First, I need to set the scene: Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks met with the Democrat and Chronicle editorial board last week. Board members Tweeted choice nuggets throughout the meeting, including what they say Brooks said about MCC. The gist: If the project stays on its current course, it is likely doomed to failure, and that would throw the entire existence of a downtown campus into doubt.
Citing mainly safety concerns, the MCC board wants to move the college to Kodak's State Street campus. Brooks supports that decision. But Richards wants MCC to stay at the Sibley Building as part of the revitalization of downtown.
I happened to be with the mayor when he was made aware of Brooks' reported comments. He wasn't happy, and he seemed to become increasingly upset as he let the information roll around in his head.
MCC belongs in the heart of downtown, he said, and it's outrageous to suggest that if the college's board doesn't get its way, it's game over for the downtown campus.
"I don't know how this conversation got here," Richards said. "I really don't. The idea that, 'if we don't get our way and we don't get to go to Kodak, we're going to take our dolls and go home to Brighton': Give me a break."
City students often have limited choices when it comes to higher education, Richards said, and many wouldn't be able to get to MCC's Brighton campus. MCC has an obligation to educate these young people, he said.
"I'm sorry if it's hard," he said, "because it is. I'm sorry if it's inconvenient -- because it is. But it's part of their job. The idea that they can somehow isolate themselves [and] that they shouldn't be part of the milieu in which these kids operate is a little offensive."
"They act as though this is a school in Afghanistan and they were doing us a favor: some kind of foreign policy thing," Richards said. "It's not a foreign policy thing. Is it harder? Hell, yeah, it's harder. That's the job. You've got to cope, you know?"
MCC recently signed a new lease to stay in Sibley for the next five years. That's a long time for sanity to prevail in this squabble. Otherwise, I fear we're watching the slowest train wreck in history.