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Metro ink - 2.01.06

A colorful religion

A burst of color greets you when you step across the threshold at the Amitabha Foundation. From the thankas and paintings that adorn the walls to the figures and candles on the altar, vibrant colors are everywhere. | While most people may go to this Tibetan Buddhist center to find a way out of life's sufferings, another reason to go is simply to get away from Rochester's unrelentingly gray winters. It may not be as lofty a reason as enlightenment, but it does provide some relief from suffering. | "Colors symbolize different aspects of our emotions," says Frank Howard, in charge of instruction at the Foundation. "They represent things arising in the mind. Red symbolizes greed or lust, yet you can transform that emotion. If you see the nature of red, you can transform it into wisdom." | Rather than trying to block out thoughts that arise in the mind, Tibetan Buddhism teaches people to use them. "We're using the stuff of the marketplace," Howard says. | The foundation was started by AyangRinpoche, a Tibetan lama, in 1986. Although Rinpoche still visits periodically, other lamas also visit and teach. "We usually have three different lamas visiting each year," says Howard. "They're usually from the same tradition as our founder. You can take teachings from different teachers but you'll have a different relationship with each one." | There are a variety of programs offered at the Foundation, including talks and guided meditations on Sunday mornings, retreats, and classes offering an introduction to Buddhism. | Like all Buddhist practices, Tibetan Buddhism stresses the attainment of wisdom and compassion with the final end being enlightenment. | Tibetan practice just provides a more colorful way of getting there. | Amitabha Foundation, 11 South Goodman Street; 442-5853,

--- Joseph Sorrentino

Death watch

Four days after Yolanda Williams pleaded guilty to assault and manslaughter in the scalding death of her 5-year-old son, the state absolved MonroeCounty of responsibility for the death. Sort of.

In a report released last week, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services said that the county's Department of Human Services wasn't negligent --- but that it could have done a better job keeping tabs on AJ Gibson during his sojourn through foster care and back to his mother.

The report pinpointed six specific instances in which the countyDHS failed, ranging from not investigating incidents thoroughly enough (including a Child Protective Services report) to failing to follow procedures "in a timely manner." In one instance the state questions whether required "supervisory consultations" ever took place.

The state has given the county 30 days to report back on how it intends to rectify those lapses. The county had already conducted its own internal review of Gibson's case, following his death, and on the day of the reports release Deputy Commissioner of Human Services Joseph Martino repeatedly told reporters that his department's review had already found and corrected many of those problems.

The whole affair --- including the county's review of itself --- will also get an inquiry by an independent investigative team, in this case the BivonaChildAdvocacyCenter. That report is expected to be completed in four to six weeks.

CountyLegislators received copies of the newly released county and state reports just over an hour before last week's meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee. Though pleased that the administration had released the information immediately, the timing still peeved a few legislators, who publicly wished they'd had more time to read the report and prepare questions for Human Services Department staff on hand to talk about it. With more time for county lawmakers to delve into the reports, along with the release of the county's plan to fix things, this month's committee meeting, on February 28, promises a much fuller legislative inquiry.

Word power

Susan B. Anthony's birthday is February 15, and to celebrate it the previous evening, City Council will vote on legislation replacing all gender-specific language in the City Charter and Code with gender-neutral language. That means out with "policemen," "firemen," and "watchmen" and in with "firefighters," "police officers," and "holders of a watch license."

It may not be the most pressing piece of legislation to pass across councilmembers' desks, but the wording change does have symbolic importance, says City Clerk Dan Karin. The current charter, he notes, "just automatically assumes that the mayor is going to be a man." It also treats all councilmembers as councilmen and uses "he" to refer to the vice president and president --- who are both, incidentally, women.

In fact, the legislation was introduced by two women: President Lois Giess and City CouncilmemberCarolee Conklin. "This amendment is in keeping with Rochester's long tradition of support for equal opportunity in the tradition of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony," the women wrote in their request. Costs for the change, they added, would be nominal.

If approved, who knows what will transpire? Maybe little girls will start thinking they can become president ... or, at the very least, Rochester mayor.