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In mid-December, COMIDA gave tax breaks to Marketplace Mall, owned by the Wilmot family, whose worth exceeds $40 million. Cheers to the Rush-Henrietta School District for raising objections.
Such tax breaks for retailers are of no benefit, except to the owners of the mall or business. We need only to witness the fiasco surrounding Medley Centre in Irondequoit.
The tax breaks for Greece Ridge mall have resulted in the creation of restaurants. Those same businesses could open up anywhere if, in fact, there was a real demand for them not generated by the mall owners. In fact, when Greece was considering tax breaks, one of the Wilmots responded that if they were not afforded a tax break, the businesses would open up somewhere down the road. That's called free enterprise and is at the foundation of our economy. Your newspaper lists at least once a month restaurants that are closing or have closed in the Greater Rochester area.
Business owners in the small strip malls or in stand-alone properties don't get these tax breaks. Why should the mall owners? Is it because they make handsome political contributions? Mall owners want to argue that the new restaurants or stores will hire people. Those same people would be hired if the businesses were located other than in the mall, and this would not be at a cost to taxpayers.
Corporate welfare is still welfare.
I hope the Rush-Henrietta School District fights this tooth and nail.
JAMES R. BOEHLER
Across all forms of media, most works of futuristic fiction depict a world boasting tall buildings, advanced technology, flying cars, and dare I say it, personal hover-boards. Depending on the vision, you'll either see tall, sleek buildings with domes and spires or flashing skyscrapers with trippy neon lights and holographic billboards. In neither case do you see the old movie theater from the silent era or a gutted, run-down library converted into a trendy eatery.
My point is that art reflects life. And rarely when we as a society think of the future in broad strokes do we think about renovating old buildings and petitioning to halt demolition of an abandoned department store. And for good reason. To get to the future, we have to let go of the past. We are no longer showing reverence to nostalgia. We are choking on it. We mourn this building and that building, we lament the loss of Midtown, and we want penny candy to go back to being a penny. Any promising or innovative idea is halted in the name of planning, committees, and zoning. And petitions and protests.
You know what is even better than seeing that old run-down warehouse on the corner? Not seeing it. Take a picture, slap it in an album, and move on. We can no longer afford to grasp onto these ghosts of architecture if we want to move forward, as a city, as a society. It's stunting us and it's dangerous.
It wasn't always this way. The New York State Fair originally touted "The World of Tomorrow." Then it became tomorrow and we no longer reach for the future; we hold onto the past. Hover-boards? We can't even wrap our brains around Segways. Not exactly the progress we were promised. Talking robot maids? How about refitting your bathtub instead?
Our technology keeps getting smaller (our phones can play games!), and we fight to keep a dilapidated pile of brick and mortar up because it "looks retro." What are we doing? If we want to live like the Jetsons, we have to stop thinking like the Flintstones. Let's become innovative again. Why not us? Why not Rochester?
There is that classic scene in the movie "Casablanca" where the overacting Inspector Renault blows his whistle and shuts down Rick's Café, exclaiming how "shocked, shocked he is to find gambling going on in this establishment."
Couldn't help but think of that scene when City reported that Rochester School District Commissioner Melisza Campos expressed how disgusted and appalled she was with the rudeness she encountered as she tried to enroll her first child in three city schools. However, unlike the jaded inspector, she seemed genuinely surprised.
While such a traumatic new-parent experience for a commissioner questions the wisdom of electing childless school board members in the first place, more important, who else on the board has not been listening when parents have been telling such emotional and discouraging stories at school board meetings for years and years?
Of seven members, the school board presently has three commissioners who have never before interacted with this district as a parent.
Rochester city schools are ranked last place in this state.
Shocked, shocked, anybody?
PETER KEENAN JR.