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Voting 'barriers'? What 'barriers'?

In the latest in our series celebrating the life of Frederick Douglass and assessing how Rochester has lived up to his legacy, we focused on voting rights. While most New Yorkers have the right to vote, the state's strict rules on registering and absentee voting complicate things. In addition, many states have longer voting periods, and some permit voting by mail. Among readers' comments:

I think many Americans disagree that what you label as "barriers" to voting are actually that. It's a very difficult and lengthy job to conduct the electoral process in a country where there are millions of voters. In individual states like New York, there are millions of people voting in elections. The fact that there's a time limit on submitting a form to register to vote is not unethical, given how much time it takes to process those forms. 

Voter ID's are such a non-issue. Why is it prejudiced to make sure a voter can legally vote? Are states prejudiced against pedestrians because you need a license to drive? The voter ID is another way to prevent election fraud, and every single state and territory should require them for that reason.

As for working people having time to vote, 20 states do not have laws that require employers to give employees time off to vote. This sounds unethical, but every single American in those states is entitled to vote with an absentee ballot if they're really inclined to. In the new millennium, finding out how to submit an absentee ballot in your state is only a few clicks of a mouse away.

The process for filling out an absentee ballot is no more complex than submitting a voter registration form. It just needs to be done on time. That's not unethical. Thankfully for us in New York State, we're guaranteed time off to vote as long as we submit notice to our employers at least two days in advance. That's hardly unfair.

It's not crazy to have federal and state primaries on different days. Some might see that as being complicated, but it's a good thing. People place more emphasis on federal elections because those candidates have more power to change laws in this country. Having a state primary on a different day months apart from a federal primary allows voters to have more time to focus on the issues of their state when making their decision to vote.

Just as you wouldn't hold Christmas and Halloween on the same day for convenience, there's a good reason to not hold federal and state primaries on the same day. Also, because conducting the election process is such a huge job, having primaries on different days ensures that each process is done correctly.

In the end, voting is an act that requires the voter to be informed: not just on the candidates but on how the process is carried out. In the modern world, finding out how to submit forms for voter registration or an absentee ballot is only a Google search away. When all you have to do is go on the Internet, it's not too much to expect people to make the effort to find out how to do these things.

CHRISTOPHER HAYDU

To fix schools, address poverty

On Urban Journal's "Yet Another Attempt to Improve City Schools": You hit the nail on the head with your thesis that generational poverty has an effect, that the concentration of poverty has an effect, and sadly in Rochester we have an abundance of both.

Having retired after 44 years in the field of education, where I worked for half of that time in the Rochester school district and the other in East Irondequoit as a teacher, assistant principal, and then principal, I understand completely the challenges that our school systems face. And I agree with you that poor children can learn; I have witnessed it first-hand. But the road to success in schools is filled with potholes for those children who are mired in poverty.

Indeed, as you stated, it makes a difference whether children are educated in a district where their parents are well educated and have the resources to provide for a safe, healthy, and comfortable life replete with educational resources. And indeed we must expect excellence from all who work with our children. However, it is myopic at best to believe that we can increase student performance in the Rochester school district without first addressing the negative effects that the high concentration of poverty has on children in the city of Rochester.

We as members of this community must be willing to stop the blame game and do the hard work necessary to end this immoral situation, which perpetuates a form of institutional racism, one that traps our poorest in an unending cycle of poverty and despair.

W. BRUCE GORMAN

The future of Parcel 5

I have several questions for our Mayor Warren and her administration. First of all, why does every project or proposal take so ridiculously long to implement?

Every single Parcel 5 proposal involves (for some reason) a Performing Arts Center. Why, for heaven's sake, do we need one more theatre? Yes, we need a theater – but a "mainstream" movie theatre with 3 or 4 screens. The Little Theatre has accomplished this, square-footage wise, but I don't want to see all those independent "art" films that they screen.

With so many people migrating downtown, what is needed are a movie theater, some type of indoor year-round farmer's market, a pharmacy, and a few (affordable rent) retail spaces for small start-up entrepreneurs. Why must all those new residents downtown need to schlep to the suburbs to see a popular movie?

And another question: If a performing arts center attracts people from all around Rochester, where will they park? I know there are plenty of indoor garages, but isn't the price of a (stage theatre) ticket enough without the added price to park added on top?

They say "build it, and they will come," but for heaven's sake, the people are coming in droves and pay high rents, but so far there is only one restaurant in Tower 280 – that's it. Yes, there are plenty of other great restaurants downtown, but all the retail spaces in every newly retrofitted residential building are vast and completely empty.

Wake up, city administrators. Stop dragging your heels, and please make a decision. Get the job done!

JIM CAPPELLINO

How about mixed use with a small movie theater, Trader Joe's, CVS-type stuff? Things that majority of people will use, with residential and parking above.

Rochester is fortunate to have several arts theaters, and it can spend money on marketing them if the city wants to focus more on the arts.

It's so exciting to see people moving back to the city and reversing the post-war migration to the suburbs. Hopefully mixed use will prevail on this parcel, giving entertainment and services to the new residents.

MARC SPENCE

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