• The Rochesterian in Your Inbox:

This week’s latest population data from the U.S. Census shows the number of people moving out of Monroe County is alarming. Their flight is barely made up by new births and immigrants.

Another census report shows some encouraging news – at first glance. This one focuses on the migration patterns of young adults, people ages 18 to 34, the so-called Millennials. The report finds Millennials with college degrees are most likely to move to another community. Young adults are more mobile than other age groups, presumably because they move to new places for college and career.

Here’s the shocker in the report.

Rochester is among the top three metros for young adults to move into. Yes, you read that right. Take a look at the chart below. It says nearly 60 percent of people who moved into the Rochester metro between 2010 and 2012 were between the ages of 18 and 34.


U.S. Census

U.S. Census, 18-34-year-olds


Another chart below breaks out 18 to 24-year-olds. They make up more than a third of the in-movers to Rochester. Again, Rochester ranks among the top-three.


U.S. Census, 18 to 24-year-olds

U.S. Census, 18 to 24-year-olds


Wow! Tons of young people are moving into Rochester! That’s amazing!

But wait. Here’s where things fall apart. Rochester is near the bottom in the country when it comes to 30 to 34-year-olds moving in. They make up only 7.6 percent of those coming to town.


U.S. Census, 30 to 24-year-olds

U.S. Census, 30 to 24-year-olds


What does this tell us? There’s not a lot of opportunity here for established adults. That’s why we’re seeing big domestic out-migration numbers. Since 2010, more than 13,000 people have packed up and left Monroe County.

The dramatic increase we’re seeing in young in-movers is because of our colleges. Then, these students leave. However, we shouldn’t necessarily view this as a “brain drain.” That’s because data shows the percentage of 18 to 34-year-olds in Rochester has remained steady over time. The goal shouldn’t be to keep all students in Rochester. That’s not realistic or sustainable.

The goal should be to attract established young adults from other communities, people who have graduated from college and find opportunity in Rochester. This comes down to jobs. We can do way, way better.

That’s our challenge.




Links of the Day:


- Monroe County schools have been shorted $443 million by the state.

- Rochester is cracking down on neighborhood bars, wanting them to close well before 2 a.m. But the state told the city it can’t do that.

- This is why SWAT-style drug raids have major issues.

- I actually have sympathy for this school principal, who got a DWI after a couple glasses of wine. (She’s a small woman.)

- This poor kid’s life is ruined for bringing a fake marijuana leaf to school.


Tweet of the Day:


Source: American Fact Finder: census.gov

Source: American Fact Finder: census.gov


Monroe County’s population is stagnant. That’s according to U.S. Census figures out today.

  • 2010: 744,647
  • 2011: 747,225
  • 2012: 748,582
  • 2013: 750,071
  • 2014: 749,857

Monroe County posted a negligible loss in 2014, but it’s still reason for concern. It shows we’re not growing.

City of Rochester Communications Burear

City of Rochester Communications Burear

When you look at the number of people who moved out last year, it’s amazing we managed to stay relatively flat. In 2014, 8,347 babies were born in Monroe County. A total of 6,435 people died. That means we had natural increase in population. Then, if you add the 2,642 net number of people who moved to Rochester from other countries and Puerto Rico, we’re really ahead of the game. But we experienced a net loss of 4,526 people who moved out of the county…in one year.  That’s .6 percent of people – about 3 in 500 people – who live in Monroe County who said adios. 

Going back to 2010, we’ve lost a net of more than 13,000 people to other communities. That’s the equivalent of almost everyone in the Town of Sweden packing up and saying goodbye.

Once again, we can thank babies and immigrants for mitigating population loss.

The Rochester metro had 1,083,393 in 2014, an insignificant decrease from the year before.


Links of the Day:


- If there was ever a time for the city to ask the University of Rochester for a payment in lieu of taxes, now is the time.

- The state is threatening a Buffalo suburb that may boycott state tests.

- The gun used in a cop-shootout in Orleans County was stolen from a home. Lock up you guns, people.

- The state won’t release documents related to the Buffalo Billion.

- Only in the state assembly is it awkward to be a former federal prosecutor.

- A Park Ave. apartment building owner is accused of racial bias.


Henrietta…Wants to be Walkable?


CocktailThe Rochester area has more bartenders per capita than the state and national average.

That’s according to a study from CareerBuilder.com. There are about 580,000 bartenders in the U.S., or about 1,8 per 1,000 residents. New York State has 2 bartenders per 1,000 residents.

The Rochester metro area has 2.3 bartenders per 1,000 people. Buffalo ranks third in the country, with 3 bartenders per 1,000 residents. That puts only New Orleans and Las Vegas ahead of Buffalo!

According to state labor department data, the median wage for the more than 2,600 bartenders in the Finger Lakes region is $19,120. They could be in line for a raise, as the tipped minimum wage is scheduled to go up at the end of the year.



Links of the Day:


- Both Rochester and Buffalo have school boards fighting with their superintendents. Watch for mayoral control to sneak into budget talks in Albany. The governor and allies will smell blood because of this chaos.

- “Cuomo, these people said, forbade toasts at his wedding to ensure there were no off-color stories told about him.” A new biography is out about the governor.

- The “LLC Loophole” allows money to flow freely to politicians in New York State.

- The Syracuse University men’s basketball team is worth nearly $27 million.

- Aging parents are worried about who will care for their children with developmental disabilities.

- ‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ did not happen in Ferguson, but the phrase now has broader meaning.

- Shaken Baby Syndrome is in doubt, impacting alleged homicide cases all over the country.

- What is a “safe space?” It’s a place where dissension and differing viewpoints are not allowed.

- Monica Lewinsky is a survivor of “slut-shaming.” Now, she’s back on her own terms.

Bus Selfie

Bus Selfie

A few days ago, I decided to take the bus downtown for jury duty. There’s a bus stop on Bay Street that’s only a block from my house. I figured spending $2 a day for round-trip bus fare beats $8 in parking. The RTS website indicated the trip would only take a half hour, door to door.

First, I had to find $2 in cash. I rarely have cash. For this trip, I not only needed cash, but I needed exact change. Fortunately, a friend gave me a couple singles the night before to save me the hassle of going to an ATM. It would be great if RTS allowed people to buy rides on their smartphones or swipe a credit card.

The RTS Bus App told me when the bus would arrive in real time. I was concerned about news of canceled morning trips, but my bus was on schedule. It arrived on time, to the minute. The ride downtown was quick, even with multiple stops.

The “Plan My Trip” feature on the RTS website indicated I could stay on the Route 39 bus for a few more stops to get off at State and Main, the closest stop to the Hall of Justice. At the transit center, the bus driver told me I had to come to the front and pay another $1. The additional half mile is considered a transfer. That struck me as ridiculous. The implication is that people coming from the eastern part of the city to the west side of downtown have to pay extra to get closer to their destinations and vice versa. It’s also not technically a transfer if you’re staying on the same bus. The bus driver was kind enough to let the extra buck slide, but for this trip only. The policy of using the transit center as THE central stop flies in the face of how people actually travel downtown. If this is how RTS wants to play it, there should be some kind of free downtown shuttle for people in this situation.

In the afternoon for my trip home, I chose to walk to the transit center to save the extra dollar. While I don’t mind walking, that extra half mile could be a deterrent for those who have mobility issues. It would also be a pain in bad weather. I’ve since learned there is an all-day pass available for $3, which makes that transfer 50 cents. This is probably the best option.

When I got to the transit center around 4 p.m., I was astonished at the number of teenagers. I was aware hundreds of kids use the transit center in the afternoon, but I was still shocked. Teens appeared to outnumber adults 30 to 1. The media has reported on the occasional violent incident and unruly behavior at the transit center, but I felt 100 percent safe. There were visible police officers and security guards. The teens were very well-behaved. My trip home was fast and uneventful.

Despite the fact the transit center was orderly, I can’t say it’s pleasant to be in an environment that resembles a high school cafeteria on steroids. The volume of teens at that hour was a big turnoff. I’m not sure why they were all there at once. I’m not sure why there were not a lot of adult passengers at this hour to provide more balance. It’s also very easy to see how a small incident could create a big problem. The city, school district and bus company are working on this issue. I think it’s great young people are using public transit and I would hate to see them restricted. This situation, however, seems untenable.

In summary, I’ll be using the bus for the remainder of my jury duty. It’s quick and doesn’t require navigating traffic and garages or paying for parking. Even though the transfer situation caught me off-guard, the bus fare is pretty darn cheap, especially compared to other cities. I would definitely recommend trying out RTS if you live on a bus line.

Related: Check out this ode to the Buffalo bus system. 


Links of the Day:


- Lessons from Baltimore: If the Bills want a downtown stadium, mass transit is key.

- Why would the company that profits from red light camera tickets develop an app to tell you where the cameras are located? Money and data.

- This is how Chattanooga is remaking itself with fast broadband. (Come on, Rochester!)

- The NCAA wanted Jim Boeheim to be a policeman, but that’s never been his style.

- NBC would be insane to let Brian Williams return.

- ‘Snowiest place in America’ title brings international fame to tiny Upstate village.

- Baby Dorothy? Vintage baby names are making a comeback.

Bolgen VargasRochester Superintendent Bolgen Vargas has a short memory.

He plans to sue the school board over its vote to strip him of some hiring and firing powers related to the Superintendent Employee Group. This group is made up of highly-paid at will managers, including deputy superintendents, numerous chiefs and a few confidential secretaries. The SEG is also known as the “cabinet.”

Here’s why we care about SEG. These are the folks running the district. The payroll for this group exceeds $3 million, not including benefits. There have been numerous abuses by superintendents of this classification.  Under former superintendent Clifford Janey, SEG members were given golden parachutes. Under former superintendent Manny Rivera, SEG members got secret side deals in which taxpayers paid for their PhD’s, with no requirement they continue to work for the district. Under Brizard, the SEG had a record payroll and open records showed he gave SEG members large raises, including a $10,000 one for his secretary. Under Vargas, some SEG members were given secret contracts guaranteeing salary, no matter the performance.

Under a state law championed by Assemblyman David Gantt to shield Janey from a meddling school board, superintendents have the right to choose their cabinets. This law had an unintended consequence. It’s been used by RCSD superintendents to making quiet and dubious decisions. The board only has the power over the budget line and job titles – and history shows the media often has to tell the board what’s going on with SEG.

Right now, there are 32 members of this group. That’s down from the days when it exceeded 50. Former interim superintendent Bill Cala got it under 30, but his successor, Jean-Claude Brizard increased the ranks to more than 40.

Board member Willa Powell said the major reason the board has concerns with Vargas and his cabinet is turnover. Vargas fires people and other people leave. It’s a revolving door. Here’s the short list of people who have left in the past few years: Beth Mascitti-Miller, Shaun Nelms, Anita Murphy, Tom Petronio, Kim Dyce, Jeanette Silvers, Anne Brown, Jamie Warren, Jim Fenton, John Scanlon, Laura Kelley, Leslie Boozer, Bethany Centrone, Jackie Polito and Gladys Pedraza.

Fights between the board and the superintendent over the size and makeup of SEG are not new. This comes up every few years. But Vargas’ decision to sue the board is shocking for one reason. The board easily kick him to the curb and buy out his contract tomorrow.

Vargas should know. He was on the school board that bought out Janey.




The City of Rochester does zero enforcement of the code saying property owners have to clear their own sidewalks. Meanwhile, New York City issues thousands of tickets.




University of Virginia data on Rochester, N.Y.

University of Virginia data on Rochester, N.Y.


Where is the sweet spot in the Rochester metro for wealth? Twelve miles out from the city center.

The University of Virginia did a study showing how inner ring suburbs in the nation’s cities are poorer than they were in 1990. The study also shows center cities are making a comeback.

In Rochester in 1990, per capita income peaked 9 miles from downtown. In 2012, it peaked 12 miles away. Five miles from the city center, per capita income dropped 12 percent during this time period. In fact, the only people who made more money in 2012 compared to 1990 were people living 12 to 16 miles away from downtown Rochester – and people living in downtown Rochester. The rest of us are worse off.

It appears the elderly, who typically live on lower incomes, are moving further out. In 1990, the greatest concentration of elderly lived 4 miles from downtown Rochester. In 2012, the greatest percentage lived 8 miles away.

Poverty is greater across all distances from downtown Rochester compared to 1990. The only distance where it stayed the same – 3 percent – was 12 miles out.

This won’t come as any surprise, but the data shows we’re sprawling out. In 1990, the greater number of people – 83,088 –  lived two miles from downtown Rochester. In 2012, the greatest number lives 3 miles away – 77,444.

Population density remains the highest in downtown Rochester, and declines with each mile away.

Why do we care about this data? Shifting demographics has consequences for real estate, schools, property taxes, services, planning, infrastructure costs and more.


5, 9, 12 mile radius lines.

5, 9, 12 mile radius lines.


Links of the Day:


- The New York Times details systemic problems at Attica Correctional Facility, on the eve of a trial of three officers for a brutal assault on an inmate.

- Although RG&E should be more responsive, I don’t see why the utility or its customers should have to pay for sprawl – especially sprawl with no population growth.

- Virginia has 750 private citizens authorized to be their own one-man police forces.

- The Democrat and Chronicle demands suburban teachers come up with a plan to fix the education system. Last I checked, suburban schools were doing just fine, pointing out a huge flaw in the governor’s war on teachers. But the D&C is clearly buying his rhetoric.

- “One or two wrong answers can make or break a teacher’s rating.”


- Ripping apart some positive claims about charter schools.

- The L.A. Times obained access to a foster facility for teenagers. Heartbreaking read.

- What can be done to prevent suicides at the Monroe County Jail?

- The New York Times writes up Buffalo’s massive downtown ice rink. part of the revitalization of the canal system. Pay attention Rochester! We could do this with our aqueduct.

- ‘House of Cards’ music is composed by an Eastman School of Music graduate.

Crime Scene TapeMany people don’t want to believe this, but the City of Rochester is generally safer than it’s been in decades. That’s true if you look at the number of violent crimes and the rate of violent crimes.

Crime has been declining for many years in Rochester, echoing a trend in cities across the country.

No one knows why this is happening. Criminologists have a wide range of theories, from the legalization of abortion, mass incarceration, reduction of lead paint, aging population, more police on the streets, reduction in crack use, increased use of psychiatric medications and technology keeping people inside. But there’s evidence to support and refute all of these theories.

But politicians don’t hesitate to take credit for the drop in crime. On Thursday, Mayor Lovely Warren said in her State of the City Address:

Our efforts at creating safer neighborhoods can best be seen by looking at the numbers, and the numbers I am referring to are the most recent crime stats, which I am unveiling here, tonight.

And the facts speak for themselves:

We have the lowest Violent Crime levels in 10 years and the 2nd lowest in 25 years.

  • Part 1 Crime (which is how the FBI labels major crimes) is at its lowest level in 25 years.
  • We have fewer than 11,000 Part 1 Crimes for the first time in 25 years.
  • There has not been a single year from 1985 to 2012 when Part 1 numbers dropped below 12,000 and we are actually below 11,000.
  • Robbery and Aggravated Assault are at 25-year lows, with robbery down over 20% from 2013.
  • Property Crime — Burglary and Larceny — are all at their lowest rates in 25 years.

I am proud of these numbers. Aren’t all of you proud of these numbers too?

We deserve to be proud of these numbers. We deserve to take heart that crime and violence have been significantly reduced in our city.

The mayor is 100 percent right that we should be happy crime has declined, even if public perception hasn’t caught up to reality. The mayor is 100 percent right to promote these statistics.

But it’s truly difficult to say if Warren’s administration had anything to do with this drop, which started well before she came into office. Let’s just hope the trend continues.


Links of the Day:


- Cuomo is investigating ways to put schools into receivership. Local control would go away.

- I never understood why Del Smith was considered such a rock star. He had a very thin business resume and no government experience before heading up the city’s economic development efforts. It now appears he wasn’t committed to doing the hard work required to revitalize the city and wants to return to the world of academia. This was one out-of-the-box hire that was a big bust.

- I love every single line of this piece: “When did Americans decide that allowing our kids to be out of sight was a crime?”

- A Xerox researcher thinks car ownership will decline dramatically in 10 years, though some think self-driving cars will put more cars on the road.

- National school superintendent searches are unnecessary.

- Museums feel the need to ban selfie sticks.


Video of the Day:


Skyline - featured 220X165A report from the Brookings Institution on advanced industry has scary and encouraging news for Rochester.

Brookings defines advanced industry as 50 industries within manufacturing, energy and services. These include areospace products and parts, motor vehicles, data processing and architecture and engineering. Brookings finds these sectors extremely important because workers earn much more money and contribute far more to gross domestic product than other workers.

Here’s the scary part. Continue reading

Governor Andrew Cuomo told Syracuse it won’t get help from the state unless it comes up with a viable plan to become economically sustainable. The mayor has been complaining about aging infrastructure, including water mains that burst on a regular basis.

The Syracuse Post-Standard reports Cuomo said:

“Show us how you become economically stronger and create jobs. Then you fix your own pipes.”

cuomoCuomo needs to take a lesson in history. Continue reading

Gothamist did a story titled, “Millennials are moving to Buffalo & Living Like Kings.”

In addition to profiles of young people who moved to Buffalo and love life, the article sites the following statistics to support its premise:

According to census data analyzed by the New York Times, from 2000 to 2012 the number of college graduates between the ages of 25 and 34 in Buffalo jumped 34%—more than Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago…

According to The Buffalo News, incomes in the Buffalo Niagara region grew about 1.5% a year (after inflation) between 2003 and 2013—double the average annual increase nationwide during that time. In 2003, per capita personal income in the region was 11% lower than the national average, but by the end of 2013, it was $44,301, just 1% less.

There are some problems with Gothamist’s analysis. Continue reading

James M.E. O'Grady

James M.E. O’Grady

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle is reportedly angling to succeed Sheldon Silver as Speaker, despite publicly declaring his support for his “friend.”

It’s been more than a century since the assembly had a Speaker from Rochester. Only one Rochesterian has served in that powerful role: James M.E. O’Grady.

O’Grady was born in Rochester in 1863. He attended the Rochester Free Academy, the city’s first public high school, and the University of Rochester. He became a lawyer, serving on the school board from 1887 to 1892. A Republican, he joined the Assembly in 1893 and became Speaker in 1897.

On November 16, 1894, the New York Times reported on the jockeying for the Speaker position:

Mr. O’Grady says he is not depending on anybody’s influence or dictation to get the position, but is after it on his own responsibility and by his own efforts. He evidently is working principally on the claim of this district for recognition, as Tuesday at Buffalo, in expressing himself as hopeful of getting the solid vote of Western New-York, he said:

“Erie County has Comptroller Roberts and Judge Haight; Syracuse has the Attorney General; Utica has the State Engineer, and Albany the Secretary of State, while Rochester has been left out in the cold.”

O’Grady served as Speaker for two years. He was then elected to Congress, serving from 1899 to 1901. He didn’t get nominated for a second term because of a falling out with the local political boss, George Aldridge. O’Grady returned to Rochester to practice law.

O’Grady died in 1928 at Genesee Hospital. he is buried at Holy Sepulchre Catholic Cemetery.


New York Times, November 4, 1928

New York Times, November 4, 1928


Sheldon Silver Fallout Roundup:


- Sheldon Silver will temporarily relinquish his duties as Speaker.

- Assembly Republicans plan to force their Democratic colleagues to vote on Silver’s ouster. That could come back to haunt Silver’s supporters at election time.

- The Assembly killed a state law barring exactly the type of bad deeds Silver is accused of.

- David Koon: “I couldn’t get a pay raise for my people or an extra phone or an extra computer or anything without” Silver’s stamp.


Links of the Day:


- Experts say New York schools are not in crisis, as the governor suggests.

- “Educators and parent advocates I’ve heard from since then can’t believe (Cuomo) is so out of touch.”

- There’s an oversupply of teacher candidates, creating a tough job market.

- The Rochester City School District boots volunteers and makes them jump through hoops.

- Here’s reason Western New York gas prices are higher. (It kills me people are complaining cheap gas is not cheap enough.)

- Buffalo area state lawmakers want to kill Wilmot’s planned casino.

- University of Rochester researchers say pregnant women can eat fish.

- Car, go park yourself.

City of Rochester Communications Bureau

City of Rochester Communications Bureau

It’s becoming more likely a performing arts center and perhaps a casino will fill Midtown’s Parcel 5.

The city revealed only two proposals came in for the 1.1-acre site on Main Street. The city won’t allow us to look at the proposals and I haven’t heard back from the two developers on what they have in mind.

The city spent at least $70 million dollars to tear down the mall and get that property shovel-ready. It’s supposed to be prime real estate. It is in the heart of downtown Rochester.

It turns out, few want to take a chance, at least right now. Buckingham has yet to prove it can finish the Tower at Midtown project without founder Larry Glazer. We don’t even know what Buckingham is now capable of pulling off at the building. Glazer’s grand plans are over. Meanwhile, the office market downtown is terrible, so you can’t put that in any building plans. Finally, retail is the great big unknown.

The market just told us Parcel 5 is risky.

The city’s two top choices are likely to let Parcel 5 sit empty or try like hell to get a performing arts center built.

Here’s what may happen: The Senecas will likely look to Rochester to blunt the impact of Tom Wilmot’s Lago casino. They may offer to build a theater at Midtown along with a casino. That solves the city’s Parcel 5 problem and could easily be sold as “economic development.” (Casinos and theaters come with their own costs, of course.) The irony is that this is what Wilmot proposed more than a decade ago. Then-Mayor Bill Johnson said no. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Mayor Lovely Warren gives an enthusiastic yes.

Wilmot is not the only person to have identified Midtown as a good place for a casino.

I have reported that back in July, Delaware North, which owns the Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack, entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the city to put a performing arts center at Midtown. Delaware North would have run the theater, possibly even buying naming rights, per sources.

Why would Delaware North get involved? To prevent the Senecas from doing the same. The Senecas wouldn’t be able to offer a performing arts center in return for  allowing a casino. Nothing came of the MOU, as sources say Glazer’s death complicated the picture, as he was working with Delaware North on the idea. With Delaware North now out of the picture, the door is probably wide open for the Senecas.

Few developers were willing to gamble on Parcel 5. The Senecas, however, might.


Links of the Day:


- Here’s a great look at the federal prosecutor who had Sheldon Silver arrested on corruption charges.

- The state won’t let schools know how much aid they’re getting unless lawmakers pass governor’s education “reform agenda.”

- Four of the top five trending jobs in Rochester are low-wage.

- Three Heads Brewing is considering building a facility on University Ave. in Rochester.




Rank Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse in terms of where you think is the best place for STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) workers.

Does Syracuse top ANYONE’S list?

No way.

But WalletHub put Syracuse way of ahead of Buffalo and Rochester on its “Best and Worst Metro Areas for STEM Workers list.”

Syracuse ranked 36th, Buffalo 58th and Rochester 78th.

How does Rochester, home to Rochester Institute of Technology and University of Rochester, as well as a host of technology-related companies, fall short? Continue reading



Governor Andrew Cuomo came to Rochester on Thursday and announced the sequel to the Buffalo Billion.

Instead of giving other Upstate regions their fair share, Cuomo said there’s only $1.5 billion for the rest of us.

Oh, and we’ll have to fight each other for the loot.

The governor made this announcement in the only big-city county he lost in November. When Cuomo lost Erie County, he showered money and love on Buffalo. When he lost Monroe County, he thrust us into a game show. Continue reading

Jazz Featured Image


Mayor Lovely Warren asked City Council to approve funding for the Xerox Rochester International Jazz festival at the same level as in recent years. That amounts to $243,000, including the cost of police coverage.

As we learned last year, that money also includes 120 tickets to headliner shows and 20 VIP club passes. The city kept no record of where those tickets went, but council members admitted they snagged a bunch.

I asked a city spokesperson if the way the city handles the distribution of free tickets will change this year. I haven’t gotten a response. It’s very possible that when council members vote on festival funding this month, they know they’ll be getting a mega-perk in return.

But that’s not the only issue with this funding.   Continue reading

A lot of people are talking about the Rochester Business Journal’s Snap Poll of Mayor Lovely Warren’s first year in office. The survey roundly panned her performance. Only 13 percent of respondents approve or strongly approve of how she’s doing the job.

This poll is total crap. Here’s why:

1. This is not a scientific poll. It’s a survey of readers. RBJ provides no information about these readers, including how many responded and where they live. Continue reading

Here are my predictions for 2015. I have been running about 60 percent right in years past. Happy New Year, everyone!



Links of the Day:


- Are NYPD officers engaged in a work slowdown?

- There have been headlines that police on-duty deaths are up. But historical numbers show that’s not true.

- Boston police release names of citizens driving drunk, but not officers.

- The state minimum wage is now $8.75.

- The state is giving money to urban districts to see if they can attract suburban students.

- Motor City is turning away from freeways.

- There are hospitals refusing to announce the first babies born in 2015, for fear they’ll be kidnapped. Abductions of New Year’s babies has never happened before, ever.

- Meet these ten awesome Rochesterians.

Credit: Immagine

Credit: Immagine

I started this blog in December 2011. More than 800 posts later, I am so grateful to have this outlet. My favorite topics include, city and state politics, inequality, census stats, studies detailing what life is like in our region and downtown development. I appreciate our conversations!

Here are the most-viewed blog posts on The Rochesterian in 2014:

10. On the Waterpark: Remember when Mayor Lovely Warren said she wanted a waterpark downtown? Not sure what ever happened to that idea. I looked into the pros and cons.

9. In Defense of the Port Project: I played devil’s advocate on the development plan that angered many in the community.

8. Mayor Warren’s First Year: A look at the good, the bad and the ugly.

7. What I Said 20 Years Ago: My high school graduation speech was a real downer. This speech could be given at almost any RCSD high school today. Continue reading

It’s fair to say Mayor Lovely Warren has had a rocky first year in office. Let’s take a look back at good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good:

Warren- Mayor Warren Goes to Washington: The mayor established relationships on the federal level. She met with the Vice-President on creating more manufacturing jobs, drew attention to the plight of young black men as part of the president’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, talked to the president about being mayor of a city with a large number of poor residents, helped secure funding for port dredging and helped to get Rochester selected as a “Manufacturing Community,” making the area eligible for federal dollars.

- Mayor Uses Muscle: Lovely Warren secured the necessary votes among Democrats on the Monroe County Legislature to move the Costco and MCC downtown campus projects forward.

- Mayor and Maggie: The mayor and county executive share a good relationship. Maggie Brooks endorsed Warren for the position, an unprecedented move for a local Republican.

- Facilities Modernization: The mayor pushed to get more provisions for fiscal accountability in the second phase of construction.

- Party in the Park: This is a minor win, but moving it from the parking lot seemed like a good idea. We’ll know when the attendance numbers come back.

- More AIM Aid: This is sort of a half-win. Rochester got an extra $6 million from state lawmakers in the budget, but the city still gets the lowest amount of aid per capita compared to other cities. It also has to give the school district $119 million every year, while Buffalo and Syracuse can give far less to their districts. In addition, the state ignored the mayor’s request for $100 million for a performing arts center.

- Focus on Early Learning: Warren formed an Early Learning Council and has tirelessly promoted reading among young children. It’s too early to say if these efforts have paid off.

- Bloomberg Grant: The mayor helped to secure a $1.95 million grant to fight poverty using innovative techniques.

- Inner Loop: The mayor helped secure the final pieces of funding for the project to move forward. The project to fill in the Inner Loop started way before the mayor took office, but she’s been executing it according to plan.

- Police Reorganization: The mayor’s plan to create five police sections is extremely expensive and some say it’s not necessary, as crime has declined dramatically. But she is fulfilling a campaign pledge to bring police officers closer to the neighborhoods they serve. If this works, it will be a big part of her legacy.

- Transgender Benefits: Warren announced transgender city workers would have their treatments covered under medical insurance.

- Hart’s Grocery: The city played an active role in getting this downtown store open. The store received a tax abatement and federal loan.


The Bad:


- Uncle Reggie: The scandal now known as “Uncle Reggie” involved lying and nepotism. Hiring her uncle and another man as highly-paid security guards didn’t go over well. Neither did lying about how many times her uncle was stopped on the Thruway with her in the vehicle. Neither did ignoring reporters.

- Port Rollout: The mayor inherited this project, so it’s not fair to blame her for the plan to build a marina and develop the surrounding land. (Though she was on City Council and didn’t voice objections.) But when the project started to become real, Charlotte residents went beserk. It didn’t help that residents weren’t involved in the developer selection process and that the developer’s basic designs fell flat. As a result of the outcry, the city later involved residents in the design and planning.

- Officer Daryl Pierson’s death: This tragedy could have happened under any mayor, but it counts as a significantly awful event in her first year. Warren showed grace and leadership in the days following the shooting. The city did an excellent job planning a funeral that touched thousands of people. However, the feelings of goodwill evaporated when Warren posted about the Ferguson grand jury decision, saying Officer Darren Wilson had no regard for human life. This outraged supporters of police officers, who believe Wilson had no choice. The Pierson family jumped into the controversy, making harsh comments about the mayor. It was an ugly episode.

- St. Patrick’s Day Parade: The city removed the parade from East Ave. without soliciting any public input. When the public got wind of the plan, people were outraged. The move was a huge blow to East End businesses and patrons. The city backtracked, offered alternative routes and held a public hearing. A final route was chosen that goes down part of East Ave. The city claims the detour is temporary and necessary because of the Inner Loop project, but officials did a very poor job explaining their reasoning.

- Deaths of Larry and Jane Glazer: After they died, the city went out of its way to say everything would be the same, that development at Midtown would proceed according to plan. We now know that’s not true. The city has a dilemma on its hands with Parcel 5, which Larry Glazer had been eyeing. I suspect no one wants it now. Proposals are due January 15.

- Rochester Housing Authority: The mayor engineered the replacement of nearly all board members, who promptly fired the executive director and replaced him with a city councilman. The mayor claims she had nothing to do with this, though her associates were quietly warning the media weeks beforehand this would happen. Now the previous director has to be paid a yet-to-be-revealed sum that’s sure to be embarrassing. Councilman Adam McFadden was forced to resign as the new director when HUD started sniffing around. At any point during this process, the mayor could have roundly condemned these shenanigans. Instead, she protected her board members. This poorly-executed political patronage scheme has severely tarnished the agency.

- Staffing Problems: The deputy mayor was arrested for drunk driving. A city attorney with a previous DWI was promoted to a high-level economic development job, but got demoted after clashing with his superiors. The chief communications director, who clashed with reporters, was recently demoted to a job of “executive assistant,” but is still earning $98,000.

- Homeless Fight: The city ticked off a lot of bleeding hearts when it bulldozed the tents where homeless people had been staying. The city said the tents were not safe or sanitary and offered brick-and-mortar shelter to the residents. This kind of housing does not meet city code, nor is it appropriate to allow such a development on city land. But advocates claim they had no warning about the city’s intentions to plow the place down. In yet another City Hall “do-over,” the homeless have been given a short reprieve and their tents can stay up through New Year’s Day.

- “Stay in Your Lane”: People angry about how the homeless have been treated messaged the mayor’s Facebook account. A Facebook message sent from her account in return told people in the suburbs to mind their own business and “stay in your lane.” The city said Warren’s account was “compromised.” Here’s the big problem with that theory: Hackers don’t quote city talking points. The episode appeared to be another example of a City Hall that can’t get its story straight.

- Polarization: The mayor has become a polarizing figure. People love her and people love to hate her. Some of her detractors are very racist. Some of her supporters think she gets more scrutiny because of her race. Warren has fierce defenders and fierce detractors. Some of this is her fault, as this “bad” list contains entirely preventable situations. But some of the criticism against her is profoundly unfair.

It would be nice to see Warren become a more unifying figure in 2015. She can change the conversation and public perception by racking up wins and avoiding stupid mistakes. There’s plenty of time left in her term and I don’t believe we’ll see another year like this one.


Links of the Day:


- After major pushback in the Southern Tier, Cuomo is now interfering in the casino site selection process. (Does anyone believe he didn’t before?)

- “Gov. Andrew Cuomo is now muscling in, promising to save New York’s deficient school system…”

- This story of a Buffalo start-up needing venture capital from Buffalo to stay in Buffalo comes across like a shakedown. I realize VC is hard to come by in Upstate New York, but nothing suggests they have to move if VC comes from elsewhere.

- Finger Lakes wineries are fighting a gas storage plan.

- This makes me not want to see “Selma.”

- Guidance counselors are not a priority in many high schools.

- Let’s help out the historic train room in Rochester, a hidden gem.

- Will the ice bike be the next iconic Buffalo thing? Its developer hopes so.


Pedestrians are People, Too



Florida Passes New York in State Population



It’s official. Florida has surpassed New York as the third most populous state in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Florida added an average of 803 residents every day between July 1. 2013 and July 1, 2014. Florida now has 19,893,297 residents compared to New York’s 19,746,227. New York is growing, too. It’s just not growing as fast as Florida.

What’s going on? CNN reports:

Manufacturing jobs have diminished in northern New York cities like Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse. Florida, on the other hand, is seeing jump in tourism, real estate, construction, medicine and finance, (University of Miami’s Thomas) Boswell said.

But immigration is also an important factor in explaining Florida’s rise.

“Florida’s growth for many years has been due primarily to migration,” (University of Florida’s Stan) Smith said. “Typically, 80 to 90% of growth in the state has to do with people moving in.”

The spike in immigration includes people moving from other states as well as from abroad, Smith said. Based on responses to BEBR surveys, Smith said, most people moving to Florida do so for job-related reasons. The state also draws retirees seeking a warmer climate.

Florida is the number one destination for people leaving Rochester. Between 2007 and 2011, Monroe County had a net loss of 1,082 residents to the Sunshine State. Monroe County’s population hasn’t dipped because of immigrants.


Links of the Day:


- In New York State, you’ll never see the internal investigation or disciplinary against a police officer. The only time I’ve see one made public was the Craig Heard shooting. The info was contained in lawsuit court paperwork.

- Experts say New York’s new casinos won’t have a big economic impact.

- Racetracks are very worried about the casino expansion.

- This is why nuclear power plants, including Ginna, are in trouble.

- Young women who don’t go to college are more likely to be raped.

- From $10 million to $10 an hour: Donte Stallworth, former NFL wide receiver, is working as a Huffington Post intern.

- Phew. This map shows Rochesterians like “dude” and “buddy” more than “bro.”


Tweet of the Day: