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Homeless help, big-box sprawl, gay marriage, Green power

Reader feedback 4.7.2004 

'Homeless' help

Your article on the homeless (cover story, March 30) showed a lot of empathy for these people, many of whom may be mentally ill as well as chemically addicted. What about the other victims of their psychopathology, namely the rest of us?

            A librarian told me recently how one homeless man regularly locks himself into the library bathroom so he can masturbate for an hour, tying up use of the bathroom. He generally indulges after using one of their computers to watch porno. Your tax collars at work, ladies and gentlemen.

            Library personnel also have to keep an eye out for known pedophiles who frequent libraries after school lets out, since a lot of city parents use libraries as free babysitters.

            We've basically created an industry of people who provide food, shelter, social workers, etc., for the homeless (paid for mostly by the taxpayers, of course). Meanwhile, they continue to degrade the quality of life for everyone else.

            At one time, many of the now homeless would be hospitalized and given treatment, against their will if necessary. Some years ago, however, they were released into the general population --- under "deinstitutionalization" --- in order to "save money" (the right) and because their "civil rights were being violated" (the left).

            Since their lifestyle choice would be better in a warmer climate, I suggest we either send busloads of them to Florida and California (which have especially generous DSS benefits), or get serious and set up some sort of government-funded halfway houses where they can either be treated and then released or at least kept away from the rest of society until they receive proper services (to get them out of their homelessness, not help them adapt better to it). Want a bunch of homeless addicts in your neighborhood?

            Alan L. Glaser, Main Street, Rochester

Green results

While the current administration is hell bent on dividing our country, alienating the rest of the world, and wanting to inject discrimination into the US constitution, I'm grateful for one thing: a third-party option.

            New Paltz Mayor Jason West's marrying of gays and lesbians isn't only an issue of human rights but is also an example of what visionary elected officials from third parties can do. New Paltz has a Green Party-majority government, and the town hasn't imploded as forewarned. In fact, West, along with the mostly Green town board, is looking into such things as putting solar panels on the town's water and sewage treatment plant, purchasing wind-powered electricity, and partnering with other towns to be energy efficient. These are solutions that will create jobs, quality of life, and save money: three things Americans are searching for --- and which the Republicrats have allowed to slip away, for the benefit of the wealthy few.

            West is willing and able to do these things because he is not beholden to a corporate-bought political party. There is no party boss who makes decisions behind the scenes for the town. Innovative solutions to old problems are possible when people are elected from parties other than the big two. Why is America so far behind the rest of the industrialized world, where Greens are embraced at the highest levels of government?

            Agree with same-sex marriage or not, the fact is that Jason West is able to do something about a humanitarian cause he believes in. How many of our mainstream politicians have the courage, conviction, and honesty to take such a stand?

            D.M. Fragale, Snowy Owl Ridge, Greece

The cost of copies

In their story about fakes and copies ("Buyer Beware: Art on the Net," March 17), your art reviewers fail to take into account the artist's point of view. If the artist is lucky enough to still be alive, fakes and copies deprive him or her of a livelihood. In this age of mechanical reproduction, there is no respect for the original work of the artist. In its place there is an utter defiance of copyright law, which finds its way into the marketplace. Artists and the buying public lose both ways.

            Alan Singer, professor, School of Art, Rochester Institute of Technology

Spare the child

The March for Women's Lives makes the excessively common error of making abortion into an issue of women's rights rather than human rights, and equates pro-woman with pro-choice.

            Abortion should be considered a violation of the unborn child's right to live. A woman's right to kill her fetus should be deemed no more inalienable than a human's right to kill another human when that human is inconvenient.

            If we are intent on making abortion about women's rights, keep in mind that our feminist foremothers of the 1800's were against legal abortion, not for it.

            Of course, just because they were anti-abortion doesn't mean we should be. (Consider that the people responsible for one of the greatest achievements in women's rights, legalized birth control, hardly had what we see today as noble motives in mind.)

            We also shouldn't lobby against legalized abortion because of God. Abortion is the taking of a life. The average person, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof, is opposed to the taking of a human life.

            I am a woman dedicated to ensuring that men and women are treated as equals. I also believe in God. Neither of these facts have any significance in this argument.

            I am not unsympathetic to women who become pregnant through consensual or non-consensual sex. I cannot pretend to understand the dilemma such a woman is faced with. But the circumstances are not the child's fault. If you absolutely do not want the pregnancy, please spare the child's life and give him or her up for adoption.

            I'm aware that the child may face a difficult life, but it is unfair to deny that child the opportunity to live, and certainly unfair to claim that a life as an adopted son or daughter isn't worth living.

            Kieni Schneider, Richmond Center Road, Honeoye

Big-box sprawl

Currently, the Town of Webster is considering a plan to develop a commercial shopping center to serve as an alternative to East Ridge Road in neighboring Irondequoit. The latter shopping district, mind you, was similarly developed as an alternative to Main Street in downtown Rochester in the 1950's and 1960's, as was Jefferson Road in Henrietta at the same time.

            Now, as East Ridge Road is beginning to suffer the same fate of blight as Main Street, and the shopping centers around Jefferson Road have had their share of empty space, big-box stores want to settle further from the urban core, as they have constantly been doing.

            Next, business will be in WayneCounty. In fact, Victor, just across the OntarioCounty line, has been growing, along with its Monroe neighbor Perinton, at the expense of the city and its inner-ring suburbs. When will we learn from this sprawl of big-box businesses and big highways? This is not growth, but merely decentralization.

            Kevin Yost, Middle Road, Rush (Yost is a volunteer with the CommonGoodPlanningCenter)

Facts and figures

There are 1,138 reasons why I want to get married.

            To be honest, I was indifferent to gay marriage not so long ago. I thought civil unions were good enough for me. I didn't want to get involved, and was ready to take whatever was offered.

            Well, times change and so do opinions. As an out lesbian, I've learning a lot about the gay marriage issue. Now I'm speaking for myself and much of the gay community in saying that civil unions just aren't good enough. Here's why:

            If I died and left, say, $160,000 to my partner, she would have to pay up to half of what I left to her in taxes. If she were my legal spouse, she would pay nothing. United States law says those who sell land to the government (as well as their spouses) can live there until they die. Gay partners don't have that right.

            Then, of course, there are joint parenting, joint adoption, joint foster care, and joint auto, home, and health insurance. Divorce protections like child support, property rights, joint custody of children, and visitation rights. Pension plans, Social Security, and Medicare.

            Automatic inheritance if one partner dies. Wrongful-death benefits for partners and children. Bereavement and sick leave in the event a partner falls ill. Medical decisions on behalf of a partner. Visitation rights of partner in hospital or jail if needed.

            Domestic violence protection (a disturbing fact: Most cities won't cover same-sex abuse). Burial determination. And over 1,000 other rights that gay couples are at risk of never having. Legally speaking, if you are gay, your partner is not a member of your family. They are a total stranger.

            Civil unions might be a step in the right direction in regards to the fight for equal rights, but they are nothing compared to marriage rights. Domestic partnership (civil union) status can easily be negated by a state's attorney general. They offer few and sometimes none of the benefits of actual marriage. They are not even recognized outside of the city/state/country they are issued in.

            Most importantly, they create a second-class citizenship. Who wants to be a second-class citizen? Hello, didn't we do that to African-Americans 30 years ago?

            I work, I pay taxes, and I vote. I have lived in this country my entire life. To deny me (or any good citizen, for that matter) basic civil rights based solely on who we fall in love with goes against everything this country was supposedly founded on: freedom.

            If the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage were passed, it would only be the second amendment to limit our rights as citizens. The first? Prohibition (and we all know how well that worked out). This amendment would make the constitution say that we are all equal --- except for gays.

            As for "protecting the sanctity of marriage": I heard recently that Britney Spears got married and divorced in a time span of 55 hours. How's that for protecting the sanctity of marriage? How about the fact that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce? The rates of adultery and spousal abuse are over the top. Any two responsible, consenting adults who love each other and want to spend their lives together should be able to marry.

            To those campaigning against gay marriage: Imagine for a second that your partner dies, and you're told that you "aren't family enough" to dictate what happens to their remains. You "aren't family enough" to have custody of your children, and they are given to your partner's biological next of kin. You "aren't family enough" to inherit your home that you've lived in for years with your partner. You "aren't family enough" to get any Social Security money, insurance money, or even bereavement time from work to grieve.

            There are 1,138 reasons why I want to get married.

            Jessica Markowitz, Whitby Road, EastIrondequoit (Markowitz is a student at SUNY Brockport.)

A 'liberal' debate

My answer to Mary Anna Towler's bromides about "Who's a liberal" (Urban Journal, March 10):

            • "Liberals expect government to collect enough money to pay for a good education for all children."

            I expect families and people to be allowed to save enough money to pay for whatever education they want to give their children. Yeah for vouchers and choice!

            • "Liberals believe that quality, affordable health care is a right, not a luxury."

            I believe that health-care insurance should mirror car insurance: cover the catastrophic events, not the headlights. We probably wouldn't need Medicaid if we had such a system. And Medicaid does cover everyone.

            • "Liberals believe that the way out of poverty is a decent wage."

            I believe that the way out of poverty is work and responsibility, and, please, define "decent" wage.

            "Liberals want the government to help protect the nation's environment --- to make sure that air and water don't make us sick, that forests and national parks are treated as treasures, not as commercial opportunities."

            Has it ever occurred to Ms. Towler that it was precisely in "socialist" countries that the most egregious rapes of the environment took place, and are still taking place? What system is she suggesting that we imitate: the now-defunct Soviet Union and its satellites? Communist China?Cuba? I am all ears!

            "Liberals want a government that respects and fosters individual rights and privacy, not a government that spies on its own citizens or detains and abuses innocent visitors and non-citizen residents."

            I wonder if Ms. Towler has ever been a victim of these abuses. Have her rights and privacy ever been invaded? She seems to be describing a country where, for some wondrous reason, people from the four corners of the world all want to come to. Go figure!

            "Liberals want a progressive tax system."

            A progressive tax system is unjust. It penalizes hard work and success.

            "Liberals believe that citizens and businesses should provide money not only for defense but also for vital social programs."

            No, they shouldn't. Robin Hood is a fraud.

            "Liberals believe that the wealthiest people in a nation have a responsibility to pay higher taxes than low and middle-income people."

            See "Robin Hood."

            "Liberals believe that corporations should pay their fair share of taxes, that the government should not give tax breaks to US corporations that ship jobs out the country--or that set up fake headquarters in non-tax countries."

            Oh, would you, please, put a cap on that populist garbage. Do you think that Kodak or Xerox are paying their "fair" share of taxes? What, pray tell, is a "fair" share? And would you join the real world, at long last! The jobs that go abroad are better done abroad and they create space for innovation in this country. I know, I know, what about the guy that loses his job here? If it was up to you, Ms. Towler, we would still be making horse buggies instead of cars. That might be just as well with you but tell that to the millions that benefited from motorized transportation.

            Personally, I believe that Henry David Thoreau contemplating his navel on Walden Pond did not do nearly as much good for this country as Henry Ford. And no, I wouldn't have put Thoreau in jail for what he believed in. To each his own, but before you spit in the dish you eat from, take a look at who is filling it.

            Italo G. Savella, Genesee Street, Rochester

            Mary Anna Towler's response: Oh, me: Where to start? I realize that some Americans are opposed to free public education, a publicly-financed safe environment, and the like, but the vast majority are not. And environmental protection and progress are not mutually exclusive.

            Instances of privacy and rights violations -- particularly of legal immigrants --- have been well documented, and the stories continue to surface. I am personally familiar with one.

            It is not anti-progress to insist on a fair tax system, or to press for protections for workers who lose their jobs when jobs are sent abroad. As for "creating space for innovation in this country": Maybe, 100 years from now, the new technologies will have created enough jobs --- and our workforce will be well trained enough to hold them, to have a thriving economy and low jobless rate. Right now, as has been well documented, new technology is making work more efficient, and reducing jobs. Many, many workers do not have the skills to do the new work --- so much so that at the same time that we export to India low-skill "tech" jobs such as call-center staffing, we are importing skilled technical workers. Certainly we should insure that US workers have the skills to fill those jobs, but that's not the case. College tuition is skyrocketing, and government support for education is decreasing.

            Regarding corporations' fair share of the tax burden: Entire books are being written documenting corporations' abuses, as well as federal laws that permit such atrocities as big-profit companies paying no federal taxes at all. You'll find an extensive interview with the author of one of those books, David Cay Johnston, in this week's issue and last week's.

            The point of all of this, of course, is that there are some services that benefit all of American society: the military, police, and fire among them. Education, environmental protection, enforcement of tax policies, adequate basic (not just catastrophic) health care must also be on that list. Like national defense, all of those things cost money. It is not "socialist" or "communist" to believe that those who have more should bear more of that burden. (Indeed, that belief is Biblical.)

            And whether you agree with these points or not, the fact is, if the US government continues on this path, we will all pay for it in the end, in a large increase in poverty as unemployment increases (and all that that brings), in a higher crime rate, in growing economic and racial segregation, in higher health-care costs. To want to invest public funds now to prevent such results is not "liberal." It's just plain common sense.

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, Rochester14607.

            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 once every three months.

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