Topic: urban issues
The Duffy Administration has opened a new front in its campaign to unravel Rochester’s historical fabric. Along with the real bulldozers taking down hundreds of old houses in the Crescent (“decrepit,” Mayor Bob Duffy calls them, a word never attached to even the lowliest and shakiest structures in trendy areas like Corn Hill), there now are figurative bulldozers taking down the intellectual structure of local history. Specifically, Duffy wants to downsize – effectively, to eliminate – the office of City Historian. To save around $50,000 a year, the mayor would ruin an institution that’s distinguished this city for decades and given the whole Community of Monroe a vital sense of self.
I’ve had my disappointments with this institution, for sure. Neither the late Blake McKelvey nor the current historian, Ruth Rosenberg-Naparsteck, has produced the kind of radical historiography that turns me on. For that, we’ve all looked to the excellent work of labor historians Jon Garlock and Linda Donahue, not to mention primary sources like Emma Goldman’s autobiography.
But really, Mister Mayor! What you’re doing to the Historian is comparable to what the county has done to the parks system: set it up for slow decline. Just as the county saved a few bucks by not hiring a professional arborist, you’re proposing to save a few nickels by demoting Rosenberg-Naparsteck and, in a sense, outsourcing the job. You’ll end up impoverishing Rochester and degrade one of its biggest attractions: a cultural base that’s exceptional among mid-sized cities.