There's a movement afoot to change the name of Monroe County. A small group of local folks is dead serious that it's time for a new name.
Michael Argaman, an activist and financial advisor, is leading the effort. "President James Monroe doesn't deserve to have the county named after him," Argaman says. "His philosophy, which is articulated in the Monroe Doctrine, has promoted US military and economic domination of Latin America. Throughout the last two centuries, there have been numerous US military interventions there and support for dictatorships such as Somoza in Nicaragua, the Duvaliers in Haiti and Pinochete in Chile."
Argaman has spoken with a number of county legislators, and while they've pointed out more pressing business is at hand, they've indicated a willingness to consider his proposal.
Perhaps a better reason to dump the name is that Monroe is so generic. It says nothing at all about this place. There are a dozen other states in the US with counties named after the fifth president.
Argaman would like the county to be named after a South American hero, such as Simon Bolivar, Jose Marti, or Augusto Cesar Sandino.
We're not convinced by this suggestion. How about honoring somebody or something local? If you want to go with Iroquois connections, consider Red Jacket County. Jemison County has a nice ring, too. Better would be Calloway County, after Cab, the Hi De Ho Man, born on Cypress Street.
But our choice is Tahou County, after the man who gave us the Garbage Plate. It's easy to say, there's not another one in the US, and it almost rhymes with Yahoo! And it's fair to say that Nick has had nothing to do with vicious global domination.
Since the 2002 election ended after our annual Best of Greater Rochester issue, we present these late awards by City political correspondent Chris Busby:
Best television ad: "Judge Renzi for judge." A quirk of electoral ethics forbids candidates for judgeships from declaring their stands on the issues of our day. Such statements of personal belief about, say, the death penalty, could, potentially, be perceived to compromise the fairness with which they arrive at their decisions in future cases. That being the case, Republican, Conservative, Independent candidate for County Court Judge Alex Renzi had to rely on the simple fact that he's been a town justice in Henrietta to attack his Democratic challenger, Rick Dollinger, in this year's best TV ad. Dollinger, a liberal, outspoken state senator, is also a lawyer. But, as the ads repeatedly pointed out, in contrast to Renzi's resume, Dollinger's "never been a judge." The Honorable Judge Alex Renzi wins this award for complying with election law by employing the logic and sarcastic tone of a 13-year-old to defeat his opponent.
Best name: Harry Bronson. Hacks pumping out over-boiled detective novels come up with names like "Harry Bronson" for their unflappable, infallible dicks. A political party chairman, looking for a candidate to exact revenge on a renegade politician who split the party to run for "the bad guys," could do no worse. A too-clever cross between Clint Eastwood's classic "Dirty Harry" character (the brutal San Francisco cop Republicans love to quote) and Charles Bronson (the pissed-off everyman vigilante with pro-union leanings), the name resonates with voters craving a candidate who's tough on crime and not afraid to break the rules to do what's right.
The real Harry Bronson --- who bears a slight resemblance to Charles --- spends a lot of time with convicts and tough guys at-risk of landing in the slammer. He's the director of Cephas Attica, Inc., a non-profit that advocates for inmates' and parolees' rights and tries to keep at-risk youth out of jail. The first-time candidate picked to challenge Dem-turned-Republican Assemblyman Joe Robach for a State Senate seat lost to Robach by two-thirds of the vote tally.
Best dictator: George Pataki. The incumbent governor edges out Independence Party challenger B. Thomas Golisano for the award this year, thanks to his utter unwillingness to subject himself to a candid discussion of the issues of any kind. Granted, for the first time since he took office, the most powerful governmental official in the state acquiesced to participating in a debate. But the "debate" was set up to discourage any actual give-and-take between candidates, and amounted to little more than another opportunity to spew soundbites on TV. Displaying all the accountability of North Korean despot Kim Jong Il, Pataki refused to subject himself to a sit-down interview with any member of our country's free press. Not City, not the Democrat & Chronicle, not the New York Times. Golisano's reported refusal to allow journalists who were given rides aboard his private jet to write about its opulence, his blatant manipulation of Department of Labor stats in TV ads, and his dubious claim to be the only candidate not funded by "special interests" still don't stack up to King George's authoritarianism.
Folks who follow the news only sporadically --- the same folks this new column is intended for --- can be forgiven for not knowing there was an election on November 5. Other than the absence of those ubiquitous commercials by third-party gubernatorial candidate B. Thomas Whatshisname, not much has changed around here. Nearly all the local incumbents for both state and national office won handily (the exception being State Assemblywoman Susan John, who won in a squeaker). That guy with the crooked grin is still the Governor. Nevertheless, there was some news. According to unofficial results, Green Party gubernatorial candidate Stanley Aronowitz fell almost 10,000 votes short of the total necessary to maintain the Greens' status as an official party in New York. As a result, Green candidates will likely have to collect thousands of signatures to get on the ballot in state and national races over the next four years. The Liberal Party, which backed Democrat Andrew Cuomo before he dropped out of the race, also lost its official status. Oh yeah, and Republicans now control both houses of Congress, the White House, and, according to one paranoid progressive, the solar system. We're doomed.
Also apparently doomed are the prospects of launching a fast ferry between Rochester and Toronto next August. Mayor Bill Johnson and officials at CATS --- the company hoping to launch the boat --- accuse the Greater Rochester Transportation Authority of stalling the project unnecessarily. RGRTA officials say CATS has yet to prove it has the cash to keep from defaulting on the $6.6 million state loan the authority is charged with dispensing. A new timeline for ferry service now stretches from 2004 to eternity.
County legislators wrangled over the controversial budget proposed by County Executive Jack Doyle during a legislative session the night of November 12 --- after City went to press. Prior to the session, a bipartisan group of six legislators and the Democratic caucus unveiled separate proposals calling for a property tax increase --- of 3.8 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively --- to restore some funding to social service and cultural organizations slated to be cut. A plan crafted by the Republican majority would also restore some funding, but it wouldn't raise the tax rate. Instead, it would shift some money around from other expenditures, like cash available for an ad campaign marketing Monroe County to Monroe County residents. It's also possible Doyle's budget could pass as is. Less possible: That the United Way --- a private, non-profit agency --- can legally give the county government $4.7 million from its nearly $100-million endowment to restore cuts to social service agencies, as Doyle proposed in a November 8 letter to U-Way President and CEO Joseph Calabrese.
---Compiled by Chris Busby from news reports, interviews, and campaign literature blowing in the autumn wind.