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News briefs 3.12.03 

Honeoye Land revisited

Recently, we reported a story first floated by the Honeoye Herald: how the Finger Lakes Council of the Boy Scouts of America plans to sell 165 acres of land located just south of Honeoye Lake. The land was an unrestricted donation to the Council by the late Emil Muller, whose once extensive holdings in the Honeoye area are now mostly preserved as open space. Council spokesperson Duane Pancoast told us, among other things, that Florence Muller, Emil's widow, "doesn't have a problem" with the plan to sell.

            But now Florence Muller, who originally declined to comment on the matter, has shared a letter she submitted to the Herald. "I can positively state that [the land] was intended for use by all Scouts, those in the Honeoye area as well as those residing in other districts," she writes. "It was Emil's intention that this property be kept as much as possible in its natural state... I have endeavored to assist by, whenever possible, making annual contributions that were directed for use at the Muller camp site... I strongly believe the Boy Scout organization has an obligation to use this property and any gift in the manner it was intended by the giver. Gentlemen, let your conscience be your guide."

Forgive their trespasses

On Ash Wednesday (March 5), some Christian activists staged a protest at the Rochester Federal Building against an Iraq war. The protest ended with 13 people arrested; several of them spent the night in jail.

            "The people of Iraq have been battered by these 12 years of sanctions, and now we're going to war against a country that's already defeated and in terrible shape," says Tom Malthaner, a Rochester Catholic Worker member who was jailed. Malthaner, who like the others faces up to three months in jail for criminal trespass, spent time in Iraq in 1997 with the Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness campaign. He recalls that Detroit's Bishop Thomas Gumbleton was on that trip, too. (Gumbleton, a founder of Pax Christi and frequent anti-war protester, recently made his seventh peacemaking trip to Iraq.)

            "I want to bring the message of what war is" and what it does, says Malthaner. American losses will be terrible, he says. But in wars against Third World nations, he says, the casualty ratio "is always 50 to one" in favor of the US.

            Traditional Ash Wednesday observances feature the anointing of foreheads with ash. As they say, "From dust you have come, and to dust you shall return." But for the Federal Building 13, the ashes and their source meant even more. "We loved the burning of the dollar bills," says Malthaner. The protesters in jail, he says, wore the ashes happily the whole night. And on general principle, he deplores the "Almighty dollar" that calls the shots.

While you were out

Following an extensive search, the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley has chosen a new executive director. Chuck Bowen, 46, a gay businessman, Eagle Scout, and activist from South Carolina, will take over the helm of the advocacy group on March 17. Bowen's background includes a successful career as the CEO of a security firm, four years as an advisor to former South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges, and a stint as executive director of the South Carolina Dental Association. Welcome to town, Chuck.

In slightly less confirmed news, information has surfaced that seems to indicate that Mayor Bill Johnson intends to run for county executive this year. The Democrat and Chronicle reported on March 11 that it has a "confidential document" that "outlines Johnson's intent to run." Johnson has yet to make a formal announcement, and county Dems are still not saying he's their man. But Travis Heider, reportedly the newly tapped field manager for Johnson's unconfirmed campaign, was non-plussed by the fact the daily has already announced his candidacy. "Where [D&C reporter] Joe Spector got his information from is anyone's guess at this point," Heider says. "He's obviously done some investigative reporting."

The timing of the "leak" revealing Johnson's candidacy is interesting, given a March 8 D&C story on former RGS Energy Group Chief Executive Tom Richards. The story reported that Richards, long rumored to be interested in running for county exec as a Democrat, received over $10 million upon his departure from the company last June --- including $3.6 million in stock options he cashed the day he resigned. Energy East Corp. --- which owns RGS, the parent company of Rochester Gas and Electric --- apparently under-reported Richards' cash compensation by about $2.7 million in its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission last August. An Energy East spokesman refused to explain the discrepancy to the D&C. Does the news Richards got $10 million, under conspicuous circumstances, while RG&E employees are participating in what Energy East calls "an involuntary severance program" make the former nuke-plant owner as electable as, say, Monty Burns? Dem party chair Molly Clifford says, "It does make it harder to be a candidate in a race like this."

--- Compiled by Chris Busby from news reports, interviews, and semi-confidential documents.

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