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okc.gov

Links of the Day:

- This is how you get things done. Two decades ago, Oklahoma City discovered it couldn’t lure companies because it lacked quality-of-life amenities. Throwing tax incentives at firms wasn’t enough.

The mayor wrote in the Huffington Post about what the city decided to do:

An innovative new program, Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS), was developed through which we could invest in our community. The program featured defined capital projects that would be funded by a penny sales tax. The tax would have a start date and an end date and the projects would be paid for in cash, without incurring debt.

In 1993, the first MAPS vote proposed the construction of a 20,000-seat, indoor sports arena; construction of a 15,000-seat downtown ballpark; construction of a new downtown library; construction of the Bricktown Canal; development of a trolley transit system; development along the North Canadian River; and renovations to the Civic Center Music Hall, Cox Convention Center and Oklahoma State Fairgrounds.

(snip)

As a result of the original proposal, Oklahoma City’s Bricktown, with its canals, restaurants and hotels, is the most popular and lively entertainment district in the region. The river — formerly a ditch that we had to mow from time to time — is now filled with water and hosts a world-class, U.S. Olympic rowing training center. The ballpark is home to the Houston Astros’ AAA team and the indoor sports arena is home to the Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the most successful franchises in the NBA and certainly the hottest ticket in town.

A second MAPS program funded school renovations. A third is remaking the downtown core. Oklahoma City now has a low unemployment rate and is considered an entrepreneurial hub.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, government partnered with businesses from 1976 to 2001 to build $200 million in cultural facilities. Charlotte has taken much of Upstate New York’s talent over the years.

Meanwhile in Rochester, the rebuilding of Midtown Plaza is painfully slow. A performing arts center hasn’t gotten off the ground. A downtown campus for MCC is at a political stalemate. Medley Centre sits empty. The Inner Loop is an underutilized moat choking off downtown. The aqueduct project is on the shelf.

Would you pay an extra penny in sales tax to rebuild our city? Maybe that wouldn’t work here, but these stories show where there’s a will, there’s a way.

- New York is not on track to get truly high speed rail. While Governor Andrew Cuomo touts high speed rail, the state is passing on speeds that would spur economic development.

- Cornell researches have figured out why supermarket tomatoes taste bland.

- It’s time for sweet corn! Alas, State Senator Mike Nozzolio’s bill to make sweet corn the official state veggie failed again.

- This is great advice for coming up with the perfect password. 

Links of the Day:

- Cities are hot again. The population growth of many of the nation’s cities is outpacing their suburbs, according to new data from the U.S. Census.

The data showed Rochester was the only large Upstate New York city to gain residents from July 2010 and July 2011. The city’s growth rate was the same as the growth rate of Monroe County – .13 percent. The county gained 990 residents between July 2010 and July 2011. More than a quarter of the growth was in the city.

We’re talking about very modest growth. But given years of population decline, this is encouraging news for the city. Rochester isn’t emptying out and the pace of sprawl could be slowing. This is good news for the entire community.

Here is a chart of the Census population data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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- Business Insider looked at 16 brands that have a cult following. Guess which Rochester company made the list?

- A Buffalo area orthopedic surgeon joined the Army Reserves – at the age of 64. He was motivated by his son’s war injury.

- Finger Lakes winery Dr. Konstantin Frank is celebrating 50 years.

Special Thank You: I’m so appreciative to Christina Nasello of NVus Designs for coming up with a much-needed and beautiful logo for The Rochesterian. I’m also very grateful to Tom Belknap of Dragonflyeye.net for his support and expert coding skills in coming up with a new look for the website. I hope you enjoy it!

Links of the Day:

- It came as no surprise Ontario Beach Park was again listed as most-closed beach because of water quality. But it was surprising to read in the Democrat and Chronicle Monroe County is not prepared to move forward with an algae pump that worked to reduce problem bacteria. The pump was tested by the Army Corps of Engineers last summer. The county said it doesn’t have the cash to buy the necessary equipment:

During a month-long test, a portable pump set up at the beach’s eastern end sucked up the aquatic plant-like organisms and deposited them into the nearby Genesee River.

“All the parties involved felt the demonstration project appeared to go very well, and everyone seemed very positive that this is something that should be pursued,” said John Ricci, a spokesman for the Monroe County Health Department.

But the system would require an initial outlay of $400,000 and $30,000 to $40,000 a year in operating money, he said. And the county doesn’t have the money in its budget, according to Ricci and David Rinaldo, deputy director of county parks.

Despite its problems, Ontario Beach Park is a big destination for swimming. Durand-Eastman is a little off the beaten path. Hamlin is far for city residents. Do you think the algae pump is a worthwhile investment?

- Xerox put together a cool graphic explaining health insurance exchanges.

- The Washington Post has a nifty tool to figure out if the health care law will affect your finances and ability to get insurance.

- A short column in The Economist says there’s reason to be optimistic about Buffalo and Rochester.

- Clinique salespeople will no longer bother you when you’re browsing lipsticks. After all, no one wants to be put in the dreaded makeup chair!

syracuse.edu

- Rochester’s city residents have suffered through the closure of Wegmans at Midtown, Mt. Hope and Driving Park. We mourned the loss of our smaller, neighborhood stores. Those stores belonged to us. They were a refuge from the massive, suburban boxes with their chaotic parking lots. They were home.

As much as it hurt to say goodbye and despite the pangs of betrayal, there was no community angst the likes of which we are now seeing in Syracuse.

Wegmans announced recently it is closing the smallest store in its chain on Pond Street on the North Side. The Post-Standard reports:

…the Pond Street Wegmans is the primary source of food for a significant number of people in a high poverty area, and in a quarter-mile radius of the store, almost a quarter of the population has no vehicle…

(snip)

Richard Zalewski, a North Sider since the 1970s, has a vehicle, and two days after the Pond Street news broke, he drove to the chain’s corporate headquarters in Rochester to hand-deliver a letter of protest. He is especially worried about his neighbors without transportation.

“I really was upset enough to want to make a dramatic statement,” said Zalewski…

Zalewski, like some others interviewed for this story, does not buy the reason Wegmans is giving for shuttering Pond Street. He thinks the real issue is that the store, with is lower-income clientele, doesn’t fit the Wegmans corporate image. Zalewski says he will no longer shop at any Wegmans.

There have been endless news stories and letters to the editor and even a proposed law requiring the site to stay a grocery store. A Syracuse council member wrote an open letter to Wegmans:

Is denying immigrants, the elderly and the impoverished reasonable access to fresh foods the sort of difference you want to make in the community?

These are moral questions about your business culture.

Ouch!

Perhaps Rochesterians have more goodwill for our hometown grocer, so we’re more accepting when Wegmans abandons its city stores. Perhaps Rochesterians are more accepting of the suburbanization of our community. Perhaps Rochesterians are used to being disappointed by big business.

Syracuse will eventually learn there is life without Wegmans. PriceRite, Aldi and Tops have filled the void and are doing very well. And as Wegmans has often pointed out, the chain has a plethora of stores near the city…just over the border.

Update – Wegmans wrote a letter to the editor acknowledging the backlash.

- Tops is remodeling stores and adding gas stations. The company has a decidely different strategy than Wegmans.

- School #50 principal Tim Mains is up for the Albany superintendent job. Mains ran for mayor in 2005 and lost to Bob Duffy. We know how that story ended. He was a finalist for RCSD superintendent along with Jean-Claude Brizard. We know how that story ended. How would things in Rochester have been different if Mains ascended to either of those positions?

- New York’s dairy farmers are being left behind in the Greek yogurt boom. Chobani is forced to expand its operation in Idaho because it can’t get enough milk from New York farms.

- Rochester’s mayor has had a very quotable week. First, he complained MCC is treated the Damon Campus like it’s Afghanistan. Then he called his deputy mayor a “big boy.” His discussion of the Bug Jar in City Newspaper takes the cake and started a brief Twitter meme:

“There’s nothing wrong with being funky. There’s nothing wrong with being hip hop. It’s just, you can’t shoot each other.”

Created by: @bryanjball

Created by @dragonflyeye

Links of the Day:

- So you want to cut the cord, do you? You’re looking forward to watching your videos online, streaming movies on Netflix or hooking up your Apple TV. You’re so excited about lower monthly bills and not having to pay the cable monster for excess channels you don’t watch.

If it sounds too good to be true…

A New York Times article makes it clear that you will either pay big bucks for cable or you will pay big bucks for broadband. Tiered pricing that charges you based on data consumption is on the way. The business model could stifle cord-cutting and innovation:

The strategy, called usage-based billing, is advantageous for the companies that control the digital pipelines. But it may be detrimental for customers who are watching more and more video on the Web every month, as well as companies like Netflix that distribute it. Some fear that as customers become more aware of how much broadband they’re using each month, they’ll start to use less of it, and in that way, protect traditional forms of entertainment distribution and discourage new Internet services.

When Time Warner proposed tiered pricing in Rochester, Senator Chuck Schumer came to town and won a reprieve for consumers. But times have rapidly changed in just the past few years and the company is implementing the model elsewhere. How long can Rochester be exempt?

As more people cut the TV cord, cable companies will need to make up that revenue. They’ll tie us to the new cord – broadband.

- Rochester’s deputy mayor will have to rent an apartment in the city. He’s running up against the year deadline to comply with the residency requirement as he tries to unload his $499,000 house in Perinton.

- Buffalo’s interim school superintendent – not chosen for the permanent job – realized she can’t go back to being not-the-superintendent.

- This isn’t very comforting. Common drugs used to treat acid reflux may cause other problems.

- These are truly stunning and scary pictures of wildfires in Colorado.

easycomputermonitoring.com

Links of the Day:

- Parents are buying surveillance tools to monitor their kids’ computer and phone use. What are the parents afraid of? The New York Times mentions sexual predators in passing, but focuses more on everyday kid stuff:

…the anxieties of parenting in the digital age have spawned a mini-industry, as start-ups and established companies market new tools to track where children go online, who they meet there and what they do. Because children are glued to smartphones, the technology can allow parents to track their physical whereabouts and even monitor their driving speed.

(snip)

A text message application for the iPhone called textPlus allows Kyle Reed of Golden, Colo., to be copied on every text message his teenage son sends his girlfriend. “I feel torn a little bit. It’s kind of an invasion of privacy,” he said. “But he’s 13. I want to protect him.”

(snip)

Does (Dan Sherman) worry that his daughters think he does not trust them? Mr. Sherman says they should learn that they will be monitored throughout their lives: “It’s not any different from any employer.”

Reading text messages your son sends to his girlfriend is way different than the behavior a future boss. That’s just snooping. Kids deserve privacy and space to grow up. They need room to make mistakes, get their hearts broken and build trust with their parents. I can’t imagine my parents listening in on my phone conversations or reading the notes I passed in class. It would have felt terribly violating.

This is baby-monitors-gone-wild.

By the way, the belief that the Internet is filled with online predators who want to harm your child is a myth.

- Two Buffalo area state senators have a way to get Bills fans to behave more responsiblysell beer an hour earlier at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

- Even though Albany’s district attorney said he wouldn’t prosecute arrests of Occupy Albany protesters, state police racked up $91,000 in overtime patrolling the encampment and protests.

- You might not want to book a hotel room on Orbitz if you’re a Mac user.

- Five years ago today, five recent Fairport High School graduates were killed in a crash in Ontario County.

1990 (mixedmetro.us)

2000 (mixedmetro.us)

2010 (mixedmetro.us)

More Links of the Day:

- There’s a cool mapping tool that plots diversity in the 53 largest metro areas in the country. The maps use 2010 census information.

The color code is:

  • Dark Orange – predominantly white
  • Light Orange – moderately white
  • Dark Green – predominantly black
  • Light green – moderately black
  • Light purple – moderately Latino
  • Brown – high diversity

The above maps clearly show how the Rochester area has gotten more racially diverse over the past two decades. They also show shifts in diversity. But the Rochester maps show what many other cities show. Atlantic Cities writes:

…many cities are seeing an increase in integrated neighborhoods and an increase in segregated ones at the same time.

It’s important to look at racial and economic segregation because of the impact on housing, education and society at large.

- Rochester police sent an email to community leaders about East End and South Wedge street robberies, as well as the theft of Hondas. Why wasn’t this information sent to the media? To rely on neighborhood leaders – wonderful as they are – to issue alerts to residents, is not efficient or reliable.

The conspiracy theorist in me says the city doesn’t want to alarm anyone about East End muggings during the Jazz Festival, but I could be wrong.

- The brothers who run Constellation Brands get a pretty hefty booze allowance.

- Why are American children so spoiled?

Links of the Day:

- Only 35 percent of New York State students who graduate high school in four years are considered “college ready.” That means they scored 80 percent or higher on a Regents math test and 75 percent or higher on a Regents English test.

In the Rochester City School District, only 6 percent of graduates are college ready. When you factor in the graduation rate, the statistics show only 3 out of 100 students who enter high school will graduate on time and college ready four years later.

The SUNY system, stung by the enormous cost of remediation programs at community colleges, is now considering a test that would be administered to high school students their sophomore year to assess college preparedness. The Syracuse Post-Standard reports:

“If we could possibly administer something commonly across the state in the sophomore year, we would have all of the junior and senior year to work through improvement and remediation,” (SUNY Chancellor Nancy) Zimpher said.

The chancellor has identified the remediation issue as a key focus for SUNY this year. Statewide, 40 percent to 70 percent of students seeking a two-year associate’s degree arrive on campus needing to take at least one remedial course. Those students end up spending their time and money on classes that offer no college credits.

(snip)

Zimpher said SUNY spends $70 million a year on remediation at its community colleges. In addition, students spend 20 percent of their financial aid — or $93 million a year — on non-credit remedial classes. Nearly $40 million of that aid is in loans that students must repay.

At Monroe Community College, one in three students needs remedial classes.

Is another test to assess college readiness really necessary? What’s the role of the SAT? If students haven’t passed any Regents tests by sophomore year, that’s an obvious sign the student is not college ready. Also, perhaps the state should consider raising the bar to get a diploma or redefining what it considers college ready. Passing two Regents tests with middling scores hardly seems adequate.

- There’s a nationwide movement of undocumented immigrants coming out of the shadows and daring immigration officials to deport them. The Post-Standard has a compelling story of one such man, beloved in his community.

- Landscapes drawn by an Attica inmate imprisoned for murder are featured in Golf Digest.

- Should tenure for college professors be abolished?

- Scrap metal thieves are getting desperate, turning to public toilet parts in a Buffalo suburb.

My parents got married on June 24, 1972.

Susan and Cary tied the knot at the Boston Sheraton as the Northeast got pummeled by
the remnants of Hurricane Agnes.

They met at Charlotte High School, where my father taught math and my mother was a
contract substitute. He grew up in Fairport and went to Bucknell University. She grew
up in Newton, Massachusetts and went to the University of Rochester. He was
Protestant. She was Jewish. He was a Republican. She was a Democrat. She was 22.
He was 28.

Their fathers both died young. Their mothers were Ruth and Dorothy. (Doesn’t every
baby boomer have a mother named Ruth or Dorothy?)

They moved to Seneca Parkway in 1978 and still live there. A big house with a big pool
and a big dog.

Rachel and Jason

They had two redheaded children. I came a few hours after the nation celebrated its bicentennial. My brother, Jason, came on their 6th anniversary. Mom wanted her children to be Jewish, but we weren’t religious. We always celebrated Christmas for Dad’s mother, since we were her only family in town. Dad and I would always race through Midtown Plaza on Christmas Eve to buy presents for Mom.

Mom became a guidance counselor. Dad became a dean of students. They sent their kids to city schools in the same way Kodak workers bought Kodak cameras and GM workers bought GM cars.

Watching 3D TV

Dad is a tech nerd who rigs up the house with gadgets. Sometimes I can’t figure out how to turn on the lights in the kitchen. He loves home theaters and had laser discs and a 6-foot screen in 1980. He and mom now watch stuff on a 3D set. I don’t know how to turn on the TV, either.

Mom is very open and honest. She says things we don’t want to hear. I could tell her anything and know she’ll be supportive. There’s no bigger advocate for her kids. She never stops saying “I love you.”

No marriage is perfect. I only remember one bad fight when I was really young. I
decided to run messages between my mom on the second floor and my dad in the
basement until they made up. Over the years, there were disagreements about kids and
money, but I never once thought their marriage was in trouble.

Dad was so supportive of Mom when she had breast cancer – both times. Mom treated
Dad’s mother like she was her own. Dad took care of Mom’s mother when she suffered
from Alzheimer’s and came to live with them.

I don’t know the secret to their successful marriage. My parents are independent. They
each have their own interests. They still enjoy each other’s company. They love their getaways. They love each other and their children.

Mom has often said, “You marry the person you’re in love with at the time you’re ready to get married.” She stresses you must be in love and want and value the same things.

Happy Anniversary! I love you.

40th Anniversary Dinner

Links of the Day:

- On Sunday, some of the girls who suffered from the “LeRoy twitch” will graduate from high school. They’re doing a lot better because they got treatment for conversion disorder. The diagnosis was controversial and many parents and community members refused to believe it. People searched in vain for environmental or bacterial causes. There was never any reason not to believe the mass hysteria diagnosis and it appears it was the correct theory all along.

This case raises very legitimate questions about media responsibility. Reporters continued to call the illness a “mystery” even though there was no evidence backing up alternate theories and the girls who accepted their diagnosis early on were getting better. The “hysteria about the hysteria” got so bad, WGRZ in Buffalo chose not to air video of the afflicted girls on the advice of experts who said the attention was hurting their recovery.

Reuters reports:

“The vindication for us is that the patients are better. They’ve got their lives back,” said Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, who treated 15 of the girls at Dent Neurologic Institute, one of the nation’s largest neurology clinics. He said his patients were “80 to 90 percent” cured.

As the problem spiraled in the tiny community, celebrity doctors like Dr. Drew Pinsky hosted some of the girls on national television, others girls appeared regularly on local television and in print media with headlines about their “mystery illness.” The girls posted updates on their seemingly bizarre condition to Facebook and videos of their symptoms to YouTube.

“We noticed that the kids who were not in the media were getting better; the kids who were in the media were still very symptomatic,” Mechtler said.

“One thing we’ve learned is how social media and mainstream media can worsen the symptoms,” he said. “The mass hysteria was really fueled by the national media, social media – all this promoted the worsening of symptoms by putting these people at the national forefront.”

The Buffalo News adds:

But, with some exceptions, most neurologists have been steadfast in their support of the conversion disorder diagnosis. In April, this case was presented to members of the American Academy of Neurology.

“They supported the diagnosis,” Mechtler said.

(snip)

Mechtler…suggested that Erin Brockovich now go on national TV and take back her dramatic speculation about environmental toxins being the root cause of the disorders.

- Monroe County is cracking down on people who don’t fill out their jury questionnaires.

- It looks like the bill requiring mandatory kindergarten attendance in the Rochester City School District has passed the legislature.

- Charles Blow, columnist for the New York Times, wrote about the Greece bullies. He goes off on a weird tangent about bullying in politics.

- A very prominent crusader against gay marriage has changed his mind. He wrote a powerful essay in the New York Times.

– A German supermarket didn’t think anyone would show up when it offered $250 of free groceries to people who would shop naked. The store was wrong.

Links of the Day:

I’m not a bleeding heart, but I’m not out for blood.

The Karen Klein bus monitor saga fits into a disturbing pattern of vilification without redemption. It goes like this: Someone does something wrong. The story spreads like wildfire through social media. People are outraged. There’s endless news coverage. Pretty soon, Public Enemy Number One is getting threats. No punishment is good enough. No apology is good enough.

We live in a rush-to-judgment society that has no patience for facts and no need for forgiveness. We need to feel control, so we call for laws. We need an explanation, so we blame bullying and parents and society. We need to feel superior, so we say our children would never participate in something so ugly. Of course, we would never, ever make a mistake ourselves.

This isn’t a story about demon kids from Greece. This is a story about how easy it is for children to get sucked into mob behavior and how hard it is for anyone to intervene. I don’t need to know their punishment. I don’t need to see them hauled into court. I don’t need to hear their apology. These kids will never, ever forget what happened this week and will undoubtedly pay a heavy price.

The only person who seems ready to forgive is Karen Klein, who doesn’t want the kids prosecuted and doesn’t believe they are bad people. Let’s learn from her example.

- State Senator Jim Alesi gave a farewell speech he compared to a wake.

- What’s a couple hundred million dollars? The Bills and Erie County are negotiating a new stadium lease and taxpayers will likely pay a good chunk of renovations.

- Apple is really trying to screw up Kodak’s patent sale.

A letter went home to parents of students at School #46. Apparently, there was a melee at the 6th grade graduation ceremony among parents and arrests were made. The school had to go into lockdown and kids had to eat lunch in class.

The letter reads in part:

The reception following our Sixth-Grade Moving Up Ceremony was disrupted by four parents involved in an altercation with each other. The Rochester Police Department was called and the parents were arrested. Pepper spray was used by used by the parents in the situation. No students were injured.

(snip)

This is not the way any of us wanted to end our school year.

The letter came to me from a parent whose son attends the school. I’m curious what started this and the charges. Read the letter below:

20120621-215126.jpg

Links of the Day:

- Did anyone else think of Lord of the Flies while watching the video of the Greece school bus monitor getting bullied?

Many people are asking what would make children behave so cruelly toward an elderly grandmother. Bob Lonsberry says the inmates were running the asylum. Nestor Ramos says the students haven’t learned the Golden Rule. The Democrat and Chronicle editorial board views the verbal assault as a sign of our “coarsening culture.” Others say the incident points to the need for cyberbullying laws.

There’s no doubt these kids should be punished and taught a lesson about treating people with dignity and respect.

While the video was heartbreaking and disgusting, it’s not a sign of a new cultural phenomenon. This is a classic case of groupthink. That’s when the desire to belong to a group outweighs protesting something wrong and offering alternatives. Intelligent people cede their moral responsibility to the group. Individually, these children were taught by their parents to be kind to others. Collectively, they turned into a mob.

The boy who took the video told 13WHAM News he felt peer-pressured.

Groupthink is often used to describe the Holocaust, the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Penn State child abuse scandal. Extreme college hazing and bad business decisions can be attributed to groupthink. You may have seen groupthink play out in a meeting at your own workplace. This week, we saw groupthink play out on a school bus.

When we ask how could these children have been so terribly mean, we have to look at the psychology of groupthink. We have to teach children individuality, courage and the ability to speak up. That’s not as simple as teaching them to be nice.

- Syracuse will be broke in a few years, the mayor said.

- If state lawmakers don’t reach a deal limiting the publication of teacher evaluations, they will be made public. (Update: A deal was reached.)

- The Chicago Tribune looks at the winners and losers when casinos came to town.

Links of the Day:

- The state legislature is considering a bill that would allow speed cameras in New York City. The New York Times reports:

The proposal initially calls for as many as 40 cameras to be mounted high across the city, of which 20 can be rotated, ensuring that drivers are never certain when their speed is being tracked.

Only those who exceed the city’s speed limit, typically 30 miles per hour, by more than 10 miles per hour would be given tickets, receiving a $50 fine. For those who exceed the limit by more than 30 m.p.h., the fine doubles to $100. Drivers would not be docked points on their licenses.

While this would only apply to New York City, there are reasons for the rest of the state to be concerned. New York City was first to try out red light cameras, which were later expanded statewide. Rochester is well on its way to monitoring 50 intersections.

Speed cameras are just as controversial, if not more so, than red light cameras. There are questions about effectiveness and whether they are just a money grab.

- There’s tremendous outrage about a sickening video show Greece middle school students bullying a bus monitor. The school and police are investigating. The cruelty is nauseating. The video is also an example of “group think.” I bet all of those kids individually knew what they were doing was wrong, but none wanted to speak up. They went along with the crowd.

My colleague, Patrice Walsh, has been covering the story. Her tweets have kept us updated. This one was heartbreaking:

[tweet https://twitter.com/PatriceWalsh13/status/215496073161084929]

 

- The Bug Jar is a Rochester institution. Following a fatal shooting, the bar closed until further notice. Fans are upset.

- Preschool graduations? 

 

 

Links of the day:

In the late 1980s the Rochester City School District did away with 7-12 high schools and converted some to 6-8 middle schools. Instead of walking to Marshall High as my family planned, I had to take a bus to Charlotte for 7th grade. My two years there were the worst of my mostly-positive RCSD experience. The school was chaotic, crowded and violent. Putting one thousand kids ages 11-14 in one building was a disaster.

Needless to say, academic achievement did not improve in the middle schools. No one has the magic bullet, as this age group has proven to be tough to teach.

In the mid-2000’s, the district abandoned middle schools in favor of the 7-12 model. But then former superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard liked the K-8 model and moved to go to 9-12 and K-8 in some schools. Adding 7th and 8th grade to elementary schools is proving very expensive, as classroom and science lab space is required.

The New York Times published a series of short columns about the wisdom of middle schools. Some say being in the company of older high school students calms down the middle schoolers and offers more opportunities for academic enrichment. Others say being in an elementary school environment is more nurturing. Others say it doesn’t matter.

I tend to think 7th and 8th graders should be in high schools. They’re not babies anymore. Strong students would be able to take advanced classes. All students could be more prepared for the rigors of high school work. I can’t see an elementary school providing the range of activities and supports required.

What do you think?

The owners of Greece Ridge Mall would have us believe the mall could end up like Irondequoit Mall if they don’t get tax breaks. (COMIDA tabled the measure today, after pressure from the school district.)

- No matter what the Supreme Court decides on the health care law, one thing will remain the same: The nation’s hospitals will continue to be required to treat all people who come into their emergency rooms. Who pays for their care? We all do.

As Facebook decides whether to let 13-year-olds into its network, it is worth reading this article from Lenore Skenazy, my Free Range Kids hero. She discusses the “Myth of the Online Predator.” Unless your kids are playing in sex chat rooms advertises sex, they’ll be fine.

Some Rochester landscapers have banded together to make gardens out of vacant lots in the city. The group is trying to raise funds.

Driving down Andrews St., I noticed a tiny park with a large bronze bust. I must have driven and walked that route a hundred times, but I never saw the statue until today.

The statue is of Freidrich von Schiller, a German poet and playwright who lived from 1759 to 1805. The bust was commissioned in the early 1900s by local German American societies. It was placed at what was then called Anderson Park at University Ave. and Main St.

The construction of the Inner Loop forced the destruction of Anderson Park. It also forced the destruction of what was then Franklin Square, a center of German life. The city moved the Schiller monument to its current location in the 1960s and called the little plot Schiller Park. It was all that was left of Franklin Square.

Just a few blocks away is St. Joseph’s Church, another forgotten park with German roots. St. Joe’s burned down in the 1970s.

The Schiller Park tale is a stunning example of the consequences of urban renewal and the construction of the highway through downtown. (A history blog has detailed the Schiller Park saga.) Now we want to turn back the clock and remove the Loop. It may be a start, but we’ll never repair the damage. Just ask Mr. Schiller, whose view has changed from vibrant neighborhoods to parking lots and highway over the last century.

Postcard of Franklin Square

Anderson Park, 1938

Links of the Day:

- The second installment of the Democrat and Chronicle‘s look at an all-boys school rightly questions whether sex segregation is the key to the school’s initial signs of success. The assistant principal’s love for the boys seems to be a giant factor:

“We suffer when we declare victory too soon,” (Superintendent Appointee Bolgen) Vargas said. “In this district we are great at coming up with ideas, but we don’t always execute them with fidelity. You have to be careful that you understand that meaningful results will be shown over time.”

Yet while Vargas said Green’s program has potential, whether it can be replicated seems to hinge on another question: Does the model work without Burnice Green at its helm?

“There are certain skills and attitudes and behaviors that are critical in certain positions,” said school board member Melisza Campos, who does leadership training with Dale Carnegie Training. “You have to make sure that the right person is in the position.”

That’s why it’s not wise to use this series as proof the single-sex education works. (The editorial page is already declaring victory.) Correlation does not equal causation. This program has not been in existence long enough to show meaningful results. On a broader scale, studies show sex segregation is inneffective and may be harmful. While School #9 is encouraged by its experiment, other Rochester schools have adopted single-sex classrooms without much thought or planning. I know several teachers from various schools who say it’s been a disaster in their classrooms.

The stories were most powerful when discussing the heartbreaking family situations of the students. They don’t need single-sex ed. They may need psychologists – and a lot of love.

- Buffalo schools are considering funneling failing 16-year-olds into a GED program. These are the kinds of kids who are 16 years old in 8th grade. This is very controversial:

District officials say that it beats the alternative, since most are destined to become high school dropouts.

“This is an attempt to gauge if someone is about to walk out the door with nothing and to give some literacy skills and prevent a far more dire situation,” interim Superintendent Amber M. Dixon said. “What does life look like without a diploma? We’re trying to give a real alternative pathway for these students.”

Others say that these troubled students are the ones most in need of the full support of the district with traditional high school, rather than a stripped-down GED education.

As well, the skeptics think this “alternative pathway” might be a way for the district to eventually manipulate its low graduation rate, if more and more troubled students take advantage of it.

(snip)

Critics also wonder whether this new policy is simply a matter of the district giving up on kids they have been unable to reach.

- Hundreds of prisoners have escaped from New Jersey’s massive halfway houses. Some went on to commit heinous crimes. No one really cared. Until now, thanks to the New York Times‘ stunning investigation.

- How to tell if your city is dying. (Rochester has some, but not all, of these characteristics.)

- Is Rochester hot sauce – the kind with meat – a Rochester thing? Many people have weighed in on my Facebook page. On a related note, I tried what could be a new invention: a garbage plate pizza. Called the Matthews Pizza, it’s available at Matthews East End Grill. You may have to ask for it if it’s not a nightly special. The hot sauce serves as the base. It’s topped with hamburger meat and fries. I think it go great with hot sauce for dipping and a scoop of mac salad.

 - It’s been 40 years since Hurricane Agnes devastated the Southern Tier. Elmira never recovered. Corning sort of did. The storm remains an example of how a “weak” system can deliver a catastrophic blow. At the time, it was the costliest hurricane in American history. The Syracuse Post-Standard gives an account of the flooding:

“Even today, it is a blur,” said retired Elmira City Fire Chief Donald H. Harrison, who in 1972 was a freshly minted lieutenant in the department. “We were so busy evacuating people. We were taking them off porch roofs, out of windows, from all sorts of situations. … The water came with such power, such speed, people could not get out. They had to run back to their houses and wait.”

(snip)

Cars and houses smashed into bridges. People reported cattle — live and dead — bobbing on the river. Water covered two-thirds of the city. When it ended, the region’s death toll numbered 23.

(snip)

An Elmira area firefighter tells The Associated Press: “We’re like a lost nation.”

(snip)

One commonly expressed view is that while Agnes devastated Elmira’s downtown, the city of Corning managed to rebound stronger than ever. Corning, with 11,000 residents, is still about 40 percent the size of Elmira. But it is growing, while Elmira is shrinking.

Many of the downtown buildings in Corning and Elmira have high water marks. I always found Elmira rather depressing and locals blamed the flood. The city never bounced back. Agnes still haunts.

- The Democrat and Chronicle wrote about an all-boys program at School #9 and says it’s a success. I didn’t see any evidence that putting all boys together was the key. Rather, it seemed the emotional support given to the child who was profiled made the difference.

- An Albany Times Union columnist takes Andrew Cuomo to task for his “fracking baloney.”

- The Buffalo News makes the case for cameras in court.

- DNA testing gives a detailed look at Michelle Obama’s ancestorsboth white and black.

Links of the Day:

- It’s going to cost taxpayers a lot more than originally anticipated to complete Midtown Tower.

Late last year, it was clear there was a funding gap. Christa and Morgan, the developers chosen to rehab the building, needed $2 million from the state to close on the $73.5 million project. The money didn’t come through in the first round of regional economic development council funding.

Now, the numbers have changed. In legislation to city council asking for approval to apply for state funding on a number of projects, the mayor says the city will ask the state for $4 million. The city’s share of the project is $8.7 million. The total cost of the project is now $62.1 million.

So taxpayers will have to foot 20 percent of the cost of rebuilding luxury apartments and condos. Nice. There should be more transparency about what exactly is going on with this property.

The legislation calls the tower the “centerpiece of the Midtown Rising Development.” There’s no question the tower should be a priority. It’s a scar on the city skyline. It boggles my mind, however, that the city dismantled the structure without having a clue who would do something with it and what it would cost.

Now we’re getting an idea.

- Street robberies are up in Rochester. The good news is that crime is still down considerably.

- Why has it been 23 years since Oak Hill hosted a U.S. Open?

- Go Ursula! The Xerox CEO says her company would never sponsor the Masters, because of Augusta’s policy barring women as members. Also, Xerox isn’t into golf. Reuters reports:

“The way I think about it is, the Masters can do what the hell they want,” Burns said. “If they want to actually have no women in the Masters, then women and right-minded men should make a choice about what the hell they want to do with the Masters. If they aren’t interested in having me there, why would I go?”

Meanwhile, Reuters has a quick look at the company’s future in the technology service industry.

- Nice work if you can get it. New York State is hiring workers to clean up creek debris for $51.71 an hour.

- There’s a new book about Michelle Obama’s ancestors who were slaves. The New York Times review is very interesting.

 Links of the Day:

- Regular readers know I’m disturbed by the Nik Wallenda walk over Niagara Falls. I am astounded politicians are willing to let a man die to fill up hotel rooms and generate tourist dollars. His sponsors had the sense to insist he be tethered to the wire, but now there’s talk he may unhook it! The Buffalo News quotes a state senator who’s not exactly concerned:

But a slew of officials surrounding the spectacle say the daredevil might just tempt fate above the Mighty Niagara by unhooking the harness when he is part way across.

“I’m betting he takes it off,” said State Sen. George D. Maziarz. “I guess we’ll see.”

It would be the ultimate reality TV, with hundreds of thousands of onlookers — not to mention sponsors — holding their breath, and maybe shielding their eyes.

Nearly 200 feet above the swirling river without a harness, Wallenda would put to rest any notion that his stunt is anything less than death-defying.

Even Las Vegas is not putting odds on this thing. Why? Because it’s not okay to bet on death.

Of course, I hope Wallenda succeeds tonight. If he does, I hope this doesn’t start a precedent of death-defying stunts. If he doesn’t, we ought to be ashamed.

West side of downtown is mostly parking lots.

- Downtown Rochester has too many parking lots. In a piece called “Rochester’s Unique Place in the Rustbelt Revival,” an outsider observes:

But like many similarly damaged industrial cities, Rochester is missing the cartilage needed to connect all those bones and add strength to the whole. More than 60 percent of downtown is devoted to parking. How much city can exist between the dead spaces of parking lots? Rochester isn’t even talking about transit, although it has the classic Main Street spine on which to start at least one segment. Even car-dependent cities such as Houston, Dallas, and Los Angeles have discovered the virtue of bringing back transit.

So yes, in Rochester and similar faded industrial cities, the bones are there. But every city like Rochester has to first learn that the big projects never meet their expectations, the small ones always exceed theirs and real regeneration builds momentum with investment in people.

- The Buffalo News is going being a paywall. Thanks, Warren Buffett.

- This is what economic development looks like these days. A job fair for part-time, low-paying mall jobs attracts hundreds in Syracuse.

- There are toy boats on Rochester’s reservoirs. The reason may surprise you.