From one mayor to another
Updated: Wednesday, February 12 2014, 07:41 AM EST
Rochester, N.Y. - When Bill Johnson took office as mayor of Rochester in 1993, he had his fair share of tough critics.
For one, he had no political experience.
“It was very difficult to pursue the priorities that I had stated during my campaign,” Johnson said.
Johnson was the city’s first elected African-American mayor, serving three terms.
Johnson has been dogged and talked about.
“I got criticized," he said. "I got the worst kind. I was called a monkey, a chimpanzee.”
Johnson said it comes with the territory.
And while racial references may have been directed towards him, he told 13WHAM News that he doesn't think Mayor Lovely Warren is necessarily coming under fire because of her race.
“Some people want to make this a racial issue. In my opinion, this isn't a racial issue,” Johnson said. “There’s going to be opposition, there’s going to be people who resist you and they’re going to throw every obstacle they can to inhibit your success.”
Johnson addressed security issues, defending Warren’s need for a security details.
He reminded Warren's critics that she is a young parent and that there was a homicide on her street.
“I think Mayor Warren has a right to be concerned about some of the threats that have been made against her and what she needs to do to protect herself against those threats,” Johnson said.
But Johnson also said it was a mistake for Warren to hire her uncle, Reggie Hill.
“Every politician knows that you're under a microscopic scrutiny for whatever you do, so you never put the word relative and jobs in the same sentence,” Johnson said. “You just do not hire. I don't care how uniquely qualified they are for the job.”
It was a hire that prompted an ethics board investigation, a probe that was later dropped once Hill resigned.
“I was frankly disappointed that the city council and City Council President Loretta Scott decided to shut that inquiry down because the very reason it was necessary was because there was no precedent,” said Johnson.
Johnson also questioned the timely release of certain information that he said caught Warren off guard, things she didn’t have control over.
Warren’s choice for development services director in the city's Department of Neighborhood and Business Development, Spencer Ash, was charged with driving while intoxicated last summer.
“Isn’t it kind of ironic that when that happened over the summer, he was employed under the previous administration, and none of that ever made the news? The minute she takes over, it becomes a headline,” Johnson said.
Overall, Johnson said while missteps have been made, he doubts they'll be made again.
“What I see is somebody who can really learn from her mistakes and I think we have a community who will give her the benefit of the doubt,” said Johnson.