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Caw’mon, let the crows be

Thank you for your editorial, “If I were mayor . . .” (Editor’s Notebook, February 12), and its call to end the senseless persecution of Rochester’s crows.

I wonder if our city leaders know that crows are surprisingly intelligent and interesting animals. Wikipedia says, “Crows in urban Japan and the United States have innovated a technique to crack hard-shelled nuts by dropping them onto crosswalks and letting them be run over and cracked by cars. They retrieve the cracked nuts when the cars are stopped at the red light.”

Crows can live to 70 years of age, forage in family groups, and can solve complex puzzles. They can recognize individual human faces.

And yet, as Wikipedia notes, “Crows have been killed in large numbers by humans, both for recreation and as part of organized campaigns of extermination.” Why?

I get a wild thrill seeing the crows pass overhead in their jet-black hordes, shattering the cold sky with their sharps caws. They have been here for millions of years. How much longer? Unless humans end their suicidal war on nature and learn to coexist with the rest of the planet, their days, and ours, are numbered.

Recall the words of Robert Frost:

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.


Re-do the RCSD

Rochester public schools have been plagued for decades with low student achievement, inadequate placement and services for students with disabilities, and racial inequities.

The State Education Department delegated an experienced education professional to meet with the Board of Education, interact with the community, and to provide a detailed account of his findings. The board’s general response to those findings was resentful, dismissive and irresponsible.

School boards have one major function: to direct policies and outcomes related to finance, hiring and supervising the lead administrator, and ensuring the education system’s infrastructure (funding, staffing, facilities/plants, insurance, etc.) is sound.

Board members are not elected to behave like perpetual candidates, each making his or her own public comments. There should be one person who speaks for the Board, and that should be the president or his or her designee.

Right now, the state is on the verge of taking over or monitoring the RCSD. That may be the only way to get the RCSD on track. The reality is we must start over.

Superintendent Terry Dade took this job knowing there were problems. Within a few short weeks he got hit with a bigger one: An estimated $65 million budget deficit and the reaction from all concerned. He needs a board whose members know how to stay in their lanes and focus on funding, policy, and student outcomes.

Our kids deserve better, and they will not get what they need until we have a sound infrastructure and a fully functioning and responsible board.


Bail reform education is needed

I was wrong about the new bail reform law. I thought it needed tweaks.

But we at United Christian Leadership Ministries (UCLM) have researched the bail reform legislation extensively, including consulting with law enforcement leaders, attorneys, and legislators. We find that misinformation is widespread — with potentially tragic results.

Bail reform is a well-thought-out law that will provide fairer justice and increased community safety.

We’re not saying that the misinformation is intentional. Rather, we see that important decision-makers are inadequately informed about this complex law. Immediate and thorough education is needed for law enforcement, legislators, press, and the public.

Here are a few examples of the misinformation being spread:

“Bail reform releases people accused of violent crimes.” “Even people with dangerous medical or mental health problems must be freed.” “Bail reform endangers victims of domestic violence.”

The facts are these:

Nearly all defendants charged with violent crimes can be held on bail. A person in need of medical or mental health care can be brought before a judge, who can mandate treatment. Anyone charged with domestic violence can be brought before a judge for an order of protection. If the domestic violence offense is serious, the defendant can be held.

Tompkins County provides a good case study for bail reform. The district attorney there has advocated for cashless bail release for non-violent offenders who don’t appear to pose any risk to the community ever since a Center for Governmental Research assessment of the county’s arrest and jail trends recommended such a policy in 2017.

Don Pryor, an analyst with the Center for Governmental Research, wrote recently in the Rochester Beacon that felony arrests fell 17 percent and misdemeanor arrests dropped 20 percent in Tompkins County in the two years since the policy was implemented.

It has been documented that, before the new law, more than 60 percent of incarcerated New Yorkers were being held before trial primarily because they couldn’t afford bail. They lost jobs, housing, benefits, and even children due to pre-trial incarceration, while affluent defendants — dangerous or not — paid their way out.

New Yorkers want community safety and justice. Bail reform promotes both.

Johnson is a retired clinical psychologist and volunteer with United Christian Leadership Ministries.