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Warren Pledges Action on Schools

The mayor, a supporter of charter schools, kept returning to the state of education in her inaugural address.
During her inaugural address, Mayor Lovely Warren made a promise to her young daughter, Taylor.

"We will fix our schools because you and every child deserves that," she said to hundreds of people who gathered at the Auditorium Theatre. "Working to improve our schools and giving parents access to better quality educational alternatives is my priority and I will fight tirelessly to do that."

Warren is in talks with charter school organizations to open more of the taxpayer-financed, often privately-run schools. She wants to create an Education Innovation Office at City Hall. Special Projects Director Allen Williams, a former Rochester school board member, is leading the effort. Warren said she may take on a grant-writer to secure private funds for the office.

The charter school push is a threat to the City School District, which is already losing money and students to the movement. The district risks being left with an even more needy population. 

"Too many of our families are not finding the school that is suitable for their children," said Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, who was in the audience. "They are turning to charter schools. It is my job and should be the job of this community to make sure that our schools are working well for every child."

Warren also pledged to do more to reduce crime and revive downtown. She wants to create a quadrant police system, to bring more police to neighborhoods. She'd also like to see a performing arts center on the Midtown site, and possibly a movie theater.

"We will work hard to put people back to work, lessen the disparities and bridge the divides that separate us," Warren said. "We will rebuild our downtown and make you proud to be a Rochesterian."

The day was mostly not about politics, but a celebration of Rochester's first woman mayor. Few believed the 36-year-old City Council president could defeat incumbent mayor Tom Richards. 

Her mentor and longtime employer, Assemblyman David Gantt, said he was among the doubters.

"For those who believe I'm the one who makde lovely warren run for mayor, what a joke," Gantt said to the crowd. Critics believe Gantt will have influence over Warren, but Gantt said in his speech said she sets her own priorities.

"She is her own person. She's strong. She's tough and most importantly, she is a woman of her word. When she says she's going to say yes or no, she doesn't waiver," said former mayor and Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy.

"She's entitled to a day like this where she can talk about things in general and be proud of what she's accomplished and the story of her family, which is very nice," said Richards. "Tomorrow it will be what are you going to do specifically, but that will be soon enough."

Mayor Warren had a hopeful tone throughout her address.

"This is a moment in time when things begin to change," she said.
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