Upstate hunger

Thank you for bringing to light the important yet often overlooked issue of homelessness in outlying rural areas ("Idylls of the Poor," April 2). With no apparent relief in sight for the declining economy in upstate New York, the lack of services for those experiencing financial hardship will have a negative impact on increasing numbers of people. A component of homelessness is hunger, an issue often addressed separate from that of providing housing facilities.

                  FOODLINK, the Rochester-based food bank established to reduce hunger in our region, has long recognized the need for services outside of the city, and over the past 26 years has expanded to serve a 10-county area, including those covered in your article.

                  Our Hunger in America study in 2001 is the only comprehensive study of the face of hunger in these areas. We surveyed 338 agencies and conducted 400 face-to-face client interviews. From this we found that throughout this 10-country service area, over 43 percent of the Finger Lakes clients served by FOODLINK are in rural and suburban areas.

                  In line with this statistic, 237 of the 550 programs to which we provide food and financial support are located outside of Monroe County. We deliver food door-to-door to these member programs every two weeks.

                  FOODLINK also provides such staples as cereal, vegetables, and canned proteins through the federal distribution program (mentioned in your article), which we resurrected in Ontario and Livingston Counties over the past year and half. All told, we provided 1.5 million emergency meals in our outlying nine counties in 2002, up 18 percent from 2000.

                  With ongoing layoffs, these numbers will only increase. Homelessness and hunger are often invisible to those not directly affected, and it is only through articles such as yours that people become aware of the work that needs to be done. It is the hard work and dedication of tireless volunteers and human-service providers responding to this situation that illustrate the humanity we are capable of; humanity which will be called upon even more so in future months.

                  We appreciate your commitment to bringing the needs of the few to the attention of the many.

                  Thomas Ferraro, Rochester (Ferraro is president, CEO, and founder of FOODLINK)

Tipsy's retort

Chris Busby walked into Tipsy's one evening to check us out and have a cold brew. He looked around and noticed that the owners like Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins.

                  That's right: We do, and have for 30 years, because everyone who loves football has a favorite team. So Chris is a Bills fan and proud of it. Good going, Chris. It makes us happy that you're not a fair-weather fan.

                  But what does Chris do? He trashes our establishment in his newspaper because it's a Dolphins bar. He had the audacity to compare football to the war and terrorism. Come on, Chris: Football is just a game. But we take the war and terrorism very seriously at Tipsy McStagger's. We have war coverage on constantly, and we can walk around and hear almost everyone talking about it in a very concerned way. You don't have to like the Dolphins or even Tipsy McStagger's, Chris, but don't compare a game to death and real tragedy.

                  By the way, Chris, you're welcome at Tipsy's anytime. We have a lot of regulars who are Bills fans. We all had a great time during the Bills' victories over the Dolphins last season.

                  While you had your head raised to view the picture of the family with Dan Marino, you should have looked a bit higher to see the large American flag on the ceiling. If you can't lift your head that high, there is an illuminated American flag behind the bar.

                  Joe McKenzie, Tipsy McStagger's, West Henrietta Road

Johnson's focus?

As a former property owner and resident of the City of Rochester and current taxpayer in the Town of Webster, I am appalled. With the city looking at a $38.1 million budget gap, the Rochester School District in a financial crisis with a $50 million shortfall, where are the priorities?

                  In Mayor Johnson's State of the City Address, he comments on the exceptional current financial management. I think this is a contradiction of terms. Mayor Johnson has indicated that he should have no problem in running for Monroe County Executive while still running the city. According to Mayor Johnson, he can do this because he hasn't devoted himself solely to the day-to-day operation of the city, focusing instead on his broader visions of the 2010 Renaissance Plan, regional cooperation, and urban sprawl.

                  Maybe he should have paid more attention to the current problems of the city and not delegated his responsibilities. Or was it his political career he is focusing on?

                  Our deputy mayor is volunteering to pick up the slack of Mayor Johnson, and he will stay in tune with his key projects and issues. Just what are they, and are they the same as his constituents'?

                  Apparently Mr. Johnson has stressed that the basic functions of the city will continue to be carried out during his campaign. What is the clear definition of basic functions? I hope whomever is the successful county executive affords county residents more than someone picking up the slack and basic functions.

                  Maybe Mayor Johnson should put county cooperation on his basic function list and eliminate the constant punches to the current county executive.

                  Mary Ellen Belding, Webster

Why I protest

Some readers have asked why people continue to protest the war at this stage. Here's my reason:

                  In 1991, the Pentagon asked Paul Wolfowitz to draft a strategic plan. He called for the military removal of Saddam Hussein and installation of a US-friendly democracy. Next we would strong-arm Syria and Iran to follow suit.

                  Wolfowitz's plan envisioned a US that would use its military to topple other regimes around the world. The Pentagon was so shocked that he was forced to withdraw the plan. (Source: Joseph Cirincione, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on WHYY Radio, April 1.)

                  A decade later, we suffered the September 11 attacks. Even though Iraq was not involved, Wolfowitz was able to revive his radical plan and sell it to the president and the Pentagon. The doctrine passed through Congress with barely a murmur.

                  The problem is that Iraq, if allowed to decide for itself, would likely elect a representative of the Shi'ite majority, who might align with Iran. The only way that the US can get the government we want is to install it forcibly, and that is not democracy.

                  The administration is using this war to test the acceptance of this doctrine with the American people. If no one complains, new "regime changes" will soon follow. Like Germany circa 1930, we are on the edge of a very slippery slope. If no one applies the brakes now, it may soon be too late.

                  Allen Power, Sachem Way, Irondequoit

Mother love

Think for a moment in the bombing of Iraq how often commentators referred to America's ultimate ground weapon as the Mother of All Bombs. To call this weapon of mass destruction a "mother" reveals how far we have come, delighting in the power of our weaponry and the destruction we are able to rain upon our adversaries.

                  How can we not love a mother who will defend us with such spectacular bursts of wrath? How else can we preserve democracy for the world, except through weapons of mass destruction that are superior to the weapons of mass destruction used by our enemies? Is not our patriotism well grounded in the sanctity of our cause? How dare anyone question our motives?

                  It should be clear to anyone with a high sense of moral purpose that when we fight, we fight for the rights of all. And that we will do anything in our power to win that fight. Surely we kill with less collateral damage than if we had used the Big One.

                  We have come a long way from Mother Earth to the Mother of All Bombs.

                  Ned Bobkoff, East Avenue, Rochester

Cut the budget

The Rochester school budget should have been cut dramatically 20 years ago. All those high-paying positions and programs: Why should I pay for a swimming pool and free lunches? The parents should stop having kids if they can't afford a family.

                  Why can't the superintendent take a pay cut? He can't live on $80,000?

                  Pre-kindergarten is free day care for parents. I am sick and tired of these damn kids. They are not our future. They won't be able to vote for another 10 years. The school district is suggesting that it keep pre-K and then shorten the school year: Teach them early and then take away later. Do they know what they're doing?

                  Next year they will probably build an 18-hole golf course for the sports program. What happened to the basics: ABC's and making change for a dollar? They can't even use the language correctly. Just ax me; you know what I am saying.

                  Charles Deering, Norton Street, Rochester

Noose talk

I am starting to believe that Raymond Graves can put a racist spin on anything. If a story contained "a stitch in time saves nine" or "the early birds gets the worm," he would find a way to make it relate to black oppression.

                  After a thorough Internet search of the phrase "tightening the noose," I see nothing that applies to blacks in the Deep South. In fact, no idiom and sayings site even lists the phrase.

                  Using a noose in controlling animals and as a form of torture and capital punishment on humans has been around in every part of the planet since mankind evolved. It's not racist to use the term to convey that Saddam, because of our efforts, was clearly running out of options. That is what "tightening the noose" means.

                  Mary E. Zeiner, Macbeth Street

Hearing the RPO

I don't know which part of Louis Richards' letter infuriates me the most ("RPO's 'Redundant,'" The Mail, April 9). All his preposterous remarks about the RPO's artistry aside, I'll focus on his inanity about "pissing" money away on the RPO.

                  To my knowledge, not one single person not already inclined to do so is being asked to fork over one single dime to help the orchestra out of its recent cash crunch. I have joined what I am sure are hundreds, even thousands, of RPO fans who are donating a little extra to help the cause.

                  As for his assessment of the RPO's quality, Mr. Richards might have an earwax problem. I'd look into it.

                  Harold Jewell, Alexander Street, Rochester

Making it possible

As members of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, we are fortunate to live in a community that offers such a rich musical life, giving us many opportunities to perform, teach, and enjoy what we do.

                  The things Louis Richards appreciates about Rochester (The Mail, April 9) --- the number and variety of performances and the talent of local performers --- would disappear without the RPO as an integral part of our community, for the members of the RPO are the members of many of these other ensembles.

                  RPO musicians make it possible for the Rochester Chamber Orchestra to present quality performances of specialized repertoire, for we make up virtually all of the musicians of the RCO.

                  RPO musicians make it possible for students in our region to learn about classical music and the instruments of the orchestra.

                  RPO musicians, together with our colleagues at the Eastman School of Music, make it possible for ESM students to study regularly with professional performers. We also value our role as a partner with Eastman in developing innovative programs like the Orchestral Studies Diploma, giving talented string players the opportunity to work for 10 weeks each year in the RPO, preparing them for careers as professional orchestral musicians.

                  We are actively involved in training the next generation of musicians through our teaching; many of us teach at Eastman, Hochstein Music School, other area colleges and universities, or have private studios of talented young students. Through the RPO's innovative education and outreach programs, which offer learning opportunities for children as young as 3 and through adults, we foster an appreciation of classical music and develop audiences for classical music.

                  We are proud to perform challenging, exciting, beautiful, familiar, exotic, and passionate music for the community. Like you, we live here, work here, learn here, and play here. If we are not here to teach your children, to provide concerts that move you emotionally, to train the performers of tomorrow, who will take our places? And at what true cost?

                  Musicians' Committee, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (The letter was signed by RPO musicians Ayden Adler, David Angus, Charles Bailey, Marjorie Hunsberger, and Brian Stotz)

Take advantage of those concerts

Why do we take such pride in our local student talent and lament the loss of school music programs nationwide if we would consider getting rid of our local professional philharmonic orchestra ("RPO's 'Redundant,'" The Mail, April 9)?

                  We cannot continue to attract young musical talent if we do not have as many professional opportunities as possible. We cannot maintain high-quality performances (free or otherwise) unless there are professional outlets for musicians to make a living.

                  I would prefer the Eastman Philharmonic to charge for their concerts rather than get rid of the RPO because the free concerts provide too much competition. At least the students and professionals would be better supported.

                  Of course all of this is moot unless people in our community take better advantage of the amazing variety of quality performances in our area. If attendance declines, live classical music performances might gradually disappear no matter what happens to the RPO, and what a terrible loss that would be!

                  Stephanie Sublett, Crittenden Boulevard, Rochester

World-class talent

Regarding Louis Richards' critical characterization of the RPO (The Mail, April 9): Redundant? Tired ensemble? Surely none of the concertgoers find any resonance with such characterizations of our beloved Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.

                  Our orchestra is and has been one of our city's finest cultural treasures. It was an excellent orchestra when I moved here in 1976. It is an even better orchestra today. Guest conductors have nothing but praise and enthusiasm for our orchestra. They and featured soloists enjoy returning to perform here.

                  From time to time, we are treated to featured concert performances by members of the RPO that demonstrate their truly world-class talents. It is a fact that there are far fewer openings for touring artists than there are highly talented musicians. Where are these non-touring talents? Many of them are on stage at the Eastman Theater for every concert.

                  To be sure, Rochester is especially rich in music. One may enjoy fine free concerts and even concert-quality recitals. But that does not mean that we would not miss the Rochester Philharmonic if they were gone. Their versatile, spirited, intensely moving performances are essential for the ongoing renewal of Rochester's musical soul.

                  Lawrence Iwan, Shoreham Drive, Pittsford

Without the pros

Regarding the letter from Louis Richards about the RPO's redundance (The Mail, April 9): It's fine to appreciate the Eastman Philharmonia, but let's be realistic. That ensemble's main function is not to provide free concerts to Rochester audiences, but to provide performance experience for talented young musicians who will soon be seeking jobs in the professional world. The free musical offerings are a fringe benefit the community gets for supporting the Eastman School.

                  Now as to the RPO being unnecessary, try to envision a world with no professional orchestras, but rather, in their stead, student orchestras from area conservatories. It's hard to conceive how this scenario could sustain itself for long. What incentive would be left for the music students to dedicate themselves to a demanding curriculum that includes learning and performing the vast symphonic repertoire, if at the end of it there were no, or at best very few professional orchestras in which to seek employment?

                  John C. Sullivan, Clark Avenue, Irondequoit (Sullivan is a violinist with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra)

Writing to City

We welcome and encourage readers' letters for publication. Send them to: or The Mail, City Newspaper, 250 North Goodman Street, Rochester 14607.

                  Our guidelines: We don't publish anonymous letters --- and we ask that you include your street name and city/town/village. While we don't restrict length, letters of under 350 words have a greater chance of being published. We do edit letters for clarity and brevity. And in general we don't publish letters (or longer "op-ed" pieces) from the same writer more often than once every three months.