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East End Festival Facebook Page

Rochester’s East End Festivals started in 1990 as a way to draw attention to the district – and have a good time.

In 1990, the East End had the Eastman School of Music and several bars, including Milestones, Richmond’s and whatever Salinger’s used to be called. There was no Sagamore, Spot Coffee, expensive apartments, Jazz Festival, 2Vine or Tournedos.

The East End has gentrified.

The East End Festival finds itself in a bind. The festivals, which take places on three Friday nights in the summer, draw thousands of people in their 20s and 30s to the district. East Ave. is blocked from Scio to Chestnut. There are beer trucks and bands. It’s a huge happy hour.

The new neighbors can’t stand it.

Saying they face opposition like never before, the organizers say the festival can’t go on. If it does continue, it won’t be the same:

Mike O’Leary, owner of Temple Bar and Grill, has been involved in planning East End Festivals for almost two decades. “They won’t be the same in the future. They’re over as people know them.”

O’Leary said he believes the festivals will continue and retain the name, but there will be fewer stages and streets blocked off and the event will be “more sensitive to neighbors.”

East End Festivals have been cited by many young people as a reason they like Rochester. There aren’t a lot of problems at the festivals, which charge admission. Organizers point out no one complains about the Jazz Festival. It’s not hard to see why. Jazz patrons have more money to spend at the new businesses.

Perhaps it makes more sense to hold the festival in the Upper East End, near East and Alexander, which is mostly a bar and restaurant district.

The organizers say they’re not under pressure from the city to make changes and are doing this as a preemptive strike. I suspect they’re also hoping by announcing the festivals are possibly over, they will gain support for keeping them the same.

Update: The organizers are now being more forceful in saying the festival will remain, but with the changes described above.

Links of the Day:

- A fairly explosive story details how former governor David Paterson’s staff wanted state police to replace his security detail with black and Hispanic officers. Former state police officials are shocked then-attorney general Andrew Cuomo seemingly did nothing with the information.

- Is high speed rail in New York picking up steam?

- That whole “women and children first” thing is a myth.

 

 

Last night at the Toby Keith concert at Darien Lake, Genesee County Sheriff’s department made 225 arrests, most for underage drinking. Officers set up checkpoints to nab offenders.

That’s an astounding number of arrests.

 

Howard Owens of The Batavian has been expertly tracking the concert mayhem this season. He writes:

During the 2011 season, law enforcement issued 526 citations for alleged under-age drinking.

Coming into Sunday’s show, there had already been 353 citations issued. Add in Sunday’s ticket writing and it brings the 2012 total to 578.

The 2012 season is only half over.

Owens points out last night’s concert was much calmer, presumably because the kids had their booze taken away.  Darien Lake and law enforcement have been working on parking and pedestrian plans to cut down on nonsense. Owens says the theme park does contribute to the cost of the police detail.

The sheer number of arrests raises some questions about whether the venue is a public nuisance. However, the benefit of having a major concert venue probably outweighs the costs.

When you announce 225 arrests, it sounds like you have a problem, even if those arrests are part of the solution.

Update: The Buffalo News reports on the huge burden the venue places on police and courts.

Links of the Day:

- Rochester has the most Olympians per capita.

- At an air base in Syracuse, pilots use drones to monitor the activities of militants thousands of miles away. They get to know their families and daily life.

- Nursing homes are under fire for unnecessarily giving nursing home patients antipsychotic drugs. The Syracuse Post-Standard takes a look at the practice and has links to look up a nursing home’s drugging rate.

- NBC’s Olympic coverage has been frustrating for viewers accustomed to living in the Digital Age. Jeff Jarvis has a fantastic take down of the network.

- Time to pick blueberries!

City of Rochester

Rochester’s public market is about to get a $10 million overhaul. The Democrat and Chronicle reports on plans to build more permanent and weather-proof facilities with better amenities, such as sinks and refrigeration.

But there are concerns the market will become too chic and expensive:

“They want to turn it into a yuppie coffee lounge,” (vendor) Gary Eaton said. “They can do to it whatever they want, as long as they don’t screw it up.”

The yuppie boat may already have sailed. On any given Saturday, dozens of people patronize businesses on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the market, sitting outside with their coffee and pastry while they socialize.

They also rub elbows with recent immigrants speaking some of the more than 30 languages heard at the market, and with low-income people using food stamps to purchase vegetables, meats and slightly out-of-date breads or chips.

“One of the things that makes the market special is the different socioeconomic groups and cultures that all interact together,” (market manager Jim) Farr said. “We want to make sure it’s still accessible (to everyone). It’s not our goal to yuppify it.”

It will be interesting to see how the market evolves. It has been in the same spot since 1905 and has already changed considerably. Click here for historical photos.

Links of the Day:

- Colleges and universities are tax exempt, but use a lot of municipal resources. The Democrat and Chronicle takes a deep look at what area universities pay localities. I don’t buy the argument the colleges are economic drivers and should be spared responsibility. You could use that for any company.

- Western New York has a lot riding on the negotiation of a new stadium lease for the Buffalo Bills. A Buffalo News columnist says the team is a “heartbeat away” from leaving.

- An Albany Times Union columnist takes the governor to task for editing the state archives.

- In a big blow to the standardized testing company used by New York, researchers have found Pearson uses flawed methodology.

- The Toronto Star sent 15 reporters to cover the funeral of an ordinary, unknown woman. Why? Because she is all of us.

- A Buffalo couple is getting remarriedafter spending 50 years apart.

The City of Rochester produced a video about Operation Cool Down, calling it a “softer gentler way” of policing.

It shows a police officer handing out posters to businesses that say “Take Back Your City.” The video talks about the need for better police-community relationships. Cool Down was prompted after an 82 percent rise in shootings this year.

In the video, Chief Jim Sheppard said this is not a “Zero Tolerance” initiative, when the city saturated neighborhoods with officers, prompting complaints citizens were hassled over minor offenses. But that runs contrary to what the chief told reporters the day he launched Cool Down.

Although the Cool Down video is clearly labeled a City Hall production, it was produced like a news story. There’s no danger of a local news station airing this report, as happened with a federal video news release scandal. But the practice makes me a little uncomfortable. Should our tax dollars be paying the city to produce news-like videos or should this be seen a mere press release?

After covering this initiative, I still cannot define the Cool Down program. It appears to be what should be regular policing. After the watching the video, it also looks like a big heap of public relations.

Links of the Day:

- Apple and Google are lining up to bid on Kodak’s patents. Bids are due on Monday.

- A Democrat and Chronicle columnist was prepared to do a sweet story on a whimsical yard filled with merry-go-round-horses and birdhouses. Instead she found neighbors calling it a “hot mess.”

- Carl Paladino and the Buffalo Sabres have each submitted proposals for downtown waterfront redevelopment. Buffalo is so much farther along than Rochester in making the most of its canal and lakefront.

- A $500 million dollar hotel development is planned in Niagara Falls…Canada.

 

I cut the cord today but this may or may not end up making a lot of financial sense.

What I watch on television:

  • The Good Wife
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Downton Abbey
  • News
  • True Blood
  • Girls

Cable bill:

  • $49.99 Internet
  • $9.50 Basic TV
  • $12.95 DVR
  • $6.82 Equipment charges
  • $1.80 taxes, fees, surcharges
  • Total: $81.06

I was paying $31.07 a month, or $372.84 a year, for a basic television package I rarely watched.  Half of my bill was for a DVR service I rarely used. Time Warner would not let me cancel DVR unless I turned in my digital cable box. But if I turned in my digital cable box, I would not longer get high-definition broadcast channels. You can see where this is going…

With No Cable, How Would I Watch My Shows?

I was already downloading shows onto my iPad when NFL games pushed back The Good Wife and the DVR didn’t record.

Depending on when you choose to download to your viewing device, a season can cost anywhere from $20 to $60. Some episodes are available on network websites for free. I’m saving money and have the added convenience of mobility by watching shows on my iPad.

As for HBO, it would have cost me $13 a month in a cable package. Actually, it would have cost me more, considering the added costs of having cable. Unfortunately, HBO does not offer standalone Internet subscriptions, though it acknowledges the demand. In the meantime, I’m sharing an HBO Go password with a family member, which HBO sort of allows right now.

I also plan on getting a digital antennae for my television, which cannot get over-the-air channels right now. That will satisfy any need I have to watch TV news, especially if there’s breaking news. I get the vast majority of my news, however, online.

The Trip to Time Warner

There were 22 people ahead of me in line when I sat down in the waiting room, toting my cable box and remote in a Wegmans bag. Ironically, the waiting room of a broadband company doesn’t have free Wi-Fi, forcing me to use my phone’s AT&T connection as a hotspot.

The line moved fast and the cashier was very pleasant. She repeatedly asked me if she could make a deal to get me to keep my TV service. Even after I said no, an equally-pleasant manager came over and offered to keep my current package at $73 a month, taxes and fees included, for the next two years.

I was paying $81.07, so that didn’t strike me as such a great deal. But, they pointed out my Internet costs without the TV service would climb to $54.99 a month. Under the $73 scenario, TV would cost me $18 a month versus $31.07.

Determined to make all of this make sense, I opted for slower $37.99 a month Internet, which I believe is about the same speed as my 4G phone. If I can’t stand it, I’ll switch back to fast Internet or call up Frontier.

Lessons:

Essentially, I cut my bill in half, but I’m giving up all TV and getting slower Internet. Did I really win? Or did I cut off my nose to spite my face?

I was driven by a desire to PAY FOR ONLY WHAT I CONSUME. I don’t watch much TV and I resented paying $31.07 a month for something I rarely use.

I was also driven by my resentment at paying two bills for the Internet – through Time Warner and AT&T. Mobility and speed are important, but companies haven’t found the right product to fill both of these needs at the right price.

In summary, cord cutting is great in theory. In practice, it may not be super practical for everyone.

Update: This ended up being a great decision for me. I’ve never looked back. I enjoy my low broadband bill every month and I’ve never noticed a difference in Internet speed. – RB 2/13/14

Source: future.ongov.net

 

The Republican county executive of Onondaga County has come out with a remarkable website and plan dedicated to smart growth. Joanie Mahoney wants new developments to locate in places with existing infrastructure. The Post-Standard reports:

Onondaga County lost 5,785 acres of farmland between 2002 and 2007, and 1,300 acres of forests were lost to development between 1992 and 2006.

All the while, the county’s population growth has remained flat, so the same number of people have to pay to maintain a growing amount of public infrastructure such as roads, sewers and water lines.

County Executive Joanie Mahoney is proposing a new development plan that she says will reward suburban communities that restrict sprawl and give tax credits to developers who build in urban centers rather than paving over farmland.

Sprawl – particularly sprawl without population growth – has consequences. More cars traveling more miles. Loss of land. Greater infrastructure costs. Bigger strain on public transit. Cities drained of people and resources. Empty downtowns. Segregation.

Onondaga’s plan points to the economic benefits of smart growth:

Source: future.ongov.net

 

When former Mayor William Johnson started talking about sprawl around 2000, the backlash was intense. It helped cost him the 2003 county executive’s election. Have times changed?

Monroe County’s towns do not ignore the issue of smart growth and land preservation and many have comprehensive plans. The county’s planning department web page also details some efforts on the subject. But there’s no community plan (or will?) to address the issue of smart growth and talk about the consequences of sprawl.

Cities coping with population loss are trying creative ways to get people to move in. Niagara Falls is offering to pay student loans for recent college grads who take up residence. Baltimore is encouraging immigrants to come to town.

The Washington Post reports:

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) has told Latinos, in particular, that she is counting on them to help Baltimore gain 10,000 families within a decade. As a first step, she signed an order in March prohibiting police and social agencies from asking anyone about immigration status — and in the order, she explicitly asked federal immigration authorities to tell anyone they arrest that they are not agents of the city.

Baltimore joins an increasing number of U.S. cities, most of them manufacturing behemoths fallen on hard times, that are courting immigrants to reverse half a century of population loss.

The Global Detroit effort includes programs that help immigrants start small businesses, get driver’s licenses and learn English. As part of the Welcome Dayton Plan adopted last year, the Ohio city sponsors a soccer tournament for immigrant teams. Not to be outdone, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) says he wants his home town to be known as the most “immigrant-friendly city in the country.”

Could Rochester benefit from such an effort? The city is already trying to attract immigrant investors to fund an apartment project at the U of R.

The census shows 8.4 percent of Monroe County’s population is foreign-born. That’s 62,633 people who surely contribute much to our community.

On a related note, Brookings Institution studied the number of skilled workers getting H-1B visas to work in the United States. There were 743 visa requests in Rochester 2010-11, most in technology fields. The University of Rochester, Wipro Limited and Rochester General Hospital were among top employers of those with H-1B vias.

Links of the Day:

- School #50 principal Tim Mains did not get the Albany school superintendent job.

- “There’s no way I biked 3,000 miles to come to this theater and get killed in it.” A Syracuse University graduate tells his story of surviving the Aurora shooting.

- Medicaid saves lives. The states that have expanded coverage, including New York, have lower death rates, a study found.

- Bison burger, anyone? A Central New York farm is raising bison, drawing curious onlookers.

- Chobani opened a yogurt bar in New York City.

In the decade-plus I’ve been a reporter, there’s a been a disturbing trend. Governments have gotten savvier at putting out and controlling information. They’ve gotten nastier when reporters don’t follow the script.

Most recently, Governor Andrew Cuomo has gone to absurd lengths to protect even innocuous information. The New York Times and Albany Times Union reported on how his staff removed items from the state archive of Cuomo’s years as attorney general. Things like…a presentation on how to improve traffic to the office’s website.

But there was one document in the public interest that was removed after the governor’s staff found out the Times Union had it – a 2007 memo detailing the process for investigating the Troopergate scandal. The fact Cuomo’s people wanted it squashed likely made the memo a much bigger story.

Jimmy Vielkind of the Times Union, detailed multiple instances of the Cuomo administration’s lack of transparency. They’re adding up. The staff “routinely goes directly to nuclear level nuclear” on reporters. Cuomo doesn’t send emails and instructs his staff to use BlackBerry PIN, which doesn’t leave a trail.

This is a much broader issue than Cuomo. Pro Publica found that as newsrooms are shrink, public relations jobs are exploding. This is happening in government, too. There are more communications staffers at Rochester’s City Hall than each local television newsroom has reporters on the street.

Politicians and their staffs are more emboldened than ever before. They now ask to edit their own quotes before they appear in print! More shockingly, reporters for major news organizations agree!

Government officials used to be far more accessible. Politicians now have to go through spokesmen. Department heads have to get permission from other department heads. Everyone has to go through everyone else to give us basic information.

My boss now occasionally gets calls or emails from government spokesmen to complain about the mildest of stories. There were never any factual problems. The issues involved the relevancy of the stories themselves. Ten years ago, that rarely happened.

Over the years, I saw the type of information control change in the Rochester City School District. Superintendent Cliff Janey had no communication strategy, other than to keep stuff secret. He was fired. Six years later, we got a superintendent who was brilliant at spin. Jean-Claude Brizard was rarely called out for his highly questionable statistics and decisions and his lack of transparency. He was promoted.

A main function of the press is to hold the government accountable. It’s essential to democracy. And it’s gotten harder.

West side of downtown Rochester is mostly parking lots.

 

Like Rochester, downtown Minneapolis has too many surface parking lots. Unlike Rochester, Minneapolis is studying what to do with all that asphalt. Surface lots don’t bring in as much tax revenue as buildings and they’re pretty darn ugly. Many of the lots start emptying out by noon.

The Star Tribune reports:

The parking lots multiplied after World War II, when Minneapolis and other American cities pursued policies hostile to urban development and friendly to suburbanization, said Tom Fisher, dean of the College of Design at University of Minnesota.

Many of downtown’s buildings were torn down to make way for parking…

Rochester’s downtown is similarly dotted with surface lots, giving some streets a pockmarked feel. I believe Frontier Field never sparked any development because it’s surrounded by a sea of asphalt. The Star Tribune article has a similar observation about the Vikings’ stadium:

City leaders do not want to make the same mistakes they did with the Metrodome, said Fisher, who is also co-chairman of the stadium implementation committee.

“We absolutely cannot have just big asphalt surface parking lots around the new stadium or we will have failed,” said Fisher, suggesting they find a more creative, urban way to allow tailgating.

Minneapolis barred more downtown lots in 1999. It was around then Monroe County imploded the Hotel Rochester to make way for…parking.

But Rochester is making some progress on filling in lots, as the city sold one at Main and Plymouth for a condo development.

Finding solutions to downtown parking doesn’t mean loading up on surface lots. Public transportation, carpooling and above and underground garages are all options. Underground parking is expensive, but many developers now consider them part of the cost of building on desirable downtown land.

Links of the Day:

- The Rochester area unemployment rate is now above 8 percent, as more people jump into the job market.

- The state lawmaker pay raise could still happen, but probably not until after the November election.

- Colleges are teaching mom and dad how to let go of their college freshman. (My parents couldn’t wait to hit the road after saying goodbye.)

- The Vatican is about to name its first American Indian saint. She’s from the Mohawk Valley.

Dear Roc Royal,

I had never heard of you until your music group, Mindless Behavior, took over a Twitter hashtag that’s important to my fair city.

Apparently, you’ve had a birthday (Happy Birthday), you’re living life to its fullest and you think you have a way with the ladies. That’s very nice.

The problem is all of your followers retweet you thousands of times, clogging up the #ROC Twitter feed. This is an important feed to Rochester residents. While some Rochesterians tweet about what they ate for lunch (garbage plates, naturally), other people tweet news, information, pictures and items of interest to the broad community.

In addition to breaking news, we need this feed to know if it’s raining, if there’s traffic, if there’s an earthquake (it happens), if there’s a new exhibit at MAG, if my favorite restaurants have specials and if the mayor said something funny today (he does that on occasion).

I realize there’s no way to legally register a hashtag. If we could, Rochesterians would have a good case.

1. We were here first. The first settlers came in 1812.

2. Our airport’s code is ROC.

3. Our daily newspaper has 1,245 sections that start with ROC.

4. The first three letters of Rochester start with ROC.

5. The names of all new businesses and young professional groups start with ROC.

6. You may have more followers than we have residents within city limits, but we kick your butt when you include the entire Rochester region.

7. We rock.

Thank you for consideration.

Sincerely,

Rachel Barnhart

P.S. Can you pass this on to Mariah Carey, who named her son Roc and some guy named Freestyle? Thanks again!

A University of Rochester researcher found ordering food online makes you fat. Ryan McDevitt, of the Simon Graduate School of Business, looked at a North Carolina pizza shop. People may feel less inhibited when ordering online, so they order more complicated and caloric items. Extra cheese, please!

The Wall Street Journal reports:

“They have the same choices as before, but they’re removing the social transaction costs,” said Mr. McDevitt. “From my own personal experience, I feel more comfortable ordering something online than at the counter.”

He mentioned how customers ordering at Starbucks might be less inclined to make elaborate drink orders as they peek over their shoulder at the line of people behind them, or how women have taken to reading racy content like “Fifty Shades of Grey” on e-readers, which provide anonymity .

Comparing pizza topping choices to “Fifty Shades of Grey?” McDevitt’s paper makes the link:

…because the potential embarrassment experienced from a purchasing a pizza is comparatively limited, an even more dramatic shift in the sales distribution seems likely for more sensitive products when consumers become able to transact anonymously.

Links of the Day:

- Wegmans has a new canned mushroom supplier. The chain used to get them from China, but now goes with a supplier in Pennsylvania.

- New York State gets a “D+” on public access to information.

- Rochester’s Hudson Ave. used to be Polish Town.

- Billy Fuccillo is alive and well and not in jail.

This week in Monroe County, 78 residents will be diagnosed with cancer. Twenty-nine residents will die from the disease.

Those are just some of the sobering statistics in a report by the American Cancer Society called “The Cancer Burden in New York State.” (Monroe County is profiled on page 91.)

Upstate New York has a higher rate of lung cancer than New York City, as it has a higher rate of tobacco use. In Monroe County, 19.1 percent of people smoke.

Between 1994 and 2008, cancer incidence and mortality rates have decreased in Monroe County. Monroe County is better on average than the rest of Upstate at detecting breast, colorectal and lung cancer early.

In Monroe County, the single most common form of cancer is prostate, accounting for 15.7 percent of all cancer diagnoses. Lung cancer is the single most deadly form of cancer, accounting for 28 percent of cancer-related deaths. Breast and colorectal cancers also account for a large number of diagnoses and deaths.

Late last week, Kodak was dealt a blow by the International Trade Commission, which upheld a judge’s ruling that Apple and RIM didn’t infringe on digital image preview technology. Kodak had been hoping to get a $1 billion settlement. The patent at issue is No. 218 and it’s technology is in most cameras.

The Wall Street Journal reports this ruling was a blow in another way. It may have drastically reduced the value of the patents Kodak is trying to sell. Kodak had estimated the digital image portfolio could be worth $2.6 billion. WSJ interviewed one expert who says the ruling will hurt big time and another who said it won’t:

“Any time one of your prime assets is considered invalid, it hurts the overall value of your patents in a major way,” says Dean Becker, chief executive of ICAP Patent Brokerage, which is advising clients with interest in the portfolio. Mr. Becker says future bids, which are due July 30, are likely to come in lower.

(snip)

“We wouldn’t expect the ITC decision to have a significant effect on potential bidders, because there is an understanding that this was always going to be decided by the federal court, regardless of who brought the appeal, and the federal court has great latitude in this respect,” the person said.

(snip)

But patent experts have been less enthusiastic about the value of Kodak’s portfolio, which involves patents related to imaging—a key function of smartphones, but not related to core mobile-communication technologies. Kodak’s patents have also been heavily licensed, diminishing their future value, patent experts said.

The patent sale is crucial to Kodak’s emergence from bankruptcy.

Links of the Day:

- Need to see a dermatologist? The wait in parts of Upstate New York is really long. The shortage of dermatologists is particularly acute in Central New York, where patients can wait months for an appointment. The University of Rochester Medical Center only has three dermatology residency slots a year.

- East Rochester is offering incentives to turn houses back into single-family units.

- Stores and restaurants in Erie County sometimes don’t like it when their competitors get lucrative tax incentives.

 – The Aurora theater shooting suspect bought thousands of rounds of ammunition online as easily as one buys a book on Amazon.

City of Rochester Communications Bureau

Over the next 30 years, Rochester’s metropolitan region will overtake Buffalo in population, according to a report from IHS Global Insight for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Rochester

  • 2012 population: 1,056,600
  • 2042 population: 1,101,300
  • Growth rate: 4.2%

Buffalo

  • 2012 population: 1,133,100
  • 2042 population: 1,078,000
  • Growth rate: -4.9 percent

Rochester would become the second-largest metro region, if these figures hold true. It already has the second largest economy in the state.

What kind of impact would adding 50,000 people to the Rochester region have on roads, housing and schools? The growth seems relatively modest, especially if it occurs over time. Other areas of the country are expected to deal with much faster population growth.

Links of the Day:

- Kudos to the Democrat and Chronicle for updating the story of a Rochester police officer suspended and returned to work without an explanation from his bosses or the FBI, who ruined his reputation.

- This is a topic that has bothered me for a long time. A Democrat and Chronicle columnist reminds the media and the public about the role mental illness plays in many sensational crimes.

- Vacant houses are a problem in Rochester’s suburbs, too.

- The Buffalo News looks at the history and modern usage of the N-word.

 – Can we stop focusing on the dilemmas of super-rich working moms? 

- Doughnuts are the new cupcake.

I don’t get coupon-clipping.

I thought the Wegmans Shoppers Card was supposed to make coupons obsolete. I thought the Internet made coupons obsolete. Even Groupons can just be scanned from our phones.

Who has time for coupons? Even if I wanted to save a few bucks on my weekly grocery bill, the time I would spend going through ads is not worth it. It’s like driving all the way to Eastview to return and rebuy an item that’s now on sale to save $5. (I know people who do this.)

Tops Friendly Markets is trying to resurrect coupons by making them digital. You go onto the chain’s website and download your coupons onto your Bonus Card. The Buffalo News reports:

 

Though the coupons themselves are paperless, customers are urged to print a list of the coupons they’ve added to their cards in order to keep track of which items and varieties are valid for each coupon. Otherwise, there are no signs on shelves or other visible reference in stores to guide them.

Wait, you want me to print my digital coupon list?

Wegmans is also coming up with a similar scheme, according to the story.

There’s no question I could stand to save a few bucks. But my free time is worth something. I’d rather be with family and friends, swimming or blogging. (Maybe I’ll make fifty cents on this post.) I don’t see how this online coupon is any more convenient from a time-saving perspective than clipping paper ones.

I’m just going to keep looking for the yellow sales tags and call it a day.

Links of the Day:

- Syracuse area law enforcement officials fear bath salts could be in schools this fall.

 – You knew this was coming. Niagara Falls sent Nik Wallenda a bill for security.

- We are super lucky to live near the Great Lakes during a drought.

Colorado Tragedy:

- “I don’t know if James Holmes cared deeply about Batman. I suspect he cared deeply about seeing himself on the news.” – Roger Ebert on the Aurora shooting.

-“America has gotten very good at being shocked by mass shootings.” 

- Colorado gun laws are lax.

- The New York Daily News says politicians have blood on their hands in the wake of the Aurora shooting.

Our thoughts today are in Aurora, Colorado, where a shocking and incomprehensible act of depravity and violence took place in a movie theater.

Here are some compelling articles and tweets about the tragedy:

On Gun Control

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, long a gun control advocate, says it’s time to talk about the availability of guns:

“Soothing words are nice, but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they’re gonna do about it,” Bloomberg said. “No matter where you stand on the Second Amendment, no matter where you stand on guns, we have a right ot hear from both of them.”

Below  is a chart showing gun deaths per capita in the United States. New York, which has tougher gun laws, has fewer per capita deaths.

 

In 2009, 31,347 people were killed by firearms in the United States. That’s an average of 86 people a day. Already this year in Rochester, about 100 people have been shot. Six times as many people who were killed in Aurora today will die by gun violence today across the country.

 

[tweet https://twitter.com/MarkHarrisNYC/status/226375981705871361]

 

On Mass Shootings

USA Today compiled a graphic of the worst mass shootings in the past 50 years.

In an essay on how journalists can cover the Aurora tragedy, Al Tompkins of Poynter Institute wrties:

Avoid easy solutions. Inevitably somebody will start calling for increased theater security. How long will it be before we start talking about putting airport-like screeners in theaters where people are vulnerable, sitting in a dark place with people they do not know? The pro- and anti-gun lobbies will speak up for their causes.

Keep this in context. 1.23 BILLION movie tickets were sold in North America in 2011. The FBI says mass murder is a rare crime. Less than 1 percent of all homicides involve five or more victims — a rate that has not changed in decades.

We are already seeing reactions of fear. Rochester area police departments are planning to beef up patrols at movie theaters this weekend, despite no specific threat and no indication the Aurora gunman was not acting alone.

 

[tweet https://twitter.com/CynthiaBenjamn/status/226319181778391040]

 

On Pop Culture:

Because the shooting took place inside a movie theater and the suspect allegedly referred to himself as The Joker, some will ask if “The Dark Knight” played a role in the tragedy. The Democrat and Chroncile‘s Jack Garner writes:

Ultimately, filmmakers and writers and performers can’t be responsible for the insane behavior of a few disturbed individuals. It’s impossible to determine what might trigger tragic actions from an irrational individual. Logic can’t be applied to an illogical person, by definition.

 

Links of the Day:

- Schumer and Gillibrand are touting $2.1 million they secured for new signs at the Syracuse airport. Millions of dollars. For signs.

- As more people get their news online, I’m worried about media organizations distorting their missions and coverage in search of clicks.

- The Wall Street Journal profiles the “happy, crazy mom.” This sounds like a miserable existence.

- You want me to bike to work? Um, where can I shower?

When I listed 5 Big (Crazy?) Ideas for Rochester, skatepark proponents piped in about their project.

Roc City Skatepark would go right under 490 between the Genesee River and South Avenue. It would connect to the planned Erie Harbor Promenade.

The skatepark has the support of city officials, but no money. It would cost $2 million to build. The city approved a design grant, but that hasn’t been spent. Jim Maddison, who is spearheading the plan, said in a Facebook message:

Progress is slow, as we anticipated from the beginning. We are still trying to navigate the politics of getting the $50,000 the city approved for us for design fees two years ago. We were attempting to get this though a professional services, sole source contract given that we are the only organization in town that has been working on this for the past four years. But, it appears now that we are going to have to bid on the money.

I’ve always thought this was a cool idea for what would remain completely unused space. In addition, I’m constantly frustrated by teenagers using the Inner Loop as their skating playground. I have called 911 a couple times, fearing they will be hit by cars. It also irks me to see them use the Liberty Pole for stunts.

It would be great to get the skaters a park that could be a regional draw.

Links of the Day:

- Excellus is sitting on a billion-dollar reserve fund while it continues to raise rates.

- Wegmans is adding more self-checkout lanes, responding to customer demand.

- An FCC report looks at Internet speeds of major providers. Frontier comes in last place.

- Linen bras were found in an Austrian castle. They’re 600 years old.

The state test score data released this week for grades 3 through 8 shows Rochester’s charter schools on the whole performing better than Rochester City School District schools. About 13,500 RCSD students and 1,200 charter school students took the tests.

English Passing Rate:

  • RCSD – 21%
  • Charters – 46%

Math Passing Rate:

  • RCSD – 27%
  • Charters – 63%

But there are some RCSD schools that performed as well or better than some charter schools. Take a look:

School 23 (RCSD, grades 3-6)

  • English – 54%
  • Math – 67%

School 52 (RCSD, grades 3-6)

  • English – 47%
  • Math – 54%

School 58 (RCSD, grades 3-8)

  • English – 42%
  • Math – 49%

Urban Choice (Charter, grades 3-6)

  • English – 39%
  • Math – 50%

Rochester Academy Charter School (Charter, grades 7 -8)

  • English – 43%
  • Math -41%

University Prep (Charter, grades 7 &-8)

  • English – 22%
  • Math – 42%

This shows not all city schools are terrible and not all charter schools are great.

There are charter schools serving students extremely well, such as True North, Genesee Community Charter, and Eugenio Maria de Hostos. Other charter schools are not doing better than the best city schools.

It is worth pointing out charter schools by their very nature attract families more involved in their children’s education. Charter schools have been criticized for drawing away better students. In addition, charter schools do not have as many children with special needs and children who speak English as a second language.

I suspect the better performing schools are more economically diverse. Studies have shown economic integration works to raise achievement.

As the city’s failing schools get criticized, it’s important to look at the common denominator of all of the schools mentioned above: They have students and parents who want (and in some cases, fought) to be there.

We hear threats all the time from businesses wanting tax incentives from government. They threaten to move out of town. They threaten to not spend money on improvements. They threaten to close up shop.

Wilmorite, owner of Greece Ridge Mall, threatened to walk away from a redevelopment project if it didn’t get a PILOT agreement. The $12 million to $14 million project involved tearing down the Bon-Ton and replacing it with nice restaurants. The County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency said Wilmorite needed the PILOT to get bank financing.

Worried the mall would deteriorate, a tentative deal was reached among the town, county and school district.

Was the threat real?

A government official who didn’t want me to use his name said yes. One need only look at Irondequoit Mall, now named Medley Centre. Wilmorite built the mall and when it declined, gave up and sold it. The mall is still awaiting redevelopment. One could say Wilmorite gave up on Sibley, though that’s a bit more complicated.

Judy Seil, head of COMIDA, doesn’t like calling the Greece Ridge incentive plan a “tax break.” She said the mall is reducing its square footage by knocking down the BonTon, so it’s actually not taking advantage of what would likely have been a property tax reduction. I’m skeptical of that explanation, because if this wasn’t a tax break, why would Wilmorite need it in the first place?

Aside from serious questions about whether tax breaks for retail projects are wise, this entire episode begs other questions about malls in general and Greece Ridge in particular. America is discovering it built too many malls. People are shopping more on the Internet. In Rochester, we knocked down Midtown. Medley is almost empty. What’s the long term plan for Greece Ridge? Will restaurants keep it afloat or will it need more taxpayer support in the future?

In Rochester, we often see the conflict between the dreamers and the realists.

We rarely see the dreamers win out. The fast ferry was their biggest triumph and we know how that turned out. Now we have a practical mayor who doesn’t seem too fond of the Big Idea.

But there are some Big Ideas out there. The concepts are either wacky or brilliant, depending on your vision for Rochester.

Here are the top 5 Big (Crazy?) Ideas:

1. Rewatering the Canal – Erie Canal restoration advocates want to rewater the old aqueduct downtown, essentially flooding Broad St. They envision recreational boats in summer and ice skating in winter, as well as real estate development along the new waterfront.

2. Doing Something with the Subway – This idea is in conflict with rewatering the canal, as it would use the same infrastructure. The subway was built in the old canal bed, so one could argue the canal was there first! Ideas for the subway tunnel, some of which has been filled in, include parking and bringing back light rail.

3. Garden Aerial – This would transform the Pont de Rennes Bridge at High Falls into a “floating garden.” There would be an additional pedestrian bridge built close to the falls and a winter garden on the side of the brewery.

4. Performing Arts Center – The Rochester Broadway Theatre League has long wanted new digs, saying the Auditorium isn’t adequate. The group hasn’t raised funds, however, and has no politician advocating for grants. RBTL chose Midtown Plaza for a theater site, but City Hall is lukewarm, at best, to the idea.

5. Filling in the Inner Loop – This one has the most support from City Hall to actually get done. But there’s still a funding gap. The sunken expressway is underused and a barrier to development. Filling it in would create usable land and fill in gaps between downtown neighborhoods.

What’s your Big Idea?

Links of the Day:

- Buffalo is seeing a lot of conflict between cyclists and drivers who have to share the road.

Governor Cuomo’s administration has a serious reputation for secrecy.

- Newark, New Jersey’s mayor slammed the war on drugs.

- A mom is arrested for allowing kids, ages 7 and 11, walk alone to get pizza a half mile away.

- Cool read about an ex-slave’s letter to his former master.