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Reader feedback 5.25.05

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INACCURATE?

Laurence Britt is entitled to his own ideas about what the D&C covers and how it covers it, however fuzzily and self-referentially he may present those ideas ("Following the Paper Trail," May 11). But at least one of his hip shots should not go unchallenged. He writes: "Coverage of national and international stories is based on wire service copy with D&C headlines (often inaccurate) the only local contribution. Apparently, the belief is that anyone wanting more information is already reading the New York Times."

Is this to imply that the D&C should have its own bureaus and reporters around the country and the world? Or that reporters should be dispatched from Rochester to cover major events? All that would be nice, but not realistic. Even the Timesuses wire services and puts its own headlines on wire service stories, like every other newspaper (and TV news report, and website, etc). For what it's worth, local perspective on national and international stories and issues does appear regularly on the editorial page.

Perhaps most egregious is Britt's unsupported assertion that D&C headlines are "often inaccurate." As a part-time editor on the D&C copy desk, I have observed that the professionals who edit, check, and proofread every word in the newspaper, and who also write the headlines, are dedicated to accuracy as the absolute prime concern. If mistakes are made --- and nobody's perfect --- it is not for lack of marshalling a great deal of effort and expertise to avoid them.

A more experienced and thoughtful media observer than Mr. Britt shows himself to be would think twice before impugning the professionalism of an enterprise about which he seems to understand very little.

Jeffrey Owen Jones, Parker Drive, Pittsford (Jones is an occasional freelance contributor to City Newspaper.)

Laurence Britt's response: The intent of the article was to challenge the D&C to produce a better product and devote the resources to be able to do that. No one expects the D&C to be the New York Times. The question is how it can be a better local paper, given that it has no daily competition.

There is a lot of dissatisfaction in the community and it is growing. Understandably, criticism is never easy to accept. In terms of the headlines, I stand by my statement that they are often inaccurate. I'm not saying that headline production is easy and not prone to inadvertent inaccuracies. In addition, what makes a good headline, like beauty, is often in the eyes of the beholder. But I have heard the comment about inaccuracies from many other people in the community.


BUILDING ON WILSON'S SUCCESS

Congratulations to Wilson Magnet for its Number 27 ranking in Newsweek's Top 1,000 High Schools. I awoke to a phone message from home announcing the news, and later found the list at The Civil Rights Project at HarvardUniversity, a fitting place to celebrate the success of a RochesterCitySchool.

Wilson is one reality that proves the research: Urban students, when provided with challenging academics and necessary support, will perform better and have greater post-secondary school success. Congratulations also to the University of Rochester for its guarantee of free tuition to Wilson IB graduates, and to George Wolfe, well-respected Wilson teacher, for his initiative.

As a graduate of East High, I am compelled to ask what the University of Rochester is doing for the high school on the other side of the city, and for all other Rochester city high schools. Moreover, I challenge all local colleges and universities to meet and exceed the U of R's efforts.

If schools really do want to "keep bright inner-city students in Rochester," as Jon Burdick, U of R's dean of admissions, is noted as saying in Newsweek, then they must work harder to make the grade in their commitment to the city of Rochester and its students.

Mary Doyle, Cambridge, Massachusetts


PROGRESSIVE IDEAS ON MONROE'S BUDGET

Thank you for your excellent article on MonroeCounty budget woes (Metro Ink, May 11). Metro Justice has long advocated public policy changes that would address the county budget problems. This year we chartered a bus to Albany, and our members urged legislators to have the state assume the county portion of Medicaid costs. (The current formula has the federal, state, and county government paying 50 percent, 25 percent, and 25 percent respectively). Medicaid would then be paid through our progressive state income-tax system rather than the regressive county sales and property taxes.

Furthermore, as a member of the Interfaith Health Care Coalition, Metro Justice has long advocated for a single-payer health-care system. A single-payer system would relieve the county of paying for private health insurance for county employees (up to a whopping 15 percent of the budget). It would also relieve the city and all the school districts of the heavy "tax" of insurance premiums.

Universal health care is currently on the table in Albany, and Metro Justice members have been urging their state legislators to take the first steps toward it by supporting the legislation proposed by Democratic Assemblymember Gottfried of New York City.

Although County Manager Maggie Brooks calls our Medicaid system a "Cadillac," the reality is that the United States ranks 37th in the world in health status, and Rochester has one of the worst rates of infant mortality and low-birth-weight babies in the country. In both situations, we lag behind dozens of other countries, including some third-world countries.

Finally, for years Metro Justice has advocated to replace the county property and sales tax with a countywide income tax. Sales taxes are regressive: MonroeCounty residents with a low or middle-class income pay a larger portion of their income in sales and property taxes than wealthier residents of the county. Income taxes can be set up to be progressive: If you make more, you pay more.

In 2003, Metro Justice released its Revenue Fairness Plan for MonroeCounty, designed to capture a portion of the tax windfall from Bush's and Pataki's tax cuts for the rich. (For example, the Bush and Pataki tax cuts enriched MonroeCounty residents earning $625,000 by about $24,000; our revenue fairness plan would capture less than half of that). Under our plan, an average family in MonroeCounty would pay less tax.

Maggie Brooks' proposal to create workfare for Medicaid recipients is a cynical attempt to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable residents of the county. Besides, where are these 22,000 jobs she speaks of?

Bill McCoy, Magee Avenue, Rochester (McCoy is a member of Metro Justice.)


KNOCK IT OFF!

I can't believe that there are still people who really believe there is a "Social Security Trust Fund-Lock-Box" in existence (Laurence Britt's "Social Security: Lies, Lies, and Damned Lies," April 6). The unvarnished truth is that both the Republicans and the Democrats alike have been raiding these funds for decades, and they spent every dime almost as fast as it came in.

Only a very few weeks ago, the president himself said in a televised speech that the trust fund does not exist. And let me quote from an editorial in the May 2 edition of the Wall Street Journal:

"On the latter point, what we do know with confidence is that, between now and 2017, the payroll tax will raise at least $2.2 trillion more in taxes than will be paid out in benefits. That 'surplus' cash will not go into some vault waiting for the Baby Boomers to retire but will instead be spent by Congress-on things like one more bridge in Alaska."

So to Mr. Britt and his like-minded readers, please knock it off. There are too many people out there who already believe you. Save them the disappointment of eventually learning the truth.

Bill Harter, Pinellas Park, Florida

Laurence Britt's response: Let me get this straight. When it comes time to pay off US government bonds held by the Bank of Japan, it's no problemo. But when it comes time to cash in the same bonds to pay American retirees who have paid into Social Security during their working lives, then it's a myth.

The shocking part is that this president would mouth such irresponsibility. These obligations will be met, either with tax revenues or by selling still more bonds in the marketplace --- as has been done since the beginning of the Republic to meet current obligations.

As for the quote from the Wall Street Journal editorial, just consider the source. After all, the Journal has opposed Social Security from Day One. And who will benefit most from Social Security privatization? Could it be Wall Street?


THE PEOPLE CHOSE

Regarding Laurence Britt's "Absolute Power" (April 27): The fact is, the Republicans were elected by the people of the United States to control the presidency, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. This gives them the right to nominate and confirm judges at all federal levels. Mr. Britt decries what he called the "overturn of 200 hundred years of Senate tradition and rules to take advantage of the current Republican majority." He fails to mention all the changes the Democrats have made to the "200 hundred years of Senate tradition and rules," which have forced the consideration of the changes he is so afraid of.

Until the last few years, the only points that were supposed to be considered was whether judicial nominees were of good character and the legal community found them competent to serve as a judge. The Democrats have stated that nominees would be considered more by political and religious beliefs than by any other standards.

The Democrats also fundamentally changed how the filibuster is used. Prior to this point, the filibuster was used to stop individuals that the minority --- whether Democrat or Republican --- thought was unfit for office by qualification or character. The Democrats have stated that they will use it to stop all high-level judges with whom they do not agree politically.

The requirement for stopping a Senate filibuster used to be 67 votes. When the Democrats were in control of the Senate but did not have enough votes to stop a filibuster, they changed the rules and lowered the requirement to 60 so they could force anything they wanted into law.

But Mr. Britt's most outrageous suggestion is that the country does not have the right to vote to bring about a more moderate judicial system, one that will not change the 6,000-year tradition of marriage of one man and one women, will not consider the Boy Scouts so evil that they can not be allowed in public buildings, and will not make it illegal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school.

Mr. Britt mentions polls regarding the president's popularity. Mr. Bush has the courage of his beliefs to make the hard decisions without regard to the ever-changing views of those who have less information than him.

John Cook, Rochester

Laurence Britt's response: The Republican-controlled Senate during the Clinton administration blocked a vote on approximately six times as many judicial nominations as the Democrats have done during the Bush administration. The difference is that since the Republicans controlled the Senate during the Clinton years, they simply did not allow the nominees out of committee for a vote.

The Democrats did not "fundamentally change" why judicial nominations are opposed. It has almost always been for political reasons and certainly was during the Republican blockage during the Clinton years.

Mr. Cook claims to want a moderate judicial system, but the judicial nominees being held up are far from moderate, which is why the Democrats opposed them. As an aside, the 6000-year history of the tradition of marriage was a pretty miserable bargain for most women for about 5900 of those 6000 years.


THE REAL CALLAN

I disagree with both letters written about Chad Oliveiri's interview with Jim Callan ("The Way Out" and "Churches, Rebuilt," The Mail, May 11; "Truth to Power in the Church," April 27). Both writers take extreme views, in my mind, on what I see as the deep, deep spirituality of Father Jim.

I too am a member of Spiritus Christi Catholic Church and was a member of Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church. In total, I am 11.5 years in these faith communities --- and 70 years as a Catholic.

In my work, I encounter the fresh goodness of Father Jim's ministry as he brings great hope, in God, to patients of all ages and people of great diversity. His humility is unique, and his faith in God is an anchor he shares readily with struggling people.

A neurosurgeon I met when my son-in-law was having brain surgery in 1999 said. "I don't agree with all he does, but I see Jim Callan in here at all times of day and night. Whether it's sudden illness, a poor turn, or an accident --- and he's usually in the corner, not front and center --- he's someone people can count on. I'll probably never go to his church, but I know I can count on him too, to be here whenever he's needed."

So I feel it's not about protests. And he, I believe, doesn't seek to break rules. But he is there for the people. And if and when he "errs" (who doesn't?), it is always on the side of the people. For me, that's what really matters.

Life is a process. Church is a process. Theology (understanding who and how God is) is a process. And the process is God's. Trust the process, trust God, and love your neighbor as God loves you, and you will have an understanding of Father Jim's spirituality and motives.

Joan Kessler, East Avenue, Rochester


WRITING TO CITY

We welcome and encourage readers' letters for publication. Send them to: themail@rochester-citynews.com 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. We don't publish letters that have been sent to other media --- and we don't publish form letters generated by activist groups. 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 about once every two months.

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