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Reader feedback 2.25.04 

Choosing a school

in the neighborhood

Regarding Christine Carrie Fien's article on the school-choice policy ("Home-school Advantage," February 4):

            Some parents in the School 46 neighborhood are seeking a guarantee that neighborhood kindergartners will be allowed to attend 46 if they want to. School Board member Rob Brown implies that those parents can only be motivated by two things: high test scores or elitism. Brown points out that the standardized test scores at School 46 are not even that high, noting that Schools 1, 7, 15, 23, and 43 have comparable or better scores in math and reading.

            However, School 46 is in the Northeastern zone, while 7 and 43 are in the Northwestern zone and 1, 15, and 23 are in the Southern zone. Under the current plan, parents in the 46 neighborhood are restricted from sending their kindergartners to any of Brown's comparable schools.

            Moreover, I'm surprised that Brown would assume that city parents are motivated only by two considerations (one laudable, one unworthy). I am not a parent or a member of Concerned Citizens for City Living (though I did sign their petition), but I came up with this list of reasons why parents might prefer to send their children to the neighborhood elementary school:

            • They might not have access to reliable transportation, and want the option of walking to school events and parent-teacher conferences. If they are stay-at-home parents, they might want the option of walking their child to or from school --- or if they're employed at a distance, that of having a neighborhood friend or family member pick up their child if he becomes sick at school.

            • They might be acquainted with, and have special confidence in, the teachers and administrators at the local school. They might believe that their shy kindergartner would adjust better if he were at the same school as his neighborhood friends.

            • They might be motivated to work with the neighborhood school's parent-teacher organization on some of the same issues, and with some of the same people, who are active in the neighborhood association.

            To Rob Brown, I would suggest that stigmatizing those who have a contrary view is not an effective way of creating a dialogue.

            I'm not sure the School District has done a good job defining what they hope to achieve with this plan, or how they will measure success. I've heard that the goal is to comply with the federal "No Child Left Behind" law; to correct imbalances between where the schools are located and where the children are located; to foster integration; to increase test scores district-wide; to eliminate sub rosa manipulation of the system by offering a legitimate open-enrollment plan; to reduce the cost of busing children by keeping the routes within a defined zone and not, for example, carrying children living in the northeast to schools in the southwest; to bring parents into a Student Registration Center where they can get other services such as housing assistance.

            This is an enormous set of goals, not all of which are even measurable. How will anyone know if the plan is a success? What measures of success have been identified by the School Board? What will happen if the measures are not met?

            Ellen Hoch, Hillside Avenue, Rochester

Candidates ignore disabled voters

Does the Democratic Party have the guts to defeat George Bush? Does the Democratic Party have the guts to go where no political party has ever gone before? To date no party has publicly addressed and made a major part of its platform the issues facing disabled Americans, including Social Security Disability Reform.

            If it is a concern, you would be hard pressed to find it on the Democratic National Committee's website or the websites of the current presidential candidates, let alone have them mention it out loud. We have been screaming about our concerns, but since we are "disposable" people, our cries are ignored. If someone really cared about us, and publicly made our issues as important as all the rest --- and actually acted, instead of making empty campaign promises --- disabled voters would crawl, if need be, to get the polls.

            There are millions of us: Disabled Disenfranchised Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. But since our votes don't seem to matter, we refrain from endorsing any candidate or even bothering to go to the polls. We are sick, and most are facing homelessness and bankruptcy and cannot afford health care. Needless to say, we have no money to contribute to a political campaign. And let's be honest: It is all about money, right? Special interest groups with the most money help pay for campaign ads and other expenses.

            Here is some simple math for you: 12,000 people per week file for SSD benefits. Now multiply that by 52 weeks. Now add in all the disabled people who already have SSD benefits, all the disabled Americans who can work or who are disabled and don't qualify for help. That is a large segment of the population. It cuts across all ages, sexes, and races, and also includes veterans. Our votes alone would help any candidate that we endorsed. Many of us do not want Bush, but we will not settle any longer for candidates who continue to ignore our issues, either.

            I have tried for several months to contact DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe and the current presidential candidates on this issue. When I got a response at all, it was mass e-mailings on contributing to their campaigns.

            LJ Fullerton, Rochester (Fullerton, a registered Democrat, is president and co-founder of the Social Security Disability Coalition in Rochester)

Just deserts

George Bush was a deserter; Bill Clinton was a philanderer; were either of these men truly qualified to be president of the United States? Regardless who occupies the Oval Office, such debates go on. Bitch, bitch, bitch....

            There was once a time when Americans were intelligent, industrious, and independent. With great effort, such a people forged a mighty Republic.

            We have since become obese, self-absorbed, dull-witted, and lazy; we are couch potatoes who have observed the dismantling of America and lifted not one finger. Aside from being monumentally stupid, we are also weak willed; a nation of whiners and crybabies whose primary occupation is bitching.

            Want better leaders or a robust job market? Want cleaner air or water? Want better schools for our children? Get off your ass and fulfill your responsibilities of citizenship! Participate! The sad truth is that America gets exactly what America deserves. Think about that.

            Louis Richards, Rising Place, Rochester

Third-party value

Our government is a mess, and it's all our fault. We continue to believe that our so-called representatives will come together to do what is best, but time after time they make decisions (or not make decisions) based on one thing: keeping themselves in power.

            And we allow it to happen. Half of us don't vote, and much of the other half use the same logic used to pick a favorite athletic team. We allow corporations to monopolize public airwaves and bombard us with misinformation, hysterical rantings, and half-truths.

            It's time to put an end to the partisan maliciousness in Washington, Albany, and even Mendon and Ogden. We have to vote and do so in an intelligent manner. We need to make our choices in the booth, not based on realpolitik but candidates' legitimate, innovative ideas. We cannot continue to reward politicians who use vague slogans, empty promises, and PacMan.

            Though Democrats and Republicans would have us believe otherwise, our government was not established as a two-party system. It comes down to this: Are the corporate-sponsored parties really representing who they're supposed to represent? It's time to assess and give equal credence to third-party and independent political candidates. What they lack in money, they make up for with integrity and vision.

            Dave Atias, Park Avenue, Rochester(Atias is chair of the Green Party of Monroe County)

Gay-marriage ban would be wrong

Constitutional amendments were originally designed to promote inclusion into the ever-evolving landscape of social democracy. A constitutional amendment banning gay marriage would deny law-abiding, hard-working, church-going, tax-paying Americans the right and privilege of that inclusion.

            Any law, however worded, that eliminates or takes away someone's civil liberty is fundamentally and principally wrong. Period. Legal same-sex marriage, or whatever you want to call it, will eventually happen. Proponents of the Defense of Marriage Act better get used to the idea; the sooner, the better.

            OveOvermyer, East Main Street, Rochester

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. We don't publish letters that have been sent to other media. 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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