Need to Know

Back in the USA

For the past two weeks, I've been visiting family in England.

What are folks there talking about over the dinner table? Here is an unscientific sample summarizing our evening conversations:

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Make Me Care

That is a big part of my job -- making a connection between you and what's going on in the community around you.

It's particularly challenging for me at election time. Research, and my experience with Voice of the Voter, shows most people feel disconnected from politics, government, and community. My sense from the Voice of the Voter participants is a lot of folks have lost faith in ANY politician's ability to affect positive change within the "system." Even the "good" politicians don't stand a chance when they get into the legislative chambers. (If they can get there in the first place.)

But if enough people care, the "system" can't stop progress.

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Mr. Brizard Comes to Town

It's been 30 days since Mr. Brizard came to our town.

But today, the new Rochester City School Superintendent really found his place in our community.

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Drug Dealer on Broad Street

People who know me, know I'm rarely early to anything. Punctual, yes. Late, sometimes. Early, nope.

But WDKX's Liz Medhin and I finished up shooting a promo for Brizard: Square One in record time yesterday (despite a few extra takes - all my fault) and I hit all the green lights going over to the Democrat & Chronicle offices for a meeting. The parking gods were on my side, guiding me to an open spot not too far from the front door. Heck, I had 15 minutes to kill.

I decided to stay in the car for a few of them. I didn't expect it to be a particularly insightful experience; I just didn't feel like feeding the meter any more nickels than I had to.

But then I saw him. The drug dealer on Broad Street.

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Dinner with the Neighbors

Dan Gundersen, Upstate Chair of the Empire State Development Corporation, didn't hesitate yesterday when I asked him what surprised him most when he started his job in Upstate New York last year.

He visited Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and many other communities. They all had the same general economic challenges, worries, and needs. Yet, Gundersen noted, the cities failed to work together toward significant change, choosing instead to battle one another in Albany for their fair shares.

Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy agrees. Not so long ago, he likened the situation to a large family scrambling over a small amount of food.

Now enter Governor Eliot Spitzer carrying a big bag of groceries -- and suddenly regional cooperation doesn't seem so hard.

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Okay, I Lied

Louise Slaughter won't be on tonight.

Her scheduler called late yesterday and postponed. I'm still hoping to interview her before she heads back to Washington next week. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, we still have the interview with GOP Congressman James Walsh. During the 2006 election, he was opposed to setting a deadline for American troop withdrawal from Iraq. He said the U.S. still had an obligation to train Iraqi security forces.

Now, he says, the training has been done. He says the majority of American soldiers need to be back on U.S. soil by the end of 2008.

After he talks about that and several other issues, we'll talk about Governor Spitzer's 2008 State of the State address with Rochester Business Alliance President and CEO Sandy Parker.

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Brizard: Square One

The new superintendent of the Rochester City School District is about to undergo a test of stamina.

On Thursday, January 31st, WXXI and WDKX-FM are partnering for a project called Brizard: Square One. It is a full day of broadcast events designed to introduce Jean-Claude Brizard to Rochester, and vice versa.

Beginning early in the morning, WDKX's Tariq Spence will join Brizard at Dr. Freddie Thomas High School on Scio Street to take calls from Tariq's listeners - primarily young people getting ready for school. Then Brizard will check in with WXXI-AM's morning host Alex Crichton for a Q & A during Morning Edition.

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Move Over Mr(s) President

Iowa. New Hampshire. Right now, Election 2008 seems to be all about The Presidency and voters in other places.

That's not true, however, if you live in the Rochester region. Putting the Presidential race aside for a minute, let's talk about Congress.

As they did in 2006, voters in this area of the country could play a key role in November because of our Congressional delegation: Randy Kuhl, Tom Reynolds, Louise Slaughter, and James Walsh.

If we take Rep. Slaughter out of the mix, we are left with three Republicans who are on the national Democrats' radar. Close races in 2006 mean the Democrats are considering pouring even more money into these districts in hopes of ousting the established incumbents.

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Brizard Blizzard

Just before Christmas, WXXI Radio News Director Peter Iglinski stopped by my desk and suggested we use our growing partnership with WDKX-FM to do something innovative around the appointment of Jean-Claude Brizard, the new superintendent of the Rochester City School District.

We called a meeting with WDXK's Tariq Spence, whom I rate as one of Rochester's best radio personalities (and just an all-around good guy.)

The "Brizard Blizzard" was born.

(Okay, that is not the official name of our project. But the snow was swirling the day we met, and that's the name that found its way into the space between my ears.)

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To Your Health

Despite what they say about journalists, I prefer to focus on the positive.

But as we were toasting the New Year this week, I was somewhat glad to see 2007 go. Despite many wonderful happenings, the year brought some painful moments in my life. And I mean that quite literally. Here's an October excerpt from my personal journal:

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It’s Wednesday evening, and I am in Room Four of the hospital emergency room. I have a good view of the nurses’ station, which is really the heart of the operation. The doctors come here to unload and pick up patient cases.

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