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Metro Ink 9.28.05

Golfing under the pines

Greg Papas, a man of few but direct words, explains why he and his brother Jim bought Whispering Pines Miniature Golf Course seven years ago: "It was for sale and it was right next door."

Whispering Pines, the oldest miniature golf course in the US, opened in 1930 and was originally called The Tall Maples Miniature Golf Course. Sometime in the 1940s the maples were taken down and the course got its pine trees and new name. The Papas brothers, who own Parkside Diner, bought it in 1998.

There's just something about the old course that attracts people. When everything seems new and rushed, the humble course under the towering pine trees invites you to slow down and relax for a little while.

Whispering Pines is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It has some nifty holes but none of the razzle-dazzle of more modern courses.

"There's a country atmosphere with the tall trees, the lake breeze," says Sue Courtney, a Parkside waitress for 13 years. "It's a comforting place... it's quaint." Courtney brings her kids to the place, as does John Norris, who was golfing one summer afternoon with his son, Jack. "I played here as a kid so it's fun to bring my son to play," Norris says. "It's the same today as when I was a kid in the '60s. It has a lot of neat landscaping and old-fashioned tricks."

Although the course had been showing its age, it recently got new greens and the brothers are applying for a grant to do some repairs. But fans will be glad to know that no major renovations are planned. "We just want to spruce it up a little," says Greg. "It's a unique course. They just don't build them like this anymore."

Whispering Pines Miniature Golf Course is located at 4383 Culver Road. $4.50, $3.50 kids. Hours: Friday 4 to 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 323-2710

--- Joseph Sorrentino

A noisy noise annoys...

People love to make noise. And people love to hate their fellow noise-makers.

That's why Rochester adopted a noise ordinance in 1973. And it's been tweaking it ever since. Most recently (in 2002), City Council allowed the city's sleepless and disgruntled to file sworn depositions --- typically used in criminal investigations --- about violations that police didn't witness themselves.

Now City Councilmembers are at it again. Earlier this month, they voted (6 for, 2 against, 1 abstaining) to add some new restrictions. First, they got rid of a distinction in the law between amplified and non-amplified sound.

"There was no real justification for the distinction," says Councilman Wade Norwood, who, along with Council President Lois Giess, cosponsored the bill. Norwood estimates that between a third and a half of all the constituent complaints he handles involve some kind of noise problem.

"The fact is that as we try to deal with quality-of-life issues, noise continues to be a major issue," he says.

The new rules also crack down on the basis of how far sound can travel and when it's made. Here's what's illegal now: a sound someone can hear a) 50 feet or farther from your property line between 8 in the morning and 10 at night, b) more than 50 feet from the sound's source in public areas at any time, and c) beyond your property line between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.

That last change (combined with the prospect of sworn depositions), makes it sound like you could get ticketed if your neighbor can hear an ordinary backyard conversation. Well, yes, technically, says RPD Lt. Frank Churnetski, who leads police operations at the NET office that serves the city's southeast neighborhoods. But with depositions, "we're not going to take one person's word as gospel," he adds.

For Churnetski, noise is a fluid part of the city's landscape. On the one hand it's natural and normal. "People are bound to make noise; it's how we communicate," he says. He doesn't say it, but his tone indicates he has little patience for chronic complainers who call the police for every slammed door or clanking air conditioner.

But on the other hand Churnetski, like Norwood, he sees it as a quality of life issue, he says. If people can't enjoy their neighborhood they'll leave, driving home values and community spirit down.

Finding balance is key, he says. Where that balance lies is determined by the community, he says, and it "varies neighborhood to neighborhood."

Of course, the trick to the changes will be enforcement. Two other changes in the law address that issue. The first gives NET administrators power to issue tickets for noise violations, something previously only police could do. And in the case of noise from a car, it also allows the owner (not just the driver) of an offending vehicle to be ticketed.

The changes in the law are still too new to know how well they'll work. Still, Churnetski, who frequently deals with noise violations, thinks the changes are "heading in the right direction."

That's probably gratifying for Norwood to hear. "There's only so much you can do on the legislative side," he says, but it'd be negligent for Council not to do at least what it could.

Asked for his own take on how enforceable the changes are, Norwood says: "I do have concerns." Those concerns, he says, fall primarily on the executive side of city government: providing adequate staffing for police and NET offices, for instance. That means those concerns will likely soon become the concern of the man who just defeated Norwood in the polls: Democratic mayoral candidate Bob Duffy.

More opt-outs

Add Brighton to the list of local school districts wrestling with how to tell parents they can withhold their students' records from the military. The Brighton School Board takes up the issue during its Tuesday, October 11. (The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.)

"There have been a couple of parents who have brought it up and want the board to review it, but it has not been a significant number at this point," says district spokesperson Jill Vigdor Feldman.

Fairport was the first area school district to highlight the issue. The No Child Left Behind Act gives military recruiters the right to get student records unless parents deny permission. School districts that withhold the information could face a reduction in federal funding, something many districts can't risk. Prior to the war in Iraq, many parents didn't know they could "opt out" of having student records shared, so school districts have been providing the information to the military without question. The Fairport district sends parents a letter asking specifically whether they want their child's information shared. While there was initial concern that the Pentagon would resist the Fairport approach, that has changed. "The Pentagon has approved the letter we're sending to parents, as long as all of them are returned," says a spokesperson for the Fairport superintendent.

The Rochester School Board recently adopted the same policy. "It should be a satisfactory solution, and I imagine other school districts will follow," says Jody Siegle, executive director for the Monroe County School Board Association.

A Golisano switch?

He hasn't even confirmed that he'll make another run for governor, but that hasn't stopped speculation that Tom Golisano is leaving the political party he founded and will become a Republican Party. "We've only heard rumors about Tom switching parties," says Frank MacKay, chairman of the New York State Independence Party.

Golisano wasn't responding to requests for comment late last week, but MacKay was not only willing to talk but seemed to give the idea his blessing. If Golisano leaves, the Independence Party shouldn't take it as an insult, he said. "This is a politically practical move, and the idea of moving to a national party to win the gubernatorial race is understandable," he said. "I think Tom would still find that he has a great deal of state committee support within the [Independence] party. He's not turning his back on the party he founded."

Golisano could benefit greatly from the resources of a national party, but what does it say about the reason he helped found the Independents? If he switches, he would be tied to some of the special interests the party has criticized.

"People who want to see Tom get a real shot at winning realize it is not practical in a minor party with New York's archaic election laws," said MacKay.

Forrest Cummings Jr.

Many of us in the jazz community knew Forrest Cummings Jr. primarily as the warm, gravelly voiced host of a lovingly crafted radio show, "Jazz Ain'tNothin' but Soul." The Sunday night program ran for 25 years on WRUR FM before moving to WGMC FM two years ago. There was no question that Cummings, who died last week at the age of 56, was passionate about jazz. But he was equally passionate about human rights and public service. He served for over two decades as regional director of the New York State Division of Human Rights and was recently awarded the Governor's Medal for his work. Cummings was also active nationally and locally with the Boys and Girls Club and served on the boards of the Urban League and the Baden Street Settlement.

"He knew how to deal with people and how to treat people," says the Reverend Lawrence Hargrave, a long-time friend of Cummings and a former colleague of his at WRUR. "There's going to be a hole in the social fabric of this community."

And Sunday evenings just won't be the same.