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It's (Republican) party time!

The Monroe County Republican convention was held last week, with hundreds of the faithful gathering to celebrate achievements, nominate candidates, and generally schmooze with other operatives and playmakers.

            Held at Logan's Party House on Scottsville Road, everyone who is anyone among the county GOP machinery was in attendance. The stars of the evening however, were the four candidates vying for their party's nomination for the US Congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Amo Houghton, R-Corning.

            The four candidates --- Monroe County Legislators Mark Assini and Bill Smith, Chairman of the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority Bill Nojay, and Rochester businessman Geoffrey Rosenberger --- were campaigning till the very end.

            All had deployed their armies of well-dressed, cordial staffers to smile and hand out stickers of support, and no matter how many of these things you go to, it is still a little odd to see grown men and women with rows of stickers plastered on pressed suits and cocktail dresses.

            Smith's people handed out bottles of water with the candidate's face pictured, and Nojay even set up a small buffet of finger foods. It was all for naught, however, as Assini was declared the eventual winner. He will face Sen. John R. "Randy" Kuhl, of Steuben County, in the Republican primary. The winner of that contest will most likely face Democrat Samara Barend of Corning in November.

            One of the more striking aspects of the evening was the surprisingly large number of apparently college-aged men and women in attendance. The GOP has, in recent years, made inroads among college students, traditionally a Democratic stronghold. The progress was evident at the convention, as dozens of fresh-faced teens and 20-somethings enthusiastically weaved and bobbed through the crowd.

            While the number of young people in attendance showed an area where Republicans have made progress, another aspect was equally revealing of an area where the Republicans are still struggling: minority membership. After spending several hours at the convention, I couldn't help but think, "I see white people..."

A $20 pep rally --- with lunch

Anyone interested in learning more about the potential benefits of the Renaissance Square project on a downtown community should check out a luncheon May 27 at the Hyatt Regency, in which leaders of similar projects from other cities will extol the benefits such development has had on their hometowns.

            Wait, scratch that. You probably won't get in.

            First, it's "about three bodies from being sold out," according to Heidi Marcin, the marketing director of the Renaissance Corporation. Moreover, though the event is technically open to the public, chances are you wouldn't have heard of it if you weren't on the mailing list for the RSVP invitation.

            Those who did receive the invite are informed that the cost of the luncheon is either $20 a head or $160 for a table of eight. Checks are to be made payable to the Renaissance Square Corporation, but Marcin assured City there was no profiteering involved.

            "It's for the cost of the lunch" and for the space, she said.

            Invitations to the event, titled the Renaissance Square National Models Luncheon, were made on behalf of Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks; President and CEO of the Arts and Cultural Council Sarah Lentini; President of Monroe Community College R. Thomas Flynn; and CEO of Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority Mark Aesch.

            The speakers' list includes representatives of the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center in Dayton, Ohio, ("Dayton's premier Wintergarden Transit Center") and Benaroya Hall in Seattle, Washington, ("An elegant symphony hall built atop a heavy rail tunnel and adjacent to the busiest public transit tunnel in Seattle").

            The Renaissance Square Corporation was expecting 250 or so attendees, but there are about 650 people interested, Marcin said.

            On May 12, Aesch and Lentini were scheduled to participate in a panel discussion regarding the Renaissance Square project sponsored by the Regional Innovators' Participation Network (RIPN). The event was cancelled when two of the three panelists suddenly withdrew because of scheduling conflicts, according to RIPN co-founder Andy Vaughan, who declined to identify the two panelists. The public discussion was intended to provide attendees with the opportunity "to ask questions to those directly impacting the project."

            Food was not going to be served at that ill-fated gathering, but then again, it was only going to be $5 to get in.

Crashing Columbia

SUNY Geneseo graduate Stephanie Corrigan crashed Columbia University's commencement ceremony Wednesday, May 19.

            As a 36-foot banner reading "Stop Columbia Cruelty!" was unfurled, Corrigan grabbed the mic and began to talk about the "systematic abuse of animals" she said was going on in Columbia's labs. While she spoke, activists from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shouted "Stop the torture! Stop the pain! Columbia University is to blame!"

            PETA filed a complaint against Columbia in March after investigating the university's labs. The complaint, according to the Columbia Spectator, was the first complaint PETA had filed against a research university in more than 20 years.

            Corrigan, a native of Rochester who attended Greece Athena High School, was ejected from the ceremony along with her fellow activists.