Yesterday, a state appeals court upheld two towns' bans on oil and gas drilling in separate but similar cases. The decisions were cheered by environmental and anti-fracking groups, as well by some elected officials.
Essentially, a panel of state Appellate Division justices ruled that the towns did not exceed their regulatory authority by enacting the bans. Generally, the state regulates oil and gas drilling. But state courts have consistently held that local governments can exclude oil and gas drilling by saying they aren't acceptable land uses.
Both towns are located above the Marcellus Shale and faced the possibility of hydrofracking within their borders to extract the natural gas. Town officials argued that fracking amounts to heavy industry inconsistent with community character and other local industry, especially agriculture.
Drilling industry representatives told some reporters that they plan to appeal the decisions. But they also said that the higher court is unlikely to hear the cases. The Appellate Division decisions were unanimous in both cases.
The Democrat and Chronicle is moving fewer copies of its print paper, but more people are accessing its content digitally.
That's what the numbers from the latest Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations) show. On a general, national basis, newspaper circulation is down, but digital products account for an increasingly greater portion of the circulation. So the D and C's print decrease and digital increase are in line with national trends.
The Alliance for Audited Media cautions against using this period's data to make direct comparisons with past figures. In a blog post, it notes that publishers have changed the way they market and distribute products, which affects the counts. And the organization has also changed its reporting criteria over the years.
That said, between its April 2007 report and the recent report, the D and C has seen a 34 percent decrease in average Monday through Friday circulation. In April 2007, the D and C reported that circulation as 154,599. In the recent report, that figure, which includes digital editions, dropped to 101,885.
Total Sunday circulation has decreased by about 33 percent. Total Sunday circulation was 209,427 in April 2007 and 140,483 in the April 30 report.
The D and C has touted its digital gains. In an article published yesterday, it says that the use of the digital products by subscribers has increased by 21 percent a month since the company instituted its paywall last May. The measurement is actually a little confusing and complicated. But in September 2012, digital circulation amounted to 3,457 subscriptions or registrations for digital products. In the recent report, that number has increased to 5,577.
Brick-N-Motor could be back up and running at a Henrietta office park as soon as Friday, May 3.
Last night, the Henrietta Town Board approved, by a 4 to 1 vote, a special permit for the food truck to operate at the Eagle's Landing Business Park. First, though, the truck owners have to meet with Terry Ekwell, the town's director of building and fire prevention, for inspections of the site and the truck, says Paul Vroman, co-owner of Brick-N-Motor. Vroman says that he and his business partner, Nathan Hurtt, hope the meeting happens today.
The permit allows the truck to operate only at the office park.
"It doesn't allow us to roam around Henrietta," Vroman says.
He also says that the town expects other food trucks to apply for permits, but that they'll be decided on a case by case basis.
Up until March 15, Brick-N-Motor was operating at the office park two days a week for six months. But the town told the owners to stop, and that they needed a permit.
Elected officials are finding it easier and easier to get behind active transportation initiatives. As she spoke to the audience at yesterday's Genesee-Finger Lakes Active Transportation Summit, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks ticked off the reasons why, including economic and community health benefits.
But she also pointed out that active transportation initiatives, from creating bike lanes to making sure sidewalks have curb cuts at crosswalks, are politically popular. Many different constituencies have made active transportation — biking, walking, and other human-powered ways of getting around — a priority, Brooks said. And that's true. Parents of school-age children, some government agency staff, competitive and recreational cyclists, environmentalists, and the AARP are just some of the groups embracing active transportation initiatives and infrastructure.
"At the end of the day, we listen to you," Brooks said. "And that's our job."
Brooks told the crowd that the county's Transportation Department has been working with members of the Rochester Cycling Alliance to make sure road projects incorporate bike-friendly features. And the department has given the alliance advice on how their advocacy could help the county accomplish their mutual goals, she said.
Brooks also said the county will complete a major active transportation initiative this year: it'll finish installing countdown crosswalk signals on county roads. It's a federal mandate, but it's something officials wanted to do anyway, she said.
When it comes to bike-oriented cities, Portland, Oregon, is the community that usually comes to mind. And rightfully so: citywide, cyclists make 6 percent of all vehicular trips. That sounds small, but it's not. In the Rochester region, that number was about 1.1 percent in 2011, according to a survey by the Genesee Transportation Council.
It took years of effort, careful planning, and education to get Portland where it is. And city officials' goal is to increase bicycle trips to 25 percent of all vehicular travels by 2030. (The city's bicycle counts page is available here.)
House Representative Earl Blumenauer, whose Congressional district includes Portland, says that if his city can become a bicycling mecca, so can Rochester. And Rochester's path to a more bikeable city may look something like Portland's. Blumenauer says his city's efforts began 20 years ago with a bicycle master plan and since that time, the number of people cycling has quadrupled. Blumenauer was Portland's commissioner of public works at the time.
Rochester completed its first bicycle master plan in January 2011, and it's been fairly aggressive in implementation. The effort helped the city earn recognition from the League of American Bicyclists as a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community.
The Rochester area also has a core of highly engaged cycling and active transportation advocates. In fact, Blumenauer spoke this morning at the Genesee-Finger Lakes Active Transportation Summit (GFLATS for short), which was organized by a coalition of transportation, advocacy, and health groups.
More than 30 members of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars were arrested this week after participating in a protest outside the Hancock Air National Guard Base near Syracuse. Some of the US military’s killer drones are operated and flown to targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries from the air base.
Three of the arrested protestors are from Rochester, according to a statement from the anti-war group, and about 275 people participated in the protest. The coalition staged a mock funeral procession, carrying coffins labeled with the names of countries where US drones have been blamed for civilian casualties.
Arrested protestors were arraigned in the De Witt Town Court with bail ranging from $500 to $3,500, according to the statement.
President Obama’s use of unmanned aircraft for information gathering and aerial attacks is among the most controversial decisions of his presidency. While some military analysts say the drones are more precise, less expensive, and highly effective at killing known terrorists, others disagree.
Critics say the drones are responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people, including women and children. And using them violates international law, they say. Drones are capable of crossing borders almost undetected in pursuit of targets.
The coalition also warns of technology creep, and how soon the drones could be used by law enforcement for domestic surveillance and killing. Worse, the drones are fomenting even more mistrust and hostility toward Americans in some parts of the Muslim world, the protesters argue.
The coalition's protests more than a year ago drew regional and national attention to Hancock National Guard Base, but many local residents are still unaware that drones are flown from Hancock Field, activists say, making upstate New York a potential target for reciprocation.
After drawing a line in the sand warning Syrian President Bashar Assad not to use chemical weapons, President Obama is now in a precarious place. The unimaginable may have happened. Detailed accounts of Assad’s use of the weapons are not clear, but several reports of Assad’s army using chemical weapons began to surface last week. And there are counter reports of the Syrian rebels using them, too.
Obama never said exactly what the US would do if Assad crossed the line. Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain immediately called for the Obama administration to follow up the tough words with action. And while Graham and McCain can’t resist putting the country on perpetual war footing, they were short on specifics or solutions.
And that’s the conundrum. There are no quick, easy, or inexpensive options when it comes to dealing with Assad. Everyone knows this, including Assad. But again, we're hearing from some Washington officials that taking no action would give countries like Iran and Korea the idea that the US is nothing more than a paper tiger.
There are few countries with as rich a history as Syria’s. Ancient Syria once included portions of Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. Ruled by the Turks under the Ottoman Empire, a French colony for nearly half of the 20th century, and more recently, caught under the tyrannical thumb of Assad, Syrians are no strangers to violence and bloodshed. And the wrong step now could cause the chaos within Syria to spread outside the country's borders.
The Obama administration shouldn’t expect much help from Russia or China in the matter. Russia doesn’t want increased tension with Islamic separatists inside its borders. And China needs energy to fuel its growing economy.
That leaves the US and Israel to do...what? Impose a no-fly zone? Bomb air bases and chemical weapons sites? Send in troops?
You would think that most Americans would be firmly against US involvement in another war. But a recent Washington Post poll suggests otherwise.
That many Americans seem to have already forgiven George W. Bush for taking the country to war in Iraq under false pretenses isn’t so surprising; that was evident from the coverage of the opening of the Bush library. But forgetting the enormous human and fiscal costs of the Iraq war, as well as the war in Afghanistan only underscores how dangerously detached most Americans are from these conflicts.
The Rochester school board will meet at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 2, for a final review of Superintendent Bolgen Vargas’s proposed budget for the 2013 to 2014 school year. This could be the last opportunity for board members to listen to parents, teachers, and students about the impact of the budget on programs and school operations.
The board will meet again at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 9, to vote on the budget. Both meetings will be held at the district’s central office, 131 West Broad Street. Tim Louis Macaluso
A groundbreaking is planned for the Mount Hope College Town project at 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 2. The $100 million project includes a hotel and conference center, offices, grocery store, Barnes & Noble bookstore, and street-level retail with apartments above. The project, initiated by the University of Rochester, will span 16 acres on the west side of Mount Hope between Elmwood Avenue and Crittenden Boulevard.
City officials talk up College Town as Rochester’s biggest project next to the revitalization of the Midtown area. But some people question the amount of public assistance given to the College Town project, including tax breaks through COMIDA and funding through the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. Christine Carrie Fien
House Representative Earl Blumenauer, whose district includes Portland, Oregon, will a keynote speaker at Tuesday’s Genesee-Finger Lakes Active Transportation Summit. Jeff Olson, a former manager of the state Department of Transportation’s bicycle and pedestrian program and author of “The Third Mode: Towards a Green Society,” is the other speaker.
The summit starts at 8 a.m. and will be held at the Radisson Hotel Rochester Riverside, 120 East Main Street. Speakers and sessions will focus on human-powered transportation, including walking, bicycling, inline skating, skateboarding, and public transportation. Register here. It costs $50 to attend.
During his many years in government, including a stint as Portland’s commissioner of public works, Blumenauer has built a reputation as a cycling advocate. As a House representative, he founded the Congressional Bicycle Caucus, which includes Democratic and Republican members. The New York Times profiled Blumenauer in 2009.
A biography on Olson’s site says that he teaches the country’s first university course in bicycle and pedestrian planning. His career as a planner has included extensive work in bicycle and pedestrian planning, the bio says.
The Henrietta Town Board meets at 7 p.m. on Wednesday and could take up Brick-N-Motor’s application to operate a food truck at an office park in the town.
An agenda for the meeting is not yet posted on the town’s website. But on April 17, the board held a public hearing on a permit application. And Brick-N-Motor’s owners expect that the board will address the application in some way at the May 1 meeting.
The truck was operating at the Eagle’s Landing Business Park for two days a week for six months, prior to March 15. The town told owners Paul Vroman and Nathan Hurtt to stop operating until they get a permit.
Henrietta officials have opposed past applications for mobile food vendors, but this time may be different. Two board members, Bill Mulligan and Jack Moore, have indicated support for Brick-N-Motor’s application. Jeremy Moule
Regional Transit Service will change bus routes during the filming of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 in Rochester from April 30 through May 9.
RTS buses will bypass all stops and service on Main Street between Chestnut Street and Plymouth Avenue. Bus transfer points at the intersections of Main Street and Clinton Avenue and Main Street and St. Paul Street will be relocated to the Broad Street bridge between the Blue Cross Arena and the Rundel Library. The detours are necessitated by the closure of a large section of Main Street — from Chestnut Street to Plymouth Avenue — to accommodate filming.
Due to the extent of the detours, RTS’s “Where’s My Bus?” feature, which provides real-time information on bus arrival times and locations via email or text, will not be in service during the filming period.
Detailed information and maps related to the RTS detours are listed on the RGRTA website at rgrta.com/spiderman and RTS staff members will be available along Broad Street daily to assist bus customers. Customers may also call RTS customer service at (585) 288-1700 for assistance.
The state Public Service Commission appears to agree with upstate elected officials who say that the ratepayers they represent shouldn't bear costs associated with closing the Indian Point nuclear plant.
At issue is a plan submitted by Consolidated Edison and the New York Power Authority to replace the power generated by Indian Point, if the plant is shut down. The plan submitted to the PSC makes upstate ratepayers responsible for $200 million of the cost to replace the power supply. Federal licenses for Indian Point Energy Center's two operating reactors expire soon: one at the end of September, the other in 2015. And some state officials, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, do not want the reactors re-licensed.
Yesterday, State Senator Ted O'Brien and Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle sent out a press release highlighting recent PSC findings on the proposal. It says the PSC agrees with elected representatives' arguments — O'Brien and Morelle submitted comments on the proposal, as did Senator George Maziarz — that upstate ratepayers shouldn't be on the hook since they won't see any benefit from the new power supply.
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