Rochester’s got a new mayor in town, and he wants UR students to vote local. 

Almost Mayor-Elect and UR alum Malik Evans ‘02 spoke to the UR community on the importance of local politics last Thursday during a talk organized by the Committee for Political Engagement.

During his time at the University, Evans used to drive around campus asking other students to change their voter zip codes to 14627 so they could make an impact in the local politics of a city that they would spend four years living in. 

“You’re driving down the street and you get a pothole. You think you’re going to call Barack Obama? The Secretary of Education? The Secretary of Transportation? […] The garbage is picked up [locally]. Your local school decides whether or not they’re going to need mask mandates or not. That’s local. Your local property taxes, the rules that govern whether or not clubs are going to close at two o’clock or four o’clock. Those are all local issues,” Evans said. “So that’s why you should give a darn about what happens locally in politics and most people when they think about government, we think about every four years, right?”

After defeating two-time incumbent Lovely Warren in June and winning the Democratic primary, Evans is set to run unopposed in the general election in November and is considered to be the presumptive Mayor of Rochester. Evans returned to UR, where he graduated in 2002, to discuss the importance of local politics with his former professor and now friend Gerarld Gamm, Professor of Political Science, History and Associate Department Chair, and Director of Undergraduate Studies. 

Evans focused on the importance of public safety and expanding economic opportunities, sharing his plans for both during the discussion. 

“[We] want to make sure [that] if you’re an African-American male and you call the police for help, that you don’t end up getting shot,” Evans said. He added soon after, “But on the other hand, [We]also [want to] make sure that if you’re a student at [UR] and you’re walking across the footbridge, that you don’t get robbed. People want accountable public safety. They want consequences for bad actors when you have police officers that don’t think that they need to follow the law and they operate under a different set of rules, and they want police officers to operate as government and not law.”

In an effort to ensure public safety, Evans and his team also aim to tackle the issue of illegal guns in the city to curb gun violence. 

Evans also highlighted the need to uplift Rochester’s economy as we get further away from the days of Kodak, Xerox, and Bausch and Lomb. One of the promises of his campaign was to create an environment in Rochester where local businesses would thrive and contribute to the community’s economic status. 

“How can we create the conditions to help to increase homeownership [so that a mother who] wants to own a house can own that house? So that an entrepreneur that wants to start that business [can do so] ? Because we know that if one in three small businesses in America creates at least one job, America could be at full employment,” Evans said. “So how can you hope that an entrepreneur that needs access to capital, that needs a strong business ecosystem within its community and needs the business acumen of a mentor to help them deal with that business? How can we create those conditions in order to grow businesses, which will in turn grow Rochester’s economy?”

Evans also discussed Innovation Square, a collaborative living space for student entrepreneurs who attend colleges like UR and RIT. The Gallina Development project transformed a former Xerox space to create an area that would act as a startup incubator for students studying in the city. His team has also signed a contract with the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government to have students from their program join the Evans transition team for Mayor in the next coming months. An executive online program is also in the works that would connect business leaders and academics from all over the U.S. to connect with Rochester organizations to address local problems and discuss innovative solutions.

A couple years ago, a 14-year-old hockey player that Evans met introduced him to the Wayne School of Hockey. The young player told him that Wayne Gretzy, World Championship hockey player, goes where the puck is going to be, not where it is. 

Our challenge for Rochester, for me as mayor, and for all of you who currently sit in the project place is we have to continue. We have to figure out where the puck is going to be locally [and how we can get there]. Is it going to be green technology? Maybe. I think so. I would think about that. Is it going to be information technology? Health science? What is it going to be? Data from big data? What’s going to be the thing that will help Rochester go to the next level and put it on the map?” Evans said.

“That is what we want to do in the Evans administration — to get people to think broadly and go to where the puck is going to be.”