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Reader feedback 6.23.04 


I largely agree with Richard Wexler's assertions about the overuse of foster care and the need for other options ("A court's eugenics revival," June 9). However, I don't see how he can conclude that private providers of institutional care are at the heart of the problem.

            As a former employee of Hillside, I can attest to the following: Hillside's staff is well aware of the literature showing the weak effect of residential treatment. For at least 20 years, they have been persistent in seeking out options to prevent children from entering care or to shorten stays to the minimum needed to stabilize a crisis.

            They have used every opportunity to link residential with community-based services and have been committed to a high degree of family involvement. It is federal and state requirements that keep them tethered to per-diem payments, not their blue-chip board of directors.

            And several years ago, MonroeCounty passed up the opportunity to access a federal-state waiver program that would have allowed alternate uses of money earmarked for foster care only. It should also be noted that Hillside's residential service is a regional resource serving many counties in western New York. It is not dependent on Monroe to keep its beds filled.

            I know that entrenched systems are responsible for more pervasive atrocities to children than poor, incompetent parents. And I am aware that private institutions can find themselves more loyal to public bureaucracies than they are to families. This unholy alliance arises not from cronyism but from the need to meet basic quality requirements like assuring alert overnight staff and 24-hour nursing.

            Ernie Saward --- U of R Medical School professor and one of the founding fathers of managed care --- used to say that "form follows funding." Private organizations are eager to be innovative --- just look at the range of services they offer --- but they are stuck with obsolete public funding systems that baffle even their blue-chip boards.

            Susan B. Price, Penn Lane, Penfield

            Richard Wexler replies: It is true that the federal government pours huge amounts of money into foster care and very little into efforts to prevent it; it is one of the biggest problems in child welfare. Form does indeed follow funding. But whenever anyone proposes making this funding more flexible, it is child-welfare agencies that howl the loudest.

            Right now, the national trade association for public and private agencies, the Child Welfare League of America, is fighting just such a plan. If Hillside has been urging CWLA to stop blocking reform, I'd love to see that correspondence.

            Second, though the federal government requires a lot of its money to be spent on foster care, it doesn't require per-diem reimbursement. If MonroeCounty wanted to create financial incentives to reduce time in these facilities, it could do so. When Illinois did this, it cut its foster care population from more than 50,000 in 1997 to under 20,000 today, and independent monitors found that child safety improved.

            And third, the best and the boldest institutions are willing to put their own futures on the line to persuade states to fund innovative alternatives. EMQ Child and Family Services in Northern California cut its residential beds from 130 to 30; the remaining children are served more effectively at less cost in the community. Youth Villages did much the same in Tennessee.

            For more on the issue of residential treatment centers, I recommend an excellent series in the Westchester Journal News, available at

DOMA's threat

Shame on State Senators Alesi and Maziarz for co-sponsoring DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act (Senate bill 2220). Obviously they have caved in to the conservative Christian rhetoric of extremism. Alesi and Maziarz have slapped the faces of approximately 70,000 constituents.

            The people of this community demand a better response than the idiotic cliché, "One man-one woman... the right way" or that "Adam and Steve" nonsense. Have these politicos forgotten about the separation of church and state?

            The sheer gall of the Rev. Duane Motley of Spencerport stating that "the government doesn't have the right to change the definition." Isn't this exactly what they are trying to do?

            This issue tears at the heart of the fundamental rights, responsibilities, and privileges of every tax-paying citizen. Our local senators have made their position clear. The people of the Rochester area will make their position known when we vote in the next Senate election.

            OveOvermyer, East Main Street, Rochester


I am a mechanical-engineering graduate student finishing thesis work at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The decision to support a living minimum wage affects a large cross section of the state. Over 1.2 million workers stand to gain from the legislation that State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno refuses to allow to the Senate floor for a vote. Among them are students who work hard, bury themselves in loan debt, suffering many financial hardships along the way, and are then offered the "privilege" of working for $6 an hour to make ends meet at the very learning institution claiming to support them.

            Not that the true working poor are less deserving; this is simply an additional contradiction of the myth that a minimum wage is a handout to lazy, unmotivated workers.

            On the contrary, an inadequate minimum wage is a handout to rich service-industry and retail conglomerates such as Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Home Depot, and Borders, whose quarterly profits leave the state as fast as they are made. Living on $10,700 a year may be possible for a 20-something with a donor car from her parents, no children, and a bright future to look forward to, but it is a dead end for a mother trying not only to support a child, but to offer her child a better life.

            Shouldn't a fair opportunity for children be something America is about? No, what America is about is allowing a bill --- supported by all 24 New York State Senate Democrats and two-thirds of Senate Republicans --- to languish yet another year in a committee, under the control of one man who is, in turn, controlled by those who would seek to rob our state of our wealth.

            That is the case --- unless you do something about it.

            Evan Kastner, Burwell Road, Irondequoit


Thanks for your insightful review of the Rochester International Jazz Festival ("All that Jazz," June 16). You are right to point to the buzz generated by artists such as Cuong Vu, Raw Materials, James "Blood" Ulmer and Billy Bang. These musicians show that jazz, far from being a museum music, is an exciting, vital, living thing.

            We're in the midst of an incredibly creative and fruitful time for jazz and improvised music, and the RIJF should continue to showcase such cutting-edge music.

            Red Wierenga, Gibbs Street, Rochester


I have been a student at ColgateRochesterCrozerDivinitySchool since January 2002. As this is a small community, I know virtually every student who attends, if not by name, certainly by face. I have spoken with every student at one time or another. At no time has any student expressed the sentiment to me that "the Ambrose Swasey Library, its staff, and collections" are "the very reason they chose this school." (The Mail, June 9).

            There are myriad reasons for responding to a call from God. However, I guarantee that a life of service to the people of God is not based on one's access to a library. I'm fairly certain that Jesus, the Prophets, and I'll wager even Moses had no recourse to a library. Yet each of these became exemplary servants of God.

            On September 11, 2001, I watched on the BBC dumbfounded as the second plane slammed into the Towers. Immediately, Second Peter, Chapter 3, Verse 10 came to my mind: "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief (in the night), and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed."

            In perhaps one of the most tragic days our nation has ever faced, I discerned a calling from God. Surely some of the victims put off something they wanted to do in their lives until a later time, but that day destiny intervened. I could no longer gaze up at the "castle" on the hill that is CRCDS and think to myself, "someday...."

            I own a farm down in Wayland, New York. It is the "family farm"; although it will pain her to allude to her age, my wife has lived there 40 years. I have raised four children there and two grandchildren. Like any farm these days, the financial stress of maintaining it is immense. Choosing to study for the ministry has not brought any additional resources into our checking account. In fact, the opposite is true. However, my wife and family have supported me 100 percent, believing in my calling.

            It has become necessary for my family to make adjustments. Due to the strain on our budget, we are forced to "down-size" by selling our home and some of the acreage. We will rebuild at a later date on another part of the farm. But the point is, for the financial survival of my family and farm, barring a miracle, we must sacrifice the family homestead.

            The mission of ColgateRochesterCrozerDivinitySchool is to facilitate the spiritual growth of the people of God in the western New York area. It is essential that the administration make the tough decisions necessary to insure the survival of this mission. I have trusted the faculty to enlighten and enrich my spiritual growth. God has been with them through these times. I believe that the Spirit that guides my teachers and mentors is the same Spirit who guides the administration.

            Derek Davis, Warren Hill, Cohocton


It is great news that Hickey-Freeman will remain in Rochester with its jobs and positive economic impact and image for our community. So what's the bad news? Once again, our state and local governments have intervened with taxpayers' money to advantage one firm over others. Maybe the politicians at least got a new tailored suit for their support.

            New York taxpayers are kicking in $3.8 million, city taxpayers are kicking in $1.2 million, for a taxpayer subsidy of $5 million. Of course, this is a pittance compared to Renaissance Square, the Fast Ferry and terminal, Pae-Tec Park, Frontier Field, and the numerous COMIDA projects that hand out tax dollars (or abate taxes for decades) to the well connected and those wise enough to curry the favor of elected officials. (And then never even create half the promised jobs.)

            Let's not forget the millions spent on buildings and "research" at universities (InfotonicCenter, RIT, Strong-U of R, etc.).

            Easily influenced elected government officials are making the decisions about who gets tax money, not taxpayers. And to fund the favorite, privileged, connected projects, all other taxes are higher. Remember TINSTAAFL: There is no such thing as a free lunch.

            D. Giambattista, Rosscommon, Fairport


Is anyone performing due diligence in the City of Rochester?

            Buffalo's Business First reported that the number of Canadians making overnight trips to New York dropped 8.2 percent between 2002 and 2003. Spending by the Canadian visitors fell more sharply, 15.8 percent. The same trend held in the opposite direction: New Yorkers made fewer overnight trips to Canada in 2003, with a year-to-year decline of 15.9 percent.

            Despite this data, we have invested multi-million dollars in the fast ferry in a veiled attempt to create a market where no demand for such service exists. Yet CATS, in its pitch to our political leaders, sold a bill of goods based on 400,000 total riders (originally 700,000) for its service, with half of them being Canadians. Never mind that the Rochester Visitors Bureau states that, on average, about 60,000 Canadians visit Rochester every year.

            CATS' business model is based on a 333 percent increase in Canadian visitors to the area. Did anyone bother to check the numbers? Was RGTA asking these questions, and was this why they were shut out of the fast-ferry project?

            Additionally, we now have reports, which have been long rumored, of funding issues for the operator of the fast ferry, CATS, and its ability to pay Austal for the ship itself:

            On top of this, CATS now wants video lottery terminals not only on the ship itself, but also in its terminal to help pay for "unforeseen expenses." Unforeseen expenses? How is it even remotely possible that CATS was unaware that it had to pay pilots' fees of $1.7 million a year to dock the shop in the Port of Rochester because the boat is not registered in the US, or that Canadian customs would want up to $1 million in customs fees? Who did the due diligence here?

            Or was this the same process that gave us a $30 million failure known as HighFalls? Or perhaps this was the same process that has led to an open-air stadium being built right next to another, funded by the taxpayers? By the way, latest reports show that this project may have also been ill-planned.

            Is anyone watching the store?

            Is it time for the state Attorney General's office to investigate these heavily taxpayer funded debacles?

            Bernard J. LoVerde Jr., Brick Landing Place, Webster


The other paper in town wanted recollections of Ronald Reagan, but only this paper would dare to print what my recollections are:

            I was attending SUNY Geneseo at the time of his presidency, and my friends and I were concerned about spiraling defense spending and unemployment. We worried about the political reflexes of a 74-year-old when it came to pushing The Little Red Button, and about the lack of oversight that allowed Iran-contra to happen. Reagan might have challenged Gorbachev to "tear down this wall," but Gorbachev's perestroika allowed it to fall.

            I remember the years under Reagan not with a carefree optimism but with hopeless anger as my father and others like him were thrown out of their manufacturing jobs after systematic union busting. (Remember the air traffic controllers being led away in chains? So much for "freedom of assembly.")

            That said, I do wish my condolences to Nancy Reagan and her family and friends. I wouldn't wish the suffering journey of Alzheimer's on anybody.

            Linda Pratt, Cove Circle, Penfield

I was appalled, as were countless friends of mine both in and out of Rochester, when Mayor William Johnson said that former President Ronald Reagan was a nice enough fellow, but he set us back a lot.

            Who the heck are you speaking for, Mr. Mayor? MonroeCounty? The City of Rochester? A tiny wedge of curmudgeon cranks?

            As a longtime resident of the city, I am sick and tired of politicians like Johnson, who cannot even give a dignified tribute to probably one of the most beloved leaders of all time. I read many eulogies, many given by Democrats, and even a partisan like Dr. William Cook of SUNY Geneseo admitted to some of Reagan's successes in office. People can talk about the Iran-Contra Affair or Reaganomics until they are blue in the face, but Reagan's accomplishments and optimism overshadow his personal failings, which is something Clintonites always contend for their hero.

            Michael Meggison, Rochester

President Reagan had asked Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to read a favorite passage of his from a speech by Governor John Winthrop in 1630 to the settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The catch phrase is from Matthew 5:14: "...Consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill...." Winthrop's theme was that if the settlers behaved badly, they would bring shame upon themselves, their religion, and their god.

            President Reagan was taken with the pious romance of the Winthrop speech, but he failed to notice that by 1678 the colonists had accomplished the dispossession and genocide of the Wampanoags, and that the Salem witch trials happened in 1692. Hardly a shining example.

            As for Reagan's accomplishments, the appropriate funeral oration should include paraphrased sentences from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: 'I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. So let it be with Caesar...."

            Ron Johnson, Sutherland Street, Pittsford


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