In their escalating war of words, it's the city school board's turn to take aim at Assemblymember David Gantt.
The board called a special meeting Tuesday evening to consider a four-point proposal by several board members aimed at getting $20 million in so-called spin-up money and laying to rest notions of financial mismanagement in the district.
Saying the district is in a crisis, the chairs of three board committees --- quality assurance, community and intergovernmental relations, and finance --- announced the plans at a Monday press conference. With officials laboring feverishly to cut $13.6 million from the district's budget for the coming school year, board members decried the state legislature's recent decision to withhold the funds.
"We know that we're going to be harming our children's education," said Board Member Daryl Porter. Board Member Domingo Garcia added: "If we don't get this money there will be massive layoffs."
Buffalo, Syracuse, and Yonkers, the state's other large city school districts, all received the spin-up funds.
Accusations of poor financial management from Assemblymember David Gantt are blamed for keeping the legislature from approving the funds for Rochester. The board is countering by calling for an audit by the state comptroller's office, the creation of a blue-ribbon panel to make recommendations, and a conference with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to bring the cash advance to a vote for a second time. Silver's press office did not return phone calls in time for publication.
The board also had leveled indirect criticism at Gantt. "The charges of fiscal mismanagement have got to stop," said Board Member James Bowers.
Bowers said past problems have been rectified, and that needs to be acknowledged. "In the past serious mistakes have been made," he said. "In 2001-2002 we had a $41 million mid year deficit. Notice that hasn't happened in the last two-and-a-half years. And people need to let go of wrong perceptions, old perceptions and begin to deal with facts."
Asked by a reporter whether the group's comments were "directed specifically at David Gantt," the board denied it. "No, our comments are directed to you and the community," responded Porter. Bowers added "And please note that the only people who are bringing up David Gantt's name at the moment are reporters. We have not mentioned David Gantt's name here."
But he also fueled such speculation by saying "Some in the delegation share the perception of mismanagement more than others." He listed all state legislators except Gantt as being the district's allies.
Catching the cold
As the county plunges into the hiring freeze announced recently by County Executive Maggie Brooks, some disparities are beginning to emerge.
The biggest loser? Public Health. The department has vacancies in 87.6 of its 295 authorized full-time positions. That's nearly 30 percent of the department's potential staff, and double the next emptiest department, Environmental Services, which has 15 percent of its positions unfilled.
Public Health was also hit the hardest by part-time vacancies that won't be filled --- 23 out of a possible 50. The Sheriff's Department came in second in the part-time vacancy department with 38.3 percent of those positions frozen on empty.
On the other end of the spectrum, Parks, Communications, and the Veterans Service Agency each had no vacancies for full-time positions.
The East End Garage plays more of a role in developing the East End than you might guess. The garage is owned by the Cultural Center Commission, which uses parking revenue to supply loans to various development projects in the area --- most recently the high-end Sagamore on East condos and renovations to the Auditorium Theatre.
But the garage has seen a decline in overall use over the past few years. And the Commission --- a collection of city/county officials and private interests with state-enabled powers like bonding authority --- would like to turn things around, without raising parking rates or eliminating free weekend and evening parking.
Members of the East End Business Association have grown very attached to the East End Garage's free weekend and evening parking, because it gives customers an easy entrée to their shops. With the contract with the garage's operator, Ralph Parking, set to expire at the end of August, the Cultural Commission is tapping East End business owners for creative ways for a new operator to raise revenue in the garage.
Some ideas, like putting advertising and auto repair and detailing services in the garage, have already been offered by the Commission.
Turns out remixing Rochester is trickier than it seems.
After receiving complaints from a customer, Wegmans pulled the August 6 issue of Gannett's new free weekly, insider, from its shelves. Turns out the customer was objecting to "two different ads that used explicit language regarding sexual topics," according to the store's department of consumer affairs. "We agreed with the customer that the language was too explicit for the type of publications we offer at no charge to our customers and their families."
Wegmans won't reveal exactly which ad was objectionable. And we've given up trying to guess.
City Newspaper has twice been pulled from Wegmans' shelves, both times for cover art that included photographs of nude female breasts.
Jazz for the people
Jazz lovers will want to set a new channel button on their car and home radios. Tom Pethic, one of Rochester's longest-running and most popular jazz DJs, has brought his Artistry in Jazz show to Legends 990-AM. It airs from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays.
Pethic hosted a show on WGMC 90.1 F.M. for more than two decades before being let go last October.
"I'm very excited," Pethic says. "I've really missed being on the air, playing this great American art form."
Along with instrumental music by jazz greats, Pethic's new show features classic vocals by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughn, and a weekly Tony Bennett segment.
"I'd like to attract the people who already listen to the Frank Sinatra show on the station and bring in new listeners." Pethic also plans to have a "Homegrown" segment of local jazz talent, and he hasn't ruled out having an occasional guest artist in the studio.