Friday, October 18, 2013

Will Duffy return to Rochester?

Posted By on Fri, Oct 18, 2013 at 1:35 PM

The rumor that Bob Duffy will depart the Cuomo administration to head the Rochester Business Alliance when current RBA leader Sandra Parker retires at the end of the year is sprouting legs. Neither Duffy nor Cuomo have done anything to quash the speculation. Instead, Duffy’s refusal to discuss it has stoked the buzz into a near roar. 

Duffy’s selection as lieutenant governor was always a bit curious and was likely meant to burnish Cuomo’s appeal upstate — though Duffy’s background may have hurt him. Downstate drives Albany’s machinery and some say that the cognoscente didn’t know how to take this too-tall ex-cop with the nasal “a.”
Bob Duffy. - FILE PHOTO
  • Bob Duffy.

Rochesterians consoled themselves for the loss of Duffy with the knowledge that at least their former mayor would have the governor’s ear — whatever that meant (possibly, yelling “Rochester!” whenever he ran into Cuomo in the Capitol Building’s men’s room).

Duffy’s tenure as Cuomo’s right-hand man hasn’t been particularly remarkable — though short of an Eliot Spitzer-like detonation, it’s tough for a lieutenant governor to stand out. Duffy has been a traveling salesman for Cuomo’s budgets, and he chairs all 10 Regional Economic Development Councils, though the councils’ locally based representatives seem to do the heavy lifting there.

Duffy hasn’t hurt Cuomo, either, though his intrusion into Rochester’s mayoral race was ill-conceived — a fact he later acknowledged. (Duffy told the Democrat and Chronicle in January that Lovely Warren should stay out of the mayor’s race. Warren entered the race anyway and wound up winning the primary election. And Duffy got singed for opening his mouth.)

It’s unclear what Duffy’s future as an elected representative might be. Governor seems out of reach, and though Duffy was once talked about as a successor to Louise Slaughter in Congress, Slaughter seems to have the constitution of a triathlete.

As head of the RBA, Duffy would spend a lot of time promoting the city to investors — a task that he’s very familiar with and for which he is well-suited. He would also be the face and the voice of Rochester’s business community. Duffy certainly knows the economic and financial topography here, so in that sense, he’s a good match for the RBA. But in the past, his indecisiveness and impulsiveness have been counterproductive.

Duffy’s relationship with Warren is another question. He has been one of Warren’s strongest supporters, but it’s not clear if his ill-timed remarks about the mayor’s race damaged that bond. If Duffy does get the RBA job and he and Warren are able to mend fences, it could help settle the business community’s stomachs over a possible Warren administration.

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Obamacare moving forward in the Rochester/Finger Lakes area

Posted By on Fri, Oct 18, 2013 at 11:31 AM

In 2008, multiple polls were telling us that most Americans ranked the rising cost of health care and the possible loss of health coverage as two of their biggest concerns. And they wanted Washington lawmakers to do something.

After two elections and a US Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, you really have to wonder if defunding the ACA was ever the real reason that the Tea Party extremists in the Republican Party shut the government down for half a month.

Conservatives’ concerns about the long-term financial health of country are valid. They’re right: the country is on an unsustainable path and reform is needed. But our health care system needs to be part of that reform.

Predicting the ACA will bring about the end of days is a stretch. At this stage of the law's implementation, there’s not enough data to know how well it's working or how it will impact the economy. That was a point made yesterday at “The Affordable Care Act: Local Implementation Challenges,” a forum held by the Rochester chapter of the League of Women Voters.

The Obama administration has received, and rightly so, plenty of criticism for not doing a better job of explaining the ACA and what the effort is all about. And when you take an objective look at the law, there are elements that should please both conservatives and liberals.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Paltry minimum wage hurts everybody

Posted By on Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 3:18 PM

When a company pays its full-time workers only minimum wage, it's bad for the employees, and it's bad for taxpayers, too.

That's the thrust behind a recent report from the UC Berkeley Labor Center, which focuses on wages in the fast-food industry; local social justice groups are trying to draw attention to the report's findings. The report says that low-wage fast-food workers receive approximately $7 billion in public benefits, including Medicaid, food stamps, and temporary assistance.

Continue reading »

Brizard returns, kind of

Posted By on Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 10:56 AM

He’s back, sort of. It’s been a few years since former city schools superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard left Rochester rather abruptly to become Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel’s schools chief — though he didn't last long there, either. 

It’s no secret that some Rochester board members, teachers, and union leaders were 
Jean-Claude Brizard. - FILE PHOTO
  • Jean-Claude Brizard.
happy to see Brizard go. Others, even some of his strongest supporters, were dismayed by how he essentially dismantled the district and then left before putting it back together.

And you almost felt sorry for the guy when reports of clashes between Brizard and Chicago’s teachers began to surface, not to mention the break up with Emanuel.

But absence does soften the heart; many of Brizard’s sharpest critics in Rochester speak kindly of him today. So maybe it’s not surprising that Brizard is listed as a member of the founding design team for Vertus Charter School in its application to the New York State Education Department.

Brizard was always pretty clear about his support for charters.

Vertus is expected to open in Rochester as a high school for boys sometime in 2014. The school’s founder is Perry White, who founded Citizens Academy Charter School in Cleveland, Ohio. Retired General John Batiste, president and CEO of Klein Steel, is a board member.

Welcome back, JC.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Alex White responds to proposal to create drug-free zones in the city

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2013 at 12:42 PM

Alex White. - FILE PHOTO
  • Alex White.
Green Party mayoral candidate Alex White says that a proposal by City Council member Adam McFadden to create drug-free zones in the City of Rochester is misguided and would create “rights-free zones” instead.

White held a press conference outside City Hall this morning to denounce McFadden’s legislation, which first surfaced at Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting last week. McFadden chairs that committee.

McFadden’s legislation would create a new section of City Code to prohibit loitering in defined areas, chosen by the police chief, for the purpose of selling drugs. McFadden said that he crafted the legislation to agitate dealers out of complacency, and to give police an added tool to combat open-air drug markets. 

But White says that the proposal is unconstitutional and racist because “it will be used almost exclusively against people of color in our neighborhoods.” The legislation would give the police chief the right to declare martial law over sections of the city, he said.

The real solution to the drug problem is treatment and the alleviation of poverty, White said. McFadden’s proposal addresses neither of these things, he said.

White also promised to hold additional press conferences this week to talk about crime and other issues.

Continue reading »

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Commissioner King cancels Common Core forums

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2013 at 11:20 AM

Sometimes reality can overwhelm rhetoric, and that appears to be the case with a recent set of statewide public forums planned by State Education Commissioner John King. King intended to use the forums to provide more information about the rigorous new Common Core curriculum. 

But after a disastrous first meeting (see YouTube video below), King abruptly cancelled the rest of the forums. King began the first presentation at Spackenkill High School in Poughkeepsie. When he finished, the microphone was turned over to parents and teachers for what was supposed to be a question and answer period.

Instead, King was roundly scolded and shouted down by an angry and emotional audience. King blamed the disruption on “special interest” groups, which is a strange way of referring to a room full of concerned teachers and parents.

What’s particularly odd is how unprepared King was to handle something that was fairly predictable. The Common Core has been highly controversial in many states, including New York. Though King's office warned of a dramatic drop in test scores earlier this year, no one was prepared to hear that just 31 percent of New York’s students are proficient in math and reading.

It’s likely that King would have been met with the same reaction if he had appeared in Rochester, where the city school district’s scores are the lowest in the state.

While there is enormous pressure from the highest levels of government to whip up higher test scores in math and reading and to better prepare US students for a global economy, there is an equal degree of disagreement among many parents and teachers about the top-down strategy for getting there.

Many teachers complain that their performance reviews are attached to test scores on material they weren't prepared to teach. And many parents are fed up with what they see as testing mania. And ironically, many parents and teachers are also concerned about the special interest groups who are pushing the reform agenda – businesses that benefit from big government contracts that see cash-ready education as the next frontier.

Cancelling the forums may have helped to solidify those concerns instead of resolve them.

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Governor Trump? Ugh

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Donald Trump may be a wealthy, successful businessman, but Republicans should really think about whether he's the type of mogul they'd want running New York.

Yesterday, the New York Post's Frederic Dicker broke the news that Republican leaders are talking up Trump as a good prospect to challenge Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo next year. At the center of the report is a memo circulated to Republican leaders by Assembly member Bill Nojay. The memo says that Trump's celebrity status and popularity might make him the party's best, if not only chance to defeat Cuomo, reports the Post.

Yes, Trump built a real estate, gambling, and entertainment empire, and he certainly knows how to generate wealth — and media attention. But the way that he's done business isn't exactly compatible with running a state. The companies that hold his Atlantic City casinos have filed for bankruptcy four times since 1991, says a 2011 Forbes report. The article says that Trump has used bankruptcy as a business tool; it's been his go-to means for restructuring or eliminating debt without selling off his holdings.

His bluster, too, wouldn't be good for New York. Remember, Trump bought into the birther conspiracies about President Obama, at one point offering to pay $5 million to a charity of Obama's choice if the president released his college transcripts and passport application. Trump said that he wanted to see where Obama claimed as his place of birth. To be fair, however, he's also questioned Republican Senator Ted Cruz's eligibility to run for the presidency. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

RCSD's Murphy a superintendent finalist in Oswego

Posted By on Mon, Oct 14, 2013 at 10:59 AM

The Rochester school district’s number two in command, Anita Murphy, is one of two finalists for the superintendent position at the Oswego, NY, school district, according to a report by Oswego County Today.
Anita Murphy. - FILE PHOTO
  • Anita Murphy.

Superint endent Bolgen Vargas hired Murphy in 2012. As deputy superintendent, Murphy is arguably Vargas’s most strategically important hire. Her close relationship to Albany and her no-nonsense style, as well as the depth of her experience helped to calm some critics' concerns about Vargas’s experience and qualifications.

Murphy, formerly associate commissioner at the State Education Department, has been responsible for implementing the Annual Professional Performance Review and the new curriculum called Common Core.

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Week Ahead: COMIDA considers tax deal for Penfield apartment project

Posted By on Mon, Oct 14, 2013 at 9:53 AM

The board of the Monroe County Industrial Development Agency will take up tax exemptions for a couple of large projects when it meets at noon on Tuesday in the Watts Building conference room, 49 South Fitzhugh Street.

Southpoint Cove, a proposed 358-unit apartment complex in Penfield, is seeking sales and mortgage tax exemptions. The $54 million project would be located on Empire Boulevard, overlooking Irondequoit Bay. A COMIDA analysis says that the exemptions would be worth approximately $2.2 million. The analysis also says that the project will create the equivalent of nine full-time jobs.

A public hearing on the Southpoint Cove application will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at Penfield Town Hall, 3100 Atlantic Avenue.

And LiDestri Foods is seeking property, mortgage, and sales tax incentives worth approximately $2.6 million to expand its operation at Eastman Business Park.

The company is buying an additional 397,600 square foot building in the park, which will be used to store “finished goods” and to free up space for manufacturing in its other Eastman Business Park buildings. A COMIDA analysis says that the $12 million project will create the equivalent of 60 full-time jobs.

A public hearing on the LiDestri application was held this morning. Jeremy Moule

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Friday, October 11, 2013

McFadden introduces legislation to create drug-free zones in Rochester

Posted By on Fri, Oct 11, 2013 at 11:17 AM

Adam McFadden. - FILE PHOTO
  • Adam McFadden.
In some places, people line up for a Friday night fish fry. In Rochester, there is at least one neighborhood where people line both sides of the street on Friday nights to buy drugs. 

“It’s almost like a drive-through restaurant,” says City Council member Elaine Spaull.

Spaull shared the anecdote, told to her by a friend, at a meeting of Council’s Public Safety Committee yesterday. Earlier in the meeting, Council member Adam McFadden, the committee’s chair, introduced legislation to create drug-free zones in the city. 

The legislation would create a new section of City Code to prohibit loitering in defined areas for the purpose of selling drugs. The zones would be identified by the police chief, using criteria set out in the legislation (see below).

The penalty for a first offense would be $300, according to the legislation. A second offense would also earn you a $300 fine or a prison sentence of 30 days or less, or both, the legislation says. 

Continue reading »

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BINGO at the Central Library @ Central Library, Children's Center

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Thanksgiving Eve Silent Disco @ The Penthouse at One East Avenue

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Record Store Day: Black Friday @ Record Archive

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