In response to Steve Walter's letter in the August 17 issue: While everyone has a right to make their own moral decisions, I get particularly prickly at the spread of blatant misinformation. Any individual is free to decide for themselves whether the ancient practice of cannabis consumption is a “vice,” but they should do so knowing that marijuana does not cause “dementia, paranoia, and impotence.” Your readers might find NORML's 2005 Truth Report informative. It's available here: http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=5513.
They might also consider coming to The Bug Jar on Tuesday, September 6, for The RCC/NORML benefit show, where they can get lots of information on cannabis --- as a medicine, as a source of industrial hemp, and as a tool for relaxation and spiritual edification. They can also enjoy live music and dj’s from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Marijuana is not for everyone, but that doesn't mean that it's not for anyone.
Solomon Blaylock, 46 Argyle Street, Rochester
WHY THE STEREOTYPE?
Normally, City displays journalistic inquisitiveness, a penchant for accuracy, and a sensitivity toward minorities. When it comes to Jehovah's Witnesses, however, you blithely repeat every slur and derogatory stereotype you've ever heard ("Ding Dong, Heaven Calling," July 27).
To ridicule a subject you understand is one thing. To ridicule one you don't is beneath City. With respect, the article makes clear that your reporter doesn't have a clue as to what we're about. And yet there is much about Jehovah's Witnesses that he would admire, were he aware.
Rights of free speech and assembly that benefit groups of all persuasions, including many admired by City, have been largely influenced by Jehovah's Witnesses. To that end, 46 Supreme Court appearances over the years have resulted in 37 constitutional precedents clarifying these rights. No other group has appeared more often before the court.
Now that we are in the Patriot Act era, City and many others are nervous that basic civil rights are being redefined. In this charged environment, Watchtower Bible v. Stratton, a 2002 victory, continues a tradition of upholding our fundamental right of free speech. One would expect a journalist to celebrate, not ridicule, a group to whom he owes such a debt.
It is not difficult for bland people to get along, but for those with strong views to do so is another matter. Alas, the all-too-frequent pattern today is for religions to, at best, manipulate governments in an effort to impose their morality on others, and, at worst, engage in terrorist acts. Jehovah's Witnesses do neither, and are thus an example of peaceful co-existence, even while standing for values many do not embrace.
We declare, to the best of our ability, a message we believe to be true. Some people find it so attractive that they join us and adopt our style of living. But we have no desire to force others to live according to our ways. Our arena is that of ideas. We fancy ourselves neither judges nor enforcers. God can sort it all out. We don't feel the need to.
Normally, a group representing non-violence would enjoy City's profoundest respect. Why is this not the case with Jehovah's Witnesses? The premiere example of our peaceful stand under trial remains Germany during the Hitler years, during which thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses were among the very first concentration camp prisoners, preceding the far-more-numerous Jews and other groups.
They are the only inmates who can properly be termed martyrs (as opposed to victims) in that they had power to secure their own release by signing a document renouncing their faith and pledging cooperation with the Nazi regime. Only a handful took advantage of the opportunity.
To this day, many of our people are imprisoned for the same neutral stand towards government saber-rattling. How many groups do you cover who would go so far so as to not violate conscience?
Please take these facts into account the next time your articles touch on us. We are not deserving of the ill-treatment you have dished out.
Tom Hartlieb, Erie Station Road, Rush
Kudos to City for its focus on the mayoral race and the schools. The trouble with Wade Norwood's desire to be the "education mayor" is that he has shown so little interest in city schools through the years. I had expected to be backing him for mayor. It is on school issues that he lost my support.
Last spring, Norwood voted for the $7 million cut in city aid to the school district. Now he has offered a spurious plan to lock in a fixed amount per pupil for future aid. Ironically, at a time of declining enrollment because of charter schools and demographics, schools and classes are faced with higher per-pupil costs. His proposal builds in more cuts.
A year ago, he joined his mentor, Assemblyman David Gantt, in an ill-considered effort to bump longtime Latino leader Domingo Garcia from the School Board because his appointment to a vacancy had not gone through them. The larger community of Democrats spoke loudly in a defeat of Gantt-Norwood ally Cynthia Elliott, returning Garcia to the School Board.
Several years earlier, Wade had joined others in an effort to disenfranchise any school-district employee from sitting on City Council. The local law was later ruled unconstitutional.
Only recently, Norwood has put forth a radical proposal to have the School Board's actions subject to a veto by the mayor and the superintendent appointed by the mayor. Within hours, Norwood's fellow Democrats, Tom Brennan and Jeff Henley, called a press conference to disagree. So did School Board veteran Darryl Porter, another object of the machine's wrath. Only Ms. Elliott dutifully agreed to hand over school powers, a failed idea that has proved ineffective in a few other major other cities.
I have known Wade Norwood throughout his entire public life, yet I have never heard him ask a question or express an opinion about our schools before this campaign season.
James Kraus, Inglewood Drive, Rochester (Kraus, a retired Rochester teacher, is a Democratic committee member supporting Bob Duffy for mayor.)
I recently noticed your "excuse" for not running any coverage of Chris Maj because he lacks the "experience required for the job and it's a dereliction of journalistic duty to pretend otherwise." Who ever asked you to pretend he had experience? He's 26. That's exactly what is so appealing about Chris Maj: he is the only candidate who hasn't spent time in a city government that fosters the wasting of funds on unnecessary projects like a fast ferry and terminal and not on crime and poverty.
Plenty of elected officials around the country are not experienced. Hillary Clinton, Mike Bloomberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, and Jason West, the 26 year old mayor of New Paltz (who is now 28). Please don't blatantly lie to the people of Rochester by sticking to an excuse that has no basis in logic.
Your other claim that there is no space to cover Maj is plain absurd as his info would easily have fit in the space taken up by your ad about how great and thorough your mayoral coverage is. In my opinion, that's dereliction of journalistic duty. Claiming there is no room for Maj when you run four pages of "Stuff Readers Hate" is insulting to your reader base. Has your publication turned into the "Insider?" People read "City" for its content; they read "Insider" for meaningless surveys; that's about all we can expect from the D&C.
Please stop degrading your paper to the level of the D&C, and please stop thinking your readers are going to accept your mediocre attempt at an "excuse."
Matt Metras, Vermont Street, Rochester
From the editor: Once more, for the record: We covered him. Our interview was in our August 3 issue and remains on our website.
BUILD, DON'T TEAR DOWN
The face of downtown Rochester changed in 1960 with the creation of one of America's downtown malls. Seventeen million dollars went into the creation of a landmark that still carries memories for many Rochesterians. This landmark rode the crest of the economic swell of consumer society for nearly 30 years.
Now we want to destroy it rather than use it again to ride the crest of the mounting swell of the developing service economy. Most recent press cited a $20 million price tag to tear down Midtown Plaza. Renaissance Square could use that money to negotiate its way to reality.
Buildings don't make a city, people do. If we turned Midtown into a cultural center to showcase our pride in local artistic works and invested the destruction money into building up the people who have been creating Rochester's cultural identity, we would get far more bang for the buck. Let's follow the lead of our own visionaries --- the artists of all fields --- and give them the money to renovate Midtown storefronts into theaters, galleries, concert venues, comedy clubs, cabarets, and the like. We will then build up a pride in Rochester, and provide a tourist (and local) attraction that is a compliment to the wineries, vineyards, and Toronto scene.
The "cultural mall" idea put forth a few months ago by a group not-for-profit theaters is still viable. It has been said that Midtown has outlived its usefulness. Perhaps as a shopping mall it has, but for a building with a great location and a history in the community, I don't believe total demolition is the answer. Simpler could work.
If the folks who can find $20 million to tear down the mall invested it in Rochester arts organizations to renovate a piece of the mall, we could see a revitalization similar that nurtured by arts-based projects in New York, Glens Falls, Seattle, and Dayton. If we put our money and trust in the people, they will move Rochester beyond our wildest dreams.
Luane Davis Haggerty, Mayapple Lane, West Henrietta (Haggerty is assistant professor of Creative and Cultural Studies at RIT and artistic director of the New York City-based Interborough Repertory Theater.)
WRITING TO CITY
We welcome and encourage readers' letters for publication. Send them to: email@example.com 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. We don't publish letters that have been sent to other media --- and we don't publish form letters generated by activist groups. 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 about once every two months.
Note: Letters regarding the September 13 primary must be received by 5 p.m. Friday, September 2, in order to be published in our September 7 issue, the last issue before the primary.