Monday, September 30, 2013

Week Ahead: Food trucks in Henrietta, Latino outreach event, domestic violence in Monroe County

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 10:07 AM

The Town of Henrietta will have a public hearing on its proposed food truck and cart regulations at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 2, at Town Hall, 475 Calkins Road.

The regulations would allow food trucks and carts to operate in the town. They lay out the licensing and location criteria that any “mobile food vehicle” must meet. They also set some general conditions on the trucks, including operating hours and limiting their operations to private property.

The regulations also require truck and cart operators to get the property owner’s written permission before setting up at a location. And they require the owner of any property zoned commercial or industrial to get a special use permit before a “mobile food vehicle” can operate on the site.

The whole issue of food truck regulations started after the Brick-N-Motor food truck started making lunchtime stops at Eagle’s Landing Business Park on Jefferson Road earlier this year. The truck had been stopping at the park, with the owner’s permission, for two days a week over a six-month period. But then the town told Brick-N-Motor owners Paul Vroman and Nathan Hurtt that they needed a permit. The Town Board eventually gave them that permit.

The Latino National Republican Coalition of Monroe County will hold its launch event at 8 a.m. Friday, October 4, at Georgie’s Bakery, 857 South Clinton Avenue.

The coalition is a local affiliate of the national group, which tries to build GOP support among conservative Latinos and also focuses on getting them to run for office.

State Assembly member Peter Lopez, a Republican from the Village of Schoharie, will speak at the event. Ed Cox, the state GOP chair, will also attend. Tickets are $15 and are available at Jeremy Moule

Alternatives for Battered Women and the Rochester/Monroe County Domestic Violence Consortium will issue a domestic violence report card for the county at a 1 p.m. press conference on Tuesday, October 1, at the Monroe County Crime Victims Resource Center, 244 Plymouth Avenue.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month nationally, and at Tuesday’s event, County Executive Maggie Brooks and Rochester Mayor Tom Richards will declare October Domestic Violence Awareness Month for the city and county.

Related events will be held throughout the month. A schedule of events is at: and

According to an ABW press release, more than 6,400 incidents of domestic violence are reported in Monroe County each year, on average. Christine Carrie Fien

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Friday, September 27, 2013

School officials blame student behavior, not transporation for problems on East Main Street

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 11:04 AM

The large numbers of young people hanging out on East Main Street between bus transfers and getting into fights has certainly gotten City Hall’s attention. Though it’s still not clear whether a city school student fired the shot at the Liberty Pole last Monday, it couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Downtown business leaders are already anxious about the possibility of City Council President Lovely Warren succeeding Tom Richards as mayor, and what that will mean to downtown development. And the Fringe Festival, a major week-long downtown attraction, is under way. 

The whole affair has put the city school district on the defense once again. 

Richards says that safely transporting students to and from school is the district’s responsibility. School officials agree, but say that the problem with students on East Main Street is about bad behavior, not transportation. And that makes finding a solution a lot more complicated.

“We want to try and correct the behavior of some students,” one school official sats. “But there is a danger here of creating an attitude of ‘not wanting those kids downtown.’ And they have the right to be there.”

Continue reading »

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Global panel says there's no room for doubt on climate change

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 9:57 AM

This post has been updated to clarify conclusions about likely average temperature increases.

In a long-awaited report, the world's top climate scientists say that there's no longer room to doubt or deny that climate change is happening and that human activity is the largest contributing factor.

Today, the U.N.'s  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a summary document for policymakers, which the BBC describes as the first installment of a collection of scientific climate change studies that'll come out over the next year. And the report's conclusions are not good — some are pretty grim. 

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Richards demands plan to stop youth fights

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 4:59 PM

The recurrent violence involving young people at the Liberty Pole and other areas downtown is unacceptable and a solution must be found, says Rochester Mayor Tom Richards in a strongly worded statement released this afternoon. The most recent incident took place on Monday, in which a shot was fired. A suspect was pursued, but not apprehended. No one was injured. 

Large groups of youth often congregate in the area of the Liberty Pole before or after riding city buses. The city school district uses RTS buses to transport students. 

In his statement, Richards says that he met with Police Chief James Sheppard, Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, and RGRTA CEO Bill Carpenter after Monday's incident. 

"I believe that I made it clear — and all agreed — that the current transportation agreement is unacceptable and cannot continue," Richards' statement says. "It is not safe for the children, and disruptive for everyone else who is downtown. We cannot expect disturbances such as the one we saw on Monday to be corrected as long as hundreds of unsupervised RCSD students continue to be brought downtown at the same time as part of the district's transportation program." 

Richards says all parties at the meeting agreed that: 
1) The responsibility of transporting children safely to and from school lies with the RCSD;
2) RCSD will be actively engaged in monitoring the transportation of students, including having the appropriate personnel on site; and
3) A new plan must be devised and implemented promptly — although it's not clear if he's referring to a transportation plan or something else. 

Richards say that he will monitor the effectiveness of the plan devised by RCSD and RGRTA. 

"The Rochester Police Department will continue to deploy significant resources to deal with problems that may arise, but ultimately this is an issue that the RCSD must address in a permanent manner," the statement says. 

Lightfoot resigns from airport board

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 3:28 PM

Legislator Willie Joe Lightfoot - FILE PHOTO
  • Legislator Willie Joe Lightfoot
[UPDATE 4:20 p.m.] County spokesperson Justin Feasel just issued this statement  in response to the Democrats:
“Considering Legislator Lightfoot never took his service on the MCAA Board seriously, missing 50% of all meetings from 2007 to 2012 and three of five meetings in 2013, his rambling accusations do not merit a serious response. Had he spent more time fulfilling his duties, Mr. Lightfoot would know that all MCAA meetings are open to the public and that the Board abides by all public records requirements, upholding the highest standard of transparency. The best rebuttal to Mr. Lightfoot’s odd attack is his own statement in the MCAA’s December, 2010 meeting, where he declared, ‘This is one of the best committees [I’ve] sat on.’”

Original post: Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature are looking to change their representative on the county's Airport Authority board.

In a press release sent out this morning, Legislature Dems said that Legislator Willie Joe Lightfoot has resigned from the board. Democratic Minority Leader Carrie Andrews has recommended Legislator Cynthia Kaleh to take his place.

Under the law, the Legislature's minority caucus gets one representative on the board. Andrews sent the recommendation to County Executive Maggie Brooks who, by county law, submits the nomination to the Legislature for approval, says the press release.

That's the straightforward explanation of what's happening. But as with many matters involving the County Legislature, the backstory is more complicated. Lightfoot's statement on why he resigned is a good starting point:

Continue reading »

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School board members don't trust suspension data

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 12:56 PM

Rochester school board members got some good news last night about suspensions. According to a recent report, short- and long-term suspensions have dropped significantly, from 11,000 in the 2007 to 2008 school year to 5,500 in 2012-2013. The problem is that board members don't believe the data. 
Cynthia Elliott. - FILE PHOTO
  • Cynthia Elliott.

District officials concede that the way disciplinary problems are reported varies from school to school. And they said that even data from as recently as two years ago isn't thorough.

Board members are trying to determine if the approach teachers and administrators are using to discipline is effective, or if it just removes students from classrooms and reduces instruction time. Board members Cynthia Elliott, Van White, and Mary Adams say that they are also concerned that the disciplinary actions are more severe for African American and Latino students than they are for other students. 

Elliott questioned whether teachers, who are largely white and female, fully understand and have been trained on how to respond to some behaviors that may seem inappropriate, but are culturally relevant. Many city students respond with aggression or defensiveness, she said, because they need to protect themselves in the neighborhoods where they live. 

And she questioned, as many school security leaders across the country have, whether policies rooted in zero-tolerance ideology are actually contributing to problem behavior. 

White said that parents need to be better informed about their legal rights when it comes to school discipline. Parents have the right to appeal a suspension, but most don’t because they don’t know they can. 

And board member Adams said that she had requested more information from the Rochester Police Department about its contact with city students. For example, how many times were students restrained, pepper sprayed, or detained in the back seat of a cop car, or arrested? she asked. 

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Uncle Sam creep show

Posted By on Tue, Sep 24, 2013 at 1:34 PM

The origins of Uncle Sam are not exactly clear, but some historians say that references to him go as far back as the 1700’s. Others say that Uncle Sam was a nickname given to Sam Wilson of Troy, New York for creating food care packages for soldiers. James Montgomery Flagg is credited with creating the image of Uncle Sam, using a picture of himself for the iconic pitchman of American patriotism.

Uncle Sam has appeared in movies, books, and television. He’s also been a regular in advertising commercials, pitching everything from military enlistment to new cars. At least some of Sam's appeal is as a benevolent paternal figure concerned with protecting America.

But a new set of television ads has turned the craggy Jimmy Stewart-like visage of Uncle Sam into a leering peepshow creep. It’s part of a conservative group’s effort to derail the Affordable Care Act. In one ad, Uncle Sam is seen gawking at the rear of young man who is lying on his side in a medical examination room. In another, he appears to be giving a gynecological look-see to a young woman.

The ads are telling young people that they shouldn’t get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, which for many young people is the same as telling them not to have health insurance. They’re kind of “don’t drink the water” warnings, except they don’t make sense. Health insurance could save a young person’s life.

Unless you’ve been in a coma for the last few years, you know that many conservatives don’t support the Affordable Care Act. They’ve tried everything imaginable to kill it, including these commercials, which portray Uncle Sam as a sex offender in stars and stripes.

The ads fail on many levels, but fireworks should have gone off when Uncle Sam was recommended as the spokesperson for an anti-government message. Even more peculiar is the premise: convincing young people to risk their lives for political ideology. 

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Downtown fights: What do we do?

Posted By on Tue, Sep 24, 2013 at 1:20 PM

The problem is bigger than a few rowdy youth congregating at the Liberty Pole. Ask members of the Red Shirts— retired police officers who patrol downtown — and they’ll tell you how they have to escort some downtown office workers outside because gangs of young people taunt and harass them as they leave their buildings. 

Out-of-control young people also shut down a carnival in Greece, delayed the opening of Seabreeze Amusement Park, and made for a scary and chaotic situation at the Lilac Festival.

Part of me wonders if the Liberty Pole problem will improve once the new transit center, with its own security force, opens. But the area around the Liberty Pole resembles an armed encampment at different times during the day, and a new police substation just opened in the nearby Sibley building. None of that has stopped the Liberty Pole problems.

The curfew we tried was unconstitutional. And anyway, many of these problems are happening during the day. A curfew wouldn’t help that. And though the curfew program tried to hook families up with services, many families rejected the offer.

More recreation centers/activities? Maybe this is part of the solution. But what could you offer to compete with hanging out with your friends on the streets?

Changing the busing system/routes/whatever: Again, maybe there’s something to work with here. But transportation is a huge expense and I can’t see the city school district jumping up and saying, “Oh, sure. We’ll take it from here.”

Parents? OK. Let me know when you figure that one out.

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WSJ corrects the record on renewables

Posted By on Tue, Sep 24, 2013 at 11:55 AM

The Wall Street Journal is getting attention for yesterday's Energy section cover piece, "Six Myths About Renewable Energy."

The article takes six common claims for or against renewable energy and sets the record straight. For example, it tackles the claim that renewables don't contribute much power to the United States' grid and explains, point by point, why that's wrong.

American renewables like wind, solar, biomass, and often-overlooked hydropower contribute electricity in amounts that eclipse the total generation of some countries, the article explains. But the piece also takes some steam (no pun intended) out of the argument that renewables can entirely replace fossil fuels.

The article is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in how the America gets its power. But some of the reactions to the piece are also worth a read.

Media Matters, a progressive think tank has, calls its response "WSJ Debunks WSJ's Renewable Energy Myths," and its thrust can be summed up in this one sentence from the article:

"But the paper itself has promoted several of these myths in the past, obscuring the promising growth of renewable energy as prices rapidly decline."

And it takes a few of the myths and explains how the Wall Street Journal has "promoted" them.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Week Ahead: Voting Rights Act forum, RCSD committee to discuss suspensions

Posted By on Mon, Sep 23, 2013 at 9:55 AM

The Rochester-area League of Women Voters will a forum on the Voting Rights Act at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 24. 

The forum will specifically address Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires the U.S. Justice Department to pre-clear any voting law or regulation changes in three New York counties, certain election districts across the country, and several states in their entirety. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the section was no longer needed, but provided for Congress to rewrite the section, says the League of Women Voters’ press release.

“LWV is strongly supporting a new writing of Section 4, to be passed by Congress and signed by the president this fall,” the League says. “It’s a fundamental right in this country to have fair, accessible elections for all Americans — young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural — in all states, counties, and municipalities. The LWV’s vision is to expand access to voting and to increase the number of citizens voting.”

The forum will be held at Asbury First Methodist Church, 1050 East Avenue.

Speakers include: League of Women Voters representatives; Monroe County Board of Elections Commissioners Thomas Ferrarese and Peter Quinn; Representative Louise Slaughter’s district director Patricia Larke; and Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School president Marvin McMickle. Jeremy Moule

The Rochester school board policy committee will meet at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, September 24, and one of the items on the agenda is the district’s suspension policy. In-house suspension and how it is administered remains a controversial issue.

That same evening, Superintendent Bolgen Vargas will hold one of his coffee and conversation meetings where he takes questions from parents, teachers, students, and community members on any topic of concern.

Also, the board will hold its monthly business meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 26. All three meetings will be held at the district’s central office location, 131 West Broad Street. Tim Louis Macaluso

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