Mayoral Control Bid Hinges on Alesi, Robach

James S. Alesi

January 14, 2010

(Rochester, N.Y.) – If Mayor Robert Duffy wants to take over the City School District, he has to convince two people: Rochester area State Senators Jim Alesi and Joe Robach. Neither are on board, and Alesi expressed strong reservations on Thursday.

“Senators Robach and Alesi are critically important. I think it all hinges on them,” said Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski, a major opponent of mayoral control.

Alesi said he feels left out of the process. “The support of the local senators, which is Jim Alesi and Joe Robach, would be important to the mayor and I’m not entirely sure he sees it that way,” Alesi said. “The only meetings I’ve had with the mayor, who has been a good friend and a good partner in government, has been one meeting where in 25 minutes he did all the talking."

Alesi said he's concerned that the process has been "polarizing." he said, "This requires extreme diplomacy and that's been lacking."

Alesi said he asked Duffy if he would still be mayor a year from now to oversee the school plan, and Duffy didn’t answer. “That’s very important,” Alesi said.

Alesi and Robach said they won’t take a position on mayoral control until they see a bill. Robach has said he wanted to hear from his constituents and has floated the idea of a referendum on the matter. Alesi said, “Until we see details it would be like signing a 20-year-lease on a multi-million dollar development without knowing what the details of the lease are. There’s nobody in their right mind who would do that.”

The status of the legislation authorizing mayoral control is unclear. Assemblymen Gantt and Morelle are expected to introduce a bill, which they said would be out weeks ago.

It’s becoming less likely that the governor, who supports mayoral control in Rochester, will introduce the legislation. Alesi said the governor could introduce a program bill that includes mayoral control in Buffalo and Syracuse, but Alesi said, “The governor is marginalized.”

That means the bill would need a sponsor in the state senate. Alesi said it would be unusual and “insulting” if the sponsor is not him or Robach.

“It would be a slap in the face to the taxpayers and the parents of school-age children that live in the city, because they would have some political foreigners carrying a bill that might not serve them well,” Alesi said.

“The majority of senators in that body probably could care less. They want to know how our senators feel and how the Rochester population feels,” said Urbanski, who is focusing his lobbying efforts on state senators.

Alesi also pointed out that the mayoral control bill – if introduced - will likely not be part of the budget process. He said the budget is the first priority, and it’s already expected to miss the April 1 deadline.

Duffy said that Alesi and Robach should support mayoral control in Rochester, because they supported it in New York City.

“I got the voting records today, this morning, in email, from the first New York City authorization for mayoral control and the second reauthorization. And as I scan the list, everyone, including senators Robach and Jim Alesi, all voted yes to support that.”

When asked if he’s getting worried about their support, given that he’s checking their voting records, the mayor said, “No, I'm doing my due diligence and asking, because if somebody was against it, I would want to know why.”

The more time that goes by without a bill being introduced, the less likely that Duffy will get control of the district by fall. Duffy said he's optimistic, because New York City was able to act quickly after getting authorization just a few months before school started.

"I don’t want to make any predictions on what could happen. What I could say, if it’s voted in the affirmative, we’ll work as diligently and as quickly as we can," Duffy said.