PARENTS ARE KEY
The vicious relationship between poverty and poor education has been with us for generations, despite continuous hand wringing and countless programs that have met with limited success, if any at all ("Facing Our Storm," September 21). I don't pretend to have the answer, but I know no solution will come without first recognizing the essence of the problem and if necessary, putting political correctness aside.
To begin with, "A Call to Arms" has got it reversed. Poor education is not caused by poverty. Poverty is caused by poor education. Poverty rates among high school dropouts are about twice that of high school graduates. Furthermore, Superintendent Manuel Rivera's solution of dealing with outside sources that affect children will help only if they significantly affect sources closer to home.
The National Education Association points out how crucial it is for parents to be involved in their children's education. Studies consistently show that when parents are involved at home --- reading to their children, talking to them about books and about school, helping with homework --- children do better in school, are absent less frequently, and behave better, says NEA.
We are fortunate in this country to have schools that are free and accessible, and while we might find fault with curriculum, school policies, teacher competence, etc., these are not the primary causes for low graduation rates and poor performance.
There is a cycle of uneducated parents living in poverty raising kids who will also be uneducated and live in poverty. The birth rate of women with an 8th-grade education is twice that of college-educated women. Until these poor children have a home life that both allows and encourages them to learn, the cycle will not be broken.
Michael Spitulnik, Winona Boulevard, Irondequoit
DOING THE MATH
I enjoyed reading Paul Haney's op-ed on county budgeting ("It's Time for Some Truth," October 5). It's important to draw attention to the tricks that have been used to "paper over deficits."
At the same time, it's important that we do the math correctly. Mr. Haney writes: "Total public-safety expenses increased 79.9 percent in the 10 years ending last December. That's an average of 8 percent per year." Not so. As anyone who has saved for retirement can tell you, a modest interest rate, compounded over the years, can add up to a surprisingly large amount, because you get interest on the interest. In the case of the public-safety budget, an average increase of less than 6.1 percent per year, held steady for 10 years, would yield a total increase of 79.9 percent.
Michael L. Scott, Brighton (Scott is professor of computer science at the University of Rochester)
THE BIG 'COMMITMENT'
Poverty and violence are running rampant in our city. Children are being murdered in the streets. The school district issues an urgent call for the community to come together, in the form of a Rochester Children's Zone, to address the root causes, including illiteracy, unemployment, and poor health conditions. The acting police chief calls for a similar unified front against violence. A Blue Ribbon Task Force calls for 10,000 mentors for students.
Everyone and their brother voices a "commitment" and "strong support" for these measures. But when it comes to action, what do we see our community's business leaders doing? Bob Wegman closes 14 Chase-Pitkin stores, adding more fuel to the city's unemployment fire. Michael Finney of Greater Rochester Enterprise leaves town for a position in Michigan. And Sandy Parker, CEO of the Rochester Business Alliance and a Blue Ribbon Task Force member, won't put her money where her mouth is when it comes to helping fund the Children's Zone project.
All the lip service in the world won't save a city whose pillars of business crumble when the real work needs to be done. That's not only disappointing, it's disgraceful.
Jim Emmi, Janes Road, Greece
I am very disappointed to read that Chase-Pitkin is closing. The big-box stores are awful: no help, impossible to find anything, too far away. C-P may not have carried everything, but they had 90 percent of what I needed --- plus C-P is part of the community. The big-box stores could care less about the local community.
Finally, the C-P plazas are always clean, attractive and accessible. The big-boxes are in Henrietta --- a huge shopping wasteland --- or near a mall or junky plaza. I'm unfortunately in the minority, or they wouldn't be closing, but it is an awful shame.
Dave Giambattista, Rosscommon Crescent, Fairport
STOPPING THE NOISE
Regarding Beth Abdallah's letter, "Stop that Sound" (The Mail, September 21): You've had it! A lot of us have had it! And there is a group of people trying to do something about it.
Since 2001, the Rochester Soundscape Society has worked to focus city leaders' attention on the unnecessary noise polluting our city. They have held yearly public forums on noise pollution, and at this year's forum in April, not only did they have the chief of police and his chiefs of staff, but they also had an hour-long question-and-answer session with all four mayoral candidates.
This group of fed-up and dedicated people meet on a monthly basis to come up with workable and effective ways to do something about the growing illegal noise problem in the city. Within just the past few months, the group has gotten the police to send "noise violation warning" letters to violators of the city noise ordinance. They are on police-department stationery and are signed by Chief Cedric Alexander, letting people know they were observed violating the noise ordinance.
Any citizen of the city can ask to have one of these letters sent to someone they hear violating any of the several noise ordinances. Although they aren't tickets, they are logged in the police database and become part of the police department's record.
Soundscape members have even had many discussions with the local school-bus companies about not using the bus horns as doorbells, with some success.
I invite all those interested in doing something about the illegal noises in the city to attend the next Rochester Soundscape Society meeting on Thursday, October 13. For information, call 647-3484 or go to the website: yahoo.com/group/rochestersoundscapesociety. Working together, we can and will make a difference in the soundscape of our city.
JoAnne Metzler, Meigs Street, Rochester
I take issue with Steven Landsburg's glossing over of labor practices, particularly since he invokes the competitive-market idea regarding minimum wage. Labor is a commodity like any other. When there is short supply, the price goes up. That principle is short circuited by US business on two fronts.
The first is the manipulation of political decisions to create a reserve force to handle the peaks of production demand. In other words, a built-in labor surplus (3 to 5 percent) is planned, supported by unemployment programs meagerly subsidized by government. True, this reserve force does change and probably leads to reliable employment for individuals in time.
The existence of the reserve force also holds down prevailing wages. A zero unemployment rate would definitely push wages up. Hence the second front, which is to circumvent a full-employment condition by allowing porous borders to Mexico, and subsidizing the deportation of jobs via favorable taxing. Such antics are not free-market behaviors.
So, yes, I agree with Landsburg's concept regarding minimum wage, if and when business takes full responsibility for its "reserve force" and it ceases its endless attempts to artificially and, too often, illegally manipulate the available labor force.
Robert Bush, Merriman Street, Rochester
As a one-time Libertarian who has since worked with the Green Party and may work with the Democrats, I was shocked to read Steven Landsburg described as "a Libertarian who tends to vote Republican."
A libertarian is defined as a person who allows other people their freedom (an admittedly abstract concept). How Libertarians can support any Republican is beyond me. Republicans are the purveyors of the winners-losers mentality that results in the losers not having freedom.
The Republicans are not advancing their agenda through "free trade" but through promoting the military, an organization based on hierarchy (hardly a Libertarian ideal) and monopoly (no-bid contracts). It is true that Democrats also sometimes have this agenda. But they are not in power now and are probably accurately perceived as the more egalitarian of the two major parties.
Greg Stark, South Clinton Avenue, Rochester
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