The Ren Square to Attract Suburban MCC Students?

This is pretty interesting, and I hadn’t really given it too much thought until now:

REN SQUARE: MCC’s all set, but other questions remain – News & Opinion – Rochester City Newspaper

MCC also plans to move its theater program from its Brighton campus to the new city facility, to take advantage of the theaters planned for Ren Square. That’s a smart move, says Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, president of Rochester Downtown Development Corporation. The performance facility, she says, would provide a great opportunity for students to learn about the back-end operations of a theater.

The Damon campus has been in operation for about 15 years and is the home of MCC’s law enforcement and human-services programs, as well as some liberal arts programs.

Flynn thinks it’s likely that the new facility will draw more suburban students downtown. At present, 50 percent of the students at the Damon campus live in the city, according to the college.

Bringing the music and theatre students downtown is probably a really good thing for Rochester.  As much as we need more vitality downtown and more things to do, at the same time people are creatures of habit.  Getting kids familiar with downtown early will probably go a long way towards reigniting an interest in downtown generally among kids.  I’m not sure how much more of the Brighton campus’ curriculum they plan on moving downtown, but it’s all welcome.

Of course, the article also points out a great many problems and lingering questions about the project as well.  All building projects tend to be that way.  At the risk of sounding a “Fast Ferry-like” optimistic note, I think this project can withstand a few questions without a problem.  In any event, there’s no doubt that something new needs to be done with downtown.

Another good thing about MCC being partners with the Ren Square project is that there’s NEVER a shortage of kids who want to go to MCC.  That means revenue for the project and better yet stability.

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DragonFlyEye in the City Newspaper

Everybody be sure to grab your commemorative edition of the City Newspaper this week!  I’ve gotten a letter published in the only print media that matters in Rochester:

LIBRARY: Is Maggie taking us to the Supreme Court? – News & Opinion – Rochester City Newspaper

Let’s be clear: the Rochester Central Library already has proxy filters to block adult content, and those filters have been in use for some time. The issue is whether those filters can be turned off at the request of a user over the age of 18.

The answer lies in the interpretation of a Supreme Court ruling, wherein Chief Justice Rehnquist argued that “Concerns over filtering software’s tendency to erroneously ‘overblock’ access to constitutionally protected speech … are dispelled by the ease with which patrons may have the filtering software disabled.”

Actually, this letter was originally written to be published in the D&C because I’m a glutton for punishment.  Well, actually, it was because of all the bilge being printed *against* the library and the vapid responses that they allowed through at the D&C Editorial board.  I thought that perhaps a well-written “Speaking Out” letter might be welcomed.  I put it in the subject line of my email to the editorial staff, “Speaking Out Submission.”

I got an email back saying it was too long to be a “Letter to the Editor.”  Whatever.

So I got published in my preferred source of sound intellectual discussion, anyway.

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Maggie Brooks: Legislature Dems Turning Up the Editorial Heat

Let the games begin!

Steve Eckel and Calvin Lee Jr., both Democratic Monroe County Legislators, have published an essay in the Rochester D&C criticizing Maggie Brooks’ plans for Monroe County, which include raising taxes and cutting funding for schools:

Raise up Monroe — not its sales tax || Democrat & Chronicle: Essays

Democrats in the County Legislature believe that we need a brighter future in Monroe County — one without an unnecessary sales tax increase. A future based on lower taxes, sound economic development and accountable and open government. In other words, we need a formula for a real community solution we can all endorse.

The county executive fails to realize that her plan to raise sales taxes will hurt business development and job growth. Those who should know, the Rochester Business Alliance, have voiced their concern about the harmful effect of such a tax increase. We have heard that it is the poor, through Medicaid, who drive the need to raise taxes. But rather than continue to blame the people of this county for our budget woes, let’s look at viable solutions that will stimulate population and job growth.

Here, here.  It is the height of stupidity to raise sales taxes on the fast-emigrating citizens of Rochester while giving a tax cut to every Tom, Dick and Harry, LLC. that asks for it because they might leave town.  Whose going to work for those companies after all that’s left around here are seniors on DSS?

Note also that Steve Eckel is Legislator for the 26th district, which is Rochester’s hard-bitten north-west community.  He’s also up for reelection this year alongside Maggie Brooks.  I do wonder what other candidates in other districts think?

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New Monroe County Elections Page

I wanted to search for the upcoming elections in the Monroe County Legislature and found that this was damned-near impossible to do. There doesn’t seem to be one definitive list of elections and the candidates running anywhere except in one hard-to-reach and harder-to-find PDF document on the Monroe County Board of Elections site.

Well, that is no longer the case. I’ve taken the initiative and created a list of my own, albeit incomplete at the moment. The new Monroe County Elections 2007 page lists all 14 incumbents (9 Republicans including the Majority Leader and 5 Democrats) currently up for reelection along with their district number. I do not have the list of challengers yet.

The comments are currently open on this page, so if you have relevant content (such as challengers or articles mentioning candidates) please feel free to post it there, and I will update the content as it is warranted.   Let’s see if we can do a better job of covering the County election than the scattershot coverage provided by the entrenched media.

I’m sooo Sick of Maggie Brooks Self-Aggrandizing With Our Money

Jesus Age.  I know others have mentioned it in the past, but just look at  Every single, solitary headline at the top of the page is about ~ and contains the name of ~ Maggie Brooks.  Every damned one.

Let’s scoop her up and put Maggie in baggie.  Meanwhile, I’m going to work on snappy new campaign graphics and a nice song. . . .

Paid for by the Citizen’s Campaign to Defund Maggie Brooks.

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Job Growth in Former Kodak Properties

Here’s to hoping that the Toronto-based Onex Corp. isn’t just a group of pissed-off ferry terminal owners:

Purchaser of Kodak group plans to add 500 jobs || Democrat & Chronicle: Business

March 16, 2007 4:59 am — Onex Corp. will come to Rochester with a big bang: The Toronto company will not only purchase Eastman Kodak’s health imaging group later this year but will also create 500 local jobs over six years.

State and company officials said Thursday night that Onex has committed to adding the office and manufacturing positions, eventually expanding the health unit’s local presence from 800 to 1,300 people.

500 jobs is a big number for Rochester, and good news.  Or at least, would be.  Unfortunately, this also comes as one more Empire Zone deal.  I do wonder how much they’re getting in tax breaks they don’t really need.

Democrat & Chronicle: Business

The state will help with a $2 million grant and inclusion in a tax-saving Empire Zone.

Well, . . .

Let’s hope that they can at least keep their word, a feat that very few Empire Zoners have managed.  See my previous post on the subject of Empire Zones.

One thing that amazes me about all this is the indefatigable pro-business slant of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.  Just yesterday, they watched as another, presumably far more responsible news paper peeled back the veil on the Empire Zone issue.  Even the report that they made of those findings was sugar-coated, burying the most inconvenient facts in the middle of the article and downplaying them against supposed strong-points.

But now, one day later, nary a mention of that former article in what is likely the most significant outcropping of the Empire Zone schema in Rochester in at least five years.  The City and the County want to crow about how great a deal this is, with it’s entirely projected, not actual job growth, and there’s no one there to ask how much that growth will cost us as a state.

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Monroe County Empire Zones are “Lucrative”

And when they say “lucrative,” they mean for the guys getting the tax breaks, not your broke ass:

Democrat & Chronicle: Local News

(March 15, 2007) — Rochester and Monroe County businesses received a combined $64.5 million in state tax breaks during 2003-05, according to never-before-released state Empire Zone records.

Calculating the corresponding benefit in jobs created is more difficult. By the most generous estimate, the tally is 3,631. Most of the jobs were created in the city, records show, yet the county zone has seen more dollar growth.

Suburban businesses claimed $12.6 million in tax credits in 2005, making Monroe County the eighth most lucrative Empire Zone in New York state. The Mall at Greece Ridge and Corporate Woods, a Brighton office park, led the way.

Corporate Woods, eh?  Wanna bet those tax breaks aren’t going to Phillips European?  In fact, there doesn’t seem to be much of anything of interest there except maybe the company that I presume owns the property, Pioneer Management.  No Halliburton, no easily-identifiable scandals per se.  But why is this place getting such outrageous tax incentives?  Whom do they hire in that building, exactly, that justifies the expense?

While Metro Justice has been complaining about Empire Zones and the like for years, this is the first actual window into the workings of the tax incentive program originally designed to make depressed communities viable locations for business investment.  The result?  Here as elsewhere in New York State, jobs created in the Empire Zones cost NYS taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of $17,000 per job over a two-year period.  Or $8,500 a year, if you prefer.

Eight grand a year is a lot of money.  Put it this way: the average taxpayer making $40,000 a year will pay about $2000 a year in state taxes, give or take a deduction (see page 6 of this form, PDF).  But if that person works in an Empire Zone, even though the money comes out of their paycheck each week, the state’s actually taking a $6500 a year loss on them.

Dig that!  For every one worker in an Empire Zone, the state needs to have created another 3 and a quarter jobs outside of the Empire Zone to make up for the loss.  That’s not what we were sold.  In fact, the citizens of this state have generally been given the canard that “well, it creates jobs, and those citizens pay taxes, too.” 

But now we see that the two sides of the equation don’t come close to adding up.  Now the question is: what do we do about it?

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Censorship at the Library: Legislator O’Brien Responds

Well, it’s disappointing but not terribly surprising that I’ve not gotten many responses to my query about the library from the Legislators I sent emails to. I frankly don’t think they’re used to having someone ask any questions of them, but I could be wrong.

Fortunately, some have responded. Jack Driscoll of Henrietta has been quite responsive. He doesn’t believe there’s anything wrong with what Maggie Brooks wants to do, but he’s at least listening. I sent him the PDF of the relevant court decision, U.S. v. Library Association.

And Legislator O’Brien has also registered his response:

Hello, Mr. Belknap. I will confess to not having reviewed the ruling of the US Supreme Court yet, but I can share with you my own view. First, I don’t think that there is anything unconstitutional about a library opting to block pornography in a publicly funded facility so that minors can not, accidently or intentionally, gain access to the content of pornographic sites. My understanding of the Supreme Court ruling (and, candidly, I may be misinformed), is that the court determined that a library could block access to porn sites, but that sites should be unblocked when a person of legal age makes a request to view “legal” sites.

Ultimately, the question for the courts (and not for the county executive) may come down to who characterizes something as legal or not legal. And beyond that morass, there is the practical reality that content blocking filters are never going to be 100% effective even if we could ever agree on what constitutes pornography.

I am concerned that library users not be denied access to legitimate internet research. The oft repeated example seems to be the couple doing research to try and understand a wife’s struggle with a breast cancer diagnosis. There should always be a way to access sites that may provide insight to people wanting to learn. That notion, embodied in the First Amendment, is the foundation that the greatness of our nation is built upon.

Your questions are based on an assumption that the county executive’s proposal is possible (“eliminating access to adult content from computers”). I don’t think, from a practical point of view, as I have said above, that such access can ever be eliminated “on a permanent basis”. It is difficult to answer, therefore, in the format you have requested. What I can say is that I think that protecting children from pornography is a legitimate governmental objective, and I don’t think we should eliminate access to computers at libraries.

I wrote him back with more information as well.? But we’re starting to see where people are on this issue, on both the Republican and the Democratic sides of the isle.? It may never come before the Leg in the first place (I doubt it will), but it’s important to know where our representatives stand on issues such as these.

Meanwhile, the subject on this upcoming week’s agenda for The Flight of the Dragonfly will be exactly this issue.? I’ve been pouring over the decision (which is not as clear as I imagine anyone would like on this issue) and seeking the guidance of a few better-informed folks.? Maybe I can even talk them into coming on the show, who knows?? But it’s an interesting topic, as questions of Constitutional Law go.

County Leg: Want Answers? Ask a Question

Well, so I decided I’d ask the County Legislature what it thought of Maggie Brooks’ plan to shut down Internet access in the public library by cutting funding. So I asked them. All of them. I sent the following letter to every email address of all 29 Legislators to see who would write back and who would not:

Dear Legislator,

My name is Tom Belknap and I write for DragonFlyEye.Net, a local news and opinion Internet magazine. Thank you for taking the time to read this message. I have some questions for you about a current issue in Monroe County and I look forward to hearing your opinion on the subject.

The issue at hand is the availability of adult content in the Rochester Public Library that was reported on by Channel 10 News. Our County Executive, Maggie Brooks, is currently threatening to withhold County funding for the library unless all access to adult content is eliminated.

Regardless of our personal feelings on the subject, there is a problem of Constitutionality with what Mrs. Brooks proposes. The Supreme Court has already ruled that, while access can be restricted as indeed the Rochester Public Library does already, it must be unblocked at a user?s request. Thus far, Mrs. Brooks? proposals seem to attempt to countermand that ruling.

My questions for you are the following:
1. Do you believe that Mrs. Brooks? proposal should be followed through on, eliminating access to adult content from computers in the public library on a permanent basis?
2. Do you believe that Mrs. Brooks? proposal violates the ruling of the Supreme Court?
3. If indeed the proposal is challenged on Constitutional grounds, is it the County?s intention to address this issue in Federal courts, if necessary?
4. What do you believe are the potential ramifications of the County being in violation of the Constitution, if that is the ruling?

You are free, of course, to express your personal opinion on the subject of adult content in the library. However, my primary concern is the above three questions.

Thank you again for reading this message. Please respond back to this email address.

We shall see what kind of response this gets. So far, only one Legislator has responded to my query, and that was Jack Driscoll (R/C/I) of Henrietta. . . inside of two hours after my sending the email. He’s a Republican, so I’m sure we disagree on many things, but this responsiveness is to his credit.

His response was as follows:

I do not believe adult content access is the responsibility of government at any level. I am being told that the supreme court ruling says the library MAY unblock a site if requested. I will review the ruling myself if the issue goes to a vote in the legislature. In the meantime I hope cooler heads prevail.

Well, there you have it.? He’s wrong about the “may” bit.? The SCOTUS doesn’t really deal in “may,” too often.? But it’s a response, nonetheless.? I didn’t expect him to agree, but I think some credit is due for the response.

Let’s Put Maggie in a Baggie

Like there wasn’t already enough to dislike about Maggie Brooks’ policies, now she wants to bitch-slap a public library into submission over the ruling of our federal Supreme Court. The self-appointed Morality Czar of Monroe County has seen fit to make a political statement and a cost-cutting effort on the back of the U.S. Constitution, irrespective of the potential ramifications to the already-financially-strapped County should her Boston T&A Party fail.

Enough, already. We need new leadership in Monroe County and the opportunity to get it is right around the corner. I don’t normally go in for supporting candidates too much, but I am willing to become the first member of the Citizens to Defund Maggie Brooks.

Let’s put her crap where it belongs!
The MaggieThe Baggie

Is Maggie Brooks Taking the Easy Way Out?

A local blog of which I have previously been blissfully unaware posits an interesting explaination for Maggie Brooks’ sudden interest in morality in the library:

CUP O? BOOKS ? Public Support for the Library

We know that County Executive Brooks is predicting a $100 million budget gap over the next two years. Today?s Democrat and Chronicle article makes it clear that Brooks is asking the library to put itself in violation of a Supreme Court ruling or face loosing 6.6 million in county funding. This should be a decision for our legislature, of course, but since there is a Republican majority, Brooks? threats are probably all too real. So is Brooks really looking to de-fund the library to cut the budget gap by $12 million over two years, and use the ACLU and the Supreme Court as scapegoats?

But does the County of Monroe not also put itself at the same risk in terms of Supreme Court violation?  Can they or can they not yank funding from the library without violating the same ruling?  How does that work, since de-funding the library is tantamount to closing it?  Someone with Constitutional Law experience, please comment!

Meanwhile, where the fuck is Mayor Duffy in all this?  How can he not be on record about this situation; how can no one have asked him yet?

10NBC / WHEC TV-10

Mayor Duffy says he has met with his staff and will have discussions with the library’s board of trustees to come up with a solution.

“The most important thing is protecting kids. That’s the most important thing. And I think there can be an incredibly good policy balance here with those who are concerned with First Amendment issues and will have those satisfied,” Duffy said.

Democrat & Chronicle: Local News

Mayor Robert Duffy also opposes the library’s policy, according to
Deputy Mayor Patty Malgieri. She said Duffy, who is out of town at a
U.S. Conference of Mayors event, would make his opinions known to the
library boards.
“In no way should our youth be exposed to inappropriate material, and
that’s his greatest concern,” she said.

Wait, dude. Never mind, STFU.  Jesus, what a politically-triangulating, limp-dick expression of capitulation to Brooks’ political geek show.

And what the hell?  Let me also spare a slice of vitriol for the source of this pile of crap controversy: Channel 10.  Consider yourselves boycotted in the Belknap household from now on.  All the things going on right now (not the least of which being the budget gap that this little charade might help close), all the issues you might have tackled, this one was the one you wanted?  Because it’s got skin, that’s why.

I strongly urge anyone reading this in Rochester to find out what your County Legislator thinks of this and what they plan to do about it.  Sure, they’re a majority Republican body, but what do you say we get them on record?  You know, just for giggles. . . .

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