Thursday, June 2, 2016

County closer to dissolving troubled LDC's

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2016 at 1:45 PM

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo got the local development corporation legislation she wanted from the Senate and Assembly. The County Legislature will meet at 8:15 a.m. on Friday to vote on a technical measure necessary for the State Legislature to pass the bills.

Under current state law, the county can borrow money to buy or repair property, but not to pay off service contracts. The state legislation would provide Monroe County with specific exemptions to that prohibition so it can pay off service contracts tied to three local development corporations: Monroe Security and Safety Systems Local Development Corporation (M3S), Upstate Telecommunications Corporation (UTC), and Monroe Newpower Corporation.

The legislation is a crucial aspect of Dinolfo's plan to dissolve the LDC's, two of which —  M3S and UTC — were at the center of a recently concluded public corruption trial. 

Republicans Joe Robach and Rich Funke sponsor the Senate legislation, while Democrats Joe Morelle and Harry Bronson sponsor the Assembly measure.  The legislation would allow the county to issue 20-year bonds to pay off the following contracts:
  • An agreement between the county and Monroe Newpower , under which the county buys energy from the LDC;
  • A county public safety communications contract with M3S;
  • A county information technology contract with Upstate Telecommunications.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

UPDATED: Bello says Dinolfo is messing with his budget

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2016 at 12:54 PM

Adam Bello - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • Adam Bello
This post has been updated with a comment from the county administration.

It's going to be a long haul to the November elections. And not just with the presidential race; the local stuff is going to be pretty heated, too, by the looks of things.

The latest skirmish involves the office of County Clerk Adam Bello, a Democrat who was appointed to the post in March by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the administration of County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, a Republican. And it centers on the clerk's office budget.

The administration started taking funding for three auditor positions from the clerk's office budget on April 1, a move that will add $120,000 in costs for 2016, according to a statement from Bello's office.

The administration didn't inform Bello's office of the change, the statement says; staff uncovered it during routine budget monitoring.  The release says that as far back as staff can tell, the positions were never paid through the clerk's budget. The 2016 budget placed the three auditor positions under the Finance Department.


Continue reading »

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Week ahead: Events for the week of May 31

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2016 at 9:48 AM

ColorBrightonGreen.org will hold the Brighton Eco-Fair from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 5. The fair consists of a wide range of green vendors, nonprofits, and activities for children, as well as information on topics such as recycling, water conservation, and availability of green products. The event will be held at Brighton High School, 1150 Winton Road South.


The Smoking and Health Action Coalition will present “Airing Big Tobacco’s Dirty Laundry: How the Tobacco Industry Influences Your Community,” from 4 p.m. to 7 pm. on Thursday, June 2. Learn about the tobacco industry’s impact on communities and hear from a former employee of big tobacco. The event will be held at the Thomas Ryan center, 530 Webster Avenue. BY TIM LOUIS MACALUSO


City Council’s review of Mayor Lovely Warren’s proposed 2016-2017 budget starts this week. Warren has proposed a $517 million plan that increases spending but lowers taxes for homeowners and businesses.

Council will hold hearings from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 2. Council sets aside a block of time to publicly review the budget of each city department:
• Council/Clerk, 9 a.m. to 9:10 a.m.;
• Administration, 9:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.;
• Environmental services, 10:50 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
• Recreation and youth services, 1:30 p.m. to 2:55 p.m.
• Library, 3 to 4 p.m.
• Fire Department, 4:05 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The next set of hearings is on Tuesday, June 7. BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN 


Monroe County Legislator Mark Muoio will hold a city housing forum from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tonight at The Community Place, 145 Parsells Avenue.

Muoio and other local officials with talk about safe, stable housing in the city. Housing attorneys and a city code enforcement officer will be at the forum to answer questions.


Climate, environmental justice, and union activists from across New York will gather in Albany on Wednesday to rally for a state powered entirely by renewables. The event is organized by New York Renews, a coalition of social, environmental, and union groups.

A bus to the rally will leave the Park and Ride lot next to St. John Fisher College at 6 a.m., and will return at 7:30 p.m. For more details and to reserve a seat: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ny-renews-march-on-albany-tickets-25623277914. BY JEREMY MOULE 




Thursday, May 26, 2016

Diverse schools? Survey shows the public may be ready

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2016 at 5:20 PM

Great Schools for All continues to push for the creation of a network of theme-based magnet schools that are socially and economically diverse — enrolling students from the city as well as the suburbs. The group released a survey today that seems to confront one of the most deeply entrenched issues in a region widely recognized for its segregated school systems: whether urban and suburban parents are willing send their children to a diverse school environment.

For decades, the answer to that question has been a resounding "No!" But the survey, conducted by the Rochester research firm  Metrix Matrix and funded by the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation, seems to show that opinions are softening.

The survey reached 602 parents of school-age children, and was almost equally divided between the city and the suburbs. Participants were parents of students in public, charter, and private schools, and even some parents of home-schooled students. 

Eighty-three percent of parents said that it is somewhat or very important that their child's education involve attending a school with children from diverse ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds; 69 percent said they would consider sending their child to a magnet school that is half low-income and half middle class; and nearly 75 percent said they would consider sending their child to a magnet school even if it is outside their home district — and that number increased when parents were asked if they would send their child to a high school outside their home district.

Great Schools' leaders say that the survey reflects a set of attitudes that are transitioning from an older set of values. Rochester is engaged in a community-wide discussion about race, poverty, and school climate, and this may mean new educational opportunities, they say.

At the very least, it shows that most parents recognize that their children will likely attend colleges or pursue careers where they will have to work effectively with people from different cultures, backgrounds, and world views. Failure to do so will almost certainly limit their success later in life. 

But survey aside, that doesn't mean that the respondents will act correspondingly to their answers. The parents weren't asked directly if they would consider a magnet school that's located in the city, and it's been shown that people answering questions on sensitive subjects like race, religion, and abortion may give answers they believe are socially acceptable and not necessarily how they will act. 

But even if public attitudes have moved from a firm "no"  to a "maybe," that's progress.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Barnhart leaving WROC, political run likely

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 3:35 PM

If you go by the rumors, WROC anchor Rachel Barnhart plans to challenge Democratic Assembly member Harry Bronson for his seat.  And that fact that tomorrow is her last day at the station makes the scenario more likely.

Barnhart announced her departure this afternoon in Twitter and Facebook posts; her contract with WROC was set to expire at the end of this month, anyway.  The Twitter post was brief, but the Facebook message mentioned a forthcoming announcement of some sort. 

"I'm not giving up the fight to give you a voice and make Rochester a better place," she wrote in her post, which is embedded below. "My heart is telling me it's time to make a difference in a different way. I'll have more on future plans in the coming days."

Candidates can start petitioning for ballot lines on June 7, and the signatures they collect must be filed with the Board of Elections between July 11 and 14. Some in political circles expect an announcement from Barnhart this weekend, though she says she hasn't set a date to announce her "future plans."

Bronson was first elected to the Assembly in 2010 and, for the third time, he faces a challenge from Republican Peter Vazquez, who lives in Henrietta.


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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Brockport voters reject dissolution

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2016 at 9:50 PM

Brockport voters have again said that they want to keep their village government, but with a slightly smaller margin than in 2010.

The village clerk's office reports that 817 voters opted against dissolving the village, compared to 632 in favor. In 2010, voters rejected the proposal 959 to 662, and state law protected the village from another voter-initiated dissolution measure for four years. Village resident Rhett King filed a petition earlier this year to hold the vote, and it'll be another four years before a voter can petition for another dissolution election.

The village is located in the Town of Sweden, which would have been responsible for providing services to Brockport residents if the village government dissolved. Dissolution opponents said that the village government provides necessary services for residents, particularly code enforcement and police, and that the town and the Monroe County Sheriff's Office just  couldn't provide services at the same level. 

Dissolution supporters said that getting rid of the village government would lower taxes. 

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Dinolfo tries I-Square damage control

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2016 at 1:52 PM

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinfolo isn't changing her story on I-Square, but she's released some e-mails and memos to back it up. 

An emotional, contrite Dinolfo held a press conference this morning to explain, as she put it, what she knew, when she knew it, and how she knew it in this scandal that has engulfed the county over the last several weeks, overshadowing everything else. I-Square is a development in Irondequoit invoked by GOP boss Bill Reilich in a misguided attempt to smear new Democratic county clerk Adam Bello. 

 Dinolfo also apologized to the public, to I-Square owners Mike and Wendy Nolan, to the media, and to current and former members of the Monroe County Industrial Development Agency board. She said that she'll announce changes to the county-COMIDA relationship on July 1.

"It happened on my watch and I am the county executive," Dinolfo said. "The buck stops here."

The I-Square controversy isn't really about the project; it's about what Reilich said about the project, where he got some information, and the way he used that information. As of today, four of seven COMIDA board members, including its chair, Theresa Mazzullo, have resigned and called on Dinolfo to disclose exactly what happened. And that's what Dinolfo attempted to do this morning.

It bears mentioning, though, that the board members cited their personal integrity and reputations as their reasons for leaving the board. No current or former board member has expressed concern or anger over being used by Reilich and Roj. Their concerns seem to be limited to perception. 

Reilich's shot at Bello should have been a routine exercise — the kind of thing you expect in local politics — but then he dragged I-Square into it, claiming that the project is failing and that it is somehow Bello's fault. Soon after, he said that I-Square was in violation of its tax incentive agreement with the East Irondequoit School District, the town, and the county.  COMIDA's attorney produced a memo backing up Reilich's statement, which was distributed to local press.

Continue reading »

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Monday, May 23, 2016

WEEK AHEAD: Events for the week of May 23

Posted By on Mon, May 23, 2016 at 9:57 AM

The New York Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters will hold a voter education town hall meeting from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 24. This meeting is for anyone who is confused about the voting process or wants to know more about the elections and is tired of the conflicting messages on social media. The event will be held at Downtown United Presbyterian Church, 121 North Fitzhugh Street.


Anti-war activists will hold a Memorial Day Peace Parade on Monday, May 30. The theme of this year’s parade is “Mourn all Victims of US Militarism, Home and Abroad” in recognition of all victims of militarized violence. The parade will start at 10 a.m., and participants are asked to meet at East Main and Scio streets. Information: Doug Noble at 442-3383.


Brockport voters will decide on Tuesday whether to dissolve their village. Polls are open from noon to 9 p.m.; village residents can find their polling places at http://www.monroecounty.gov/etc/voter/.

If voters approve dissolution, the Sweden town government will determine which of Brockport’s services it’ll take over and provide. But dissolution opponents and proponents say that the town is not likely to keep the village police department.

Dissolution opponents say that the village government is already set up and staffed to provide the services that Brockport needs, particularly police and code enforcement. But opponents says that the Town of Sweden and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office would serve the village just fine, and village residents would pay less in taxes.

Village voters rejected dissolution on 2010. BY JEREMY MOULE 


On Tuesday, May 24, Rochester, New York, and CWA 1170 will engage in another solidarity picket to support the ongoing Verizon strike. The unions are standing in support of 29,000 CWA & 10,000 IBEW workers who are still on strike from Virginia to Massachusetts.

The picket starts at 4 p.m. at 1150 Jefferson Road, Henrietta.


A celebration of the life of world-class trumpet player Paul Smoker will be held at 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 26, in Linehan Chapel at Nazareth College, 4245 East Avenue.  Locally, Smoker played mostly at the Bop Shop and Nazareth College, where he ran the Jazz Studies program. The celebration will include jazz performances. BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN

Friday, May 20, 2016

[UPDATED] Mazzullo out as COMIDA chair

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2016 at 1:21 PM

UPDATE (May 23, 9:00 a.m.): COMIDA board members Clint Campbell and Eugene Caccamise have also resigned, according to media reports.

ORIGINAL STORY: 
The I-Square body count continues to rise. Today, Theresa Mazzullo resigned as chair of the Monroe County Industrial Development Agency board.

In a resignation letter released to local media, Mazzullo said that the controversy over the I-Square project has undermined public confidence in COMIDA and her reputation.  But she said that neither she nor any of COMIDA's board members had any direct or indirect involvement with "the exposure of the I-Square project."

Mark Siwiec, a Democrat, resigned from the COMIDA board earlier this week over I-Square, similarly saying that the matter had called into question his personal integrity and the board's integrity.

The backstory here is convoluted. It all started when Monroe County Republican Committee chair Bill Reilich took a swing at recently-appointed County Clerk Adam Bello, a Democrat. He implied that I-Square, a popular development in Irondequoit, is struggling financially. In a subsequent statement, he backed up the claim by saying that the project's developers, Mike and Wendy Nolan, were in default of a tax incentive agreement administered by COMIDA.

The Nolans were angered by the claim, and said that it was the first time they'd heard anything about a compliance issue. At this point, COMIDA had been dragged into the feud, and an attorney for the body issued a hastily prepared memo saying that she'd visited the I-Square site and the project did appear to be in default of the agreement. That memo was accompanied by a statement from Mazzullo, which said that the agency looked forward to working with the Nolans to resolve any issues.

Earlier this week, however, COMIDA officials sent the Nolans a letter saying that the project is, in fact, in compliance with the incentive agreement.

The way that the I-Square information came out is still a question. The official account is that Reilich got the info from former Deputy County Executive Justin Roj.  Roj eventually resigned over I-Square.

County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo at first said that Mazzullo had reached out to Roj for guidance on the Reilich comments, and that Roj advised her to contact COMIDA's attorney. But Dinolfo later backtracked, saying that she subsequently learned that the information was untrue and that Roj had contacted COMIDA's attorney. She also apologized to Mazzullo.

Mazzullo, who is CEO of the venture capital firm Excell Partners and vice chair of the Monroe County Conservative Party, was reportedly furious that she and the COMIDA board were pulled into the mess. 

"I want to see the integrity of COMIDA restored," Mazzullo said in her letter, which has been posted in full by several media outlets. "For this reason, I call upon the County and everyone else involved in this process to bring all the facts forward so that COMIDA can continue to its job of supporting businesses and creating new jobs in our County."



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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

RTA says it doesn't support new Code of Conduct policy

Posted By on Wed, May 18, 2016 at 11:46 AM

The Rochester school board is currently reviewing a proposal for a new Code of Conduct that would require a major shift in how teachers and students interact in city schools. The proposed policy is much less punitive that the current one.  

But after more than a year of planning and public meetings involving a wide range of supporters, the task force that drafted the new policy still faces a major hurdle to getting it approved: the opposition of teachers and principals. 

The Rochester Teachers Association approved a short, but succinctly-worded resolution yesterday saying that it does not support the new policy in its current form.

“The Rochester City School District proposes to adopt a new Code of Conduct without providing, or adequately budgeting for, the extensive services, resources, supports and alternative settings that our students need and that serious, positive change in schools’ climate would require.”

The resolution is also critical of the administration.

“The introduction of new procedures without adequate resources and supports will lead to even greater chaos," it says. 

A letter to the school board from the Association of Supervisors and Administrators of Rochester, the union representing principals, supervisors, and administrators, shares similar concerns.

The new policy aims to sharply reduce the use of suspensions, reserving them for the most serious student infractions, and makes a seismic shift toward relationship-building through restorative justice practices.

The Rochester school district, like many large school districts, has a history of high suspension rates. And research shows that nationally, black males receive disproportionately harsher punishment.

And some of Rochester’s parents say that their children are sent home for what they see as minor issues.

But teachers and administrators view the situation differently.

“We’re not against a new Code of Conduct policy,” says Adam Urbanski, president of the RTA. “We are concerned when you go in that direction and you don’t have the class sizes you need, the social and emotional support systems in place, and don’t have the alternative settings for students.”

Urbanski says that teachers wholeheartedly support the spirit of the policy, but the resolution is about having the resources and budget to properly implement it, which are not in place. And he says that even though suspensions are down, classroom disruption and assaults on teachers are rising: a pattern that has been reported in other school districts.

The Los Angeles Unified School System is the second largest public school district in the country and the first in California to greatly limit the use of suspensions and embrace restorative justice tactics.

“The district moved to ban suspensions amid national concern that they imperil academic achievement and disproportionately affect minorities, particularly African Americans. But many teachers say their classrooms are reeling from unruly students who are escaping consequences for their actions,” the Los Angeles Times reported last year.

But supporters of the new policy in Rochester’s schools are not impressed with this line of criticism. Privately and in some public meetings, some parents and activists say that many RCSD teachers are simply being challenged to sharpen their cultural awareness and classroom management skills.

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