Thursday, February 21, 2013

Condoms available in city schools

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 11:39 AM

The Rochester school district will begin making condom availability free to high school students beginning next Monday, February 25.

The new condom availability program, which the Rochester school board approved last year, requires school nurses to distribute the condoms. Parents and guardians were notified by mail last October. Parents agree to allow their child to participate in the program, unless they sign and return an opt-out form.

Students must complete a health course that includes AIDS education as part of their regular high-school curriculum. And students who receive condoms must receive health guidance from the school nurse, which includes information on safe sex, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, and pregnancy prevention.

They must also learn how to safely use a condom.

Some parents strongly opposed the new program when it was presented last year. But school officials cited numerous studies that support implementing a condom availability program in high schools because it will reduce sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies.

Rochester’s teen birth rate is nearly double the national average. And a report released in 2010 showed that 45 percent of new HIV cases in Monroe County were among young adults under 25.

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Hello recession, we hardly missed you

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 9:16 AM

The countdown to another fiscal Armageddon between Congress and the president has begun. In a week from tomorrow, sequestration will kick in and about $85 billion in federal spending cuts will occur unless Democrats and Republicans can avert the crisis.

The cuts will be painful, impacting everything from defense to early childhood education. Rep. Louise Slaughter told reporters yesterday that the first place impacted locally will be the Monroe County Airport due to cuts in the Federal Aviation Administration. Additionally, federal and civilian defense workers -— as many as 700,000 —- could be furloughed or laid off.

Everyone agrees that the United States needs to deal with the national debt, now upwards of $16 trillion. But the showdown over the sequestration is about politics, not principles. The sequestration was supposed to be so terrible when lawmakers agreed to it in 2011 that reasonable minds would prevail.

That hasn’t happened. And both Democrats and Republicans are scurrying to assign the blame before the public’s anger boils over.

President Obama has asked for a balanced approach that makes strategic sense, eliminates waste, closes tax loopholes, and reduces defense spending as the war in Afghanistan winds down.

Republicans vow not to raise revenue through tax increases even if the money comes through closing loopholes. And for now, they seem willing to throw the country into another recession.

But the sequestration raises a lot of questions about the GOP, which increasingly behaves like two parties. Who does this president negotiate with on the Hill when the radical right seems to be leading the House, and not Speaker John Boehner?

And if you have a House with newly elected representatives that campaigned on anti-government rhetoric, how do they turn around and propose solutions once they’re in office that doesn’t wreak havoc on the government?

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rochester's Olympic surprise

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 12:04 PM

The US Olympic Committee is asking 35 cities whether they'd be interested in hosting the 2024 games. And Rochester is one of them.

"It came as a surprise," city spokesperson Mike Keane told me during a phone interview this afternoon.

Keane says that while the city appreciates the Olympic Committee's attempt to be inclusive in its search, it wouldn't be able to support the Games. For starters, the city probably wouldn't be able to meet the infrastructure needs, which include 45,000 available hotel rooms. A New York Times article points out that many of the cities probably won't meet the criteria, and singled out the requirement for hotel rooms as an example.

There's also the cost of preparing a bid. New York City and Chicago each spent in excess of $10 million on past bids to host the Olympic games. Rochester can't afford that, Keane said.

The Times says that the US Olympic Committee hasn't decided whether to pursue a bid to host the 2024 Olympics.

And even if Rochester wanted to put itself in the running, should it? Some host cities have been left to pay off large tabs, which they've struggled to do. Athens, Greece, which hosted the 2004 Summer Olympics, is an extreme example. The country is facing a financial crisis and there's been open speculation that the Games played a role. Time magazine addressed the issue in a piece published last year.

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College Town gets tax package

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 9:27 AM

The Monroe County Industrial Development Agency has approved a package of tax breaks for the College Town mixed-use development.

The University of Rochester initiated the project, which would be located on the west side of Mount Hope Avenue between Elmwood Avenue and Crittenden Boulevard. The project will include a Barnes and Noble, a grocery store, other retail, and apartments. Materials provided by COMIDA say the project is expected to create the equivalent of 180 full-time jobs over the next three years

Yesterday, the COMIDA board approved state and local sales tax exemptions and mortgage tax exemptions for the $60.8 million project. It also approved property tax exemptions to be offset by a payment in lieu of taxes agreement.

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Irondequoit board backs tax incentives for I-Square

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 8:29 AM

For I-Square, the third time was the charm.

Last night, the Irondequoit Town Board voted to support a PILOT - payment in lieu of taxes - for the proposed mixed-use project. Although the Monroe County Industrial Development Agency would provide the PILOT, the Irondequoit Town Board has to approve it. Last night wasn't the first time the board had done so. Last year it approved a 10-year PILOT, though developers Mike and Wendy Nolan were seeking a 25-year deal. And earlier this year the board tabled a resolution for a 15-year agreement with two 5-year extensions.

Last night's vote, however, marked the first time that the board members and the Nolans were happy with the outcome. The board unanimously approved a resolution resolution backing a 15-year PILOT agreement with two 5-year extensions. The resolution also supports a PILOT agreement that contains construction and job creation benchmarks.

Under the terms the town approved, the I-Square property would have a base assessed value of $2.1 million, and the first payment would be derived from that figure. The payment would increase by 2.5 percent every year.

Prior to the vote, Town Board member Deborah Essley said that the resolution was basically the same as the one the town tabled in January. But there was one difference. Mike Nolan was unhappy with the previous resolution because it required Town Board approval of any agreement negotiated with COMIDA. But the resolution approved last night requires Town Board approval of the COMIDA deal only if it "materially differs" from the terms it signed off on, said Supervisor Mary Joyce D'Aurizio.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Golden years tarnished for many seniors

Posted By on Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 10:47 AM

If you’re in your late 20’s or early 30’s and you haven’t seriously planned how to save for your retirement, you might want to forgo the latest cell phone or Apple gizmo. You’re probably going to need that money, and a lot more of it.

For the first time since the 1940’s, a majority of Americans will be financially worse off in their elderly years than their parents, according to a recent article in the Washington Post. The nation’s retirement savings deficit is rapidly approaching $7 trillion, according to data from the US Senate.

The Post article cites a new report by the Center for Retirement Research that mirrors similar findings at the New School for Social Research and the Heritage Foundation.

The news is particularly grim considering the troubled state of the US economy and the difficulty both Democrats and Republicans are having solving the problem. The temptation to blame US workers for not saving enough is hard to resist for some political leaders, but that doesn’t reflect the facts.

Many aging Americans did plan for retirement, but the Great Recession wiped out 40 percent of Americans’ personal wealth. And many have found themselves unemployed for long periods of time, which required spending much or all of what they saved for retirement.

But the situation doesn’t bode well for younger workers, either. More than 50 percent of workers 30 and older aren’t planning for a time when they won’t be full-time earners.

“Problems for future retirees seem to be closing in from all sides,” according to the Post. Half of American workers have no retirement plans through their jobs, and those that do are not contributing enough to their plans.

And politicians who favor austerity strategies to reduce the long-term debt have their eyes focused on federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid for cuts. Those reductions are typically proposed to kick in 10 to 20 years from now, greatly impacting today’s younger workers.

Cuomo prepping abortion rights legislation

Posted By on Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 8:46 AM

Abortion rights opponents are pressuring Governor Andrew Cuomo to publicly release an abortion rights bill he plans to propose, says an article from Gannett's Albany bureau.

That is, if he has a bill, they stipulate. During his State of the State Address last month, Cuomo called on the legislature to pass a Women's Equality Act. He's said that the package of legislation would include a measure to codify the abortion rights guaranteed under current federal law.

Cuomo is hardly the first governor or lawmaker to propose revamping New York's abortion laws. Currently, abortions are regulated under state penal law. But they are medical procedures and, as such, should be covered under state health laws, say abortion-rights supporters. Previous legislation has sought to do that, but has stalled in the Legislature.

Historically, abortion-rights opponents have made dishonest claims about legislation aimed at protecting a woman's right to choose. For example, they claimed that the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act opened the door to dentists and podiatrists performing abortions, even though it did no such thing.

I support abortion rights, and I think Cuomo may have something to gain by taking any abortion-rights legislation to the public. He's said his bill doesn't seek to expand abortion rights, just protect the ones that are already there. He'll need to explain to the public how the bill does that. And he'll need to be prepared to counter any claims that abortion rights opponents toss out.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Week ahead: another I-Square vote; a talk on race in America

Posted on Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 10:28 AM

On Tuesday, the Irondequoit Town Board will once again vote on a resolution regarding tax incentives for the I-Square project. (The resolution starts on page 44 of the board’s meeting packet, which is available here.)

The board will be voting whether to support a payment in lieu of taxes agreement between I-Square and the Monroe County Industrial Development Agency (COMIDA). Under the resolution, the town would back a 15-year agreement with two 5-year extensions. The town is also asking that the agreement contain specific construction benchmarks for the project.

Under the proposed PILOT terms, the property’s base assessed value would be set at $2.1 million, with the first year’s payment derived from that figure. Each year the payment would increase by 2.5 percent.

The town and I-Square’s developers, Mike and Wendy Nolan, have sparred over the PILOT. The Town Board has signed off on two previous PILOT proposals, and the Nolans have publicly rejected them.

This time around, Assembly member Joe Morelle’s office facilitated the negotiations.

The Irondequoit Town Board meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 19, at Town Hall, 1280 Titus Avenue. — Jeremy Moule

The University of Rochester will host a talk on “Achieving Equality in ‘Post-Racial’ America,” by William Darity, professor of public policy at Duke University, on Wednesday, February 20. Today’s policies and programs are doing little to close persistent racial disparities, Darity says, and new programs are needed. His talk takes place at 4 p.m. in the Rush Rhees Library. — Tim Louis Macaluso

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Signs missing at intersections with red-light cameras

Posted By on Fri, Feb 15, 2013 at 12:46 PM

Each one of the 31 red-light cameras in the City of Rochester is supposed to have an accompanying sign posted nearby, warning motorists of the presence of the cameras. But at a meeting yesterday, City Council members Adam McFadden and Elaine Spaull said they’ve noticed red-light intersections without signs. “We were told they all would have signs,” McFadden said. | City spokesperson Gary Walker says all the red-light intersections did have signs at one time, but some may have gone missing or become obscured by foliage. He says that a city engineering team is checking every location and that missing signs would be quickly replaced. | At the same meeting, Council members questioned Mayor Tom Richards about the recent scandal that caused the City of Chicago to drop Redflex as its red-light camera vendor; Rochester uses Redflex, too. | According to the Chicago Tribune, Redflex “gave thousands of dollars in free trips to the former city official” who oversaw the program. | Richards said it appears that only a few people were involved in the scandal, and that it shouldn’t affect the company as a whole. | “We’ll stay close to it,” Richards said.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

State releases Hemlock-Canadice management plan

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 6:57 PM

The State Department of Environmental Conservation has released a draft plan outlining how it will manage the land around Canadice and Hemlock Lakes.

The DEC will accept comments on the draft unit management plan through April 15. And it has scheduled a public information session on the plan for 6:30 p.m. on March 14 at Springwater Fire Hall, 8145 South Main Street, Springwater. DEC representatives will give a presentation on the plan at 7 p.m.

In 2010, the state bought approximately 6,700 acres of land around the two lakes from the City Rochester; the property is now known as the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest. The city uses the lakes for its drinking water supply and bought the land surrounding the lakes starting in 1896. Hemlock and Canadice are the only two Finger Lakes with undeveloped shorelines.

A fact sheet provided by the DEC lists some of the draft plan's recommendations and objectives, including:

· Monitoring bald eagle nesting sites.
· Stocking the lakes with fish as needed.
· Stocking pheasants for public hunting in fields.
· Having a carry-in, carry-out policy for garbage.

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