In "Taking the FIF" (August 14), Jack Bradigan Spula presents statistics that, like all statistics, leave unanswered questions. For example: "The NYCLU report shows that drug activity accounts for 55 percent of FIFs; no other 'context' accounts for more than 10 percent."
And [quoting SUNY Brockport professor Eileen O'Brien]: "'Drug use data consistently show that whites use drugs much more than African-Americans do,' she says, 'but it is young African-Americans who line the jails on drug charges.' O'Brien notes police can more easily make arrests in crowded, intensely surveilled urban neighborhoods."
The numbers may be accurate, but I don't think they address the instinctual and emotional issues of the people who live in the neighborhoods plagued by in-your-face drug use and violence.
Consider what we see on TV in the days following the shooting of a young black male. First, we're shown angry family members who say the action was racially motivated. Then, after the dust settles a few days later, we are shown clergymen and groups of parents in the neighborhood who say the culture of violence must be stopped. To me, the voices of these parents deserve the most attention.
Most of us will never know what mandate the police have been given in certain neighborhoods. Part of the mandate may be granted privately, as it should be. I have a theory that there are official mandates, from police headquarters, but that these are, by necessity, blended with mandates from outraged citizens.
As a parent, I can make a pretty good guess about the mandates in some neighborhoods. If my kid couldn't play outside without wearing a bulletproof vest, and I had information about who was carrying the guns, my mandate to the police would be very simple: "Constitutional what? For who?" In other words, carte blanche.
If I'm correct, the police may be giving citizens exactly what they asked for, and are taking a lot of flak from the press in return for their efforts.
Ask any parents who have ever had nightmares about their children being in danger: The instinct to protect our children takes priority over the rights of someone walking around with a supply of heroin and an illegal gun.
Doug Kanter, Irondequoit
Jack Bradigan Spula responds: I agree that "instinctual and emotional issues" take over when people, especially parents, react to neighborhood crime. That's only human. Been there myself. But beyond the immediate need to shield citizens from violence, the police, courts, legislatures, et al., have a responsibility to find a middle path between doing nothing and doing whatever the public's instincts and emotions seem to demand.
Compare the dynamic of capital punishment (and here I don't imply FIFs are anywhere near that level of seriousness). Many people who've seen a loved one murdered naturally scream for blood. But that doesn't mean the state has to deliver. On the contrary, the state must insure that all parties --- victims, the accused, the public at large --- get justice without damage to civil rights and liberties. And this principle covers everything from life-and-death determinations in court to the most mundane, routine actions of cops on the beat.
I am writing about Jon Popick's review of "Checkout" (August 7), by local producer Mark Foggetti. I am left wondering if I have misunderstood Jon's point of view, if he understands what makes a movie fun to watch, or if we caught the same film.
Jon states that the story is conventional and humdrum and that it wouldn't hold the attention of non-Rochesterians. I totally disagree. I found the film to be light, fun and just what I needed to take my mind off of some of the stresses of the times.
Jon says that the local celebrities and locations were so important to Rochesterians that they were the film's only big pull (for locals). Well, I am a local and I didn't know any of them, or care about that aspect of the film at all. Would Jon say the same thing if the Golden Gate Bridge were mentioned in a film made in San Francisco?
He then comments about the movie's predictability. Well yeah, most romantic comedies are just that: predictable. Audiences expect a comedy to be predictable. They aren't there on assignment; they just want to have a good time. Which directly relates to Jon's attempt at business math (when he states that the financial premise for the store was glaringly out of whack). I didn't do the math; I just wanted to be entertained!
I was entertained, and I would like to see the film get its just rewards.
Anthony Marotti, Park Avenue, Rochester
Thanks for the article on 90.1 WGMC ("Smokin' Signal: WGMC Comes of Age," August 21). In my opinion, it is the best station in Rochester, and I'm glad that Jason Crane and the rest of the DJs are getting the recognition they deserve.
I began listening to Dave Moskal's "Muskie's Juke Joint" about five years ago and began to stay tuned to the station as corporate radio grated more and more heavily on my nerves. All of WGMC's DJs are very knowledgeable and excited about the tunes they play, and in turn I am, too. I was actually surprised to learn that most of the listeners are in the 55-75 age demographic. I am 26 and find a lot of the songs pretty rockin'!
I hope your article inspired more folks to tune in.
Robin Annlot, Greece
Don't mess with our parks and libraries
Are we being "led" by maladroit politicos who hire inept accountants as their strategic advisors? Two areas hacked apart by the county bludgeoner's ax are especially distressing: libraries and parks. Libraries are the heart of true democracy, necessary for the common person to obtain knowledge and the means of applying it, at very little cost per use. They are bastions of freedom. They are job headquarters.
Certain special-interest concerns could perhaps be routed to private-sector philanthropists and philanthropic groups. Libraries, however, are "general interest," important to every person in Monroe County.
And if libraries are the heart, our parklands are the lungs of our democracy. Parks are used daily by people from every social strata: Olmsted historic park lover, nature worshipper, jogger, dog walker, beachcomber.
Our parks are already operating at bare-bones expense level. Parklands were set aside long ago and were designed to be continuously maintained to a generally high standard. It is not possible to have responsible stewardship with the proposed cuts in the county budget.
A short time ago, the county executive set forth the idea of jobs and the creation of new sectors in industry. How the devil are you going to keep good, educated workers happy without a great outdoors and great culture?
If necessary, invent a new tax category and apply it to a portion of every real-estate transaction in the county. Both libraries and parks should be managed fully. The word to the budgeters: Don't mess with our public lands or our libraries.
Michael Kopicki, Park Lane Drive, Webster
Taxes help children
I am very concerned about Jack Doyle's proposition to cut funding to Child Protective Services and Family Services of Rochester. The latter gives children and families psychological counseling that is unavailable to them otherwise --- including counseling for children who are victims of sexual abuse.
Early intervention after a child has been raped or molested helps that little boy or girl to emotionally survive and make sense of what has happened to him or her. It also helps families understand how to support their kids when the unthinkable has been done to them. These are usually poor kids, whose families cannot afford to seek counseling elsewhere.
As for Child Protective Services, I have made calls to their offices on occasion, and I understand that they are already overwhelmed and over-committed. To cut county funding from these programs would be a gross injustice to the children of our community.
I can think of only one reason why vital services to children would be the target of the cuts: children don't vote. But adults do. And we care about our kids. I can think of nothing more important than our children's safety and sanity. Cuts have to be made elsewhere, not at the expense of our children.
And incidentally, raising taxes is an option. Our elected officials have become far too fearful of verbalizing the need for community support of our children. I believe that the majority of residents of Monroe County are people who care. I believe that Jack Doyle is one of them.
Consider just one child in pain: a neighbor's child, or a child you once saw in the park or on a bus or in a store. Most of us would consider a small tax hike worth the cost to alleviate the hurt of that one child. And yet how many more children these programs help!
For the sake of his neighbors and all of our children, I hope Doyle rewrites the budget his office has proposed. We all know that these kids need our support.
Barbara Deitz, Averill Avenue, Rochester
More on Regan
Your report on Clare Regan (August 7) is a gem, surpassed only by the special lady herself. More could have been said, particularly about her modest beginnings, a story in itself.
In addition, more could be said about her generosity, particularly in terms of her sharing the vast amount of information that lies in her head. When asked a question in the area of criminal justice, she will usually respond instantaneously; otherwise, she will research it and get back to the questioner ASAP.
A toast to a good friend and colleague who enriches the planet just by being here.
Margaret M. Stinson, Fayetteville
A higher power
The letter in your August 14 issue, by the man who describes himself as a "recovering alcoholic and addict," caught my eye. I think he is onto something with respect to a "power greater than one's self."
At one time, I would have pooh-poohed this concept, but I have changed my mind. I am not religious and tend to be intolerant of most organized religions. However, I have seen the works of this outside power enough times to feel that its existence has been proven to me.
I don't know what to call such a power, but I suppose God or Allah is as good a name as any. (My wife calls it "reality.") I have heard "god" referred to as "good orderly direction," and I think that describes it well. I don't understand this outside power, but I don't have to. I only have to accept the opportunities it gives me to improve my life.
Why it works, how it works, and where it might be located are immaterial. I believe this power presents us with opportunities, and if we accept them, our lives change for the better. If we don't, we remain as we were. Whether it will provide us with vast powers or wealth is a question that, like the others, I can't answer.
The problem as I see it is that we let petty intolerance to various religions influence our lives in such a way that we disregard this power or refuse to allow mention of it in our daily lives. By so doing, we lose sight of this marvelous force and begin to think we can or did do it all by ourselves.
A man told me once that I could pray for anything, and if I really believed, my prayers would be answered. Again, I don't know; I believe that prayer is useful to prepare out minds to accept the opportunities when they are presented and not let them slip by.
I would be interested in hearing other people's thoughts in this regard.
Bill Benzing, Alexander Street, Rochester
That was then
I recently received a flyer in the mail --- proudly proclaimingthat it was paid for with US taxpayer dollars, no less (so much for the GOP rhetoric on "fiscal restraint"). In it, my Representative, Tom Reynolds, told me about his recent fine efforts to crack down on corporate crime.
Thank you, Mr. Reynolds. But at the risk of seeming ungrateful, allow me to ask you one question. When Mr. Clinton tried to enact similar protections several years ago - before it was politically convenient to join this bandwagon --- why did you and the rest of your GOP cronies vote to block these measures? Was it lack of foresight, or simply lack of concern? Or maybe you were just trying to "protect the economy."
None of these answers seem particularly satisfying, do they?
Seth Perry, West Henrietta Road, Rush