Friday, January 24, 2014

Dean becomes third person to enter House race

Posted By on Fri, Jan 24, 2014 at 4:39 PM

Tim Dean announced his candidacy for the 25th Congressional District this afternoon. - PHOTO BY JEREMY MOULE
  • Tim Dean announced his candidacy for the 25th Congressional District this afternoon.
Tim Dean figures he can win the 25th Congressional District seat by connecting with common voters who are sick of their representatives voting along party lines.

Dean announced his candidacy today, a day after Republican Gates Supervisor Mark Assini kicked off his campaign and sitting House Representative Louise Slaughter, a Democrat, indirectly confirmed she's seeking re-election. County Board of Elections Commissioner Tom Ferrarese says Dean is registered with the Independence Party, though Dean says he's running as an independent and is not affiliated with a party.

To get on the November ballot as an independent, without the designation of a party, Dean would have to collect the signatures of 3,500 registered voters who have not yet signed other candidate petitions.

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Hodan Aden receives school board's "I Believe" award

Posted By on Fri, Jan 24, 2014 at 10:56 AM

Sometimes it takes seeing the world through someone else’s eyes to shake you out of your bubble. Hodan Aden, a young lady from Somalia, was that someone for me last night.

Aden was recognized by the Rochester school board for her amazing achievements while overcoming obstacles that most of us could hardly imagine.

When Aden was just a child in Somalia, her family had to flee war and civil unrest that was consuming her homeland. Dressed in her native garb, Aden talked about moving into a refugee camp in neighboring Ethiopia where her family lived for 17 years.

Life in the refugee camp was brutal and dangerous. Aden, like most children, spent her days finding food and necessities to survive. Going to school wasn’t even a consideration.

About a year and a half ago, Aden and her family were able to relocate to the US. She enrolled in the Rochester school district’s International Academy not knowing a word of English. And she had no formal education.

Where do you begin when you know so little and everything around you is completely unfamiliar? Though Aden and her family were no longer struggling to survive in a camp with other displaced people, adapting to life in the US has come with its own struggles.

Still, Aden has managed to learn to speak and write English in a year, and she’s pursuing her education at Rochester International Academy. Thank you, Hodan Aden and Rochester International Academy teacher Michelle Valentino, for shaking me out of my bubble and reminding me that anything is possible.

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Assini announces Congressional bid

Posted By on Fri, Jan 24, 2014 at 10:53 AM

Republican Mark Assini plans to challenge Democrat Louise Slaughter for the 25th Congressional District seat. - PHOTO BY JEREMY MOULE
  • Republican Mark Assini plans to challenge Democrat Louise Slaughter for the 25th Congressional District seat.
Gates Supervisor Mark Assini, a Republican, officially announced his candidacy for the 25th Congressional District last night. And in a somewhat subtle way, Democrat Louise Slaughter confirmed she'll be running for re-election.

Just before the start of Assini's 5:30 p.m. announcement at the Italian American Community Center in Gates, Slaughter's campaign office sent out this statement:
"Monroe County has sent Louise Slaughter to Congress because she's a tough fighter who delivers results for the constituents she is proud to represent. Upstate New York has a tradition of rejecting Tea Party politics and electing trustworthy leaders like Louise who work hard to rebuild our region’s economy. We look forward to discussing our region's future, and to earning each and every vote.”
Assini, who took the podium to a standing ovation, announced his candidacy to a room filled with key Republicans, including current legislators, Republican town supervisors, county Republican Party chair Bill Reilich and County Executive Maggie Brooks. After telling the crowd a little bit about his family history — his grandfather immigrated to the United States from Italy and was able work hard, earn a law degree, and help people in Gates — he set the tone for his upcoming campaign.

"Washington is broken, there's no doubt about it," Assini told the crowd. "There's no collaboration, no compromise."

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Comptroller DiNapoli's audits nab two Rochester charters

Posted By on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 1:29 PM

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released the results of audits of eight charter schools today, including two schools in Rochester: Eugenio Maria de Hostos Charter School and True North Rochester Preparatory School. The audits for both schools are critical of some practices and recommends changes.

At Eugenio Maria de Hostos, the audit was critical of real estate leases that the school entered into, as well as procurement of technical office equipment.

“These findings are of particular concern because the leases and contracts were entered into with organizations having various types of business or occupational relationships with members of the Board or their family or friends," the audit says. "Under these circumstances, it is questionable whether the leases and contracts were in the best interest of the School." 

The problem at True North Rochester Prep was different. That audit says the school was not consistent in its precautions to protect children with regard to fingerprinting and criminal background checks of employees and service providers.

“We found that the School did not consistently comply with the law and guidance regarding fingerprint-supported criminal background checks,” the audit charges.

By failing to file appropriate employee background checks and updated clearance requests with the State Education Department, the school would not be notified of an arrest, either prior or subsequent to an employee's hire. This could compromise the safety of students, the audit says.

Officials at both charter schools have been made aware of the problems, the audits say, and they've agreed to the recommendations made by the comptroller’s office to address them. The Eugenio Maria de Hostos audit covered the period from July 2011 to December 2012. True North's practices were audited from July 2011 to August 2013. 

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Report says Northeastern states could see more tar sands-derived gasoline

Posted By on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 10:37 AM

As more crude from Canadian tar sands heads to Gulf of Mexico refineries, Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states could see more gasoline derived from the oil.

That's the thrust of a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council. The report says that in 2012, less than 1 percent of the gasoline sold in Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states — including New York — was derived from tar sands crude. By 2020, that figure could be between 11 and 18 percent.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cuomo presents his 2014-15 budget

Posted By on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 4:47 PM

Governor Andrew Cuomo is sticking to his claim that if the state continues to hold down spending increases, the budget will have a $2 billion surplus by the 2016-17 budget year.

And during his budget address this afternoon, Cuomo once again said that the surplus will enable a suite of tax cuts for businesses as well as residents. His 2014-15 budget proposal includes a cut to the corporate income tax rate, new tax credits for manufacturers, elimination of the income tax for upstate manufacturers, a tax credit for renters, and property tax relief for homeowners.

The tax package is balanced, he said, and is designed to pass. But his property tax relief for homeowners — a two-year state-funded property tax freeze — relies on local governments limiting spending and developing countywide consolidation and shared services plans. Many New Yorkers say they support government consolidation and shared services, only to fight such efforts in their own communities.
"We have too many levels of local government, period," Cuomo said.

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Cuomo critical of Common Core rollout

Posted By on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 3:32 PM

Only minutes ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that's he going to convene a panel of educators and legislators to review the rollout of the controversial Common Core curriculum. Cuomo made the announcement during his 2014-2015 budget presentation. 

Acknowledging that there have been complaints statewide about the Common Core from parents, teachers, and students, Cuomo said, "The way the Board of Regents has handled the Common Core in New York is flawed."

He also challenged some standardized testing practices. 

"There's no reason school districts should make 5 year olds take standardized tests," he said.

Cuomo is the latest state leader to address the public's concerns about Common Core. Last month, state Senator John Flanagan issued a less-than-flattering report on the sloppy rollout of the Common Core and the lack of sufficient training in its implementation. 

Parents and teachers around the state showed up at State Education Commissioner John King's public forums on the Common Core to complain. And teachers are so frustrated with King's oversight of the Common Core that the state's teachers unions are calling for King's resignation and/or termination. 

A resolution drafted by the Monroe County Federation of Teachers says that "there is no confidence in the Commissioner's abilities."

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Group pushes back on possible Seneca casino

Posted By on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 11:51 AM

Former Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson portrays the Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls as an island, isolated from the rest of the city. And any development that's happened in the city because of the casino has happened within the walls of that island, he says.

That casino is an apt illustration of how new gaming facilities in New York aren't benefiting communities they locate in, he says.

Johnson was the lead speaker during a press conference this morning, which served as the public debut of the No More Casinos Coalition. The coalition is organized by Western Regional Off-Track Betting and Finger Lakes Gaming and Racing in response to efforts to expand casino gambling in upstate. Coalition members who spoke at the press conference expressed particular concerns about a possible Seneca Nation of Indians casino in the Rochester area. The Senecas have hired Flaum Management to scout out a possible casino location in Henrietta, and have also met with Henrietta officials.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

WEEK AHEAD: State budget out; Greece political moves; SWPC's annual meeting

Posted By on Mon, Jan 20, 2014 at 9:51 AM

Governor Andrew Cuomo will present his 2014-15 state budget proposal at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. The presentation will be streamed at
Governor Andrew Cuomo. - FILE PHOTO
  • Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The budget will likely follow the agenda that Cuomo laid out in his January 8 State of the State address. His goals for the year include various tax cuts and a publicly-funded campaign finance system.

Cuomo’s previous pushes for campaign finance reform have been blocked by Senate Republican leaders who oppose using taxpayer funds for elections. And it doesn’t appear that they’ve changed their minds either. A New York Times article published today notes that Republican leader Dean Skelos said earlier this month that tax money would be better spent on infrastructure, schools, or tax cuts.

As for the tax cuts, Cuomo is talking about cutting corporate taxes, eliminating income tax for upstate manufacturing companies, and offering property tax credits for businesses and homeowners.

But some officials and observers are skeptical of Cuomo’s plans, since they rely on state government’s ability to turn a projected budget gap into a surplus. An article in this morning’s Democrat and Chronicle says that state budget documents estimate a $3 billion deficit in three years. But Cuomo plans for the budget to have a $2 billion surplus at that point.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

[UPDATED] Warren to reorganize the RPD

Posted By on Fri, Jan 17, 2014 at 5:00 PM

UPDATE: Warren spokesperson Christine Christopher says that the downtown substation will stay open. The only question, she says, is whether it would become part of another section.

This just came over from Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren: 

(Incidentally, the part about the downtown police station is curious. Warren said in an interview earlier this week that the downtown station would remain intact.) 

City of Rochester

News Release

Mayor Warren, Interim Police Chief Ciminelli Announce Timetable for RPD Reorganization

(Friday, January 17, 2014) - Mayor Lovely A. Warren and Interim Police Chief Michael Ciminelli announced today that a proposal to expand the Rochester Police Department's patrol divisions to at least four divisions is nearly complete and should be ready for implementation in the next fiscal year.

"I want to thank Interim Chief Ciminelli and his staff for moving forward with this plan with such expediency," said Mayor Warren. "Putting a police section in each of the Rochester's four quadrants will help the Police Department better serve the citizens they are sworn to protect."

A proposed schedule for the RPD Reorganization Project will be presented to Mayor Warren next week and will include provisions to solicit community feedback on the project. The cost and resources needed to fully implement the reorganization will be determined in the planning process.

The RPD has been operating under a two-division patrol structure since 2004. Prior to that, the RPD worked in seven patrol sections.

The objective of the current reorganization project is to develop and implement a reorganization of RPD from its current two-division patrol structure into at least four patrol sections.

The status of the Downtown area as a separate section, or as part of another section, will be determined as part of the project.

The primary benefits sought from reorganizing back to multiple sections are to:
* Better promote community policing in the city of Rochester;
* Enable a closer and more harmonious relationship between the community and RPD;
* Achieve an overall more effective policing model in the city of Rochester.

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