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Who raised taxes?

Who raised taxes?

You've got to give them points for trying.

            Democrats in the county legislature have written a reform plan called the "Democratic Agenda for Fiscal Responsibility."

            The plan calls for funding restoration to 13 programs, including the Baden Street Shelter, Urban League, Baby Love, and city school nurses. Money would be cut from the county's finance, law, and communications departments to fund the programs, which were cut in the 2004 budget.

            "The county already has the resources to put back programs that have proven to save the county money in the long run," says Legislator Bill Benet.

            Dems also want to make the county comptroller an elected position. The comptroller is currently appointed by the administration.

            "How else can the administration demonstrate to the legislature and the public that it is acting with fiscal responsibility?" Benet asked.

            The reform plan is needed, Democrats say, because of the county's declining fiscal health and because "compassionate and cost-effective governmental services are shortsightedly being cut," according to an executive summary of the plan.

            A noble effort it may be, but Democrats have little chance of seeing any of their proposed reforms carried out. During an appearance on a local television station last week, Republican Majority Leader Bill Smith compared Democrats proposing a reform plan to prostitutes promoting chastity.

Biking straight to Toronto

In all the hubbub about the CATS fats ferry to Toronto --- "The Breeze" will start service next month despite a flesh wound sustained at a New York City pier --- little has been said about bicycles. It's known that a bike rack will be on board. But so far the promo material has been geared to the main profit stream: motor vehicles.

            The CATS business office tells us the one-way fare for a bicyclist will be $20, plus $10 for the bike. By comparison, a "walk-on" passenger will pay $28 one-way. CATS is offering a special deal to those who make pre-May reservations: $40 one-way for a car and driver. Ordinarily that would cost $60 --- $40 for the car, $20 for each person in the car (with some discounts for youth and seniors). No promos are available now for bicyclists or pedestrians, say CATS staffers.

            CATS president Howard Thomas says the company has had discussions with bicycling groups about future collaborations. "A lot of people have called us about biking events," he says. But nothing is nailed down yet, he says.

            Meanwhile, work proceeds on the northern end of the Genesee River Trail, which will connect downtown, the Erie Canal trail system, and the Genesee Valley Greenway to the port of Rochester and the ferry dock. All this will provide an environmentally friendly way of getting to Toronto and back --- not counting the bicyclist's share of the ferry's diesel emissions.

Bye to Bob

A lot of Rochesterians are used to waking up with the smooth baritone of Bob Edwards of National Public Radio's Morning Edition. But now the corporate voice of NPR has spoken, and by the end of April Edwards will leave the job he's held since 1979.

            Although the New York Times reported that Edwards had wanted to keep his post, NPR turned the radio host into the agent of his own departure. "Bob Edwards, the award-winning, 30-year NPR veteran broadcaster and host of Morning Edition since its first broadcast, announced today that he is leaving as host of the program effective April 30, 2004, to take on a new assignment as senior correspondent for NPR News." Edwards himself played along: "Morning Edition will continue to be my first source for news," the news release has him say. "I wish all the best to its new host."

            So do we. But we couldn't help noticing that the NPR ombudsman didn't sound too pleased with the corporate move; he said thousands of negative emails had poured in. The Washington Post's Richard Cohen got it right, observing that "various [NPR] officials descended into the juvenile babble of TV executives, empty words spilling out of their mouths."

            Even when Edwards was just reading the script, he never sounded empty. We'll miss that tone of his. Even more so, now that Morning Edition on WXXI is sprinkled with jauntily slick, commercially-tainted weather reports from RNews Weather on the Nines. (By the way, the new Air America liberal radio network has a show called Morning Sedition. We'll give it a try on-line, leaving time for some Democracy Now and host Amy Goodman, whose smooth intelligence still isn't aired in Rochester.)

Big, bigger...

Last week the Gannett company, hungry owner of Rochester's Democrat and Chronicle (and a growing number of other local publications), gobbled up yet another media firm. Gannett now owns Captivate Network Inc., which Gannett describes as "a national news and entertainment network that delivers quality programming and advertising on television screens in elevators in premier office towers across North America."

            Imagine: You can watch ads in the quiet of your office elevator! "We are pleased," said a Gannett exec, "to provide this additional platform to our advertisers."

            Gannett now owns 101 daily newspapers in the US (including USA Today), 500 non-daily newspapers, 22 television stations, trade publications such as nurses' magazines, The Army Times, Navy Times, and other military publications, and Clipper Magazine, a direct-mail coupon publication. In the United Kingdom, Gannett owns 17 daily newspapers and nearly 300 other publications.