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Feedback 2/27 

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Police union's views must be taken into account

From 1980 to 2000, I worked for the Rochester Police Department as a "civilian" (non-police officer) administrator. My duties included participation, on the management side, in contract negotiations with the Police Locust Club, the recognized bargaining agent for non-management sworn police personnel.

One of the major recurring issues in these negotiations was discipline of police union members, which was recognized as a "term and condition of employment" under the Taylor Law that governs public collective bargaining. Methods of administering discipline, extent of penalties, and representative rights of officers accused of infractions were all subject to collective bargaining and were embodied in resulting labor contracts.

After reading CITY's report on the interview with Locust Club President Mazzeo and reviewing the draft legislation before City Council, I don't see how City Council, or the administration, can unilaterally, radically change current disciplinary procedures – which may well be unsatisfactory, from several points of view – without conducting discussions, at a minimum, with the police union.

I hold no brief for the Locust Club; my experience was that their tactics were sometimes less than forthright, their style approaching intimidation. Contract negotiations several times reached impasse, and state mediators were called in.

One thing the Locust Club disliked was "civilian review" in almost any form. The mild form that existed, through the Center for Dispute Settlement, was criticized and mischaracterized. Judging by the interview with Mazzeo, that attitude continues.

The proposed City Council procedure, in which power is given to a board partially designated by citizen groups openly advocating stricter curbs on police behavior, is sure to be perceived as threatening by the union.

It's probably hopeless to try to design a review procedure that the Locust Club approves and that also meets the objectives of members of the Police Accountability Board Alliance. The most that can be achieved might be grudging acceptance; more likely is a prolonged court battle under provisions of the Taylor Law – which, in my experience, has generally been interpreted from a pro-union perspective.

The Council, and the public, must accept that public employee unions exist to represent the interests of their members, however much we might wish them to be "public spirited." The unions' rights and views must be taken into account if a major public-policy change affecting "terms and conditions of employment" is to be successfully implemented.

If it is correct that no effort has been made to involve the Locust Club in developing the proposed Police Accountability Board, that will likely lead to legal resistance and significant delay, if not defeat; challenge to any action the proposed board takes; and perceived lack of legitimacy on the part of the officers whose actions the Board is supposed to oversee. Not a recipe for success, IMHO.

ALLEN HOPKINS

Next steps for city schools

I enjoyed reading the varied opinions of those writing on "Education Means Emancipation."

Having been active in many sections of education in Rochester – teacher, administrator, facilitator, consultant, trouble shooter, court master, community advocate, and parent – I applaud both these opinions and the analysis of the district's problems by Jaime Aquino's.  In all of my roles I found most true Aquino's statement that the district is organized more around the satisfaction of adults than the education of children.

The statements by all contributors were well presented. What now needs to happen is for there to be, in every segment of the community, discussion of the report and strategic facilitation of how each of us, in whatever role we play, can be part of the solvers of the problems.

The board needs to address how it can become more responsible in carrying out its constitutional responsibilities and support the work of the superintendent through clear expectation setting, evaluation, and resource allocation for 22nd-century methods and materials.

Administrators need to provide the inspiration and guidance for schools. Teachers need to focus on developing the minds and "hearts" of students and themselves in a learning community.

Parents must support their student in providing safe, secure, and encouraging inspiration and expectations for their children.

Students must, as Frederick Douglass did, resist the temptation of slavery of the mind and pursue learning at all costs.

All others need to provide the community support and not hide behind the poverty level or any other descriptors. It truly does take this village and its surrounding supports to raise our children.

RUTH H. SCOTT

Ruth Scott was an educational facilitator for the National League of Cities' year-long exploration of educational responsibilities of city government and is a former president of the Rochester City Council. She is a contributing author of the National League of Cities book "Education is Everybody's Business" and is author of the memoir "The Circles God Draws."

The 'who' behind Whole Foods opposition

The February 20 CITY contained a reader's letter titled "Who's behind the Opposition to Whole Foods?" questioning payment for the ad we recently ran.

The simple answer to "who's behind the paid advertisement" is stated in the advertisement: Brighton Grassroots Referendum Committee paid for the ad. The donations contributed to Brighton Grassroots Referendum Committee are publicly disclosed information accessible on the New York Board of Elections website, www.elections.ny.gov.

Brighton Grassroots Referendum Committee is a community-based organization focused on allowing Brighton registered voters to sign a petition forcing a vote to decide if the Town of Brighton should convey public recreation land to help build the oversized Whole Foods - Amazon - 20 Retail Store Plaza. The vote will allow the residents of Brighton to decide if the town's approach of giving incentive zoning and special tax breaks and creating increased traffic congestion to Monroe Avenue is what we want. We can decide if we want our public recreation land conveyed to allow for the oversized plaza – putting a stop to the town's misguided plan.

Using the incentive zoning "loophole," the town officials are allowing three acres of residential land to be added to the seven acres of commercial land, therefore approving the oversized plaza. Do we really want a Whole Foods-Amazon store, Starbuck's drive-thru, a strip plaza with 16 to 18 specialty retailers, and potentially two to three other restaurants plus all the traffic congestion?

If the referendum is successful in defeating the conveyance, the developer can build a beautiful plaza adhering to town Zoning Code.

Let's minimize the increased traffic on Monroe Avenue, not maximize the traffic and congestion.

For more information, please go to https://bgrreferendum.org.

HOWIE JACOBSON

Jacobson is treasurer of the Brighton Grassroots Referendum Committee.

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