Sarah Brownell --- one of the "Rochester 13" who dared pray for peace on Federal Building property and were arrested for criminal trespass --- pleaded guilty on numerous counts before City Court Judge Ann Pfeiffer on April 22.
Actually, Brownell, 28, agreed to pay $160 in fines and court costs on a charge of simple trespass, a violation. But in a prepared statement, she flipped the proceedings around. She told the court she was "guilty" only of expressing her opinions, of exercising her religious freedom on Ash Wednesday, of opposing war, of wanting to be "a global citizen," of knowing the full effects of US sanctions on Iraqi civilians. She explained, too, that she took the guilty plea only because she had a commitment to work in Haiti with the Rochester-based "Proje Espwa" (Creole for "Project Hope") in the community of Borgne. And she expressed regret for "having to leave the group" of fellow trespassers, most of whom have pleaded not guilty and will go to trial later this year.
Brownell, an RIT- and UC Berkeley-trained mechanical engineer, will soon commit other "offenses" --- helping to build drinking-water and sanitation facilities for the Haitian poor. Meanwhile, Washington continues its five-year-old economic sanctions against Haiti, which translates as the withholding of $500 million in aid. The Congressional Black Caucus and organizations like the Quixote Center's "Haiti Reborn" have been trying to have these sanctions lifted; they were imposed because of US displeasure with the government of Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Things are tough for school districts all over, but New York's urban districts are particularly hard hit by the state's failure to adopt a budget on time.
Adding to the black humor: State Senate Leader Joseph Bruno insisted last week that districts should plunge ahead with their spending plans, on a wing and a prayer. The state, he promised, will add school aid, no matter what the governor says.
That's what state leaders told the Rochester School District two years ago. The district believed that promise, put extra aid into the budget --- and was then soundly ridiculed when the state didn't come through and the district faced a major shortfall.
Springtime for recycling
The word is out: Well before Earth Day (April 22), Monroe County expanded the list of recyclables you can put in your blue box. Now the list includes boxboard (cereal boxes, for example), business (a.k.a. office) paper and envelopes, and toilet paper tubes.
For a quick review, check out the page immediately following the blue/purple pages in the Frontier phone book. For the full story, visit www.monroecounty.gov; or call the county environmental line, 340-2438 (TTY 760-7605), or 428-5990 if you live in the city. Or call your private waste hauler, if that applies.
Environmentalists like Frank Regan --- creator of www.rochesterenvironment.com, a key local independent resource for recycling information --- agree the list expansion is a change for the better. But there's still a long way to go. For example, the program will still accept only recyclable plastic containers marked "1" or "2." The other five recyclable categories of plastic haven't been included, says a county backgrounder, because "a consistent, reliable market" isn't in place --- at least not reliable enough to justify the cost of special processing equipment.
Moreover, plastic grocery bags are still off the list, so you'll still need to return them to the store for recycling. You can use brown paper bags to hold the newspapers you're dumping in your blue box. But here, as elsewhere, there's a chance to apply other "R's" --- re-use, reduction, replacement --- before recycling. The Sierra Club and other groups suggest fabric bags as an alternative. "A sturdy, re-usable bag needs only to be used 11 times to have a lower environmental impact than using 11 disposable plastic bags," says a Club backgrounder.
Joe Di Grazio
On Friday, April 25, American Banned bassist Joe Di Grazio suffered a massive heart attack while performing on the stage of Spender's, 1600 Lyell Avenue. EMTs tried to revive him and he was rushed to Strong Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He was 48. His bandmates take small comfort in the fact he died doing something he loved. Di Grazio is survived by his wife, Janice, and son, Joseph. A benefit for the family is tentatively scheduled for the end of May.
Walking the walks
"Americans want to walk more," says a new poll from the Washington-based Surface Transportation Policy Project.
Indeed, 84 percent of respondents said they wanted streets with sidewalks and safe crossings "even if it means driving more slowly." New York's ahead of the pack here: 6.2 percent of commutes are done on foot. (New York City, a famously walkable city for all its traffic jams, pulls the stats up.) But only one-half a percent of the state's federal transportation funds go toward pedestrian and bicycle facilities.
The Genesee Transportation Council now is addressing these facts and the possibilities behind them. From Monday, May 5, through Friday, May 9, the GTC will partner with the National Center for Bicycling and Walking to hold eight workshops across the region on "Creating Walkable Communities." The workshops will feature instructors Mark Fenton, a Brockport native who hosts America's Walking on PBS; and Charles Gandy, a Texan who's an expert in pedestrian and bicycle design and advocacy. There'll also be outdoor "walking and learning tours" to bring the workshop material down to earth.
The workshop schedule: Monday, May 5, 1-5 p.m., Avon Village Hall; Tuesday, May 6, 8 a.m. to noon, Kornberg Building (LeChase Room), UR Medical Center; Tuesday, May 6, 1-5 p.m., Quality Inn, 125 N. Main Street, Newark; Wednesday, May 7, 8 a.m. to noon, Brockport Village Hall, 49 State Street, Brockport; Wednesday, May 7, 1-5 p.m., Batavia Senior Center, 2 Bank Street, Batavia; Thursday, May 8, 8 a.m. to noon, Ontario County Office Building, 20 Ontario St., Canandaigua; Thursday, May 8, 1-5 p.m., Heritage Area Visitors Center, 115 Fall Street, Seneca Falls; Friday, May 9, 9 a.m. to noon, Genesee River Hotel, 134 Main Street, Mt. Morris. (Registration is required for the May 9 workshop, which is geared for local governments. Call the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council, 454-0190, or visit www.gflrpc.org, to register.)
For information on the workshop series, contact the GTC, 232-6240; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.gtcmpo.org.
While you were out
Republican County Clerk Maggie Brooks announced her candidacy for county executive on April 28, declaring that "we don't yet have a leader with the willingness to set aside political differences and bring everyone together to find common solutions.... I will be that leader." According to logic, that statement implies that the county's current executive, Republican Jack Doyle, doesn't have "the willingness to set aside political differences... and find common solutions." But when asked to clarify that comment after her speech, Brooks told reporters she wasn't referring to either Doyle or his political nemesis, Mayor Bill Johnson, who's also her Democratic opponent in this year's executive race. Which brings up a good point: It's about damn time Deputy County Executive Richard F. Mackey and Deputy Mayor Jeffrey Carlson stopped holding the community hostage to their incessant bickering and brought the county together in a spirit of harmony and cooperation.
On April 25, Rochester Police Chief Robert Duffy unveiled a plan to reorganize the department's patrol sections. The plan, which Duffy hopes to implement early next year, consolidates the department's seven sections into two, each of which will contain 11 sub-sections. The number of officers assigned to those 22 "Patrol Service Areas" will be based on how much "service" each area requires, as determined by the number of calls for police services originating from each area. The plan is intended to give the department more flexibility in addressing the needs of various parts of the city. Reactions among neighborhood leaders were suspicious, but guarded.
The Cordish Company, the Baltimore-based developer recently hired by the city to revitalize the High Falls entertainment district, announced it has attracted two chain restaurants into the complex it's renamed High Falls Live. McFadden's Restaurant and Bar --- ostensibly an Irish pub --- and Tiki Bob's Cantina --- ostensibly a cantina --- are scheduled to open by June 1. Though we hesitate to speak for Rochester's Polynesian community, we suspect a few will be less than pleased with Tiki's, which depicts Pacific Islanders as buck-toothed spear-chucking savages. But hey, culture's culture, right?
--- Compiled by Chris Busby from news reports, interviews, and newspaper shreds packed inside those little tooth-pick umbrellas they put in fruity cocktails.