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Feedback 04/16 

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Votes for sale

On "Democracy for Sale," Urban Journal: With all due respect, there are many more ways to garner political influence than giving money to politicians or parties. For instance, pushing through legislation that caters to special interest groups, racial, ethnic, or religious minorities, etc.

Mark Shields reveals his bias by stating that Republican presidential hopefuls flocked to Las Vegas to "genuflect" to big money people to garner their influence. Thank heavens our Democratic politicians would never stoop to such low standards. I thought President Obama's bowing and kowtowing to the Arab sheiks was especially touching.

Let's get serious: anyone running for political office in this country needs moneyed benefactors. To deny that or to paint any one political party or politician as tainted for doing so is naive. Changing the system is the answer, but how can our elected officials do so when they would be cutting off their nose to spite their face?

I don't know what the answer, is but I'd sure like to see a change.


Is arts center what we need?

The mayor asked the governor for $100 million to build a performing arts center. Why is no one looking at a much cheaper alternative: remaining at the Auditorium Theater?

The context of the discussion should, in my opinion, be: what does Rochester need most? There is general agreement on four things: jobs, better educational outcomes, public safety, lower taxes. So why ask the state for big bucks to replace a performing arts center downtown, when we have unmet needs? Let's list the reasons why:

1) There is little free parking near the Aud. Answer: The city could facilitate arrangements for nighttime use of parking nearby, and patrons could walk a block or two and find on-street parking, (as I invariably am able to do). If you haven't noticed, this is now a safe neighborhood.

2) A new facility will somehow be "better." Answer: When we go to New York City to see a show, the theater is usually 100-110 years old, handsomely restored. That's considerably older than the Aud.

Here in Rochester, ticket prices are reasonable, and who knows how high they could go with a new theater? We are lucky to have a superb impresario who manages to get us nearly all the big Broadway shows. Rochester is not a big city, so we may need to wait until the next year for the road company to arrive. So what? We have no evidence that a new building would change that. Ticket prices are generally one-quarter the New York City price, and affordable to our middle class. I'm willing to wait.

3) The neighborhood is run down: That's changing! There is new investment on East Main Street, and the Aud backs up to the vibrant Neighborhood of the Arts. The city has never made East Main Street a focus, but it could. Just look: The good things downtown are moving east.

I am left with the conclusion that what really motivates the sponsors is anticipated big salaries, profits to be made with construction, and fees to be earned with operation of a new performing arts center.

Why argue for new state money for new construction at the former McCurdy's department store? Who says that should be Rochester's biggest "ask" from the state? We are a struggling city with myriad challenges. 


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