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News Briefs 2.26.03 

Scouting the market

The Geneva-based Finger Lakes Council of the Boy Scouts of America has decided to unload a big chunk of land, to the discomfort of some who know it best.

            The land, totaling 165 acres near the Honeoye Lake inlet, is in an upscale neighborhood --- in terms of open space and scenic values. Uphill to the west is the Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area, beloved of hikers, cross-country skiers, and other visitors. And all around are more than 1,000 lowland and upland acres under the care of groups like the Finger Lakes Land Trust and the Nature Conservancy of Central and Western New York, plus the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Most of the protected open space, including the Boy Scouts' acreage, is the legacy of gifts from the late Emil Muller and his wife, Florence Muller.

            According to the Honeoye Herald, Cub Scout leaders in Honeoye, whose scouts have been using the 165 acres as a "primitive campsite" for years, are outraged over the planned sale. "They're hurting for money, so they are selling it," one leader told the Herald. (The land, with a probable six-figure market value, was an outright gift to the Finger Lakes Council.)

            Council spokesperson Duane Pancoast tells us that every year only 300 Scouts use the acreage. Moreover, he says it costs $5,000 per year to maintain the land, which actually isn't suitable for camping. For a campground to pass muster for Cub Scouts' use, he says, it has to have flush toilets and potable water.

            "We're hoping to sell [the land] to a conservation group," Pancoast says. He acknowledges developers might show interest, but he doubts the land could be developed for second homes or the like. Emil Muller, he says, "wanted to develop it at one point, but the town turned him down." Pancoast also claims Florence Muller "doesn't have a problem" with the proposed sale.

            Florence Muller declined to comment for this story.

Governor cuts a figure here

Governor George Pataki spoke here February 19 at Hutchison House, home to the Rochester Business Alliance. And some regular folks greeted him with a protest out front, facing East Avenue.

            Pataki brought his mantra: no "job-killing" business taxes to close a multi-billion-dollar budget deficit. The people on the sidewalk, organized by the Working Families Party, said there's another way --- in other words, to resurrect an old Pataki mantra, that "we can do better."

            "Education should be recession-proof," said George Moses, a member of the New York State Alliance for Quality Education who opposes Pataki's plans to cut school aid and hike state university tuition. The task, said Moses, is to establish sound priorities. Next to Moses, Working Families Party member Mark Beutner held a sign with a direct message: Stop the Cuts! "We didn't hear about this [i.e. deficits and cuts] during the election campaign," said Beutner.

            The demonstration, which drew a dozen people, had its moment of confrontation. A plainclothes state trooper, identifying himself only as Investigator Montague, ordered everyone to move 15 feet away from Hutchison House's driveway or... something. After a vaguely tense minute, the demonstrators complied. No word, though, on whether public opinion will make Pataki back away from his slash-and-burn budget.

            The Working Families Party has a message for him, regardless. Literature distributed at the protest says Albany could erase the deficit by closing corporate loopholes ("corporations pay only 4 percent of the state budget, down from 10 percent in 1977"), restoring the stock transfer tax instead of raising consumer fees, and boosting income taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers (raising this tax "by just 2 percent on household incomes over $200,000 will raise $3.4 billion").

Coincidence or conspiracy?

Returning from the events at Hutchison House, we found an anonymous postcard in our mail slot. The text in full: "I think the higher park fees are great. It's about time we get the riffraff out! Let's price them out of NY and get the worthless bums to go somewhere else (like another state). Besides, I never use the parks anyway, so what do I care?" Our first thought: Somebody's putting us on. But could Pataki have written the card and dropped it off? Sure, as a hearty outdoorsman, he does use the parks, and for more than photo backdrops. We're still suspicious, though. Anyone who saw a tall, rather gubernatorial man running in the vicinity of our front door is encouraged to call.

Joseph Summers

Rochester lost an eminent scholar, art and music lover, pacifist, and gardener February 3. Joseph Summers, a University of Rochester professor emeritus, was known in academic circles for critical writings on poets George Herbert, John Milton, Richard Wilbur, Elizabeth Bishop, and others; and for being the general editor of a 25-volume series, Discussions of Literature.

            Summers was passionate, too, about postcolonial literature across the world: writers like Chinua Achebe, Salman Rushdie, and Wole Soyinka. And through teaching jobs at Bard College, the University of Connecticut (Storrs), and Washington University (St. Louis), as well as at UR, Summers forged literary relationships with William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Lowell, and many others.

            Known widely as a social critic, Summers was married to U.T. Miller Summers, a City Newspaper contributor who continues her writing projects. Joseph Summers was also a conscientious objector, and as such he spent most of World War II in CO work camps. He took a page from Christian socialist and radical democrat F.O. Matthiessen, who, Summers once said, had "not let his professional duties and responsibilities interfere with his human ones" or "left life for the library or the present for the past."

            A memorial service for Summers will be held Saturday, March 1, at Christ Church, 141 East Avenue, at 1:30 p.m. Memorial contributions may be sent to the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Box 271, Nyack, NY 10960; the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, 3257 Lohr Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48108; or Christ Church, 141 East Avenue, Rochester 14604.

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