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Reader feedback 7.31.02

Step forward again

After reading Beth Santana Laidlaw's letter ("Reducing the Violence," July 17), I felt compelled to echo her observations and offer a hopeful step to keep kids from engaging in the kind of violent behavior that shocks and saddens us all.

                  It is true: Keeping kids busy goes a long way toward reducing violent behavior. Laidlaw wonders, "Do we have the will to implement efforts (like those exhibited by 2000 volunteers who stepped forward eight years ago) as ongoing programs?" There is an ongoing program that has worked to help kids make good choices for 25 years. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester provides quality one-to-one mentoring, which research shows to be the most effective, by pairing young people with screened, trained, and counselor-supported adults.

                  Soon we will release our 4th Annual Community Report card, which will show that kids with mentors do much better in school, resist delinquent behavior, and avoid substance abuse and early parenting at amazingly higher levels than kids without.

                  Yet at any given time, we have 80 to 90 children waiting to be matched. Half --- a disproportionately large number --- are young African-American males living in our city. I'd offer this challenge to many of the same men who stepped forward eight years ago: It's time to commit again.

                  There are 40 to 50 single moms who'd desperately like a strong African-American male role model for their sons. A few hours a week, doing the kinds of things you loved to do as a child, are all it takes to make a significant impact on the life of a child.

                  It's a phone call away: 442-2250.

                  Pete Dobrovitz, executive director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester (

Guilty as charged!

In Chris Busby's article "The Price of Influence" (July 17), it was particularly interesting to note that some detractors have "accused" me of being a friend and political supporter of Mayor Bill Johnson. If that is a crime, please mark me down as guilty as charged. Bill Johnson is as good as it gets when it comes to being a politician. Hell, Bill Johnson is as good as it gets when it comes to being a person! I proudly call him my friend and I am a political supporter.

                  And as to my support (and fond friendship, I might add) of José Cruz (another crime I seem to be charged with): again I say I am guilty. I do support the first Hispanic in the County Legislature since 1963. I do support the first Hispanic leader in the Legislature ever --- and perhaps the only one in Upstate New York.

                  And finally, if I am also being accused of being a supporter of the fastest growing minority in the United States (the Hispanic population): again I say guilty as charged.

                  I am proud to stand up with all of them and to be counted as a friend.

                  So, what's the bad part?

                  Kenneth L. Warner, Rochester

Westside slam?

Imagine my pleasure when I opened the July 17 issue to see something west of the Genesee River being favorably profiled ("Cotton, Kick-boxing, and Cornbread," Gut Instincts). That's not something that happens much in the Rochester-area media, where the editorial assumption is that readers and viewers are concentrated exclusively east of the impenetrable, invisible wall dividing the privileged from the ignored.

                  Thanks to Adam Wilcox's review, the Genesee Family Restaurant is now on my list of "must try" restaurants. The feature was informative, balanced, and flattering to restaurateur Al Anderson without being patronizing.

                  Imagine, then, my disappointment when I came to Wilcox's closing paragraph: "Some people tell me they're afraid of Genesee Street... Try taking a few steps off the beaten path sometime." In just two sentences, Wilcox and City Newspaper made it abundantly clear that they --- just like the other local media they chide for deprecating the city in spite of its positive aspects --- believe that none of their readers live, work, shop, or play on the west side of town; that the west side is an unexplored hinterland; and that, although ostensibly debunking the myth of danger on Genesee Street by stating "I go there all the time and never have problems," there is reason to fear for one's safety when one crosses from the pristine and problem-free east side to the dark and scary west side.

                  Purportedly promoting the entire city of Rochester while subtly slamming a particular section of town does not enhance City Newspaper's stature in the community, nor does it show respect for members of our community --- many of whom are City readers --- who choose to make the west side their home. I had hoped for better from City.

                  Christine Corrado, Pioneer Street, Rochester

A friendly critic?

As one who has written about films for City in years past, this is a comment relative to reader reaction about movie reviewers.

                  To begin with, the world does not need so many movie critics-reviewers-columnists. We have an overabundance of films that are mediocre at best, and people who write about them tend to watch too many altogether, which is not healthy.

                  Most of the time, movies deserve to be ignored entirely, or tossed aside after 10 or 20 minutes. However, the person writing about films ought to love them, and should enjoy communicating this delight to others.

                  At the same time, we want a writer who does not take advantage of the attention we give to this person's column. We don't wish to have our future pleasure spoiled. More importantly, we don't invite the writer to display ego and prejudice; to be uncivil, insulting, crude, boorish, or to show disrespect for people.

                  I keep hoping that City will not offer me the writing of anyone I would not also welcome to my home for coffee or tea, and who would not be a pleasant, friendly guest that I would be glad to know --- even if we often disagreed.

                  Martin Fass, Linden Street, Rochester

Targeting Muslims

What next? Concentration camps for Arab Americans?

                  I was disgusted (yet not surprised) to learn that the FBI has paired up with the INS to raid Muslim-American jewelry stores and kiosks in shopping malls across the US, the latest in the "War on Terrorism." Apparently terrorism has been hiding out right under our noses at our local shopping malls, somewhere in between Spencer's Gifts and Things Remembered, just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Gap. (And to think I bought a Coke from the food court last week).

                  Muslim Americans have been targeted since 9-11, and that ugly cycle of racism has once again arisen. It's the same mentality that saw 100,000 US citizens of Japanese descent thrown into US concentration camps during WWII. Unfortunately, the current trend is to stand by your president (who stole the election) and denounce terrorism.

                  Bush claims that the raids are to cut off a network of "terrorist funding to Bin Laden," but Bush himself has been a financial supporter of the Bin Laden family over the years. In 1979 Bush received $50,000 from James Bath, the sole representative of the Bin Laden family in the US, to buy into Arbusto Energy. In 1999, a not-so-indirect business partner of Bush named Khalid bin Mahfouz attempted to transfer $3,000,000 from Houston to Bin Laden family fronts in Saudi Arabia.

                  This recent hypocrisy parallels that of World War II, when at the time the US was at war with Germany and Italy, only the Japanese Americans were singled out. Let's not forget the all-American Henry Ford and many other powerful businessmen and politicians who supported the Nazi party during World War II freely and without reprisal from the government.

                  Some US businessmen even profited from the Nazis, like Prescott Bush, who sold German bonds at his US bank and was later investigated. Prescott's son and grandson? I'll give you two guesses.

                  The recent raids on Muslim stores are a sad effort of the administration to offset domestic opposition to American terrorist activity in the Middle East. With Congress allowing more freedom and funding for "Anti-Terrorist Projects," we shall slowly watch the freedoms of US citizens be disregarded and trampled upon.

                  I realize there are some full-on, flag-waving patriots who believe that the unconstitutional steps being taken are for the benefit of Americans, but what happens when some agent mistakes your red neck for a brown one? Remember: Americans come in all shapes colors and cultures!

                  Keven Adams, Alexander Street, Rochester

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