After making the move from North Carolina back to his hometown of Rochester, sales coach Tom Beal was shocked by the negativity branding the Rochester media and affecting its residents.
"I was on the phone with my friend Jeffrey Gitomer --- he's in 90 business journals across the country, number one bestselling author of The Sales Bible--- and he said, 'Rochester's great, the problem is everyone around there just hears negative stuff: Xerox's laying off, Kodak's laying off. But things aren't bad,'" Beal says.
Gitomer suggested Beal become the community's provider of inspirational news, and plans for a strictly positive website materialized. In June, Beal launched NYGoodNews.com.
Among the stories posted on the website is "From Stutterer to Millionaire Motivator," the account of Beal's friend who overcame his impediment to become a motivational speaker. There's also a story about Beal's stepbrother, Seth Payne, in the "local hero" section. It describes the Victor native's success as a lineman for the Houston Texans.
"The funny part of it is the local newspapers don't cover him one bit," Beal says. "The kid made over $4 million last year, more than most of our CEOs locally, and he doesn't get a single line from any of our local newspapers."
Other NYGoodNews.com stories include the 20th anniversary of local restaurant Phillips European, the Kidney Foundation of Upstate New York winning an Extreme Web Makeover, and a review of the excellent customer service at Nu-Look Collision auto body shop.
Ads (including some for Beal's sales coaching services) line the pages, and while Beal now writes many of the articles, readers can submit guest articles to be authorized and posted. Beal hopes that one day the site, which he says has a nationwide readership, will develop into a newswire for journalists seeking good news.
"I consider myself a student of life," he says, "and one thing I've learned is happiness cannot be based on external circumstances; it's an internal decision. I've decided, regardless of where I live, to be happy. I happen to be living in Rochester right now and I'm having a great time."
--- Rebecca Shore
As it stands, Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center is virtually obsolete. With limited seating and stage capabilities, FLPAC needs to grow up in order to keep up.
"The business formula doesn't work anymore," says RBTL President and CEO Don Jeffries. "You know, 20 years ago you might've paid an artist $25,000. Now, everything's over $100,000."
Richard Sands, chairman and CEO of Constellation Brands, Inc., formed the not-for-profit Friends of FLPAC to get the ball rolling.
Beginning in 2005 FLPAC will undergo a $10 million facelift. Friends of FLPAC will secure a bond to cover the expansion, and the sale of luxury box seats and revenue generated through future shows will pay it back.
Sands also contributed $1 million for naming rights. The new facility will be called The Constellation Brands --- Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center.
The new expansion calls for doubling the shell's seating capacity, bringing it to 5,000. The lawn will accommodate an additional 10,000 people.
A new stage will be included in the renovation.
"The problem with the stage is it was built for the RPO," says Jeffries.
Improvements will include overhauling the stage to accommodate rigging and more elaborate acts and sets, as well as updating the sound and video.
The new Performing Arts Center will be completed in spring 2006.
"The plan is after the last show of 2005," Jeffries says, "the shovel goes in the ground."
When Traffic Jam, the popular afternoon jazz show on WGMC 90.1 FM, ended on Friday, November 19, it also marked the end of Jason Crane's tenure at the station. Along with hosting the show for three years, Crane has served as station manager, overseeing a period of remarkable growth. His primary achievement was raising the funds to purchase a new tower, boosting the station to 15,000 watts.
"I feel really good about leaving now," says Crane, "the station is stable and growing and it can continue to grow without me. Crane, who has a longstanding interest in politics and history, says that his concern for the country has lead him to the decision to pursue a Ph.D. in American History and become a college professor.
Rob Linton, who will fill his shoes as the new Station Manager, has extensive radio experience at WHAM 1180 AM. Linton, 24, is excited about expanding WGMC's listener base and taking the station to the next level.
"It's a completely different environment from WHAM," says Linton. "You're dealing with listeners who love the station and support it." Although jazz is not his priority when it comes to music, Linton plans to catch up on it before making his on-air debut.
"His job is not to be the jazz guru," says Crane. "We have plenty of people working here who know jazz. His job is to make sure there's a station to work at and to make it grow."
Crane, who has held many different jobs in the past, says he never really expected to become station manager at WGMC in the first place.
"This was a fluke, but it's probably the best fluke I'll ever experience."
With this fall's elections safely behind them, New York legislators can now safely return to Albany for two more years of gridlock.
That's the attitude a coalition of "good government" groups hope to combat as they drive to reform Albany. "It's so easy for urgent policy directives to no longer be urgent," notes Center for Governmental Research President and CEO Patricia Malgieri. "This has to be at the top of the pile for New York State legislators and the governor."
Under the auspices of the Brennan Center, groups as diverse as the Interfaith Alliance of Rochester and the Regional Innovators Participation Network sent a joint letter to leaders of both legislative bodies as a stern reminder to keep reform at the top of their agendas. They also held press conferences in Rochester and five other cities around the state to denounce a form of government that they view as a "triocracy."
The letter --- addressed to two legs of that triocracy, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver --- urges the adoption of rules changes proposed by a Brennan Center report. The report released this summer found Albany to be the nation's most dysfunctional legislature. Its proposed changes are aimed at empowering rank and file legislators.
"The only thing astounding about the proposed changes to the rules as recommended by the Brennan Center is that the legislature has actually operated under the existing rules for so many years," says Interfaith Alliance President Neil Jaschik. "The rules stifle discussion, avoid accountability, allow too much power to be concentrated in the hands of a few, and keep the public in the dark. It is time for a change, and we insist that both the senate and assembly enact real reform when they have the opportunity to do so this January."
Jaschik's words also carried the not-so-veiled threat that organizers hope will keep lawmakers focused on reform. "And if they fail to do so," he says, "we pledge ourselves to work harder to see that there are future legislators who will not avoid this responsibility."
In response to the press conference, Assemblymember Susan John's office released a November 1 letter she wrote to the Brennan Center questioning the effectiveness of the proposed rules changes.
"The assembly is only one institution in state government," she writes. "The executive too bears responsibility for lawmaking. This omission of the executive, I think, compromises the center's procedural recommendations."
The assembly, says John, already has many rules that go further than the center's recommendations in protecting the rights of individual legislators. For example, any member can demand a recorded vote: one where assembly members are physically present when bills are voted on.
"We can do better," she acknowledges, but she shies away from committing to the center's proposals.
The proponents of reform say they welcome such dialogue with lawmakers, they but say they'll accept nothing short meaningful change: "Unless real reform is forthcoming, we'll fight for it until it is," says Bob Volpe of Citizens for Legislative Reform.
The province of Ontario put the brakes on a plan to regulate water withdrawals from the Great Lakes last week. The reason? The agreements don't go far enough to protect the basin's waters.
The Great Lakes Charter Annex tightly regulates diversions both within the basin and outside of it, but Ontario law currently prohibits them altogether. Among those celebrating the decision is the Sierra Club of Canada. Executive Director Elizabeth May explained the group's objections in a City interview.
"We're concerned that the current approach is creating a regulatory system for diversions as a way of stopping diversions," she said. "We would much rather say that the straightforward --- and certainly under Canadian law and under NAFTA, the stronger --- position is to say we just don't allow diversions. Anything else becomes a slippery slope."
US environmental groups, who generally favored the agreement, could not be reached for comment.
For now, the ball is back in the court of the Great Lakes Council of Governors, which will convene again in January.