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Links of the Day:

- Is there really a crisis over school bullying? A columnist in the Wall Street Journal says there’s no data showing bullying is more of a problem now than in years past. Nick Gillespie suggests the fixation on bullying is a result of the era of helicopter parenting:

But is America really in the midst of a “bullying crisis,” as so many now claim? I don’t see it. I also suspect that our fears about the ubiquity of bullying are just the latest in a long line of well-intentioned yet hyperbolic alarms about how awful it is to be a kid today.

I have no interest in defending the bullies who dominate sandboxes, extort lunch money and use Twitter to taunt their classmates. But there is no growing crisis. Childhood and adolescence in America have never been less brutal. Even as the country’s overprotective parents whip themselves up into a moral panic about kid-on-kid cruelty, the numbers don’t point to any explosion of abuse. As for the rising wave of laws and regulations designed to combat meanness among students, they are likely to lump together minor slights with major offenses. The antibullying movement is already conflating serious cases of gay-bashing and vicious harassment with things like…a kid named Cheese having a tough time in grade school.

In Western New York, legislation is popping up to prosecute bullies. The Erie County executive reluctantly signed legislation that he doesn’t think is enforceable. Monroe County has pending legislation. We’ve also seen at least one local lawsuit related to bullying.

This issue came to the forefront because of social media use. But it exploded when several  teen suicides were linked to bullying. I think it could be dangerous for the media make the connection between suicides and bullying. Sensational media coverage could “normalize” the idea of teens killing themselves because they’ve been bullied. When a Spencerport girl killed herself, people immediately blamed bullying, despite repeated police assertions there was no link and requests for privacy from her family. Suicide is extremely complicated and we should resist the temptation to find simple explanations for these tragedies.

I interviewed a University of Rochester psychiatrist who is adamantly opposed to legislating this problem away:

“I agree we have to do something. But I think that doing legislation of that sort isn’t the effective solution,” said Dr. Eric Caine, who has studied suicide and bullying. “We need to put a tremendous amount of focus on bullying. But that isn’t the same thing as preventing suicide.”

(snip)

Dr. Caine says bullying is common, but suicide is rare, especially among high school students. He said suicide is a complex problem.

“While there may be an occasional suicide where bullying has been a central issue, there are many other factors, typically. There are often family issues, substance abuse issues, school problems, interpersonal and peer problems, sometimes the emergence of major psychiatric disorders,” he said.

(snip)

He said teaching values is important.

“I think people have to be realistic that passing a law isn’t the same thing as changing the community,” he said. “And that passing a law isn’t the same thing as having people be responsible adults or responsible kids.”

I endured terrible taunts in 5th grade that included “Orphan Ugly,” a reference to my frizzy red hair. It was relentless and humiliating. One day I couldn’t stop crying in class and my teacher asked me what was wrong. He called my parents and the parents of the bullies that night. It got a lot better after I stopped suffering in silence.

People can be very mean. They’re mean as kids. They’re mean as adults. Part of growing up is learning how to cope with mean people. (It’s never easy.) Part of growing up is also learning how to treat others nicely. Are children being taught these things anymore?

- The mentality of gated communities contributed to the death of Trayvon Martin. An op-ed in the New York Times discusses the “bunker” mindset in enclosed housing complexes.

- Casinos are not the answer. A longish read from Financial Times looks at the impact of casinos in Gary, Indiana.

- A New York State senator needs to put his pants on.

Standing in the draining pool water running down the street, a helicopter hovering overheard, a feeling of dread set in. Hearts sank as a growing number of officers circled the pool. The Medical Examiner’s arrival was confirmation of an outcome no one wanted.

Larie Butler’s death touched so many people.

A typical teenager’s disappearance, a mother’s agony, a police department’s alarm and a desperate search united the community in compassion.

There were those ready to pounce if the police and media didn’t give Larie’s case attention. While “missing white girl syndrome” is well-documented, bias was never in play in this sad story. We now know police had evidence from the start leading them to believe Larie had been killed. We now know why police didn’t initially want her family to speak publicly, for fear of jeopardizing their search for the suspect and her remains.

More than a dozen investigators were working around the clock. They got to know Larie’s family. Finding her body was something they will never forget. “She looked like an angel,” a police officer said.

We won’t soon forget the anguish of Larie’s mother. Whose heart didn’t break when she thanked police and the community and questioned her own trust of a family friend?

The magnitude of this crime hasn’t set in. There are never answers to explain why. It’s a horrifying, sad story that touched us all.

Links of the Day:

The headline reads “Providence drowns while Brown thrives.”

Providence faces a huge budget deficit and the prospect of cutting services, while its local colleges are booming. The mayor wants to extract increased payments in lieu of taxes  from the nonprofit schools.

Rochester faces the same situation, except our city officials aren’t eager to make the University of Rochester pay more. If the main U of R campus, not including the medical school, were fully assessed, the college would pay more than $3 million a year. Instead, the city charges the school user fees for snow removal and other services that amounted to less than $200,000 in 2006.

The U of R’s massive economic impact tends to blunt any criticism the institution should pay more. But that massive economic impact is not exactly keeping the city afloat. When Kodak was the largest employer, the city was able to reap the benefits of the company’s building boom through property taxes. The U of R is about to build a $180 million hospital and the city won’t get a nickel. The city has to pray U of R workers buy houses in the city.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner got Syracuse University to cough up an extra $500,000 a year. Syracuse officials are also looking long and hard at requests for tax breaks for university-related private development. Rochester is doing the opposite.

Cities around the country are having this conversation. I think Rochester should, too.

- The news media keeps using the same pictures of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. Are the images prejudicial?

- It’s a tough time to be a local TV sportscaster. Fortunately, this trend hasn’t taken hold in Rochester to a large degree.

- Why the heck does Monroe Community College need holding cells?

Links of the Day:

- Wegmans, which just opened its first store in Massachusetts, is now scouting locations in Boston, reports the Boston Globe. The store would likely be an “urban model” that Wegmans is looking to build in nearby Newton:

“We believe we belong in Boston, not just in the suburbs,” Wegman said.

(snip)

Wegman said he is fascinated with the Boston market because it is the most highly educated and densely populated market the chain has ever served, but it is also a scary experience to change its successful model.

“In some ways, coming to Boston is terrifying. Going from 130,000 feet to 70,000, you’re making an enormous amount of guesses,” Wegman said. “This is a big deal for us.”

Boston’s mayor is trying to recruit the store.

Wegmans has only one remaining store in the City of Rochester, though many are right outside city limits. It would be nice to see Wegmans “change its successful model” and open  an urban prototype store in Rochester in the future, though it’s clear having a “highly educated and densely populated” area is important. We’re not there yet.

- Why are we fixated on hoodies and not guns in the Trayvon Martin shooting?

- Why aren’t we also marching about black on black crime? Juan Williams wants to know.

- The pink slime defenders are lining up.

- I blogged about running into a high school classmate whom I hadn’t seen since he was shot – in school. A while back, I blogged about an elementary school classmate whose story didn’t turn out as well.

A big, tall man approached me tonight and introduced himself as James Holt. I immediately recognized the name of my John Marshall High School classmate.

I hadn’t seen him since September 17, 1992.

That was the day James was shot in what we called the “main hallway,” a beautiful corridor with a black and white-patterned floor. His arm took the bullet meant for his chest.

James and the shooter had been friends. James said their dispute was over gambling during a game of Tonk.

I remember that day vividly. Students were upset and torn because we knew both young men. It was stupid and senseless. Oddly, I don’t remember a lot of soul-searching after the shooting. It was a chaotic year filled with chaotic days and somehow the incident didn’t register as a moment of reflection or change.

“They wouldn’t let me come back to school,” James said. “I don’t know why. I can’t remember. I finished in night school. I made it.”

James almost got shot again after a midnight basketball game at the old Arnett YMCA. A man followed him outside. “He said I wanted his girlfriend. He pulled out a .38 and it jammed.”

James decided it was time to leave Rochester. His arm rehabilitated, he served two years in the Navy.

He is now a lineman for IBEW, doing work for utility companies like RG&E. He has three children, lives in Henrietta and goes to church. He volunteers at the Boys & Girls Club and tries to encourage youth to enter his trade. “Kids think something is always supposed to be given to them. It doesn’t work that way.”

James also referees high school basketball in the Rochester City School District. He recently returned to Marshall to work a game. He hadn’t been there since the day of the shooting.

“I had an anxiety attack a week before the game…severely, to the point where I couldn’t eat,” James said. “I hadn’t been back, but I wanted to go back. I even walked down the hallway. It was the same.”

James believes the shooting changed the course of his life, setting him on a positive path. He isn’t sure what happened to his former friend who pulled the trigger. James believes he’s been shot a couple times and is now disabled. James isn’t mad at him. “As big as I was and as little as he was?”

James doesn’t blame Marshall for anything that happened or the way things turned out for some of our classmates. He points to family values as a key to success.

“I know we came a long way. I just don’t like to see a lot of people we used to go to school with that aren’t around anymore, that are either dead or in jail…or you hear about them on drugs.”

Most recently, we lost James McNair, Rochester’s first homicide victim of 2012. McNair was a youth mentor and a member of the Class of 1994. James attended the funeral.

Communications Bureau, City of Rochester

More Links of the Day:

- How about a Rochester Pop-Up?

The city of Pittsburgh is enjoying success with “pop-up” stores, shops that fill up vacant downtown spaces for a short time rent-fee. If the stores are profitable, they might set up shop permanently. A successful series of pop-ups can create a mini-retail district, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Pop-ups long have been popular in other cities, including New York. In some cases, big-name retailers occupy pop-up locations for no more than a month.

Pittsburgh chose its first 11 pop-ups from among 90 or so applicants. They’ll get free rent for as long as a year, thanks to a $25,000 grant from the city Urban Redevelopment Authority and funds from the Heinz Endowments, Colcom Foundation and an anonymous donor.

The first pop-up surfaced before Christmas. Eight storefronts are occupied now, and three soon-to-come ventures will round out the program.

This is slightly similar to an approach taken by Mt. Morris developer Greg O’Connell, who charges only $5 a square foot in rent.

Rochester’s downtown has plenty of vacant storefronts. It would be cool to see something like this take off, but we’d need willing building owners. It could really “pop.”

- The city can force the Occupy Rochester protesters to leave Washington Square Park, according to a judge’s ruling.

- When charter schools fail, children can get terribly hurt. Are we experimenting on kids in the name of school choice?

- The nation’s big phone companies are trying to take away your right to a landline, writes Rochester’s own David Cay Johnston.

- Rochester has some fine examples of WPA art. Should there be more public art?

Links of the Day:

- Wegmans says 1.5 million more cows will be killed because it is no longer using lean finely-trimmed beef, otherwise known as “pink slime.” In a hugely defensive blog post, Mary Ellen Burris says the company wasn’t trying to deceive customers when it originally denied it used pink slime. Wegmans made a distinction between trimmings treated with ammonia and trimmings treated with citric acid:

The customer comments about “pink slime” have really upset us.  They felt we were not honest in our responses to their question “does your ground beef have pink slime?”  Could we have handled this better?  We are so sorry that people felt betrayed.   However, at no time were we trying to mislead or duck the issue.

(snip)

We delayed in joining the parade of retailers ceasing its use because we hate waste…The American Meat Institute estimates that the loss of this added lean beef (not pink slime or an additive or a filler) means that approximately 1.5 million additional head of cattle will have to be harvested annually to make up the difference. This is not a good use of natural resources or modern technology, in a world where red meat consumption is rising and available supply is declining (as I wrote in my blog three weeks ago).

Wegmans has made no secret it thinks the pink slime controversy is ridiculous and sensational. Companies should disclose they are using this product, but as I blogged about last week, the pink slime issue seems overblown.

- Former Mayor William Johnson had an op-ed published in the Orlando Sentinel about Trayvon Martin. He wrote Rochester has strong ties to Sanford, Florida. He said this country still has a long way to go with race relations.

- Downtown Buffalo is getting a casino. It’s a giant parking lot.

- Moms pre-chew food for their babies. It’s a thing, apparently.

The Pike Company unveiled the design for the Windstream offices on Monday. Pike will spend $19 million (with some taxpayer help) to rehab what remains of the Seneca Building.

The response to the renderings was a collective shrug.

Architect Roger Brown of the Rochester Regional Community Design Center said, “It’s a nice Rochester building. It’s very conservative. It meets a lot of the urban design requirements, such as transparency, detail and the material. It’s got a little bit of flair with the entranceway.”

But Brown said Rochester would be “missing the boat” if the site was filled up with similar buildings.

“My disappointment is that it’s not taller. The downtown zoning code says that buildings in that area should be five stories or more in height, at least that’s my interpretation. I think buildings in that location should have more of a presence.”

The building is what it is for one reason – money. PAETEC scaled down its planned headquarters several times. We’re lucky anything is happening at the site at all. Pike and Windstream deserve major kudos for taking the plunge. But like Brown, I’d hate to see the entire site filled up with run-of-the-mill buildings.

There’s still time for the “wow” to surface. Midtown Tower could end up being quite beautiful. If all goes as planned, it will bring density, housing and retail.

This is a tremendous opportunity to reshape downtown. Midtown Plaza was a wall that obstructed views and created an artificial barrier between Main Street and the East End. Tearing down Midtown Plaza clearly opened up downtown. I hope the city proceeds very carefully on the development of the remaining parcels.

The next 50 years of downtown are at stake.

City of Rochester Communications Bureau

Links of the Day:

- A Community Report Card produced by the Rochester Area Community Foundation and United Way is a fascinating read. First reported in the Democrat and Chronicle, the report paints a picture both hopeful and deeply disturbing.

The report spotlighted our region’s cultural attractions, affordable housing and high tech jobs. But it also showed deep divides among white and black residents, and city and suburban residents in the areas of infant mortality, child poverty and education.

The study shows a decline in median income, charitable giving and tourism revenue.

There are no surprises, but it is an opportunity for reflection on our community.

- Federal funds have been fueling Delphi’s fuel cell research. Those funds are in jeopardy.

- Only 9 percent of new cars sold are manual transmission. I am a stick shift die-hard.

- The Rochester Subway blog, in its fight to save 13 Cataract, is pointing out eyesores can be saved. Today’s installment looks at Station 55.

More Links of the Day:

- New York City school officials want test-writers to avoid words and topics that could make kids feel bad. Those words include birthday, Halloween, dinosaurs and dancing. The New York Post reports:

Words that suggest wealth are excluded because they could make kids jealous. Poverty is likewise on the forbidden list.

Also banned are references to divorces and diseases, because kids taking the tests may have relatives who split from spouses or are ill.

Officials say such exclusions are normal procedure.

“This is standard language that has been used by test publishers for many years and allows our students to complete practice exams without distraction,” said a Department of Education spokeswoman, insisting it’s not censorship.

The New York Post calls it political correctness. I think this has more to do with needlessly protecting children.

Perhaps schools should stop teaching about the Holocaust or slavery because kids might get upset. Maybe schools should stop teaching literary classics like Lord of the Flies, which we read in 6th grade, because they’re too violent and disturbing. If the state is concerned about what goes on in a two-hour test, how long before it wades into other areas of learning?

Schools should not exist in bubbles. We cannot sanitize life.

- Want to know if your kid is skipping school? Implant a micro-chip in her school uniform. The geniuses who thought this up probably didn’t count on kids bringing a change of clothes in their backpacks. This reminds of the Halloween tracker apps. What a nice way to build trust and foster independence in children.

- In a hugely important piece of journalism, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution analyzed state testing data from across the country and flagged a bunch of school districts for irregularities. The report is a continuation of the paper’s work uncovering a massive cheating scandal in Atlanta schools.

AJC flagged some districts in the Rochester area. You can search its database. But the analysis has serious limitations. Only districts showing highly improbable fluctuations in student achievement on state tests were highlighted. The data doesn’t prove cheating. New York’s tests have been found to be seriously flawed, but I’m not sure if that would play a role.

The report raises serious questions. New York recently implemented new testing security procedures.

Links of the Day:

- Adults who leave children under 8 years old unsupervised in vehicles could be ticketed or criminally charged under a bill that passed the New York State Senate. The bill says children could die of hyperthermia or be abducted. According to the Queens Chronicle:

The bill applies to any person legally charged with care of a child and states that they cannot be left alone or with anyone under the age of 12, “under conditions which would knowingly or recklessly present a significant risk to the health or safety of the child.”

Those found guilty of an infraction would be fined no more than $50 for the first violation, no more than $100 for a second infraction within 18 months of the first, and no more than $250 for a third, but at that point it would be a misdemeanor and the person would have to appear in court.

Critics say the bill has problems. One is the penalty for endangering kids in cars is less severe than endangering pets. Another is the law is vague and may be an overreach in some cases.

Steve Epps, a retired police officer and resident of St. Albans, had similar concerns, stating that the bill doesn’t differentiate between parents who leave a child in a car for a few minutes while they run into a grocery store to get a quart of milk and drug addicts who leave their vehicle to buy narcotics and completely forget the child was with them.

“It leaves too much room for abuse by the city and leaves it to the cop’s opinion as to what to look for,” Epps said. “It seems like a revenue maker to me.”

Of course, Free Range Kids weighed in on this one:

So even if I think my 7-year-old can wait in the car, reading a comic book, while I go in to buy stamps, someone else with a badge or gavel might consider that treacherous. After all, what if there’s a carjacking? What if the child is snatched? What if the car overheats in ten minutes and somehow my kid can’t figure out how to open the door? Or (to paraphrase some folks interviewed in the Queens Chronicle article): What if the state needs to make money and penalizing my parenting decisions is an easy way to grab it?

Police are already charging parents who leave their kids in cars. The issue of criminalizing parents who don’t follow new societal norms of “never leaving kids alone” is getting national attention in legal circles. The bill hasn’t passed the assembly.

- Helicopter parents forced the cancellation of a Colorado Easter Egg hunt.

- A Rochester security guard won a $3.4 million verdict for getting shot during a Wilson Farms holdup in 2003. In the decade before his shooting, there were more than 100 Wilson Farms robberies in the area.

- Talking on the phone while driving is bad, right? But there’s not a lot of data showing crashes related to cell phone use.

- Sitting along 490 is an 1820s malthouse.

City of Rochester Communications Bureau

Politicians will gather Monday to mark the groundbreaking of the Windstream building at Midtown. This will be the first construction on the site since the city and state announced the demolition of the former shopping mall and office complex in 2007. It’s a significant milestone.

But serious questions remain about the rest of the development site. Midtown Tower, which I’ve always thought was the most important piece, still needs financing. The tower is important because it would bring housing and first-floor retail. (Grocery store, perhaps?)

There’s no clear vision for the remaining parcels. The city is not interested in a performing arts center, though Buffalo’s theater is a huge economic engine. A casino is highly unlikely and the mayor has said he doesn’t want one downtown.

What do we want to see on the rest of the property? How much input should the public have? Should it really take 10 years, as the mayor has indicated, to fill in the site?

Links of the Day:

- Governor Andrew Cuomo is such a micro-manager, Crain’s quotes an insider who said:

“He is so unbelievably involved in almost everything,” said an Albany insider of Mr. Cuomo. “On one level, it’s very impressive because he’s a machine in the way he works. But it’s also completely paralyzing and debilitating because [agencies] can’t go to the bathroom without him giving the go-ahead.”

- What is Cuomo hiding? An Albany Times Union columnist writes about the governor’s secret records from his time as attorney general:

The governor is thoroughly steeped in hypocrisy when it comes to transparency. The more he utters the word, the less he pays attention to it.

- The former Erie County Executive is taking on Rep. Kathy Hochul in the 27th District race. This is the Buffalo version of Maggie v. Louise.

- Why does iced coffee cost more?

Finger Lakes Racetrack Website

The horse-racing industry is suddenly under intense scrutiny in the wake of the cancellation of the HBO show “Luck” because of several horse deaths. Horses are dying at tracks all over the country, many in New York State.

In a damning report called “Mangled Horses, Maimed Jockeys: Death and Disarray at America’s Racetracks,” the New York Times reveals an average of 24 horses die each week at the country’s racetracks.

A computer analysis of data from more than 150,000 races, along with injury reports, drug test results and interviews, shows an industry still mired in a culture of drugs and lax regulation and a fatal breakdown rate that remains far worse than in most of the world.

If anything, the new economics of racing are making an always-dangerous game even more so. Faced with a steep loss of customers, racetracks have increasingly added casino gambling to their operations, resulting in higher purses but also providing an incentive for trainers to race unfit horses. At Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, the number of dead and injured horses has risen sharply since a casino opened there late last year.

Governor Andrew Cuomo called for investigation into the Aqueduct horse deaths.

The Finger Lakes Racetrack has the best horse-injury record in New York State and among the best the country, according to the New York Times. It has 2.5 incidents of breakdown or signs of injury per 1,000 starts. But a veterinarian there alleges horse deaths are on the rise:

“It’s hard to watch these poor animals running for their lives for people who could really care less if they live,” said Dr. Margaret Ohlinger, a track veterinarian at Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack in upstate New York. She performs pre-race inspections and treats horses injured in races but is not responsible for their overall care.

Last year at the track, Dr. Ohlinger counted 63 dead horses. That, she said, is more than double the fatalities of five years earlier.

The Los Angeles Times reported on the safety of California’s tracks and focused on synthetic versus dirt surfaces.

There are several possible outcomes to all of this scrutiny. The racetracks could clean up their acts and do a better job protecting jockeys and horses. Another scenario is public outcry could kill an industry struggling to attract younger people. It’s also possible nothing will change, but something tells me this issue is about to explode.

In New York State, the racetracks desperately want to become full-fledged casinos. They have a lot riding on getting this right.

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Links of the Day:

- Every spring, I’m reminded how much nicer Rochester would look without plastic bags. They’re in the trees, on highway medians, and on sidewalks.

Plastic bags are gross. They’re bad for the environment and they litter the landscape. They clog sewers and hurt animals. Few people recycle them.

Cities across the country, even conservative ones, are banning plastic bags. Others are taxing the bags, a strategy shown to dramatically reduce consumption. Senator Jim Alesi’s proposal to phase out plastic bags statewide never went anywhere. But there’s nothing stopping cities from taking up the issue.

Wegmans’ reusable bag campaign has been a huge success. The days of paper or plastic are long over. Would we really miss plastic bags?

If you need plastic bags to line the garbage bin or pick up dog poop, I have no sympathy. Buy the bags yourself and stop making the rest of pay.

I’d like to walk outside on a windy day and see a landscape free of floating debris.

- Target is remodeling its Rochester-area stores to include space for fresh produce and more grocery items.

- Groupon has a customer-relations problem.

- Every office has a “Syracuse guy.” A Boston Globe columnist pens a love letter to Jim Boeheim.

- Check out these photos from the early 1950s of the War Memorial site being cleared for construction:

When the media decides to scare the crap out of you, it does a darn good job.

Exhibit A: Pink slime.

Pink slime is a food product that’s been around for years. It cuts the cost and fat content of ground beef. It doesn’t change the nutritional value. It’s also safe. But that information isn’t getting out underneath the hysterical headlines.

ABC News and The Daily never would have ignited such a frenzy if they had not called the stuff “pink slime.” The accurate name is “lean finely trimmed beef,” which is sometimes treated with ammonia to ensure safety. But calling it LFTB doesn’t terrify you, so the media stuck with pink slime.

Wegmans, in announcing it’s pulling LFTB, referred to the “sensationalism” surrounding the product. Wegmans doesn’t even sell beef treated with ammonia, just the so-called “filler.” The company insists the product is safe, but it’s bowing to customer pressure.

Everyone’s upset cow scraps treated with ammonia are used in ground beef. I’ve probably eaten pink slime for many years. I’m still here! I’m glad my food is treated with chemicals to get rid of bacteria. I don’t buy organic for that reason. I’ve never, ever had a stomach ailment in my life.

I would have been just fine not knowing anything about pink slime. I also don’t want to know what’s in my hot dogs or chicken nuggets. I don’t want to know how many preservatives are in the cereal I ate for breakfast or how many bug bits were in the canned soup I had for lunch.

But since I’m a reporter and advocate for transparency, I agree with pink slime fighters that we need to hold the government accountable for what’s in our food. The dude who coined the term pink slime wasn’t even concerned it was bad stuff – he just thought it needed to be disclosed.

The problem I have with the pink slime debate is that it’s a manufactured issue designed to get ratings and web clicks. The amount of news coverage devoted to pink slime should be reserved for products that actually will kill me or when the United States goes to war.

I highly doubt the pink slime frenzy will transfer to other food products. Can you see mass hysteria over ammonia in our donuts? (Those are chemically-treated, too.) A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Pink slime by any other name wouldn’t have caused a ripple.

The longtime pastor of a Rochester church wants to open a charter school in a building owned by his church. This arrangement raises questions about the separation of the entities. Charter schools are independent, publicly-funded schools.

The school would be called the Mary L. Wright Preparatory Charter School for Health and Legal Services. The school’s namesake is the late wife of Rev. James R. Wright, pastor of New Progressive Church on Chili Ave. She was a vice-principal at East High School with a background in math and science. The school would be located a stone’s throw from the church.

“We would just simply be leasing the space to the school,” Rev. Wright said. “There would be a big separation. The charter school would be a its own entity. It’s not a church school at all. As a matter of fact, many of the people on the board are not affiliated with our church. We are just providing the motivation of getting the program going.”

The group’s application to the state discloses the potential conflict of interest:

The only potential conflict of interest in the lease arrangement for Wright Prep is the involvement of the school’s board chairman, Rev. James Wright, with the church that currently owns the facility. While the expected lease costs to the school are expected to fall far below market value, the school intends to have an independent valuation performed in order to ensure fairness and transparency. Likewise, Bishop Wright intends to abstain from any Wright Prep Board actions or votes related to the facility at 410 Chili Ave.

This would certainly not be the first time a charter school founded by a pastor and located in a church building has opened in New York State. In New York City, there have been debates about converting Catholic schools into charter schools. Hebrew and Arab language charter schools have also raised questioned.

Rev. Wright hopes the school opens in the fall of 2013. The school would have 150 students  in 7th and 8th grade the first year. It would eventually go to grade 12. There would be an extended day and year. The application promises a rigorous curriculum and high standards for students.

The application has some high profile support. There are very recent letters from Mayor Tom Richards, State Senator Joseph Robach, City Council members Lovely Warren and Adam McFadden, Assemblyman David Gantt and the head of the Monroe County Medical Society.

Rev. Wright said the state has asked for more information and the application is on hold. He said the issue of separation of the church and school has not be a state concern. Rev. Wright is still hopeful the school can open next year.

“We really want to improve the educational performance of students,” he said.

It seems every high-profile campaign has a mystery poll. The phone-calling has started early in the Brooks v. Slaughter race.

Several people say they’ve been called at home and asked whom they would support in a Brooks-Slaughter match-up and a Brooks-Morelle match-up.

That would be Joe Morelle, Democratic party chairman and state assemblyman. He’s not running, however. Slaughter is the candidate.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties deny they are behind the poll. Assuming the party chairs are not lying, someone affiliated with their parties doing this without their knowledge.

If Republicans are behind this poll, they could be worried Slaughter will drop out. The GOP has also been pushing the “Slaughter is ill” rumor for a while. Conducting a poll and hoping it makes the news (or a blog) could be a way to discredit Slaughter, but that seems like a lot of effort to further a rumor. People conduct polls because they want data.

Slaughter seemed just fine at a press conference a couple weeks ago and says she’s in good health. She also insists she’s running and there are absolutely no indications she’s even thinking of backing out.

If Democrats are behind the poll, they could have inside knowledge about Slaughter’s intentions. Even if she’s in 100 percent good health, she’s 82 and anything could happen. That’s a pretty cynical way to look things.

I expect we’ll see a lot of mystery polls, campaign literature and other stuff this campaign. It’ll be a long seven months.

More than 3 million people are working in green jobs in the United States, according to a report out today from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s 2.4 percent of the nation’s total employment. Not many of them are in Rochester, but there’s hope for the future.

Green jobs are jobs that benefit the environment. Broadly defined, green jobs include manufacturers of wind turbines, organic farmers and bus drivers. We care about green jobs because we care about the planet. They’re also seen as a way to grow the economy, as demand for clean energy rises.

The BLS report is right in line with a recent Brookings Institution study. That study ranked Rochester very low in green jobs – 61 out of 100 metros. The study, using 2010 data, said we had only 8,385 green jobs, fewer than Syracuse and Buffalo. The biggest growth areas here are building materials, remediation and pollution reduction.

Rochester ranks low, despite Greater Rochester Enterprise’s aggressive recruiting of green companies. The prime location is considered to be Eastman Business Park, with its cheap power, available land and materials science knowledge. Natcore, maker of solar cells, opened a lab there recently, but has yet to start any manufacturing operations. The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council had high hopes for a California energy company, but concerns about the park’s infrastructure put that on hold.

Rochester has other green technology assets. We’re home to the RIT Golisano Institute for Sustainability. There are two auto plants developing fuel cells. We also have a lot of energy companies.

The U.S. as a whole hasn’t capitalized on green technology, particularly in manufacturing, which might explain why Rochester appears to be lagging. If the economics of the field improve, Rochester is in a great position.

Links of the Day:

- I’ve long been frustrated by the fact I pay two separate Internet bills – one for home and one for mobile. They add up to about $100 a month. I’d love to pay one bill for half the price for all of my broadband needs. There’s one reason I can’t do that: Data caps.

All-you-can-eat mobile data is going the way of the dodo bird. You can easily use an entire month’s allotment by downloading one movie. What’s the point of having fancy mobile devices with fast Internet if you can’t use them anywhere but home?

The new iPad with its 4G speeds has exposed the issue, reports the Wall Street Journal:

“With LTE, the quality and the streaming is fantastic,” Mr. (Brandon) Wells said. “But man, you’re really limited in terms of the amount of content you can consume.”

Mr. Wells’s father, Steve Wells, also hit his data limit on Saturday. While he was at the basketball game with his son, his wife was using his iPad as a video baby monitor for his granddaughter while she napped in another room. By the time the two were back from the game, the app had burned through his two gigabyte plan.

“All the advantages of the iPad device are completely neutralized by the two gigabyte data limit,” said Steve Wells, 56.

Something’s got to give. High speed, low-cost public Wi-Fi networks are one way to solve this issue. Another is for carriers to offer more reasonable pricing structures, but something tells me not to hold my breath.

- State Senator Jim Alesi may not get the backing of the local Republican Party, which insists gay marriage has nothing to do with it. Democrats don’t want him either.

- Read the City of Rochester’s handout on budget choices. It’s quite detailed and includes the suggestion to close the soccer stadium.

- A Syracuse girl was put on the wrong school bus and had to walk home on her own. “What if she crossed the street and got hit by a car?” The only travesty here is that the Post-Standard continues to think this nonsense is news.

- So much for Governor Andrew Cuomo and transparency.

The Trayvon Martin case reminds me of Roderick Scott. In both cases, a man claiming to be protecting his neighborhood notifies police about an unarmed 17-year-old boy he thinks is causing trouble and minutes later shoots him dead, sparking debate about guns and self-defense.

Scott shot Christopher Cervini in 2009 in Greece on a windy and rainy night. Scott saw Cervini and his friends rifling through neighbors’ cars. He went outside with a gun as his girlfriend called police. Scott confronted Cervini and said the youth ran at him. Scott shot Cervini dead.

Police wasted no time charging Scott with murder. A grand jury knocked the charge down to manslaughter. Scott testified in his own defense. A jury acquitted him.

Scott was charged right away. No charges have been filed against George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon. Scott is black and Cervini was white. Zimmerman is white and Martin was black. People think race was a factor in Martin’s killing. People thought race was a factor in charging Scott.

There are many more differences than similarities. But the similarities stood out. Nothing is ever simple.