Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rochester gets good marks on equality

Posted By on Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 9:27 AM

The Human Rights Campaign has given the City of Rochester high ranks on its 2013 Municipal Equality Index scorecard.

The city grabbed 98 out of a maximum 100 points on the scorecard, which examined a broad range of criteria, including existence of non-discrimination laws, recognition of domestic partnerships, existence of school anti-bullying policies, and whether the city has a police liaison to the LGBT community. 

But the rankings are also instructive, identifying a few areas where the city could do better. It could provide transgender-inclusive health benefits, the report says. And the city could form a human rights commission.

The report card is available here. And a listing of report cards for other cities, in New York and other states, is available here.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

WEEK AHEAD: Common Core hearing, Highland Market open house, public meeting on Irondequoit library plan, much more

Posted By on Mon, Nov 18, 2013 at 9:33 AM

The New York State Assembly Office of Public Affairs will hold a forum to hear testimony on the recent statewide implementation of the Common Core curriculum. The event will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 20, at the Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Avenue. Information: (518) 455-5073.
Bolgen Vargas. - FILE PHOTO
  • Bolgen Vargas.

Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas will hold a walk-in “Coffee and Conversation” meeting from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 19.

Parents, teachers, and students can come to these informal meetings to discuss concerns about city schools. The meeting will be held at the district’s  central office, 131 West Broad Street. Tim Louis Macaluso 

The South Wedge Planning Committee will hold a community meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 20, to discuss local traffic concerns on the streets running parallel between Mount Hope and South Avenue. The meeting will be held at Calvary St. Andrews, 68 Ashland Street.

At the meeting, SWPC and local block club leaders will convene with neighbors and community leaders to address these challenges. Information: information@swpc.org or (585)256-1740.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

AG's office wants to rehear Wiesner case

Posted By on Fri, Nov 15, 2013 at 5:39 PM

The state Attorney General's Office has filed a motion to dismiss charges against Robert Wiesner. Sort of.

Wiesner, who is the husband of County Executive Maggie Brooks, is one of four defendants in a case of alleged bid-rigging involving two county-linked local development corporations. In an indictment, the attorney general's office charged Wiesner with two felonies, which essentially amounted to bid-rigging charges.

At the time Wiesner was arraigned, his attorney, James Nobles, submitted a motion to have the charges dismissed. Nobles argued that he requested an opportunity for Wiesner to testify to a grand jury. But Wiesner never received that opportunity, Nobles said, which violates his client's rights.

Attorney general's office prosecutors have submitted a motion agreeing to have the charges dismissed, but with the understanding that they'll impanel a new grand jury to rehear the case against Wiesner. Damien LaVera, a spokesperson for the AG's Office, issued this statement.

"Attorney General Schneiderman is committed to prosecuting public corruption wherever and whenever it occurs. We are consenting to dismissal of the charges against Mr. Wiesner because of his request to testify in the grand jury. We expect to present the case against him to another grand jury and look forward to his testimony."

The AG's Office motion is attached below the jump:

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GateHouse reportedly lays off Monroe County reporters

Posted By on Fri, Nov 15, 2013 at 11:47 AM

This post has been updated.

In tweets that have since been deleted, Messenger Post reporter James Battaglia says that GateHouse Media has laid off its Monroe County reporters.

He tweeted that five reporters, including him, were notified of the layoffs this morning. In his case, he'll still be on the job for two weeks, he said.

A receptionist at GateHouse forwarded my call for comment to the company's human resources director, who was not immediately available.

GateHouse bought the Messenger Post papers, which include several Monroe County weeklies and the Daily Messenger in Canandaigua, from the Ewing family in 2006. In recent years, the reporting staff at the suburban weeklies has shrunk.

Recently, a judge granted GateHouse permission to emerge from a prepackaged bankruptcy, which it entered at the urging of its largest debtholder, Newcastle Investment Corp. GateHouse will be rolled into a new holding company, New Media Investment Group, along with the 33 former Dow Jones Local Media Group papers Newcastle owns. Newcastle will be the majority owner in the new holdings company.

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Group pushes for brownfield tax credit reforms

Posted By on Fri, Nov 15, 2013 at 8:51 AM

An updated Environmental Advocates of New York analysis of the state's brownfield redevelopment tax credit program says that since 2003, the program has cost in excess of $1.1 billion, but only 131 sites have been cleaned up. And of those 131 sites, only 82 projects claimed tax credits through 2012.

The program is costly, but that isn't the primary issue that concerns EANY. During a conference call yesterday, Andrew Postiglione, the organization's fiscal policy associate, said that the program is "off target." The credits are going to projects in areas that aren't struggling to attract developers, he said.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Democrats on the run; you could set your watch to it

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2013 at 10:52 AM

Say what you want, but we’re all pretty clear on what the Tea Party and the far right wing of the Republican Party stands for: opposing President Obama on everything and obstructing government.

What do Democrats stand for? Well, that depends. Democrats are fond of nuanced positions. And truth be told, they’ll run like scared cats at the first sign of trouble. It's happening again with the Affordable Care Act.

After surviving every kind of assault, from lawsuits to GOP threats of a government shutdown — the ACA is facing its worst foe: frightened Dems.
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As President Obama’s poll numbers begin to slip following the rocky rollout of the ACA’s website, leading Dems are jumping ship and distancing themselves from anything to do with the law. The situation has worsened as many people lose their current insurance because it doesn’t meet the minimum standards set in the ACA.

Ezra Klein reports in the Washington Post that some Dems are jumping on the bill proposed by Senator Mary Landrieu, which basically tries to hit the reset button on the president’s promise. If people want to keep their sub-prime insurance, then “go for it,” is the thrust of the bill.

Klein correctly points out that the bill would blow a hole in the hull of the ACA. In an effort to keep the promise, the bill encourages more elderly and sicker enrollees. For the ACA to work and keep premiums lower, younger and healthier enrollees are essential.

Obama has said from the beginning that he expected the law to be tweaked and improved over time. But opening the law up at this time with this Congress would practically guarantee its gutting or killing.

Republicans have rushed to the airwaves to be the first and the loudest to call the president a liar. This is rich coming from a group that couldn’t have cared less when millions of Americans had no insurance, were dropped by their insurance carriers when they became seriously ill, and often faced foreclosure or bankruptcy or both as a result.

Noted economist and Harvard University professor Lawrence Summers recently appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” He said that Obama has tackled a problem that has been harming the country for nearly 50 years. Anyone who thinks that the system was working well prior to the ACA is wrong, he said. Premiums were rising at an unsustainable double-digit pace for much of the last decade, Summers said, and the ACA is already doing more than what many people expected.

It’s extremely important for the health of the nation to push politicians, including Democrats, to fix the ACA instead of using it as a political football. 

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No LDC action in Lej, but secondhand dealer proposal revived

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2013 at 9:41 AM

Democratic legislators' efforts to advance a package of local development corporation reforms during Tuesday's Legislature meeting were short-lived.

The caucus had unveiled and introduced the legislation, which called for eight specific reforms, earlier in the day. The sponsor, Legislator Paul Haney, submitted them as matters of urgency so that, with Adair's consent, they could be brought up during last night's meeting. Adair rejected the legislation, however. (A post yesterday described the Dems' proposals.)

During the meeting, Haney tried to bring up the proposals anyway using a procedural maneuver. But ultimately the Republican majority wouldn't go along so the legislation wasn't voted on or even discussed.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Warren appoints two to lead her transition team

Posted By on Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 12:38 PM

Rochester Mayor-elect Lovely Warren has appointed a local lawyer and an RIT professor to lead her transition. Christopher Thomas and Dr. dt ogilvie are serving on a volunteer basis. The transition team will also hire Strategic Community Intervention LLC, founded by former Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson, to consult.

Current mayor Tom Richards will be a special adviser to the team, Thomas said at a press conference this morning. 
Lovely Warren. - FILE PHOTO
  • Lovely Warren.

Thomas, the spokesperson for the transition, is a partner with the Nixon Peabody law firm. He represented the City of Rochester during the mayoral succession mess a few years ago. 

Ogilvie is dean and professor of business strategy and urban entrepreneurship at the Saunders College of Business at RIT. 

Regarding turnover in city government, Warren said today that she'd approach the people she wants to keep in place, and that she has about a handful of people in mind for certain jobs — she didn't offer specifics. More than 70 people are appointed by the mayor, Warren said, and those people can apply for their jobs or for other jobs in city government. The team is also accepting resumes.

Warren said she hasn't spoken to any members of City Council about obtaining jobs in her administration. She said that at this point in time, she'd like Council to remain intact.

Despite questioning, Warren did not directly address the fate of Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard. Warren and Sheppard have not clashed publicly, but it's been apparent for some time that Warren isn't completely satisfied with the operation of the department. Several police officers attended this morning's press conference. 

Warren is currently president of City Council. Many people are wondering if she'll resign right away or wait until she's sworn into office in January. Warren said she'd announce her plans in a week or so. 

Warren will attend an invitation-only seminar for newly elected mayors at Harvard University during the first week in December. 

A transition office will open in donated space on the fourth floor of the Ellwanger building on State Street on Monday, November 18. And a website will go live on Friday, www.warrentransition.com 

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Has higher ed lost its edge?

Posted By on Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 9:52 AM

For the last 50 years, a college education almost guaranteed a secure job with a good salary and benefits; you wouldn’t have to endure the backbreaking labor of your first-generation parents working in factories, digging sewer ditches, or trying to eke a few hundred bucks a month out of a plot of land.

But the high cost of college and the slow growth of the job market since 2000 has caused many young people to question whether higher education is as important as it once was. While most economists insist that it is, they are hard up for an explanation of what is happening to the US job market, and equally as important: What is causing the erosion of the country’s once-great middle class?

And why have so many Americans who have lost their jobs in the last decade, including those with a college education, experienced such hardship finding new employment wit
  • File photo
h similar pay?

A recent New York Times article examines some possible explanations. The most popular has been the rise of the techno class; that technology has advanced so rapidly that it continues to eliminate the need for low-skilled labor in almost every industry. And the US job market now favors those who are highly educated and have learned how to make the best use of technology.

But that doesn’t explain everything. As the Times’ writer Eduardo Porter points out, the 1 percent “took in almost a dollar out of every $4 generated by the American economy.”

This phenomenon is partly explained by the downward pressure on wages in a global economy and the decline of union power.

I would offer a third explanation: the ability of the 1 percent to accumulate and regulate policy-making power. The Supreme Court’s decision concerning Citizen’s United will enable this imbalance to reach unprecedented levels.

A sliver of super-wealthy Americans are now able to pull politicians’ strings to determine which laws will be passed, what policies will guide the nation’s future, and how much they should pay in taxes. When billionaires can buy a national ad campaign to encourage young people not to purchase health insurance, we can only pray that a college-educated society can somehow be enough to tip the balance of power.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Brooks releases 2014 budget proposal

Posted By on Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 9:05 PM

Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks says that her $1 billion-plus budget proposal for 2014 would keep the tax rate flat at 8.99 per $1,000 assessed value.

During tonight's meeting of the County Legislature, Brooks gave legislators an overview of her proposal, and it'll be a surprise to few that she led her presentation with the tax rate. The rate has been the same since 2008, she said.
The Legislature will hold a public hearing on the budget proposal at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 5, in the Legislature chambers at the County Office Building, 39 West Main Street.

Brooks did not mention any major new initiatives during her presentation. She said that the county would fund child day care subsidies to the tune of $4.8 million, which is more than its required to contribute by the state — which provides the bulk of that funding.

But Brooks also said that it's short of the additional $1 million that some community members have pressured her for. That amount would have required cuts to other programs, she said.

The proposed funding level would mean that no children currently enrolled in the subsidy program would lose their slots, Brooks said. But she alluded to a day care subsidy fund-raising effort, with details due in the coming days. 

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