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A culture of life? 

Well, not one of death, at least. In this state and for the rest of this year, that is.

            A proposed revision of New York's death-penalty legislation died in a state Assembly committee last week. The Court of Appeals, New YorkState's highest, declared provisions in the statute unconstitutional last year. And while the Republican-controlled state Senate had passed a revised death-penalty law, Assembly Democrats wouldn't let their version out of committee.

            "If [the Assembly proposal] had gone to the floor, they would have defeated it," says Clare Regan, one of the Rochester area's most prominent anti-death penalty activists. Regan believes that the issue will continue to resurface, but that the political will to reinstate capital punishment is fading. She cites data from a recent SienaCollege poll indicating that 56 percent of New Yorkers favor life without parole as the top penalty, while only 29 percent want death.

            "I don't think anybody will be executed," says Regan. Of those convicted under the statute, which was enacted in 1995, no one has yet been executed and only two inmates remain on death row.

            "I don't know what their status is," says Regan. Until legislation addresses the constitutionality issue, New York's status is clearer. We're now the 13th state without a death penalty.

--- KrestiaDeGeorge


Primarily

Elections may be months away, but political races are heating up as quickly as the weather.

            Committee designations have begun, and Democrats in the city may be facing primaries at all levels.

            Making the party appear even less stable: Brand new Dem chair Rick Dollinger is doing nothing to discourage speculation that he may run for a BrightonTown judgeship. That would force him to resign as party leader only a few months after taking office.

            In the race for county legislator in the city's 21st legislative district, committee members chose LD chair George Moses over committee member Carrie Andrews earlier this month.

            "I'm leaning toward a primary," Andrews says, though she says she's made no decision yet. "I'm still talking with my campaign staff and committee members," she says. For Andrews, the X factor is potential support among the rank-and-file party members who would decide a primary.

            Outside of the 21st-district committee, the Dems are looking to their May 14 convention to find out who'll be endorsed and who'll be forced to run a primary. Besides the three contenders for mayor on the Democratic ticket, at least one other CountyLej seat could end in a primary: Both Travis Heider and Mary Ellen Blanchard want to succeed term-limited County Legislator Linda Garner-Goldstein of Brighton.

            Ten Democrats are vying for the five open seats on City Council, though that number might dwindle by the convention.

            Meanwhile, the Republican Party has been busy avoiding primaries. A week after term-limited County Legislator Chris Wilmot announced he wouldn't run for mayor, attorney John Parrinello declared he would, and he wasted no time firing an opening salvo.

            In his announcement press release, the fiery attorney laid all manner of evils at the Dems' doorstep: "Thirty years of one-party rule that has caused economic stagnation, rampant criminal conduct unsafe neighborhoods, an overpriced and damaged Fast Ferry, unchecked lead poisoning among children, elimination of neighborhood police precincts, and City-School District disputes will end if and when I am elected mayor," he wrote.

--- KrestiaDeGeorge


Free for all

Are you just not willing to pay for the news any more?

            Still more weekly newspapers are available free to Rochester-area residents. Publisher George Ewing Jr. converted three of his suburban weeklies --- the Greece, Brockport, and Gates-Chili Post newspapers --- to free distribution on April 6. Readers can pay for their newspaper if they want it delivered through the mail --- or they can pick it up free at supermarkets, newsstands, coffee shops, banks, and other businesses in those three western suburbs.

            And Ewing says this is just the beginning. "We will definitely do the remaining papers," he told fellow publishers recently. The remaining papers: the Brighton-Pittsford, East Rochester, Henrietta, Irondequoit, Penfield, Perinton-Fairport, and Webster Posts.

            (City Newspaper has been free since 1993. The 28-year-old Freetime has been free since its founding, and the Democrat and Chronicle launched its own free weekly a year ago.)

            The circulation of daily newspapers has been falling throughout the country, and it is expected to fall more. Worse, that has happened while the population in most regions of the country has been growing.

            Weekly newspapers' circulation has also been declining --- with a big exception. The circulation of free newspapers is growing.

            "This is not a trend," says Colorado newspaper publisher Harrison Cochran. "It's a tide." And it has publishers across the country worried, as their sales staffs are forced to "sell less for more," he says.

            Cochran, who is a former president of the Suburban Newspapers of America, discussed his own newspapers' conversion to free circulation at the New York Press Association convention in Albany on April 9. And he predicted that free distribution is the future of weeklies. Americans have become used to getting their news free on radio, television, and the internet, said Cochran.

            George Ewing, who spoke with Cochran at the NYPA convention, said he decided to convert to free after a major promotion effort with the Greece Post failed to boost the paper's circulation substantially. Ewing said he is also re-evaluating his papers' paid-subscription websites.

--- by Mary Anna Towler

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