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I got a pleasant surprise when I went to Wegmans over the weekend. Wegmans now has its own brand of single-serve coffee pods, known as “K-cups.” They cost $5.99, up to $3 less than the big brands.

Wegmans is among the grocers taking advantage of the expiration of Green Mountain’s patent on K-cups. This is good news for consumers, as the store brands are cheaper. But it could be very bad news for Green Mountain. K-cups for Green Mountain are what film was for Kodak. Green Mountain sells its Keurig coffee machines cheap and banks on people buying lots of K-cups.

Green Mountain has sued the makers of these generic K-cups. Reuters reports:

Green Mountain has said it expects to continue to benefit from its scale and expertise in manufacturing K-Cups, and that it will “aggressively defend” its intellectual property.

Green Mountain has dozens of patents governing the brewers, the K-Cups and the interaction between the brewers and cups. The company has already sued Rogers and Sturm Foods, a unit of TreeHouse Foods (THS.N), for selling Keurig-compatible cups that allegedly infringe its patents.

Rogers’ president, Jon Rogers, told Reuters he was confident that he would prevail in the patent fight, saying his cup is as different from the K-Cup as “apples and oranges” – the K-Cup is made of plastic, while the Rogers cup is made of mesh.

Some patent experts wouldn’t be surprised if Green Mountain sued grocers who sell the generic K-cups. The Wegmans box doesn’t indicate who makes its K-cups. It does say “patent application pending for capsule technology.”

Skeptics say Green Mountain could go the way of Kodak. Supporters say it offers a superior product and the generic stuff made with slightly different coffee pods doesn’t taste as good.

I bought Wegmans dark roast. I like very strong, black coffee. The Wegmans K-cups don’t have the same strong aroma or flavor. I’m going to try other roasts. But I do like the price.

Links of the Day:

– A Democrat and Chronicle columnist loves the idea of a new Buffalo Bills stadium – and cites some of the reasons that have been debunked by economists.

– Kids say the new healthy school lunch rules leave them hungry. I lost all sympathy when a student complained 850 calories is not enough for lunch.

– Is the Time Warner modem fee newor not?

– What if the collective-living, nose-ring-wearing candidate who’s talking issues decides the Buerkle-Maffei race?

– Syracuse is launching a campaign to reduce infant deaths related to unsafe sleep – and it’s targeting men.

Oh, Pittsford.

Communications Bureau, City of Rochester

Several times this week, large groups of teenagers have gathered on Main Street before school. Fights broke out, with kids running from corner to corner to witness the action.

It was chaos.

This is nothing new, as the city has struggled to keep order on Main Street before and after school. When Midtown Plaza closed, huge crowds of unsupervised youth turned Main St. into their playground as they waited for buses. Some went downtown just to hang out.

On Friday, 13WHAM News recorded what appeared to be the tail end of police regaining order. Police and students were running around. Police found a pellet gun on one student. They pepper sprayed a number of teens.

The video has concerned people, who say the police casually pepper sprayed teens. Some of the teens appeared to be doing absolutely nothing wrong.Pepper spray is a use of force and it’s appropriate to ask questions. It’s very important to note we did not see what happened before this video.

Here’s the perspective of the police: The officers’ primary goal was to get the kids on their way to school before another fight broke out. You can’t have hundreds of students running up and down Main Street when they should be in school. You also can’t have them standing around, away from their bus stops, after they were told to move along. Three kids turns into 10 turns into 50 and then the problem is back.

Officers’ use of pepper spray on students is fairly common in school settings when large groups of students gather to watch fights. It’s a means to disperse crowds. Certainly, some kids who were not part of the melee can get sprayed. But cops will tell you it’s way more dangerous to not break up the crowd than use the pepper spray.

Over the last few years, the school district and police department have downplayed what is happening on Main Street. Meanwhile, officers are placed in a tough position. Tourists, businesses and workers are disgusted. Students who get involved in these melees could be in danger.

I thought the bus company and school district mostly solved the problem of Main Street fights with restrictions on bus passes and more direct routes. It appears the only thing that will get this under control is the new bus terminal that’s coming in 2015. I don’t think an enclosed facility with security will be as problematic, because kids won’t be as free to run around causing problems. Midtown Plaza did not tolerate misbehavior and did not experience regular fights.

What did you think of the video and how police handled the situation?

Links of the Day:

– Hickey Freeman’s CEO says the bankruptcy plan will save jobs, as long as Authentic Brands is the winning bidder.

– North American Brewery’s CEO says the purchase of the company will be a good thing. NAB owns the Genesee brand.

– “A waterfront stadium is a bad idea on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin,” writes a Buffalo News columnist.

– The Saudis are building a huge mosque. Preservationists are worried historic sites could be destroyed in the process.

Rendering of proposed Bills stadium

In all the talk of a proposed downtown Buffalo Bills stadium this week, there wasn’t enough attention paid to the fact professional sports have little impact on local economies. When you’re talking about investing huge amounts of taxpayer dollars – whether it’s $200 million to renovate Ralph Wilson Stadium or $400 million to build a new stadium – it’s important to realize there’s not a huge return.

The Cato Institute found:

The evidence suggests that attracting a professional sports franchise to a city and uilding that franchise a new stadium or arena will have no effect on the growth rate of real per capita income and may reduce the level of real per capita income in that city. Yet  government decisionmakers and politicians continue to try to attract professional sports
franchises to cities, or use public funds to construct elaborate new facilities in order to keep existing franchises from moving…

…one thing is clear from the evidence on professional sports franchises: owners are reaping substantial benefits in the value of their teams because they are so skilled at the stadium gambit.

Studies have found when sports are not around, people spend their money on other entertainment. When stadiums host big events, like the Super Bowl, visitors are displacing others who would have visited. Construction jobs are typically overstated. Development around stadiums is not guaranteed. Stadiums can drain local coffers to the point vital services have to cut. Recent stadium deals have been structured to allow team owners to escape hefty taxes, while the rest of us are footing the bill for their shiny new homes.

Finally, team owners threatening to move away are often not serious, according to a magnificent NPR story on stadium economics:

“Politicians continue to believe that it would be political disaster to lose a team on their watch,” Baade says.

Actually losing a team, though, is extremely rare. Most team owners prefer to keep plugging for new stadiums in their hometowns even after their bluff has been called…

…after successfully using relocation threats to get the city of Pittsburgh to help fund a new hockey arena, Penguins owner and NHL legend Mario Lemieux admitted, “Our goal was to remain here in Pittsburgh all the way. Those trips to Kansas City and Vegas and other cities was just to go, and have a nice dinner and come back…. That was just a way for us to put more pressure, and we knew it would work at the end of the day.” (It’s also worth noting that even in those few cities where teams have moved, no local elected official has yet been voted out of office as a result…)

There’s no question professional sports teams add to the quality of life of a city. But when you’re talking about billion-dollar behemoths funded by taxpayers, that argument only goes so far.

Links of the Day:

Genesee Brewery has been sold.

– A Pittsford resident is quoted in the Democrat and Chronicle saying an apartment complex filled with renters could drag down the school district. Never mind these will be high-end units not filled with dreaded poor people.

– This was sadly predictable. Wegmans learned you can’t extend a school day without extra cash. Both the executives and the school district are to blame for incredibly poor planning.

– More Monroe County businesses are offering high-deductible insurance plans. This is a huge issue for employees, as one serious illness or surgery can cause severe problems for families living paycheck to paycheck or with meager savings.

– CNN has banned the term “Frankenstorm” because it makes light of a storm that’s already killed people.

In a big show of support, the City of Rochester is seeking a consultant to design a a “world class, organic urban skatepark.” The consultant would also look at the feasibility of the plan to put a large skatepark on land to the east of the Freddie Sue Bridge, just south of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

The cost of the study is $50,000.

Roc City Skatepark, the nonprofit pushing the project, has not had much success raising funds. Initial plans called for a $2 million park. The consultant’s study will determine what the project will cost and if it’s doable.

The skatepark would go on land below a highway that wouldn’t have another purpose. Looking at all the kids doing their tricks at the Liberty Pole and Inner Loop, it’s clear they need a place to go. But garnering support for an expensive niche park might be difficult.

The study is expected to be finished in April.

Our airport is called the Greater Rochester International Airport. A new study details international travel out of Rochester.

The Brookings Institution found:

– In 2011, 174,527 international traveled arrived and departed from the Rochester airport.

– International travel to and from Rochester increased 14 percent from 2003.

– Rochester is ranked 57th of 90 metro areas in international travel.

– More people are traveling between Rochester and Latin American and the Caribbean, accounting for 36 percent of international travel in 2011, up 48 percent from 2003.

– Fewer people are traveling between Rochester and Western Europe. These trips made up 33 percent of international travel in 2011, down 3 percent from 2003.

– Travel to and from Asia is down 9 percent from 2003, making up 7 percent of Rochester’s international travel in 2011.

– Travel to Eastern Europe increased 60 percent between 2003 and 2011, accounting for 4 percent of international travel to and from Rochester.

– Travel to and from the Middle East went up 168 percent between 2003 and 2011, accounting for 3 percent of Rochester’s international travel. Travel to Sub-Saharan African doubled during this time, making up 2 percent of international travel.

– About 4 percent of Rochester travelers can fly direct to their destinations.

Here are the top five international destinations for Rochester passengers and the percentage travel changed between 2003-2011:

  • 1. Cancun (up 132 percent)
  • 2. London (down 26 percent)
  • 3. Montego Bay (up 81 percent)
  • 4. Paris (down 24 percent)
  • 5. Punta Cana, D.R. (up 475 percent)

Links of the Day:

– Property values in the Upper Mt. Hope neighborhood went up 70 percent! Yet the city wants us to believe the College Town project needs tax dollars to be successful.

Rochester may experiment with food trucks downtown.

New York State is helping craft breweries.

– Worried about safety perceptions, the NFL is on a mission to save the sport of football.

Monroe County is home to the richest and poorest school districts in Upstate New York.

Buffalo Business First magazine ranked districts using socioeconomic date from the state education department and census.

Pittsford is the most affluent district, with only 4 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch and 5 percent of students living in poverty. Brighton was ranked 8th, Penfield 15th and Victor 20th.

Rochester is the least affluent school district, with 85 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch and 39 percent of students in poverty. (Recent census figures show 53 percent of all children in the city live in poverty.) Syracuse and Buffalo were also in the bottom five.

The data indicates poverty is very real in some Monroe County suburbs. In East Rochester and East Irondequoit, about one in five students lives in poverty.

Rochester and Pittsford are only 8 miles apart. This list makes the gulf feel much wider, doesn’t it?

Update: A follow-up ranking by Business First lists Pittsford first academically.

Links of the Day:

– The way the New York state prison system treated a raped inmate is a disgrace.

– One year out of college, women are already paid less than men.

– The blue recycling bin will likely be a thing of the past.

– A bunch of kids went down with concussions at a Pee Wee football game in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, a retired doctor in a small New Hampshire town proposed ending high school football.

– Portraits of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Not the kind he’ll hang in his office.

Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex rendering provided to Buffalo News

A Buffalo company wants the Bills to move into a proposed $1.4 billion waterfront stadium with a retractable roof. The Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex says the facility could also double as a convention center.

What’s more, Strong National Museum of Play wants in, according to the Buffalo News:

The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, wants in, too, proposing the North American Museum of Sports and Culture as part of making the outer harbor a year-round destination.


G. Rollie Adams, a former Buffalonian who is president and CEO of Strong, said a sports museum would focus on “sports, play, competition and character.” He said, “This just seems like a natural way to bring a lot of things together.”

A few big problems with this plan:

1. The company hasn’t talked to the Bills.

2. The company hasn’t talked to politicians.

3. The company doesn’t own the 167-acre site – the state does.

4. There’s no business plan. But we all know what any business plan will include – a lot of your tax dollars. Study after study has shown stadiums are a money-loser for communities.

5. The last thing cities need is convention centers. They don’t make money and there’s a glut of space.

6. Is a football stadium the best use for waterfront property? A mixed use development including housing, retail and offices that comes out on the positive side for taxpayers might be better.

7. What’s the development plan for the surrounding area?

8. Would a stadium guarantee the Bills stick around? What’s the succession plan again?

The current plan is to renovate Ralph Wilson Stadium for $200 million. The state is being asked to kick in some cash. Some think the stadium will become outdated quickly, even with the upgrades. There are no guarantees the Bills won’t bolt when it’s all done.

This new proposal has a lot of “wow.” Many have wanted the Bills downtown for some time. But this is about as big a lift as we’ve ever seen for any project in this state. Make no mistake – if it gets done – we’ll be carrying it for some time.

Update: I went to Buffalo today to cover the developers’ presentation before the Common Council. Here is my report. These are some additional renderings.

Also, a lot of people are asking about parking and traffic. There would be 5,000 spaces, so don’t worry, tailgating wouldn’t be harmed. But I don’t believe downtown projects should be nixed because of traffic. There will always be bottlenecks at special events, no matter where they are located. Furthermore, in downtown areas, not everyone is coming and going out of the same lots. That said, this outer harbor area seems a tad isolated because of the Skyway.



There are a growing number of studies supporting what mental health professionals have been saying since bullying became a national issue: Bullying is common, teen suicides are rare and bullying alone does not cause teen suicides.

A study showed cyberbullying – cited as the reason bullying is a huge problem for kids today – isn’t as common as the old-fashioned kind of harassment. So it makes sense that another study found cyberbullying is rarely a single factor in suicides. Any kind of bullying is rarely the only issue when a teen kills himself.

Very few children are committing suicide and bullying is not the only factor in their deaths. Yet reporters, parents, politicians and lawyers have inextricably linked bullying to suicides, even though the evidence doesn’t support this conclusion. There’s also little evidence bullying is a bigger problem today than it was for previous generations.

There are consequences to sensational news coverage linking bullying and suicide. We have normalized children killing themselves over bullying and may have prompted copycats, a very real phenomenon.  Reporters cited videos and journals left behind by bullied teens who killed themselves as proof their tormentors were responsible. These deeply troubled children glamorized their own deaths and we all played along.

There’s no question bullying should be taken seriously. Bullying can aggravate problems for children struggling with depression and anxiety. We must teach children tolerance and respect. Schools must provide a safe environment. But somewhere along the line, we’ve lost common sense in the name of protecting children from harm.

Our obsession with bullying has led to laws, lawsuits, huge amounts of school resources, marches and rallies to get people to be nice. What I don’t see is a focus on coping skills. Children have to learn how to cope with adversity and pain. People of all ages can be truly awful. That will never, ever change.

In treating bullying as a public health crisis, we’ve lost sight of the real public health issue: Undiagnosed mental illness. Perhaps some of the time and attention focused on bullying prevention should be diverted to identifying children who need serious help before there’s a tragedy.

Links of the Day:

– A man from Yemen who lives in Rochester is on the Do Not Fly list, but he has no idea why.

– A Nazareth College student from Africa lost his leg to a viper, almost blew up a secret chemistry lab, learned how to play the drums and is on his way to becoming a heart surgeon.

– Oswego schools are dealing with lawsuits related to the alleged sexual abuse of children by children.

– Forbes calls Buffalo the 10th most dangerous city.

A local college professor’s blog got a mention in the New York Times on Sunday. Mark Rice is the chair of American Studies at St. John Fisher College. His blog is called “Ranking America” and he told the Times why he started it in an article about American exceptionalism:

Of course, the reason talking directly about serious American problems is risky is that most voters don’t like it. Mark Rice, who teaches American studies at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., said students often arrived at his classes steeped in the notion that the United States excelled at everything. He started a blog, Ranking America, to challenge their assumptions with a wild assortment of country comparisons, some sober (the United States is No. 1 in small arms ownership) and others less so (the United States is tied for 24th with Nigeria in frequency of sex).

“Sure, we’re No. 1 in gross domestic product and military expenditures,” Mr. Rice says. “But on a lot of measures of quality of life, the U.S. ranking is far lower. I try to be as accurate as I can and I avoid editorializing. I try to complicate their thinking.”

His most recent posts include how American ranks on central government debt (14th) and alfalfa exports (2nd). Rice is also a prolific blogger for Forbes. 

Although Rice’s work has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, I hadn’t discovered it until today. I look forward to more of his posts.

Links of the Day:

– The Buffalo News looks at the cost of retiree healthcare in the public sector. Of course, those getting low-cost health care say those coming after them shouldn’t get the same benefit because “times have changed.” While I have no problem with public sector workers and retirees contributing more to their health care, I do think it’s wrong to let corporate America, which has largely abdicated responsibility to workers to increase profits, to set the agenda.

– The killing of Penfield native Daniel Metcalfe in Afghanistan is detailed in the New York Times.

– Bobcats are heading to Western New York.

– How a stammering kid became Cuomo’s spokesman.

The parent company of the last surviving clothing manufacturer in Rochester has filed for bankruptcy. Hartmarx warned Hickey Freeman’s 500 workers there could be layoffs.

In 1899, Jeremiah Hickey and Jake Freeman raised $40,000 to found Hickey Freeman. They opened the Clinton Ave. plant in 1912, where it remains today.

Hickey Freeman is a reminder of Rochester’s history in the clothing and textile industry. Fueled by immigrants who settled on the northeast side, the garment trade was a large employer in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It also played a large role in the labor movement.

The following is a synopsis of the city’s history in clothing manufacturing, taken from a volume in Rochester History, written by Blake McKelvey:

Jehiel Barnard was the first tailor to arrive in Rochester in 1812. By 1834, there were 20 tailors. In the 1840s, when Rochester’s population hit 24,000, German immigrant Myer Greentree set up the first mens suit manufacturing shop. By 1848, there were at least 30 shops where suits were made and sold, most located on Main and Front streets. These were small stores and many workers finished garments at their houses. Most of the workers were Jewish immigrants.

In the 1850s, the sewing machine led to large-scale production. By the end of the 1870s, the clothing shops employed 2,700 people and were centered on Mill St. Only Rochester’s shoe industry exceeded the clothing industry in sales. The city was the sixth largest clothing hub in the country.

Unknown clothing factory in Rochester, 1918

The clothing industry spawned factories making neckties, mittens and buttons. In the 1880s, many of the manufacturers moved to big buildings on St. Paul St. The Rochester clothing industry was not producing as much as New York or Chicago, but was known for high-quality products. By 1900, there were more than 500 clothing shops employing nearly 9,000 people. They included Hickey Freeman, Stein Bloch, and L. Adler & Co.

Workers, however, struggled. They included children. Many of them were crowded into unsanitary sweatshops, mostly subcontractors of the big firms. By the 1890s, unions were starting to take hold. There were lockouts, boycotts and strikes. There were agreements and companies that broke the agreements. Labor strife never ended.

In 1911, a scathing state investigation shined harsh light on the clothiers. The report made news all over the country:

New York New World...published an article…’In the model city of Rochester, where civic pride is eclipsed only by the pursuit of the almighty dollar, girls sit in unsanitary and unventilated rooms for ten hours a day stitching garments…” A stinging restatement of the charges appeared in the Toledo Blade, which concluded sneeringly, “Possibly it may not be denied that ‘Rochester Made Means Quality.’ But in light of the factory report, ‘Rochester Made’ means disease, dirt, poor air, poor light and the exploitation of the flesh and blood of children.”

Garment workers strike in 1913 on St. Paul St.

In 1913, the workers, many of whom now included Italians, voted to go on strike to get an 8-hour work day, 10-cent raise and overtime and holiday pay. When the strikers saw a light on at dusk at a factory on Clifford St., one through a rock through the window. The owner fired into the crowd, killing 17-year-old Ida Braiman.

The 1913 garment workers strike was on. The strike lasted a couple months, cost several million dollars and resulted in a 52-hour work week with five no-work holidays, time-and-a-half overtime pay and no discrimination toward striking workers.

In the coming years, the big firms, including Hickey Freeman, appointed labor management experts.

Michael Sterns Building, erected in 1893

The Great Depression forced a number of factories to close and thousands lost their jobs. Hickey Freeman would not lay off workers and took a 16.5 percent hit in profits. By 1935, there were five factories left: Bond, Michael Sterns, Hickey Freeman, Fashion Park and Timely Clothes. World War II kept the plants busy. They employed 9,000 workers.

In 1960, when McKelvey wrote his history, he said the clothing industry was “remarkably stable” and the fifth largest in terms of output in the country. The industry employed 7,900 people making 15,000,000 suits and coats a year.

In the 1970s, most of them closed. Only Hickey Freeman remained. If it doesn’t survive, the final chapter of Rochester’s clothing industry will be written.

Links of the Day:

– Rochester area home sales are up in the third quarter.

– A New York Times columnist feels bad, sort of, about rushing to judgment of Bernie Fine.

– A Washington Post columnist says social media has infantalized the presidential election. (See: Big Bird.) I disagree. I think it’s the media outsized attention to the these memes.

– When you’re arrested for murder, it makes the news. When you’re exonerated, maybe not.

– An update on everyone’s favorite baby walrus, who needs to be taught how to be a walrus.

These are boom times for Amtrak. The railroad released its Fiscal Year 2012 ridership numbers, showing a dramatic increase over the last decade. Amtrak carried 31.2 million passengers over the last year, up 3.5 percent from the previous year and up a whopping 49 percent from 2000.

What’s driving the growth? It could be high gas prices, frustration with air travel and new Amtrak amenities such as Wi-Fi.

In Upstate New York, Amtrak did not see such dramatic year-to-year growth. Ridership between Toronto and Albany went up only .4 percent, although revenue for this line increased  5 percent. The route carried 407,729 passengers over the past year.

The Albany-New York City route is far more successful, carrying more than a million passengers.

Also notable, the top 5 train stations in New York state did not include Rochester or Buffalo. Total on/offs:

  • New York, NY 9,493,414
  • Albany-Rensselaer, NY 769,413
  • Rhinecliff, NY 177,375
  • Hudson, NY 167,286
  • Syracuse, NY 152,957

Perhaps Western New Yorkers don’t embrace Amtrak because it’s so much faster to fly – or even drive – to New York City. That’s where high-speed rail could make a huge difference in our willingness to jump aboard. But is it worth the cost?

Links of the Day:

– Check out the city’s latest conceptual drawings for Midtown Plaza.

– Suburbs want to be more city-like. Think I-Square.

– The head of the Massachusetts DOT is against…building highways.

– One Erie County town. Four districts. Is it time to consolidate?

– New York State prisoners staff DMV call centers.

– Wegmans is selling toys made from recycled milk jugs.


Our ferry – yes, it will always be our ferry – is now in Denmark.

The ship is now called Dolphin Jet and it travels the sea between Aarhus and Kalunborg.

Built in Australia, the Spirit of Ontario arrived in Rochester in 2004 for service to Toronto. It hit a dock in New York City on the way. When the daily trips launched, the ship had some engine trouble and the winds on the lake sometimes forced it to shut down. Add in the whopping price of gas, inability to fill 774 seats, and really crappy business plan, the venture sank. The City of Rochester bought the vessel in a bid to save it, but ended up losing many millions of dollars.

The boat sailed off into the sunset in 2006. It ended up in Morocco, where it was christened Tangier Jet II.

Now on its third paint job, the Dolphin Jet started runs in Denmark over the summer after many delays. The venture got into more trouble when Denmark officials insisted it slow down in a sensitive wildlife area:

In 2012 the entire Kalundborg Fjord area was designated a conservation area – the so-called Natura 2000 area. The requirement for Dolphin Jet to slow down is set forth mostly to protect local birds, porpoises and seals. Therefore, Dolphin Jet will have to slow down to even 12 knots at the bottom of the fjord.

So, that’s the latest on our ferry. The news stung those who noticed the boat is named after the Buffalo Bills’ chief rivals. Seems kind of fitting.

To see the glorious fall foliage, you don’t have to leave the city.

The Genesee River Gorge starting at the Middle Falls has truly spectacular views. Here is my suggestion for a lovely walk, hike or bike:

Park at the Maplewood Rose Garden. Across Driving Park, you’ll see the YMCA and a driveway marked “Lower Falls Park.” Start walking down the driveway. You’ll be deposited in a little-known park with views of the forgotten Middle Falls and Lower Falls. There are benches, interpretive signs and a sculpture with molds of faces and hands. You feel like you’re in another world.

Instead of walking back up the driveway, take the trail leading under the Driving Park Bridge. This trail will lead you through Maplewood Park, behind the houses of Maplewood Drive, past Seneca Parkway and the tennis courts. You’ll go under the Veteran’s Bridge. A half-mile later, you’ll see the old Maplewood police station across the street on the left and a wide, paved walkway lined with a tall silver fence immediately to your right.

Head down the walkway. You’ll find yourself on a pedestrian bridge over the river leading straight to the Seneca Park Zoo. The views are breathtaking in every direction.

If you’re taken with the neighborhood, consider a stroll to the dead-end of Seneca Parkway. The backyards of the grand homes back up to Aquinas.

How many urban areas in the country have such a treasure? You’ll want to repeat this walk every year to see the foliage. We are very lucky.

Here is a full map of the Genesee Riverway Trail.

Links of the Day:

– Is the parent company of Hickey Freeman on the verge of bankruptcy?

– A Rochester nurse writes about the plight of black men.

– The company running Rochester’s red light camera program is in trouble in Chicago over ethics violations.

– Hawaiian pilgrims are visiting Utica to see the home of Mother Marianne Cope, who will be declared a saint by the Catholic church.

– If you’re addicted to earwax removal, stop. Just stop.


1. Thank you to Rochester City Newspaper and all of you for The Rochesterian’s win for Best Blog. I’m incredibly grateful. Special thanks to DragonFlyEye.net for support.

2. I know the ability to post comments has been goofy lately. I’m working on it. Thanks for your patience!

Senator Tom Coburn is out with his annual “Wastebook,” in which he questions how federal dollars are spent.

Among the 100 projects listed is improvements to the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in Batavia. Pepsico Inc. is teaming with a German company to make Greek yogurt at the facility. Coburn calls it “corporate welfare for the world’s largest snack food maker,” as Pepsico had net revenues of $66 billion last year.

The feds chipped in $1.3 million in infrastructure upgrades at the park, including a new access road and water supply system.

Coburn points out Pepsico Inc. could have paid for the work itself:

Considering the company’s billions of dollars in annual profits and the plentiful demand for the Greek yogurt nationally, Pepsico clearly does not need handouts from the government to subsidize its private business.

Also in the Wastebook:

1. Professional sports loophole, which allows the NFL, NHL and PGA to classify themselves as nonprofit organizations.

2. A federally-subsidized airport in Oklahoma that only gets one flight a month.

3. Moroccan pottery classes to stimulate the Moroccan economy. The classes were a bust, partly because the Moroccan people have been making pottery for a couple thousand years.

4. Food to be served on Mars. Yes, NASA is testing it out.

5. Robotic Squirrel. California colleges built a robotic squirrel to see how snakes react.

A previous Wastebook listed Rochester’s El Camino housing project.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he wants the state’s regions to control their own destinies. But his aides are floating the idea of fiscal control boards for the state’s cities.

The New York Post‘s Fred Dicker wrote Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers are “close to bankruptcy” and looking for state bailouts:

“The mayors have got to come to the state with a plan that explains what’s causing their problems and how they plan to solve it. To come to us year after year for a handout as they have been doing, only to come back next year asking for the same handout, is a nonstarter. It doesn’t work,’’ said a Cuomo administration source.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and others have raised the specter of a statewide “control board’’ to oversee the finances of troubled communities, but the source said Cuomo is not considering such a move.

But a second source said, “Individual control boards for the cities are possible and, in some cases, likely.’’

As the name implies, control boards take away local control. They’re based on the premise a city is so messed up, it can’t be trusted to run its own finances.

Syracuse’s mayor was outraged by the report, telling the Post-Standard:

“I don’t believe for a second the governor authorized or knew of a statement whereby his staff would refer to the Upstate cities as beggars,” (Stephanie) Miner said. “People in the city of Syracuse are not beggars.”

There’s no question New York’s cities face enormous fiscal pressures. Their populations have shrunk. Their property tax bases have declined. Their industries have suffered. Their residents are poorer with greater needs. They carry large pension burdens from rosier times. They cannot tax their way out of the problem, because the state enacted a property tax cap and their residents don’t have the means.

The plight of New York’s cities is the result of decades of sprawl without growth.

Throughout its decline, Rochester has managed to maintain an excellent credit rating. It has cut hundreds of jobs over the years. It has lived under a state aid formula that pays its Upstate neighbors far more per capita. It has lived under a law requiring it to pay far more for schools than other cities. But this is not sustainable. There is a structural imbalance with the city’s budget.

It’s imperative the state help cities. They are the center of our civic, cultural and economic lives. They are important. They must not be allowed to rot or treated with disdain.

Rochester Mayor Tom Richards put it this way in his State of the City speech:

Cities do not exist to produce a balanced budget. They are vehicles for delivering services that create and preserve the quality of life that attracts people to urban centers. Cities will first face cultural and social bankruptcy before they encounter financial bankruptcy. We will be forced to cut services that make city living attractive, negatively impacting our quality of life. Libraries, recreation centers, festivals, fireworks and much of the investment that you saw earlier in this presentation are the sorts of things that get cut on the way to bankruptcy. And it is just such cuts that force those who would consider living in our city to make other choices.

Links of the Day:

– Good news for High Falls. More private investment in housing and offices is coming. (But I don’t think it’s dependent on MCC.)

– An optics plant on St. Paul St. has been refurbished. It’s a great story of a historical building and an immigrant who found success.

– Meet the Bills season ticket-holder who drives six hours to games.

– Heartbreaking story of a former state lawmaker’s struggles with his schizophrenic son.

– Sorry Edward Murrow, not much has changed.

– Stories like this make me insane. A Nebraska TV reporter leaves for another job and gets sued for breaking her contract. If the station thought she was so valuable, perhaps it should have paid her more than $28,000.

Teachers in New York are expected to adopt the new “Common Core Curriculum” this year. The curriculum, already adopted by many states, seeks to standardize education across the country. Proponents say it will lead to higher standards and collaboration opportunities across state lines. Critics say it industrializes education, leaves no room for creativity and treats children as “empty file cabinets.”

The roll-out in the Rochester City School District has been a mess. Teachers have told me they have not had professional development and numerous texts are on back order, as everyone in the state ordered them at the same time. They say the lesson plans are very difficult and highly prescriptive, even giving them what to say to children word-for-word. Their principals are demanding they follow each “module” to the T. One teacher told me she’s upset there’s no limited fiction allowed for her young students this school year.

Perhaps most frustrating to the teachers is knowing they are now being evaluated on teaching a brand new curriculum for which they’ve had little support. They are in the midst of “pre-testing” students to set a baseline of knowledge to be compared with how the students perform on tests at the end of the year.

Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski sent an email to staff summarizing their frustrations. Here is a portion:

Dear Colleagues,

It’s only six weeks into the new school year but teachers are already overwhelmed and frustrated like never before. And understandably so: APPR, Common Core State Standards, K-8 “Grow-out” schools, lesson planning dictates, attendance-taking mandates, mountains of additional paperwork, lagging information, lack of classroom supplies, and so much more. And it’s rapidly undermining the conditions for effective teaching and learning in our schools.


Here’s a partial list of some of the challenges and a brief update on our efforts to address them:

· Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR). This bad law, imposed on us by the State under the threat of de-funding more than 500 teaching positions, continues to frustrate teachers. In some instances, the pre-testing unfairly is planned to occur weeks after teaching. And in virtually all cases, the excessive testing requirements are costing a massive loss of precious instructional time. We are addressing both of these legitimate concerns with the District.

· Lesson planning dictates. Some school principals are requiring that teachers’ lesson plans be done according to a prescribed format. While teachers obviously plan their lessons, they should not be micromanaged in that exercise. During last week’s Living Contract negotiations, the District agreed with us and instructed all principals that they cannot dictate any particular lesson-planning format.

· Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Teachers have received virtually no training on CCSS and have not been provided the needed tools, supplies, time or texts. We have already registered teachers’ concerns with the District and are negotiating for relief as soon as possible. So far, the District has informed us only that Common Core related classroom resources were ordered last week, that a schedule of professional development about Common Core will be finalized by the end of this week, and that every Elementary School classroom will be equipped with a Smart Board by January 1.

It sounds like this major overhaul was implemented too quickly. I wonder what’s happening in suburban districts. I overheard a Penfield teacher say he was not happy with the modules and could not obtain materials.

I think the public has not been adequately informed of this massive change in curriculum affecting millions of students and potentially causing huge headaches in classrooms.

Links of the Day:

– Even charter school proponents think teacher rating systems are terrible.

– The case of the accused swearing teacher in Buffalo shows why due process is important.

– TV ad spending in Rochester on political campaigns has hit $7.6 million. (Raises for reporters! Right? Right…)

– Unkle Rog was killed in 2003. Rochester police say it’s the epitome of a cold case.

– The HPV vaccine does not lead to more teen sex, a study finds.

– When a Cortland State football player signed up for team, he got his cheek swabbed and ended up saving a California baby’s life.

– If you have to build parking garages, make them look like this.

These are boom times for the Rochester Public Market, popular as ever and on the verge of a huge makeover.

But the neighborhood surrounding the market has seen better days. Marketview Heights has some major problems. In a Request for Proposals seeking a consultant to come up with a vision plan for the Urban Renewal District, the city wrote about the challenges:

…including population decline, high poverty rates, low graduation rates, poor property maintenance, and crime related to drug and gang activity, Somewhat unique to Marketview Heights’ land use pattern is the system of alleys that once served an important role for the homes central to the URD (Urban Renewal District). These alleys now serve as ‘getaway’ routes for criminals, and hinder law enforcement efforts combating drug activity. The inner loop and railroad tracks have also been identified as physical barriers to connectivity between the neighborhood and the nearby downtown.

Marketview Heights has 2,893 mostly residential land parcels. It’s bordered by the Inner Loop, East Main St., North Goodman St. and Clifford Ave.

Any plan to revitalize the area could include the strategic demolition and greening of entire blocks. The city highlighted Marketview Heights in its Project Green report and has discussed leveling houses along East Main Street. This is controversial, as there are residents who would likely have to be relocated. Inclusion of residents in planning is key.

Check out the Project Green suggestion. The map on the left shows current buildings. The map on the right shows planned demolition.








Greening the neighborhood may or may not be the answer. But it certainly would be wonderful if the success of the Public Market can finally spill over into the rest of the neighborhood.

The consultant’s report is due a year from now.

Links of the Day:

– This is a great example of why toughening laws against drunk drivers may be futile. Convicted drivers get behind the wheel anyway.

– Budget cuts means more kids are walking to school in Erie County. Guess what? People are discovering (gasp!) it’s safe.

– More parents in New York are boycotting field tests. Some don’t want their kids to feel responsible if their teachers get fired.

– What if affirmative action was based on income, family structure and neighborhood and not on race.

– Modern American resembles 14th century Veniceand not in a good way.

– The western world is limiting free speech in the name of everyone getting along. This is bad.

Brizard stuff:

– Chicago’s mayor lied about Brizard’s departure right up until the end.

– Brizard’s support for charter schools helped lead to his downfall.

– What’s next for Brizard?

While driving in the car yesterday, I heard a radio reporter say police were withholding the names of two women charged with prostitution because they may be victims. The women were charged in an investigation of a Henrietta massage parlor.

That raises some ethical questions for the news media, which does not report the names of people who are victims of sex crimes. But it does report the names of criminals.

Are all prostitutes victims? How is the media to know which are victims and which are hooking of their own free will? Should these alleged prostitutes have been charged at all?

Gary Craig of the Democrat and Chronicle did a great series on this issue:

Prostitutes are arrested at a far greater rate than the “johns” who pay them for sex or the men and women who may be collecting the money and demanding they continue working.

Multiple arrests of trafficked prostitutes instill a distrust of law enforcement and add further proof that the individual controlling them is a protective ally, some activists say.

“The worst thing you can do is really victimize the victim,” said Andra Ackerman, a Monroe County prosecutor who previously headed the state’s sex trafficking prevention operation.

The way the Henrietta massage parlor workers were treated was far different than the young woman who appeared on “Wife Swap.” She made headlines around the country when she was charged with prostitution after a night partying with a Rochester lawyer, whom she apparently had known for some time. The news media reported the steamy details of their financial arrangement. I thought the 20-year-old had been terribly exploited by the entire episode.

I commend police for withholding the names of women they believe are victims. But how are they deciding who’s a victim and who isn’t? Some could make the case all prostitutes are victims – of pimps, traffickers, drug addiction, violence, sexual abuse or poverty. I also think news organizations should come up with policies for when to report names of prostitutes, given the new (overdue) sensitivity to their plight.

Links of the Day:

– How many places to do you shop to get household staples, such as food, paper products and pet supplies? Many of us go multiple places, but Wegmans and other chains want you to cut down.

– Did you know Target has an urban model called CityTarget?

– I love this story in the Buffalo News about a woman charged $400 to get her stolen car out of the impound. People stepped up to help in a big way.

A hero dog without a snout arrives in the United States.

Chicago was Rochester on steroids.

Jean-Claude Brizard has now resigned from two districts because he’s a “distraction.” He’s now been run out of town by two teachers unions. He’s now been criticized in two districts for his lack of communication skills, management style and inability to implement ideas.

Both districts hired him because he was from the vaunted group of education reformers. He charmed both districts with stories of closing bad schools, merit pay, raising graduation rates, holding teachers accountable and not accepting poverty as an excuse.

But there is no education reform without a road map. There is no education reform without a buy-in from all stakeholders. There is no education reform without good leadership.

Good leaders must have followers. Good leaders must bring along their troops. Good leaders must get buy-in from stakeholders.  Good leaders can’t break promises.

Brizard failed as a leader.

There’s no question he’s the fall guy for the strike that shut down the nation’s third-largest school district and kept 400,000 students home for a week. But good leaders don’t let schools implode on their watch. The Chicago strike was a bellwether in the education reform movement as much as it was a smackdown to a failed leader.

A Chicago columnist sent me an email saying, “Can’t say you didn’t warn us!”

I covered Brizard’s tenure extensively. He engaged in gross misrepresentations of data and sometimes outright lied. He made promises he didn’t keep. He did one thing while saying another. But I was the only one holding him accountable. The business and political establishment loved the guy. The rest of the media in Rochester, particularly the Democrat and Chronicle, did not question the superintendent. (Around the country, the media has been slow to challenge the “reformers.”) It seemed everyone hated teachers and refused to believe their complaints about their boss.

I’d never gone up against such a machine. Brizard’s relentless spin and the fact I was reporting in a vacuum made even some of my colleagues question my work. His staff tried to get me removed from covering the school district. It was not an easy time.

Despite my contentious professional relationship with Brizard, I take no joy from his downfall in Chicago. He is a human being with a family. I’m sure he truly cares about educating children. His reputation has been destroyed (though these ex-superintendents have a way of popping up elsewhere). The mayor who hired him deserves much of the blame for the chaos that ensued during his time as CEO. What happened in Rochester and Chicago is sad.

Chicago has now put someone in charge who is known for collaboration. Sound familiar?

Construction is under way on a runway expansion at the Canandaigua Airport. The FAA is paying $7 million to lengthen the runway so it can accommodate larger private and corporate planes.

Ontario County officials have fought for the runway for years. They hope it attracts new business to the county.

Are we witnessing the subsidization of corporate sprawl? Why are taxpayers footing the bill for infrastructure in Ontario County when there’s a perfectly nice (underutilized?) airport 32.5 miles away in Monroe County along a highway leading straight to Canandaigua?

Let’s say this runway attracts new business. That means new jobs and new houses and new roads and new sewers. More tax dollars will go to paving over green space. Meantime, there’s existing infrastructure in Rochester and Monroe County, which have seen little to no growth over the last decade.

There have been calls for Monroe County to come up with a smart growth plan. We need a regional plan. I question why we are actively promoting boom times in rural Ontario County when its core still needs a lot of work. Tell the CEOs who decided to locate next to farmland to rent a limo.

Links of the Day:

– Kodak is ending retiree health care at the end of the year. This most affects those under 65 who are not eligible for Medicare.

– Take a look at Kodak’s many spawn. You will see many successful companies.

– A Seneca County company is turning grape seeds into high-end cooking oil.

– In line with my theory MCC will never leave the Sibley Building is the lack of enthusiasm displayed by Republicans in this article.