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Why the RCSD sued the city

Are the people of Rochester tired of the bad blood between the city and the School District (Urban Journal, July 30)? Yes. 

Does it matter who started it? Usually the referee of any such argument will tell you, "No." But it does matter, when assigning blame, who is doing the escalating.

From CITY's article "RCSD vs City Hall Heads to Court This Week": "The city also argues that because the issue is complex, 'it is incumbent upon City leaders to educate the public about the referendum and the issues implicated therein prior to the November vote.'"

This was the escalation that broke the camel's back. The school board was prepared to sit tight and hope the voters did not give away their right to local control of schools. But then the mayor's letter came out, and it was clear that she was putting her thumb on the scales. At that point we saw abuse of power at work, and misuse of taxpayer dollars. It was obvious that a campaign starting this early would only escalate as November approached.

People were calling all school board members, pleading with us to ask the district attorney to intervene.

I believe distribution of this letter was a civil offense rather than a criminal one, and believe that we should have called the state comptroller for a ruling. His official opinions have the force of law for government entities such as school districts and municipalities.

But we had two problems with waiting for that remedy to play out:

1) The Board of Elections needed the referendum language by August 5 in order to lay out and print all the ballots (including absentee ballots);

2) The comptroller was on vacation and could not possibly turn around our request for an opinion in time to stop further advocacy letters, YouTube videos, and robo-calls from being issued out of Church Street.

Article 78 petition for injunctive relief was our only option.

The school district has always been slow to punch back at City Hall attacks. We are well aware that every action we take to defend ourselves comes with the charge that we are only looking out for our own self-interest, that countermeasures will be considered a waste of taxpayer dollars, and that people will demand that we direct those resources back to the classroom. That's why the board doesn't hire media specialists or a bevy of legislative aides.

We aren't calling for a state takeover of city government, despite evidence that it could be run better. We should be granted the opportunity to defend ourselves when a co-equal government body takes steps to eliminate us, and we are attempting to do so in the most civil way at our disposal.

And the outcome seems to have justified our actions. The judge agreed with us, and the referendum question is now dead.


Powell is a member of the Rochester school board.

Write about the reformers

In visiting Washington, DC, recently, I took the opportunity to visit the "Squad's" offices and voice my support for their outcry over the Trump administration's incompetence. On two walls outside the entry door to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's office, every inch was covered with notes, cards, and letters, with praise, from across the US and from other countries for her fight against the creeping rise of authoritarianism undermining our Constitutional democracy.

In a recent Democratic candidates debate, moderator Jake Trapper seemed to undermine each speaker by attempting to pit them against each other and curtailing messages by cutting short their explanations. Tapper was a shameful and pointless imposition, a shill doing the bidding of his corporate bosses, who are likely interested only in commercial ratings.

Political news on both sides of the spectrum has become impotent with its "got-chas," insertion of artificial divisions, and news-cycle repetition of what is known.

Your recent Urban Journal was, for me, more Tapper pointlessness. Simply scratching the ugly scab of general dislike for Trump's administration and its fundamentally flawed behavior is no longer sufficient. That the Trump administration and the GOP have bet the house on xenophobia, racism, nativism, and US and foreign voter suppression to win elections is to their detriment. Just as Tapper failed to permit candidates to elaborate their ideas and planned policies, you have ill-used your position, missing an opportunity to discuss how each candidate will unseat Trump's administration.

What AOC and the "Squad" have shown is that bold plans, staunch, non-name calling messaging, and clear-headed goals and objectives win support and elections. Donald Trump used open nastiness to state his case for a reformist message in 2016. Today those opposing him are also proposing a reformist message. Please, let's support them. It's real. Talk about their ideas and policy changes. Give them a voice; let's hear the message. You've written sufficiently about Trump and the GOP's message. Move on.

Otherwise, you're little more than a pointless corporate shill, echoing Tweets, scratching at scabs, and providing what is dead-end divisiveness. Advocate for what is positive about the reformist agenda by stating positions of those speaking truth to power. Provide analysis. If you want to be a force in the coming battle for the soul of America, quit being a shill.



Honoring Haney

I sadly note the recent death of fellow Tacoma Street resident Paul Haney.

Paul epitomized those who heeded JFK's call to public service. Similarly, one could list local Republicans such as Frank Horton and Barber Conable who were not motivated by personal aggrandizement.


Correcting ourselves

"Forfeiting Bail," the cover story in the July 31 CITY, contained typos that resulted in two incorrect sentences regarding an NYCLU report.

The article should have said that over a five-year period, more than 1,900 people spent a week or more in Monroe County jail because they couldn't afford their bail of $250 or less, and more than 4,700 people spent over a week in jail because they couldn't afford their bail of $500 or less.

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