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News briefs 11.6.02 

Driving the body electric

As its manufacturer has observed, your eyes are on the Sparrow. Ours certainly were as one specimen negotiated downtown Rochester traffic recently. But this is no bird we're talking about. It's the Corbin "Sparrow," a fully enclosed and equipped one-seater electric vehicle on three wheels. Two Sparrows are known to inhabit our area; Irondequoit's Mitch VanDuyn owns one of them. The Xerox employee says he uses his Sparrow mostly to get back and forth to the office in Webster, a 13-mile trip one-way.

            The Sparrow may be small --- the California-based manufacturer says it can be insured and parked as a motorcycle --- but at 1,350 pounds, and with a top speed of 70 mph, it's hearty enough to ply Route 104 and other expressways. With a range of 40 miles max, the $15,000 vehicle does need frequent recharges for its 600 pounds of lead-acid batteries. "I carry a 20-foot cord and plug it in at the barbershop and a whole bunch of places," says VanDuyn.

            Why the choice of a non-fossil-fuel one-seater in an SUV world? "We're not fanatics about preserving the environment," says VanDuyn, speaking for himself and his family. But he does wonder about the "tons of CO2" the typical American vehicle pumps out. Plus, he says, the Sparrow "is a lot of fun."

            As a software specialist, VanDuyn's also high-tech-minded. "I think something like this is the wave of the future," he says.

            The present is uncertain, though, despite the Sparrow's virtues. "Everyone wants one, but the trouble is nobody buys them," says local Corbin dealer Ben Evans, president of CISG, a computer-security, counter-surveillance firm.

            At present, says Evans, the Sparrow is not in production; Corbin Motors, he says, is now banking on its "Merlin" one-seater, powered by a Harley-Davidson gasoline engine. "The Merlin is where the cash is; it's a rich man's toy," he says. Nonetheless, he says, a new model, the "Sparrow II," will roll out in a year or so. And there's still trade in older Sparrows, he says. (Indeed, VanDuyn bought his used.) Info:

Jack Bradigan Spula

Johnson on the budget

Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson is urging County Legislators to support a bipartisan group of legislators and approve a modest property-tax increase to restore some of County Executive Jack Doyle's proposed service cuts.

            The legislature will vote on the budget on November 12. Last week, Johnson released a report analyzing Doyle's budget, noting that it would disproportionately impact the city and its residents.

            But Johnson also urged legislators to take some long-term steps to address the county's budget problems. He wants them to support a coalition of city mayors and county executives to lobby for a reduction of unfunded mandates --- services the state orders local governments to provide with their own money. He wants them to lobby the state to provide equitable revenue sharing for local governments.

            He wants legislators to participate in the "2010 Stewardship Council," a group of city and suburban elected officials, business leaders, and community representatives. The council's discussions contributed to the city's "2010" master plan, and it has also discussed the need for regional planning.

            And Johnson called again for consolidation of city and county government. "Local taxes are swollen by expensive overlaps among different units of local government," he said in his report. "The ongoing fiscal crises of the city and county provide a historic opportunity to examine the configuration of existing resources and modern needs, in order to find better ways to provide local public services."

On a sad note

Local singer-guitarist Aaron Cristiano of the band Manaia was killed on Sunday night, October 27, when his car struck a tree in Avon. He was 21 years old.

            The Rochester Music Coalition will be paying tribute to Cristiano with a half-hour TV performance by Manaia, recorded earlier this year. The show airs Sunday, November 10, at 6 p.m., on WBGT-TV --- cable channel 18 and UHF channel 40 or 26.

A paper plaque for Jack

The 550 folks who attended an October 23 fundraising dinner for the Monroe County Library System got an extra special treat that night. County Executive Jack Doyle showed up to accept a plaque commemorating 50 years of county support for local libraries. By most accounts, his speech was even more bitingly cynical than that of the evening's featured speaker, acclaimed satirist Calvin Trillin.

            That's because Doyle's the same library "supporter" who's cut county funding to the Central Library this year, and proposed further cuts for 2003, in an attempt to close the huge county budget gap that's yawned under his leadership. Those cuts have forced library administrators to impose new fees and scale back services already stretched thin by years of stagnant county and state funding.

            "You are the ones with influence," the most powerful politician in the county told the attendees, who each paid $100 for the event at the Hyatt Regency. Doyle went on exhort the diners to work on addressing the library's funding problems, but stopped well short of suggesting any practical solutions. According to one observer, Doyle's speech garnered a smattering of applause that was "deafening by its absence."

            Mayor Bill Johnson also spoke at the dinner, but he passed on the golden opportunity to roast his county counterpart. Instead, he used the occasion to champion the library system as an example of the benefits of city-county consolidation.

            Adding to the irony that night, the commemorative plaque that was supposed to be presented to Doyle wasn't ready in time for the event. In its place, Doyle received a paper reproduction of what the plaque would have looked like.

            An informed source told City the gaffe wasn't the direct result of Doyle's budget cuts. The source also made it clear Doyle was invited to attend the event before he announced the funding reductions late last summer.



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