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McFadden

Adam McFadden Facebook Page

 

Adam McFadden wasn’t the only person to question whether Bob Duffy’s appointment to the CEO position at the Rochester Business Alliance would get as much scrutiny as McFadden’s appointment to the Rochester Housing Authority.

Supporters of McFadden and Mayor Lovely Warren have repeatedly said black politicians get more heat in the media than white politicians. I vehemently disagree. Ask Maggie Brooks, whose husband is under indictment, if the media has been soft. If you don’t want the media breathing down your neck, don’t do questionable things. Better yet, don’t run for public office.

But while there are many difference between the RHA and RBA sagas, McFadden is right that the Duffy appointment should raise our collective eyebrows.

First, let’s talk about the differences.

RHA is a government entity, thus the public has a huge right to dissect its dealings. RBA is not, though it has close ties to government. At the RHA, someone was fired before McFadden could get the job. RHA insists Alex Castro was terminated because of wrongdoing. Until they spell out Castro’s failings, it looks as though Castro was pushed aside so McFadden could step in. Castro’s firing could be very costly to taxpayers.

Now let’s talk about the similarities.

1. Both of the appointments raise ethical issues.

As lieutenant governor, Duffy was in charge of the economic development councils, which awarded grants to the very businesses for whom he will now lobby. Duffy tells Gannett he recused himself. There’s also the matter of the Public Officer’s Law, which has varying interpretations of whether Duffy can lobby for two years after leaving office. Duffy says he’s cleared by JCOPE, the state’s ethics commission. Duffy should release that JCOPE decision, and if one is not in writing, he should get one in writing.

The Rochester Board of Ethics is looking into whether McFadden can serve on City Council and run the RHA. Council has very little to do with RHA, as the ethics board is discovering.

2. People lied.

George Moses, the chairman of the RHA board, lied to the media the day after Castro was fired, saying the board still had to interview candidates for interim director. He did not disclose that McFadden was hired at the same meeting Castro was fired.

Sandra Parker, whom Duffy is replacing, told me last year she was delaying her retirement because there was more she wanted to get done at RBA. She said she wasn’t involved in the search for a new CEO and didn’t know if Duffy was in the running. But yesterday she admitted she delayed her retirement so Duffy could get the job. Her statement calls into question whether Duffy really withdrew his name from consideration, as he asserted last year.

3. McFadden and Duffy both got the jobs because they hold elected office and have friends in high places. Putting aside whether they’re qualified, they got these top jobs because of who they know.

There’s no way McFadden, the head of a $1 million nonprofit, a man with no experience working in housing, would have been appointed to lead a $62 million agency if he was not a councilman with close ties to the mayor.

There’s no way anyone would delay their retirement for a year for someone who was not a friend. There’s no way a search committee would decide not to do any interviews for anyone other than the lieutenant governor, a former mayor who decided he didn’t like state politics and needed a job.

This last point is why we should care about both of these stories. The media – and the public – is a check on power. You can decide how much you care, but you can’t decide if we don’t tell you what’s going on.

Update: I deliberately did not discuss the qualifications of McFadden and Duffy to perform these jobs. But someone pointed out to me that I’m implying McFadden cannot do the job. I do not want my statement interpreted that way. I was only saying he got the job because of his connections, not that he isn’t capable of performing well in the post. McFadden has as many – if not more – credentials as other people placed into city and county management jobs over the years.

 

Tweet of the Day:

 

tweet

 

Links of the Day:

 

- Remember when the state promised no one would ever be stranded on the Thruway again? Yeah…

- What it’s like to be stuck on the Thruway for 24 hours.

- Ban the Box law went into effect this week in Rochester, but many employers were not aware.

- Blacks are arrested at far higher rates than whites in Monroe County.

- Turning Stone plans $100 million expansion, including upscale stores, movie theater and dining.

- Boston’s charter schools have high suspension rates.

- There’s a growing movement to make sure students accused of sexual assault have due process and representation.

skyline

Credit: City of Rochester

 

Last month, I wrote about our community’s digital divide. Data from the 2013 U.S. Census American Community Survey showed lower rates of computer ownership and broadband Internet adoption in the City of Rochester compared to Monroe County as a whole. Three out of four households in the county have high-speed Internet, compared to three of five households in the city. The county’s Internet connectivity is on par with the national average.

It turns out Rochester is one of the least connected cities in the entire country. Governing Magazine ranked cities with more than 100,000 people based on the percentage of households that have Internet of any kind. Rochester ranked 280th out of 296 cities. That’s absolutely abysmal.

Governing writes:

To a large degree, Internet adoption mirrors a city’s demographics. Poorer households might not sign up because of the cost. Whites also report higher Internet adoption than black and Hispanic households. Age is another pronounced demographic divides. About 64 percent of the 65-and-over population reported having Internet subscriptions, compared to 81 percent for the rest of the population.

The census data shows 13 percent of Rochester residents only have broadband on their smartphones.

There are real benefits for the city to getting more people online. The Internet is the whole world’s library – at your desk. High-speed Internet helps both children and adults develop literacy, skills, innovations and more. Knowledge is power.

Is the digital divide an issue the city should take on?

 

Links of the Day:

 

- The Rochester Housing Authority has not yet posted the job of executive director.

- We still don’t know how much the state spent to lure Amazing Spider-Man 2’s production.

- I was touched by the D&C’s story of a victim of violence who became a perpetrator. This story is so common – and so sad.

- Ten thousand tons of unwanted Concord grapes grown in New York will drop to the earth.

- Harvard has a cool online survey to gauge your heart health.

- “Do it for Utica?” Residents are not happy with an op-ed in the New York Times.

 

Stat of the Day:

 

It appears the city vote was key to Louise Slaughter’s victory:

 

Monroe County Board of Elections

Monroe County Board of Elections

 

Crazy Photo Op of the Day:

 

The city actually shut down the Inner Loop for several hours five days early so politicians could throw ceremonial dirt – that was later swept away by city cleaning crews.

 

Credit: @whec_nrudd

Credit: @whec_nrudd

 

Crowd gathers at Four Corners to hear bugler on Armistice Day, 1930

Crowd gathers at Four Corners to hear bugler on Armistice Day, 1930

 

On this Veterans Day, here’s a snapshot of the Rochester metropolitan area’s veteran population.

There are 62,832 veterans, down 9 percent from 2011.

– Gulf War II (2001 and later): 8 percent

– Gulf War I: 12 percent

– Vietnam: 36 percent

– Korean: 11 percent

– World War II: 9 percent

Many of our veterans are aging, with 28 percent over the age of 75.

Our veterans are financially more secure than non-veterans. They have a poverty rate of 7 percent, compared to 13 percent for non-veterans. They have a higher median income and lower unemployment rate.

One out of four veterans has a disability, compared to one out of seven for non-veterans.

The U.S. Census compiled facts about veterans nationally and did a separate breakout on their economic status.

 

Links of the Day:

 

- “Despite their sacrifices, and those of thousands more, all we have to show for it are two failed wars.

- Today is the 220th Anniversary celebration of the Canandaigua Treaty.

- New car sales are way up in Monroe County.

- The Mormon church revealed founder Joseph Smith had 40 wives, some of whom were very young or already married.

- The Asian population is growing in Monroe County.

- Bats are hackers! Mexican free-tailed bats will jam other bats’ bio-sonar to steal food.

- The Oatmeal: “Dear Senator Ted Cruz, I’m going to explain to you how Net Neutrality ACTUALLY works.”

November 3 memo to teachers

November 3 memo to teachers

 

Once again, the Rochester City School District has instructed teachers not to give any grades below 50 percent.

Some teachers are outraged by this practice. Students who score below 50 percent likely don’t come to class, don’t do the work and don’t know the material. These teachers feel insulted that cannot give a true grade. They call this grade inflation.

November 3 memo to teachers

November 3 memo to teachers

But here’s the rationale. If a student gets a terribly low score, he may not be able to recover and the entire year is lost. Even if that student scores an 85 on the final exam, one or two semesters with scores below 50 percent could mean he gets no credit for the class. And let’s face it – 50 percent is still failing.

If there’s a problem with grade inflation, the more likely scenario is that teachers give the students who show up to class and do the work passing grades each semester. But when final exam time rolls around, the student fails the test. That means the grades throughout the year were likely not a true a reflection of the student’s knowledge.

My dad was my Course I math teacher at Marshall. He said on the first day of class that we would be graded on what we know. If we skipped class and didn’t do homework, we probably wouldn’t know anything. But his message was clear. He wasn’t going to be punitive to students who demonstrated mastery of the material.

Telling teachers to change grades certainly presents an ethical issue. In a district where fewer than half of students graduate on time, this is clearly an effort to make sure as many as possible get class credits. But even with the class credits, they cannot graduate without passing the required Regents exams. Those grades are the ones that matter the most.

 

Links of the Day:

 

- President Obama says the FCC should reclassify the Internet as a utility.

- There are multiple problems with Rochester’s study of red light cameras, according to an anti-camera advocacy group. Here’s another takedown of studies like the one the city commissioned.

- A D&C columnist was criticized for his use of the word “buffonery.”

- “What the world apparently sees is a woman lugging around a giant umbilical cord.”

- The Susan B. Anthony House is not happy with the use of Anthony’s name.

- Check out this awesome interactive map of Rochester’s trading partners.

- Kodak has a role in “Interstellar.”

- Sexy Syracuse University?

 

Tweet of the Day:

 

Bills tweet

USDA website

USDA website

 

Monroe County is a fairly urban place, but agriculture is still big business.

This remains true despite a huge drop in the number of farms. There were 475 farms in 2012, down from 585 farms in 2007. Acreage dipped below 100,000 for the first time, a 26 percent drop in 5 years. Yet the market value of crop and livestock sales has increased 25 percent since 2007 to $90,580,000. The average farm is 208 acres, pulls in $190,696 in sales and receives $13,000 in government payments. (Monroe County has a website detailing farmland protection plans.)

Last week, the USDA released interactive maps detailing the finances, characteristics of farmers, ownership details, plants, livestock, and more of farms across the country. The data is from 2012.

You can definitely spend some time checking out this web tool.

Google Street View, Spencerport

Google Street View, Spencerport

Some things I learned:

– Seventy-eight percent of farms are owned by families or individuals.

– Seventy percent of principal owners operate their own farms. Only 16 percent don’t live on the farm.

– This surprised me: Thirty percent of Monroe County farms have a woman principal operator.

– This did not surprise me: Thirty percent of farm owners are aged 65 or older.

– Thirty-nine percent of harvested cropland in Monroe County is corn. Eighteen percent is soybean. Twelve percent is hay. Ten percent is wheat. Two percent are orchards.

– More than half of Monroe County farms – 54 percent – have annual sales of less than $10,000. Thirteen percent of Monroe County farms have sales of more than $250,000.

– Twenty-two percent of farms receive government payments.

– There are 6 cows per 100 acres of farmland in Monroe County. Nearly one-third are milk cows.

Our neighboring counties obviously have more farms, but I thought these maps are a neat reminder of the diversity right here in our own backyard.

 

Google Maps, Chili

Google Maps, Chili

 

Links of the Day:

 

- A new Siena poll shows Rich Funke with only 9-point lead over Ted OBrien.

- A high-achieving New York teacher sued the state over an evaluation labeling her “ineffective.”

- Private companies are also collecting license plate data.

- An FCC proposal could pave the way for a la carte Internet TV packages.

- It’s just not right to watch a man risk his life for TV ratings.

- Macy’s Herald Square has had a makeover, including the famous shoe department, where runners will find one pair out of 250,000 and bring it to customers in two minutes or less!

The firing of Rochester Housing Authority Director Alex Castro his replacement by City Councilman Adam McFadden raise a number of questions.

1. What did Castro do?

According to public housing residents and previous board members, Castro was popular and competent. But when he was fired, RHA Board Chairman George Moses said there were “questionable business practices” and Castro “stonewalled” the board’s requests for information. Mayor Lovely Warren said she’s received information that is “appalling” and residents complained of bad living conditions and safety issues. Moses and Warren say they cannot give specifics because the matter is a “personnel issue.”

This is a public agency and Castro was earning six figures. There’s nothing inherently private about his employment. His firing could cost taxpayers $1 million. More importantly, if there are major problems at this authority, which has a $62 million budget and serves 22,000 residents, we need to know what’s happening.

If the mayor truly wants to move on from this controversy, the public deserves answers.

2. Was there a deal in place?

At the October 14 meeting, McFadden was hired immediately after Castro was fired. McFadden said he didn’t know he had been immediately appointed. The next day, Moses said he had other candidates to consider, misleading the public about what happened at the meeting. Do you believe McFadden’s name came up for the first time on October 14?(See Question #3.)

3. What did the mayor know and when did she know it?

I first heard Castro could be fired and replaced by McFadden back in August. When I made phone calls, I had sources who heard the same. If reporters, political operatives and City Hall workers had heard this was coming, how could the mayor not know? That begs the question of whether she ordered McFadden’s hire, helped orchestrate it or tacitly condoned it. She absolutely had the power to make these moves, as she appointed five of seven board members. She also had the power to stop the train from leaving the station.

The mayor said yesterday, “I was notified along with everyone else of both the dismissal of Alex Castro and the hiring of Adam McFadden, as interim director of the Authority.”

But what did she know before it all went down?

4. How is McFadden the problem?

The mayor threw McFadden under the bus when she asked him to step down. It’s true he is a polarizing figure. But McFadden did not fire Castro or hire himself. The mayor’s board did. Last week, the mayor demanded answers from the board on the situation. This week, she is standing solidly behind her picks, despite counsel from some supporters to clean house.

By only calling for McFadden’s resignation, the mayor has twisted herself into a pretzel. She’s also now at the center of the controversy.

5. Why does the mayor constantly need do-overs?

The mayor’s press strategy needs a tremendous amount of work. You can’t just blame her advisers. More than once, I’ve been told she disregards their advice.

Warren seemed totally unprepared for my question yesterday about whether she had asked Moses and McFadden to resign. There were three TV stations present. She was not direct, forceful or clear. Hours later, she called the one TV station not present to explain herself. She clearly wanted to talk to reporters who do not have as much knowledge of the situation, instead of those who have covered the story from the beginning.

Her press statement explaining why she wanted McFadden to resign was similarly lacking, with vague statements like, “Everyone knows what I went through at the beginning of the year thus I would never condone this.”

But on October 16, she told me she supported the board’s actions. That means she “condoned this,” until she felt the heat.

 

Links of the Day:

 

- Astorino is within four points of Cuomo in the Syracuse area.

- Cuomo and Christie’s Ebola strategies are based on politics, not science.

- The Democrat and Chronicle makes cutting jobs and forcing reporters to reapply for their own jobs just wonderful.

- “If…Jaylen Fryberg, had been a Muslim, his actions would have instantly been deemed a terror attack.”

- In Denmark, a Big Mac costs 80 cents more and fast food workers get paid $20 and hour.

- A former Kodak photographer finds old film damaged by bacteria. But he’s not disappointed!

WarrenThe annual Voice of the Voter Poll, a joint project by WXXI, the Democrat and Chronicle, 13WHAM News and WDKX, reveals Mayor Lovely Warren has low approval ratings.

The poll found 63 percent of Monroe County voters have a negative opinion of Warren, rating her job performance as “just fair” or “poor.”

The mayor’s office slammed the poll, releasing this statement:

“If a poll is going to be conducted about the City and its Mayor, then they should poll actual City voters. If a poll is going to ask about race relations in our City, then it should be more inclusive of minority voters. This poll, as always, is not reflective of the electorate in the City of Rochester.  The Voice of the Voter partners should be ashamed to release a poll with a 78 percent white and a 73 percent suburban sample size. Polls like these are flawed, and only perpetuate the feelings of disenfranchisement among City voters.”

I believe mayors should value what suburban voters think of their performance. They work in the city and play in the city. Mayors should want more of them to work and play in the city. They should want more of them to invest in the city and move back to the city. They should recognize that suburban voters have a stake in the city’s future. If suburban voters think you’re doing a bad job, their perception of the city as a whole may be negative. The bottom line is that mayors are important regional voices.

A poll like this could also shed light on whether Warren could run for higher office.

But the fact this poll doesn’t break down how city residents feel about the mayor’s job performance is a glaring omission. These are the mayor’s constituents. She is directly responsible to them. They’re the ones who hold her accountable. The poll’s crosstabs break down responses by demographic for all questions except ones on the job performance of politicians. This is blatantly unfair to Warren and gives city residents less importance than suburban residents. The breakdown should have been included – and reported by the sponsoring outlets. I’ve gotten no response to my tweet about this:

 

 

The mayor’s other beefs with the poll are less convincing. The county is made up of about 72 percent suburban voters. The county is also nearly 80 percent white. If you’re going to do a countywide poll, the demographics of the sample line up.

I’m not sure why the mayor’s office singled out asking about race relations. The poll found 69 percent of whites and 62 percent of blacks said race relations were “just fair” or “poor.” Both groups appear to have identified a racial divide.

 

Links of the Day:

 

- Governor Cuomo admits his Ebola quarantine policy could be unenforceable.

- A Former RCSD administrator and Razorshark player finds his leadership challenged in Erie County district.

- Support for marijuana legalization is rapidly outpacing opposition.

- The law lets the I.R.S. seize accounts on suspicion alone, no crime required.

- “The United States and Great Britain deserve badges of shame for the resurgence of measles and whooping cough.”

- A Rochester homeless man forgot his identity. It was a huge undertaking to solve the mystery and get him the identification he needs for basic services.

star leaf stripe sky (Large)-L

Credit: City of Rochester

 

A new study shows racial income and employment gaps hurt all of us.

PolicyLink‘s report indicates metro areas could add billions of dollars to their economies if people of color earned the average wages of white people.

In Rochester, 22 percent of the population was made up of racial minorities in 2010. Our GDP would go up 9 percent – about $4 billion if inequality was reduced. In Rochester, most of the racial income gap is due to unemployment – 66 percent, meaning minorities have higher jobless rates. The rest is due to wage differences, meaning minorities earn less money.

Why is this happening? PolicyLink says:

Lack of access to high-quality education at all levels, from preK to college, accounts for a large portion of differences in employment and income by race, but does not fully explain the gap. Broader economic trends—a dearth of job opportunities overall, fewer “middle-skill” jobs that offer path ways to good careers for people without four-year college degrees, and stagnant and declining wages in the growing low-wage sector where people of color are overrepresented—play a role. Racial discrimination in hiring, promotions, and wages, and barriers to employment related to immigration status, criminal records, and lack of reliable transportation factor in as well.

What do we do now? PolicyLink has some suggestions:

1. Create new good jobs.

2. Raise the floor on low-wage work.

3. Strengthen schools and job training programs.

The authors say focusing on this issue is imperative, as people of color will make up the majority of the population in the United State in the coming years. Focusing on inequality could help everyone.

 

Help Me Reach My Goal – And Help Women In Need!

 

I’m the honorary chairperson of an event Sunday that will help women and girls climb out of poverty and be economically self-sufficient. The Women’s Foundation of the Genesee Valley is holding its first 5k and Walk. The Women’s Foundation gives grants to groups that provide job training, financial literacy classes and other kinds of support to help women get on their feet – and stay there. Thanks to readers of this blog, I’m not too far from my goal of raising $1,000. Will you consider even a small donation of $5? Thank you!

 

Links of the Day:

 

- Compensation has shrunk for all income groups, except at the very highest levels, writes Brighton’s David Cay Johnston.

- Cars remain king – and a barrier to economic opportunity.

- Developers keep building in Victor, even though the Rochester region’s population is not growing. This is sprawl with no growth.

- Rochester will not be getting its own billion under Cuomo.

- The sometimes strange relationship between the Clintons and the Cuomos.

- A girl scalded by coffee at a Buffalo Denny’s won a $500,000 settlement.

- “It comes down to Pittsford not wanting tattooed people in their town.”

Charlotte Street

 

The city has issued a Request for Proposals for 1.88 acres of vacant land on Charlotte St. The eyesore property is currently used as a makeshift parking lot.

It’s about time.

The city began to clean up the brownfield in 1997. By 2007, more than a thousand tons of petroleum-contaminated soil had been removed from the site. The state declared the land environmentally safe.

Charlotte StreetAround 2008, the city announced Christa Development would build Charlotte Square on the property. The project would include 32 condos and 8 townhouses. It never broke ground.

Since then, the city has allowed the property to languish. It’s baffling, because it seems this is very desirable land. It’s in the heart of the East End, a stone’s throw from The Little Theatre, Spot Coffee, Press Coffee, Metro Y, Matthew’s East End Grill, Richmond’s, 2Vine, Hart’s, Eastman Theatre and a plethora of restaurants and bars. The property is also a very short distance from successful housing projects, including The Sagamore, 111 East Ave, Grove Place and Chevy Place. This development also makes sense because the city is filling in the Inner Loop and Charlotte St. is right next to land the city hopes will be developed in the future.

Proposals will be judged based on compatibility with the area, quality of development plant, financing plan and developer experience. The city estimates the land is worth $700,000 and would like to close on a land sale early next year.

The city would like to see market-rate housing. I can’t wait to see what developers pitch.

 

Charlotte Street

 

Fight Poverty Among Local Women!

 

On Sunday, I am kicking off the first annual 5k and walk for the Women’s Foundation of the Genesee Valley. This group gives women a hand up, not a hand out. It helps women get on their feet financially and become self-sufficient. Nearly half of single mothers in Monroe County are poor. Please consider a donation and/or signing up to walk. Even $5 would help. Thank you!

 

Links of the Day:

 

- Andrew Cuomo’s new book sold 948 copies in first week. (Hillary’s sold 100,000 in its first week.)

- The state’s settlement mandating better public defender services for the poor doesn’t apply to all Upstate counties.

- Buffalo school board member Carl Paladino profits from charter schools.

- A Central New York man is in trouble with this town for using an online service to rent out his home.

- A New York City man lost his job as a bus driver because he was a passenger in a car with a weed pipe on the console. 

- Film producer George Lucas battles Syracuse brewery over ‘Strikes Bock.’

- Tom Coburn’s annual Wastebook is always a good read. He calls out a worm project in the Rochester area.

- He was found living in a Rwandan dump when he was 9 years old. Now he’s a student at Harvard.

Credit: City of Rochester

Credit: City of Rochester

 

We keep hearing Millennials want to live in cities. A report is out from City Observatory that lends some evidence.

The study, called “The Young and the Restless and the Nation’s Cities,” finds 25 to 34 year-olds with bachelor’s degrees are increasingly moving into city centers. They are playing a big role in revitalizing cities and their economies.

Let’s look at the numbers in Rochester.

Rochester saw a 9 percent increase in the number of 25 to 34 year olds with four-year degrees between 2000 and 2012 to 47,538. In 2000, 33 percent of 25 to 34 year olds had a bachelor’s degree. In 2012, 36.7 percent did.

Although this group is more educated, they still make up relatively the same portion of the population – 4.2 percent in 2000 and 4.5 percent in 2012. That suggests more young adults are not moving into the metro area, but it also suggests they’re not leaving.

The data shows Millennials are trending toward the city. In 2000, 9,668 25 to 34 year olds lived within three miles of downtown. In 2010, 11,552 did. That’s a 19 percent increase.

In summary, Rochester’s Millennials are more educated compared to the Gen Xers who came before them. They’re also living closer to downtown.

Buffalo is seeing similar trends, though the numbers there look more dramatic. That’s partly because Buffalo had far fewer educated young adults than Rochester in 2000. Now, Buffalo has more both in terms of numbers and percentages.

 

Links of the Day:

 

- A study says downtown Syracuse will keep adding residents.

- Despite loads of criticism, the New York Times endorses Cuomo for a second term.

- Albany is getting red light cameras.

- Trump predicts Upstate casinos will “go down the tubes.”

- Students are being arrested in school for what used to be regular disciplinary infractions. Perhaps it’s time to rethink having police in schools. They don’t serve the principal; they serve the law. Are schools really safer with police.

- Man will go to prison for owning sexy cartoons of children. Cartoons…

- There’s a big increase in surgery to mend ‘flesh tunnel’ earlobes.

I recently suggested to a friend that she buy a Groupon to a place we both frequent.

“No, I would never use a Groupon there. That’s rude.”

She believes using a daily deal coupon at a place where you’re a regular customer is bad form. She thinks these deals are meant to attract new customers, so it looks like you’re getting over on the business. Furthermore, some businesses use these deals because they’re struggling to stay open, so if you want them to stick around, she says you should pay full price.

I understand her point, but I’ve never felt guilty. If I spend a decent amount of money someplace, I have no problem accepting a break every now and then. In addition, there are some businesses that offer Groupons once a month. It’s almost as if these places have incorporated daily deals into their businesses model and are training customers not to come in without one.

I posed the question on Twitter and there were people on both sides. What are your thoughts?

 

Links of the Day:

 

- Senator Chuck Schumer played a big role in keeping the Bills in Buffalo. The NFL owners didn’t want to tick him off.

- The Safe Act has put 34,000 New Yorkers on the list of people prohibited from having guns.

- Nearly a million people are waiting for decisions about Social Security disability payments. There is a 40-year backlog.

- Syracuse University bravely saves students from exposure to journalism.

- “We regard DEA’s conduct to be a knowing and serious breach of Facebook’s terms and policies.”

- A Rochester woman tracked down her biological father and discovered he’s a notorious mob informant.

computer-150x150New census data shows there is a digital divide in our community. More than 85,000 people who live in Monroe County do not have a computer or an Internet connection at home. City residents are more likely not to have access to high-speed broadband.

Let’s take a look at the 2013 American Community Survey.

How many households have a computer?

The survey shows 83 percent of Monroe County households have a computer, which can include smartphones. That’s on par with the national and state averages. In the City of Rochester, only 74 percent of households has a computer.

How many households have broadband Internet?

Here again, Monroe County follows state and national averages, with three of four households having a high-speed Internet connection. In the City of Rochester, only three of five households has broadband.

Do children have broadband Internet at home?

In Monroe County, 81 percent of children under 18 have high-speed Internet at home. This is on par with state and national averages. In the City of Rochester, 62 percent of children have broadband Internet at home.

Do senior citizens have broadband Internet at home?

Three of five people 65 years and older in Monroe County have high-speed Internet at home, again comparable to state and national averages. In the City of Rochester, only two of five seniors has broadband Internet at home.

How many people only have access to the Internet on their smartphones?

In the United States, 7 percent of people only have a mobile broadband subscription at home. In New York State, 4 percent of people fall into this category. In Monroe County, 5 percent of people only have smartphone Internet at home. That’s more than 30,000 people. In the City of Rochester, the rate of mobile-only broadband jumps to 13 percent.

What types of broadband Internet are in households?

In Monroe County, cable rules, with 70 percent of households getting their Internet through cable. Fourteen percent of households have a DSL subscription. 1.5 percent have satellite Internet and .7 percent have fiber optic.

Must be Nice

Four percent of Monroe County households access the Internet without a subscription. This includes people who get Internet for free from universities…or their neighbors’ Wi-Fi?

What does this mean?

High-speed Internet is a vital way to apply for jobs, communicate with current and future employers, take classes, stay informed about our community, and learn about the world.

An awful lot of people cannot use the Internet at home in our community. This makes the continued availability of terminals at our libraries so important. This is especially important for households with children, who increasingly need broadband to complete assignments. The Internet also offers so many opportunities to explore the world that children in broadband-less homes will not be able to access as easily. It’s also concerning that so many people are only relying on smartphones, which are more limited in capabilities, for Internet access.

The survey doesn’t ask why people don’t have broadband at home. It’s possible they don’t value high-speed Internet, but I’m guessing it’s more likely they can’t afford it.

 

Join Me on October 26

 

The Women’s Foundation of the Genesee Valley helps poor women and children succeed. The group gives grants to programs proven to help them get on their feet – and stay on their feet. Please consider walking with me on October 26 and/or making a small donation!

 

Links of the Day:

 

- Downstate superintendents call on the state to scrap the horribly flawed teacher evaluation system.

- A former NFL ball boy describes a very violent sport, but concludes the only change needed is more emotional support for players.

- A couple spent $7,000 on a run-down 19th Ward house and completed a remarkable transformation.

- On this National Coming Out Day, I’m so proud of my cousin for being open and passionate about her transgender child.

- This article makes kid-carpooling sound like absolute hell.

- The brunch backlash.

- Remembering Jimmy the Chimp.

Credit: Swash

Credit: Swash

I think I’m the first person – maybe the only person – in Rochester to buy a Swash.

When I went to pick up my pre-ordered machine at the Best Buy in Henrietta, the clerk had never heard of a Swash. She searched on the shelves behind the counter for my order. I told her it’s likely in back and will need a couple people to put into my dad’s SUV. Another clerk told me this was the first Swash the store had sold.

As we wheeled out the refrigerator-sized box, a woman said, “What is THAT?”

I said, “It’s sort of a home dry-cleaning system.”

That was a month ago. I have no regrets about my $499 purchase. I use it all the time.

The Swash is a new product made by Proctor & Gamble. It’s a skinny machine that’s more than four feet tall. It plugs into a regular outlet. You hang up your garment and use clips to make the fabric taut. Pop in a cleaning pod, which cost about 58 cents each. Press the button for a 10 or 15-minute cycle. The garment comes out wrinkle-free and smelling great.

Credit: Swash

Credit: Swash

The Swash does not get out stains. You can only Swash one garment at a time. I had to play with the clips to figure out how to get the best results. It could use a better hanger for skirts and pants, but still does a decent job on these items. I found the Swash is absolutely perfect for dresses, sweaters, shirts and jackets.

Virtually my entire professional wardrobe is dry clean only. I can wear something two to three times max before it loses its shape and smells. Sometimes that happens after only one wear. With dry cleaning now running $6-8, I think the Swash will save me money and extend the life of my clothes. Some clothes will still need dry cleaning, but the trips will be few and far between.

I now have friends asking me to Swash items for them when they’re in a hurry or don’t want to go to the cleaner.

In summary, I think this is a really cool invention. P&G is onto something here. I bet future versions will be less costly and much-improved. The Swash is obviously not for everyone, but it’s definitely for me!

Side note: I might be a bit of clothes horse, but I buy most of my work clothes on eBay. You can buy a lot of brand new stuff on eBay for way less than department store prices!

Another side note: No one paid me to write this.

 

Come on, Help?

 

Apparently, I’m not a great fundraiser. I posted on my Facebook page about the Women’s Foundation 5k and Walk. I didn’t get a single extra donation or team member. This is such a great group. It supports women and girls in poverty by helping them become economically self-sufficient. Poverty may not be the sexiest issue, but it’s one that affects thousands and thousands of families in our community. Even $5 would make a difference. I would also love to meet you on October 26 if you want to come out and walk!

 

Links of the Day:

 

- Some Buffalo school board members want to explore boarding schools for poor students.

- There’s no way the Rochester Police Department would have held a press conference for a kid punching a staff member. But that’s what Gates police did.

- Andrew Cuomo proposes creation of state Office of Faith-Based Services.

- The state is investing $750 million in a company with no track record.

- “To support a fair trial for Thomas Johnson III is not the same as supporting Thomas Johnson III.”

- A white woman confronted cops who thought a black man was a burglar.

- NBC News story on artificial turf and health risks is thin.

- Jim Boeheim once hung up on Bill Clinton, who wouldn’t stop talking about game.

Credit: University of Rochester

Credit: University of Rochester

Guidance counselors and principals in the Rochester City School District no longer have the power to change student schedules. They first have to get permission from Central Office.

The rule was spelled out in two memos, one to principals and one to principals, registrars and guidance counselors. The goal is to maximize efficiency and make sure there are not classes with too few students. The district is also trying to weed out no-shows, which impacts its graduation rate.

The district calls this process ‘True-Up.” It has already reduced three teaching positions in elementary schools. But high schools are more complicated. Students take multiple classes and each has unique needs. But the district locked all schedules after September 16.

Here’s an excerpt from a memo:

Starting September 17th, student schedule changes can only be made by  registrars, with approval from the Acting Executive Director of Student Placement. To change schedules after Sept. 16th, counselors or principals should send the student’s name, ID number, schedule change needed and reason for the change. Reasons that will be considered are:

  • New students who are placed incorrectly (provide a full explanation of the placement issues)

  • IEP changes

  • Safety concerns

The district admits in its memo it does not expect major staffing reductions because of this process. If that’s the case, why alienate principals and guidance counselors, who feel incredibly disrespected? Assuming there’s a lag time in approving schedule changes, why force students to wait for approval, instead of granting immediate changes when necessary? Why make students and teachers who may fear for their safety wait?  Why must students spend even one more day in a class that may not be appropriate?

Most importantly, why doesn’t Central Office trust the principals, registrars and guidance counselors – the people trained on schedules at their school and the people who know their students best – to make these fundamental decisions?

Ironically, Superintendent Bolgen Vargas is a former guidance counselor.

(Full disclosure: My mother is a retired RCSD guidance counselor.)

Links of the Day:

 

- More evidence the teacher evaluation system is ridiculously flawed: Rochester’s highest-rated high school has no highly-rated teachers.

- What a mess. Cuomo hasn’t signed teacher evaluation modification bill, so districts don’t know which rules to follow.

- The Cuomo administration edited and delayed a key fracking study.

- The Seneca County Amish do not want a casino nearby.

- A DEA agent created a fake Facebook page using an Upstate woman’s photos. And the feds this is totally okay.

- Here’s why you might want to vote no in November on school technology bonding.

- Two Western New York bikers were shot in the back of the head and their gang won’t help police.

- Upstate New York is getting into bikeshares.

- Key line: ‘This study does not link any of these hands-free systems to an increase in car accidents —  the science is not there yet.”

 

Help Fight Poverty

 

I’m the honorary chair of the Women’s Foundation of Genesee Valley 5k and Walk. This organization helps women and girls in poverty. Please consider signing up to join my team or donating!

Wedding at Maplewood Rose Garden

Wedding at Maplewood Rose Garden

 

If you think Rochester’s dating scene is terrible…

Maybe you’re a man?

The Pew Research Center did the math on the number of single men versus women in cities across the country. The group even figured out how many of these eligible singles are employed.

In Rochester, there are 118 single men aged 25 to 34 for every 100 single women. There are 85 single women for every 100 men. There are 50,710 single men and 42,932 single women. Sixty-eight percent of people in this age group are single.

If you’re a woman on the market, this sounds great! But wait. Pew found 78 percent of women want a guy who has a job. The pool of eligible men shrinks when you factor in employment. There are only 88 employed single men for every 100 women. The numbers look worse for men who value working women – only 67 employed women per 100 men.

In a previous blog post, I detailed how many Rochesterians of all age groups are single and how the percentage of single adults has gone up over time. If you think you need to move to find a mate, check out Pew’s interactive marriage market map.

 

Movie About Rochester’s Older Singles!

 

 

Links of the Day:

 

- A study says New York’s teacher evaluation system is “irreparably” flawed.

- Terry Pegula will be the fourth wealthiest NFL owner.

- Ralph Wilson left millions to Western New York and Detroit.

- People are angry at Cuomo over the Safe Act, but the NRA isn’t funding his opponent.

- Three Afghanis held in Batavia say they’ll be killed if they return home.

- Kill switches are supposed to cut down on cell phone thefts. But I found a market for used phones with kill switches among Rochester cell phone dealers.

- Netflix could disrupt the movie theater business. Regal can’t stand it.

- Why don’t more U.S. women bike? Safety isn’t the top reason.

 

Join Me to Fight Poverty!

 

Women's Foundation logoIn Monroe County, nearly half of single mothers with children under 18 live in poverty. The Women’s Foundation of the Genesee Valley funds programs to help women become economically self-sufficient. I’m the honorary chair of the group’s first annual 5k and walk on October 26. Please consider joining my team or making a donation. I would love to see you!

RCSD high school teacher's APPR rating.

RCSD high school teacher’s APPR rating.

 

First came the news Rochester City School District teachers fared horribly on state-mandated evaluations. In the first school year they were implemented 2012-2013, very few teachers got the highest rating. The Rochester Teachers Association is suing the state, saying teachers in poor districts are far more likely to get lower ratings compared to teachers in affluent districts.

The state has not released the ratings for the 2013-2014 school year yet. But in a letter to teachers, RTA President Adam Urbanski reveals the RCSD’s breakdown. The ratings dramatically improved in one year. Urbanski has no idea how this happened. He’s also not celebrating:

Each year, we re-negotiate our APPR agreement with the District to do all we can to make it less damaging to our student and more fair to teachers. We are making progress in reducing the number of Rochester teachers (be)rated as Developing or Ineffective (40% in 2012-2013 but 11% in 2013-2014) and increasing the number rated as Effective or Highly Effective (60% in 2012-2013 but 89% in 2013-2014). Just one year ago, only 2% of Rochester teachers were rated as Highly Effective. This year, that number increased to 46%. Why such a huge fluctuation? Maybe it’s because we re-negotiated the agreement; or because teachers set more realistic SLO targets; or because the NYS Education Department adjusted the cut scores in ELA and Math; or because huge fluctuations are typical of invalid and unreliable evaluation schemes; or because it was a miracle. Who knows? In any event, we continue to press for the total abolishments of APPR. Meanwhile, we are negotiating a successor agreement that would further diminish excessive testing of students and wrongful rating of teachers.

Even if you’re a supporter of complicated teacher evaluations, it’s impossible to have faith in this kind of data. Check out this article, noting that in Scarsdale, among the best school districts in the country, not one teacher was rated highly effective.

Please remember that millions of dollars and countless hours have been spent implementing this system.

 

Links of the Day:

 

- I don’t care for the sensational way this story on a parolee losing his city job was presented. I do think it’s newsworthy, but there’s nothing to suggest anyone dropped the ball here. But this is the same station that made a big deal about a bus stop in front of a sex offender’s house, as if a group of children waiting together are in any danger.

- Charter school principal gets job in RCSD to help teachers. Has anyone looked at the scores of her school? They’re pretty bad.

- A Western New York school superintendent lies, steals and still gets paid $100,000 to leave job.

- “The King” and his gypsy family take on Syracuse, robbing elderly people.

- There could be a huge downside to police body cameras. Police often encounter crime victims and have to go into people’s homes. Privacy issues abound.

- Should we continue to link health coverage to our employment?

- The Secret Service fumbled the response to a gunman shooting at the White House residence in 2011. Sasha Obama and the First Lady’s mother were inside at the time.

- Drivers, YOUR GAS TAX DOES NOT COVER THE COST OF ROADS.

- Derek Jeter was always a class act with his words and deeds.

 

Help Fight Poverty:

 

I am honorary chair of the Women’s Foundation of Genesee Valley’s first annual 5k and Walk on October 26. There is no entry fee to walk. Please consider walking with me and/or making a donation to my team, no matter how small. This little-known group helps women in our area – urban. suburban and rural – become economically self-sufficient. With nearly half of single mothers in Monroe County living in poverty, this is such an important cause. Hope to see you and thanks for your support!

By this weekend, you should see two pop-up bicycle boulevards, one on the east and one on the west side of town.

Bicycle boulevards acknowledge the fact some streets are not cut out for bicycle travel. Instead of building a separate bike path or installing bike lanes, bicycle boulevards make low-traffic streets parallel to major arterials more bicycle-friendly.

The pop-up boulevards will have temporary signs, traffic calming features and road markings. The idea is to give people a feel of what bicycle boulevards are like. The city is holding two meetings next week to hear what residents think. You can also submit comments online. Check out the city’s web page about the project.

Here are the maps of the two pop-up locations:

 

 

Bicycle Boulevard

Bicycle Boulevard

Links of the Day:

 

If you earn $300,000, you get the $350 rebate check. If you’re poor you don’t. If you’re childless you don’t.

- Wegmans may build a liquor store next to its Ithaca location. Will it be owned by a family member? (Chains are not allowed under the law.)

- Suburban Syracuse residents want I-81 to stay a highway through the city. City residents, who live with it, no so much.

- Can we all agree to delete the next list WalletHub sends us? Because they’re ridiculous.

- The FBI says active shooter incidents are on the rise. But are they really?

- The New York City mayor dropped a groundhog on Groundhog Day. The groundhog died a short time later. The zoo tried to cover up the death. What’s more, the groundhog was an imposter.

- I miss LOST, too.

 

Help Fight Poverty:

 

 

Rochester Metro, Brookings Institution

Rochester Metro, Brookings Institution

 

Rochester does not have a huge number of workers with limited English skills. Brookings Institution compiled statistics for 89 metro areas. Rochester ranks 76th in the percentage of limited English proficient (LEP) workers – 3.6 percent. That’s still more than 26,000 people working in our area who do not speak English well. This group has also grown 20 percent since 2000.

This group is diverse. In the Rochester area, they tend to be more highly-educated than the U.S. as a whole. More than half had completed high school and more than 15 percent had college degrees.

In Rochester, Spanish is the most common language of LEP workers at 37 percent, followed by Asian languages at 33 percent and Indo-European languages at 24 percent.

Nearly one-fourth of LEP workers in Rochester have manufacturing jobs. Food services, health and social services and retail are the next largest categories of jobs for LEP workers. Their median earnings are $28,000.

Sixty-three percent of working-age LEP adults in Rochester are in the labor force, less than the national rate of 71 percent.

Why do we care? Brookings reports:

English proficiency is an essential gateway to economic opportunity for immigrant workers in the United States. Yet access to acquiring these skills is persistently limited by a lack of resources and attention. Increasing investment in adult English instruction—through more funding, targeted outreach, and instructional innovations—would enhance the human capital of immigrants that could lead to more productive work and better outcomes for their children. Given the large number of LEP workers in the United States and the fact that virtually all of the growth in the U.S. labor force over the next four decades is projected to come from immigrants and their children, it is in our collective interest to tackle this challenge head on.

 

Links of the Day:

 

- The state is investing an astonishing $750 million dollars into SolarCity in Buffalo, in a bid to attract 3,000 jobs. 

- This makes total sense. If SolarCity flops, it only has to pay back $41 million to the state.

- “Cuomo didn’t so much attract SolarCity to Buffalo as he did raid the public treasury to make them an offer they couldn’t refuse.”

- Morelle on state’s huge Buffalo investment IN ONE COMPANY: “I see it as complementary” to Rochester.

- About Rochester’s low unemployment rate: The labor force shrank. 

- Walmart will offer checking accounts. 

- The U.S. is deporting children of parents who are here legally.

- Maybe Gabby Giffords is so hot on gun controlbecause she was shot in the head.

- RIP, Joe Floreano.

 

Help Fight Poverty:

 

Credit; City of Rochester

Credit; City of Rochester

 

Recently-released census data shows some small changes in commuting over time.

There were more people driving alone to work in 2000 than 2013. In 2000, 82 percent of workers – 283,062 people – drove alone to work. That compares to 80 percent in 2013, or 280,819 people. This is interesting because we’re spending $100 million to revamp the Rochester-Brighton-Henrietta 390 corridor, even though there do not appear to be more cars on the road.

Carpooling was more popular in 2000 than 2013. In 2000, 8.4 percent of workers. In 2013, 7.8 percent shared rides to work. But carpooling was only at 7 percent in 2006, so perhaps it’s picking up speed.

Commute times are the same. In 2000, the average commute was 19.6 minutes. In 2013, the average commute was 19.7 minutes.

Credit: City of Rochester

Credit: City of Rochester

More people are taking the bus to work. In 2000, 2.7 percent of workers took public transportation. In 2013, 3.4 percent of workers – nearly 12,000 people – took the bus to work.

More people are walking to work. In 2000, 3.4 percent of people walked to work. In 2013, 3.8 percent of people – more than 13,000 – got to work on two legs.

More people are biking to work. The number of people who bike to work is at a paltry .4 percent. But that’s 1,544 people riding their bicycles to work, up from 1,099 in 2006. Nearly half live in the city. (Before you question bike lanes, consider the fact many more people ride purely for recreation and exercise.)

More people work at home. In 2000, 2.7 percent of people worked at home. In 2013, 3.4 percent – nearly 12,000 people – work at home.

In our car-centric city, it’s worth noting that 1 in 8 people gets to work by walking, biking or riding the bus. That means more than 26,000 people will likely have to cross the road in front of your car and share the road with your car. Let’s be sure to watch out for them.

Update: Some are asking whether the workforce was bigger in 2000. According to the census, there were 345,019 people 16 and over commuting to work in 2000, compared to 349,802 in 2013.

 

Links of the Day:

 

- Throwing money at developers doesn’t create new business. It moves business around. Here’s a good Rochester example.

- American sports franchises are selling their cities short. Stadiums are not good investments!

- Wow. Cuomo and Hochul spent $5.9 million on the primary.

- A University of Wisconsin fraternity is suspected of drugging women at a party.

- This essay from New York Times columnist Charles Blow about sexual abuse, sexuality and learning to love himself is painfully honest and quite beautiful.

 

Help Fight Poverty:

 

Women's Foundation logoIf you like my blog posts, we can chat about them in person! Consider joining my team on October 26 for the Women’s Foundation of Genesee Valley 5k and Walk. Donations of any amount – no matter how small – would also be appreciated. I am the honorary chair of this event. The Women’s Foundation helps women and girls become economically self-sufficient. It’s a great organization that deserves more attention for its important work in Rochester.

 

Credit: City of Rochester

Credit: City of Rochester

 

This week is National Unmarried and Single Americans week.

According to the U.S. Census, there were 105 million single American adults last year. That’s 44 percent of the 18 and over population. Fifty-three percent of this group are women. Sixty-two percent have never been married. Twenty-four percent are divorced. Fourteen percent were widowed.

Sorry ladies, there are 87 unmarried men for every 100 unmarried women.

Of course, many men and women live together without being married. There were 57 million such households in the U.S. in 2013.

What’s the singles scene in Rochester?

Credit: City of Rochester

Credit: City of Rochester

Singles make up more than half the adult population. In 2013, 44.2 percent of the adult population is married. That’s down from 51.3 percent in 2000. Forty-one percent of men and 35 percent of women have never been married. Eight percent of men and 11 percent of women are divorced and single. Three percent of men and 9 percent of women are widowed.

In Monroe County, nearly 21,000 unmarried people lived with a significant other in 2013.

What are the implications? With the release of poverty data this week, we also saw that single mothers in Monroe County were more far more likely to be poor.  In addition, Bloomberg reports:

Singles, particularly younger ones, are more likely to rent than to own their dwellings. Never-married young singles are less likely to have children and previously married older ones, many of whom have adult children, are unlikely to have young kids, (Ed) Yardeni wrote. That will influence how much money they spend and what they buy.

 

U.S. Census

U.S. Census

 

Links of the Day:

Pegulas are super-rich, but they won’t pay for a new stadium. Hello taxpayers and personal seat licenses.

- With voters split on fracking, does it makes sense for Astorino to use Cuomo’s indecision as campaign issue?

- Last week, I took a look at how parole works in Rochester. We found out how many ex-prisoners are homeless, have absconded and got arrested for violent felonies.

- A Rochester grandmother is sending her grandson away to save him from the streets.

- ESPN has an exhaustive, detailed story of the Ray Rice scandal. No one looks good.

- Are U.S. soldiers dying from survivable wounds?

- I’m sure East High’s principal is a nice guy, but what on earth has he done to warrant an honor from the White House? His school is failing so badly, the state ordered it to close.

Help Fight Poverty:

I’m honorary chair of the Women’s Foundation of Genesee Valley‘s first annual 5k and walk. This organization helps women and girls in poverty become economically self-sufficient. Please consider joining my team and/or making a donation of any amount. If you like my blog posts, I’m sure we could have great conversation walking through Genesee Valley Park on October 26!