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Our endorsement of Richards
For decades, thousands of readers like me have relied on City for coherent, dispassionate political analysis. Your endorsement of non-candidate Tom Richards was outrageous and antithetical to the fine journalistic standards you have steadfastly built.
To conclude that your choice was reduced to endorsing a man who clearly has no interest in campaigning or to "endorse someone we feel is not qualified..." is disparaging to the two candidates that are still in the race, and especially to the standard bearer of the majority party, Lovely Warren.
For those who have forgotten, there was a primary election on September 10, whose objective was to eliminate one of the two contestants. Tom Richards, who had every advantage known to man – incumbency, money, endorsements, all of the TV time, a lifetime of fabled experience, the esteem of his fellowmen – lost resoundingly. It does not matter that the turnout was abysmally low; so it was in Albany, Buffalo, New York, and Syracuse, which also held mayoral primaries on that day. Nobody there is asking for a do-over.
So what is behind these bizarre attempts to prevent Richards from retiring, a yearning his recent words and body language so clearly convey? Speculation abounds and motives are plentiful, but let me get to two which are least mentioned: "Gantt paranoia", and the "power elite's fear of losing control".
Warren as a pawn of David Gantt is an insulting caricature. Yes, she traces her career advancement to him, but she is entitled to demonstrate that her base is much broader, just like her predecessors.
The "old boys" network, which has controlled much of what has been going on for the past eight years, cringes that another outsider is coming into City Hall. Not just any "outsider," but a young female, who has demonstrated that she is quite capable of independent thinking. How ironic! Aren't these the same people who have lamented our inability to keep "our young people" from fleeing town?
Tough as it is for them to comprehend, a new era is dawning. Rather than fight it, welcome it. Rather than worry whether Lovely can do the job, let's help her succeed. When she succeeds, so will we.
So let's repudiate those who are trying to obstruct the victory that Ms. Warren will rightfully claim on November 5. And let Mayor Richards retire in peace, as he yearned a month ago.
WILLIAM A. JOHNSON JR.
Johnson is former mayor of Rochester.
The issues in Irondequoit
An Irondequoit voter's appraisal of its politics is somewhat different from the politicians'. Cross endorsements and deals between the heads of the GOP and Dems are obvious to the voters. Their iron fist controls who runs for office. They control the campaign finances, so they hand-select those candidates who will toe the party line. Letters to the editor saying voters should not vote for any incumbent are a joke.
In Irondequoit, the 22,247 households have been asked to incur a debt of $22 million for a community center with space for a library. This behemoth will dwarf the existing town hall and destroy 44 mature trees and the park-like setting next to the town hall that is used for Fourth of July and farm market.
The current parking area is used by the employees of town hall, public works, and town court. Snow accumulation reduces parking even more, with children and the elderly trying to dodge snow removal equipment.
Irondequoit property taxes are already the highest in the county, and yet we have been asked to subsidize Medley Center and I-Square. The recent purchase of offices by Rochester General, which removed the building from the tax rolls, is yet another reason to not purchase homes in this land-locked area.
We have a group that thinks the taxpayers have unlimited resources. The median home value is $88,700, and median income is $41,463, according to the town's website using a 2000 Census figure. Does this sound like a community of taxpayers who can afford another increase in property taxes?
Disability issues deserve attention
The Center for Disability Rights and other concerned organizations sponsored a candidate forum on disability issues at the National Museum of Play on October 24. Our goal was to let the candidates convey their platform, values, and ideas to the disability community, and allow the community to ask about issues affecting them in their lives. Only part of our plan was accomplished, because only a minority of the invited candidates showed up.
An evaluation of the forum may show that its production was less than sufficient, but the more likely cause of the noticeable absence of candidates was the flagrant disregard of the disability community's vote. The glaring truancy of our aspiring representatives symbolizes the struggle we have with our elected officials and their "hesitancy" to take bold steps in changing government policy to assure our civil rights. After all, the disabled are a small faction of voters who may not even be able to get to the voting booths. Aren't they?
I submit we are not. This country's disabled are mobilizing like never before. Nineteen percent of our citizens are disabled – that's one in five citizens. This realization was apparent to the dedicated candidates who showed up to the forum to exchange ideas with the voters. In fact, a watershed moment came when a member of the audience asked the school board candidates what they knew about New York's plan to close sheltered workshops. Not one candidate had a clear grasp of the subject; this is the reason forums are so valuable.
A candidate cannot be expected to know every problem on every topic. It's up to the community to inform and educate its representatives about the issues that affect us all. By the same token, it's up to the hopeful representatives to be willing, available, and earnest in learning about the issues that matter most to their community's citizens. When politicians become, apparently, too busy for a discussion of issues, I say we become too busy on Election Day to remember they're running.
The candidates who were prudent enough to come to the forum were Rochester mayoral candidate Alex White; City Council candidates David Atias, Andrew Langdon, and Dorothy Paige; school board candidates Ron Hall, Lori Thomas, and Candice Lucas; Judicial candidates Nathan Van Loon, Jack Elliott, Dandrea Ruhlman, Chris Ciaccio, Paul Irving, and Jim Walsh; Sheriff candidate Emily Good; and State Assembly candidate Joe Morelle Jr.
Transcripts of the forum can be read at http://www.cdrnys.org/.
Advocacy Department, Center for Disability Rights