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Boot camp at the dojo


A mother sent us a letter introducing martial arts instructor Kamae McNeill, "on behalf of... parents and their children whose lives have been touched by Dr. Kamae." With the letter was a binder full of written comments by parents whose kids had participated in McNeill's free, four-day summer martial arts camp. And they all raved.

This child-friendly image seems odd for a man whose martial arts system emphasizes "nerves, tendons, and soft-tissue areas," and who can teach you to subdue any attacker. McNeill (pictured with his son, Sempai Bushi Jermaine McNeill) is an eighth-degree black belt, nine-time martial arts champion, and a Grand Master and founder of the martial art American Goshinjutsu (experience equivalent to a doctorate, hence the title). He looks like he could --- and he could --- flatten you with one hand. But every summer he gets T-shirts made, orders mountains of sandwiches, and opens the enrollment books.

And the 6- to 12-year-old campers aren't afraid of him or his boot camp. Because they know that no one gets teased and there is no screaming. Just a simple understanding: "You will act right in my dojo, there's no doubt about that."

McNeill teaches the camp on top of his other classes because, he says, "Our youth today, I really feel, need guidance." And he relies on parent participation to keep the students on track. "Parents, when they first come to me, they'll say, 'We'll see if Johnny likes this,'" he says. "I kind of mention to the parents, 'In my particular program, Johnny may not like it.' Because more than likely by the second day of class he's coming home and he's telling you, 'I don't like that big, black-headed, bald man.' Because I'm going to make them do sit-ups and pushups whenever they're disrespectful to others."

But someone on their back is what some kids want. As one parent put it: "My daughter would like Dr. Kamae to know that he was the best teacher she has ever had."

Dr. Kamae McNeill's Bujutsu Goshinjutsu Institute offers physical education and self-defense at Nazareth College, and adult self-defense and self-defense for security officers at various locations. The summer camp is in August. For info on class schedules, call 467-9332 or email

--- Erica Curtis

Chasing the next mayor

Last Thursday night was a busy one for the Democratic Party; and a night of opposites for the two official Democratic candidates for mayor.

City Councilman Wade Norwood was giving an emotional speech announcing his candidacy to an auditorium at Hochstein Music School heavy on politicians and city officials. Meanwhile, right around the corner in Fitzhugh Street's Academy Building, City Councilman Tim Mains was welcoming supporters to his newly opened campaign headquarters.

Norwood peppered his speech with the keywords that are forming the slogan for his campaign --- "unity," action," and "change." "Join with me," he implored the audience. "For children. For jobs. For justice."

Mains was simply holding a party for his supporters, who all seemed to be breathing a sigh of relief that they managed to find an exceptional HQ just one week after his announcement. While the adults hobnobbed, children gathered in the back of Mains' new space to get to work on campaign posters.

"This campaign is about leadership and courage," Mains eventually told an assembled crowd. "It takes both to be a good mayor --- but it also takes leadership and courage on the part of the voters to elect the candidate who will bring the most experience and skill to City Hall."

This is just the beginning of what promises to be a tight and engaging primary race for mayor. Because the vast majority of city voters are Democrats, the winner of the Dems' mayoral primary almost always wins the general election. And things will really heat up once Police Chief Bob Duffy adds his candidacy this month.

--- Chad Oliveiri

The Breeze is back

Rochester finally got its ferry: for $32 million and to a packed federal courthouse that erupted in cheers and sighs. It was the closing of what might be the shortest multi-million-dollar public auction in history.

Money from the sale --- provided as a line of credit to the city by Australian lenders Export and Finance Insurance Corp. --- will be used to pay off the many debts the boat has incurred.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of steps ahead, especially under the city's ambitious plans to get the ferry up and running by late May.

Among them: The city-appointed Rochester Ferry Company will have to select an operator for the service. The Toronto Port Authority will have to complete its terminal. (The TPA promises a finished terminal in 73 days.) And the ship will have to be registered under the US flag.

--- Chad Oliveiri

Messy Medicaid

"Let's not keep putting Band-Aids on a system that's bleeding money."

"The budget deficit is caused by tax cuts for the wealthy."

These were some of the statements on order Friday at a forum hosted by Metro Justice, the Greater Rochester Community of Churches, and 1199 SEIU Champions at the Jewish Community Federation.

Present were representatives from labor, as well as many non-profits involved in the provision of services to Rochester's poorest and most vulnerable. This loose-knit coalition is gearing up for the lobbying battle that surrounds the annual state budget negotiations.

Medicaid (and the reforms proposed for it) topped a list of concerns. Many of the organizations represented serve clients who depend on it. And while most acknowledge that spending on the program has grown in an unsustainable way, they're also suspicious about reforms proposed by the Pataki administration. Led by County Executive Maggie Brooks, beleaguered county governments around the state have campaigned for cuts to the program after mandated spending on it has grown to dwarf other local government spending.

The fight about to be waged is between two starkly different ideas regarding the role of government, says Metro Justice Organizer Jon Greenbaum: One which gives it a prominent role in caring for the needy and one which downplays that role --- the "on your ownership society" Greenbaum dubs it, in a jab at the Bush administration.

Mentioning a poll he says shows New Yorkers are willing to close tax loopholes to continue funding social services, Greenbaum predicts eventual victory for his side.

In the meantime, Friday's session served as part pep-rally and part strategy session for the groups. After a planned flurry of letter-writing, calling representatives, and petitioning, their effort will culminate in a March 29 bus trip to the capitol in Albany, on the eve of the budget deadline.

--- Krestia DeGeorge

The greening of Greece

The town of Greece can add another notch to its conservation belt.

Last week it took ownership of a 50-acre parcel along Lowden Point Road in the Braddock Bay area that had been targeted by the town as well as the county, state, and national Audubon Society for preservation. The tract's forests and fields --- which will be managed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation as part of the Braddock Bay Fish and Wildlife Management Area --- will help provide a buffer to wildlife habitat already protected. It will also help consolidate the network of protected freshwater coastal land along Greece's Lake Ontario shoreline.

Funding for the purchase came from the state and from the Trust for Public Land, which is focusing on Great Lakes shoreline and watershed parcels in New York and other states.

--- Krestia DeGeorge

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