qualifications, Barnhart pointed to her almost two decades as a broadcast reporter in the city. This fall she unsuccessfully challenged Assemblyman Harry Bronson for his seat.
“I have spent the last 18 years reading every single city budget, reading every single City Council legislation, reading every single RFP, every single environmental impact statement, talking to thousands of residents, spending time with every mayor, every city school superintendent, every single police chief. I know what works and what does not work. I have extensive knowledge about the city, and we need to do something different. We’ve been managing the problems. We need to stop managing the problems and start to solve them. A mayor provides vision and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Barnhart’s campaign manager Joe Rittler said Barnhart will be attending events to meet and talk with voters going forward as well as speaking with the Monroe County Democratic Committee in hopes of gaining its backing.
Follow Anne Saunders on Twitter: @asaunders_rbj(c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.