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Reader feedback 10.8.03 

Radio wars

Rule One of show business: Any publicity is good publicity. Rule Two seems to be: If it works once, it'll work again.

            Of course, what worked was Bob Lonsberry's "orangutan" stunt. Whether or not it was premeditated, it's been a promotional bonanza for WHAM. And it probably has members of their core audience pumping fists in the air, shouting, "Yeah, tell it like it is, Bob." And the same patriots must be foaming with indignation over the outraged reactions of liberal weenies and the public figures who kowtow to Political Correctness.

            Talk about motivating your base constituency. Pun intended.

            A perfect example of Rule Two is a story from the AP dated October 2: "Radio host blasted for gorilla remark." No, they weren't slow to report our local embarrassment. This is a new one, dateline Boston.

            "The co-host of a popular sports show has apologized for on-air comments comparing a zoo's escaped gorilla to inner-city students who use a voluntary busing program known as Metco."

            During its brief liberation, the beast was photographed at a bus stop. The wacky personality quipped, that it was "probably a Metco gorilla waiting for a bus." Get it? Ahem.

            The station, WEEI-AM, is not a Clear Channel property, so there are no corporate ties to WHAM. But is it possible that any DJ or talk host in the country hadn't heard about Lonsberry by then? Surely this story circulated through the trade press. Many station managers probably made sure the staff knew about it and issued the pro forma warnings, quoting diversity policies and the like.

            Equally certain is that consultants and gag-writers for morning comedy programs ("morning zoo": That's what those shows are called!) have probably been spinning variations on the concept for weeks.

            I'm sure not all WHAM listeners are irredeemable meatheads. Many probably tune in for the entertainment such hard-hitting repartee provides.

            But I would ask these listeners to understand one thing. Many radio stations are controlled by owners who are well connected politically, very right-wing, and, thanks to deregulation and your willingness to listen, extremely powerful.

            These are not necessarily people who believe in democracy.

            For these media titans and their corporate functionaries, it is not entertainment they are broadcasting. It is ideological warfare.

            Carl Pultz, Rochester

Lonsberry and the public interest

Whether it's been propounded deliberately or not, there is a serious misapprehension about the Bob Lonsberry dustup. I've heard over and over that it's up to the commercial sponsors and radio station exclusively to determine Lonsberry's professional standards and his broadcasting future.

            In 1934, Congress enacted the Federal Communications Act, which explicitly states not only that the public owns the airwaves but that the airwaves must be operated in the public interest, convenience and necessity.

            Once before, back in the 1970s, WHAM was sanctioned by the Federal Communications Commission for failing to serve its listening public. Who can argue with a straight face that the foul-mouthed Lonsberry and, over the decades, WHAM, have operated in the public interest when they have promoted bigotry, reactionary politics, and officially failed to serve their own listening audience?

            Mitchell Kaidy, Crittenden Road, Rochester

Sierra for Johnson

After careful thought, The Sierra Club has endorsed Bill Johnson for county executive. Mayor Johnson is a nationally recognized leader on smart growth. His 2010 Renaissance Project is a model for redesigning sprawling cities while protecting our environment. He has been open and accessible when the Sierra Club has contacted him on environmental matters.

            The Republican-led county executive's office has been hostile and has made many important environmental decisions behind closed doors. Over the years, the Sierra Club has had to fight a hodgepodge of boondoggles, including the proposed Thruway exit in Chili, the expansion of Seneca Park Zoo into our famous OlmstedPark, and other assaults on public parks.

            Perhaps most telling was the Republicans' handling of the Neighborhood Notification Law. Instead of allowing a fair airing of the issue, the Republican-ledCounty Legislature refused to allow one more month for groups to express their concern about the drift of chemicals from lawn spraying.

            Only by getting more eligible voters in MonroeCounty to vote will this dismal scenario change. In 1999, only 39.1 percent of us voted. Without a resurgence of the many to vote for our environment, we run the risk of seriously compromising our children's futures. Don't sit this one out. In Bill Johnson, we have a candidate who has earned our trust.

            Frank J. Regan, Rochester(Regan is communications chair of the Rochester Regional Group, Sierra Club)

Fabulous Tom

I get City Newspaper every week. Top reason: Tom Tomorrow. Though I might have a conservative frame of mind on many things, with help from Tom and other good thinkers I can see that the world needs a little changing, that the powers that be are just a bit too imperious, like the "divine right" kings of old.

            It was a pleasant surprise to find as I read in your paper recently that Tom was to be giving a talk at Hobart and WilliamSmithColleges at Geneva October 1. "Why haven't they made a bigger deal of this?" I wondered. "Why not a feature article, even a note or a picture on their cover...." Well, sometimes opportunity doesn't come with a trumpet, let alone a marching band.

            I was happy to go and see him. And due to some dumb luck (or perhaps some chance comment I had made), I was invited to spend some extra time after the talk with him and the college-professor entourage.

            Thanks for keeping Mr. Tomorrow in your line-up. As I told him and the crowd that night: "I'd read the comic... just because it was entertaining. But then I'd start realizing 'Man! That's true!'"

            Kirk Hurlburt, Blossom Road, Rochester

Reveal the costs of transit center

If you are under the impression that spending $58 million to build a bus station at Main and Clinton will help invigorate downtown or improve mass transit, then you probably have not seen the plans. Those plans have never been made available to the public by RGRTA or anyone else.

            Given that public money is being used for a public project, it's only fair that the public have some say in how it is spent. It is also important that the community understand what we are buying, and what the true costs and losses of the project are. Even with a construction start date scheduled, no plans or project details are available, and the total bill has yet to be calculated.

            The $58 million construction price tag is just the beginning.

            Historic buildings that have been paying property taxes will be torn down. Millions of dollars of assessed land and property value will be removed from the tax roles. Eleven of the area's last shops and restaurants with street access will be lost.

            Buses will have to follow a torturous, time and fuel-consuming route to reach the station. A huge underground area will have to be expensively ventilated, lit, cleaned, and secured, creating an ongoing drain of bus-system resources. Construction in such a central, congested area will be disruptive and is likely to create cost overruns and schedule delays beyond the two-year projection. (Remember the Hyatt?)

            Other, less quantifiable costs will come in the form of the station's impact on this area of our center city. The bus entrance and exit to the station are both from one-way streets. This means that all buses will have to circle the block, traveling through the intersection of Main and Clinton (two times for each trip for most buses). Any accident along this maze-like, one-way path has the potential to cause the entire bus system, and much of downtown traffic, to come to a halt.

            Downtown is in the process of a rebirth, led by housing and loft conversions. The bus station project will give the historic center of our region all the charm, atmosphere, and pedestrian dangers of a truck stop.

            Instead of the center city becoming a destination of choice, a bus station at Main and Clinton will make it a place to pass through. Are fast-ferry riders more likely to visit a modern, sterile bus station, or a restored block of 19th-century buildings?

            The answer to this question can be found in the atrium of the StrongMuseum, where the façade of a historic building has been reverentially recreated. Its design is almost precisely the same as a building that will be demolished at the corner of Main and Clinton, now covered under a billboard and in need of restoration. Clearly, historic buildings are one of Rochester's most desirable tourist draws; it makes no sense to tear down some of the few remaining downtown buildings from the pre-Civil War period.

            Many people have said, "It's too late to stop." Part of RGRTA's strategy in ramming this down the community's throat is to make it seem inevitable. It is important that we not fall for this trick and instead look carefully at the plan's details, costs (including social, environmental, traffic implications, tax roll implications, etc.), and alternatives. The first step is to insist that RGRTA make the plans available to the public.

            Andrew Stainton, Hurstbourne Road,

Writing to City

We welcome and encourage readers' letters for publication. Send them to: or The Mail, City Newspaper, 250 North Goodman Street, Rochester14607.

            Our guidelines: We don't publish anonymous letters --- and we ask that you include your street name and city/town/village. While we don't restrict length, letters of under 350 words have a greater chance of being published. We do edit letters for clarity and brevity. And in general we don't publish letters (or longer "op-ed" pieces) from the same writer more often than once every three months.

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