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When Broad St. was a canal

When Broad St. was a canal


Rochester, this could be us.

We also have a canal and a river downtown. But all we’ve managed to build over the last decade is Corn Hill Landing, which is a great place to have dinner, go for a summer stroll and watch the fireworks. It’s no main attraction, however.

Last week, the Democrat and Chronicle rehashed the idea from Broad Street Underground to turn the aqueduct into a mall. Yes, a mall. Like we don’t already have a daunting task to fill up retail space at Sibley and Midtown. Even worse, this half-baked plan includes a tunnel between the Blue Cross Arena and the convention center. “Gee I wish there was an underground walkway so I can get from my luncheon to the hockey game,” said no one ever.  Continue reading

Washington Post

Washington Post


The Washington Post reports the middle class is in trouble, with median incomes peaking in most counties many years ago.

In Monroe County, the article’s interactive map shows income peaked in 1969, when the inflation-adjusted median household income was $71,214.

The Washington Post reports:

It used to be that when the U.S. economy grew, workers up and down the economic ladder saw their incomes increase, too. But over the past 25 years, the economy has grown 83 percent, after adjusting for inflation — and the typical family’s income hasn’t budged. In that time, corporate profits doubled as a share of the economy. Workers today produce nearly twice as many goods and services per hour on the job as they did in 1989, but as a group, they get less of the nation’s economic pie. In 81 percent of America’s counties, the median income is lower today than it was 15 years ago.

In this new reality, a smaller share of Americans enjoy the fruits of an expanding economy. This isn’t a fluke of the past few years — it’s woven into the very structure of the economy. And even though Republicans and Democrats keep promising to help the middle class reclaim the prosperity it grew accustomed to after World War II, their prescriptions aren’t working.

Do you think our best days are behind us?


Links of the Day:


– Why women don’t work: U.S. lag behind in family-friendly policies.

– There is not much evidence the state’s Regional Economic Development Council grants create a lot of jobs.

– Like Rochester, Buffalo’s housing authority is also in turmoil and there are calls for the mayor to fix things.

– A Hobart College student, who was expelled, was acquitted on sexual assault charges.

– This is why state lawmakers might actually need a pay raise.

Rochester is lagging behind on snow this season. Don’t worry, plenty of time to catch up.

– Why are the magazines at doctor offices always out of date?


Tweet of the Day:



New York Times


The New York Times mapped the employment statistics of men aged 25 to 54 in every census tract in the U.S. The bottom line is that fewer men are working compared to decades past.

The New York Times reports:

On the whole, however, it’s vastly more common today than it was decades ago for prime-age men not to be working. Across the country, 16 percent of such men are not working, be they officially unemployed or outside of the labor force — disabled, discouraged, retired, in school or taking care of family. That number has more than tripled since 1968.

The data for Rochester is scary. There are census tracts in Rochester where more than half of men in this age group are unemployed. About two-thirds of men in some northeast city neighborhoods are not working. 

This statistic should be cause for alarm on a number of levels.

Read more about the employment data for men here.


Links of the Day:


- Did New York City police officers plant guns on innocent suspects? There are similarities among cases.

- Video surfaces of a Buffalo police officer beating a man.

- Following Rochester’s lead, Syracuse bishop considers outing priests with credible sexual abuse accusations against them.

- Micro-units are coming to Rochester’s Alexander Park development.

- Rochester city officials don’t appear to be interested in municipal broadband, even though two of five households does not have Internet.

- Stimulants are common for children on Medicaid.

- School discipline for girls varies by race and hue.

- The journalist uninvited to Syracuse University has died.


Duffy Needs a New Twitter Handle


Urban SuburbanThe Spencerport Central School District held a meeting Tuesday night about possibly joining the Urban-Suburban program. During this packed meeting, many parents expressed concern, fear and anger over the prospect of 70 minority children attending their schools over the next decade. The children would be accepted as space permits and taxpayers would not pay extra.

It’s been almost 20 years since Urban-Suburban generated such controversy.

In 1998, 10-year-old Jessica Haak wanted to transfer from Rochester City Schools to West Irondequoit through Urban-Suburban. When the program administrator found out she is white, her invitation was rescinded. Urban-Suburban, founded in 1965, is only open to students of color. Haak sued in federal court, saying her rights were violated. The district court judge agreed with Haak. But a federal appeals court found reducing racial segregation is a compelling reason to have a program such as Urban-Suburban, and sent the case back to the district court for trial. The court based its ruling on a handful of previous cases dealing with school desegregation schemes.

In their opinion, the judges note why there is de facto segregation in New York:

There is no question that New York State structures its public school system such that each student has only the right to attend the school in the district in which he or she lives. Moreover, the evidence in the record indisputably shows that the (Urban Suburban) Program was enacted in 1965 to deal with racial segregation in the Monroe County schools resulting from this policy in combination with segregated living patterns.

But the judges identify the major flaw with the Urban Suburban program. A concurring judge wrote:

The statistics with which we have been supplied during this appeal suggest that in the 35 years of its existence the minority pupil population in Rochester City School District has increased from 25.6 percent to 80 percent…. It is extremely difficult to see how this program has had any meaningful impact upon the existence of schools or school districts with “a predominant number or percentage of students of a particular racial/ethnic group.”

Therefore, even though the defendants may have had a sufficiently compelling interest to justify the program at its inception, it is difficult to see how the interest continues, given the program’s limited impact. If a compelling interest no longer exists, it seems to me that the entire program may fail as being unconstitutional, and the plaintiffs would have no remedy.

A dissenting judge made the same point:

Therefore, even though the defendants may have had a sufficiently compelling interest to justify the program at its inception, it is difficult to see how the interest continues, given the program’s limited impact. If a compelling interest no longer exists, it seems to me that the entire program may fail as being unconstitutional, and the plaintiffs would have no remedy…I do agree that there is no more effective means of achieving the reduction of racial isolation than to base decisions on race alone. It is the most effective means; in this case, it just is not a constitutional means.

While Spencerport parents expressed all kinds of concerns about Urban Suburban, they missed the biggest one: Urban Suburban doesn’t work. It’s goal is to “voluntarily reduce racial isolation, and the segregation of academic opportunities.” It undoubtedly helps the nearly 600 students who participate every year, and it presumably helps their classmates who benefit from being exposed to children unlike themselves. But as Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski has said, “it’s tokenism.”

Urban Suburban makes participating school districts feel like they’re making a difference, even though our schools are still some of the most racially and economically segregated in the nation. Spencerport parents could have embraced the program for what it is – a small gesture.  Instead, they exposed Urban Suburban for what it is not – true change.


Links of the Day:


- I do not see anything groundbreaking in U of R’s plan to save East High. Implementation and execution will be key.

- Amy Pierson acknowledges all that unity after her husband’s death has evaporated.

- “It’s one of the most shocking documents ever produced by any modern democracy about its own abuses of its own highest principles.”

- The incomes of young Americans are shrinking.

- It takes 146 days to get a dermatology appointment in Syracuse.

- Minorities at Harvard, other law schools seek delays in finals because they’ve been busy protesting.

- Corporations have meteorologists, too.

- A Rochester man wants to collect fire patches before he dies. He’s getting a lot of help.

- The crows are back!

Compare Young Adults Across the Decades with Census Explorer



They’re known as the Boomerang Generation because so many returned home to live with their parents. New data released by the U.S. Census shows today’s young adults are indeed more likely to be bunking with mom and dad. This generation may be less financially secure, but it’s also more educated.

The census has an interactive mapping tool to compare Millennials, considered to be between 18 and 34 years old, with previous generations. Rochester’s Millennials are similar to their counterparts across the country.

Here are the main takeaways:

1. A lot of Milleninals live with their parents. In Rochester, 29 percent of young adults are living with a parent, compared to 23 percent in 2000, 24 percent in 1990 and 23 percent in 1980. The national rate of young adults living with their parents is 30 percent.

2. Interestingly, the percentage of Millennials living alone has stayed steady over generations in Rochester – 8 percent.

3. Rochester’s Millennials are not as financially secure, with 21 percent living in poverty,. That comparedsto 15 percent in 2000, 12 percent in 1990 and 11 percent in 1980. The national Millennial poverty rate is 20 percent.

City of Rochester

Credit: City of Rochester

4. Far fewer Rochester Millennials are employed – only 67 percent. But that’s better than the national young adult employment of 65 percent. In 1990, 74 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds had jobs. In 2000, 72 percent were working.

5. Rochester’s Millennials are not getting hitched. Seventy-three percent have never been married. That compares to 66 percent nationwide. In 1980, more than half of 18 to 34-year-olds had tied the knot at least once.

6. There is no brain drain, as I have pointed out previously. The percentage of 18 to 34-year-olds in Rochester mirrors that of the country. What’s more, Rochester’s Millennials are more educated. Twenty-five percent have bachelor’s degrees, compared to 22 percent nationwide. This generation of Rochesterians has a higher rate of college degree attainment than previous ones.

7. Millennials are more diverse. Nearly one in four Rochester Millennial is non-white, compared to nearly one in 10 in 1980.

8. Millennials are still driving alone to work – 86 percent. But the rate dipped slightly from the 88 percent who drove alone to work in 1990 and 2000.

Read more about the data here.


Links of the Day:


- Cleveland police tactics violated rights of citizens, the Justice Department found.

- “I was told something as a new rookie officer: You’d rather be tried by 12 jurors than carried by six pallbearers.

- The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on NFL blackoutsand the Bills took center stage.

- When Larry Glazer died, the city pretended everything would go on as usual. That’s not going to happen.

- A New York appeals court ruled that chimps are not people.

- Research casts alarming light on decline of West Antarctic glaciers. Rising sea levels will impact coastlines.

- Someone make these tired, worn-out lists stop.

Update: The New York Post reports state officials did not take into account updated snow totals from NWS. The Buffalo News appears to take a shot at TV stations over their forecasts.


When the Buffalo area is out of danger, there will be a lot of discussion about how local and state government prepared and reacted to this storm. Why wasn’t the Thruway closed earlier? Why wasn’t there a concrete plan to dig out? Why didn’t people understand the magnitude of what was about to happen? Despite the fact it would have been hard for anyone to wrap their heads around this much snow – and the dangers presented – these are still legitimate questions.

Governor Andrew Cuomo offered one theory. WGRZ reports:

Cuomo said the Weather Service did not indicate that the heavy snow bands would remain stationary and blast South Buffalo and the Southtowns with the incredible rate of snowfall.

Cuomo said that’s part of the reason why New York State is building its own linked weather forecasting system that will be superior to any other state system in the country.

“No one had an idea that it was gonna be that much snow that fast. Snow coming down at the rate of about five inches an hour. No one had an idea. The weather service was off. By the way, I said this in my state of the state last year we’re putting in our own weather detection system,” said Cuomo.

There might have been a communications failure. But this doesn’t seem to be a forecast failure. Meteorologists tweeted that the National Weather Service did predict this monster storm.



Links of the Day:


- Could climate change bring more lake effect snow?

- A government committee will decide if Buffalo area snow broke a record.

- Fun lake effect memes.

- Downtown landmarks in Syracuse are illuminated with colored lights some call garish.

- DHD Ventures is renovating some well-known downtown Rochester properties.

- Denver Post explores our broken mental health system, one that only treats people after they’re far into illness.

- Adam Lanza’s mothers refused treatment recommendations for her son, who was 6 feet tall and weighed only 112 pounds.

- Washington Post goes very in-depth on Cosby accusations. Numerous women have same story of being drugged and attacked.


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:




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.


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!