I've spent some time in the West Main Street-Chili Avenue area over the last few days, first to listen to Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard talk to residents gathered at Junior's Barber Shop & Unisex Salon on West Main, and then to observe a Lovely Warren campaign event at the Iglesia Educational Center on Thurston Road. Warren, who is running for mayor, came to talk about education, but also ended up discussing crime, drugs, parenting, and other issues.
The events were only a couple of blocks apart in an area of the city struggling with poverty, crime, high unemployment, and other seemingly intractable issues. I was struck to see that while people in both places are interested in higher-concept, longer-term discussions like neighborhood schools versus charter schools, they also want to know what Sheppard and Warren can do to help them right now: How is the Rochester Police Department going to protect the beaches and other public places given this trend of youth using those opportunities to stage fights? (Sheppard talks about the youth fight at the 2013 Lilac Fest in the above video). A woman at the Warren event said she has a son with attention deficit disorder and no school seems to be able to handle him. Could Warren help her?
The point is, their needs are immediate. They can't wait for committees and studies and prayers to pay off. And Sheppard and Warren came prepared. Sheppard talked about how the RPD monitors social media so they know where fights might take place. And Warren gave the woman the names of a couple of schools that might be able to help her, while promising to also follow-up later with more information.
Democrats in the New York State Senate are pushing for legislation to enact a moratorium on shale gas drilling in the state. The Assembly has already passed moratorium legislation, which would ban drilling through May 2015.
Yesterday, Senate Dems called on the chamber's ruling coalition to allow a vote on legislation. A press release sent out by the Dems doesn't mention a specific bill, but Senator David Carlucci, a Democrat who belongs to the separate Independent Democratic Conference, has introduced a moratorium bill. His legislation calls for the moratorium to remain in place until two outside health studies are completed — one is a Geisinger Health System study of fracking's impacts on health in Pennsylvania, the other is an Environmental Protection Agency study on fracking's effect on water quality.
Yesterday, Senator Ted O'Brien, a Democrat, sent out a statement supporting a fracking moratorium. O'Brien's spokesperson says the senator supports legislation introduced by Senator Tony Avella, which O'Brien cosponsors. The legislation would establish a moratorium through May 2015.
Here's O'Brien's statement:
“My district in the Finger Lakes region is home to some of our nation’s most pristine fresh water sources, acclaimed vineyards and beautiful landscapes. Preserving these natural resources is not only important to our environmental and public health, but to our economic future as well. Until we truly understand the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on our families, our environment, and our emerging industries, we must not allow any new fracking projects to take place in New York. A moratorium will give us more time to study this process and ensure the safety and future prosperity of the Finger Lakes region and our entire state.”
When is Mayor Tom Richards going to join this campaign? Lovely Warren, City Council president and Richards’ likely opponent in a September primary, is active on Twitter at #lovelyformayor, and Facebook. She’s making appearances and holding events; she has two scheduled for Thursday, one to talk about education and an evening fund raiser at a Central Avenue nightclub.
I get the feeling that Richards isn’t really into campaigning. He didn’t become a politician until a few years ago, having spent most of his career in the private sector. But his campaign team should tell him that the old logic that races don’t heat up until summer winds down is obsolete. Warren is laying track. When the public really starts paying attention, her campaign will be oiled, tuned, and ready to hit its stride. Where will Richards be? Remember, he didn’t win the Democratic endorsement by a giant margin; more than 40 percent of the citywide weighted vote went to Warren.
Of course, Richards is starting off with much more money than Warren, so Warren has to hustle to be competitive. And as the chosen candidate, Richards will have the party machine and its resources behind him.
You can reasonably argue that being mayor every day is, essentially, campaigning; it’s a high-profile job. And Richards has probably been extra busy given that it’s budget season — along with the myriad other tasks and obligations that come with leading the city.
But humbly, Mr. Mayor, I do believe you’re making a mistake. You need to get moving.
A new report says that between 2006 and 2012, the Monroe County Republican Party took in more so-called soft money contributions than any other county-level political committee in New York State.
According to the report, which was put together by Common Cause/NY and NYPIRG, the party's housekeeping committee took in $4.4 million in contributions. By comparison, the Queens County Democratic Party's housekeeping committee took in $3.5 million, making it the second-highest county-level committee.
The Monroe County Democratic Party took in approximately $1.3 million in soft-money contributions. Overall, county parties raised $25.7 million in soft money between 2005 and 2012, the report says.
Rochester school district officials have asked the State Education Department for permission to change the district's transportation policy guidelines. Superintendent Bolgen Vargas says he wants to provide elementary students who live a half mile or more from their school with bus transportation. The current policy limits transportation to students who live a mile-and-a-half or more from their school, because that's what the state will reimburse. The district would cover the cost of the additional busing.
The district has been trying for several years to change the policy without exploding what is already one of its bigest fixed expenses. The district spends about $60 million annually on busing.
But Vargas went to Albany prepared to convince state officials that providing more busing is critical for an urban district like Rochester. First, Vargas says, attendance, which is already a huge problem in city schools, becomes even worse during the winter months, according to the district’s records.
Most parents in working poor households are not able to easily fill in when their children miss the bus, Vargas says.
“Transportation is an issue for many of the district’s families,” Vargas says. "Many parents don’t have a car or they don’t work at a job where they can adjust their schedules easily."
And third, providing more elementary students with transportation would encourage many families to choose their neighborhood school, Vargas says. Some parents don't pick their neighborhood school because they don't want their children walking through sketchy neighborhoods.
More busing will also be needed to accommodate longer school days, Vargas says.
District officials say they are confident the state will allow them to adjust the policy, and they expect to hear a response to their request by mid June.
More than a year ago, Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas launched a major campaign to improve abysmally low student attendance in the city school district. Now teachers are in the hot seat. Vargas has sent an email to teachers saying that 730 of them were absent last Friday, and he he's concerned that teacher absenteeism is on the rise.
Vargas’s email is creating waves. Critics of the district wasted no time sending out their own sharp assessments of the situation. Parent and charter school advocate Carrie Remis issued a statement seeking an examination of teacher contracts, which provide teachers with “considerable time out of the classroom.” And she recommends including attendance as part of a teacher’s evaluation.
Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski sent his own email to teachers to clarify that many teachers were not in their classrooms because they had been reassigned to administer and score tests. Others were on field trips or in professional development classes, all legitimate reasons, Urbanski wrote. The other absences were not due to playing hooky, as some have suggested, but the result of sickness, family emergencies, and scheduled personal days, according to Urbanski.
While it may be true that teacher absenteeism can adversely impact student learning as a report by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress suggests, there’s more here than meets the eye.
Last night, a committee of the Monroe County Legislature passed legislation to cut funding for the Democratic office and increase it for the Republican office. The legislation now goes to the full Legislature for a vote. But it will almost certainly pass, since the GOP holds a 19 to 10 majority in the body.
Predictably, the legislation passed along party lines in committee, with the three Republican members voting for it and the two Democratic members voting against.
During last night's meeting, Republican Majority Leader Steve Tucciarello reiterated his reasons for introducing the legislation. He says the impetus was the November special election where Republican Joe Carbone unseated incumbent Democrat Stephanie Aldersley.
The funding for each party's office was set based on seats held after the post-redistricting elections in 2011. Tucciarello said the funding should be reallocated each January, just in case the Legislature's makeup changes. And that's what his legislation would do. (Tucciarello doesn't sit on the Agenda/Charter committee, which was considering the legislation, but was asked by the committee chair to speak to it. That's a common practice in all of the Legislature's committees.)
"The current, outdated practice thwarts the will of the electorate," Tucciarello said.
I told you a week or so ago that the grapevine was reporting an incident involving a member of the Spider-Man film crew, which was shooting scenes for the franchise's next installment a few weeks ago in downtown Rochester. Now, the Rochester Police Department has confirmed the buzz.
According to a police spokesperson, a 26-year-old member of the film crew was assaulted and robbed on Linden Street by more than one suspect. The incident happened around 9:20 p.m. on April 30, and the unknown suspects got away with the victim's iPhone and money clip containing cash and credit cards, the RPD says.
According to the police, the male victim was walking on Linden when he was struck from behind, knocked to the ground, and assaulted. The suspects fled through the yards on Linden Street, the RPD says.
A Monroe County Legislature committee will debate tonight Republican-sponsored legislation to cut funding for the Lej’s Democratic office.
The Agenda-Charter Committee, which meets at 6 p.m., will probably vote on the legislation. The committee meets in the Legislature Chambers in the County Office Building, 39 West Main Street.
Republican Majority Leader Steve Tucciarello introduced the legislation, which Democrats say amounts to a 10 percent cut in their office’s funding. During a press conference last week, Democratic leaders said the cut would take $16,000 out of their $170,000 budget. They said they’d have to talk about how to address the funding loss.
Under the legislation, the money would shift to the Republican office’s budget. In a statement, Tucciarello said that he introduced the legislation because Republicans gained a seat in the last election, so the funding shirt reflects the will of the voters. Republicans hold a 19 to 10 majority in the Legislature.
Democrats say the proposed cut is retaliation for speaking up on several different issues, including problems with the leadership at Monroe Community Hospital.
Tucciarello’s proposed legislation was one of several issues that flared up between Legislature Republicans and Democrats last week. Jeremy Moule
Warmer surface water temperatures and declining winter ice cover suggest that climate change is affecting the Great Lakes, including Lake Ontario, says a report released this week by the International Joint Commission.
The report evaluates 16 indicators of the Great Lakes' health and water quality. And for the most part, the measurements are trending in a good direction. The presence of most toxic chemicals is down, beach closings have remained level, and populations of some native species, such as lake sturgeon, have begun to recover. But other problems, such as invasive species and nutrient pollution, still pose challenges in some parts of the Great Lakes, the report says.
Climate change, though important, is just one part of the picture. And it isn't affecting all lakes equally. For example, Lake Superior, the largest and coldest of the Great Lakes, is warming more than the other lakes, the report says. For all of the lakes, the average surface water temperatures increased by .05 to .06 degrees Celsius between 1985 and 2009, it says.
All of the lakes have experienced a decline in winter ice cover, but Lake Ontario's loss has been the steepest, the report says. Between 1973 and 2010, the lake's ice cover declined by 88 percent, it says.
I live in the area this article talks about. The parents of the children mentioned…
Unfortunately we're all responsible to one degree or another for the sorry state of Rochester…
how about MOmentum?
I'm sorry, but this article is too, too cute for words.
Sheppard trots out…
This story is heartbreaking because it is so real and the situation is truly dire…