Category Archives: Rochester

Emily Good: A Word on Cameras, in General

Its probably easier to assume that anybody you come into contact with has a camera on them than to wonder. Every phone takes photos and videos these days, and your entire world is potentially being video taped.

Which makes privacy laws concerning video pretty impossible to enforce. This is important in the context of the Emily Good incident because it may well be the “secret” taping of the officer that comes into question once this goes to court. Its not supposed to be legal to film people without their consent, but in the context of our modern era, its commonplace.

Its also commonplace for police cruisers to have cameras mounted in their dashes and stop lights to have cameras monitoring them. But there’s no sign that says “this light is being video recorded,” nor am I allowed to ask a video tape of me getting pulled over be erased. Why not? Isn’t that illegal?

Emily Good in Rochester: What Happened?

Officer approaches Emily Good, demanding that she stop taping.

Growing up in Wayne County with a lot of bored cops who harrassed kids with long hair, I’m disinclined by nature to side with cops in circumstances such as the big Emily Good news. The video clearly shows the cop arresting a woman who insists that she’s done nothing wrong and is on her own property. And I can’t help noticing the flashlight that is pointed directly at the camera, which seems at first blush to be intentionally blinding the camera.

But while we’re waiting on context, here’s a few things to consider:

  1. Someone took the camera phone off Emily after she was arrested, and there were certainly plenty of people watching. How many? One person on her own property is one thing, but a crowd milling around the cops might be provocative. In fairness, though, he should expect a crowd in a neighborhood, regardless.
  2. What happened before the camera rolled? How did her friend end up getting in trouble in the first place? And where?
  3. Cop says she said something to him *before* she started taping. What?
  4. Cop is not in a position to give “orders” on her own property.
  5. Cop says he’s, “Not going to explain myself.” That’s sorta his job, isn’t it?

Late Update: @rachbarnhart just posted video of Emily Good protesting in another context to her Twitter feed. And Johnathan Turley, Constitutional law professor and MSNBC contributor, also picks up the story.

Rochester Jazz Fest: Point of Order: What the Hell is “Jazz?”

The dissection and analysis of Rochester’s biggest festival, the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival continues. And I for one couldn’t be happier. Its wonderful beyond words for a person who has been so active in the musical community (admittedly years ago) to see a really vibrant debate on a genuinely successful musical endevour. Most any musician in this town is bored to tears of the foot-shuffling, “we have no music scene” mope-fest that predominates most of the discussion much of the time.

@roccitynews (City Newspaper)’s Mary Anna Towler discusses the crowds and selection of music, much the topic here and on the @13wham news blog with @rachbarnhart (Rachel Barnhart) and @scarroll13 (Sean Carroll) weighing in. But I had to point out one bit of silliness that has permeated the discussion that Mrs. Towler addresses:

Nugent’s talking about adding more events – but he says they’d likely be free outdoor-stage events. Ummm… I like the outdoor events. But they are trending more toward rock – or jazzy music so loud that it feels like rock. And while I’m all for as much rock as we can stage in the summer – and all for doing whatever we can to attract young adults – too many loud, rock-like events could change the tone of the Jazz Festival. This year, frankly, we seemed to be at a tipping point.

Oh, boy. Not to get all music history on you, but Jethro Tull and King Crimson played jazz festivals all the time. Is Spiro Gyra a rock act or a jazz act? What the hell is Bela Fleck’s music? Dave Matthews? Steely Dan?

The list goes on and on, but you see the problem. There is no “Jazz.” There is only a sliding scale between a huge variety of genres, nor should we shy away from that panoply of sounds if we want a real jazz festival. Yes, there’s room for a Dixieland band and a Glen Miller tribute, if that’s what some people insist on seeing as “jazz.” Or whatever that guy in the beret and sunglasses insists is “jazz.” Fine. But not at the expense of the rest. And most jazz festivals are outdoors, from Newport to Monterrey.

I think that if the festival was allowed to spill out onto East Avenue, we could cater to more sounds. There’s buskers o’plenty out there anyway, why not setup small tents (like the $75 Sears canopy size) for smaller acts as well? I want more music, not easily defined music, and as much of it outside as possible.

Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival: Friday Night

I’ll have it known that I was at Woodstock ’94, wading among 350,000 of my closest friends and rocking to Primus, Nine Inch Nails and Metallica. I’ve been to two Lalapallooza shows. I’ve been in my share of pits and general admission melees for many bands. I’m not a flyweight when it comes to crowds.

Which is why, standing asshole-to-elbow between the stage and the wall on Gibbs St, just trying to make our way around the stage that blocked the entrance, my experienced eye saw a situation that one well-timed cherry bomb or beer-spilling fist fight could easily have spun into a dangerous, embarrassing and potentially costly mini-riot. Was I the only one?

This is not the way to see a jazz show. If I’d been this crushed to see a metal show, well, I would have expected it. But I wanted to suck down some cheap wine, groove out to some laid-back music and watch the ladies dance. There was no doing that on Gibbs St last night. In fact, there was no one dancing on Gibbs St, that I could see.

In fact, the whole setup was surreal in its sheer stupidity: everybody knows that the Jazz Fest happens “on East Avenue,” but the stage on Gibbs was actually at the end of East, blocking traffic. Two narrow passages, less than twenty feet wide, were the only admittance for those of us coming from East – and there were a lot of us – into the stage area. As it turns out, the other end of the street was blocked by a huge structure that was home to the Xerox Tech Center. So, an entire street is completely blocked off – on both ends – in a festival?

We ended up going around and using the passage down Barret Place, where they had the toilets lined up. Pleasant…

Inside the stage area, it was filled with food vendors and people, packed nearly as tightly as our first ill-fated entry. Smoke, steam, heat, densely-packed humanity. The recipe for a relaxing jazz experience if ever there was one. We ended up sitting in the “Tech Center” at the non-sequitur coffee bar, deciding what we wanted to do to regroup. We were actually there for the Trombone Shorty show that was on Chestnut, but frankly, the night to that point had been such a buzz-kill that it seemed better to just catch a jazz show at Bistro 135. Which is exactly what we did.

I hope people had a good time – I know a few people on Twitter said they enjoyed last weekend’s festivities. But for myself, this just wasn’t a jazz experience at all. In fact, walking back to our car on Prince St, my wife remarked that everyone heading into the festival looked chipper and happy, whereas those of us leaving all had the same dour expression of resignation. That’s not a recipe for a lot of return customers.

MC Airport Authority: Its (Still) Not About the Credit Carts

Another opportunity to explain what the problem is, lost:

Authorities Budget Office calls out Monroe County executive in open letter | Democrat and Chronicle | democratandchronicle.com.

Those reforms included restrictions on business travel expenses and credit card use and prohibited the purchase of alcohol and tobacco.

In its report, the state concluded that the reforms were insufficient and criticized the board for only moving to correct lapses after it was under pressure from the county executive to do so.

Sigh. A few expensive dinners and presumably kick-ass cigars are not the problem, nor are they the major prescriptions in the original Authorities Budget Office report. There is no accountability and instead of appointing someone nominally independent, Brooks chose to install someone who was part of the problem from the beginning.

MC Airport Authority: Who is Susan Walsh?

So, I’m obviously very late to this party. But now that it’s piqued my interest, I started to wonder last night: who is Susan Walsh? And when I Googled David Damelio first, lo and behold:

David Damelio quits airport job | Democrat and Chronicle | democratandchronicle.com.

Brooks announced in a news release that she had appointed the county’s budget director, Susan Walsh, to replace Damelio effective immediately. The appointment requires approval of the County Legislature, which is expected next week.

Budget director…. Why does that strike me as a problem? Oh, yes:

The board merely adopts the budget amount presented to it by the county, without any detail for the cost of managing and maintaining the airport.

So, now does changing directors resolve the issue? Or no?

The Rochester Intl. Airport: Its Not About the Credit Cards

For all the hoopla about the Rochester International Airport and the the County Airport Authority, you’d think cigars and credit cards were the real issue. You could be forgiven in thinking that, since just about every report on the issue brings those two things up. Every. single. time.

But Rochester City Newspaper has published the full report(PDF) and even the executive summary makes it clear: the problem isn’t expenses or credit cards. The problem isn’t the Authority at all, really. The issue is the fact that the Authority is a patsy agency for the Airport itself and County at large:

This report concludes that the board of directors of the Monroe County Airport Authority (Authority) has consistently fallen short of this duty … The Authority does not follow its own policies. The board … defers management and policy decisions to Monroe County … The board has shown a lack of independence and a willingness to be directed by the county’s Aviation Department, which operates the airport. The board merely adopts the budget amount presented to it by the county, without any detail for the cost of managing and maintaining the airport. Moreover, the County Executive, as the appointing authority for the board, and the County Legislature, which approves those appointments, have not held directors to the standards of accountability expected of public board members.

This is about the County using the Authority as a sop for lots of extra payments for… what, exactly? Who is going on these trips that aren’t accounted for? Where did those cigars go? And why is it that the only people being scrutinized by Maggie Brooks and the rest of the County are the people at the Authority?

County Executive Maggie Brooks said in a press release that by appointing a new airport director, recovering improperly spent money, and implementing new travel and credit-card policies, county officials have taken appropriate action.

County officials defend airport board

LATE UPDATE: It occurs to me that, in light of the actual charges levied against the Authority in the report, the issue of Maggie Brooks’ use of the Airport credit card deserves a closer look.

The Twenty-Dollar Online News: Could it Be a Good Thing?

Noting that the New York Times( @nytimes ) has had a respectable start to its new paywall system, I wonder if the twenty dollar subscription fee ends up being a workable model for former print media companies in other markets. And by other markets, clearly, I mean Rochester.

The NYT enjoys huge a huge national audience as well as a history of being something of a status symbol paper. You cannot think of their audience as quite reliably local as would be the case here in Rochester with the Democrat and Chronicle( @dandc ). But for the sake of scale, if you think in terms of subscribers to population, they’ve got about eight percent of the city in three months time.

Its obviously much too early to tell whether the Times will be able to keep up with those numbers once readers get charged full price. But its not too early to think about what a paywalled news media might mean.

Personally, the volume of news I read – and the variety of sources – makes the prospect of paying twenty dollars for each impossible. I’d have to cut down my reading considerably. Which would at first blush seem cut down on my reason for blogging considerably.

But then there is something intriguing about the prospect of a city full of bloggers, Tumblr accounts, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages with only the D&C in common. Of a community where notoriety might come from being the first to spot a crucial detail missing from an article. It could be a very good thing for journalism in Rochester, the effect quite apart from the information doomsday that media consolidation normally brings to mind. My mind, anyway.

We shall see….

Street Insticts (minus) Ethical Judgement (equals) Thug

Gary Craig ( @gcraig1 ) at the D & C has some excellent reporting on the career of Chad Rahn, a person whom, despite myself, I find fascinating. In discussing some of the positive comments about Rahn from his fellow officer, Craig notes that:

Some officers who have worked with Rahn say he has the street-wise instincts — if not the ethical judgment — of a solid police officer.

via Chad Rahn’s police career dotted with iffy incidents | Democrat and Chronicle | democratandchronicle.com.

Duly respectful comments from fellow officers, but really: if you have the instincts to know how to be a Good Cop, but lack the ethical judgment to do so, doesn’t that make you the Bad Cop? The report overall paints a pretty clear picture of a kid with control issues. Not unlike a few acquaintances in my early adulthood, to be honest. And I certainly wouldn’t give any of those people a gun and a badge.

There is also this cryptic passage:

-In 2009, Rahn was stopped twice in two days for questionable driving. He was not ticketed, but the Irondequoit police were informed about the incidents.

What is questionable driving? Unquestionably, he must have been driving. So what is in question? Speed? Direction? Choice of vehicles? Blood toxicity? Just asking.

Show Me The Strength of Your Singular Eye

In the American Colonies, before the Revolution, taxation was done at the whim of a Parliament in which American tax payers had no representation whatsoever. But far worse for many Americans caught a-foul of the law, settling disputes and penalties with the British legal system often meant showing up in court in Merry Old England herself. Such a voyage in those days meant months and years away from the very properties these Americans we trying to maintain, to say nothing of the lost income and extra expense of the voyage, lodging in England and the like. It was precisely these types of extreme hardships – much more so than the taxation itself – that prompted a few well-educated and wealthy Americans to start plotting the Revolution.

The American Revolution can therefore be thought of in a certain context as a radical renegotiation of the relationship between the ruler and the ruled. Not simply a reinvention of government, but forging of a new principle of power sharing, supported by thousands of legal pleadings in British courts, up to and including the final and most famous Declaration of Independence.

But I don’t recall having reached any such deal with cameras or computers.[1. Title of this post provided by a lyric from Yes: Machine Messiah]

More and more municipal governments, including most recently Rochester, have been employing red light cameras and other automated means of handling law enforcement issues. This is raising many legal and ethical concerns among many quarters, as Doug Emblidge points to in his above-linked blog post. My concern may seem oblique, but it seems to me that implicit in the negotiation of law is the fact that law exists as a guidepost towards justice, not an iron-clad set of parameters from within which a computer program is expected to perform.

This is not an abstract concept for philosophy classes, nor is it a plot for some 1970’s “computers take over the world” scenario movie. No set of circumstances which deviates from the law yields any other outcome for a computer than a violation of that law, and even if the issue can be resolved in a court, we once again require that potentially innocent people take time out of their lives to prove thier innocence – or potentially fail to – at the behest of a set of arbitrary laws.

Cops do not issue tickets for every violation they see. They don’t even issue tickets for every person they pull over. Computers contain no subroutines for compassion or clemency.