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Reader Feedback 9.18.02 

The wrong targets

While religious and community leaders are getting a lot of media attention lately, I believe their efforts are distracting from the real issues at hand.

It is easy to blame the police department when suspects die in their custody. However, it should not be forgotten that police officers are called to the scene after situations have gotten out of control.

In the "controversial" cases that have dominated local news this summer, the suspects were engaged in dangerous, criminal behavior. One was driving a stolen vehicle at police officers, one had stabbed his wife and was approaching police officers with a knife in his hand, and the most recent bit the fingertip off of a police officer.

I'm sure that our community leaders have the best intentions and desire a better community, but their methods are clouding the issues. Our attention as a community should be focused on dealing with issues such as drug abuse and untreated mental illness, and with motivating teenagers and children to steer them away from criminal activity.

Coincidentally, these are all areas that will be severely affected by upcoming cuts in the Monroe County budget. Community leaders should not waste time condemning the police department during high-profile press conferences or requesting congressional investigations. This time could instead be used to help the members of our community who are at risk of becoming the next "controversial" news items.

Brice Meade, Rochester

Dealing with racism

"Interviews Afield: Policing and Racial Bias" (August 14) was interesting, but (for the most part) old information. We don't need a study to tell us that police profiling, based solely on race, has always existed and will probably continue to exist unless a critical mass of people, especially those most negatively affected, organize to stop it.

For decades (if not centuries), there have been studies on top of studies, and literally hundreds of reports, including those of the famous Warren Commission, regarding racist policies, procedures, attitudes, and behaviors on the part of police and government officials in the US. All, including the one commissioned recently by the NYCLU, contain the same types of conclusions: Yes (whether intentional or not), racism exists within police policies and practices. It is wrong, and needs to be corrected.

The corrections never seem to happen. Thus, round and round we go --- another study, another report, same conclusions, another study....

Professor Eileen O'Brien's comments in Mr. Spula's article are profound, especially her statement regarding the need to "talk about how to restructure the system which was built on racism." That is the most important point relative to change --- if change is what we (the NYCLU and others who claim to be concerned) really seek.

Mr. Spula's article left me asking: "So what's new, and what's next?" Paula Clark is probably correct that "there will need to be more studies." But what, specifically, should future studies focus on? As noted by Professor O'Brien, we need to move beyond finger-pointing and instead begin to deal with the root problem of deeply embedded systemic racism.

I would like to suggest a starting point. According to Mr. Spula's article, Rochester's mayor is concerned about "city kids who tell him they want to live in a neighborhood where they're not going to get shot." Let's begin by studying where huge caches of illegally owned weapons --- which are rampant in neighborhoods where city kids worry about getting shot, but not in surrounding suburban neighborhoods --- are coming from.

Let's study where the illegal weapons originate, and how they so easily end up in certain neighborhoods, but not in others (just a few miles away).

Secondly --- since the NYCLU report shows that drug activity accounts for 55 percent of FIF's" and "no other context accounts for more than 10 percent" --- let's study how huge caches of illegal drugs end up in the open-air market (side by side with illegal weapons) on certain city streets, but not other streets within the city, or within surrounding suburban areas.

I'm certain that this research would lead us toward a discussion of "restructuring the system which was built on racism."

For example, we would begin to move away from focusing on the symptoms of the multibillion-dollar illegal drugs and weapons industries, which are manifested among predominantly black and brown people on ghetto, city streets. We would move in the direction of the sources, which would undoubtedly lead to much larger numbers of white, middle and upper-class individuals and establishments.

This would help provide confirmation that "more blacks being arrested or being in jail is not at all an indicator of more blacks committing crimes," but instead represents the inevitable outcome of the fact that "the social [economic, and political] contract stipulates that police attack street crime --- not so much crime in the suites --- with force."

Howard J. Eagle, Rochester

Logic lapse?

Perhaps it was fitting that the news item "Starless and Bible Black" (MetroInk, August 28) was printed below "Way Below Radar," though perhaps "Way Beyond Logic" might have been a more proper heading.

I share the writer's dismay about the deep funding cuts Jack Doyle is proposing for the Rochester Museum and Science Center. However, the writer would somehow have us believe that the star shows at the planetarium have value because they "help kids indoctrinated to believe in the bland Christian cosmology" question these "myths."

Following this logic, would the writer then support the funding cuts if he determined that these same star shows might actually strengthen some children's faith, that they might, in fact, make someone question how such an amazing universe could just "happen" on its own?

I see the hand of God at work in all aspects of life --- in art, in science, in our relationships to other people. My faith also affects my concerns about how we care for and educate not only our own children but also those of the entire community.

The museum, its planetarium, and the Cumming Nature Center are important resources for all the people of Rochester --- whatever their religious beliefs. If City wants to call people to action, to have readers voice their support of the Museum and Science Center to Jack Doyle and the legislature, why frame the argument in such a ridiculous way? There is really no logic in creating this needless divide.

Heidi Zinkand, Furman Crescent, Rochester

Primary notes

I just read the article about the primary race for governor ("Primary Time in the Puppet Regime," August 18), and I am very disappointed in your views of the candidates. For example, you don't know whether Tom Golisano is using this race to up his stock's price; as I understand it, he's doing fine all by himself.

Carl McCall is probably the best comptroller in our state's history. Where a man comes from and his upbringing are unimportant and hardly a scandal. It sounds like you're fishing for something that you're not gonna find.

I am sure that Pataki hides a lot of things. Next time, do some real reporting. Report the great things that the guy has done and have gone unreported. Your skills as a journalist need to be vastly improved. McCall is the best candidate, hands down. He is what Upstate needs: a real man for the job and not a store-brought clown working for the corporate jerks who take the hard-working people of this city for granted. Are you people blind or what?

Alphonso B. Dailey, Eldorado Place, Rochester

Welfare and work

The state is granting applications for welfare at a rate less than 30 percent in 2000, down from 60 percent in 1995, according to figures maintained by the state. Meanwhile, requests for help at the House of Mercy shelter and soup kitchen on Hudson Avenue are up from about 4,00 each month to 6,000.

"They should get a job," many respond. In Monroe County, we require welfare recipients to weekly find 10 employers who are seeking employees, fill out 10 applications, and deliver them. This requirement is in addition to whatever personal responsibilities they may have. If they cannot accomplish this, they lose their benefits.

Albany County requires four job searches weekly, a telling comparison about attitudes in our county, or perhaps only attitudes of our county leadership. Sister Grace Miller of the House of Mercy relates that this strict requirement causes many people such difficulty that they must give up and turn to shelters long-term for survival.

Shelter staff also describe that whereas they used to serve the very poor, now at least 20 working people a month seek assistance from the House of Mercy. These stories bring shame to our well-endowed society. Many people in our community have much, much more than enough for their family.

Sixty-six years ago, poet Langston Hughes wrote, "Let America be America again." We need to disavow unhealthy materialism, and become reasonable and equitable in our economics. We can support achievable job searches, with necessary job training, and provide a minimum wage that provides for a family. Or we will pay a high price in crime, prison terms, and the wasteful, rampant tragedy of poverty.

By redistributing wealth, we all stand to gain, in peace of mind, sympathy, and community.

Claire Olson, Benton Street, Rochester

Help city schools

The article "After Cliff Janey" (August 28) struck a chord with me. Clifford Janey is not solely responsible for the City School District's woes.

I am not sure what the all the answers are. The schools do need funding. I know, however, that there are some great kids in city schools. I was a temporary employee at Frontier Corporation in 1998, and I met some single mothers whose kids went to city grammar schools. Their kids are great and sought the same kind of excellence their suburban counterparts do. They just do not have access to the tools to get them to that place.

I feel, however, that certain segments of the Rochester community do not care about the schools' problems, because they have no direct effect on them. That is not a good way to look at things. Do not complain about something and then not be part of the solution.

Some district employees are really concerned with the betterment of our kids. My mother retired last June after a fruitful career of teaching in the district, and at her retirement party I noticed the sense of togetherness her co-workers had. There are some hardworking individuals trying to make a difference in our community.

People have to feel like they are part of the process, to feel needed, and be nurtured. Pointing fingers and suffocating are schools are not the answer.

Jason Muskopf, East Avenue, Pittsford

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