Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pittsford apartment project still has hurdles to clear

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2012 at 9:21 AM

The Pittsford Village Board narrowly approved special permits for an apartment complex at 75 Monroe Avenue, but residents aren't done fighting the project.

Last night, I received a press release from Friends of Pittsford Village, a group that's at least a couple of months old. Many residents in the village believe that the proposal from a Mark IV subsidiary is out of scale with village buildings and that it doesn't match the village's character. The Friends reiterate those objections in its press release.

"FOPV does not oppose site development; it seeks alternatives that fit the scale and character of the historic Erie Canal village," says the press release. "FOPV is considering various options to challenge this recent decision."

The project still needs approvals from the village's Planning Board and its Architectural and Preservation Review Board. Yesterday, Mayor Bob Corby, who voted against the project, told me that he expects those boards to consider the scale of the proposed buildings. It's clear that residents will keep the pressure on those boards.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

[UPDATED] Pittsford board may vote on apartment proposal tonight

Posted By on Mon, Nov 19, 2012 at 11:29 AM

The Pittsford Village Board meets today at 8:30 p.m. regarding a proposed apartment complex at 75 Monroe Avenue. A vote on the project is likely.

A subsidiary of Mark IV has proposed redeveloping the former Monoco Oil site, which borders the Erie Canal, into upscale apartments. The board is considering site plan approval and special use permits for the development. That’s what the trustees will be voting on tonight, if they vote.

The project has been controversial. Many residents feel the development would be too big, that it would be out of scale and character with the rest of the village. Some trustees, along with Mayor Bob Corby, have similar concerns.

But the developer says that the proposed scale of the project is necessary from a financial perspective. With a smaller project, the company may not be able to recoup its costs.

The board will meet in Room LGI at Sutherland High School. Enter through the main foyer and follow the signs.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Governor Cuomo, storm damage, and climate change

Posted By on Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 9:25 AM

In an op-ed published yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo says that "extreme weather is the new normal" and that New York needs to "act, not react" to prepare for the events.

Cuomo's article acknlowedges climate change, and touches on the human activities that are exacerbating it. He writes that the state needs to be smarter about where it locates power infrastructure, that way it avoids storm damage. He also writes that New Yorkers need to reduce their energy consumption, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Otherwise, Cuomo stuck to what needs to be done to prepare for future storms. Mostly, that means infrastructure improvements and better infrastructure planning. New York needs to do this; damages from Superstorm Sandy are estimated at $30 billion.

Cuomo's forming three committees to examine the problems and make recommendations. But because any changes are likely to be complex and expensive, I'm skeptical that any but the easiest changes will happen.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Is a natural gas-fueled industrial boom good for the planet?

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 9:41 AM

It seems that any effort to address climate change is plagued by criticism that it'll cripple economic growth. As long as fossil fuels are cheap and abundant, not just in the United States but across the globe, that dynamic will probably continue.

For an idea why, consider the story published yesterday by the Washington Post, which says that the shale gas boom "is firing up an old-fashioned American industrial revival." In particular, the petrochemical, nitrogen fertilizer, and plastics industries are considering bringing back domestic production facilities. And they have their eyes on areas that are producing shale gas so they can be close to the new natural gas supplies.

The Post article gives little attention to the environmental aspects of the gas boom and its potential to fuel industrial revival. But the industries in question are hardly clean. And their natural-gas consumption will result in lots of greenhouse gas emissions. The article does succinctly explain why that's trouble for environmentalists and others who want stronger regulations of greenhouse gases and shale gas drilling.

"As new gas supplies fuel more and more industrial plants, new constituencies will have stakes in gas production, making it politically harder to impose new regulations," says the Post article.

The scientific consensus is that to avoid the worst effects of climate change, global carbon dioxide emissions need to decrease. Yet earlier this week, Reuters reported that global carbon dioxide emissions increased 2.5 percent in 2011. The reason: increased industrial activity.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mayor: MCC showdown an artificial crisis

Posted By on Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 11:41 AM

Tom Richards.
  • Tom Richards.


Rochester Mayor Tom Richards says Republicans in the County Legislature are making the MCC situation “unnecessarily confrontational.”

The Legislature could vote as soon as next month on borrowing for the list of projects the county plans to tackle in 2013. Included in the county's Capital Improvement Plan is millions in borrowing for MCC’s new downtown campus.

MCC’s board has voted to move the campus from the Sibley building to Kodak’s State Street campus, and County Executive Maggie Brooks supports the board’s position. But Richards wants MCC to stay at Sibley, and so far Legislature Democrats have stood behind him. That’s important, because Republicans need one or two Democrats — depending on when the vote is taken — to side with them for the bonding to pass.

Richards says Brooks and the GOP, which has the majority in the Legislature, could neutralize the conflict by taking the MCC bonding out of the capital plan and making it a separate vote.

“It’s being done, I think, because it tries to put the Democrats in a position where they have to vote the whole capital budget down in order to pass it,” Richards says. “Not that that isn’t a common legislative trick, but it’s nothing more than that.”

Former Democratic Legislator Vinnie Esposito tried over the summer to change the wording in the capital plan to make the MCC bonding site-neutral, but Republicans voted his amendment down without explanation.

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Petraeus scandal may pull covers off the effects of war

Posted By on Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 11:18 AM

Fresh off his re-election, President Obama will be holding a press conference later today. Presumably he’ll want to talk about his looming battle with Congress over avoiding the fiscal cliff. But the first questions the White House press will almost certainly ask will concern the sex scandal involving his top CIA and military brass.

The story, which has brought down CIA Director David Petraeus and ensnared General John Allen, has gone from salacious to stupid. In an age of Orwellian surveillance, how could the head of the US intelligence agency know so little about the internet and privacy? And how could he not know that his affair with Paula Broadwell would end badly?

But maybe the Petraeus scandal will eventually lead to a much more important discussion about the war and its impact. While there was plenty of talk about military spending, the 11-year war in Afghanistan received only brief mentions during the 2012 presidential campaign. Support for the war is almost non-existent, with the possible exception of Senator John McCain. And it’s clear that US involvement in the region is not going well.

If nothing else, the public is watching someone with celebrity status cope with personal problems that can stem from years of multiple deployments. Thousands of men and women have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with serious physical, emotional, and financial problems. Their marriages and family relationships have undoubtedly suffered, too.

Where’s the attention for them?

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Brooks presenting county budget tonight

Posted By on Tue, Nov 13, 2012 at 12:57 PM

Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks will present her 2013 budget proposal to the County Legislature tonight.
The presentation is at 6 p.m., which is when the Legislature meeting is scheduled to start.

The county budget typically comes in at approximately $1 billion. And the tax rate will probably stay at $8.99 per $1,000 assessed value; every year Brooks repeats her pledge not to raise the property tax rate.

The question is how will she balance the budget, since the 2012 plan projected a multimillion dollar deficit for 2013.

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Allure for neighborhood schools

Posted By on Tue, Nov 13, 2012 at 10:42 AM

Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas wheeled out some charts, at a meeting this morning, to help explain his proposal for modernizing city schools. His plan for the next phase of the more than $1 billion remake of the district’s buildings recommends closing five schools.

In a relatively short period of time, Vargas has become deft at explaining an extremely complex plan. But the discussion invariably gets stuck on one topic: neighborhood schools.

It’s been difficult for Vargas to get everyone on the same page. That’s partly because while many parents and community leaders frequently say they want neighborhood schools, they don't send their children to those schools.

“We’re going to have to study this phenomenon,” Vargas said this morning.

Another problem: multiple definitions have evolved for neighborhood schools. For instance, at this morning’s meeting, Vargas talked about his recommendation to close School 16, 37, and 44, and build a new school that combines the programs of all three. The new school would also draw students from the 19th Ward neighborhood.

But some parents were not on board with the idea. They argued that too many of the closures were in the 19th Ward neighborhood. And they said, a new school housing nearly a thousand students would be too big.

Transportation is another huge concern for many parents. Even though some parents may like the idea of a neighborhood school, they are concerned about safety. And they choose schools far enough away from their homes to make busing a requirement, which drives up costs for the district.

Vargas knows there is no easy answer to the neighborhood schools issue, but he’s got to find one before spending $625 million on the next phase of remodeling city schools. Otherwise, he risks moving forward on a costly project that many parents, residents, and community leaders won’t value. And worse, it won’t stop the decline in enrollment.

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US on track to become top oil producer

Posted By on Tue, Nov 13, 2012 at 8:57 AM

During the presidential campaign, Republican Mitt Romney made some noise about how President Barack Obama was, more or less, standing in the way of increased domestic energy production.

The campaign is over, Romney lost, and media outlets are finally picking up on reports that the United States is on pace to pass Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer. The Associated Press reported this on October 23, a couple of weeks before the election.

Yesterday, however, the International Energy Agency released its new World Energy Outlook. In its summary of the report, Yale Environment 360 says that advances in unconventional drilling, a category that includes horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing as well as deep-water offshore drilling, could make the United States the world's biggest oil producer within a decade. Combined with the increase in natural gas extraction, which is also driven by unconventional drilling, the country could produce almost all of its own energy by 2035.

Media across the country are now running with the story. But a critical point is missing from the narrative. Increased oil production will enable continued oil consumption, and that means greenhouse gas emissions. Without curtailing the need for and production of oil, those emissions will exacerbate climate change. And climate change is already factoring into destructive and harmful weather events.

The unconventional extraction methods that are driving this growth also carry serious risks of environmental contamination and destruction. The Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, which spilled approximately 5 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, ought to serve as an example of what can go wrong.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Caring for caregivers

Posted By on Mon, Nov 12, 2012 at 2:23 PM

Some of my favorite childhood memories involve hiking in the Genesee River bed near Mt. Morris with my mother. We would spend hours looking for arrowheads, studying rock formations, or tracking deer. I still get a chuckle when I’m reminded of how unconventional she was compared to my friends’ mothers.

Now much of my time with my mother is spent searching for an important document she has misplaced, taking her to doctors' appointments, or worrying if she’s all right when she doesn’t answer the phone. My mother, who is nearly 80, still lives on her own. But like most caregivers, I can see the future: her care will require even more time, and the stress will only increase.

The physical, emotional, and financial costs to caregivers are seldom discussed in the national health care conversation, despite a graying population that’s living longer. More than 65 million Americans are primary caregivers to sick, elderly, or disabled family members, friends, and neighbors. And the value of the services they provide is estimated to top $450 billion this year, according to a Washington Post article.

More than 60 percent of caregivers are women, and 30 percent of them have children and grandchildren who also need their support. The average amount of time caregivers devote to caring for someone else is about 20 hours a week, and 47 percent report dipping into their retirement savings prematurely for financial assistance.

Caregivers may be getting some overdue support from Washington lawmakers. Legislation was introduced in the Senate this year that would provide a federal tax credit to assist with the costs of caring for an aging family member. Another option, says John Schall, head of the National Family Caregivers Association, is offering Social Security credits to full-time caregivers.

“If we’re serious about reducing health-care costs, we have to invest in family caregiving,” Schall says.

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