Heidi Zimmer-Meyer of the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation is both a good friend and a professional colleague of mine, but I have to take issue with her claim that RDDC is taking a neutral stance regarding the proposed casino and hotel development downtown. Although your article doesn't mention it, both Home Properties (managers of MidtownPlaza) and Wilmorite are members of RDDC, and a representative of Wilmorite sits on their executive board. While this doesn't mean they cannot be neutral, Heidi's responses to your interview betray, in my opinion, the belief that the casino is going to happen and that we need to start spinning this in a positive light.
I am a resident of a recent loft development within yards of both the proposed Renaissance Square project and the two casino-related properties. While I cautiously approve of the Renaissance project, I am firmly against the casino and the perception that we have no choice in this matter, for the following reasons:
• Take a walk through the SibleyCenter. Under Wilmorite's management the building is over $11 million in arrears, dollars our city government desperately needs for basic services like schools that are vital our region's prosperity. The building is filthy, with elevators and escalators that do not appear to have been cleaned in years. Wilmorite's management strategy for properties that are underperforming (such as the recently sold Irondequoit Mall) appears to be one of benign neglect. What if this hotel-casino operation fails?
• Knocking down Midtown is not as easy as everyone assumes. It is a complex of buildings housing many tenants beyond the remaining few retail operations. The building is also a significant example of the Sixties Modern school of architecture, which is drawing interest from historic preservationists nationally and throughout Europe. We shouldn't assume that because we're inured to its charms that they are not historically significant.
• Take a walk into another downtown institution, World Wide News on St. Paul Street, and look at their dedicated lottery gambling area. Those who spend their days here may well be representative of those who will populate our casino and spend their days mindlessly feeding money into video terminals. I suspect they will not be paying for luxury hotel rooms. This is a destructive addiction, and I don't believe our community should be enabling it in the name of economic development."
• Regarding the economic-development aspects of this project: I've seen no evidence of any benefit other than the creation of a limited number of low-paying service jobs. We would lose significant tax-generating real estate to eminent-domain actions by the state, and there are no concrete indications that the tribes owning the casino would be under any obligation to share proceeds with the community. As they are not even New York residents, there are few community-driven motivations to do so.
Finally, I agree with Heidi strongly on one of her main points: our downtown is in a strong growth phase driven by private developments from people like the Costanzas in the Temple Building, Buckingham Properties (Michael Stern, Old Rochesterville), Mark IV (Corn Hill), the Sterns (East End Lofts), Home Properties (Chevy Place), Crista Construction (Sagamore on East), and others.
Collectively, they are building or have built over the past few years over 250 units of high market-value housing within downtown. As a result, the entire environment is in a state of positive change. People are on the street with money in their pockets, restaurants and entertainment venues are thriving (at least in areas with residential growth), and service businesses are starting to appear downtown again, including retail. I simply can't see how flooding the Greater Rochester area's fastest-growing upscale residential neighborhood (downtown) with gamblers and pawn shops is beneficial.
So what do we do? Collectively stand up and actively protest this undemocratic intrusion on our local decision-making process. Politicians are primarily sensitive to one issue: getting re-elected. Let them know that your vote won't support those who support this short-sighted "solution" to downtown revitalization.
Martin Edic, The Lofts at Michaels Stern, Pleasant Street, Rochester
Thanks for Chad Oliveiri's article and interview with Heidi Zimmer-Meyer. She puts things into interesting and thoughtful perspective. The bottom line, however, is still local rights. For the governor and Tom Wilmot to shove this down the community's throat bespeaks the most foul politics and personal aggrandizement.
And as the project is to be located in the city, why was the mayor's address eliminated from the "Wait just a damn minute!" article? He needs our encouragement now more than ever.
Deanne Molinari, Fairport
When reading about the covert plans for a casino in Rochester in ("Big Gamble?" June 23), I can't help but conjure up the image of George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life as he stumbles into Pottersville after his encounter with Clarence on Christmas Eve.
George finds that the tranquil town of Bedford Falls he once knew has gone awry, with houses of misadventure and corruption. It is easy to draw a parallel, with Wilmorite chairman Tom Wilmot as the Potteresque landlord who manipulates the city for his own interests.
Let's not fall into the mold of yet another Northeast city with a casino to draw those who seek the thrills of fortune-hunting. It may be alluring to anticipate a monetary windfall that may arise from such an enterprise. But there is no assurance that the quality of life in Rochester will be more appealing than what we have enjoyed over many years with the venues of music, theater, and art that have enriched our lives culturally.
Should we awake one morning in the near future to find that this nightmare is a reality, it will be because we waited too long for a guardian angel, when we should have been earning our own wings by getting involved in the decision-making process.
Philip Katzman, Tarrytown Road, Brighton
Regarding "GOP chooses choice?" (June 23): The local Republican Party leadership needs to wake up!
The poll cited in the article is not the first to confirm that most Republicans believe government should stay out of people's private lives. That includes their doctors' offices. Reproductive health care is a basic human-rights issue.
And exactly who is "infiltrating" the Republican Party, as your quote from Tracy Logel insinuated? I'm still a registered Republican, despite recent events, because the party was founded to advance social improvement and human rights. How soon we forget that a Republican president signed the legislation creating Title X, America's Family Planning Program.
Most life-long Republicans are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Amo Houghton is a perfect example of a dedicated Republican who is staunchly pro-choice. It's these recent, reactionary zealots that have "infiltrated" the party and are turning it into a haven for fiscal irresponsibility, unconscionable debt, abridgement of civil rights, and social deterioration. (Are they the folks who recently claimed Amo "wasn't a real Republican"?)
I am part of the very real, pro-choice Republican majority, living in the Town of Henrietta, where my town supervisor doesn't think we exist. Pro-choice Republicans believe in less government, more personal freedom, and the right to privacy. When I vote, candidates' stands on these traditional Republican values are more important to me than the party they happen to belong to.
And as for Mr. Tannous's comment about tree hugging, a Republican president also signed the law creating the EPA. Civil rights? A Republican-appointed chief justice led the Supreme Court in striking down school segregation. Let's not let political prejudices cloud our thinking --- in either direction.
Jaye Fish, Woodleaf, Henrietta
Thank you for an article that provides information for voters to evaluate the issue of choice within the Republican party framework. It is unfortunate that there were no quotes from any of the pro-choice politicians along with those from the anti-choice politicians.
In the article, Henrietta Supervisor Jim Breese notes how long he has been around Republican politics and that the party is "strongly pro-life." As a life-long conservative Republican who favors choice and who, incidentally, considers herself also "pro-life" (I resent any other implication), I would remind Mr. Breese that the Republican Party did not have any anti-choice language in the platform until 1980.
Many, many Republicans, such as my parents, remember the movement by the anti-choice factions to integrate local caucuses and the like to push their agenda. Mr. Breese's experience in the party fails to recognize that fact. When I chose to support the Republican ideology, the issues of individual liberty were paramount to the party. I don't know how he can forget or deny that.
Susan Bevan, Greenwich, Connecticut
It seems to me the Republican Pro-choice Majority's question was unambiguous and straight-forward, and the survey was done by a reputable national polling firm --- a conservative one at that --- and the national sample was statistically valid. Please tell me what's "propaganda," "insidious infiltration," "sheer fantasy," and "deceptive" about that.
Polls are done all the time by political groups. Just because some people don't like what the results say doesn't make the results any less valid. Maybe it's time for the Republican leadership to start listening to some new voices, and your newspaper might ask questions of the "rank and file" members of the party as well as its leaders to get a balanced opinion.
I am a strongly Pro-choice Republican who votes accordingly, and I know many who think the same way. We are not used to publicly voicing our opinions, especially on an issue that is so personal. But we are there, and the time has come to speak and be heard.
Betsy Webster, Wood Creek Drive, Pittsford
Pro-choice Republicans do not promote abortion but believe that women should have access to the full spectrum of reproductive options: education, prevention, motherhood, abstinence, adoption and safe and legal abortion. All Republicans share the common goal of reducing the number of abortions performed each year.
Therefore, it is very much in accordance with these ideals that traditional Republicans believe that the ultimate decision on abortion, or any other health issue, should be left up to the woman and her doctor and not the government.
We are the "Big Tent" Party, and we need to start acting like it. There is certainly room for all social views under our big tent, and there should be tolerance, and not hostility, between Party members.
Maisie Houghton, Spencer Hill Road, Corning
The debate over Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 misses the most important points. It is not Moore's voice but the voices of the ordinary Americans he interviews that have haunted me since I left the theater.
I hear the words of Michael Pedersen, who wondered --- in the last letter he wrote home before his helicopter was shot down --- whether there was any purpose at all to his presence there.
I remember the soldier who, unable to look at the camera, said that a part of him died each time he killed someone. And I think about the Marine who, having served in Iraq already, said he would do anything not to return.
In discussions about the movie, I have yet to hear anyone suggest a response to these soldiers. It is devastating to imagine American soldiers risking their lives without understanding why. How will we help soldiers recover? What does it mean if soldiers are willing to risk court martial not to return to this war? What can we tell the families of the 852 soldiers who have lost their lives?
These are the questions I'd like to hear answered.
Elaine Wright, Williamsville
Thanks to the budget approval by City Council on June 22, my total property tax has gone up approximately 13 percent.
First there was the increase in assessed valuation, based on what I believe to be a false premise, resulting in a 4 percent increase in taxes for the city. Since the county also uses the valuation made by the city assessor, I will have to pay an additional 4 percent in county taxes. And now there is City Council's 4.8 percent increase on top of that. So my total property tax bill has gone up about $200.
Thanks a lot, Mayor Johnson and City Council. You've made it a bit more difficult for homeowners like me and for the supposed goal of increasing home ownership within the city.
Wayne Dillenback, Cedarwood Terrace, Rochester
We shouldn't be surprised at increased violence against Americans in the Middle East. GW Bush encouraged it with his "bring it on" attitude. That thoughtless remark endangered Americans everywhere.
The hypocrisy of our killing and torturing Iraqis in order to capture a man accused of killing and torturing is obvious to the rest of the world. Bush has too much power at his disposal, given his lack of common sense and poor intelligence sources.
A democracy is only as good as its voters are wise. The future of our country depends upon everyone voting this year to rid the White House of the self-serving, trigger-happy dolts there now.
Thomas Edison, an American genius, said: "Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages." The Bush administration's declaration that the Geneva Convention is "quaint and obsolete" set American humanity back a century and opens the door to all imaginable mistreatments of our citizens.
The world is watching our election closely to see if Americans condone Bush's war. Let's remind him that his position was the result of a "faulty" election and that Americans are not savages.
Carolyn Swanton, Sackett Road, Avon
Mike Doser's column "Sports are Beneath You" (June 16) might be the most closed-minded article I have ever read in City, of which I am a great fan. Doser allowed his own biases and stereotypes to overshadow any point he tried to make.
First, sports are not the most important thing in the world. I am plagued daily by the thought of how far our country might fall if the tyrannical Bush administration is able to strong-arm its way into another four-year term. Doser is being short-sighted to think that the average reader cares only about the injustices of the world, though. The average reader is an independent person, and independent people have a range of activities and ideas and events that pique their interests. You don't have to be pedestrian to like sports; you don't have to be high-minded to care about what goes on the world.
Sport is entertainment that is uncorrupted. I despise the majority of entertainment-based television, sit-coms being the most dumbed-down form. Reality TV is visual crack that mystifies people and addicts them.
Sports are real. You don't know who is going to win. No Nike representative can go on the court and say, "I need Kobe Bryant to hit the last shot so that we can expand the influence of Nike-sponsored athletes". What happens in play is organic. Everything around it might be manipulated, but the play itself is natural, and that's what captivates me.
Furthermore, anyone who has ever played a sport can appreciate what the athlete is doing. You know that no matter how hard you tried, you could never replicate that feat.
Sports are one of many opiates of the people. The downfall of every empire has been complacency. People do not worry about things unless they are forced to. Those living in suburban mansions and throwing away more food than they consume do not worry about the people sleeping in the subway and eating at soup kitchens. Eliminate sports, and people will find another vice to maintain their ignorance, so long as they are comfortable. It is human nature.
Evan Lynch-Throne, VickPark B, Rochester
I want to thank the jazz-listening public for their outpouring of support. I truly miss sharing my passion for this American art form via radio with people who share this same passion. I look forward to getting back on the air in the not too distant future. I know that's where I belong.
In particular, I was very moved during the jazz festival when many people came up to me and mentioned how much they missed my program. Many of you I had never met until the festival.
Your kind and supportive comments did not go unnoticed and were very uplifting to this "not so old jazzer"!
Tom Pethic, Tall Tree Drive, Penfield (Pethic hosted "Artistry In Jazz" on WGMC.)
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