CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The causes of violence

You overlooked two primary causes of violence in our society, whether it be in or out of the city (“Facing Facts on Violence,” Urban Journal). The Democrat and Chronicle’s July 22 editorial pointed out the abundance of illegal guns that must be brought under control. But the prime focus was the gratuitous violence throughout our society in music, movies, television, and video games. About two and a half decades ago, two young boys barely in their teens set a homeless person on fire in Boston. When questioned by police about their motive, they pointed to a TV show in which a beggar was set on fire.

The second factor you overlooked is the breakup of the family unit and the lack of an adult male presence in the household. Almost 30 years ago, a judge friend of mine commented how a very large portion of his criminal cases involved young people without a male in the household.

To put the blame of city violence primarily on poverty is to overlook these other factors.

America has gone through depressed economic times before. The Depression is the prime example. While there always is an uptick in property crime and stealing, we have never experienced the outbreak of violence that we have had recently. It has been on the upswing for several years.

We need to get serious about the breakup of the family and the gratuitous sex and violence that permeates our media.

Parents need to take responsibility to keep the violence outlets from their children. Rochester has a large amount of social, counseling, and employment agencies. In addition, young people need to stay in school. That responsibility belongs in the home.

Poverty exists not only in the city but in the suburbs and rural areas as well. To put the blame on this factor without considering the other factors I have mentioned is merely ducking the issue.



CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Violence and hopelessness

Facing Facts on Violence” (Urban Journal) does a good job in discussing the factors that lead to the hopelessness being experienced by a large segment of our community. However, it fails to establish any connection between that hopeless community and the current phenomenon of young African-American men shooting other young African-American men, which I thought was to be your subject.

I was present in 1964 when an earlier generation of that community faced the same hopelessness. They responded in a perfectly understandable way: by rioting violently against the Rochester authority and power which they perceived as the cause of that hopelessness. Those destructive actions had constructive results – they made the city aware of a serious problem, and caused the city’s power structure to generate some positive solutions.

It is a pretty big stretch to try to tie the current murders as actions of today’s hopeless community, most of whom are also affected negatively by the murders. Such speculation is not helpful to finding a solution. I believe current actions of the RPD in concentrating on gangs, guns, and drugs in the parts of the city where murders are prevalent is a logical and necessary operation, for these factors have a well-established connection with murder.


VIOLENCE: The Aurora massacre

Any child with a basic understanding of the English language can see that the Second Amendment to our Constitution links the right to bear arms with participation in a government-regulated militia. When the founding fathers wrote the amendment, the rifle had not yet been invented, and the fastest rate of musket fire was three to four rounds per minute.

The NRA purged its leadership and staff of anyone open to any reasonable discussion of gun ownership, has propagandized the country with its misrepresentation of the Constitution, and cowed all but the bravest politicians into silence. By omitting the conditional clause “A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State” from the Second Amendment and aiding and abetting the widespread ownership of guns the likes of which the founding fathers could never have imagined, the NRA is nothing less than a terrorist organization.


POLITICS: County must improve indigent burial services

We recently introduced legislation to correct serious deficiencies in Monroe County’s Indigent Burial Program. Among the many reforms contained in the Democratic legislation are requirements that the Monroe County Human Services Commissioner ensure that cemeteries and funeral homes contracting with the county make every effort to maintain their grounds equitably for all plots, including proper drainage, lawn care, marker maintenance, and visibility.

The proposals would also restore funding to the county’s Burial Assistance Program, which provides assistance when someone passes away with little or no resources. In 2006, the Brooks administration cut the grant amount from $1,850 to $1,250. This has the serious potential of having individuals forced into being cremated because of funding constraints, even if cremation is in violation of the decedent’s religious beliefs. Democrats would restore the funding by eliminating the vacant position of assistant county executive and cutting county vehicles, cell phones, and office supplies.

Moreover, one of our proposals has no financial component whatsoever. It requires, among other things, that families be informed of all the options available to them, including applying to a non-governmental charitable fund for assistance. Information is the key to sound decision-making, and we believe that if we can provide more information to our residents, these programs will function more efficiently.

In response to our proposals, the county executive said the current program “strikes the necessary balance.” Things are most certainly not in balance when a child’s burial is delayed for weeks simply because the family can’t afford a proper and respectful burial. Despite the fact that this worthy program was cut in 2006, the county executive has since given her highest-paid political appointees hundreds of thousands of dollars in raises, while the names of deceased are erased. The county executive and her legislative allies should be ashamed of themselves for stifling basic services for the neediest residents of our community.

This legislation is an important step in restoring trust that this county can treat even its most vulnerable citizens with the dignity and respect that they deserve. Not only would this legislation provide clear standards, but it would also ensure that cemeteries dealing with the county keep their grounds and decedent graves in reasonable condition.

We are very pleased to have worked with multiple community partners, including the House of Mercy, to come up with recommendations that would help protect residents of our community from substandard care. It is our hope that these reforms will gain the support of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle so we can work in a bipartisan manner to address these issues of concern to our community. With the restoration of this funding, we can help restore this important quality-of-life service with no additional tax burden on local residents.


Lightfoot and Kaleh are Monroe County Legislators from the City of Rochester. Lightfoot is the legislature’s assistant minority leader. County Legislature President Jeff Adair refused to refer the Democrats’ proposal to the legislature for consideration, but under legislature rules it can be resubmitted.

POLITICS: Romney and Americans’ jobs

Mitt Romney was involved personally in shipping American jobs to Red China and elsewhere. Little is still made here, so why is there such an uproar about the Olympic clothing?

For years, Mr. Romney and greedy people like him have been getting rich by closing down American factories and making most of our stuff abroad. They don’t seem at all concerned about what’s good for the country, only what adds to their own bottom line. How many millions or billions does someone need while other Americans are losing their jobs and going hungry?



One comment


    You are correct that any moderately-educated child should be able to read the language of the Second Amendment and conclude that it refers only to weapons held for defense in a formal militia and has no bearing on the ownership of guns for private use. Sadly our Supreme Court opted to substitute political pandering for semantics in order to create a new “right” for the New Right.

    And equally sad is that the Court elected to ignore the historical trail that lead directly to the creation of the Second Amendment. Any high school American history teacher could have told them that the Founders feared and distrusted a standing army and saw a well-regulated and armed people’s militia as the key to national defense.

    It would have been far more rational and intellectually honest had the Court simply concluded (correctly) that the question of private gun ownership outside of a militia was a “right” which the Founders saw no reason to address. They then could have dealt with the issue from the perspective and circumstances of the 21st. Century unencumbered by the cold dead hand of the now-irrelevant late 18th. Century.

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