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Issues? What issues?

The week past, The week ahead

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Well, what qualities do you want in the next mayor of Rochester? If you live in the city, how are you going to decide who to vote for?

            Political insiders, union leaders, and the like have already made up their minds, for reasons that include vested interest and party politics (and yeah, sure, the future of the city). But for the rest of us --- voters and journalists alike --- it's early days.

            First up, of course, is the Democratic primary on September 13. This race cries out for thoughtful consideration of crucial issues: poverty, education, economic development, the pressure from the suburbs. And all three candidates are raising some of those issues. But so far, the big attention-getter seems to be crime.

            Oh, dear lord. Aren't we better than that?

            Crime.

            As if any of the three candidates supports crime, or, as mayor, can make it go away.

            Has somebody done a poll saying that this is the year's sexy issue? That this, in what could be a close race, is the deal clincher?

            Aren't we better than that?

            This is a troubling time, in a troubled city. After violent crime dipped last summer, it's on the rise again. In one week, we've had a 12-year-old shot by thugs unknown and a 13-year-old shot by a cop. It's dreadful. Just dreadful. But there are no easy solutions.

            "The mayoral candidates must get more detailed about how they will fight the war on crime," said the Democrat and Chronicle's editorial page earlier this week.

            Nope. The mayoral candidates must rise above that. Yes, indeed, crime is important. But it is incredibly complicated. What are we going to do about crime's causes?

            I don't want to hear about how many new cops the candidates will hire if they're elected or how they'll structure the police department. That's pandering. I want to see leadership.

            Surely, surely,in this cash-strapped, suburb-bound, poverty-concentrated city... surely, in the city of Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, George Eastman, Chester Carlson, we can have intelligent discussions about serious issues as we move from the Johnson era to a new administration.

            The news staff of this newspaper is spending much of the summer looking into issues we believe should shape the campaign. We hope you'll contribute to that.

            What's worrying you? What do you want to see candidates talk about? Let us hear from you: themail@Rochester-citynews.com, or City Newspaper, 250 North Goodman Street, Rochester 14607.

The week past

We grieve for the lives lost and the hundreds injured in London. And to some critics of the Iraq invasion, it's been tempting to say: See? See? This is what we've done.

            And certainly it is reasonable to assume that the London horror is related to Tony Blair's allegiance to George Bush.

            Equally important, though, is focusing on the complexity of terrorism, the causes, and, unfortunately, the very real likelihood that no country can protect itself against it absolutely. Just as the terrorists won't overcome the resolve of ordinary Brits and Americans, so, too, will the war in Iraq fail to stamp out terrorism. The danger, the likelihood, is that it will exacerbate it.

The week ahead

An important little meeting takes place at 5:30 this Thursday, July 14: The Rochester School Board's policy committee will discuss the district's policy on military recruitment. Specifically, the committee will discuss how the district informs parents that the US military has a right to personal information about students --- unless the parents say they want it withheld.

            The district does tell parents, but its method is oblique, to say the least. The information is buried in 44 pages of a calendar that the district sends out each year. And there's no mention of the word "military." Some critics want the Rochester district to do what Fairport is doing: have an "opt-in" policy, telling parents that the military has a right to the information but that the district won't release it without the parents' signed consent.

            That's the right way to do it. But it violates federal legislation, and the district could lose crucial federal funding if it adopted that policy. I find it hard to ask the district to take that risk. Congress, of course, should revoke that requirement. Meantime, here at home, the district's not helpless. It can notify parents clearly, and directly, that the military has a right to ask for the information --- and that parents have a right to deny it.

            There are enough smart minds in the district to write a letter that conforms to the law. Invasion of privacy is a serious matter, even disregarding the shockers about the abuses of military recruitment. The school district has a responsibility to protect its students' privacy. A simple letter to parents, in plain English, is crucial. And it shouldn't be buried in a calendar.

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