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Remembering Louise Slaughter

I was saddened to learn of the death of a great public servant, Louise Slaughter.

I remember covering Louise when she was in the County Legislature. She was always on top of the issues, respected her political opponents, and used her great charm to provide reporters and constituents with a pithy quote.

I was amused at how someone representing Rochester had a remarkable Southern accent, which puzzled those who didn't know her background but really made her stand out. A good thing, too, because that gave us entree to her intelligence, strength of character, and dedication to her district and the nation.

Although I never lived in her district, it was always a kick to watch, via C-Span, Louise speaking on the floor of the House, in committee hearings, and at rallies and other events. She was unique, and gave much to her community and her country. Many condolences to all her friends and family.


Williams, who now lives in Malta, New York, worked at CITY Newspaper in the 1970's and later was a reporter for the Rochester Times-Union.

I will remember Louise Slaughter for her commitment to the underdogs, outcasts, disadvantaged, victims, and survivors. When so many of her colleagues were casting votes to get rich, gain power, or hide from their mistakes, Slaughter's votes were for the immigrants, minorities, children, elderly, ill, and wounded.

When others were looking to use their power for themselves, Slaughter used it to take on the banks over corruption or stand up for farmers over subsidies. She was a politician who always cared about the welfare of people first.

Slaughter also knew how to say "no" when she needed to. Perhaps her most difficult vote in Congress came in October 2002, when she and her peers were called to vote on going to war in Iraq. Under immense political and social pressure, Slaughter was one of the few Democratic leaders who had the prophetic courage to resist the Bush agenda. Her "no" vote required exceptional fortitude. In 2011, she again acted with fortitude when she voted "yes" on removing US armed forces from Afghanistan.

Even when she opposed these wars, Slaughter never stopped fighting to make sure that soldiers had the weapons and armor they needed to be effective. She fought tirelessly to make sure that our veterans had the health care they deserved when the fighting was done. And more than any other member of the House, it was Slaughter who hounded the Bush administration to find out how much money was being spent on those invasions..

In the end, her most significant achievement may be the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. This bill radically changed the way government deals with the epidemic of domestic violence. One of the least ideological members of the US House, Slaughter was able to tell the remarkable stories of domestic violence survivors and champion their struggle in a public way.

As she had done for countless other groups in her political career, she was able to make the plight of women in domestic-violence situations a public health crisis and national emergency. Due to her tenacious activism, thousands of lives have been saved.

Louise Slaughter was a towering figure in American government. She was the first woman to chair the House Rules Committee, a degree earning microbiologist, a defender of the working class, a patriot in every sense of the word, and a representative of the people who will never be replaced.

May she rest in peace.


Another failure with Trevyan: infrastructure

For reasons that have always been mysterious to me (and piss me off no end), the Douglass-Anthony Bridge was built with no accommodation for pedestrians or bicycles. In the news about Trevyan Rowe's death, we learn that one possible reason for the lax response to the 911 calls is that people cross that bridge on foot all the time.

Of course it's not unusual to see someone walking across that bridge, because the alternative is to go far out of your way. This was entirely predictable. That we could completely rebuild a bridge in the 21st century in the middle of an urban downtown with no accommodation for pedestrians and bikes is a travesty by itself, without the added tragedy of Trevyan's death.

If that bridge had pedestrian accommodation, it would have been designed to make it difficult to jump or fall. If Trevyan was panicked due to the traffic, he still would likely have gotten to the other side of the river or turned around and gone back. Or if he was purposefully trying to harm himself, 911 dispatchers would have sat up and noticed if callers reported someone trying to breach the barriers.

We deserve an explanation for this neglect to our infrastructure. If there are rules or laws that prohibited active transit infrastructure in this case, they should be changed. If our civil engineers neglected this functionality, we need to find out why. Did we hand-wave over the New York State Complete Streets law (again)?

Our new ROC the Riverway initiative includes lots of new and some repairs of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. It should minimally include addressing this major shortfall of the Douglass-Anthony Bridge. How many besides Trevyan have already been injured or worse? It is certain that he won't be the last if we don't address this negligence.


Rush hour and Whole Foods

On the continuing saga of the Whole Foods' Plaza plan in Brighton: Nobody has pointed out that peak grocery-shopping hours do not coincide with rush-hour congestion times. So this Monroe Avenue bottleneck scare has been just that: a scare.

Whole Foods Plaza should be built, and perhaps one of the cheaper spin-off stores should be considered; 365 by Whole Foods Market would be a smarter, albeit less greed-driven, choice. It would do better.

Amazon ownership of Whole Foods is probably something that keeps Wegmans executives up late into the night. Revolutionary changes to how we shop for food might be just around the corner. Hey, we all get that Wegmans has a flagship store to protect, but business is like war, and ultimately, you want to win the war.


Parcel 5 debate continues

On Urban Journal's "Parcel 5 Plan Proceeds; So Will the Criticism":

Let's be clear. This proposal will harm other theater groups in Rochester, and the arguments this article presents in opposition to that make no sense.

Urban Journal states: "You can argue that the opposite is true: that RBTL can generate more interest in live theater and other live performances. That the local arts groups could capitalize on the presence of high-profile shows like 'Hamilton' and 'Book of Mormon' and get those audiences to start attending their own events."

You say this as if those shows haven't already either played or been booked at existing facilities. RBTL says they need the new theater in order to book the biggest shows. They then went out and booked "Hamilton" at the Auditorium Theater – exactly as it is without modification – easily the "biggest" show of the last decade.

We. Don't. Need. A. New. Theater.


I'm for the theater (and I know that won't earn me too many friends here), but what's up with yet another study that will cost taxpayers thousands of dollars? Didn't they already have one as well that cost $250k?


And who wants to live in an apartment over a freaking theatre? And where is the parking (and don't say Midtown; there are already several buildings sharing that garage).


Tbf, it would take A LOT to get the Aud up to an acceptable standard. It's an AWFUL venue, and the location isn't ideal either. Touring troupes dread coming to Rochester.