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Bold steps? Here?


Maybe it's too early to start celebrating, but City Council's endorsement of the mayor's ferry plan was mighty good news.

I'm grateful for the scrutiny and skepticism of Councilmember Brian Curran, who cast the sole vote against the rescue plan. Curran's worried about the risk to city taxpayers, and there is indeed a risk. But I'm willing to take it. This community seldom thinks big. With the ferry, we're thinking big.

I'm tired of this region whining and talking about what it can't do. I'm tired of us shrugging off downsizing after downsizing and pretending that things are just peachy. I'm tired of us pointing to Buffalo and bragging that we're in better shape.

A ferry restart isn't a sure thing. We still have to bid for the boat in an auction. And even if we get the ferry, there's that little matter of operating it without a loss.

But at least there's a chance that we'll keep the boat.

And so I thank the mayor, and City Council, for taking that big, bold step, doing what others in the community should have done and would not.

Now it's time for those "others" to step up.

And there's a long, impressive list of "others." I didn't expect business people, on their own, to buy the ferry. Time was too short, and there were too many unknowns.

But I doexpect them to get involved now, with the city. And on the op-ed page of the Democrat and Chronicle last week was a hint that that might happen. Two leaders of the business group called the Rump Group urged that we keep the ferry in Rochester --- even if it has to operate "at a modest loss."

The op-ed piece, by Jasco Tools CEO Dutch Summers and former RG&E chief Tom Richards, was a strong, focused, and presumably carefully worded statement. Significantly, Summers and Richards characterized Mayor Bill Johnson's public-ownership proposal as an interim step, "a bridge to a longer-term, realistic private ownership plan or a public-private partnership."

Mayor Johnson has predicted that with the city operating it, the ferry won't need public subsidy. Summers and Richards seem less optimistic. "We believe that the project may need a supplemental source of revenue," they wrote. And again they hint at some form of private involvement, once there's "time to put together" that solution.

Summers and Richards praise the economic benefits the ferry can bring. They praise its role "as a community selling point," as a way to make Rochester "an international gateway."

And then, their most important point: "We hope any continuing public involvement can come on a regional basis, since the ferry would benefit our entire region."

Yes indeed. Regional, meaning: MonroeCounty. OntarioCounty. OntarioProvince.

This is what this region needs. True regionalism in economic development. And that beautiful little ship at the Port of Rochester can be the focus.

What's the problem?

Among the little controversies that popped up in December was a move to keep street vendors from selling food between midnight and 5 a.m.

Proposals to ban street vendors seem to pop up every decade or so. One year the push came from restaurant owners, who thought the vendors were taking business away from them. This year the complaints came from residents, people who live near the downtown nightspots, where vendors have begun congregating late at night.

As is often the case with this kind of complaint, though, the vendors aren't really what people are objecting to. It's the noise from the vendors' patrons.

But noisy patrons would be hanging out outside the bars if City Hall removed every single vendor. And after hearing from the vendors, their critics, and their supporters, members of City Council voted last week not to impose a ban. They'll continue to study the problem and try to find another way to deal with it.

That's fine --- if they address the real issue. The late-night noise masks a far more serious problem: young adults who are having way, way too much to drink. So much too much that they sing and whoop and shout loud enough to wake the dead.

They do this at 3 a.m.

And then some of them get in cars and drive home.

That's what City Hall ought to be concerned about. Not street vendors.

I can assure you that residents who live near the bars are concerned about it.

I can also tell you that these particular young adults don't need bars to get so drunk that they raise holy heck at 3 a.m. I tell you this from painful, personal experience. Winter, summer, spring, and fall, some front porches in my neighborhood are lit up and alive with people swearing, cheering, screaming, and whooping it up at 3 a.m. Weekends, weeknights, doesn't matter.

Sometime between 3 a.m. and when the rest of us have to get up and go to work, some of the celebrants toddle inside and go to bed. The rest of them stagger to their cars, tossing beer bottles and cups on our lawns as they go, and.... drive home.


I am concerned, and my neighbors are concerned.

Then there's the issue of attracting families and older adults to the city. I like my multi-generation neighborhood. That's true of many of us who have chosen to live in the city.

And most of the young adults in my neighborhood behave themselves. But many do not. I don't think that city living should require turning a deaf ear to 3 a.m. partying. And nobody ought to ignore the risk of a drunk-driving death that the partying carries with it.

Noise in the middle of the night may not be a high priority for an over-taxed police force. But drunk driving must be.