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Reader's feedback 1.7.04 

The big-tent stakes

I read with interest "Under the Big Tent: Can County Democrats Get Their Act Together?" (December 23). While I agree with many of the assertions, I take exception to a few points.

            First, despite City's contention that Stephanie Aldersley's ascension to the position of minority leader "was widely thought to be orchestrated by David Gantt," perception in this case does not constitute reality. Nor is it necessarily true that Jose Cruz "was viewed as being under the influence of Johnson and Morelle."

            I should know. I am the only long-term survivor and currently the longest serving member of front-row leadership in the Monroe County Democratic Caucus (four years). I was intimately involved with and knowledgeable about the change in caucus leadership in June of 2002. It was unnecessary for City to resurrect this episode 18 months later, but since you did, accuracy is important.

            Jose Cruz is an honorable, decent person. Yet so is Stephanie Aldersley. And the mayor's hysterics aside, we were not and are not "co-conspirators." We are simply human beings who also happen to be elected officials, and we have the right to change leadership when we feel like it. A hypothetical analogy would be if the Rochester City Council decided to replace Lois Giess as council president. I think it is doubtful that any member of our caucus would issue a press release attacking City Council.

            Further, some Democrats, including this author, were upset when Joanne Giuffrida was replaced as president of the Rochester School Board. However, that decision rests with the School Board and ultimately is really none of my affair.

            Secondly, the question of whether the Democratic Party in MonroeCounty can "get its act together" might be the wrong question, or at least a premature one. Two other, more fundamental questions might be more appropriate: Is there truly a Democratic Party in MonroeCounty, and if so, does it stand for anything?

            From time to time, I am asked about the condition of the local Democratic Party. I answer by citing an example of a solar system that doesn't behave predictably. Normally, planets orbit a sun, the center of a solar system. However, in MonroeCounty there is virtually no center to the Democratic Party. Thus each elected official, each political campaign, operates independently of the Monroe County Democratic Committee, the alleged center of our party. How long can planets fail to orbit their center before disintegration occurs?

            This is not an indictment of Molly Clifford or past chairs of the Democratic Committee. It is the double-edged sword by which most Democrats are governed. The "big tent" that is the Democratic Party is what makes us great. We embrace diversity and attempt to represent minority constituencies. But at the same time, the big tent is our curse: It makes consensus on an agenda and platform extremely difficult.

            Finally, Mayor Johnson is to be commended for his pursuit of a "regional" agenda. In fact, his Republican colleague 70 miles west of here agrees. Erie County Executive Joel Giambra was in Rochester recently preaching the virtues of consolidation. Giambra should know; the City of Buffalo is bankrupt and in receivership.

            We in MonroeCounty are headed in the same direction, whether we know it or not. And the challenge of the local Democratic Party is to not abandon our traditional constituencies while at the same time not presenting an overly frightening message to suburban voters. Talk about walking a political tight rope.

            We Democrats do not need to be so beholden to public-employee unions. They are aware of our compassion and interest in their issues. But the State of New York is in real trouble, and unless local Democrats embrace real reform at the local and state level, that Big Tent we Democrats are so proud of will surely collapse on our heads. Then all we'll be left with is the scare tactics of the Republican Party.

            And Pac Man.

            Christopher J. Wilmot, East Avenue, Rochester(Wilmot is assistant Democratic leader, Monroe County Legislature)

Architecture 101?

Regarding Jon Popick's review of "My Architect" (December 17): Popick's forte may be movie reviews, but it is not architecture (or was it proofreading which missed Louis Kahn being called an "engineer"?). So Mr. Popick has no business calling Kahn's work "monstrosities."

            Mr. Popick also is no writer. To refer to Kahn's death in a railroad station bathroom as "in the crapper" is far beyond aptness.

            Finally, do we wonder where civic pride has gone when the KahnUnitarianChurch is dismissed by Mr. Popick?

            Alexander Simpson, Peachtree Lane, Pittsford

Keep the Loop!

Regarding Kevin Yost's letter about the Inner Loop, which I use almost every day to its full potential ("Bury the Loop," The Mail, December 23): I write in response not only to his letter but to all articles requesting that the Loop be dismantled.

            Filling in the Union-Pitkin section would conflict with the idea of reuniting that neighborhood. This section allows northbound traffic on Union Street to bypass long signals at Broad Street and East Avenue, traffic that, if brought to the surface, would sit idle, emitting exhaust while waiting for the green light (twice).

            Southbound, this is the main access point for I-490. How is it less divisive to bring all that traffic into direct conflict with pedestrians (and bar traffic!), rather than keep the existing overpasses? The aesthetic problem could be easily solved by decking over the existing highway with a parklike reservation. (Remember AndersonPark?)

            The stretch between Main Street and Plymouth Avenue allows quick access between the East End and the High Falls-Frontier Field District. Traffic on this section averages between 25,000 and 35,000 vehicles daily, as busy as Route 441 through the Penfield Four Corners but never as congested.

            When PaeTecPark is built, it will undoubtedly generate more traffic on this stretch. If the Loop were removed, this traffic would be forced onto local streets: Main Street, Andrews Street, Clinton Avenue, State Street, streets that we're told will soon be (more) choked with bus traffic anyway.

            Mr. Yost suggested building a wide landscaped boulevard along the busiest stretch of the Loop. We must take a cue from many other such roads in our area, barren expanses of concrete and asphalt, all failed examples of urban renewal. Ford Street divides the desirable Corn Hill from less attractive neighborhoods to its west. Upper Falls Boulevard, an abortive attempt at providing a crosstown route through our north side, is bleak and unwelcoming.

            And right downtown, Plymouth Avenue and Exchange Boulevard are about as barrier-like as they come, multi-lane divided roads lined by vast plots of parking and deconstructed land. Interestingly, Plymouth Avenue was once part of the Inner Loop: Let's not make another mistake like that.

            It is true that the Loop carries less traffic than it should, for it was built for a bygone vitality. But if downtown Rochester regains that vitality as we'd all like it to, how will we feel having destroyed a key piece of infrastructure built to deal with the added traffic?

            Nathan W. Perry, Arbordale Avenue, Rochester

Remake Rochester

Recently our city suffered a great loss when Roger McCall (akaUnkleRog) was shot and killed outside a home on Madison Street. While UnkleRog will be missed, his death provides us an opportunity to examine another tragedy linked to his death. That tragedy is the decline of one of our most historic neighborhoods, the Susan B. Anthony Preservation District.

            My wife and I are new residents to Madison Street. We purchased a house there and moved to the city from Greece about four months ago. We immediately fell in love with our house and the neighborhood, which is largely populated with friendly, caring, and conscientious people. While this area has made tremendous strides over the last five years, there is still much work to do, and our historic neighborhoods need the help of every resident in the greater Rochester area.

            I am profoundly saddened that we would let our very own piece of American history deteriorate in such a manner. Here we sit in Rochester as we watch our job market shrink, our economy continues to get worse, and the residents complain: "What are people from Toronto going to do here?"

            This attitude drives me crazy. We have in our city a piece of national history that is second to none. Every student in this country is taught about Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. The contributions of these individuals represent a turning point in American history. How can we sit here and watch such a critical piece of American history turn to garbage and then complain that our city is failing and we have no attractions for tourists?

            Between the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood, HighFalls, and the freedom trail, we have enough of attractions to garner attention from all over North America. Instead of wondering what we are going to do every time Kodak or Xerox ships jobs to other countries, we should be trying to replace the money and jobs lost by building up our tourism industry.

            With a little attention from city officials and residents, we could remake this area into the national treasure that it deserves to be and put Rochester back on the map. If we don't do that, I fail to see how the fast ferry is going to offer any hope. While we have an incredible amount of potential, it will remain just that until we stop being a city full of complaining "do nothings" and get off our lazy butts and start calling for the city to save these areas.

            Politicians are only as responsive as they are forced to be, and until the residents of this city start to show that this is a priority for us, it will not be a priority for them. Personally I would prefer that our city invest money into improving these areas rather than building another stadium that won't be filled.

            I encourage everyone to write or call our county executive, assemblymen, senators, and whoever else may be able to help. Let's restore Rochester to its former greatness and remake the image of this great city into something we can all be proud of!

            Mike Noto, Madison 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. 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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