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News briefs 11.26.03 

Just doing his job

Ron Harris has been manufacturing and encoding CD-ROMs for the federal government for almost two years. But before he could do his job properly, his machine had to be outfitted with a super-sized computer screen, because he is nearly blind.

            Harris says he had to get so close to the original touch screen to see it, he would accidentally hit the buttons with his face or hands.

            He is one of more than 70 blind or visually impaired people with a manufacturing job at Rochester's Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired-Goodwill on South Clinton Avenue. In addition to manufacturing (jobs performed on contract for both local and international companies), there are other job programs, including retail (staffing for the used clothing store across the street), call-center staffing (ABVI-Goodwill answers over 10,000 calls a week for the EPA's National Lead Information Center hotline), and food service (the ABVI-Goodwill Hospitality Group provides meals and snacks to daycare centers, schools, and senior centers).

            For one of the ongoing manufacturing jobs, workers build fluid transfer manifolds, which are subassemblies for medical imaging machinery. The subassemblies --- made from molded plastic piping and other parts --- need to be precisely made, and there are 900 different configurations. The workroom, empty on a recent visit, has 900 corresponding fixtures --- patterns made with nails and plywood --- hanging from the walls. With the fixtures, workers can make their parts by touch.

            "Where there's a will, there's a way," says Joseph Kells, sales and marketing manager. Kells says that ABVI-Goodwill's accurate work with the subassemblies has helped the contracting company reduce its repair costs. He hopes successes like that will help break down stereotypes about what blind people can and cannot do.

            Back in an all-white, pressurized room, Ron Harris doesn't think he's moving mountains. He watches his screen, listens to the machine, presses a few buttons, waits for a stack of CDs to come out, and packages it. "That's about it," he says, and shrugs.

            ABVI-Goodwill is located at 422 South Clinton Avenue. For info: 232-1111, www.abvi-goodwill.org.

--- Erica Curtis

Devilish design details

Our newspaper was going "out the door" to the printer November 25 as Rochesterians gathered downtown to hit the Rochester Central Station proposal head on. It looked like the meeting, part of the public comment process for the station's environmental assessment, would be a big draw.

            The sides certainly were drawn beforehand on big questions like these: Is the designated site the right one? What will happen to the 19th-century buildings on the northwest corner of Main and Clinton? Is the station needed at all?

            Of course, political maneuvers have largely bulldozed any alternative to the plan, which was pumped shamelessly by RGRTA chair Bill Nojay and friends until most elected officials caved. Still, it was surprising to get a statement from the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects that essentially boosts the Nojay plan. Especially after local history- and architecturally-minded people had begun organizing to save the Main-and-Clinton buildings.

            On November 20, after a long internal process, AIA Rochester said it "supports the proposition... but with some concerns." The group wants the new transit center to maintain "connectivity with pedestrian foot traffic" (sic), use "appropriate design elements" (possibly incorporating features of the old buildings, which would be demolished), and preserve "environments that enhance our experience." But the AIA's bottom line is this: "The new bus terminal/station provides a fresh start for a Main Street resurgence and a step towards growth in the development of greater Rochester."

            It's necessary "to move forward with a plan," says AIA president-elect Allen Rossignol. "Something needs to be done."

            Somehow we're reminded of what was thought decades ago about the real Central Station --- the Claude Bragdon masterpiece that was demolished and later replaced by the "enhanced environment" of the current Amtrak quasi-whistle-stop. (The Bragdon station's archways are the model for Nojay's grand design.) But at least discussion on the proposed station will keep going after the November 25 meeting. The AIA statement says the group's Urban Design Committee will soon host a "design and planning event for Main Street" (date/time and location TBA).

            Architect Joni Monroe, head of the RochesterRegionalCommunityDesignCenter, puts emphasis on this ongoing public process. It will be essential to hold a design charrette for downtown redevelopment, she says. "The issues," she says, "are much more far-reaching than the transit center site." She adds the CommunityDesignCenter will soon bring local leaders together to brainstorm a way forward.

God forgive us

Looks like Bob Lonsberry may be trying to martyr himself all the way to state office.

            In a column last Friday, November 21, the former WHAM 1180 AM host announced a dual intention: to be rehired by the station that fired him for making racially offensive remarks about Rochester's mayor on the radio; and to explore a run for state assembly. The column appeared on Lonsberry's website, www.boblonsberry.com.

            "It was more than a job and more than just a radio show," writes Lonsberry about his time at WHAM. "It was part of people's lives, including my own, and it has been illogically and unfairly destroyed."

            As a potential candidate, Lonsberry lists among his pet issues: property rights, agriculture, the economy, sportsmen's interests, and gun-owners' rights.

            "Oddly, the events surrounding my firing have not damaged my position in the community, but clarified and enhanced it," he writes. "My firing, in fact... would probably be a positive issue in my campaign and contribute to making it successful."

            A New York state assemblyman who believes calling African-Americans orangutans is A-OK and would be a "positive issue" in his campaign? Sounds about right. Not.

Medi-stabs in the back

Over the weekend, media reports dwelled on the decision by AARP national leaders to back the Medicare "reform" bill, which adds a prescription drug benefit --- but more generously benefits the drug companies, and worse, subsidizes the drift toward Medicare privatization. Don't forget, though, that legislators are ultimately to blame for this pre-Thanksgiving turkey, which was passed by the House November 22 (220-215) and the Senate November 25 (54-44, with two not voting).

            Here's how our Rochester-area legislators stacked up. US Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, both Democrats, voted no. Representative Louise Slaughter, D-Rochester, also voted no. Representatives Jim Walsh, Amo Houghton, and Tom Reynolds, all Republicans, voted yes.

            Some footnotes about legislators who are among the Democratic presidential hopefuls: Representatives Dick Gephardt and Dennis Kucinich both voted no, as did Senator John Edwards. Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman were recorded as "not voting."

Sounding off

City Newspaper's music listings have undergone some changes, starting with this issue. We've reverted to our old practice of listing by band, underneath subheadings for the style of music they play. Venue addresses and phone numbers are included with each listing. And classical music is now listed under "classical" in the general music listings. Comments? Write to themail@rochester-citynews.com.

Correcting ourselves

In Herbert M. Simpson's review of GevaTheatreCenter's Pyretown (City Newspaper, November 19, 2003), he wrote that actor Chris Thornton does not use a wheelchair off the stage. In fact, both Thornton and his character are wheelchair-bound.

            Also, the Critic's Choice section of Best of Rochester issue (City Newspaper, November 5-11, 2003), included some erroneous information about jazz pianist Marian McPartland. McPartland was part of Rochester's music scene in the '60s and '70s, often spending time with friend and composer Alec Wilder. Her concert with trumpeter Byron Stripling was a WPOP concert, and not part of McPartland's jazz series.

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