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A piece in the Washington Post suggests there’s still a lot of value in Kodak’s film business. Christopher Bonanos says Kodak could learn some things from Polaroid. Kodak is looking to sell its film division (it will hold onto movie film) and Bonanos says the right buyer could do very well.

Here are his lessons:

1. “Don’t be afraid to raise prices.” – Film buffs are die-hards. Film sales actually grew last year.

Over the past few years, the company that bought bankrupt Polaroid started making the product again. It charges $24 for a pack of eight frames. Guess what? People are buying the stuff.

“Boutique prices are going to be part of the future of film, and the devout buyer will adjust,” writes Bonanos.

2. “The only cameras are going to be high-end cameras — and very-low-end ones.”

Kodak is still having a lot of success with disposable cameras. One of the companies reportedly interested in Kodak‘s film unit – Lomography – specializes in cheap, plastic film cameras.

3. “Don’t do anything that someone else can do.”

That’s what the founder of Polaroid, Edwin Land, said.

Kodak still makes super-special lines of film that don’t have any peers. It’s discontinued some of them (Kodachrome), but perhaps they can be revived – at a higher price point.

Bonanos writes, “if you’re going to sell film in the 21st century, you need to think of your product as a fine-arts material.”

4. “The little yellow box is still golden.”

Like Polaroid, Kodak has a powerful brand name. Bank on it.

Bonanos concludes, “nearly everyone who cares about the photographic arts is hoping that someone generous and deep-pocketed is feeling the need for a Kodak moment.”

Read the article, “What Kodak Could Still Learn From Polaroid.”

Business Links of the Day:

- Missouri lawmakers want a meeting with Windstream, saying broadband speeds are as slow as dial-up.

- A Bloomberg columnist speculates Xerox could be the next Hewlett-Packard, having “destroyed more value than it’s created.”

- We should only be excited about manufacturing jobs returning to the U.S. if they pay well.

Rochester economic performance indicators among 300 worldwide metros.                           Source: Brookings Institution

 

The Brookings Institution came out with its “Global Metro Monitor” comparing 300 of the world’s largest cities. I was stunned at the relative lack of growth in the Rochester region between 1993 and 2007. We saw only .2 percent job growth during this time? All of Upstate New York essentially flatlined for two decades.

Today, it’s encouraging Rochester is adding jobs at a faster pace, but there’s a lot of lost ground to cover.

Links of the Day:

- A Rochester man claims he had millions of dollars of baseball cards stolen. The strange tale ended with a federal jury verdict.

- The Buffalo News compared rates of procedures and tests for Medicaid patients in various cities. For example, Rochester Medicaid patients are twice as likely to have a procedure to get their arteries unclogged.

- Should the Syracuse police chief go around saying Bernie Fine’s accusers are credible, even though no charges were filed and there won’t be a vetting of evidence?

- Ever get mad at sidewalk cyclists? “Badly-behaved cyclists are usually just cyclists with inadequate infrastructure. Or none at all.”

Prime Time Brass at Liberty Pole Lighting in 2009

 

On Saturday evening, the mayor will light the Liberty Pole:

Fun starts at 4:30 p.m. outdoors at the Liberty Pole, with music from the School #54 Chorus and Prime Time Brass! Mayor Richards and Santa will flip the switch to light up the Liberty Pole at 5 p.m. Then join the Mayor, Santa, holiday characters, an old time trolley, fire truck and sports mascots in a parade to Manhattan Square Park for fireworks, horse drawn wagon rides, free ice skating (limited $3 skate rental), dj music and more! The old time trolley will be available to bring you back to area parking garages and parking lots!

It’s a tradition started under Bob Duffy that ended up replacing the lighting of the Midtown Christmas tree.

It’s a very nice tradition, but who among the crowd won’t long for the old days? Admit it, you still get misty thinking about the Monorail, Magic Mountain, Clock of Nations and the reindeer at Sibley’s.

I like that the city is creating new downtown memories. But allow us a moment of nostalgia. We’ll feel the twinge every year at the holidays.

Midtown Plaza, 2007

 

Links of the Day:

- The Mt. Hope neighborhood has secured changes to the design of the Barnes & Noble going into College Town.

- A drive to unionize fast food workers has begun in New York City. One man has been working at McDonald’s for three years and still earns only $8 an hour.

- Imagine going to the bank and not having to wait in line. Want some coffee to go with your deposit? The future of “counterless” retail has arrived in the Albany area.

- An Albany airport invokes “safety concerns” in a bid to prevent people from handing out flyers. Didn’t you know? Leaflets are dangerous!

- We’ve heard of “Drug Free Zones.” In Syracuse, someone put a sign saying “Free Drug Zone.”

I went to full-day kindergarten because my parents needed me in school all day while they worked. There are certainly benefits to full-day kindergarten – socialization, speech development, etc. But I don’t remember kindergarten being rigorous and I didn’t learn to read until first grade.

Now kids may have to go to kindergarten all day long because of state standards. Here’s why Webster might make the move, according to the Democrat and Chronicle:

Among those requirements: counting to 100, supplying rhyming words and recognizing and naming two- and three-dimensional shapes. A failure to meet Common Core standards could jeopardize district funding.

“The standards for kindergarten are significantly more rigorous than the old ones were,” (Assistant Superintendent Linda) Sykut said. “And I don’t think they’re unreasonable … but it would be very challenging to accomplish them in a 21/2-hour day.”

Here’s another way kindergarten is becoming more high-stakes. In at least one district in New York – Syracuse – kindergartners will be asked to rate their teachers. The rating will be included in the teachers’ evaluations. The Post-Standard reports:

As part of a new, district-wide evaluation system, students will be surveyed about their teachers and their perceptions will account for 6 percent of a teacher’s overall rating.

(snip)

Students will take surveys designed for their grade level. Surveys could contain statements such as: “My teacher helps me with my work” and “My teacher answers questions when I raise my hand,” she said.

Links of the Day:

- Monroe County Exectuive Maggie Brooks says she didn’t raise taxes in her proposed 2013 budget. But suburban residents will now be assessed a fee for snow removal.

- A Buffalo TV news director talks openly about being hospitalized for job-related depression.

- The mother of a Buffalo man ejected from a Bills game is grateful he was found alive.

- A new state law limits when you are asked to give your Social Security number when you purchase goods and services.

- Should children be allowed to handle guns, even if they’re unloaded? The issue came up during custody hearings involving probation officers in the Albany area.

- Xerox is under fire for its speed camera programs in Maryland. An audit found inaccurate tickets and more.

- Hilarity ensues when NYU students hit “reply all” to university messages.

Removed temporarily from the city, the good Rochesterian will eulogize the town to all who will listen and to many who won’t.

– Henry Clune, “Main Street Beat,” 1947

When you grow up in Rochester, you learn all about our famous residents of years gone by. You learn about the mills, the nurseries, the garment factories and the lilacs. You learn about the founding of Xerox, Kodak and Bausch & Lomb. You learn about garbage plates, white hots and Abbott’s. You learn about Sam Patch and his bear. You learn about the A Team and the B Team. You learn there isn’t another place like Rochester.

We’re Smugtown USA.

Governor Andrew Cuomo got the full Rochester come-on today aboard an RTS bus. Mayor Tom Richards stood at the front with a microphone, his arm wrapped around a pole. Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy sat across the from the governor. University of Rochester President Joel Seligman and Wegmans CEO Danny Wegman sat on either side of Cuomo.

Richards was in his glory telling the governor all about the city. He explained why it wasn’t built on the lake. It was built at High Falls, because the falls powered the mills. “Genesee River is one of the few rivers in the country that flows north. It created this city.”

(On the tour, Richards revealed Duffy decided to ax the fast ferry before taking office in 2006. Duffy announced the decision in his second week on the job. Not surprising, but one has to wonder if Duffy knew he would can the operation before the primary. He demurred until the very end.)

Going up Lake Avenue, the mayor mentioned Duffy grew up in the 10th Ward. (So did a certain reporter sitting in back.) Cuomo frequently peered out of the windows as the bus passed the tougher parts of Lake Ave., south of Lexington.

When the bus went over the Smith St. bridge, Richards pointed out the old Bausch & Lomb factory site. “This is Old Rochester,” he said.

Passing Genesee Brewery, the mayor said, “We had to convince them this is a place to put their money…There are 500 good jobs there now.”

At Midtown Plaza, Richards gave Cuomo a mini-tour of downtown, pointing out the Sibley, Xerox, Chase, and Bausch & Lomb buildings. Cuomo asked about the occupancy of the Chase building. Richards said a couple floors are vacant. He said he’s frustrated the bank keeps moving people to Midwest.

The mayor pointed out Dinosaur Barbecue, Capron Lofts, and Washington Square Park. Richards said the park is famous for two things – the Occupiers and the crows. “It’s not that we don’t like birds. We don’t like what they leave.”

As the bus approached the Erie Harbor project, the mayor warned the governor, “You’re going to see right away the colors….It is growing on me, actually.” Richards said he stayed out of the paint job controversy, taking advice from Duffy, who told him in such situations to nod and say, “Gee, it’s lovely.”

Going up Mt. Hope Ave. the mayor talked about how the South Wedge emptied in the 1970s, as people fled to the suburbs. “Now, you can’t get a house.” Richards credited the U of R for the rebirth of the neighborhood.

After the tour, I asked the governor what stuck out to him. He said he’s been to Rochester many times and has been on similar tours. (Really?) He didn’t mention anything specific about the city, but said he was struck by the spirit of collaboration and energy among local leaders. He talked in generalities. I’ve criticized Cuomo before for not talking with any specificity about Rochester. But lack of knowledge clearly isn’t the issue, as he’d just gone on a tour. The folksy Schumer-esque style of “all politics is local” just isn’t Cuomo’s thing (at least not publicly).

I hope Cuomo appreciated the tour, which was way too short. Richards gave the tour we all give our visitors. He clearly enjoyed talking about our city – as all Rochesterians do.

20121126-173406.jpg

You may have noticed more roundabouts, curb bump outs, bike lanes and raised crosswalks around the city.

Rochester is trying to calm traffic along many streets. The efforts go way beyond speed bumps.

The streets of the future look like East Ave., St. Paul St. and Mt. Hope Ave. (near downtown). Dewey Ave. has now joined the club. The streets went from four lanes to two lanes. They now have features making it easier for bicyclists and pedestrians. They also have parking lanes in some places.

Drivers, of course, grit their teeth at some of these changes. I spent the morning on Dewey Ave. and heard mixed reviews. Everyone agrees the street is more attractive. But some drivers said at peak times, traffic is at a standstill. Other motorists were confused by the bike lanes.

The changes force us to think about streets differently. They’re not just a way for drivers to get from Point A to Point B in a hurry. They’re also where people live, work, shop, walk, bike and wait for the bus. The mayor explained the rationale this way in a story I did for 13WHAM:

“Dewey Avenue has always been and continues to be a commercial strip, so it provides opportunities for parking. It provides opportunities for people on bicycles. But it also slows down the traffic,” said Mayor Tom Richards. “We don’t want that to be a major thoroughfare. We don’t want expressway going through there.”

These new streets will take some adjustment. But we will have to get used to them. They’re coming to a neighborhood near you.

Links of the Day:

- Rep. Tom Reed backs away from pledge against raising taxes.

- Imagine if Mt. Hope Cemetery got battered by a hurricane. That’s what happened to a historic cemetery in Brooklyn.

- The company owned by the father of Medley Centre owner Scott Congel bought up houses near an Albany area mall and evicted the tenants. The remaining neighbors resent living next to empty houses and say their property values have taken a dive.

- Let’s face it. Mother-in-law jokes are sexist.

- Photo of the iceberg that sank the Titanic is for sale.

There could be some changes to the Party in the Park Thursday night summer concert series.

The mayor proposed a three-year contract for a new producer – Up All Night Productions. The previous producer was the Springut Group. Up All Night also beat out Sahlen’s Stadium, which submitted a proposal.

Here’s an explanation of why the city went with Up All Night in legislation sent to City Council:

The Up All Night proposal demonstrated creativity by collaborating with another promoter with a contemporary flair, Dan Smalls Presents, Inc., of Ithaca. Both entities book regularly operating, year-round venues and are in constant touch with agents. They book Oswego’s Harborfest and a concert series in Cooperstown and are able to block book artists, potentially attracting bigger artists for less money. The Up All Night proposal also focused on enhancements to elevate Party in the Park as an event experience, not just a weekly concert. Buskers, an on-site green team recycling program, and incorporation of local visual artists, and food vending enhancements are some ideas included in the proposal.

The Party in the Park concerts have struggled to find a footing since moving to a parking lot along Exchange St. several years ago and charging a $2 admission fee.

In 2011, 32,000 people attended the concerts – a 40 percent drop from the year before. This year, attendance was up to 36,900.

I’ve long said the venue is an issue and doesn’t make for a pleasant experience.

Links of the Day:

- New York should resist casinos because they don’t provide any real economic benefit and cause actual harm to people a

- One of the Lackawanna Six, which was never accused of being a terror cell, talks about meeting bin Laden and trying to rebuild his life.

- A Seneca County man was charged in the 2008 death of his son. He also is suspected by his former father-in-law of killing his wife in 1991.

- Health exchanges will be the “Expedia” of insurance plans.

STAMP site in Genesee County

 

Did you know there’s a plan to put a giant science and tech park in Genesee County that backers say has the potential to create 30,000 jobs?

The mega-site is called STAMP – short for Science Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park.

From the STAMP website:

The STAMP site has great potential to transform Western New York into a high-tech/clean-tech hub of manufacturing similar to Luther Forest in Saratoga. After five years with $1.5 billion in private investment, over 2,000 jobs will be created onsite and about 5,500 regional supply chain jobs will be leveraged.  Full build-out of the STAMP site is expected to be 15 to 20 years out, but will bring in $10 billion in private capital investment and employ over 10,500 workers directly, 30,000 supply chain jobs and 2,839 construction jobs across both the Buffalo and Rochester metro areas.

Folks, this is way bigger than yogurt.

Economic development officials think they can leverage low cost power and huge amounts of land to attract high tech companies. STAMP is one of the priority projects for the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. The estimated cost to develop the site is $250 million. The Buffalo News reports:

Steven G. Hyde, president and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, said plans for the park are in their sixth year. “This isn’t a pipe dream that just started yesterday. This is real and has lots of potential.”

(snip)

While semiconductor chip manufacturing is a prime target for STAMP, it is not the only high-tech industry that would be a good fit, Hyde said, mentioning solid-state lighting and photovoltaic products as two others.

Competing for such coveted plants requires a massive, available site like STAMP with some infrastructure, Kucharski said. These types of companies want access to a large labor pool like Buffalo and Rochester can offer, but also want to build on a low-vibration “greenfield” with ample room to expand; Kucharski said the STAMP site meets those criteria.

It seems Eastman Business Park and STAMP have the same goals. EBP has more going for it in terms of existing infrastructure and proximity to workers, transportation and the airport. EBP may not be a “greenfield,” but it’s just as large. EBP, which is also a Finger Lakes council priority, will almost certainly require gobs of tax dollars to modernize. Why not shift STAMP there? Why are we going to spend millions of both sites? Both will compete for the same tax dollars and tenants.

This seems like industrial sprawl.

Links of the Day:

- The “elder statesman” of the Sabres, who helped bring the team to Buffalo, has died.

- The story of a Rochester policeman who is gay.

- The Los Angeles Times has the touching and sad story of a religious teenager paralyzed in a shooting who snitches because it’s the right thing to do. Part One and Part Two.

- Let’s remember this holiday season how little retail workers are paid. There are good reasons they should be paid more.

- How much longer can J.C. Penney survive?

- Why pot should be legalized.

Would you take the bus to work if it was easier? How about free?

People don’t use public transit because it takes too long to reach a destination, they have to transfer buses, the times are not convenient or the bus stops are not near their homes. People also like to run errands before and after work. Those are all very legitimate reasons not to take the bus.

But not everyone can feasibly drive to work at the University of Rochester. It has more than 20,000 workers and it’s growing. Parking is finite. Roads are jammed. Not everyone has a vehicle. Not everyone wants a vehicle. Gas is expensive. It hurts the environment.

The College Town project on Mt. Hope Ave. was supposed to have a transit center. But it was scrapped. Meanwhile the college is pushing for its own personal $100 million exit ramp on 390. Given that heaps of (unnecessary?) tax dollars are going into College Town, I called the transportation priorities a travesty.

My faith has been somewhat restored, although I still think the onramp project is ridiculous. The U of R and RGRTA are partnering to get more workers to take the bus. I did this story for 13WHAM:

“We’re partnering with them to make the destinations easier to get to and to make a way to view public transportation much more attractive,” said RGRTA CEO Bill Carpenter.

RGRTA visited the University of Washington in Seattle, which pays for workers to use the bus. RGRTA and the U of R are studying where workers live and where routes make the most sense. It’s possible some routes could bypass the downtown transfer point.

(snip)

“What we will be doing is making it easier for them, whether it’s how our routes are designed or how the fare is paid,” said Carpenter. “We like people to get to work. We’re going to try to make it more convenient. We will make it more convenient for them.”

This is a positive development. It make sense to make public transit more user friendly for the area’s largest employer. Not everyone will choose to take the bus. But there could be an arterial in the city or suburbs where it makes sense for RGRTA to run a direct route to the college. At this point, the entities are figuring out demand. It’s a smart way to approach how to service the customer.

Monroe County cancer statistics 2004-2008

 

Lung cancer kills more people than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. But it gets a very small slice of the research money pie. A story by FairWarning published in the Albany Times Union explains:

Yet while lung cancer remains largely a death sentence — just 15.9 percent of those diagnosed are alive five years later — the federal government funds far less research on the disease than on other common cancers. The discrepancy is starkest when death rates are taken into account. In 2011, the two federal agencies providing most of the research money funded breast cancer research at a rate of $21,641 per death while spending $1,489 per lung cancer death.

(snip)

Part of the challenge is that the disease is so deadly there is no critical mass of survivors to raise its public profile. Most people are diagnosed at an advanced stage and die within six months, said Jeffrey Borgia, a cancer researcher at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “There’s not much time to fit a walkathon in,” he said.

(snip)

In fact, the original color for lung cancer ribbons was clear – as in invisible.

“Every single corporation wants to have a pink ribbon on their product, but there’s nobody who has raised their hand for lung cancer,” said Linda Wenger, executive director of the Uniting Against Lung Cancer research foundation.

The article quotes experts who speculate the stigma associated with smoking may be to blame for the disparity. Yet 15 percent of people who get lung cancer never smoked. And many who get lung cancer quit smoking long ago.

In Monroe County, lung cancer accounts 13 percent of cancer diagnoses, but 28 percent of all deaths. That makes it the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the Rochester region.

Upstate New York has a higher rate of lung cancer than New York City because more people smoke. Nineteen percent of Monroe County residents smoke.

We don’t often talk about lung cancer. Maybe that should change.

Links of the Day:

- Grading schools – and teachersdoes nothing for education and may do real harm.

- Two New York high school football teams are playing each other for the state title. They have a history of supporting each off the field.

- The massive salaries of college football coaches are often subsidized by taxpayers.

- Billboards are ugly, right? Why not make them hanging gardens?

 

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

 

What appears to be a man delivering a turkey to a woman and child in 1910 in Rochester.

 

Poultry stalls at the Public Market at Thanksgiving time, 1911

 

Start of the YMCA Thanksgiving race at Gibbs and Grove Place in 1916

 

Turkeys for 55 cents a pound for sale on Front St. in 1919

 

Collecting food for needy people at a church at North and Franklin, 1920

 

Elmer Worden of Chili, 1933

 

Sibley window display, 1940

 

Links of the Day:

- A baby was born this Thanksgiving on Route 590.

- An outspoken Rochester domestic violence activist may not have been truthful about her past.

- Using homeland security money, Buffalo police purchased a space-like contraption to watch over large crowds.

- The Cortland County district attorney’s past as a porn star made Jay Leno’s monologue – twice.

 

 

The Lilac Festival could be in for some changes.

The festival has been produced by Jim LeBeau’s company for more than a decade. (LeBeau has been around so long, he and county officials couldn’t tell me offhand the exact number of years he’s produced the festival.)

LeBeau’s contract is up. The county put out an obligatory Request for Proposals on behalf of Lilac Festival Incorporated, a joint venture of the city, county and visitors association. Even though he’s a Friend of Maggie, I’m not so sure LeBeau is a sure thing. From the 13WHAM News story I did:

LeBeau told 13WHAM News he plans to submit another proposal.

Monroe County Parks Director Larry Staub said, despite LeBeau’s close ties with the county, he is not a shoo-in to get the contract. “We are looking for fresh ideas and energy. This is very exciting.”

If LeBeau does get the contract, he’ll have to address issues raised by an LFI survey. Younger people, families and new visitors are looking for a more diverse array of music, food and vendors. They’re put off by huge crowds, parking hassles and bad weather. (I’m not sure what anyone can do about Mother Nature.)

Neighborhood groups are put off by commercialism and carnival-like atmosphere. They think the flowers should be the main attraction.

Proposals are due on Monday.

 

 

Lilac Sunday, 1922

Facts about Lilac Festival:

  • Highland Park was founded in 1888 when nurserymen George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry donated 20 acres to the city.
  • Frederick Law Olmstead designed the park.
  • Horticulturist John Dunbar donated the first lilac bushes in 1892.
  • The first Lilac Festival was an informal gathering of 3,000 people on a Sunday in May in 1898.
  • The Lilac Queen was added in 1930.
  • Lilac Sunday became the 10-day Lilac Festival in the late 1970s.
  • Today there are more than 1,200 lilac bushes with 500 varieties over Highland Park’s 155 acres.

Lilac Queen Candidates, 1930

Lilac Queen Parade

 

 

 

 

 

 

Links of the Day:

- The Western New York Flash are part of a new women’s professional soccer league. Great news!

- Just to be clear, the DEC says there’s no such thing as Big Foot.

- Tops’ profits were hurt by the availability of generic drugs.

- A beautiful Albany area church is slated to be knocked down for a Price Chopper.

- People got naked at a San Francisco council meeting banning nudity.

Al’s Stand is closing!

“It’s the convergence of two pipe dreams. Two things that will never happen have decided to never happen together.” – Bob Lonsberry, WHAM 1180

 

One could easily laugh off the idea of a $750 million development along Route 104 in Irondequoit. The price tag is one of the very few details we know about the plan to revitalize Medley Centre. Developer Scott Congel, son of mall magnate Robert Congel, hasn’t given interviews or taken questions. He’s the man behind the curtain.

But Congel is known to local politicians, who have entertained his big ideas for the mall. According to state records, he’s paying Al D’Amato’s lobbying firm $15,000 a month to work on Medley Centre. There’s no question Congel is following the Destiny USA playbook of PILOTs and taxpayer support. While Destiny is not the behemoth promised, it is still something.

According to COMIDA documents, Congel has incurred $90 million in expenses so far on Medley. The East Irondequoit school district believes the PILOT says the money must be spent. COMIDA says it counts if he has the money secured. Either way, he has a ton of money in the deal and is current on the PILOT payments. (By the way, who else is clamoring to do anything with the mall?)

It’s easy to laugh off Congel until it isn’t.

Mayor Tom Richards dismissed the Rochester Broadway Theater League’s plan to ditch Midtown Plaza site and in favor of a theater at Medley in a report I did for 13WHAM News:

Is it the most important thing for my administration to be working on? No.

I’m sure they could build something cheaper. But cheaper is what it is. If they want to build a metal box out in Medley and that’s okay with them, then that’s okay.

I’m just not sure what kind of credibility this Medley proposal has and I’m not going to chase it. I’m just not.

The mayor isn’t going to fight for something he doesn’t think is real. He told RBTL to make it real by raising $15 million of private money. But I don’t think RBTL could have pulled anything off without a champion in the mayor. RBTL needs someone with power fighting for public and private cash.

I have a feeling if Medley moves forward, community leaders will get antsy. Only then will the fight for a downtown theater begin. If the city loses, future generations will lament the shortsightedness of moving Broadway to East Ridge Road.

Links of the Day:

- A tax-exempt Syracuse hospital will pay for city services. Rochester should go after institutions for deals like this one.

- Time Warner’s CEO says cord-cutting is limited to low-income Americans. (I must be one of them.)

- Football coaches at major colleges saw a 70 percent hike in pay over the last six years. (Did you even get a cost-of-living increase all of those years?)

- More New Yorkers believe in Santa Claus this year compared to last year.

The Village of Webster is putting a moratorium on private roads in new developments. The village wants to be a walkable community and private roads keep other people out. That’s by design, according to a report in the Democrat and Chronicle:

“Our comprehensive plan calls for a walkable community, but a private road is private property and village residents would not be free to walk on those roads,” village trustee Christine Reynolds said.

(snip)

Lee Sinsebox, an engineer working on that development (40-townhouses), phrased Reynolds’ point about private drives differently: “It keeps the community a little more private instead of inviting people through the development that don’t really live there,” he said.

Private developments do not foster a community spirit and can perpetuate fear and stereotypes. Keeping out “others” has consequences. After the Trayvon Martin shooting in a gated community in Florida, a lot was written about private housing complexes. Researcher Rich Benjamin wrote in the New York Times:

Gated communities churn a vicious cycle by attracting like-minded residents who seek shelter from outsiders and whose physical seclusion then worsens paranoid groupthink against outsiders.

(snip)

In this us-versus-them mental landscape, them refers to new immigrants, blacks, young people, renters, non-property-owners and people perceived to be poor.

We are seeing the fear of “others” play out in the Village of Pittsford, where residents fear   renters of luxury apartment buildings.

Good for Webster for taking a stand and examining the type of community it would like to be.

Links of the Day:

- Five hundred workers at a state fraud agency apparently have nothing to do. That’s only the beginning of the problems.

- An Erie County man sued a marriage counselor after finding her in bed with this wife.

- Will the rules of Albany become the rules of Washington when it comes to negotiating a budget?

The University of Rochester, city and state are pushing to spend more than $100 million to add a new interchange on Route 390 at Kendrick Road. The project would also make improvements to the congested Routes 15 and 15A.

The University of Rochester claims it cannot grow and add jobs without its own on-ramp.

There’s a guy who wrote a book called “Walkable City” who slams these kinds of arguments.

Jeff Speck calls traffic studies “bull—-” and talks at length about the phenomenon of induced demand. If you expand roads, more people will drive on them and you’re left with even worse congestion:

Induced demand is the name for what happens when increasing the supply of roadways lowers the time cost of driving, causing more people to drive, and obliterating any reductions in congestion.

(snip)

I was delighted to read the following recently, in Newsweek, hardly an esoteric publication: “demand from drivers tends to quickly overwhelm the new supply; today engineers acknowledge that building new roads usually makes traffic worse.”

(snip)

…you are paying to drive whether you drive or not, in which the more you drive, the less each mile costs, and in which the greatest constraint to driving, then, is congestion. While the cost of the trip will rarely keep us home, the threat of being stuck in traffic often will, at least in our larger cities. Congestion saves fuel because people hate to waste their time being miserable.

Speck isn’t necessarily arguing congestion is a good thing. Rather, he’s saying it’s silly to keep spending tax dollars to encourage more driving and create more congestion. The way to relieve congestion is something no one likes to talk about – public transit.

Meanwhile, the U of R scuttled the bus station component of the College Town project, even though in a recent Rochester Business Journal article, RGRTA said the college is its number one destination. The U of R and the college are still working on a transit plan.

Maybe that should be the priority, not an exit that will likely not alleviate traffic and could make it worse.

Links of the Day:

- RG&E and NYSEG were ripped by the state for managing on the fly and cutting staff.

- The gambling lobby is taking advantage of Hurricane Sandy and telling state officials casinos can help fill state coffers again.

- Say Yes, the organization that offers free college tuition to Syracuse and Buffalo students, often exaggerates its claims of success.

- Hotels, some in historic buildings, sprout up in downtown Buffalo.

- The strongest housing markets are in walkable urban areas.

- November 19 is World Toilet Day.

Is it child endangerment when a teen gets a lap dance or is it lousy parenting?

South Glens Falls police are investigating a 16-year-old’s birthday party.  Some of the attendees were as young as 14. There were scantily-clad strippers who provided the entertainment. The Albany Times Union reports:

Defense Attorney Cheryl Coleman said endangering the welfare of a child is a broadly written statute, but she doubts allowing a teen to get a lap dance violates it.

“It’s sure not something I would have done for my son at 16,” she said. “We involve the government and criminal justice system in far too much. The endangering the welfare law is really vague. If you use the same logic, you could charge people with it for taking their child to McDonald’s several times a week.”

(snip)

But (District Attorney) Murphy said it depends on what contact was made, even if the strippers kept their underwear on.

“The statute says touching of the private area through clothing is a Class A misdemeanor,” he said. “Bad parenting isn’t a crime but endangering the welfare of a child is.”

There’s no question this party was in extremely bad taste. The parents who hired the strippers are teaching the boys in attendance it’s okay to objectify women and pay for sexual favors. For some of the boys, it may have been an introduction of sorts to sex (see photo in article).

It’s yucky, but is it a crime?

I’ve long been disturbed by the use of endangering the welfare of a child statute. It’s extremely broad. EWOC charges can be levied for withholding food and not sending children to school. It’s also used for everything from leaving a kid in the car alone to letting your child hang out with a sex offender. Some parents are charged when they fight in front of their children. Some parents have been charged with EWOC for dropping their kids off at the mall.

One former prosecutor told me EWOC is like pornography. “You know it when you see it.”

Police use the law to make judgments on parenting. But the cultural standard of parenting has shifted to overprotecting kids. That means there’s a wide range of parental behavior. Should we be criminalizing parents who make decisions that are different from our own? (This is a fantastic read on the subject.)

While I’m offended by the notion of strippers for teenagers, I’m honestly not sure the parents belong in the legal system.

Links of the Day: 

- Troy, N.Y. is getting rid of ShotSpotter because it doesn’t work. Meanwhile, Rochester continues to spend money the system.

- Buffalo ponders what to do with the HSBC Tower. Apartments and condos?

- Rochester won the Golden Snowball contest last winter, but Syracuse hasn’t given up the trophy.

- A Bruce Springsteen fan complains of wheelchair accommodations at Blue Cross Arena. The tour had similar complaints at Vernon Downs.

- Zara refuses to make plus-size clothing.

Television news covers its fair share of crime. I think we cover crime too often and I think we tend to cover the same kinds of crimes. Often, it seems child molesters, drunk drivers and “bad moms”  get disproportionate coverage.

Today, I covered crime. I interviewed two victims of two separate crimes. They’re innocent people whose lives are not the same because of the decisions of a stranger. They’re people we don’t often hear about. What happened to them was serious, but these victims rarely tell their stories on television news. Sometimes, we don’t ask.

The first crime victim I interviewed was Sherry Argro. She almost died one year ago this week when she was struck by a drunk, texting driver who left the scene. Sherry had a broken leg and pelvis, a cracked diaphragm, ruptured spleen and a collapsed lung. She had seven surgeries. Sherry celebrated her 40th birthday on Tuesday. Amazingly, she has kind words for the young driver who took away her ability to work and walk normally:

“I just hope she gets the help that she needs and the counseling that she needs,” Argro said. “Hopefully she can get her life back together, as well as me trying to get mine back together.”

The second crime victim I interviewed was Dave Cooper. He walked or biked to his job at RTS every day for 15 years. Last month, he was beaten and robbed. His face and nose and fingers were fractured. When a passerby found him, Cooper asked to be taken to work before the hospital because he didn’t want his bosses to think he didn’t show up. Cooper is mostly recovered, but he’s not the same:

“It bothers me because I enjoy walking,” he said. “I don’t feel like I can walk, feel safe walking anymore after dark.”

Life isn’t fair, is it?

Argro and Cooper didn’t deserve what happened to them. But thank goodness, they’re alive. And they got to tell their stories.

Links of the Day:

- A Buffalo pastor forgave his son’s killer.

- Jean-Claude Brizard says his Chicago communications director undermined him. Great read.

- An Onondaga County village stopped adding fluoride to the water. Pipes are more important than teeth, apparently.

- Rochester is shorted on road funding. Why does this not surprise me?

- “After an hour in the cold, I can report that Paula Broadwell eats food and wears sweaters.” Some reporter stakeouts are so dumb.

Explore a cave in Lower Falls.

A think tank, the New York Foundation for Education Reform, recommended New York state explore school “open enrollment.”

“Open enrollment” is school choice on steroids. This group favors vouchers and charter schools, but it also suggests suburban schools take in city kids.

Monroe County has such a program in Urban Suburban. Seven suburban districts hold slots for students from the city. While this is a great program, it does little to address segregation and concentrated poverty. Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski once called the program “tokenism” because of the small numbers of students allowed to participate.

Studies show integrating schools lifts the performance of low-income students and does not disrupt the performance of high-income students.  Yet no one – not even the governor – believes metro school districts will ever happen.

“Open enrollment” could more widely integrate schools. But the concept assumes suburban schools have the space. It also assumes suburban schools would throw open their doors to city students in larger numbers. I got this message from a parent whose child attends an Urban Suburban school:

I’m paying a metric #($*& ton of money for ____ schools. The teachers are excellent and the overall quality of the district is very high. I’m not willing to have my investment, if you will, be soured. Not for one second. This is my children’s education and my school taxes being played with. I welcome students from the RCSD with open arms, but if they disrupt my kid’s class, I have absolutely *no* hesitation to call the district and ask for their removal.

Many, many parents share this view. The way our schools are funded has a lot to do with this kind of thinking. If people are paying $7,000 a year in property taxes, it’s not hard to see why they don’t want to give “freebies” to outsiders.

Let’s think about this parent’s “investment.” This parent also pays a lot of tax dollars that go to the RCSD via the state. This parent pays a lot of tax dollars that go to welfare, Medicaid and the state prison system. God forbid this parents ever becomes a victim of a crime perpetrated by someone who dropped out of school.

We’re either in this together, or we’re not.

Read “open enrollment” report.

Links of the Day:

- A lawsuit has been filed against Time Warner Cable over the new modem rental fee.

- Will New York driver licenses go black and white?

- A Syracuse high school gives Muslim students a room to pray.

- This is not cool. The New York State Lottery planted a fake news story to solicit info about a fraudulent claim.

Xerox does a lot of things these days apart from making copiers: Traffic cameras, airline call centers, parking meters, health care exchanges and digitizing government records.

Add another one: Scanning the fingers of low-income parents who drop off their children to daycare.

Mississippi has awarded a massive contract to Xerox to come up with such a system. The idea is to make sure parents getting government vouchers for daycare are actually using the service and not wasting tax dollars. Louisiana is the only other state that scans parents’ fingers.

Aside from shaming poor people, this is problematic on so many levels. Daycares can’t predict when parents won’t drop off their children, so they have to maintain certain staffing levels. Some parents might be scared by finger scans and not utilize daycare. Providers have to man the machine at all times to make sure it’s being used properly. Xerox is installing the scans free of charge, but daycares are responsible for any damage. If a parent forgets to swipe her finger, the daycare might not get paid.

The cost of Xerox’s $12.9 million contract for finger scans is now coming under fire.

In a state that has more than 8,000 children on a waiting list for daycare, you’d think this money could have been used more wisely.

Links of the Day:

- This whole “open enrollment” idea for poor city students is a wonderful idea, if only suburban districts would welcome them with open arms.

- Senator Chuck Schumer defends federal spending at the Genesee County yogurt manufacturing complex. I previously wrote about this “Yogurt Welfare.”

- University of Albany students are accused of forcing fraternity pledges to lie face down in water, beating them with rubber hoses and making them beg for mercy.

- The supermarket wars in Massachusetts heat up, with Wegmans in the fray.

- Real New York Times headline: Finally, a Place in Brazil Where Dogs Can Go for Discreet Sex.

Patronage:

a. The power to distribute or appoint people to governmental or political positions.

b. The act of distributing or appointing people to such positions.

c. The positions so distributed or filled.

The Monroe County Water Authority has no doubt been a bastion of Republican patronage for a long time. The appointment of Pittsford Supervisor Bill Carpenter to a deputy director position that had been vacant for seven years was another example. Previous appointments:

  • Former County Legislature President Dennis Pelletier served as director.
  • Former County Legislature president, Wayne Zyra was hired by the authority.
  • Former County Communications Director Jim Smith worked as deputy director.
  • Former Greece GOP chairman Ed Marianetti served as water authority director.
  • John Stanwix, former chairman of the Monroe County GOP, served as authority director and was convicted of steering contracts to a consulting firm while on the authority payroll.
  • County Executive Maggie Brooks’ husband was director of security and is now a consultant.

Monroe County Republicans have rightly been raked over the coals for awarding jobs and contracts to friends and political supporters. The Water Authority is one of the worst examples. The party’s close relationship with county government is apparent to even casual observers. County employees are active in politics, whether it’s by choice or an expectation of the job.

But let’s be honest. Local Democrats are also guilty of patronage, though it’s not as concentrated or obvious. Here are some examples:

James Sheppard – Rochester’s police chief is connected to Former Mayor Bob Duffy, who once served as police chief. Duffy made Sheppard head of his Office of Public Integrity. On his way out the door, Duffy named Sheppard police chief.

George Markert – The head of the Office of Public Integrity and former deputy police chief is also connected to Duffy through his years in the police department.

David Moore – After his ouster as police chief, Moore was given the job of heading up the Office of Public Integrity. (Sensing a theme here?) Moore is now head of security for Monroe Community College.

Patricia Malgieri - Her husband was Duffy’s campaign treasurer. When Duffy was elected, he made Malgieri his deputy mayor. She now works for the RCSD as the superintendent’s special assistant.

Molly Clifford – The former chairwoman of the Monroe County Democratic Committee supported Duffy early in his campaign. He made her head of the neighborhood service centers. When her job was eliminated, she became a fire department administrator. Now she’s interim director of the parking bureau.

Mike Green – After his confirmation to the federal bench was scuttled, the governor gave the former district attorney a job as Executive Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. There’s no one in the top job, because state chiefs make less money than deputies.

Vincent Esposito – The former county legislator and staff member to Assemblyman Joe Morelle was recently appointed to a job with Empire State Development.

Scott GaddyGantt was accused of trying to hook up his former protege when he suddenly supported red light cameras – but only the kind of cameras for which Gaddy’s firm was lobbying.

Ben Douglas – Duffy gave the city councilman a plum job in the city’s legal department, even though he’s not a lawyer. Many believed this was done to pave the way for Lovely Warren’s appointment to City Council. She was later elected to the seat. Warren works in Gantt’s office as his counsel.

Darryl Porter – Duffy made the former Rochester school board president his special assistant, a job he holds today under Mayor Tom Richards.

Don’t even get me started on the nonprofits (*cough* Baden Street Settlement *cough* Hillside Work Scholarship) that have benefited from close ties to powerful Democrats and vice versa.

None of this is to say the people who get these jobs or contracts are not qualified or deserving. Americans, however, hold their noses at patronage because we believe in equal access to opportunity. Meanwhile, we all know connections do indeed matter in any field.

Especially government.

Links of the Day:

- Kodak has secured financing to emerge from bankruptcy.

- Do you think the city got down on its hands and knees and begged Larry Glazer to join the Midtown project?

- The Republican Party is learning it can’t ignore cities.

- Here’s one war on drugs that’s working. Do you think it’s because people figured out there’s nothing fun about bath salts?