I clenched the right brake handle of my bike as the light in front of me turned red. The cool night air calmed me after a fun-filled evening at the Rochester Jazz Fest, culminating in an electrifying performance by Grace Potter in Kodak Hall.
As I came to a stop, I looked up and had one of those moments that seemed to last forever. The new accent lighting on the buildings in front of me told the story of a city on fire, alive with new beginnings and possibilities.
Under those colorful lights, construction on the Rochester Downtown of Tomorrow abounds. Countless new projects and repurposing of worn out buildings, not to mention ideas that haven’t even been thought of yet… these are all moving Rochester from a place we once struggled to understand to a place we can’t get enough of.
Under those lights are also issues of severe poverty, struggling schools, a high crime rate and a city that is divided. These are issues that we cannot ignore any longer, and must address together as a united Rochester. If we don’t, those bright lights atop our buildings will become a hollow beacon.
Last week, over 15,000 Rochestarians viewed this site. Many residents cheered the idea of a city on the upswing, and as expected, many still believe Rochester is a tough place to be.
My belief is in a Rochester that is positive about the future while thinking critically about how to get there. It’s an attitude that champions the best we have to offer while still understanding the responsibility we all have in solving our deepest cuts. It’s realizing that sometimes (and this is the hardest one for everyone) what’s best for Rochester isn’t always what’s best for me. That’s my city, that’s my home, that’s my commitment.
These aren’t easy tasks. We have been disappointed by prior failures that make us hesitate to cheer too loudly. We are a community that experiences the horrific realities of violence every day in our struggling neighborhoods. We are a population that sees the tragic stories and thinks there’s nothing we can do. This could not be further from the truth. Whether we know it or not, we are all complicit in the success of our growing city, as well as in the challenges that Rochester faces every day.
And then that moment that seemed to last forever passed as the light turned green in front of me. I pedaled through the intersection and headed home, thankful for a wonderful gift of a night that Rochester gave to me.
Next time you’re downtown at night, look up and get inspired by the tall buildings, the bright lights, the beautiful entity that stands with you and before you. Then go out there and make our colorful Rochester a better place. While we’ve made mistakes, while we face extreme challenges, your commitment to growing a better community will add to a brilliant glow that shines brighter and more beautifully than any light we have.