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Metro ink - 8.2.06




Ah, baseball cards.

There's nothing quite like the youthful thrill of tearing back that wrapper, tossing that brittle stick of gum aside and rifling through a dozen new acquisitions to see which of the cards you've picked up are gems and which are duds. For a moment, the possibilities seem endless.

Maybe Tom Suozzi's gubernatorial campaign managers were hoping to capitalize on that feeling when they printed 10 "Albany Insider All-Star" baseball cards.

Not surprisingly, Suozzi's Democratic rival Eliot Spitzer gets a card, as does John Faso, the Republican candidate. So do the leaders of the New York Senate and Assembly, Joe Bruno and Sheldon Silver.

The other six choices are a little more unusual. They're all lobbyists, and with the exception of Al D'Amato, you've probably never heard of any of them. (Three are apparently obscure enough that the Suozzi team couldn't track down photos to put on the cards.)

The cards are spoofs based on Topps' 1988 series. Where the baseball-card company put "American League" or "National League" logos, Suozzi's folks confusingly inserted his own "Fix Albany" logo. Are all these "Albany Insiders" playing the game to bring about reform?

More confusing still are the stats on the back of the cards. Where ballplayers would have lists of RBIs, strikeouts, and batting averages, the lobbyists have campaign contributions to Eliot Spitzer. The other cards have short jabs at things like the players' integrity (Silver) or their political past (Faso), but nearly all of the jibes lead back to Spitzer.

Most confusing of all, the cards have almost no mention of Suozzi or his campaign: no website, no slogan, nothing. It's as if Suozzi's team wanted to give Spitzer publicity for free.

--- Krestia DeGeorge



Although just featured in the July 26 issue of City, Boulder Coffee Co. at the South Clinton-Alexander Street intersection may never be the same again. A pickup truck crashed into the building in the early morning of Thursday, July 27, demolishing a front corner and displacing a tenant living upstairs. "Boulder's still closed for the time being. We're here, still cleaning," says owner Lyjah Wilton, who opened the business just over a year ago.

Wilton says he constructed a temporary wall to cordon off the damaged area last Friday. He hopes to open the undamaged portion of the shop sometime this week, pending city approval. Should that happen, he also plans to move the stage area to the outdoor patio. Wilton says his insurance is currently covering repair costs, and that the company is looking into collecting damages from the driver, who was seriously injured in the accident.

While Wilton can't offer details on when the full shop will reopen, he's adamant that BoulderFest will go on. Wilton has been planning the South Wedge music and art festival for several months, and plans to hold the event behind properties he owns adjacent to the coffee shop on August 19 and 20. "I just want people to know that we need their support now more than ever," he says.

--- Sujata Gupta


After receiving 156 applications and requests for more than $28 million, the United Way of Greater Rochester will distribute only $19.8 million to 109 programs over the course of three years, starting this month. While that amount matches the funding commitment United Way made to the area's non-profits last year, it has not come without disappointment.

Funding requests have steadily increased while United Way's donor pool has leveled off due to the decline in Rochester's economy. That forced United Way to make some tough choices. Funding cuts were made to both existing programs and new applicants since United Way officials have focused more than 50 percent of the organization's money to programs that prioritize children's health and education.

Programs that help to prevent child abuse, such as the county's Home Nurse Visitation Program, will receive $2 million. Strong Start, a program administered by the University of Rochester supporting at risk children as early as kindergarten, will be expanded to include two schools in the Rochester Children's Zone. And $3 million will be directed toward agencies offering programs emphasizing mentoring, work scholarships, and increasing graduation rates, such as Hillside Children's Center, the YMCA, and Community Place of Rochester.

Agencies that will not receive funding include LDA Life & Learning, Food Link, the Rochester Business Alliance, MercyCenter, and several neighborhood support groups such as Northeast Area Development, Southeast Area Coalition, and Group 14621. Officials at United Way emphasized that the cuts were not a result of poor performance. Some agencies will still receive money from United Way for ancillary programs, and United Way has set aside $700,000 in grants to help the agencies find new funding during the transition.

"We are not weeding out ineffective programs," says William McCullough, United Way's vice president of corporate affairs. "We are very sensitive to the agencies that see United Way's support as a seal of approval in the community. But we had to make a decision to support programs like the Hillside Work Scholarship program, which we are doubling our commitment to because it is universally accepted that this program has proven itself as a dropout prevention tool."

United Way actually raised $34.5 million in its 2006 campaign, but more than $14 million of that money was removed from its general distribution pot for MonroeCounty. Some of it will go to the Red Cross and other United Way organizations in the region. But the largest chunk --- more than $6 million --- goes to charities donors designated.

--- Tim Macaluso



We tend to tell young people to follow their dreams and do what they love --- except when it comes to pursuing careers in the arts. Then we tell them to think of something else to fall back on. But a six-week summer work program at ArtPeace is giving teens from low-income families in MonroeCounty a chance to start their own businesses in the arts.

Using the historic Jonathan-Child House as headquarters, about 50 kids have chosen from fields like music, digital arts, literature, visual arts, and dance for their new business ventures. Participants then thought up everything from business plans to products and advertising. And to prove they're not just a bunch of summer slackers, they have to sell their goodies and make a profit.

The kids in Digital Heaven, the digital arts company, are selling custom T-shirts at the Public Market, and the team members in Sensation Designs, the visual arts company, are producing glass jewelry and hand-painted floor mats. They've even designed jewelry to target two different markets: something for young women to wear on a date or to the clubs; and jewelry for career women who need a more conservative look on the job. Keepin' It Real is the literary company, and its workers have written poems, some of which will be performed by the music and dance companies. They've also produced a chapbook that uses the Jonathan-Child House, the home of Rochester's first mayor, as its theme.

"Most summer jobs are things like yard work and they don't really teach anything," says Kristin Rapp, executive director for ArtPeace. "This uses the arts to focus on their strengths, not their problems."

Each business has two professional artists guiding them, and each business has to collaborate with the other businesses. Digital Heaven has helped with everyone's advertising materials and post cards, for example.

"This is more like being an apprentice," says David Merkel, one of the artists. "Last year we had one young man who at 16 has developed a client base designing logos and web sites."

Some of the business groups will be at their booths at the Public Market on Thursday mornings, August 3 and August 10. The ArtPeace program culminates in a music, dance and literary performance Thursday, August 17, starting a 7 p.m., at 35 South Washington Street. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

--- Tim Macaluso

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