News briefs 11.12.03 

'Nothing in art is ugly'

It was a cold October day for the dedication of School No. 23's new sculpture garden. Five little bodies in dress clothes --- the artists themselves --- struggled to stay still next to the two-foot bronze animal sculptures they had made.

            The garden was a year in the making: imagined, fought for, and guided by retired art teacher Cathy Feinan. Last school year Feinan had every one of the school's 350 students sculpt a miniature ceramic animal. That crowd got whittled down to five, which the original artists enlarged. Finally, with a grant from the Arts & Cultural Council, the sculptures were cast in bronze. When the official name of the garden --- The Cathy Feinan Children's Sculpture Garden --- was read, Feinan put a hand to her mouth and cried.

            She says the garden is her "last fling," but in the same breath she talks about how it can be expanded. She is tired of realtors steering families with children out to the suburbs: "a fleeing of the middle class." She wants people to believe that while many of the students at this city school are poor, they are smart, good kids. And they can create art.

            The garden has five sculptures: an eagle by Christina McCoy, a dolphin by Jesse James, a reading bear (pictured, far left) by Petra Sosa, a dragon by Annette Harris (pictured, right), and an elephant by Leah Samson (pictured, left).

            McCoy is a fifth-grader now at School No. 23. She likes art in general ("I draw and everything," she says), but she thinks the sculpture project specifically helped her earn an A in the subject last year.

            "I found out that nothing in art is ugly," she says. "At first I thought [my sculpture] was ugly, but now I know what the deal is."

--- Erica Curtis

Waiting for Maggie

Economic development was a hot issue in the race for Monroe County executive. Executive-elect Maggie Brooks is in favor of combining the city and county economic development departments.

            County Republicans, however, shot down a Democratic proposal to create a task force to study agency consolidations at a lej committee meeting last week.

            "In order to create jobs and attract business, this community must speak with a single voice," Democrats said in their referral, citing "redundant activities" among agencies.

            Democrats proposed taking a look at: the Rochester Economic Development Corporation; Rochester Business Alliance; Greater Rochester Visitors Association; County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency; Jobs First; Monroe County Industrial Development Corporation; Greater Rochester Enterprise; and Monroe County Development Corporation.

            The referral sank 3-2, with Republicans opposed. At the time of the meeting, Republicans said they were waiting on a report on the job creation efforts of the Monroe County Development Corporation. That report was presented at a meeting later that week. Republican Jeffrey McCann says he's satisfied with the job the year-old corporation's doing.

            As far as merging, McCann says, the county doesn't have jurisdiction over the private agencies. He also believes the private agencies complement each other more than they compete. Regarding a merger of the city-county economic development departments, McCann says he'll wait to see what Brooks proposes.

Looks good on paper

There will be no independent review of the county's claimed savings from Operation Transform.

            Jack Doyle says the social services merger will save the county $30 million this year. Democrats want more than Doyle's word as proof, and proposed creating a panel to review the purported savings.

            "We've tried with some difficulty to see where the savings come from," says Democrat Fred Amato, "to make sure they're not just paper savings nobody can document."

            Last month, Doyle announced that the merger had already saved the county $29.2 million. Democrats and officials from the Monroe County Federation of Social Workers immediately disputed the claim, citing lack of proof and rising public assistance caseloads. They also charge that the merger has left social services in chaos.

            Democrats' request for the review panel was rejected by a 3-2 party-line vote of the Agenda/Charter Committee last week. Republican Mike Hanna says if there is a review, it should be done by legislators.

            "I don't see any reason to do this [create the panel]," he says.

            Sherri Wood, acting director of the county Department of Human and Health Services, will present an update on Operation Transform at a special meeting of the Human Services Committee. The meeting is at 1 p.m. Monday, November 17, at the county office building.

Speaking of Combining The City And County Economic Development Departments, social Services

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