When bad government makes good politics

by Stephanie Aldersley

Is it possible for bad government policyto be good politics? We need only look to the recent actions of the Republican majority in the CountyLegislature to find the answer to this question.

            Since last November, when the Republican majority cut funding for the public-health nurses in the Rochester school district, they have devoted much of their time trying to evade responsibility for their irresponsible actions.

            First, they tried to convince the public that Democrats were somehow responsible for the cuts, since we would not respond to their demand to borrow an additional $21 million and sink the county further into debt. And now they are hiding behind a ruling made last Thursday by Judge Kenneth Fisher. Although Fisher's decision does not prohibit the county from providing the nurse service --- a service which it has provided since 1958 --- CountyRepublicans are already taking the position that since they are not compelled to fund the nurses, they should not.

            Just as serious is the potentially devastating impact the Republican cuts will have on the county's ability to respond to an emergency or disaster. Republicans in the legislature slashed public-health nurses with such haste that they overlooked how the county's emergency-preparedness plans would be impacted. Public-health nurses are among the county's first responders in the event of an emergency or disaster, as detailed in the county's Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan.

            So vital is the role of these nurses that the county has spent $1.5 million in bioterrorism response training. These taxpayer funds were used to train personnel who will now no longer be working for the county, as a result of the Republican cut.

            This astonishing oversight leaves a huge gap in the county's emergency preparedness plans. And $1.5 million in taxpayer funds, meant to protect the public from bioterrorism, were wasted.

            Would the legislature's Republicans really rather spend taxpayer money to defend the county against a RochesterCitySchool District lawsuit over funding these nurses? Clearly, money spent fighting the interests of schoolchildren and emergency preparedness is unseemly, desperate, and wasteful.

            And the ruling by a judge notwithstanding, the county has taken a morally questionable position by reneging midway through the school year on a 46-year-old obligation it has fulfilled. We are fortunate that School Superintendent Manuel Rivera was able to find a number of generous contributors to come up with a portion of the $619,000 necessary to keep the city school nurses and emergency responders in place through the end of June. Dr. Rivera is the hero of the hour. But make no mistake; funding is running out, and this crisis has not ended.

            Maggie Brooks was not in office when the Republicans in the legislature foolishly cut the nurses out of the county budget. She cannot be blamed for their reckless behavior. However, it is clearly time for her to use what influence she has, to bring rationality back to the policy making of her Republican colleagues. It is not in the best interest of the community to have not only schoolchildren without nurses, but also the health department without the necessary resources to respond to an emergency.

            We Democrats believe that the citizens of MonroeCounty will reject the notion that bad government is good politics, and will repudiate these Republican cuts.

            This is a community crisis. The Republican administration cannot depend solely on the generosity of concerned private donors to fund vital county employees. Nor can the Republicans count on legal rulings to let them off the hook. This countywide necessity demands a countywide solution. The Republicans in power can start to repair their budget mistakes by leading the effort.

            Aldersley is Democratic minority leader of the MonroeCounty Legislature.

First things first

I heard there was a contest to name the new "fast ferry." I think we should call it "School Nurse." That way everyone can understand just the kind of political will and community spirit we really have here.

            They will see that we are willing to bend over backwards, make complicated international economic agreements, and raise billions of dollars to put some "pizzazz" and excitement into our humdrum little urban existence. Yet at the same time, they can see that we cut services to the most vulnerable members of our community, work out our political vendettas, and balance budgets by cutting out school nurses. That's just the kind of place we are. Wouldn't you want to go visit?

            For me that "fast ferry" will always be known as the "School Nurse." Shame on us!

            Maria Scipione, Sanford Street, Rochester (Scipione is the parent of a child in the city school district.)

From the text: the Bible and homosexuality

"Whatever the word of God says, we stand on it," said Rev. Norvel Goff Sr. recently, while representing the Faith Community Alliance's defense of heterosexual marriage. When it comes to God's words about homosexuality, I can only assume he was speaking of the six "tried and true" Bible verses condemning homosexuality.

            One of those verses is Genesis 19:5, wherein the purpose of the story is to show that those minorities that are misunderstood, strange, or feared in a particular community are in danger of becoming victims of violence by the majority, particularly when that majority happens to be ignorant, ungodly, selfish and afraid.

            I suggest that one read the totality of Genesis chapter 38 for a much clearer picture not only of those family-destroying same-sex couples we should all fear, but of other constructive attitudes about women, sex, the control of men over women, the double standard for men and women, and other fun sexuality issues. And don't miss the part where Lot offers his daughters to be abused by the crowd in order to save his visitors.

            The next two verses, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, one can look at together. I'm no expert in Biblical Hebrew or in Ancient Near East history, but it appears to me as if both of these verses refer not to homosexuals, but to heterosexuals who took part in fertility rituals of the heathen god Baal. No hint at sexual orientation or homosexuality is implied, as far as I can tell.

            And, from what I know, the word "abomination" was used in Leviticus (as well as in other sections of the Bible) for anything that was considered to be religiously unclean, particularly idol worship. But don't take my word for it, check it out yourself, and make up your own mind.

            While you're there, be sure to take a look at Leviticus 11:1-12, where some unclean animals are forbidden as food, like rabbits, pigs, and shellfish such as oysters, shrimp, lobsters, crabs, and clams. Pigs and shellfish? No more trips to Red Lobster or the Dinosaur BBQ, it seems. God said so!

            Next up, Romans 1:26-27, which is part of Paul's denunciation of idolatrous religious worship. If there is one theme to keep in mind as one reads these texts, that theme would be context. Once one reads the section in Romans from 1:18 to 2:4, one can see that Paul isn't condemning homosexuals, he's looking at a first-century group of people engaging in some funky religious practices.

            And even if one ignores the context and reads the verse as-is, Paul's term "against nature" is the same term used by Paul in Romans 11:21-24 to speak of God acting "against nature," in God's case, by including the Gentiles with the Jews in the family of God.

            It seems as though "against nature" was used to speak of something that wasn't done in the usual way, but since God also "acted against nature," one can't say that something "against nature" was evil. To do so would imply God is evil also, wouldn't it?

            We find the word "effeminate" in 1 Corinthians 6:9. This word is used as "soft" in reference to clothing in Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25, as well as "illness" in Matthew 4:23 and 9:35. I don't think it's used anywhere else in the New Testament, and carries no hint of reference to sexual orientation in those passages unless I very erroneously read so into it. "Effeminate" in 1 Corinthians 6:9 more than likely refers those who are "soft," "pliable," "unreliable," or "without courage or stability." Reading it in context, that is.

            Last but not least, 1 Timothy 1:9-10, where we find a word often translated as "homosexual" or "sexual pervert." The Greek word is "arsenokoites," which seems to be formed from two words meaning "male" and "bed." I can't find this Greek word anywhere else in the Bible, and I challenge one to find the word elsewhere in the contemporary Greek of Paul's time.

            Even after Paul's time, when early-Greek speaking Christian preachers condemned homosexuality, they didn't use this word. John Chrysostom preached in Greek against homosexuality, but he never used that particular word for homosexuals, and even when he preached on 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, he didn't mention homosexuals.

            "Whatever the word of God says, we stand on it." Houses and sand. I suggest we spend our time condemning poverty, war, famine, injustice, racism, sexism, gender-ism, hatred, and outright disrespect for our fellow human beings. God had more to say about those than God did about homosexuality.

            And before I forget, why exactly is it we never use Leviticus 19:18 to condemn homosexuals? That carpenter guy we read about in the New Testament quoted from Leviticus 19:18 more than a few times. I say we use that verse instead of constantly using the "tried and true" six above.

            David Puskas, Armstrong Road, Greece. (Puskas is on the staff of the ColgateRochesterDivinitySchool. He's writing for himself, not the divinity-school staff at large.)

'No' to marriage

I personally object to same-sex unions, but at least please do not refer to them as marriages. A marriage is an old, time-honored, and Bible-recognized tradition that was established to protect all the people involved in this event, including any possible future children.

            We all know there is no chance that a child can be born to a same-sex couple. When a same-sex couple wants to adopt a child or arrange for a surrogate donor, special attention should be made as to the future welfare of that child. Also, what happens to the child if this same-sex couple decides to divorce or separate?

            The complications are endless, to say nothing about the absolute impossibility of tracing family lines in the future. Maybe after a couple of generations there would be a possibility of unknowingly marrying a first cousin.

            The old traditional marriage between a man and a woman should be left alone. It has worked fairly well over the years. But if there is going to be unions between same-sex couples, the ground rules have to change, and the unions will have to be known by something other than a marriage to point out the difference.

            Jay C. Widener, Old Chili Scottsville Road, Churchville

Strong marriages,strong society

In recent weeks the media have reported comments by many people concerned that, if same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, it would threaten heterosexual marriage, children, and society in general. On the contrary, they would be strengthened.

            I write from a position of treasuring my marriage of almost 58 years and our children. I have never felt that my marriage was threatened by the committed relationships of same-sex couples. I wish they could have the same benefits of legal marriage that I do.

            I know that a single parent can do an excellent job of rearing children, but I also know that it is a demanding (through rewarding) job. A parent benefits greatly from the other parent's support and help. Children benefit from the care of two parents, whatever the sexual orientation of the parents.

            Society also benefits from the financial, practical, and emotional strength of citizens who commit to love and care for each other --- in other words, to marry. We can increase that strength by allowing all our citizens to marry.

            Elizabeth Stewart, East Avenue, Rochester

Nader's ego

I am a Democrat who is appalled by Ralph Nader running for president again. Who does this man think he is? We should be doing everything we can to get George Bush out of office, and Nader decides to go on an ego trip at the expense of the country.

            We have to get Bush out of office so that my Democrats in the House and Senate will no longer vote for such things as invading Iraq, the Patriot Act, and the No Child Left Behind Act. They didn't want to vote for these things, but they had no choice.

            Ralph Nader refuses to see this. What is his problem? Al Gore ran a tremendous campaign only to have the presidency taken from under him by the well-funded Nader campaign. Nader even took away votes from the Libertarian, Natural Law, and Reform Party candidates. It was as if the media wanted Nader to win.

            We don't need any more choices. I'm happy with the two-party system outlined in the Constitution. Ralph Nader, leave us alone.

            Stewart Bedasso, Monroe Avenue, Brighton

Fit to print?

On March 3, National Public Radio reported that an American soldier was killed and another seriously injured when someone threw a hand grenade at their Humvee in northern Baghdad. I know Wednesday was a heavy front-page day for the Democrat and Chronicle with Democratic primary results, 143 killed at shrines in Iraq, and discovery of a missing girl's body in Geneva. But even on their page 3, not a word about dead Americans in Iraq.  Why not?

            Is it Gannett's policy not to mention war casualties as we move closer to the Presidential election?

            Gil French, Wisconsin Street, Rochester

Bush using tragedy for his own gain

Once again our president has demonstrated how obtuse and insensitive he can be. His re-election campaign ads, which began airing March 3, include images of the wreckage at Ground Zero, and firefighters working on the recovery effort. Family members of 9/11 victims are furious, and rightfully so.

            The New York Daily News covered the issue March 4. "It's a slap in the face of the murders of 3,000 people," said Monica Gabrielle, whose husband died in the twin tower attacks. "It is unconscionable." Firefighter Tommy Fee in Rescue Squad 270 in Queens was appalled. "It's as sick as people who stole things out of the place. The image of firefighters at Ground Zero should not be used for this stuff, for politics," Fee said.

            Bush is exploiting our national tragedy for his own gain, despite his declaration: "I have no ambition whatsoever to use this as a political issue." Well, gosh, what does he think he's doing now?

            These ads are inappropriate and way over the line. Even more ironic, as reported in the Daily News, many family members are especially upset because President Bush still refuses to meet with the whole 9/11 commission, which was set up to determine what went wrong in the lead-up to the attacks. So, why the delay?

            Let's hope people keep these things in mind on election day.

            Rachel Miller, Rochester

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