Once again, a leading politician has issued a cost-reduction "edict" of lost services and lost jobs while trumpeting his resolve to not raise taxes. This time it's Jack Doyle.
Once again, segments of the public are up in arms, and political enemies are maneuvering. Once again, self-righteous justifications and indignant criticisms fill the media.
And once again, many observers expect modifications and 11th-hour-miracle solutions.
This brouhaha is to be expected. After all, every organization wants to survive. But why must we go through this cacophonous ritual over and over again?
It's probably because we don't think about quality-of-life institutions much unless they're threatened. Then we're up in arms. While we don't mind paying them lip service, we do mind paying them a lot of money.
I don't see Jack Doyle as the dark knight of this soap opera. It's simplistic to single him out as some kind of egomaniacal, insensitive fiscal bad guy. He is merely a reflection of our prevailing values.
America is a materialistic, pragmatic country whose culture of individualism is much stronger than its culture of community (the big exception being in times of catastrophe). When push comes to shove, we choose the military and industry over the arts and the environment; we choose entertainment over education. We glorify individual success over community support.
Our governmental priorities reflect this. That's why the less materialistic and less profitable institutions (most of our quality-of-life organizations) are always cut the smallest pieces of the tax-dollar pie. From the federal government down to the local, this amounts to trickle-down neglect. When the fed takes away dollars, the state, county, and towns do, too, especially in this taxes-are-a-bad-thing era.
It's a food-chain thing.
Parks, schools, libraries, public broadcasting (whose decline has rendered it commercial-free in name only), the arts, and social and health services are continuously forced to extend their cupped hands just to survive. Without the additional, if erratic, generosity of corporations and individuals, some would be close to extinction.
Ultimately, we all have to share the blame. The lifestyle choices we make paint a vivid portrait of who we are. We pay for what we value, whether it's gasoline, cars, homes, food, cable, computers, cell phones, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, vacations, or entertainment.
The obscene disparity between the salaries of professional athletes and professional teachers, between movie stars and nurses, between CEOs and librarians makes an unambiguous commentary on American priorities.
If politicians do anything consistently, they give the people what they want.
Rick Taddeo, Irondequoit
Sometimes we sit back. The government seems so powerful. We watch Bush wreck the environment, the economy, our world status. But being liberal, who listens? Other than, lately, the Feds. Did I mention loss of free speech and privacy?
Then comes Doyle, who with Republican legislators disappears the entire cigarette rebate. What could have brought $761 million over many years is reduced to $142.5 million so that current hands could dip into it. Now, among all the other reductions, Doyle is proposing a reduction in the anti-smoking campaign.
Will he try to go ahead, against great (urban) outcry, to pave over historic Seneca Park? Will he expand the zoo for giraffes while closing Charlotte Beach to tax-paying people? I've urged for years that Durand Beach should be open. People drown there. Now Doyle is willing to let the urbans drown at two beaches.
And how do you close a county park during the week? Does that mean I cannot walk through Highland? Will the conservatory close? Can I picnic in Durand? Can I take my classes of children to Springdale Farm, part of Northampton Park? We already have to carry our garbage out of these parks. What's left to close?
In a grand announcement a few weeks back, Kodak congratulated itself on a drop in air emissions. In a small column, there was mention that water-pollution emissions had gone up 54 percent. In the 21st century? And there was no outcry? We're planning to first-strike Iraq and there's no question, much less outrage or terror.
Stories that should have banner headlines --- the closed beaches, the asthmatic children, the body bags to come --- are slipped into an oblivion we accept, without protest.
The last one left on Planet Earth can turn out the light, and can have my liberal, never valued, bumper stickers.
Sweet Grass Longhouse, Manor Parkway, Rochester
I found Ron Netsky's article "Can We Handle Success" (August 14) to be very interesting.
Indeed, $300,000 in corporate funding, with some governmental money thrown in, is a small price to pay for the continuation of the Rochester Jazz Festival.
Compare this with the Syracuse Budweiser Blues Festival, which I attend each year. This year they claimed to have a budget of $262,450.
All events on the main stage on Saturday and Sunday were free, and the only events with a cover charge were shows in clubs and the Friday night show at the Hotel Syracuse. Due to this, the event is almost entirely supported by corporate and government money.
Sponsors include the usual suspects: Wegmans, Time-Warner, the Post-Standard, New Times, the Dinosaur, Cricket Cellular, Continental Airlines, Borders, but also the New York State Council on the Arts, and a grant from Senator Nancy Larraine Hoffman. So, apparently the sort of money you are talking about is there.
My hesitation is that while most of the Blues festival is free and open to the public, the majority of the Rochester Jazz Festival is not. I would hate to see money funneled away from the events like the shows in Manhattan Square Park on Thursdays and Saturdays, which provide great, free, entertainment open to everyone.
Gerard Guidoni, Gates
Ken Warner, in his recent letter to City, played Smithers to Mayor Johnson's Mr. Burns (from TV's "The Simpsons"). Alas, the truth is, Hizzoner is not "as good as it gets."
The mayor's latest tantrum involved his absurd claim of authority with respect to who shall comprise the internal leadership of the County Legislature, based on his steering resources to Democratic County Lej campaigns. That's chutzpa. Even GOP Chair Steve Minarik's defense of Johnson (when you're bought you should stay bought) does not bear scrutiny.
Johnson's access to these campaign resources derives mainly from his office, an office he would not hold without the support of the Democratic Party. Moreover, his handpicked City School Board has not exactly inspired confidence in his recommendations.
Worse still is the vicious suggestion that respected legislators as diverse as Rowe, Thomas, Bullard, Lee, and Wilmot based the Lej leadership decision on some kind of racial assertion. Johnson never tells us what drove these very same people to install Mr. Cruz in the leadership post months before they replaced him.
Following Johnson's logic, might we describe his gratuitous attack on the congressional bid by Stephanie Aldersley --- a rare chance to send a woman Democrat to Washington --- as sexist?
This kind of demagoguery by the mayor and his associates trivializes and disrespects the sacrifices of all who have fought for social justice.
Tom Brennan, Lakeview Park, Rochester
Is anyone else having problem getting Rochester's "non-free" newspaper to publish their letters? Since moving back to this area, I have renewed my practice of expressing my views in this fashion --- as I have for over 30 years, because I believe it is patriotic to do so.
At first, I received rejection notices. Now they don't even acknowledge receiving my letters.
I realize my views on the Middle East crisis are not without controversy, but they are honest, well thought out, and based on first-hand knowledge. I feel as if my rights have been violated by the censorship. Thank goodness City Newspaper is still around and strong!
Carolyn Swanton, Clark Road, Conesus
Frank De Blase charms me. I hear his fast observations, resonant reflections, and aha anecdotes. We must be close in age (I just turned 38), because his nostalgic stories about favorite Rochester bars and bands of the '70s and '80s mirror my memories of those years.
I've lost touch with the happening scene since then; don't go out much anymore. (Life choices, you know.) So Frank's articles keep me feeling somewhat in-the-know, though I am laughably out-of-it. (Lost my tolerance for late nights, crowds, decibels, and smoke.)
But when I saw Frank's article about Seabreeze ("Fountain of Youth," Metro Ink, July 31), I felt downright hip. We were there two days before I saw his article. (I'm a trendsetter again!) That water park sure is fun. Had a gas in the wave pool pretending I was my panties in the spin cycle.
Best of all: You should've seen the pearlies glimmering in my kids' mouths. That's right. I have two children. And there's no ride as riotous as seeing your babes in playland. That's the essence of life. Heck, that is life.
Robin Merrill Lorenzo, Rockingham Street, Rochester