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Minor Threat?

To the Editor:

While curfews may be popular with “family-friendly” politicians and concerned business owners, it is not the responsibility of our local governments to usurp the rights of parents to raise children in the manner they see fit [“Under 18? Stay Home,” Aug. 4].

Parents have the unfettered ability to determine what is in the best interest of their minor children. This right extends from the right of parents to select the best method of education to determining what movies or video games are appropriate for their child. Our governments should not take away from the ability of parents or guardians to raise and nurture their children.

Curfew laws and regulations are an unnecessary, unproductive, and unconstitutional power to prevent juvenile crime. If local officials and local business owners treated teenagers with respect, rather than as a nuisance or “probable cause,” they would find that most children are well-behaved and productive members of society. Curfew ordinances treat children with contempt without regard for their (or their parents’) constitutional rights.

Our local officials must do better than knee-jerk reactions to juvenile disturbances. Imposing curfew and other restrictions only reinforces the image that children and their parents cannot be trusted to make the right decision. Children should be entrusted with responsibility, not shielded from it.

If teenage idling is a major concern in the Capital Region, then we must find better ways to keep minors active. Our elected officials should invest more energy into encouraging the employment of teenagers and to provide fun, educational, and safe activities for children, and not to consider children vagrants, criminals, or undesirables.

Chris Roberts

Albany

To the Editor:

Metroland is to be commended on Rick Marshall’s timely article. Recent months have seen reports of teenagers in Albany committing crimes involving guns—guns they only could have obtained through organized criminal trafficking networks. This is highly disturbing. More so is the fact that the only well-publicized action that has been taken regarding juvenile misbehavior is the shopping-mall curfew story. I would say that our priorities are not in order.

It is very important for young people to be given the chance to make mistakes, to make a supported transition to assuming the rights and responsibilities of adulthood and to be reared in a community that cherishes them instead fearing them. Unfortunately, it seems that kids are increasingly treated as a suspect class and subject to curfews, restrictions and a presumption that they are nothing but trouble waiting to happen. That is bad for children, families and communities.

Our justice system is recognized as a powerful teacher of fundamental lessons. We want to have our kids grow up learning those lessons and valuing our laws and institutions. We want them to have a clear understanding of what is right and what is wrong. We want them to learn that all are equal under the law and all are innocent until proven guilty. But what message are we sending them with laws and ordinances that impose special restrictions on them that have nothing to do with crime or their safety and well-being? Or using the police in a way that instills in them a very negative attitude toward law enforcement officers? This criminalization of youth conduct—this blurring of boundaries—undermines the ability of our laws and justice system to teach their fundamental lessons.

Mr. Marshall did thorough research and reached out to a variety of sources. I would like to add three priorities.

First is an emphasis on the fundamental responsibility of parents and guardians to supervise kids. It’s one thing for government to act in loco parentis, a legal term, but not in place of parents, which means the same thing in English, but not in fact. A parent can say: “You’ve been bad. You’re grounded.” That responds to individual misbehavior and reinforces the integrity of the family itself. Curfews and the like, whether imposed by municipal governments or shopping mall owners, “ground” a whole class for no particularly instructive or disciplinary reason. If government wants to get involved, it should be providing aid and support to those parents who need help in asserting parental authority and carrying out their parental responsibilities.

Second, any police executive or prosecutor will tell you that most kids get into trouble, not in the late hours of the evening when most curfews are set, but in the hours immediately after the school day ends. They support expanded after school programs as a remedy. There is, in fact, an increasingly effective lobby led by the law enforcement community urging government at all levels to invest in this proven anti-delinquency strategy—a strategy that yields all kinds of other positive dividends for kids, families and the community. I strongly support the efforts of New York’s associations of police chiefs, sheriffs and district attorneys in their advocacy.

Third, in a much larger sense, we have to get back to our roots in society’s response to juvenile delinquency and dysfunction. More than a century ago, America led the world in progressive thinking about the problem of juvenile delinquency. In state after state, laws were enacted that created a presumption that kids in trouble must be afforded care and treatment that would lead to rehabilitation. It is sad, but in this era of mass media, sensational journalism and a number of spectacular cases of youthful criminality, the public has increasingly gone along with ever more harsh and arbitrary treatment of young people by the justice system. We are too ready to write them off. And that is ultimately a great disgrace because we have increasingly solid scientific evidence that there are programs and treatments that really do work when it comes to predicting, preventing and rehabilitating delinquent behavior. We have the greatest moral obligation to make them universally available.

Terry O’Neill

Albany

Former criminal-justice advisor, administration of Gov. Mario Cuomo

This One’s for Tom

To the Editor:

The second year in a row. Wow!

The first time I wasn’t even here—I moved and was living in the Florida Keys. This year I’ve been back a total of 10 months and I’ve won again. So what did I do? What did I win Don Pardo?

Metroland’s Best Local Poet” [Readers’ Poll, Aug. 4].

Thank you, I really mean it, it’s an honor, but I’m a little disappointed that Tom Nattell didn’t win it in memoriam. Tom was our hero, and should have got that title. I’ve done a lot of work, but so has Mary Panza, not to mention Thom Francis and Don Levy, Dan Wilcox and others in the poetry scene.

So kids, I accept this award in memory of Tom Nattell, my hero and yours, our mentor, poet and friend. And I thank you.

But next year please give it to Wilcox or Panza, Levy or Francis.

They are all my heroes too . . . and they all kick ass and the lid of poetry in Albany.

So as Tom would say, “Peace, and may the muse be with you.”

R.M. Engelhardt

Albany

Library Science

To the Editor:

I’d like to thank Rick Marshall for a well-balanced, informative article on one of the City of Albany’s treasures, the John A. Howe Library in the South End (“A Landmark, Ailing,” Aug. 25). I would like to clarify, though, two points that may have led to some confusion.

The first is that I am the Public Information Officer for the Albany Public Library, not the Upper Hudson Library System (UHLS), a consortium of 29 public libraries in Albany and Rensselaer Counties. The Albany Public Library is the Central Library in this system, but cannot speak for other libraries.

The second, and perhaps more important, point is that Albany’s library re-chartered in 2002, after a public referendum. We moved from being an Association Library, whose major source of funding was the City of Albany, to a Public District Library, whose major source of funding is a tax levy, and whose budget is voted upon and whose board is elected by the voters. Our budget has, so far, been a separate line in the City School District elections, but we also have the option to hold our own elections.

The library is currently working on comprehensive facilities plan. When it is released, we will hold a referendum that the citizens of Albany can vote on.

Quality library service to the South End is one of the library’s highest priorities, and the John A. Howe Library, like all our other locations, is an integral part of the fabric of our community.

John Cirrin

Public Information Officer, Albany Public Library

Albany

Correction

In our review of Summer Selections 2005 at the Fields Sculpture Park (“Not Too Far a Field,” Art, Aug. 18), David Brickman mistakenly attributed a stainless-steel sculpture featuring bullet holes to Magdalena Abakanowicz. The piece, titled Gunshot Landscape, is by Margaret Evangeline.

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters (computer printouts OK), addressed to the editor. Or you may e-mail them to: metroland@metroland.net. Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

Send to:
Letters, Metroland, 4 Central Ave.,
4th Floor, Albany, NY 12210
or e-mail us at metroland@metroland.net.


 
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