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Rochester Mayor Malik Evans called for a new era of neighborhood empowerment and citizen involvement in his inaugural address Saturday.
"We will take control of our neighborhoods and work to eradicate violence and blight," he said. "Let today be the day that we say we can have public safety with the community at the center while also having accountability simultaneously.
"Let today be the day that we reaffirm the preciousness of life, and say that one homicide is too many, and that violence and destruction must never be normalized."
The 41-year-old Rochester native takes office after a year of unprecedented violence. His first act after being sworn in at midnight was to visit the Emergency Operations Center and thank 911 workers for their service.
His address was sparsely attended, limited mainly to close family, some staffers and performers. The event, and inaugural activities to follow, was made virtual only given the dramatic rise in new COVID cases in the community.
The 90-minute inauguration featured a diverse array of music, dance and prayer. Other speakers included U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer with a pre-recorded video address, and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello in person.
Bello and Evans have pledged a strong partnership, with Bello reflecting Saturday how, for decades it seems, the city and county have stood distinct of one another, seeking collaboration only in times of necessity.
"There is so much cause for optimism … because the walls are down," Bello said. "We are building a bridge."
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Evans, who becomes the city’s 71st mayor, spoke for less than 15 minutes, saying at the outset, “I am overwhelmed with emotion on this day.”
He spoke of providing jobs "for any youth that wants one. This will be one of our best violence reduction strategies;" of rebuilding the middle class, and creating the conditions for entrepreneurs to thrive, particularly in areas of green technology, data science, health care and cannabis preparation.
He talked about transforming the city, "not by nibbling at the edges but by thinking big." And he echoed past mayors in demanding better city schools.
"As your mayor, I am committed to doing my part," he said.
But unlike Mayor Lovely Warren before him, who early on labeled herself the education mayor and pledged to spearhead efforts to fix city schools, Evans said: "Change will only come by the broader community — led by parents and our school system working hand in glove."
Other inaugural events scheduled include:
A citywide prayer service at 1 p.m. Sunday, and will be streamed live from Aenon Missionary Baptist Church. The Day of Prayer can be viewed here.
A Teen Town Hall is set for 5 p.m. Tuesday, and will be streamed from downtown's Innovation Square (the former Xerox Tower). Evans will join the event along with Roland Williams, NFL Super Bowl Champion, Shirley Green, the city's new commissioner of Recreation and Human Services, and newly-elected City School Board member Camille Simmons. A link for that event was not yet available. Teens interested in participating should contact Courtney Thomas at Courtney.Thomas@CityofRochester.gov.
"We have a past to remember, a present to live, and a future to build," Evans said at the opening of his inaugural address, later concluding: "Rochester, our time is now, a new year is a new beginning, and together we will chart a path that will build a bridge to Rochester’s future.
"Today we mark the start."
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Rochester Mayor Malik Evans takes office, delivers inaugural address