JayceLand's Endorsement for Mayor: Alex White

On Tuesday, March 29, the City of Rochester will hold a special election for interim mayor. Although the election defies the City Charter (which directly specifies that the Council appoint an interim mayor), it appears that the election will take place and the results of that election will be supported over the Council's transgression — at least until the next election cycle.

On the ballot are Alex White, Bill Johnson, and Tom Richards along with an active write-in candidate Ann C. Lewis. I wrote about the candidates at the Gleason Works debate, and had a chance to hear them discuss issues on March 14 at St. Anne Church (1600 Mt. Hope Ave.) where they reinforced my original report.  As I see it, there are several challenges the City of Rochester faces that the mayor should be addressing.

First, the City needs to innovate to survive. While it is important to examine other cities' successes, copying those plans simply sets us back at least a couple (if not ten) years, for those cities plans germinated long ago. We need a mayor who knows Rochester and how to leverage its strengths and repair its weaknesses. We also need to examine the reality of the coming major economic disruptions: ever-increasing fuel costs and the related dwindling supply, changes in the balance of power in global economics, and environmental attacks on our generous and clean water supply.

Next, the City also needs to abandon the harmful practices of the past. First is to stop using public money for private projects, avoid the ulterior motives of developers' "suggestions", and (as I explained earlier) to stop affecting the assessment of business risk (that is, to stop paying for part of a private project to "sweeten the deal" for a potential business). Nearly all of the past boondoggles could have been avoided by following those practices. Second is to equalize the tax base so small businesses can compete with big ones: as it stands now, big businesses are strongly favored for tax breaks and public money leading to a proliferation of unsustainable monoliths (that is, unsustainable if they had to pay full taxes like small businesses do).

Finally, the City must address the crippling poverty. This is the cause of numerous problems in Rochester, including the troubled school system. Poor planning on the City's part to mitigate it has resulted in an explosion of police presence — a desperate last-ditch effort to effectively imprison the "problem".

Alex White is a small business owner with tremendous skills in long-term strategic analysis. He has demonstrated that he understands all these problems, has directly acknowledged them, and has provided potential solutions. His innovative solutions are rooted in modest changes on the governmental front (such as more flexible zoning), proper public-works projects (such as inexpensive electricity through a municipal power company), forward thinking (such as making the city more walkable to phase-out the need for constant car use), and using regional resources to our advantage (providing support for college graduates to innovate with new, in-city small businesses). He is not foolhardy with money and has short-term plans to patch budget shortfalls while understanding that it is necessary and efficient for the city to collect taxes and provide certain kinds of services.  He is the best candidate for mayour.

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Grumbling About the Eastman House

As regular readers know, I am often compelled to rant vociferously on one inane topic or another — particularly if there are other, more productive ways to address my grievances. This time it's the Café at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) — and in two parts.

First, why the absence of regional treats? The inventory of the refrigerated case was recently changed to exclude Saranac or Stewart's soft drinks, end even the milk is inexplicably not from Byrne dairy, Pittsford Dairy, nor even Upstate Farms. Heck, The Little (240 East Ave.) offers treats from both Stever's Candies, Inc. (623 Park Ave.) and The Nut House (1520 Monroe Ave.) — a welcome respite from the chemical sludge inside colorful corporate wrappers. At least the gelato comes from The Royal Café (15 North Main St., Fairport) and the cookies are baked in-house (and, if I recall correctly, locally made as well).

Second, what's up with these Best of Rochester bars they sell? They are chocolate bars — and I am emphatically surrounding chocolate with sarcastic air-quotes … er, I guess then I mean they are "chocolate" bars whose label features a suitably bland image of the city skyline. It takes some audacity indeed to claim these as the best Rochester has to offer — I mean, what of Stever's Candies, Inc. (623 Park Ave.), Hedonist Artisan Chocolates (674 South Ave.), or even the sweet old Peter's Sweet Shop (880 S. Clinton Ave.); each of those are not only better, they offer some real excellence. Attempting to affect bizarre upstate city rivalry, I'll say it must be made by someone in Buffalo or Syracuse (where, perhaps, this might be considered "best"). More likely [and a more bizarre attempt to affect Monroe county township rivalry] is that they were made by some ignorant suburbanite who sees Rochester not as a vibrant, muti-cultured mini-metropolis, but the root of problems their leeching ways have caused.

They are sold by a company doing business as Made in Rochester in this area: a storefront for distributing locally sold products. Why the presumably identical candy bar (which is definitively not made in every city on their site, and "best" of none of them) is also sold is a mystery. Then again, I possess equal measures of congratulations and disgust: for this site caters to people with more money than, at best, desire to stay — five 6-packs of Zweigles hots sells for $65 for instance. There must be a word for the financial abuse of a population all too glad to pay: usury? good business? — it's hard to say anything but both.

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Colaborating artists from Athena and Petra Designs

I stopped by The Arts and Cultural Council for Greater Rochester (277 N. Goodman St.) to listen to Melanie Updegraff, and Sharon Jeter discuss Athena and Petra Designs: Two Artists, One Product Line. What Makes It Work? It was rather fascinating and I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had to leave right at 8. Stupid America with its "this starts right now" mentality!

Anyway, the two women discussed how they collaborated artistically. First off, they were friends first — they always valued their friendship over their art; and their art over their business. Melanie commented that she thought it funny that artists can barely utter the word "business" much less deal with selling their work. I guess I can understand both sides a bit: as an artist, I'd like my art to find a home that fits rather than to just make a buck (or allow the work to be cut up for scrap) and as a businessman, I understand the importance of connecting "earning a living" with something that is rewarding. But with "Athena and Petra", they develop art that has a ready market — jewelry — so I think it's easier for them than an artist who makes works in varied media, or even "traditional" media but with widely varied styles.

But that was only part of it. They didn't have a nice easy answer to "what makes collaboration work?" Their tiered approach to their relationship was certainly a start. It seemed to me, though, that they always respected the other's opinion — they were never dismissive of an idea. They also understood the value of play: that when creativity dries up it's because it isn't fun, so fun is very important.

What I found fascinating — and I think I may track them down to get a better understanding — is that they were able to collaborate on the creative design. My understanding of collaborative projects so far is that a single creator has to own the idea, they need to understand what is important and what is not (i.e. can it be shiny or green? and is it important that it be done one specific way?), and the people who collaborate with them need to allow the creator to dictate certain aspects and let others be decided by the collaborators. What I've never seen is two people coming together to work on the same idea — Updegraff and Jeter don't split the creative process; it seems they actually collectively contribute to central design elements. As a counter-example, I've seen experimental films created where one person creates the visual experience and the other creates the auditory experience but not two people working on both.

It's killing me not to know how this all works.  But, like I said, I had to get going, so I couldn't even stay for the question-and-answer.

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