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Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart represents the 21st District in the City of Rochester, which covers the following neighborhoods: Beechwood, Homestead Heights, Triangle, N. Winton Village, Neighborhood of the Arts, EMMA/ACE, Culver-University-East and Northland-Lyceum.
During her time on the Monroe County Legislature, Rachel has advocated for small businesses, helping families and students access highspeed broadband and criminal justice reforms.
Rachel is a lifelong city resident and Democrat who grew up in the Maplewood neighborhood and graduated from John Marshall High School. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Communication from Cornell University and Executive Master Degree in Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.
Rachel has a proven track record of compassion and courage. Every day, a member of the community asks her for help solving a problem. That’s because she has long held the powerful accountable and fought for transparent and ethical government.
Rachel started speaking truth to power at Rochester’s John Marshall High School. She published an underground newspaper about educational inequality that resulted in her suspension.
Rachel continued to use the power of the pen during her 18 years working as a broadcast journalist at stations including 13WHAM-TV and WROC-TV. She was the only local reporter to track spending at the Rochester City School District on top administrator salaries and perks. She uncovered cuts to the local parole office after a series of high-profile crimes committed by parolees. She obtained a murder confession from one man that led to a new trial for a different man convicted of the crime. Rachel extensively reported on municipal projects, including the fast ferry, Inner Loop, Midtown Plaza and Renaissance Square, making sure the public knew how their tax dollars were spent and how decisions impacted their community.
Rachel’s reporting on education “reforms” gained the attention of famed activist Diane Ravitch, who often featured her work on her website. Rachel often wrote about why it’s wrong to use test scores to evaluate teachers and close schools. Rachel administered standardized tests to a group of parents and school leaders, an exercise that demonstrated flaws with the exams.
Rachel’s reporting exposed the existence of an unused fiber network across Monroe County. She also reported on the digital divide in Rochester, which leaves students unable to access internet at home. Rachel’s work led her to become an outspoken advocate for municipal broadband.
Over the years, the Democrat and Chronicle has called Rachel a “champion of liberty” and a “breath of fresh air.”
Rachel was the only local journalist willing to speak on the record to City Newspaper about her time working at 13WHAM-TV, which has been impacted by Sinclair Broadcasting’s mandates to air conservative-leaning stories and commentaries. She co-founded the Rochester Media Association in 2011 to support and strengthen the local press.
After Rachel wasn’t allowed to switch stations, she and her union, AFTRA, successfully fought to get the state legislature to ban noncompete clauses for broadcasters. Rachel took a brave stand for her brothers and sisters in labor that left her unemployed for several months and off the air for almost a year.
Rachel is the Public Relations Director for a national nonprofit that fights government corruption. Rachel serves on the advisory boards of Reconnect Rochester and OACES Culinary.
Rachel lives in Beechwood with her dog, Penny. Rachel can often be found swimming laps at the downtown YMCA or the Genesee Valley Park Pool.