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Developing downtown, analyzing MoveOn.org

Reader feedback 10.6.04 

CONNECTING DOWNTOWN

It's reassuring to know that the newest member of City Council, Bill Pritchard, is focusing his thinking on downtown (Say What, September 22). However, Pritchard's assessment of High Falls requires elaboration.

            The initial investment in the '80s assumed that the metro area could support a vibrant High Falls and also a vibrant East End. By itself, that was wrong. An important nuance is that the dollar drain in propping up failing entertainment businesses at High Falls will stop only when there is connectivity between the two venues. The Downtown Design Charrette four years ago emphasized this: Only when the metro population views entertainment downtown as a single destination will big receipts click in.

            Housing can provide the connectivity, for where there are people living, shops spring up. There is a great wasteland north of Main Street and on both sides of Andrews Street. If that area were laid out for residential streets, there would be interesting areas for pedestrians to walk through, from one end of downtown to another. Thanks to the flexibility in the new zoning code, the private sector can be counted on to provide shops and restaurants along the way, without public assistance, once that critical mass has been reached.

            Public planning should focus on encouraging new development and conversions in locations where they can tie together our frayed urban fabric. When that happens, the suburbanite driving downtown will feel safe parking anywhere along that necklace and walking from one destination to another.

            By pooling resources, the county and the city (with state aid) could acquire the parking lots, create the fabric of new streets, and parcel the land for developers and homebuilders large and small. The city does not have the funds to do it alone. But the city could create the plan, and the design guidelines to go with it, to get the ball rolling.

            Richard Rosen, Edgerton Street, Rochester (Rosen is a Rochester architect.)


MOVEON'S ADS

Italo Savella complains about "MoveOn.org (financed by gazillionaire George Soros) ... flooding the internet and airwaves with ads depicting Dubya in Nazi regalia" (The Mail, September 15). Mary Anna Towler's response begins: "I think you're right about some of the stuff MoveOn.org has put out."

            Huh? MoveOn.org (financed by many modest donations from people like me, as well as by George Soros) never disseminated such an ad. The ad in question was briefly posted on a page within MoveOn.org's web site. It was one of many entrants submitted by the public as part of a contest and posted so that members of MoveOn.org could vote for the ad we would like to see aired. It didn't come close to being selected for broadcast.

            Unlike the total top-down control over every talking point and image exercised by the Bush campaign, grassroots participation can be messy. But I prefer to be part of organizations that ask me what I think, rather than telling me what to say, even at the risk that someone on "my side" might say or do something tasteless or embarrassing.

            The untruths about MoveOn.org repeated by Mr. Savella, and reprinted without challenge by City, show how the Republican noise machine works: Throw out a constant stream of smears and distortions, and some of them are bound to stick.

            I'm curious which of the "stuff MoveOn.org has put out" Towler objects to, and why.

            Bridget Watts, Queens Street, Rochester

            Mary Anna Towler responds: You're right: I should have pointed out the error in Savella's letter. And I should have worded my reply more carefully. I wasn't referring to the "Dubya in Nazi regalia" business. As you note, that ad was submitted in a contest --- and actually, it not only didn't come close to being voted the winner by MoveOn.org members, MoveOn removed it quickly from the website. (I do think, however, that MoveOn has a responsibility to review material before it's posted on its website, just as this newspaper has a responsibility to review material we publish and put up on our website.)

            The "stuff" I was referring to were some other Moveon postings, wordings, etc. On several occasions, I've felt they were exaggerating or jumping to unwarranted conclusions. The latest example: a recent full-page ad in the New York Times attacking a Gallup Poll.

            The poll showed Bush with a strong lead over Kerry. MoveOn criticized the methodology Gallup uses, saying that Gallup overestimated likely Republican voter turnout. And MoveOn criticized the connection between CNN and USA Today and Gallup, which, MoveOn said, results in their acting "as unquestioning promotional partners, rather than as critical journalists."

            Fair enough. Good stuff. But then MoveOn made a leap. Or a smear. The former head of the Gallup company, George Gallup Jr., who now heads Gallup's non-profit research arm, is "a devout evangelical Christian" who, the MoveOn ad said, "has been quoted as calling his polling 'a kind of ministry'" and who has said that "the most profound purpose of polls is to see how people are responding to God."

            But George Gallup Jr., Times journalist Jim Rutenberg wrote last week, retired in May. He "is not involved in the company's political polling," said Rutenberg, "and made those comments in reference to his specialty and main interest --- polling people on their religious beliefs."

            MoveOn's doing good work. But it undercuts its efforts when it exaggerates, jumps to shaky conclusions, or dips into innuendo.

            (Incidentally: Kerry fans not familiar with the MoveOn website --- MoveOn.org --- ought to check it out. Ads entered in the contest --- "Dubya in Nazi regalia" excepted --- are still posted, and many of them are terrific.)


SEARCH FOR JAM

I was a bit confused to read that Geneseo is known as a haven for jam-bands ("And They're Big in Japan," September 15). I usually find the music and arts coverage in City to be the best in town, so I was a bit puzzled. I am a big fan of the Sim Redmond band and the whole jam scene in Rochester, and I am a student at SUNY Geneseo. I have been trying to find a place in Geneseo that actually has a soundboard with the capability of hosting a band like Sim and his crew, or other good regional and local bands, but this place is hard to find.

            The school hosts a few punk bands, Dashboard Confessional and the like, but I have yet to see a jam band here this year. There really are few, if any, places that have anything like John Brown's Body or Sim Redmond. My friends and I had to drive to Rochester to go to the Sim show September 18. I hope that one of the bar owners down here will read this and decide to bring some jamming our way.

            Thanks for the great alternative paper!

            Conor P. O'Leary, SUNY Geneseo


FLIPPED

Since the Republican National Convention, much has been made of John Kerry and the "f" word ("flip-flop"). Apparently, in the past couple of decades, the senator has changed his mind on several issues (though it's rarely mentioned that Dick Cheney also supported some of those votes). I wonder who is more dangerous: a person who undergoes periodic self-examination and admits mistakes, or one who charges off on blind crusades, heedless of world opinion or evidence to the contrary.

            In nearly 25 years as a doctor, I've flip-flopped on salt, cholesterol, estrogen, vitamin E, and many other controversies. Our knowledge base changes over time. I often tell people that if their doctor never questions his or her decisions, they should look for a new one.

            So all you delegates who spent our tax dollars on those childish flip-flop props can send them to me, and I'll hang 'em from the old oak tree. I'm voting for a "second opinion" this fall.

            By the way, which third-world sweatshop manufactured those flip-flops?

            Al Power, Sachem Way, Irondequoit


WRITING TO CITY

We welcome and encourage readers' letters for publication. Send them to: themail@rochester-citynews.com or The Mail, City Newspaper, 250 North Goodman Street, Rochester 14607.

            Our guidelines: We don't publish anonymous letters --- and we ask that you include your street name and city/town/village. We don't publish letters that have been sent to other media. While we don't restrict length, letters of under 350 words have a greater chance of being published. We do edit letters for clarity and brevity. And in general we don't publish letters (or longer "op-ed" pieces) from the same writer more often than about once every two months.

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