As published in Blue Stone Press, October 3, 2014
Does anything matter in Rochester?
After serving four years as Councilwoman – and being recognized for my dedicated service – you’d think I was the best qualified applicant for a 4-month appointment to the Rochester Town Board. And so begins the latest episode in the “how to get rid of Manuela” saga – which started with the infamous porno rumor in 2007 and continued with a residency non-issue in 2009.
The filling of this Town Board vacancy required two steps: (1) a Town Board appointment for the rest of the year, based on applications and interviews and (2) the nomination at the parties’ caucuses of candidates for the November Special election.
As Melissa Orozco-McDonough reported in the September 5, 2014 issue, I was among the three candidates interviewed for the Rochester Councilperson position left vacant by the resignation of Councilman Tavi Cilenti. Feeling that a dirty deal was in the making, I even mentioned during my interview that I “would like to see more trust in our leaders and local government.”
To understand why people consider the Town Board’s appointment decision “outrageous” and “beyond logic” you must compare my 9-page application – including the reasons why I am the best qualified, my resume, quotes from newspapers expressing praise regarding my work as Councilwoman, most from Supervisor Carl Chipman himself, proofs of my accomplishments and of my success in building a positive image for our town – to the one submitted by Cindy Fornino, the chosen applicant: three meager lines showing interest in the position, not one word regarding her education, her experience or her record. But… she is the wife of the Conservative Party chair in town!
I find it disturbing that Supervisor Carl Chipman and Councilman Brian Drabkin bought their spot on the Conservative line in next year’s elections by appointing the wife of Gerry Fornino, the chairman of the Rochester Conservative Party. If cultivating connections didn’t play a role, then the reasons for rejecting me – the best qualified applicant – are painfully obvious: I always speak my mind, and I do it with a foreign accent.
The 2014 Rochester Republican Caucus was the most staged event I participated to in my entire life, and I’ve spent thirty years in Europe’s worst Communist dictatorship! The new Republican Committee Chairman Danny Aversano didn’t utter the word Republican. The freshly minted Councilwoman bragged about being appointed a few days prior. Nobody indicated that she is a registered Conservative and the wife of the Rochester Conservative Party chair! My fellow Republican Committee members used all the tricks in the book to sabotage my nomination, and they succeeded. But while these were expected Republican Committee shenanigans, no matter who the chair is, our town leadership’s decision is most troubling.
Readers of BSP (Sept. 5, 2014) learned that Fornino wants “the town to be a place that her daughter would be proud to live and raise her own children.” Proud? Really? Is anybody proud of the way she got appointed by the Town Board and nominated by the Republican Caucus?
What is the message we convey to our residents, to women, to our youth? That nothing matters except being married to the “right” man? That education doesn’t matter, experience doesn’t matter, a stellar record doesn’t matter, involvement in town’s life doesn’t matter, doing an excellent job, accomplishments and volunteering do not matter?
I am struggling hard to believe that Rochester is still a place where – in John Adams’ words – “to be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.”