In his efforts to save city schools, Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas is turning to some former high level district administrators: Ray Giamartino, Ralph Spezio, and Suzanne Johnston.
Giamartino will serve as chief of school transformation, where his primary task will be moving some of the lowest performing schools in the state to schools in good standing. He was formerly a school chief with the district overseeing 20 schools in the northeast area of the city. He left the district in 2010 to become superintendent of the East Rochester school district.
Spezio will become executive principal of School 17 when it reopens in the fall. He returns to the district after leading School 17 from 1990 to 2002.
And Johnston will serve as an outside educational expert for Joseph P. Wilson Commencement Academy. She will work as a mentor to the school’s new principal, Uma Mehta, to raise the academic performance at Wilson.
Monroe County Legislature committees are meeting this week.
Democrats have introduced legislation to restrict the gifts that county officials can accept. In an introductory memo, Democrat Josh Bauroth writes that the current prohibition on accepting gifts is too vague. Current county law prohibits county employees and officials from receiving gifts exceeding $25 if “it could be reasonably inferred” that the gift is intended to influence performance of their duties or to reward them for an official action.
“There must be a clear prohibition on accepting any gifts from those with an interest in county business,” Bauroth writes.
The Agenda/Charter Committee will take up the legislation at 6 p.m. tonight. The meeting is at the County Office Building, 39 West Main Street. Jeremy Moule
The City of Rochester’s Department of Neighborhood and Business Development will hold a public hearing to get community input it will use to update the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. The program guides waterfront development in the city.
The meeting will cover four waterfront topics: history, vision, issues, and priorities. Participants will be asked to comment on how the city’s waterfront should be developed and how public resource should be prioritized for that development.
The LWRP update will include all of the city’s waterfront areas along Lake Ontario, the Genesee River, and the Erie Canal. The update will also identify new waterfront policies and recommendations which will guide future development and infrastructure improvements.
The meeting is from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 26, in City Council chambers at City Hall, 30 Church Street. Christine Carrie Fien
Maybe someone can sell me on the reasoning for keeping the city’s mounted patrol, because I just don’t see it.
Mayor Tom Richards’ proposal to eliminate the patrol would’ve saved a little bit of money — a paltry sum, really, in the context of the multimillion-dollar budget gaps facing the city. But cost savings weren’t really the point.
Richards wanted to redirect the patrol’s seven officers to deal with rising gang-related violence in the city. As of last month, Rochester had experienced an 80 percent jump in shootings over the last year. Hiring an additional seven officers would’ve cost the city approximately $1 million, whereas eliminating the patrol and reassigning the officers would’ve saved the city about $100,000.
Richards’ plan seems perfectly logical and prudent to me. I’m sure the horses are a wonderful PR tool and come in handy for breaking up crowds, when necessary. But cutting the mounted patrol isn’t going to stop people from opening businesses in the city or keep suburbanites from coming here. Fear — rational or not — that they’re going to get shot strolling down Main Street, will and does.
I don’t doubt the City Council members who say they received calls and letters protesting the proposed cut. But when the city held a series of meetings to get the public’s input on the upcoming budget, the citizens there said they wanted to get rid of the patrol. In fact, it was the item they most wanted cut of all possible police services.
I suppose you can argue that the system worked exactly the way it’s supposed to. The mayor proposed something, City Council pushed back, and we got a compromise; the mounted patrol will be reduced to four officers.
And I know it’s an election year, and no one likes cuts. But honestly, if we can’t cut this, what can we cut?
Add Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to the growing list of Congress members who support marriage equality.
In an op-ed posted this week to her Senate website, Murkowski said marriage equality is a matter of personal liberty, family values, and limiting government intrusion into people's lives. She actually framed marriage equality as consistent with Republican principles.
It's worth noting Murkowski's timing. The op-ed was posted on Wednesday, a day before the Supreme Court could have released its decisions on two important marriage equality cases: the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's Prop 8. (The court ultimately didn't release those decisions, but could next week).
At his last Coffee and Conversation meeting of the school year — monthly open forums for parents, teachers, and residents of the city school district — Superintendent Bolgen Vargas was probably prepared to address outrage over the slipping graduation rates. Rochester’s rate — well below 50 percent— had been announced the day before.
But what Vargas got instead were questions from angry parents about the most basic operational issues — customer courtesies that are standard at most used car dealerships.
A mother said she called her child’s principal several times after the child came home with bruises. She said her calls were not returned. Another mother whose son returned to the district after growing out of a local charter school said she was disgusted by the lack of interest teachers and staff showed toward her son. Her calls weren't returned, either, she said.
“You’ve got a lot of people here who just don’t care,” she said.
While a couple of parents praised Vargas and the district, they were exceptions.
The parents who came to meet Vargas were engaged city parents, the very ones school officials are always saying they don’t have enough of — the same ones they say they’re trying not to lose to charter and suburban schools.
But as one parent said to me, “If the district was a restaurant, there would be a lot of empty seats around here.”
While many of the district’s problems are linked to severe child poverty, some are caused by plain old bad management and a culture of apathy. If the district can’t serve its more engaged parents by doing something as rudimentary and important as returning calls, the idea of attracting middle income families back to the district and the city is nonsensical.
For the second time this week, Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature are calling for a countywide fracking ban.
This afternoon, three members of the caucus laid out the framework for their desired ban. They haven't drafted legislation yet; Minority Leader Carrie Andrews said they're hoping to work with at least a few Republican legislators to advance a proposal.
Democrats have tried to get fracking-related legislation passed previously. Late last year, they introduced a proposal to ban the treatment of fracking waste fluid at county-owned treatment plants. That measure, though technically still alive, stalled.
Dems say they want the new legislation to include a ban on fracking and related activities, including the acceptance and treatment of fracking fluid. And they say they want the county to ban the acceptance of other fracking wastes, such as drill cuttings, at its Mill Seat landfill. They also want the county to ban the spreading of waste brine from fracking on county roads.
Last night, City Council voted to extend a Rochester's moratorium on natural gas exploration and extraction for another year.
The resolution says the city extended the moratorium "in order to preserve and protect the public health, safety, and welfare of the residents of and visitors to the City of Rochester from known and suspected dangers from natural gas exploration and extraction, while the effects of such activities in the city can be further studied."
The resolution also says research into gas exploration and extraction in urban areas has been inadequate.
Municipal officials frame these types of moratoriums as practical matters, often citing issues similar to those mentioned above. But the resolutions also have a symbolic function. They show state officials that communities and elected officials are concerned about the effects of widespread drilling. New York State is in the middle of a multi-year review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing as a means to extract natural gas from shale formations.
Council first voted to pass the moratorium last year.
A copy of the moratorium legislation is attached below the jump.
Whatever momentum Brockport Mayor Maria “Connie” Castañeda got from her recent legal success wasn't enough to carry her to victory in yesterday’s village elections. Castañeda was soundly defeated in her re-election bid by Margay Blackman, a current village trustee and retired professor of anthropology at SUNY Brockport, 613 votes to 355 votes, according to unofficial results from the county Board of Elections.
Castañeda has been a divisive figure in Brockport politics. Her critics accuse her of wanting to dissolve the village — though Castañeda has never said so publicly. Castañeda says she’s the victim of dirty politics and that her only goal has been prudent financial stewardship.
Castañeda also faced misconduct charges stemming from the alleged illegal rental of rooms in her Brockport home. Those charges were recently dismissed, but Castañeda still faces code violation charges in the village. She’s suggested that she may sue over her arrest.
It's unlikely that Castañeda's defeat means the end of the dissolution question in Brockport. The 2010 vote, in which Brockport residents rejected dissolution, was driven by landlords who operate in the village. They could easily petition to hold another vote, despite the fact that no one on the village board appears to support dissolution at this time.
The Revitalize Brockport ticket, which included Blackman, newcomer Valerie Ciciotti, and incumbent trustee Carol Hannan swept to victory last night. Ciciotti and Hannan will serve four-year terms on the village board.
[UPDATED 5:10 p.m.] County Executive Maggie Brooks just sent out this statement responding to the report from the Comptroller's Office:
"The Comptroller has confirmed what everyone already knows: crushing state mandates are threatening the fiscal stability of local governments. Using Mr. DiNapoli’s math, Monroe County would need to raise local taxes by $100 million to stay off of his list while paying for the mandates that account for 83% of our budget. Clearly, that is not an option. If Mr. DiNapoli is serious about solving fiscal stress, he must work with his colleagues in Albany to fix the mandate problem."
Original post: The state Comptroller's Office says Monroe County is in significant fiscal stress and is perhaps the most stressed local government in the state.
This morning, the office released a list of municipalities that it considers to be under varying levels of fiscal stress. The rankings were based on aspects of 2012 finances, such as end-of-the-year fund balances, operating deficits, and use of short-term debt. The rankings also considered certain trends facing the community, including poverty levels, employment base, age of the population, and sales tax revenues.
Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed Women's Equality Act has come under fire because of its language about abortion.
Right now, abortion is regulated through the state's penal law. Cuomo says his legislation would simply write into law the rights guaranteed under the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision and remove regulation of abortions from the penal law. But anti-abortion rights groups — and some state legislators — say the governor is trying to expand abortion rights.
But the legislation — only one short section in it relates to abortion — really doesn't read that way. Here's the first paragraph, which is the main component of the abortion law changes:
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