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Metro ink - 11-29-06 

DEPARTURE

click to enlarge airport-artwork-do-not-thro.jpg

The fight to keep one of the airport sculptures in its original location is over.

Construction on the new business center where Nancy Jurs' "Triad" once stood is proceeding, and Jurs says she was notified last month that her sculpture had been removed and stored. The notification came after she sent a letter to Airport Director David Damelio in late August and --- miffed that she hadn't received a reply --- began calling the airport administration's offices. She didn't hear back from Damelio, but got an e-mail from Jennifer Dobson, spokesperson for the airport.

"In addressing the questions you had relative to your artwork --- yes, the artwork has been professionally taken down. It has been crated and is being stored in a secure, climate controlled location on airport property," Dobson wrote. (The e-mail doesn't say where Triad is stored, and Jurs says she hasn't been told. Her husband Wendell Castle's clock tower was dismantled and stored earlier, also in an undisclosed location.)

"The Airport Director is in receipt of your letter," the e-mail continues. "At this time, the Airport is continuing to explore possible alternate locations, within the airport's terminal, to display your artwork. We will continue to stay in touch with you as we continue to move forward."

That was in mid-October.

"That's the last contact I've had," Jurs said early this week. "They have not proposed any reasonable site to me or Wendell at this point."

Still, she hasn't given up hope that she and the airport will reach a resolution, she says --- even if that only means having the sculpture returned to her.

--- Krestia DeGeorge


LEGISLATING OFFLINE

The United States Congress does it. So does the New York State Senate. And the Assembly.

But don't expect Monroe County Legislature to put proposed legislation online anytime soon. At a legislature committee meeting on Monday, Republicans voted down a Democratic plan to put the proposals on the county's website.

CountyLegislator Steve Eckel, who represents parts of Irondequoit and the City of Rochester, submitted the proposal to create a legislative database. Citing the county's award-winning website, he suggested that the database would make the site more useful to the public. It would increase the average person's access to information and would enhance debate about county issues, he said in his proposal. And, said Eckel, making county government more accessible could help soothe a public that has grown tired of scandals in government.

What's not to like?

Apparently, the price tag. The Brooks administration sent the county's chief information officer, Nelson Rivera, to Monday's committee meeting. Rivera countered Eckel's claim that his proposal wouldn't create additional costs.

"We would have to develop this database from scratch," Rivera told the committee. That would cost about $10,000, he said. The county would also need a new scanner and some new software, each a couple of hundred dollars. Finally, he estimated, it would cost about $20,000 in additional staff time to operate and maintain the system.

Legislature Clerk David Barry said that paper copies of proposals are readily available from his office, and that no one's been denied copies since he started work in January. His office's phone number is posted on the web.

In a budget of over a billion dollars, $31,000 might seem like a bargain if it buys a little more open government. But that may not be the only factor at work here.

CountyRepublicans, who control the legislature, may have seen Eckel's move less as an attempt to promote openness in government and more as way to embarrass them. Legislature Republicans have used all manner of procedural tricks to keep Democrats from getting legislation passed.

Usually, proposals from Democrats don't even make it to the full legislature. Instead, they get tabled or voted down in committee. Or they get referred to the Brooks administration (from which they never seem to return). A proposal to televise legislature meetings on local access cable was referred to the legislature's clerk, for example. The clerk's office responded with a detailed letter to the effect that the idea was too difficult and too expensive.

---Krestia DeGeorge


WATER AUDIT DELAYED

Remember that second audit of the Monroe County Water Authority? The one in which State Comptroller Alan Hevesi was going to address "the authority's policies and procedures to address conflict of interest issues in authority contracting"? The one that was going to be released by this fall? It's not.

A spokeswoman for the Comptroller's office confirmed to City Newspaper last week that the audit wasn't going to make deadline.

"Based on current scheduling, it's looking like it's probably going to be early 2007 when that final report is done," says spokesperson Jennifer Freeman.

But don't blame the delay on politics, or the recent campaign, or even on Chauffeurgate, Hevesi's own personal scandal.

The delay is strictly the function of bureaucratic slowness, says Freeman.

"It's just administrative stuff: getting it finished, finalizing things," she says.

The first audit was bombshell enough. It found that former Executive Director John Stanwix and five other former employees received lavish benefits to which they weren't entitled. The audit sparked public outrage and shook up the way the authority conducts its own business. But there've been no allegations of criminal wrongdoing. Will an audit of the authority's contracts change that? And even if it does, will Hevesi's office, still tainted by the Driving-Mrs.-Hevesi episode, be taken as seriously this time around?

--- Krestia DeGeorge


CLEARLY CHICAGO?

As the daily newspaper industry continues to have problems, and some of the biggest names are put up for sale, the locally-grown Gannett chain has been considering expanding. It's been named as a possible buyer for the Chicago Tribune.

Commented media critic Michael Miner, writing in the alt-weekly Chicago Reader: "Handing the Tribune to Gannett would be like turning over the New York City Ballet to Radio City Music Hall."


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