It is my sincere hope that the new Center City Task Force will prove to be a proactive, positive force for transforming Rochester's downtown. Given that, I was slightly disappointed to read in "Taking Downtown to Task" (December 22) that the group's first effort is to expand free parking.

            Paid parking may be a nuisance to some, particularly with Rochester's suburban-mall mindset, but I would argue that our urban core is diminished by an excess of open parking lots and garages that are dark and empty spaces most evenings and weekends. These spaces do not contribute to the critical mass of housing, retail, and entertainment uses and street level activity that make downtowns vital.

            It has been proved time and again that people will get to their desired destination no matter what the perceived obstacle, like parking, may be. In fact, many urban experts say that crowded sidewalks and streets are a sign of a healthy downtown. The Main Street corridor, east and west, is hardly that. And to dismiss destination-retail out of hand is another misstep so early in the Task Force's mission.

            Instead, attracting a gourmet food store and a wine shop, perhaps to the highly visible Sibley's space at Main and Clinton; bringing a Target to Midtown Plaza; pushing for a new Amtrak station gateway; and transforming the historic railroad station that is presently Nick Tahou's into a Frederick Douglass Museum and mixed-use development would finally put the revitalization of the downtown core on the right tract.

            Bill Condo, Greece (Condo worked with the Boston Redevelopment Authority as senior project coordinator for the Theater District/Downtown Crossing area; was executive director of a not-for profit community-development group in Arlington, Virginia, similar to the Greater Rochester Enterprise; and in Rochester, headed the Western Erie Canal Heritage Corridor Planning Commission prior to the expiration of state funding.


Mary Anna Towler's article on community-police relations in Rochester ("The Big Divide," December 22) and the report that it analyzes are fine as far as they go. Most violent crime, however, is committed by young men one or more of whose parents are or have been absent, neglectful, or jailed. Until this fundamental wrong is righted, nothing much will change, no matter how earnestly community leaders deliberate or how many cops sign up for sensitivity classes.

            Schools are now routinely expected to perform child-rearing duties that traditionally and rightly have been the responsibility of parents; indeed, they are expected to rescue some kids from their own childhoods. Thus schools must spend a lot of time, manpower, and money trying to get kids to the point where they might actually acquire some of the education that, traditionally and rightly, used to be 99 percent of what we once asked schools to provide. It seems to be the sad working assumption of Ms. Towler's piece and of the report that from here on out, this is going to be "life as we know it" --- that for a lot of kids, school and cop will have to serve as Mom and Pop.

            And then there are drugs: "Despite the enormous expense... the anti-drug efforts have not been successful," quotes Ms. Towler from the report. Almost exactly three years ago (December 2001) Rochester leadership formed a task force that was supposed to come up with "new strategies" for winning the "war on drugs." It seems reasonable to ask this task force to give an account of itself. What new strategies has it inaugurated? What has it achieved to date? What progress has it made in defeating drugs in Rochester?

            Perhaps Ms. Towler could make this task force the subject of a near-future editorial.

            The "war on drugs" has been lost over and over again. It's time to face facts and decriminalize drugs.

            Peter Dzwonkoski, Westmoreland Drive, Rochester


COMIDA exposed! My hat's off to Krestia DeGeorge and his interview with Bill McCoy ("Following the Money and the Benefits," December 29) exposing COMIDA for what it truly is: a "good ol' boy" network.

            The original premise of COMIDA was to bring manufacturing jobs into the city and to places that were depressed, but the agency keeps changing and bending the rules to accommodate its peers.

            Almost a year ago to this date, I had read an article on COMIDA and became curious as to where my tax dollars were being spent. I only saw jobs leaving and no manufacturing jobs coming in. I started attending COMIDA meetings and was appalled with the businesses that were getting financial assistance.

            My personal favorite project wasn't mentioned; Tennis Heaven Reality received financial assistance to renovate and reopen a vacant tennis and swim facility in Mendon, which its neighbors don't even want. That will certainly boost our economy.

            Tax breaks and other incentives given to private businesses are revenue losses to police, fire, schools, parks, libraries, and social services. Also, helping companies like Frito Lay build distribution facilities here is a short-term benefit for construction jobs but a long-term detriment, because they take profits back to Texas or Florida on sales here, and that drains money from our economy.

            Your article was a breath of fresh air, because this topic does not get the exposure that it deserves. The fabric of our community is unraveling at a rapid pace, and the citizens are to blame if they continue to be apathetic.

            I have renewed energy, thanks to your article. There are people interested in improving their environment.

            Barbara Orsino, Baker Street, Webster


President Bush needs to keep his hands off the only American program that has proven to work over many years.

            He and other wealthy Republicans are trying to dismantle a system that has served us, the non-wealthy majority, well. Social Security is, and would be, fine if only the president would replace the money he removed from the Social Security fund to bolster other programs that are in trouble, thanks to the unbelievably catastrophic mess he has created in Iraq.

            Frankly, I believe he is using scare tactics on this and other proposals to take our attention away from the failure of his foreign policy on almost every front, especially the new killing fields of Iraq. I see many stickers that say "Support our Troops." You bet I do! I support them enough to want them home safely, continuing their lives.

            No matter what face he tries to put on his policies, it is apparent that his lack of consideration for American citizens is again demonstrated by his proposals for dismantling Social Security. Do not be fooled by his terms "reform" or "privatization." He wants Social Security gone.

            Frances Roach, Crittenden Way, Rochester


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