Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Rochester's grad rate dips

Posted By on Tue, Jun 18, 2013 at 9:17 AM

Slightly more than 43 percent of city students who entered ninth grade in 2008 graduated with a Regents diploma in June 2012, according to a statement released yesterday by the New York State Education Department. Often referred to as the four-year cohort, the city schools' graduation rate dropped about 1 percent from the prior year.

When the summer session is included, however, the city’s 2012 graduation rate increased to 48.6 percent. The rate includes students who completed required coursework and graduated in August of 2012.

Rochester’s graduation rate remains the lowest of the Big Five school districts: New York City at 60.4 percent, Buffalo at 56.8 percent, Syracuse at 48 percent, and Yonkers at 66 percent. While none of the Big Five broke 70 percent, the state’s overall graduation rate for 2012 remained stable at 74 percent.

Most of the area’s suburban schools remained stable as well, with about half reaching 90 percent or higher. Brockport made the biggest gain from 81 percent to 86 percent, while Brighton slipped from 90 percent to 86 percent.

State authorities noted in a written statement on the SED’s website that, on the whole, graduation rates have weathered recently implemented tougher standards better than expected. This is the first year that most students had to earn a Regents diploma to graduate. Local high school diplomas are only available to a small group of students.

But the grad rates in most of the state’s urban districts are significantly lower than the rates in suburban districts, and college preparedness for students in Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse who do graduate is extraordinarily low, state officials say.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

GOP legislator backs fracking moratorium

Posted By on Mon, Jun 17, 2013 at 3:57 PM

A Republican legislator in Monroe County has concerns about the state's review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

Joe Carbone, who represents part of Irondequoit, has submitted a memorializing referral — essentially an official letter of support for state or federal legislation — supporting two state fracking moratorium bills, A5424A and S4236A. The matching bills would prohibit natural gas drilling in the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations through May 15, 2015. They would also require a health impact assessment — which would be done by a school of public health — of shale drilling and fracking. The Assembly has already passed its version of the bill.

It's important to note that Carbone does not say whether he supports or opposes fracking, just that he supports this specific legislation.

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This Week: Brockport elections, Mounted Patrol vote, Supremes rulings, chat with Vargas

Posted By on Mon, Jun 17, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Brockport residents will hold elections to choose a mayor and two trustees. Mayor Maria Castañeda is seeking a second term, running against Margaret Blackman, a current village trustee and retired professor of anthropology at SUNY Brockport. Blackman is joined by newcomer Valerie Ciciotti, and incumbent trustee Carol Hannan on the Revitalize Brockport party. Castañeda’s running mates on the Taxpayers First party line are Rick Ross and write-in candidate Kristina Telles.

Maria Castañeda

Castañeda has been a divisive leader; her opponents and critics say the mayor’s ultimate goal is to dissolve the village. Castañeda also faced legal issues stemming from the alleged illegal rental of rooms at her Brockport home. The criminal charges have been dismissed, but she still faces code violations charges in Brockport.
Castañeda says her arrest was politically motivated with the intention of ousting her from office "and to intimidate others like me [who] are concerned about the high cost of living in the village."
The elections are Tuesday, June 18. Polls open at noon.

Rochester City Council will vote on Mayor Tom Richards’s 2013 to 2014 proposed budget, which could include partial restoration of the police department’s Mounted Patrol. Richards planned to eliminate the unit, redirecting those officers to deal with violent crime in the city.
Legislation to reinstate four of the unit’s seven officers was introduced last week by some members of City Council, who say the unit is a public relations benefit to the city.
The legislation also calls for a review of the Mounted Patrol unit this year in order to look at alternative funding sources.
City Council will vote on the budget and the partial restoration of the Mounted Patrol on Tuesday, June 18. The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. in Council chambers at City Hall, 30 Church Street. CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN

A few years ago, Penfield officials and a group of community volunteers developed a new Comprehensive Plan for the town. And during the process, residents repeatedly pointed out the town’s lack of a village or town center.
Officials agreed and the Comprehensive Plan was written to say that specific areas in town should be targeted for mixed-use development. Now, approximately two years later, town officials have started to develop mixed use districts for Manitou Lake — an area on Old Penfield Road around a former stone quarry — and an area around Route 250, south of Penfield Center Road.
From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today (Monday, June 17), town officials are holding a public information meeting on the districts. The meeting will be held at Penfield Town Hall, 3100 Atlantic Avenue.
Under traditional zoning, different land uses — commercial, residential, industrial, etc. — are separated from one another. Conventional zoning resulted in development that’s isolated and automobile-dependent.
Mixed-use zoning draws on village-style development, where residential and commercial development is integrated. Town Planner Katie Evans says the new districts would provide housing options for residents, and will also include community-scale retail.
“When you look at our changing demographic, the single-family colonial house may not be what the 60-plus resident wants,” Evans says. JEREMY MOULE

The US Supreme Court could announce its decision to uphold or strike down two important cases this week: the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA, and California’s Proposition 8.
A rally will be held at 5 p.m. on the day of the DOMA decision at Washington Square Park, 181 South Clinton Avenue.
DOMA does not give the federal benefits offered to opposite-sex married couples to same-sex married couples, even in states where same-sex marriage is legal. Prop 8 bans same-sex marriage in California.

Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas will hold one of his Coffee and Conversation meetings from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 18.
The meeting is an opportunity for residents, parents, and students to talk to Vargas about a wide range of issues. It will be held at the district’s central office, 131 West Broad Street. TIM LOUIS MACALUSO

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Some Council members want to keep mounted patrol unit

Posted By on Sat, Jun 15, 2013 at 10:23 AM

There’s a last minute effort to save at least part of the Rochester Police Department’s mounted patrol unit. City Council President Lovely Warren, and Councilmembers Adam McFadden and Carolee Conklin have submitted legislation that would amend the city’s proposed 2013-2014 budget.

The legislation creates a smaller patrol unit consisting of four officers and five horses. Council will vote on next year’s budget on Tuesday, June 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Council Chambers.

The mounted patrol unit was cut out of next year’s budget due to the city’s financial challenges. But Council received numerous calls and emails from residents asking that unit be restored in the budget, according to a written statement.

The horses are popular, especially with children, and many cities use them as a community relations tool. The horses also give officers some movement advantages that they wouldn’t have in a car or on foot.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Seneca settlement means no private casino for Rochester

Posted By on Fri, Jun 14, 2013 at 1:58 PM

If the Rochester area gets a casino, it'll be operated by the Seneca Nation.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has submitted a bill to the Legislature that would allow privately-run casinos in New York. His law would establish six districts across upstate with one casino allowed per district, though only three privately run casinos would be bid out for upstate. The legislation would allow tribes with that have gaming compacts with the state and are in good standing to have exclusive casino rights in their districts.

That's where yesterday's announcement by Governor Cuomo's office comes in. A press release said the state and the Seneca Nation of Indians have resolved a dispute over gambling fees and revenues. The Senecas have agreed to pay $408 million, which will be divvied up among the state, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Salamanca, says the press release. The Seneca Nation has also agreed to pay the state approximately $135 million a year, says the release.

In return, the Senecas will get exclusive rights to operate casinos in the Western Zone, says the press release. That district, as proposed in Cuomo's law, covers Buffalo and Niagara Falls, but also includes Rochester and Canandaigua. In short, the Senecas have exclusive rights to casino gaming in the Rochester metro.

Under the agreement, the Senecas will recognize the rights of horse tracks in the district to have video lottery terminals if they already have them, says the press release.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

New lake levels plan proposed

Posted By on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 at 1:17 PM

The International Joint Commission is advancing yet another proposal to change how it regulates Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River water levels. But the new proposal projects that shoreline property owners may face some additional costs from water damage, which is an issue that's driven their successful opposition to past plans.

The IJC has used the same levels plan since 1963, and it didn't develop it with some key environmental factors in mind. For instance, that plan tries to keep lake levels fairly stable, and costal wetlands, which are important habitat for many species, have suffered because they need fluctuating water levels to survive. Last year, the IJC proposed a plan called Bv7, which was meant to restore more of the lake's natural variability, but property owners' opposition prevented its adoption.

The new Plan 2014 is based on Bv7 but incorporates additional "trigger points," IJC public affairs advisor Bernard Beckhoff said during a presentation this morning. When the water levels reached certain extreme high or low points, an IJC sub-board would be able to take "extraordinary actions," he said. In plain terms, it'd be able to let more water out of the lake into the seaway during high-level periods, or it could keep more water in the lake during periods of extreme low levels.

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Orwell and '1984'

Posted By on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 at 10:30 AM

PHOTO BY JULIEN GONG MIN
  • Photo by Julien Gong Min

It shouldn’t come as a surprise in the fallout of the recent NSA leaks that sales of George Orwell’s novel “1984” have reportedly spiked on Amazon.com during the last few days.

But the rush to embrace Orwell’s dystopian vision might be a little misdirected. Some of what Orwell warned us about has materialized. But what was Eric Arthur Blair (Orwell’s real name) experiencing when he wrote what many scholars believe is one of the most important novels of the 20th century? Was he only looking forward or was he looking inward, too?

Most literary critics suggest that "1984" was Orwell’s response to the mix of fascism and Soviet-style communism that Western Europe was confronting prior to WWII.

But Orwell was also facing some serious issues as he wrote "1984." Orwell’s wife died suddenly in 1947, undergoing a hysterectomy, and his own health was failing. Orwell coped with multiple respiratory ailments, according to an article published by researcher John Ross in the medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. Orwell contracted dengue fever while in Burma. He spent time in a sanitarium following a diagnosis of tuberculosis, and he was literally racing to complete the work before he succumbed to the illness.

The book was published in 1949, just months before his death in 1950. Ross writes that Orwell told friends that the book's bleak outlook was partly a result of his sickness, and he even used some of the symptoms of TB, such as wasting, to describe the appearance of his lead character.

There’s no question that Orwell was stirred by the political changes of the time, which is also evident in his non-fiction work. But for all its brilliance, "1984" exposes some of the writer’s deterioration at a time when treatment for respiratory infections was limited. Given what he was coping with, it’s hard to imagine how Orwell could be optimistic about anything.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Legislature puts off vote on Dems' funding

Posted By on Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Last night's County Legislature meeting was dominated by debate over the county fair proposal. But something else significant happened.

The Legislature — meaning the Legislature's Republican majority — did not pass legislation that would cut the Democrats' funding. When it came time to vote on the matter, Majority Leader Steve Tucciarello simply moved to table it. He offered no statement or explanation. The vote was quick and the legislators moved on the next item.

Because it's tabled, a legislator could move to bring it back up at a future meeting. Only time will tell whether that happens.

Tucciarello introduced the legislation last month. The legislation would require funding levels for the Republican and Democratic staff offices to be set every January. The proposal recognized the fact that the Legislature's makeup could change any January because of special elections, not just during the years when there are regular elections.

Democrats, however, said the legislation was political retribution. The Dems lost a seat in a November special election, and the legislation called for a mid-year cut to their budget. They would have lost approximately $16,000 of their $170,000 budget.

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PHOTO: From East Broad Street at night

Posted By on Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 11:42 AM

By the time I got out of last night's County Legislature meeting it was pretty late, which means it was relatively quiet downtown. And quite beautiful.

I had my camera with me so when I reached my car, which was parked on East Broad Street, I paused and took a few shots. Lacking a tripod I perched my camera on the overpass ledge. I'm posting the result below so that everyone can see how beautiful the city is at night; the lighting on the Rochester Public Library's Rundel building really stands out.

From the East Broad Street bridge.

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Legislature passes fair legislation

Posted By on Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 11:07 AM

As expected, last night the County Legislature approved a measure that establishes a county agricultural fair and fairgrounds at Northampton Park in Ogden. And, as expected, Republicans pushed the legislation through; Legislator John Lightfoot was the only Democrat to support it.

The vote capped off an epic Legislature meeting, which lasted almost six hours — an hour or so was consumed by non-fair matters — and ended just before midnight.

There were a lot of speakers, so many that I lost count. In floor remarks later in the meeting, one legislator estimated that 50 people spoke during the public forum, and that figure feels about right. The vast majority of the speakers, many of whom live near the park, were against the proposal.

Two Fair Association representatives who spoke said they don't want a return the carnival atmosphere of the fair. What they and the farming community want, they said, is an event and grounds where young people interested in agriculture can competitively show the animals they're raising and where the community can learn about agriculture. A few 4-H parents and kids, as well as a couple of farming community members, did speak in favor of the festival and locating it at Northampton.

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