Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mayor talks homelessness ahead of activists' march

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 at 1:13 PM

Rochester Mayor Tom Richards and leaders of human service agencies in the city and county held a press conference this morning to explain everything the city does for the area’s homeless. It can’t be a coincidence that members of many social-justice groups, including Take Back the Land-Rochester and Metro Justice, will hold a housing march tonight.

The groups want city officials to press the banks to be more flexible with people who are on the verge of losing their homes. They also want the city to declare a moratorium on foreclosures until officials come up with better solutions to the homeless problem.

Rochester and Monroe County have a joint 10-year plan to end homelessness. It was developed in 2007 and is being updated now, officials say.

“If a mother and kids find themselves homeless, there is aid,” Richards said. “There is no reason for [them] to be on the street.”

Richards said that the city has a two-tiered approach to combating homelessness: direct services for the homeless and programs to keep people in their homes; as well as additional investment in affordable housing. The problem in Rochester is not that there isn’t enough housing, Richards said, it’s that there’s not enough good housing.

“We have a plan that’s producing results, and we’ve got to stick with it,” Richards said.

Richards and the agency leaders talked up the city’s strategy, but available statistics aren’t as encouraging. The United Way reports that:

• Close to 20 percent of foreclosures are rental properties, and there is no assistance for that.

• Adult homelessness is chiefly caused by poverty and the lack of affordable housing.

• About six in ten homeless people were sheltered in an emergency shelter or
transitional housing facility; the rest were sleeping on the streets or other places not meant for human habitation.

• During 2007 in Monroe County, an estimated 7,700 to 8,200 individuals were homeless at some point: 5,968 households encompassing 3,527 single adults, 915 youth on their own, and 1,525 families. Ten percent of the households experienced chronic homelessness.

The march begins at 5 p.m. at Washington Square Park on South Clinton Avenue.

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Slaughter tops Brooks in fundraising

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 at 11:49 AM

Louise Slaughter and Maggie Brooks have submitted their quarterly campaign finance reports and, from the beginning of July to the end of September, Slaughter raised far more money than Brooks.

In fact, Slaughter raised more in individual contributions than Brooks did in total. Slaughter, a Democrat and the incumbent, raised $720,830 for the quarter, with $446,206 coming from individuals, says her filing. Brooks, a Republican, received $445,894 in contributions, $365,155 of which came from individuals, says her filing.

Slaughter has brought in a total of $1.8 million in contributions for this election and has $410,708 on hand. Brooks has brought in $1.2 million and has $856,715 on hand.

In the neighboring House race, incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul leads Republican Chris Collins in contributions. Hochul brought in $720,606, of which $510,439 came from individuals, says her filing. Collins brought in $321,881, $234,381 from individuals, says his filing.

Collins also loaned his campaign another $400,000; he'd previously loaned the campaign $250,000. Hochul loaned $250,000 to her own campaign during a previous quarter.

Hochul has $924,541 on hand while Collins has $166,771.

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Richards says Post was wrong

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 at 11:49 AM

Tom Richards. - FILE PHOTO

The City of Rochester is not going broke and is not getting a control board, said Mayor Tom Richards at a press conference this morning. Richards was responding to a column published in yesterday’s New York Post. Columnist Fredric Dicker wrote that some Upstate cities, including Rochester, are close to bankruptcy and that control boards are possible for these cities.

Richards said the Post “makes its living on bombast” and that it isn’t news that Upstate cities face serious financial challenges. Rochester, as Richards has long insisted, is in better shape than many of those cities, he said. It has maintained a strong credit rating, and for the most part Richards has avoided cuts in major services. Rochester has done this while losing population and property tax revenue.

Richards has always rejected the idea of a control board for Rochester. He says a control board is “an admission of failure” and doesn’t always solve the problems. Buffalo has been under a control board since 2003; “does anybody think [those] years have been successful?” Richards said.

The Dicker article, which cites only unnamed sources, also says that the state was considering tying future aid to cities to financial stability plans. Richards said he had no discussions with state officials on that matter, but that he’d welcome any scrutiny the state wants to give Rochester.

Richards also rejected the tone of the Dicker piece. Cities are the most populous parts of the state and are the civic and economic centers of their communities, he said. Aid to cities is not a handout, Richards said, it’s the state’s job.

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Cuban Missile Crisis 50 years later

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 at 11:34 AM

When President Kennedy spoke to the nation about a U-2 plane’s photos of Soviet nuclear missile installations under construction in Cuba, the already tense stand-off between the US and the USSR grew dramatically worse.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, arguably the closest the US has come to a nuclear war.

Baby boomers likely remember the Cuban Missile Crisis the way younger generations think of the September 11th attacks. As unimaginably surreal as seeing passenger jets crash into New York City’s tallest buildings was, the Cuban Missile Crisis was one incident in a protracted event spanning months.

The US was already consumed by an almost fanatical fear of communism, and Cuba put the threat just 90 miles off the US mainland. Even though our sources of information were nothing like today’s non-stop news coverage, the gravity of the situation was clear.

As our black and white television sets showed images of a fleet of Soviet naval vessels thought to be carrying weapons and other materials crossing the Atlantic, we talked openly about survivability from a nuclear attack. Would Rochester be struck? What about Buffalo and the Niagara power lines?

We practiced emergency drills in school, and assessed where to hide in our homes. (In my family, it might be the root cellar in our basement, a small room with dirt walls where we stored apples and potatoes.)

It’s hard to say what we learned from the Cuban Missile Crisis. Possibly the most devastating war in human history was narrowly averted. But we continue to live with nuclear proliferation, and this election has both presidential candidates saying that they will not permit Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

On the anniversary of an event that scientists say would have left hundreds of millions of Americans and Soviets dead, maybe we should know how the candidates plan to stop that from happening.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

NY Post makes scary prediction for Rochester

Posted By on Mon, Oct 15, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Wow — unsettling news from the New York Post, if it’s true. Post columnist Fredric U. Dicker wrote today that “several of New York’s biggest cities,” including Rochester, are close to bankruptcy and “looking for a bailout from Gov. Cuomo’s administration.”

Dicker says the mayors of Yonkers, Rochester, and Syracuse have been involved in “secret talks” in recent weeks on their financial options, “and the possibility of bankruptcy has been discussed.”

Dicker attributes his information to “a source close to the mayors.”

The financial struggles of Upstate cities, including Rochester, are not breaking news. But Mayor Tom Richards has always insisted that Rochester is in better shape than most other cities, and he closed the city's most recent budget gap without any major cuts in services.

Dicker says that aides to Cuomo are “working on a new plan to link any future aid to the ailing cities to workout plans that reduce local costs.”

Dicker says a second source claims that individual control boards are possible for the cities. Mayor Richards has always rejected the idea of a control board for Rochester.

Richards, Mayor Stephanie Miner of Syracuse, and Mayor Mike Spano of Yonkers released the following response to Dicker’s column:

"We read with concern the statements in today's press. Three things need to be re-stated on the public record. One, the cities of New York are not seeking handouts. We are trying to address a serious financial problem that affects many of the citizens of New York who live and work in our cities. Two, we have repeatedly and with great pain cut services and employees. Three, the budget gaps that are soon to appear in cities across the state are too large to be bridged from within those cities. To suggest otherwise only postpones the hard work of resolving the problem."

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Week ahead: campaign finance filings; Brooks-Slaughter and Romney-Obama debates

Posted By on Mon, Oct 15, 2012 at 10:46 AM

Congressional candidates have until midnight tonight to turn in their quarterly reports, which will tell us how much money they’ve raised who they’ve raised it from. The reports can also give us some idea of who supports a candidate, and how that candidate may vote if put into office.

In the 25th Congressional District race, incumbent Democrat Louise Slaughter had raised approximately $1.1 million through the end of June, and Republican Maggie Brooks had raised approximately $773,000.
Slaughter got a lot of her money from political action committees, which include unions and trade groups, according to an analysis of campaign reports by opensecrets.org. But Slaughter also gets money from a lot of small donors, a fact her campaign plays up.

Opensecrets says that the majority of Brooks’ contributions come from large donors. In fact, many of Brooks’ contributors maxed out the first time they gave to her. She has also received approximately one-fifth of her funding from political action committees.

Opensecrets also has an analysis of 27th Congressional District fundraising, but that race is a little trickier to follow. It says that as of June 30, Kathy Hochul raised $3.5 million in the current election cycle. But that total includes the money she raised during the 2011 special election where she won her seat. It also includes $500,000 she loaned herself.

Christopher Collins had raised approximately $260,500 through June 30, although he loaned himself $250,000 of that amount.

You can see the new filings by going here and searching each candidate’s name. Since most of the filings are done electronically, they’re available online shortly after they’re posted. - Jeremy Moule

The second presidential debate takes place Tuesday night, starting at 9 EST (and available live on numerous websites and radio and television stations).

This time, it’ll be a town hall-style debate where citizens will ask questions about domestic and foreign policy. The participants will be undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates. - Jeremy Moule

County Executive Maggie Brooks and Representative Louise Slaughter square off in their first televised debate at 8 p.m. on Friday, October 19. The encounter comes just as a Siena poll shows Brooks slicing into Slaughter’s significant lead in the Congressional race.

Slaughter led Brooks by about 10 points two weeks ago, but the most recent poll shows Brooks down by only about 5 points. Outside groups continue to pour big money into this race, including a recent $1.4 million ad buy against Slaughter by Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, which is backed by Republican strategist Karl Rove.

Friday’s debate will be broadcast live on WXXI-TV and WXXI AM 1370. — Christine Carrie Fien

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Work continues on MAG Sculpture Park

Posted By on Mon, Oct 15, 2012 at 10:32 AM

Work continued Monday on the installation of the Memorial Art Gallery's Centennial Sculpture Park, specifically the large-scale piece by Tom Otterness that will be situated near the corner of North Goodman and University. A flatbed truck holding several large elements of the piece was parked alongside University Avenue, and a police car was out front of the gallery to help direct traffic, according to MAG public-relations officer Meg Colombo. There have been no issues with the installation of the sculpture, Colombo says, and the process should continue over the next several weeks, depending on weather conditions.

City Newspaper will have a more in-depth look at the final stages of the Centennial Sculpture Park in an upcoming issue.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Biden comes through for Dems

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2012 at 11:42 AM

For those Democrats who needed to be juiced up again after last week's first presidential debate, Vice President Joe Biden came through for them during last night's vice-presidential debate with Republican candidate Paul Ryan.

While there will surely be some jeers about Biden's many laughs and interruptions, it was pure Biden on display. Nobody really expected anything different. And the criticisms will do little to direct attention away from Ryan's attempts to massage the facts. The two men sparred over everything from the Romney-Ryan tax plan to the Middle East and foreign policy. And whenever Ryan when into spin mode, Biden fired back, pointing out inconsistencies, fabrications, and empty rhetoric that at times it didn't even seem as though Ryan himself believed.

Case in point: abortion. When Ryan was asked about his views on women's health, he hesitated and launched into some long-winded answer about state's rights.

But one of the best moments of the debate was when Biden brought up Mitt Romney's disparaging "47 percent" remarks. An overly prepared Ryan quipped that Biden was known for saying things incorrectly, which drew some laughter. But Biden instantly returned with: "but I say what I mean."

Without calling Romney or Ryan liars, Biden reminded the public that the Romney they've been seeing lately isn't the Romney that's been campaigning for the last year. And what we all heard him say candidly on that infamous video, a Freudian slip of the tongue if you will, was the real Romney who wants to be president.

Shortly before the debate, the Ryan camp decided to release photos of him working out in the gym. It was a strange decision, but there was Ryan with baseball cap turned back and bicep flexed. Ryan, however, looked more like he was auditioning to become a Backstreet Boy rather than vice president.

There was no clear winner from last night's debate, but Biden was able to expose Ryan's style over substance with ease.

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Brizard out as Chicago's schools chief

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2012 at 8:46 AM

After about a year and half on the job, Jean-Claude Brizard is no longer CEO of the Chicago Public School System, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune. Brizard approached Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel about rumors that he was hearing suggesting the mayor was not pleased with his performance.

In a conversation with the Chicago School Board president, Brizard reportedly said that he was becoming a distraction from the mission to help Chicago’s children.

Brizard made a similar statement before leaving the Rochester school system, where he was superintendent from late 2007 to April 2011. He left the Rochester school system for the Chicago post under a cloud of controversy. Brizard attempted to push an agenda similar to that espoused by education reformers Joel Klein, former head of the New York City school system, and Michelle Rhee, former head of the Washington, DC schools.

Though he initially had the support of most Rochester school board members, Brizard and Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski became bitter adversaries. In an overwhelming vote of no confidence against Brizard, Rochester teachers expressed their dissatisfaction with his management and communication style.

In accepting the Chicago post, it was widely viewed that Brizard would succeed under Chicago’s mayoral control form of school management with Emanuel at the helm. But the Chicago teachers strike unleashed a week-long drama that gripped the nation.

Brizard is being replaced by Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the Chicago district's chief education officer, according to the Tribune.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Utica's gassy, but not like Marcellus

Posted By on Thu, Oct 11, 2012 at 4:23 PM

Recently, the US Geological Survey released its first estimate of "undiscovered, technically recoverable" natural gas in the Utica Shale: 38 trillion cubic feet.

That's a lot of gas, but for the sake of perspective, the estimate isn't even half of the USGS estimate for the Marcellus Shale: 84 trillion cubic feet. The federal agency also says the Greater Green River Basin shale formation in Wyoming contains 84 trillion cubic feet.

The Utica Shale estimate is based on parts of the shale formation in New York, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia. But it doesn't cover the entire formation. For example, the USGS omitted most of Western New York and much of the Finger Lakes region from its estimates, even though the Utica Shale lies underneath the area. Chris Schenk, a spokesperson for USGS, says there's good reason.

"It has to have the parameters to generate oil and gas" to be evaluated, he says. And the rock that makes up the Utica Shale in that area simply doesn't have those characteristics, he says. (That also means that the drillers probably won't be interested in exploring that area, since it's unlikely they'd get enough gas or oil to recoup their investment.)

The state's environmental review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing in shale formations includes the Utica Shale.

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