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Main Street plans, Wegmans' expansion, Nader's role, Wease and Spezzano

Readers feedback 4.28.04 

Lessons for Main

Regarding "The State of Main" (April 14): OK, let us review one more time completed reports from 1970-something, 1980-something, and 1990-something. These reports hide somewhere on dusty shelves in City Hall (or the county archives) and were put together by dedicated people, discharging their civic duty, studying cities domestically and internationally, and recording the results of experiences and experiments that could be applied to Rochester.

            I am most familiar with the report from the early 1990s, because I took part in compiling the data after doing part of the research for the Downtown Sector 5 report on transportation-Main Street-et al.

            Interestingly enough, some things never change. One is that people --- and cities --- behave in predictable ways given the same stimuli. Another is that it doesn't matter. We seem determined to repeat mistakes based on poor information, or we chase the latest fad --- which is worse, because that usually costs more. Still another is that planning for the wider good never wins over short-term financial greed and political hubris.

            I left downtown. I have retired from political caterwauling. I have refrained from pointing out just how stupid, shortsighted, expensive the whole idea of a Renaissance Center-Bus Garage is --- based on statistical evidence and reported in a non-biased way, of course.

            Please, if you are going to talk about Main Street, perhaps you could do a little more investigating. It's all very nice to discuss changing the "urban fabric" by designing or redesigning buildings, but the reality is that the person or corporation with the dollars will decide where that building will be set and will determine its design. And if it is to the detriment of "the fabric of Main Street," too bad.

            Given all the evidence to the contrary, a bad building is better than no building, or in the words of one city hall planner: "We can't afford to let this (building) go out to the suburbs. It means we lose jobs and the hit to our prestige would be too great."

            But there are a few relatively simple things government can do to improve downtown, starting with taking some action on traffic and parking. Do away with all one-way streets. Do away with all no right-left turn restrictions. The current conditions were based on prehistoric planning and have little to do with life as it is downtown.

            Reestablish parking on Main Street. The health of a city street seems to move up or down proportionately with the ease of automobile flow: the easier and faster cars travel down a street, the worse the climate is for businesses and pedestrians on that street.

            These are tiny examples; there are dozens more. Perhaps they are ignored because of their seeming simplicity --- and there are no naming rights, no tiaras involved. However, City Newspaper can do a service by actually talking about solutions that have half a chance of being put into action.

            Shirley Dawson, Klink Road, Brighton

Missing Jack

It was with great regret that I read of the departure of Jack Bradigan Spula from the City staff. Mr. Spula's excellent work has informed and interested me for years and has always been one of the best aspects of City.

            I have always been struck by his steadfast intellectual integrity and careful analysis. He has clearly researched his topics exhaustively, has consistently demonstrated a passion and dedication to the truth, and has been a needed champion of the average person and the less-fortunate among us. Surely City will be diminished by his loss, as will the Rochester community if he leaves us in search of opportunities elsewhere.

            Thanks, Jack for taking on the big bad people and the big bad organizations for all the rest of us, who can only wonder at your courage and your scholarship. Good luck and keep giving 'em hell!

            Bob Snow, Dansville

No big Wegmans

In response to recent articles on the proposed expansion of the East Avenue Wegmans: I have to laugh at the very notion of a new storefront that would echo a 19th and early 20th-century streetscape. In other words: replacing what is already there.

            Have we not learned from the senseless destruction of irreplaceable landmarks that was rampant in the 1950s and '60s? Bulldozing this historic section of old Brighton would be a mistake. All for what? If you want bigger, go down the street to Pittsford. We who live in this charming historic district do so by choice. We do not want a bigger store or the traffic that will come with it.

            If Wegmans must expand (it's not as if the only store left in the city is losing money), then I would suggest expanding behind the existing structures, building on the vacant lots facing University Avenue and leaving the current structures in place. .But perhaps Wegmans is afraid of the competition from small, independent business owners that may want to anchor there.

            For a company that prides itself on the huge super stores in the wealthy suburbs, I say enough is enough. If Wegmans wants a bigger presence in the city, let it re-open Midtown or the Mt.Hope stores. The working classes like convenience as well.

            For my money, I'll stick with Tops. They never stop.

            John Jerard Vogt, RundelPark, Rochester

Paying for schools

I thought Jack Bradigan Spula's article on school funding ("School Improvement: The Price is Wrought," April 7) was excellent, especially after reading op-ed essays by the appointed commissioners of the Governor's Commission on Education Reform in the Democrat and Chronicle on April 12.

            In the print medium, City Newspaper is the best journalism in town.

            It is amusing indeed to see the less-government crowd proposing a low-ball financial remedy that also requires more government supervision by a new Office of Educational Accountability and, of course, a favorable mention of Charter Schools.

            Ron Johnson, Sutherland Street, Pittsford

Wease talk

Your interview with the "Wease" ("Radio Free Worry," Marcy 31) got me thinking, as most of your articles do. I am one of your relatively conservative readers who enjoy your paper every week because it creates so much food for thought.

            You are at your best when discussing local politics and social issues. You're at your worst when discussing the Middle East. Your recent articles on taxes certainly added to what most of us on the left and right know and agree with. The whole tax code needs to be simplified so the "working" poor are protected and the wealthy pay a fair share without being gouged or denigrated for their success.

            On the subject of free speech: Folks like Brother Wease seem to feel they should be able to say any vulgar thing they want on the public airwaves. If I wanted to hear that kind of junk, I would go to an entertainment club and listen to it. At the right venue, nearly any form of speech should be legal. The problem is, it is constantly in your face and is difficult to avoid. And parents cannot, in the real world, insulate their children from the coarseness of society. Radio, television, and the internet bring it right into our homes, schools, libraries and cars. Hollywood and the music companies are totally without ethics or cultural morals.

            In this politically correct age, we have to be extremely careful what we say in the workplace for fear of losing our jobs --- or at the least, we will be sent to diversity and sensitivity training. Political correctness has become the perfect tool in particular for the left to control open discussion of almost all social issues. The political correctness movement is the prime reason why thoughtful discussion on conservative talk shows is labeled "hate" talk. Disagree with a liberal and you are called all sorts of names. Wease denigrates talk radio because it is mostly conservative, but that may be because there are so few other outlets for "right" leaning folks to express their ideas. The problem with left-wing talk shows is that they seem to be so full of opinion and feelings talk and so short of facts.

            Our right to free speech is a wonderful thing, but mass media and sound bites have reduced it to an "Animal House" food fight. Let's try to put a little restraint on the filth talk and remember the famous words of Senator Clinton: "It takes a village to raise a child." My final words are for the Wease: "Take a lesson from the first 70 years of radio and clean your act up and just entertain us. Take the high road, and leave your garbage in the landfill."

            DeVillo H. McCann Jr., Luddington Lane, Greece

Just a prank?

As the cannibalism of "reality radio" talk shows continues, I finally have to express my concern with "Spezzano in the Morning's"sadistic "Make Your Momma Mad!" game on radio station WPXY.

            In my opinion, host Scott Spezzano takes advantage of his status to "prank" and humiliate people for self-serving reasons, and should be banished from the media industry.

            A recent prank by a volunteer female participant involved making her mom think that she was pregnant out of wedlock and was not sure who the father might be. The daughter explained that her mom is currently going through a rough divorce has been advising her daughter not to get pregnant.

            The prank consisted of an on-air, candid phone call to the mother. The daughter told her fictional story on air to her mother, while listeners awaited her reaction. Thinking she having a private conversation about a very personal issue, and certainly not being judged by a scrutinizing public, the mother offered her feedback, which involved the suggestion to get an abortion.

            As the prank escalated, the laughs from the radio studio staff radiated over the airwaves. Finally, a loud party siren went off, signaling that it was time to expose the truth. Caught totally off guard, the mother was beside herself. She said she thought she was going to have a heart attack, and that she was "pissed" about this.

            This show is essentially a cruel mix of "Punk'd" and "Candid Camera" with the mentality of a 5-year-old bully. Maybe some of Spezzano's victims will conspire to "punk" him one day. Personally, I think anyone who thought that morning's game was humorous needs a serious reality check. The prank was not only inappropriate, but offensive and cruel.

            It's ironic that Spezzano's sidekick, Sandy, is joyfully expecting. How would her husband feel being the target of a similar prank about his wife's pregnancy?

            Make your momma mad! What to play? Call the program at 222-9800. Or contact Infinity Broadcasting Corporation, 212-846-3939, or the FCC Consumer Information Bureau at 1-888-CALL-FCC.

            Colleen M. Charvella, Cobbs Hill Drive, Rochester

Green results

DM Fragale writes that New Paltz Mayor Jason West's energy ideas are viable (The Mail, April 7). He suggests installing solar panels to generate energy for the water and sewage treatment plant, but does he know if that will be an advantage? Solar power is certainly a sustainable power source, but its flaws greatly outweigh its benefits. Remember that active solar power can generate electricity only during the day, and only on days with direct sunlight.

            That is the most commonly known flaw, but solar power's true Achilles heel is in its panel creation. It takes years for a solar panel to generate the electrical power equivalent to the amount required in its creation. Therefore, each solar panel puts a negative gain on the overall energy market. By the time it is producing electricity over its original energetic cost, it has deteriorated to a point where it is no longer useful.

            Also, during the manufacturing of photovoltaic cells, toxic chemical by-products are produced that need to be dealt with. In fact, the cells themselves are not recyclable.

            Much more can be written about the inherent flaws of solar power, but you can't write about those without discussing its benefits. We use passive solar energy every day in the form of windows. Solar energy lights our houses and provides us with heat in both a cost-effective and sustainable form. That is its only true advantage.

            As for wind power: Wind farms have huge land requirements and obviously need windy climates. Generally these windy places are not inhabited by humans, but rather by wild animals. Did you know that windmills are incredibly detrimental to avian populations? Just look at the environmental records from Northern California's AltamontPass. There, windmills kill thousands of migratory birds every year, and in return generate a little electrical energy.

            You need to research all the costs and benefits of a sustainable energy source before you can jump on its bandwagon. "Green" power plants have their rewards; all I ask is that people have well-informed opinions before they add their support.

            Eric Grzelak, Genesee Street, Rochester

Don't blame me --- I voted for Nader!

With the approach of the 2004 presidential election, columnists and letter writers are reviving the unjust accusation that Ralph Nader caused Al Gore to lose the election of 2000. This myth is not supported by the electoral data, although it does seem to be durable.

            One reason the accusation is groundless is the mathematical axiom that you get the same total regardless of the order in which you add the numbers. Florida is blamed for Gore's loss of the presidency because it was so late in reporting and because Gore yielded the state to Bush by a very narrow margin. But there are 49 other states, and if Gore had carried one or two of them, he would have accumulated so many electoral votes that Florida would not have mattered. That is to say, Florida did not determine the election of Mr. Bush: All 50 states did.

            Here is an analysis of the official data from the Federal Elections Commission (www.fec.gov).

            There are 538 electoral votes. Not counting Florida's 25, Gore had 266 electoral votes and Bush had 246 out of the 270 needed to elect. Gore lost his home state of Tennessee, whose 11 electoral votes would have put him over the magic number. You can say that Tennessee cost Gore the election. Never mind the debacle in Florida. Gore lost Tennessee by 80,000 votes. If he had had Nader's 20,000, he still would have lost the state.

            Gore lost Clinton's home state of Arkansas, which has three electoral votes. Had they gone to Gore, they would not have put him over, but they would have put Bush under. You can say that Arkansas gave the election to Bush. Nader got 13,000 votes in Arkansas while Gore lost by 50,000. Had Gore carried Arkansas, he would have had 269 electoral votes and Bush would have had 268. Both would have fallen short of 270, and the election would have been decided in the House of Representatives. (One elector abstained.)

            But what about Florida? Didn't Nader get 97,000 votes while Bush won by 537 votes? Yes, but Florida is still only one state out of 50. If Florida had reported first, no one would think of blaming Nader voters. Attention would have been focused on whatever state happened to put one of the candidates over the hurdle. It would probably have been a western state, since they report later than eastern states.

            Here is the official tally of the Florida vote.

            Harry Browne, 16,415

            Patrick Buchanan, 17,484

            George Bush, 2,912,790

            Al Gore, 2,912,253

            John Hagelin, 2,281

            David McReynolds, 622

            Monica Moorehead, 1,804

            Ralph Nader, 97,488

            Howard Phillips, 1,371

            Other, 602

            Total, 5,963,110

            All theories about how voters would have voted if Nader had not been on the ballot are unsupported speculation. Some Nader voters probably would have voted for Gore, but certainly not all. There were lots of other candidates to choose from. We can also speculate that if Mr. McReynolds, the candidate of the Socialist Party, had not been running, his 622 votes would have gone to Gore and given him the state. Or let's blame Monica Moorehead. Who knows how her voters would have voted? Did these unknown, minor party candidates throw the election to Bush? It is all unsupported conjecture.

            Here is my speculation: Many more than 537 Florida Democrats voted for Mr. Bush because they were disgusted with the sex scandals of the Clinton administration. Perhaps we should blame Monica Lewinsky. In 2000, there were 205.8 million people of voting age, of whom 105.4 million, or 51.2 percent voted. Of these votes, Bush got 50.5 million, or 47.91 percent; he is a "minority" president. Gore got 51.0 million, or 48.39 percent. He bested Bush in the popular vote, even with Nader on the ballot, but he, too, would have been a "minority" president.

            The data contradict the theory that Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the election.

            It is time to put the myth to rest.

            Paul Van Ness, Rugby Avenue, Rochester

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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