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News Briefs 4.23.03 

Marching toward justice

Farmworkers and advocates are taking to the streets to bring attention to the continuing struggle for farmworker rights. On Monday, two groups left Seneca Falls and Harlem to march to Albany, a total distance of 330 miles. The march, "330 Miles Toward Justice" began with a vigil at St. Luke's Church in Brockport. "This vigil," said Bill Abom of Rural and Migrant Ministries, "is a chance for people to stand together with those marching to Albany in the quest for equal rights for farmworkers."

            Advocates want legislation passed in New York that would give farmworkers a weekly day of rest, overtime pay, and the right to collective bargaining. Bills have passed in the Assembly but failed to even come to a vote in the Senate. "Everyone knows that if (Senate Majority Leader) Joe Bruno wanted to pass the bill, it would [pass]," said Aspacio Alcantara of the CITA, the Independent Farmworkers Center. Marchers hope to meet with him in Albany.

            Twenty people have signed up to march the entire 180 miles from Seneca Falls to Albany, a trip expected to take 10 days. Salvador Solis, a former farmworker and an organizer with CITA, is one of the people walking the entire way. "We're not asking for anything extra," he said. "We're asking for justice and equality."

            The marchers gathered at the altar of St. Luke's, where two nuns blessed them with holy water before sending them on their way. "Easter is an important time of year to do this," said Sister Marlena Roeger. "This march is about a re-birth, about something new."

            Jill McGee, a dairy farmworker who will drive most of the way because of a knee injury, hopes the march will have a big impact. "I really think this is the year the bill will pass," she said. "I hope that this is the year the oppression of farmworkers ends."

            The marchers will make several stops before arriving in Albany on April 30. For a complete itinerary, call Jim Schmidt (325-3050) or Bill Abom (637-8360, 764-0188).

--- Joseph Sorrentino

Patriot games in park

If you don't like what's on the air, you can press the off button, right? That's not so easy, though, when you're dealing with Clear Channel Communications Inc.

            First, the San Antonio-based parent corporation is ubiquitous (1,225 radio stations and 37 TV stations nationwide; seven radio stations plus WOKR-TV Channel 13 in Rochester). Second, the company has found a new and less-avoidable way to broadcast in the "public square."

            As the Chicago Tribune reported last month, Clear Channel has been sponsoring patriotic rallies across the country, including large ones in Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Cleveland. With its journalistic eyebrows raised, the Trib got a juicy quote from an ex-Washington insider: "I think this is pretty extraordinary," said former Federal Communications Commissioner Glen Robinson, who teaches law at the University of Virginia. "I can't say that this violates any of a broadcaster's obligations, but it sounds like borderline manufacturing of the news."

            On April 16, Clear Channel's WHAM 1180 sponsored a "support the troops" rally in the Highland Bowl on South Avenue. Besides some radio personalities, County Executive Jack Doyle and Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson showed up to speak. Vietnam War veteran Gary Beikirch's remarks made the TV news.

            The WHAM website ran a story on the news of its own making. Who says Rochester's "manufacturing" sector is dead?

Ubiquitous Smith

There we were, minding our own business April 17, when WXXI's Michael Caputo, hosting Channel 21's Need to Know, goes and drops a big one. It seems former White House speechwriter and Caledonia native Curt Smith will soon be on the 1370 AM Sunday morning line-up.

            On his own website, Smith says he'll "begin hosting Perspectives each week... in early May. The series will be distributed to other NPR stations in New York State. It will feature well-known local and national guests --- indeed, arguably the greatest galaxy of marquee names of any mid-size market in America."

            Could this modesty mean a cameo by George H.W. Bush, for whom Smith proudly wrote a "Just War" speech? Or by Margaret Thatcher, who's on the record as admiring Smith's work, and who ran her own splendid little naval campaign against the upstart Argentineans? There's no telling. But by floating this new show, WXXI certainly will be tilting a little more to starboard.

EPA to Diaz: Drop emission levels

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has put Diaz Chemical Corporation on notice: The company, says an April 16 EPA news release, must "take specific actions to correct deficiencies in the way that it operates its facility in Holley, New York." The EPA notes this action from the company's "failure to meet a provision of the Clean Air Act."

            In January 2002, the Diaz plant suffered an explosion that caused a cloud of airborne chemicals (including toluene and chlorofluorophenol) to hit a nearby residential neighborhood. The neighbors, some of whom are still unable to return to their homes, have been pursuing legal action.

            Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has weighed in. On April 18, she wrote EPA head Christine Todd Whitman that "more needs to be done to safeguard the health of the Holley community." She asked Whitman to widen the search for contaminants in Holley and "expand the types of chemicals for which testing will be done." A Diaz spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

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