CASINO, PRO AND CON
An American Indian sovereign nation in the middle of Rochester may sound threatening, but actually it completes the full cycle of development of our community. American Indians were the original occupiers of downtown Rochester, and developing a small plot of land to reintroduce them into our region's rich diverse culture will benefit everyone.
Why not embrace this new sovereign entity as a unique community asset? Establish an American Indian Museum and Cultural Arts Center in the corner of the Casino Rochester project. For so long, we have relegated the American Indian to distant isolated reservations where the poverty level is among the highest in the country. Now there is an opportunity for the Seneca-Cayuga tribe to re-emerge with a unique business proposal that would revitalize our downtown core, create over 2,000 jobs, and obtain valuable income for tribal schools, day care, and health care facilities.
Our community would benefit from hundreds of construction jobs and the creation of an up-scale entertainment venue for tourists and conventioneers. The only down side is the potential increase of problem gamblers. But this area is not new to the gaming industry. OTB, racinos, the state lotteries, Internet gaming, casinos, and even illegal gambling are omni-present.
Concerns about poor city residents being enticed into the casino should be minimized, because they already have direct access to lottery tickets via neighborhood stores. Negative social costs will be neutralized by unemployed people getting jobs.
This is a great opportunity for Rochester, and I hope we quickly embrace it. Our community will not be defined as a "casino city." We will have the image of a dynamic cosmopolitan city with a rich and varied entertainment package.
Dennis E. Michaels, Elmwood Terrace, Rochester
In response to "Small Minds, Small Ideas" (Urban Journal, July 28): a recent Wall Street Journal article reported on the tremendous growth of the Ballston-Virginia Square mixed-use corridor in Arlington, Virginia. Many lessons from that experience can be applied in Rochester for our Main Street corridor.
The Rochester community might also learn from such people as urban guru Jane Jacobs (who lives in Toronto) or Dr. Richard Florida, who spoke recently at the Rochester Rising conference at the Rochester (or more correctly, Henrietta) Institute of Technology, or Chicago real estate developer McCaffery Interests. They offer insights into what constitutes good planning and good development to create vibrant, attractive, and safe urban neighborhoods.
In Rochester, we seem to have politicians acting as urban planners and developers promoting urban-renewal type projects for a dying urban core. This was and is a recipe for continued economic decline. And while the collective energy of government, private groups, and the citizenry gets embroiled in debates about bus stations and casinos, real opportunities for sustainable revitalization get ignored. A proactive agenda by government and the private sector to attract desirable and needed downtown land uses is a critical, missing, ingredient. Retail operators and office tenants such as law firms, which represent an important element of the downtown population, continue to relocate to the suburbs.
Did the Democrat and Chronicle/WXXI survey on the casino ask if more retail was desired for downtown? Did it ask if a supermarket was needed for the growing downtown resident population? Did it determine that people understood there was a potential to lose property taxes if the Sibley Building was turned over to the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe? The answer of course is "no," and therefore the survey's value to the debate is questionable, at best.
Rochester can and must do better than this. The creative talent is here to overcome the desperation evidenced by politicians and business groups who support any kind of development, regardless of long-term benefit. The voices must be heard if there is to be any chance to overcome the malaise that burdens so many who care about Rochester's future.
Bill Condo, Demeter Drive, Greece
Developer Tom Wilmot wants a casino in downtown Rochester. So, apparently, do the publishers of the Democrat and Chronicle. The casino, supposedly, will bring jobs to the city and enhance downtown to the point that people will go downtown after working hours, patronizing bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues.
I have a better idea. Why not put in a high-class, legal brothel?
Just think how many welfare moms a brothel could employ, reducing the county's bill both for welfare payments and for Medicaid. The brothel could recruit on Lyell Avenue and other locations where prostitution affects the quality of family life. With the women relocated to downtown, the cost of policing prostitution (and the drug addiction that inevitably accompanies it) would go down considerably.
The brothel could also hire local hairdressers, clothiers, and image consultants to teach the women how to look and act better, attracting a higher class of clientele.
College students would be able to pay their tuition without having to go into life-long debt, earning well above the minimum wages they now make at retail, fast food, and other jobs.
The fees for services could include a tax of, say 20 percent, to reduce city, county, and school budget deficits.
The success of the brothel could be enhanced by investments in pornography film studios, also located downtown. These studios could film the brothel workers and their johns in action, reducing their costs and improving their profits. And their taxes would further improve the outlook for city and county budgets. By creating a center for the pornography industry downtown, we could reclaim Rochester's identity as the image capital of the world.
And imagine: while there are several casinos within easy driving distance of Rochester, there is not one single legal brothel between here and Nevada. That would surely improve Rochester's chances of becoming a top tourist attraction.
My proposal is not a serious one, of course. My point is that there are billions of dollars to be made off of human vices. But is that what we want for our community? Those who propose the casino as a solution to the city's economic woes are completely lacking in imagination. All they see are dollar signs.
Instead of a casino, why not a family-oriented entertainment center truly in keeping with the Rochester area's reputation as a terrific place to raise children?
Several weeks ago I was proud to show off the Strong Museum to my visiting daughter and her family. The museum is a true gem, noted by Child magazine as one of the top 10 children's museums in the country. My grandchildren --- and their parents and I --- had a ball.
Had they had more time, they would have visited the Rochester Museum and Science Center and the other area attractive, child-centered venues.
Why not invest in our strengths, rather than our vices? Why not make Rochester the place that families from all over the country visit because it offers something that no other city offers: safe, family-friendly entertainment and fun educational opportunities?
Imagine the Sibley Building turned into an indoor playground where kids and their parents could play, even during the coldest winter months. Hire the most imaginative playground architects to design something you would find nowhere else on earth.
Include a day-care center for parents who work downtown. The indoor playground could keep families downtown after working hours, taking advantage of restaurants and other entertainment venues. The day-care center could stay open after usual hours so that parents could also patronize venues not appropriate for their children.
The top floor could be loft apartments, which apparently are attracting top dollar right now --- so much so that even apartments not yet built are already leased.
With the playground, day-care center, and loft apartments directly across from Midtown Plaza, it could be possible to revitalize downtown shopping.
And how about adding a glass dome on the top of the Sibley Building, to house an arboretum stocked with tropical flora? It could be a place for locals and visitors alike to find respite during our gray, cold winters.
Rochester, use your imagination! Stop trying to do what everyone else does. We should be celebrating our uniqueness, not preying on human vices.
Georgia NeSmith, North Union Street, Rochester
City noted with concern how little coverage the TV networks are giving to this year's political conventions. Fortunately, all the cable news channels offer more complete coverage, right?
Actually, a new study from watch group Media Matters for America finds that Fox News covered the Democratic Convention far less than CNN or MSNBC. We'll have to see whether Fox treats the Republican convention similarly. Either way, those of us seeking complete and unbiased coverage of the election will have to change the channel on Fox.
Craig Ephraim, Waterford Way, Fairport
In recent weeks, many have argued that Fox News is shilling for the Bush Republicans under the guise of fair and balanced journalism. Fox's disappointing coverage of the Democratic convention couldn't have proven the point any better.
For instance, Fox News showed the first 45 seconds of Al Gore's speech before Bill O'Reilly interrupted to attack him. Fox did the same during speeches by Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy.
Real journalism is too vital for democracy to let partisans hijack it.
Michael J. Carroll, Dorking Road, Rochester
On behalf of the staff and volunteers of Jazz90.1 (WGMC), I'd like to thank the people of Rochester for their enormous outpouring of support for our station. Four years ago, Jazz90.1 started a capital project to boost our signal from 2,000 to 15,000 watts. In January, using funds donated by local jazz fans, we purchased our new tower and transmitter. Since that time, we've been broadcasting at half power while waiting for final FCC approval. That approval came on August 5, and we're now sending out jazz 24 hours a day at the full 15,000 watts.
Rochester is one of a half-dozen cities in the US with a full-time jazz station, and it couldn't exist without the support of all those people who care about jazz, and who care about local radio.
Moreover, Jazz90.1 was thrilled to receive the 2004 medium-market Station of the Year Award from JazzWeek. Voting was by radio programmers, record-label representatives, and jazz promoters across the country in recognition of our commitment to jazz as a living music, not a museum piece.
Once again, thank you for your support; please tell a friend about Jazz90.1 (on the Web at jazz901.org).
Jason Crane, Station Manager, Jazz90.1
Mary Anna Towler's calling the president a liar is just another example of liberals raising Bush-hating to new lows of disrespect for the nation's leader "The War of Lies," July 14).
John Kerry voted against legislation that would have given our troops body armor, which he rails about moms and dads having to buy for their sons and daughters. Lying is intentional falsehood telling. Kerry's record of voting against the military flies in the face of his windy claims that his undisclosed homeland security plan will accomplish what the president has been unable to. Now who's walking up to the line of truth-telling and tripping over it?
Kerry would now have us believe that he's more hawkish on defense than Republicans are. Post-Viet Nam Democratic Party platforms belie this assertion.
Economic indicators show the economy percolating upward. Yet Kerry repeatedly asserts that the nation hasn't seen worse times since the Depression. Is Kerry being truthful?
Are Kerry's promises to fully cover 90 percent of nation health-care needs a huge falsehood? He hasn't come clean on how he's going to pay for it.
From one side of his stiff countenance, Kerry says that he'll lead America into energy independence from overseas oil, and from the other, he's sworn not to drill in Alaska. Kerry's windy promises amount to more big government, more big taxes.
Oliver Glover, Rochester
I have been watching with interest the letters imploring WXXI to bring Democracy Now! to Rochester. Two years ago, I lived on Cayuga Lake for six months. I found WEOS out of Geneva, and for the first time listened to Amy Goodman. I heard reporting on her show that is sorely missing from radio, even on NPR programs --- especially the reporting out of the Middle East.
On WXXI recently, I heard Bob Smith and MCC professor Tom Proietti discussing why Democracy Now! won't be on the radio here; essentially, they said Amy Goodman isn't up to par. I enjoy listening to Bob Smith's show, but if I had a choice between Smith and Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! would get my vote.
WEOS has another excellent show called the World Café that introduced me to tons of music I would have never known about.
People in Rochester who want Democracy Now! aired here should contact WEOS and find out how much money would be needed to erect a new, more powerful WEOS transmitter to bring the excellent reporting we crave into our cars and homes in Rochester.
Maybe this would send a signal to WXXI that our money might be better spent elsewhere.
Andrew Dunning, Fairmount Street, Rochester