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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, particularly restaurants impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. She invited County Executive Bello to meet with restaurants at Village Gate about challenges they are facing heading into the winter months. As a result of that discussion, he announced a $15 million grant program for all small businesses, with priority given to women and minority-owned businesses and businesses in distressed Zip codes. These funds will be a lifeline for many of our smaller employers and entrepreneurs.
Rachel also introduced legislation to temporarily cap the fees third-party food delivery apps, such as Grubhub and DoorDash, can charge restaurants. These predatory fees are hurting small restaurants and are not transparent to customers.
Rachel is passionate about bridging the digital divide and co-founded an informal broadband working group with partners in the city and philanthropic community. The group helped to secure funding for Rochester City School District students to get upgraded Mi-Fi devices that will allow them to seamlessly access the internet for remote learning. Rachel will continue to work to explore ways to connect everyone to affordable broadband internet.
Rachel discovered that the Monroe County Jail has a multi-million fund from charges for phone calls made by inmates. Rachel is pushing for more oversight of this fund and has been advocating for the calls, which are a huge burden on families, to be free for incarcerated individuals.
In 2019, Rachel was endorsed by the Trailblazers PAC for securing small campaign donations from numerous residents in her district, demonstrating grassroots support. Rachel rejects corporate PAC money. She is the only local legislator to post her campaign finance and personal financial disclosure reports on her website.
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 spent 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.
Over the years, the Democrat and Chronicle has called Rachel a “champion of liberty” and a “breath of fresh air.” Rachel co-founded the Rochester Media Association in 2011 to support and strengthen the local press.
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. She can often be found swimming laps at the downtown YMCA or the Genesee Valley Park Pool.