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Wall-to-wall wallets

The "grazing stations" at the April 5 Evening With Mayor Bill Johnson probably won't display much grassroots fare. Not at $300 a head, or $350 for dinner and private reception, or $2,500 for a table of eight. Well, such is the price tag on a county executive race.

            The list of sponsors is no bulwark of the rank and file, either. A sampling of who's on board: Christa Construction, Clough Harbour, Max Farash, Gleason Corp., Nixon Peabody LLP, building trades unions, the LeCesse and LeChase construction firms, Wilmorite Properties.

            The cast of the long-running CATS (fast-ferriers Dominick DeLucia, Brian Prince, and Tom Riley, a member of City Newspaper's board of directors) will be in port, too. And Democrat and Chronicle publisher David Mack will be on the bridge, not in the galleys.

            But here's the one that really caught our eye: The not-for-profit Rochester General Hospital is among the sponsors, who coughed up $2,500 for a table and a listing.

            At deadline, RGH spokespersons hadn't answered our questions about this. But Democratic Party Chair Molly Clifford told us it may be a case of some individuals banding together under the institutional name.

Pick out your poison

The Sierra Club's Frank Regan wrote to us about a sure sign of spring: toxic pesticide applications on lawns, trees, and gardens, and public concern about the practice.

            Specifically, Regan tracked the progress of the Neighborhood Notification Law, by which counties in New York State can opt to require pesticide applicators to give advance notice to people living near areas being sprayed. A few counties, mostly downstate, have enacted their own notification laws. Monroe County, though, is behind the curve.

            Four county legislators --- Democrats Lynda Garner Goldstein, Jose Cruz, Carla Palumbo, and Jay Ricci --- have submitted a referral to get the ball rolling. Now in the county administration's hands for further study, the measure could theoretically come before the entire legislature this spring. However, legislator Goldstein says it's "unlikely" there'll be action soon enough to get a notification regime up and running this year.

            Are the Lej majority and administration just using a delaying tactic? "Absolutely," says Goldstein. (At press time, a county spokesperson hadn't returned our call for comment.)

Peace on the streets

It was another heady week for anti-war actions downtown.

            On March 21, Eastman School of Music students held a two-hour demonstration at Main and Gibbs. "Money for arts, not for war" and a call "on Bush to pull our forces out of the Persian Gulf" were the harmonious themes. Organizer Heather Gardner, a senior, connected war-spending to domestic shake-ups --- as with the Rochester Philharmonic's budget deficit. Gardner also worried about the future. "It is becoming harder and harder for musicians to find work," she said in a prepared statement. "Even people receiving their doctorates from the Eastman School are having a hard time finding jobs."

             "Who wants to live in a society without the arts?" asked Elaine Leisinger. In her own handout, she deplored the fact that the University of Rochester (of which Eastman is a division) harbors US Navy ROTC. She also expressed solidarity with UR's lowest-paid workers, who unlike ROTC are always struggling to keep up. Some Eastman students, said Leisinger, are trying to help Eastman dining hall workers get a better break. "We couldn't live here" and practice and study "if these workers weren't supporting us," she said.

            Percussion virtuoso and Eastman grad Dave Mancini came to bear witness, too. He passed out copies of a recent Gannett op-ed that his father, World War Two combat vet David P. Mancini, wrote recently for Gannett.

            In the op-ed, the elder Mancini recalls scenes of "bleeding mothers" with "dead babies in their arms," a church "sanctuary" filled with bodies of civilians, and more. The Gannett editors decorated the op-ed with a shot from 1945 of victorious Soviet soldiers raising a flag over the captured Reichstag in Berlin. It was quite a different picture from the one Mancini drew. In any case, Mancini's point was up-to-date: "From all of this firepower [in Iraq], from this hell, there will be born more terrorists than the world will ever be able to cope with."

            Also on March 21, hundreds of Rochesterians took part in a peace demonstration at the Liberty Pole and then the Federal Building. Once again, the proportion of students at the demo was impressive; in fact, the new Rochester Campus Action Network has been organizing these downtown events.

            But the police presence at the Federal Building was remarkable, too. First, the federal marshals were out in force. But the Rochester Police Department sent several squad cars and mounted officers and positioned a line of "foot soldiers" between the peaceful anti-war group and a few pro-warriors. RPD spokesperson Sgt. Carlos Garcia, who was on hand, told us the deployment wasn't meant to oppose the peace demo but to make sure no trouble would break out.

            On March 24, though, Chief Robert Duffy said the protestors should show "understanding" about pressure on the RPD budget. In an interview with WROC-TV Channel 8 news, Duffy said recent protests have cost the RPD around $20,000. "While some are protesting a loss of life over in Iraq among our service men and women and others, there's also a loss of life going on right here in Rochester," he told Channel 8.

            RCAN organizer Nathan LaFratta responded on a local progressive listserv: "I am sure many people could cite all sorts of waste by our police department, and [Duffy] seems to forget we are protesting the spending of billions on this war at the expense of cities and services. This is a free speech issue and not-so-subtle way of trying to turn the public against the antiwar demonstrators."

            LaFratta ended by urging people to attend another demo this Friday, March 28, beginning 4 p.m. at the Liberty Pole and winding up at the Federal Building at 5 p.m. (Visit for more information.)

Ashcroft in a state

With Lieutenant Governor Mary Donohue holding the bullhorn and state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer also at the podium, Governor George Pataki is proclaiming the virtues of new "comprehensive anti-terror" legislation.

            The State Senate passed the Governor's bill February 11, but it's actually a retread of a measure from last year. New or old, the bill is meant to "provide New York State with the toughest, most comprehensive anti-terrorism laws in the nation," said a Donohue news release. The lieutenant governor issued her statement just after the Bush war broke loose --- maybe as a way of prodding the State Assembly to pass the bill, too.

            What would this add to current law, already rife with anti-terror measures? According to Donohue, the bill would, among other things:

            • establish a new offense of "money laundering for terrorism";

            • "create new felony classes for the criminal possession and use of chemical or biological weapons, [some of which felonies] will be punishable by life imprisonment without parole";

            • loosen the rules for admissibility of "reliable evidence... in terrorism cases where an officer acted in good faith."

            • "create the crimes of conspiracy to commit terrorism and criminal facilitation of terrorism" (emphasis added).

            So what would the bill do to our rights? Katherine Piccola, a Rochester attorney who works with the local New York Civil Liberties Union, says the bill resembles earlier ones passed by "panicked" legislators.

            "A lot of the provisions do appear to infringe on civil liberties," she says. And some provisions, she says, could result in a "lack of judicial oversight" and be "counterproductive in fighting terrorism."

Harry Wu testifies

As a survivor of nearly two decades in a Chinese slave labor camp --- in the laogai, equivalent to the gulag --- Harry Wu has earned a high place among human-rights activists. He's been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and he's written bestsellers on his life and the issues.

            Moreover, like Harriet Tubman, whose journeys to the slave states couldn't be stopped, Wu is celebrated for persistence. He not only served the hardest of hard time, he risked going back to the laogai several times to document the abuses there and help save others.

            Wu will be in Rochester this week. As part of Amnesty International's Human Rights Week at the University of Rochester, he'll speak April 1 in Hoyt Hall (8 p.m., free and open to the public).

            The week of events, March 31 through April 5, will also include:

            • a panel discussion about "Activism and Art," Monday, March 31, 8 p.m., Computer Science Building, room 209;

            • a screening of Dead Man Walking, Thursday, April 3, 6 p.m., Dewey Hall, room 2-101;

            • an "interdisciplinary conference" on "dissent in a visual and cultural context," Saturday, April 5, 8:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., Hoyt Hall.

            For more information on Human Rights Week, which is cosponsored by various campus groups, contact Paul Linczak, 271-3714.

Correcting ourselves

We failed to credit the photographer whose picture of Charles Arnold appeared on last week's cover. The photo was taken by Owen Butler. It appeared in an image of Charles Arnold's desk, taken by Kurt Brownell.

While you were out

Thank God New Yorkers have Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer to defend us against the forces of evil and corruption bent on making our lives miserable. A March 11 Associated Press story covered a photo-op during which Schumer stood on a tarmac "in the bitter cold" and shook the hands of troops headed off to join the bloody invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq. "Whatever your politics are, it is time to unite and back up our soldiers," he said. "It's one thing that has always united America, that's backing up its soldiers." Right, Chuck, just like during the Vietnam War, Gulf War I, World War I... But lest you think the senator lost his sense of moral indignation along with his understanding of American history, another AP story that ran the same day reported that Schumer "fired off an angry letter" to E-ZPass officials condemning them for charging drivers whose vehicles are stolen $23 for a new E-ZPass tag. It seems someone jacked the senator's 2001 Ford Taurus outside his Brooklyn apartment, and is now zipping through tollbooths on his dime. He and his wife were "shocked" to learn they had to shell out another 23 bucks, Schumer wrote. "It is outrageous." Of course, Chuck could've saved 37 cents and complained directly to Iris Weinshall, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation. Weinshall is also his wife.

Responding to its own budget crunch, the city has decided to discontinue the hokey laser shows at High Falls. See, there is a silver lining to every dark cloud.

--- Compiled by Chris Busby from news reports, interviews, and junk he found in Schumer's glove compartment.

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