"In the six-county Rochester Metro area, there are 147 counties, cities, towns, and villages, 188 school and fire districts, 23 local public authorities, and 59 special purpose units."
That's from a press release heralding a forum on regional government cooperation that the state comptroller's office hosted here last week.
The idea was to "discuss how state and local policies and the multiple layers of government can sometimes exacerbate local problems or block solutions." If you think that's a mouthful, be glad you didn't have to listen to the forum's speakers.
Still the organizers have a point. New Yorkers may be taxed to death, but at least we're getting something for our money: extra layers of bureaucracy. Far be it from the comptroller to suggest something like a regional government --- heresy around these parts --- but perhaps some of these layers could communicate with each other?
Alas, if communication was the goal, the forum fell somewhat short. Seven "panelists" spent most of the three-and-a-half hours delivering speeches and the remainder answering a few questions.
True, some of those speakers did have a few worthwhile things to say. Center for Governmental Research's Kent Gardner, a noted local expert on the economics of government, knocked what he termed the "if only" mentality, a tendency to focus on a single grand solution to complicated problems. Instead of a 100 percent solution, he said, "we need 100 one-percent solutions." And Irondequoit Supervisor David Schantz took aim at local pessimism.
"This region is fraught with a parochial attitude and a negativism that is killing us," he said.
So did Mayor Bill Johnson, a proponent of regionalism and forum panelist, think the event was worthwhile?
"Well, I got a chance to take a breather," he said. "I don't get that too often."
Designs on downtown
With its high ceilings and period detail, the Sibley Building is a prime candidate to be converted to market-rate residential. That's just one of the recommendations made by the Urban Land Institute for revitalizing the area around East Avenue and Main Street.
Based in Washington, DC, ULI is known around the world for helping municipalities solve their most complex real-estate and development challenges. Last week, a panel of ULI experts addressed a crowd of city and county politicians, investors, and developers on what they need to do to capitalize on the nearly $500 million in big projects the city already has underway.
The most controversial recommendation the think tank made was to demolish Midtown Mall and convert it into a park with a pond and lush landscapes. Midtown, with its substantial asbestos contamination, would require too much of an investment to bring it to Class A office space, ULI said.
Lack of green space, a Main Street that acts more like a corridor than a destination, and entertainment districts that have no connection to one another all ranked high among ULI's concerns. But its most ardent warning had to do with a downtown Indian-run (and thus tax-exempt) casino.
"Casinos, with rare exception, detract support for downtown development in most of the cities we've seen, because they attract and hold customers inside," said ULI's Christopher Lopiano.
Don't take my Kodachrome
For the 40th anniversary of 8mm film, Kodak just made two announcements that will change the palette available to small-gauge enthusiasts. The photo-image company is discontinuing its Kodachrome 40 film stock while making "the super-saturated, fine grain" Kodak Ektachrome 64T Color Reversal Film 7280 available in August.
Kodak acknowledges the vitality of the format, whose accessibility and vibrancy is well-adored. Super 8 film "provides an inexpensive way for students and enthusiasts to work at film resolutions and color depths as yet unmatched by the latest digital technologies," says Bob Mayson, Kodak's vice president for image-capture products. "Many of today's great cinematographers and directors began their careers buying a cartridge of Super 8 film. That's why Kodak has continued to invest in the Super 8 business."
Archivists and filmmakers are concerned about the recent trends at Kodak. A petition is being circulated protesting the discontinuation of Kodachrome. Andy Lampert, a concerned archivist from New York City, says "this fight is not specifically about Kodachrome (at least for me). This is about saving film, and the option of producing moving images on celluloid, and the ability to preserve them on celluloid as well. We are in a state of evolution from film to video to digital to just plain media, but that does not mean we have to throw away the old formats."
Although Ektachrome is an alternative, Kodachrome renders low light and shadows with greater detail. It is also a superior format when it comes to color longevity. However, processing labs for Kodachrome are much more costly to run and require the presence of a specialized chemist.
Kodak says its decision was made primarily as a result of "marketplace dynamics."
Classical music composer David Leo Diamond died in his Brighton home on Monday, June 13, from heart failure. He was 89. As one of the most influential contemporary American composers, Diamond left a large and well-respected body of work, including 11 symphonies, concertos, string quartets, and chamber, piano, and vocal pieces. His best-known work may be Rounds, for strings, which he composed in 1944. Though he was born in Rochester, Diamond traveled for most of his training and career, spending time in Cleveland, Paris, New York City, and Italy.
"He could always follow the changes," says jazz organist Fred Costello of the late Mark Manetta. "He had a knack for the obscure tunes." Manetta, an extraordinary Rochester guitarist, passed away Monday, June 6, from complications due to diabetes. He was 49. Manetta spent years touring with Rochester's own Chuck Mangione and later with Ben Vereen. He also studied guitar under Joe Pass. "Besides musically, as a friend he'll be missed," Costello says. "He was a great guy."