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Reader Feedback 8.28.02 

Schauseil's legacy

Re: "Retreat from Service (Metro Ink, August 14): What's your point? That it is easier to run one's mouth than it is to run a complex, multi-million-dollar enterprise that serves the disadvantaged? That might explain this gratuitous, snide, and uninformative item. In the style that all too frequently characterizes City, you have published a sneering, puerile swipe that reveals much more about you, your editing policies, and your writers than about the article's reputed subject.

                  Maybe I'm a part of the problem in that I've never before complained about, and perhaps even chortled over, some similar entry in City when I've shared the writer's sentiments. But I know Mr. Schauseil well, have some sense of the magnitude of his responsibilities, and have some sense of the challenges that present themselves to him and his staff every day.

                  I know, too, that he has gone about his duties in the most conscientious and professional manner and has empathized with and advocated for those whom he serves in ways that his critics and, apparently, at least some of your writers will never comprehend. You have not done him justice.

                  Fortunately, Dick Schauseil's contributions to this community will speak for themselves. The irrelevance of City's approach (i.e., admittedly seeking comment solely from critics of one's subject) will, too. A publication that wants to be known as a "newspaper" owes its readers and its subjects more.

                  Richard W. Hannon, Crawford Street, Rochester

Flat taxes? Nope

In the article "Lost Highways" (August 14), Penfield Supervisor Channing Philbrick applauds Jack Doyle for "keeping the tax rate flat." Philbrick, perhaps inadvertently, repeats a common misconception about Doyle's administration.

                  While it's true that Doyle has kept the county sales tax rate stable at $4 per $100 (after Bob King's 33 percent increase several years earlier), he has not kept the property tax rate stable. Instead, Doyle has cut the county property tax steadily, from $8.74 per $1000 of assessed full value in 1995 when Doyle assumed office to $8 in 2002.

                  This decline in the property tax rate, while surely welcomed by the developers who support Doyle, has left the county unable even to keep up with inflation. And the most dramatic cut in the tax rate came this past year (from $8.31 in 2001 to $8 in 2002), at a time when the county was already suffering financial problems, but also coincidentally at a time when County Legislature seats were up for election.

                  As a Monroe County taxpayer, I'd be happy to return at least to the 2001 property tax rate of $8.31 per thousand in order to avoid some of the draconian cuts proposed by Doyle. I wouldn't consider this a tax increase --- just a reversal of this year's tax cut. The extra $10 million or so raised by restoring the 2001 tax rate wouldn't solve all of the county's fiscal problems, but it could help avoid decimating our library, park, health, and child protection services.

                  Personally, I'd even be willing to return to the pre-Doyle tax rate of $8.74 per thousand, if the rate was then frozen at that level. Like Channing Philbrick, I'd applaud the idea of keeping tax rates flat, which would still allow revenues to increase if the community's tax base increases. I only hope the Doyle administration will see the merit in switching to this approach, rather than continuing to cut tax rates.

                  Peter Collinge, Tall Oak Lane, Henrietta

Vote him out

There's only one thing we can do to counteract Jack Doyle's disastrous decisions: vote him out of office in the next election.

                  Doyle is an absolute menace to the citizens of this county, and anyone who thinks otherwise is living in a dream world.

                  Susan J. Levinson, Rochester

We need taxes

The recent articles and editorials in City have had my mind reeling with memories and reactions. The memories are of our family's arrival in Rochester on a lovely June day in 1956 so that my husband could be interviewed for a job at General Dynamics-Electronics. Our two little girls and I dropped him off on University Avenue and drove into downtown.

                  I remember the McCurdy's sales clerk, who at my request for a recommendation for our lunch, smiled and told us about the Sibley Tower Restaurant across the street with the admonition that we not tell her boss she said that. And the welcome we received at the Tower Restaurant was so cordial. We were seated back by the windows, where we could just barely catch a glimpse of The Lake.           In the garage later, I suggested that we go to the zoo --- if I could find it. A woman walking near us suggested we follow her, for she was going home near the zoo. We did and had a fun time there before going back for Philip.

                  In October of 1956, we moved to our Cape Cod home in the Village of Pittsford --- which was not at that time the popular place for newcomers to be living. We lived there for 28 years. Phil was involved on the Village Planning Board for about 20 years. I was involved in the schools and was on the School Board when we were building schools to accommodate the large number of children and youth arriving each year.

                  We needed to raise taxes to support those buildings and the curriculum needs of every child. It was at the beginning of the recognition of the wide differences in children, especially those with special needs due to mental and physical challenges.

                  The taxpayers were not always pleased with the need for tax increases but realized that we must take care of all children. Good schools would make Pittsford a great place to live, so the community supported our efforts to make sure each child had appropriate schooling. I believe we did the right thing, for Pittsford schools have made Pittsford a desirable community for many families.

                  In the last few years, there appears to have been less of a "community" approach to solving serious problems than we had in my day. I am saddened by that.

                  And that is where my reactions come to the fore --- reactions to the county executive's selfish approach to this community's future.

                  "We will not raise taxes" is not always the appropriate answer to making a community a fine place to live. Those of us who are retired and living on limited income --- more limited lately, as the stock market does its thing --- are concerned about taxes. But we know that those who lived here before us made sacrifices and worked hard to make Monroe County a really fine place for all of us. We know that services to so many in need must be provided somehow.

                  I do not understand why it is considered a good thing to go so many years without a tax increase, use up reserves, and then have to face up to large increases all at once. It seems to me that a small increase more regularly could have kept services going and preserved some reserve for the really tough times that occur.

                  There is no simple answer to the complex financial problems, but the meanness of the approach taken by Mr. Doyle and his administration does nothing to convince us to work together on appropriate solutions.

                  Another memory is of a visit made to County Manager Lucien Morin's office with the officers of the Monroe County School Boards Association. Although he did not always agree with our points of view, he was resolute in his desire to insure that the "Community of Monroe" be a good place for all of us to live and work. He made us proud to be here and eager to be part of the solution to our problems.

                  These are difficult times. We need to work together to find the way to resolve the problems.

                  Jann G Packard, Latta Road, Rochester (Packard is former executive director of the Monroe County School Boards Association.)

'We're not stupid'

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill believes that able-bodied adults should save for their own retirement. But Jack Bradigan Spula says this should've caused a "firestorm" ("Bushites Continue their Pension Attack," August 7). I find this both amusing and disturbing.

                  What do people think the government does with their money? Put it in a magic box that makes more of it? Cost-of-living adjustments are no better than interest from a bank account; what's the difference if people save their own money?

                  I have student-loan debts which accrue at 6.35 percentinterest, and if I had the money now that's taken out of my paycheck for Social Security, I could pay them down and have more money in the long run.

                  The issue as I see it is the belief that people are too stupid to make their own financial decisions. When I confronted several of my liberal friends with this hypothesis, I was shocked to find no denials. That's the real scandal, not O'Neill's belief.

                  I voted for Nader in 2000, but thanks to Spula and others, I won't make that mistake again. I'll vote Libertarian, unless the election is close. Then it'll be Republican.

                  Christopher Edes, Raleigh Street, Rochester

On our own

Jack Bradigan Spula finds curious the lack of public "firestorm" response to Treasury chief Paul O'Neill's statement ("Bushites Continue their Pension Attack," August 7). The lack of outrage is due to the fact that, to most Americans, a condition of self-sufficiency and independence is what is desired and simply makes sense.

                  Joel Wojciechowski, Lilac Drive, Rochester

                  Jack Bradigan Spula responds to Edes and Wojciechowski: First, let's be clear that O'Neill was talking about more than having Americans provide one leg of the "three-legged stool" (personal savings, private pensions, government benefits). He seemed to advocate removal of the government "leg" altogether. Compare another comment he made to the Financial Times, similar to the one Wojciechowski repeats but more pointed: "Able-bodied adults who have the ability to earn income have an obligation not to pass part of their responsibility on to a broader population" [emphasis added].

                  The FT also paraphrased his thoughts on the federal budget: "National defence is a federal responsibility, says Mr. O'Neill, but all other outlays need review."

                  To my ear, it sounds like O'Neill's version of utopia would have little or no spending for human needs; it would be governed by social Darwinism --- pure libertarianism --- instead of a decent social contract. No doubt some individuals would profit by keeping all their own money to themselves; that's the sunny side of the law of the jungle. But many people make too little to save anything; all their income goes for day-to-day needs. And many others would see their savings evaporate, not through their own stupidity but because of corporate malfeasance, fraud, and other things not so unfamiliar these days.

                  Social Security is meant to protect us all from such disasters --- and make no mistake, we're all in this together. Or maybe we should follow Paul O'Neill down the dirt path to a Third World economy: gated communities and amenities for the top echelon, raw survival (if that) for everybody else.

Pledge facts

I feel compelled to address a historical misconception presented as fact in the letter "God and the Pledge" (The mail, August 14). The anonymous writer states: "This country has been saying [The Pledge of Allegiance] for over 200 years." In fact, the Pledge was not even written until 1892, well over a century after the ratification of the US Constitution.

                  Furthermore, Congress did not accept the Pledge as an official federal document until 1942. Even more important, the controversial phrase "under God" was not added until 1954. The Pledge, as we know it today, is actually less than 50 years old.

                  Damon Diehl, Sumner Park, Rochester


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