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charter

Did you hear the good news? Charter Communications, Inc. is opening an headquarters in Henrietta and creating more than 220 jobs! The company, which just purchased Time Warner cable, will invest $2.9 million in the move.

Woohoo!

Governor Andrew Cuomo visited Rochester to make the announcement.

Here’s what was not said.

The state is giving Charter up to $2,5 million in Excelsior Jobs tax credits, meaning the company isn’t investing much at all.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found the Excelsior Jobs program is riddled with problems. Companies collected money without creating the promised jobs. Among them was Xerox, which also got a call center on the taxpayer dime.

Some of these new jobs will be at Charter’s call center. While these jobs are important to individuals, they are bad economic development policy. Call centers notoriously have high turnover and low pay.

The headquarters will be in the Calkins Road area of Henrietta. The first bus doesn’t arrive until around 9 a.m. and the last one leaves before 6 p.m. This means workers will likely have to drive. Transportation is a huge barrier to employment for many people. If we are serious about reducing poverty, we should withhold incentives from firms that do not locate jobs near people or on high service bus lines.

Charter Communications is now the second largest cable provider in the United States. It earned several billion dollars in profits last year. It earns BILLIONS of dollars and wants our help building out an office in Henrietta?

Instead of us helping Charter, the governor should be asking Charter to help us. Hey Charter, will you provide fiber internet, a la carte cable packages and lower charges for equipment rentals?

We need the jobs, especially after Verizon’s announcement is will shut down its Henrietta call center, killing 600 positions. (That’s what’s wrong with the call center economy. There’s no permanency.) But instead of making the business climate better for everyone, the state bribes a select few. The end result is one of the slowest growing economies in the nation. This kind of corporate welfare is not working and it’s not reaching the area’s neediest citizens.

Meanwhile, our cable bills are remain high.

resizedA local newspaper reporter asked on Twitter if I would be “nice” while campaigning.

A man posted on Facebook that I’m a “pretty puppet.”

A woman asked what I had done in my journalism career besides “just talk.”

Someone told me I should go back to reading the TelePrompter.

A mailer to voters called me a “flashy TV personality.”

An anonymous website popped up called “Rachel Barnhart for Prom Queen.”

An email chastised me for trying further my “ambition” and feed my “ego.”

An alt-weekly editorial said I’m a person who likes “drawing and demanding attention.”

A social media post called me “entitled” and an “opportunist.”

During a televised debate, a panelist asked if I knew how to craft legislation that wouldn’t fit into a tweet.

The day I lost, a man posted on my website, “The public recognized a dilettante when it saw one.”

No one wanted to talk about issues during the Democratic primary for the 138th District New York Assembly seat. They wanted to talk about me.

Losing was hard. Losing publicly is very hard. It was a horrible feeling to watch people cheer your failure.

Harder than losing was being subjected to misogyny and lies. Harder than losing was not being able to fight back and tell my own story — because we ran out of money.

I had spent nearly two decades on television. I had lived a public life. But I was unprepared for the torrent of attacks, many based on my gender. Few people outside of my circle came to my defense. Few people recognized the attacks as misogyny. Being a woman and running for office, particularly against the machine, is an isolating, terrifying, and even traumatizing experience.

I was taken back to that feeling little more than a month after losing the primary. I was watching the final presidential debate. When Republican Donald Trump called Democrat Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman,” it felt like a punch to the gut. Maybe this is going to come across to the casual observer as an extreme reaction, but I started to feel anxiety. For three months, I was a “nasty woman,” repeatedly called “negative” for discussing issues and my opponent’s record. For the first time since the primary, I didn’t feel alone. Women all over the country were proclaiming themselves “nasty.”

How did an Ivy League graduate who was valedictorian of her high school class get reduced to an egomaniacal flake? How did a woman who spent 17 years doing serious investigative and public interest reporting become a talking head? How did a woman who made a sacrifice by quitting her job to serve her community become entitled?

I’m stunned this happened — even more stunned the attacks came from fellow Democrats. The hypocrisy was astounding. Anything goes when it comes to maintaining the current power structure. I’m not sure everyone who engaged in this behavior knew what they were doing, as these gender tropes are so ingrained in our psyche.

There was overt sexism in the campaign. But there was also subtle sexism. Much of it focused on my motives for running for office.

“It’s normal for men to seek political power. It’s considered part of their nature. Being competitive is considered part of their nature. We don’t consider it normal for women to seek it. So she must be up to something,” said Hilary Shroyer, a campaign volunteer, attorney and feminist.

Many people told me I was running for office to seek attention. Feminist author Laurie Penney wrote in Cybersexim: Gender and Power on the Internet, “One of the most common insults flung at women who speak or write in public is ‘attention-seeking’ — a classic way of silencing us, particularly if we are political. The fact that ‘attention-seeking’ is still considered a slur says much about the role of women in public life, on every scale. From the moment we can speak, young women are ordered not to do so.”

My qualifications were attacked and ignored. Studies show voters treat male and female candidates the same, but when a candidate is called incompetent, women pay a higher penalty. Studies also show when gendered stereotypes are activated by the press or campaigns, they hurt female candidates.

I was constantly told there were not substantial differences between myself and my opponent. I was told I “had no reason to run.” But when I discussed my opponent’s record and my positions on issues, I was called “negative.” If I was quiet and “nice,” there would have been no contest. If I was assertive, I was a bitch.

Georgetown University Linguistics Professor Deborah Tannen says women often have trouble being seen as both likable and strong leaders. She wrote in the Washington Post in February, “Hence the double bind: If a candidate — or manager — talks or acts in ways expected of women, she risks being seen as underconfident or even incompetent. But if she talks or acts in ways expected of leaders, she is likely to be seen as too aggressive and will be subject to innumerable other negative judgments — and epithets — that apply only to women.”

I don’t believe I lost the primary because of sexism. I believe I lost because I didn’t have the money to fight these attacks. We were outspent about four to one.

Some people say, “That’s politics.” It’s not.

This is why women don’t run for office. This is why fewer women hold elected office. The next time a woman runs for office and is called ambitious, entitled, egotistical or unqualified, ask what’s really going on. Ask if a man would be characterized the same way.

On this issue, I’m happy to be “negative” and “attention-seeking.” Women who want to serve their community in elected office deserve better.

I wrote a book about this experience. Broad, Casted is on Kickstarter through November 4 and will be available on my website after the crowdfunding campaign.

TVThere will never be another Don Alhart.

He’s a great news anchor and a great man. He’s contributed a tremendous amount to the Rochester community. That alone puts him in a category by himself.

But there’s something he’s done that few journalists, if anyone, from the Millennial population will be able to achieve: Staying at the same Rochester news outlet for 50 years.

There are fewer jobs these days in television, print and radio, thanks to the Internet and a shrinking ad market. (And corporate greed?) These jobs also pay much less. Consider the fact there are 25-year-old television reporters in Rochester earning $30,000 a year. That’s less money than I earned when I was their age 15 years ago. (WROC had a union back then. Only WHEC has a union for on-air talent.) That’s an astonishing drop in pay, especially when you factor in inflation. I know a veteran reporter in her 40’s who wanted to come back to TV, but was only offered $35,000.

As I said in a speech a few weeks ago to the Rochester Media Association, I was fortunate to have had a choice to remain in Rochester and build a career. My generation, The Gen X-ers, is the last to be able to stay here. I equated our pay roughly to teachers or police officers (without the nice benefits). But younger journalists won’t be able to make the same choice to stay and make a decent living. They will have to move on to bigger cities. Many moved on before the wage free-fall, but at least they had a choice to stay in Rochester.

Yes, wages have dropped and jobs have been cut in many industries. Our community has felt the pain all too well. But there’s a unique consequence when journalists can’t stick around and build a career. Institutional knowledge is lost, if it’s ever really gained. Reporters will often come from more affluent families that can subsidize their earnings. Public officials won’t be held as accountable, as young reporters, even the best ones, won’t know what questions to ask or whom to ask. In the worst case, stories will be done that will hurt people through inaccuracies or imbalance.

We need a strong, thriving journalism community in Rochester. I don’t think we’re done seeing the disruption caused by digital media, cord-cutting and live streaming. There are many, many talented, hard-working reporters in Rochester. I hope they can stay.

For the second time in a week, The Democrat and Chronicle has published a flawed real estate article. This one is titled, “Walkable neighborhoods are in demand.”

The first red flag is that the piece features a picture of a street with no sidewalks.

 

Screenshot, Democrat and Chronicle website, 5/16/15

Screenshot, Democrat and Chronicle website, 5/16/15

Two of the neighborhoods featured in the article are decidedly not walkable.

The Estates at Beaver Creek in Farmington backs up to a trail. That’s apparently enough for real estate agents to sell this as a walkable neighborhood.  But WalkScore, a website rating a place’s walkability, gives this neighborhood a 6 out of 100 points, an indication this area is about as car-dependent as it gets. This tiny, semi-rural development is surrounded by high-speed roads with no sidewalks. There are virtually no amenities, such as restaurants, stores, libraries and schools, within walking distance. It’s also not accessible to public transit.

Another featured neighborhood is the Black Watch subdivision in Perinton. WalkScore gives this neighborhood 23 out of 100 points, saying almost all errands require a car. While many houses are within one to two miles of businesses, these streets do not have sidewalks or streetlights. The winding roads in the street grid mean people have to walk longer distances to get from Point A to Point B. The businesses sit on high-speed, five-lane roads. This neighborhood is also not well-served by public transportation.

The other neighborhoods featured are more walkable. Roselawn in Brighton has a WalkScore of 60, meaning it’s somewhat walkable, and it’s also somewhat well-served by transit. But Spencerport and Scottsville villages, while wonderful, get scores in the 30s, probably because they’re surrounded by more semi-rural areas.

Just because you enjoy going out for a stroll, doesn’t mean you have a walkable neighborhood. Just because you have a trail in your backyard, doesn’t mean you have a walkable neighborhood. Just because you can and do walk around your neighborhood, doesn’t mean you have a walkable neighborhood. Just because there are parks and amenities nearby, doesn’t mean you have a walkable neighborhood.

Walkable neighborhoods value pedestrians. They have sidewalks, crosswalks, lower speed limits, narrower roads and streetlights. They have destinations. They are denser. They are not designed solely around cars. They have life and activity. Pedestrians feel safe. They have places to go. They enjoy the experience of walking. These neighborhoods have almost everything one needs.

The East End scores a 91, Park Ave. scores a 75, South Wedge scores a 78, Village of Pittsford scores a 74 and Village of Fairport scores a 70. Jeff Speck wrote a whole book about what it means to be a walkable place and why these places are so valuable. It’s an awesome read and could change the way you think about how we’ve designed spaces around cars.

The D&C article was right. Walkable neighborhoods are hot. But the paper and the real estate agents seriously misrepresented what it means to be walkable. It’s not a small error, as walkability means so much to people who are passionate about making our communities more accessible and vibrant.

Note: Earlier this week, I fiercely defended the D&C for standing up for access to information. Later in the week, I took the paper to task for two bungled articles. I love the paper. If I didn’t value the institution, I wouldn’t bother writing about its work. Accountability is important for all journalists, myself included.

 

Links of the Day:

 

– You don’t often see $1.6 million homes in the Rochester area.

– The Village of Pittsford’s politics are truly insane. Twenty-five percent of its budget is for legal fees?

– If you grow up in Monroe County, you’re less likely to be married by age 26.

– Binge drinking has increased in many places, including Monroe County.

– Syracuse police have a pattern of withholding information.

– Is there science backing up Chipotle and Whole Foods on GMOs?

Here are the highest-paid CEOs of 2014.

HouseThe Democrat and Chronicle published a story titled, “Single women buying homes with more regularity.”

The piece made it seem women are suddenly realizing they can handle home ownership:

…a trend that real estate brokers said has been on the rise — single female homebuyers as a growing part of the market. Year ago, brokers said, women tended to wait until they married before buying a home. That’s not the case anymore…

“Twenty years ago, a single girl was not supposed to buy a house, because who’s going to fix something if it breaks,” (Catherine Wyble) said. “So many people had it in their heads that you don’t buy a house until you’re married. You would have to have a husband to have a house. Now, it’s not a big deal.”

You don’t say!

…Wyble, who herself is single and owns a home, said she has an agreement with a guy friend to help him with his laundry in exchange for his mowing her lawn…

Single guys want to see the garage and the basement, Wyble said, while single women are drawn to the kitchen, the bathrooms and “having the big stuff done.” Single women tend to avoid ranch houses out of fear of being more vulnerable sleeping on the ground level, she added.

After I stopped gagging, I wondered if it’s really true that more “single girls” are buying homes in the Rochester area. I decided to look up some statistics on the U.S. Census website, since this piece lacked any data to back up these anecdotes.

It turns out, women own more homes in the Monroe County. Even us single gals!

In 2010, there were 30,707 women heads of households in owner occupied units in Monroe County who were not in non-family households, meaning they didn’t live with relatives. The vast majority live alone. About 40 percent are senior citizens. This compares to only 23,091 men who are heads of households in nonfamily situations.

Single women who own houses made up 16 percent of homeowners in Monroe County in 2010, up from 14 percent in 2000. But the share of single men homeowners also went up 2 percent during this time, from 10 to 12 percent. That’s probably because the rate of married homeowners fell five percentage points.

If there was a headline defining this era, it wouldn’t be that more women are jumping into home ownership. It would be that more single people are buying houses.

Monroe County is not alone in more women owning homes. Nationwide data shows that since 1990, more single women than single men have owned homes. The rate of single women owning homes has been steady in recent years.

If more women than men have owned homes for decades, why is it still news when single women buy houses? Why has this been a “trend” for two decades?

Let’s foreclose on this bogus trend once and for all.

 

Links of the Day:

 

– I agree with Gary Craig. Thomas Johnson’s defense team did its job and took pains to say Daryl Pierson was not to blame for his death.

– Start-Up New York has only created 76 jobs and has not “supercharged” the state economy as the governor promised. What’s more, “Of the businesses currently running, however, just four came from out of state. In some cases, the companies have not even crossed county lines.”

– Dinner for two? NY bill would let dogs into outdoor dining areas.

skyline

 

 

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

skyline

Credit: City of Rochester

 

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

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

Governing writes:

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

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

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

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

 

Links of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Stat of the Day:

 

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

 

Monroe County Board of Elections

Monroe County Board of Elections

 

Crazy Photo Op of the Day:

 

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

 

Credit: @whec_nrudd

Credit: @whec_nrudd

 

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.

The shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri has sparked a discussion about how young black men are covered in the press.

A Twitter hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown refers to what pictures the media would show of young black men killed by police officers. Would the media deliberately choose pictures of them looking like thugs?

I can’t say I’ve witnessed this specific type of bias in Rochester, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. When covering a story about any deceased individual, I look for the nicest pictures available. The pictures we show are most often provided by families. Sometimes families don’t have many pictures from which to choose. (Poynter offers a good discussion for journalists on how to avoid bias in these situation when choosing photos.)

But the hashtag raised a much larger issue of how the media covers young black men. The most thought-provoking article I read was by Jasmine Banks in Root titled, “Black Kids Don’t Have to Be College-Bound for Their Deaths to Be Tragic:”

The more horrific part, in my opinion, is that we—people of color—have been exposed to this “thugs deserve to die” narrative so frequently that some of us seem to have embraced it ourselves. Instead of arguing that nobody deserves to be shot, we tie ourselves up in knots making the case that the latest victim of a law-enforcement officer’s bullet was a good kid, or that the photo the news media selected wasn’t the most flattering depiction of him…

We cannot and should not engage in discussions that look like black and brown people explaining that an unarmed person shouldn’t have been shot because they lived in a way of which we are proud. 

This article resonated with me. There are so many young, black men who are killed in Rochester. We hear grieving loved ones say, “He was turning his life around.” We hear, “He was going to MCC in the fall.” We hear, “He was a good kid and would have done anything for anyone.”

Sometimes those things are true. Sometimes they are not true. Sometimes victims are innocent. Sometimes they are not. Sometimes people are honest about their loved ones. Sometimes they are not.

It doesn’t matter.

When I was attending John Marshall High School, I was acutely aware of how the media treated urban crime. Even then, I was a news junkie. During a time of record homicides, many of them young black men, we collectively remember only one young black male from that era: 14-year-old Ralik Henton, hit with a stray bullet, dying with a bible in his hand.

In 1995, a black teenager I went to high school with was robbed, shot and left for dead on the sidewalk as he left his job at McDonald’s. The name of this murder victim is long forgotten to all but his friends and family.

When I started my first job in Rochester, I asked why some homicide cases get more attention that others. A manager told me, “Families shouldn’t look to the news media to validate their loved one.”

One some level, that’s true. The news media pays more attention to things that are out of the ordinary. Innocent victims, suburban victims and white victims are more unusual. Some crimes are simply more shocking than others.

StreetMake no mistake, however. Media bias exists. At another job, I was constantly criticized by some superiors for “doing too many stories in the city.” The message was clear: The (mostly white) suburbs matter more than the (racially diverse) city. I was dumbfounded. How can you have too many stories in a city with 210,000 people, a city with enormous challenges and numerous people without a voice? Why does the news exist, if not to tell these stories? I am grateful I was still able to do most of my “city stories,” despite the criticism.

There’s so much urban violence, we have become numb. Even if we wanted to do personalized stories on every victim, we may not find family members willing to speak. We may not find pictures. The story may not get anyone’s attention. That’s why it’s important to focus on larger problems of poverty, education, drug policy, segregation, and more. Those “city stories” also tell the story of lives lost.

Where the media devotes its resources sends a message. How it chooses to cover certain things sends a message. It sent one to me when I was in high school. It is surely sending that message to other teenagers watching every day.

 

Links of the Day:

 

– If casinos are supposed to be cash cows for local governments, why do they need tax breaks?

– Stop The Cap takes on Adam McFadden for writing a letter in support of Comcast’s takeover of Time Warner. (McFadden told me he simply hates Time Warner and Comcast does not give that much money to his group.)

– Syracuse’s mayor is exploring municipal broadband.

– Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy has discovered Twitter. It turns out, he’s pretty good at it! Even better, his boss hasn’t tried to rein him in.

– The Cuomo administration is deleting all emails after 90 days, raising issues about records preservation.

– The New York Times editorial board calls on Cuomo to stop trying to throw his Democratic primary challenger off the ballot.

– This is why call centers are bad economic development. Xerox is laying off 468 people in Houston.

– An orthopedic surgeon writes about the growing number of children who have sports-related injuries. His advice to parents is to chill out.

– A mom is reading her emails on her phone while her kid plays at the park. Give her a break!

Computer - featuredBeing a reporter, I probably use Google more than most to find people, places and businesses. It’s astonishing how many businesses don’t have websites. A website is the easiest way to find out hours, products, menus, history, location and more.

An Associated Press article confirms that more than half of small businesses don’t have websites:

Fifty-five percent of small businesses don’t have a website, according to a 2013 survey of more than 3,800 small businesses conducted by Internet search company Google and research company Ipsos. That’s a slight improvement from the year before, when 58 percent said they didn’t have a website.

A recent post in City Newspaper lists new eateries. Of five establishments, three list a Facebook page, not a website.

Relying solely on Facebook is risky. Not everyone is on Facebook. The social network can be clunky to use when you’re in a hurry. You’re locked into Facebook’s format. You’re also at the mercy of Facebook’s whims, which include making it harder for your posts to show up in customer news feeds. You also risk making the first thing that comes up in Google about your business a Yelp review, which could be good or bad.

Facebook wants businesses to pay for exposure in customer news feeds. So why not invest in a website you own and control? For less than $100 a year, you can set up your own WordPress blog and domain name. That’s what I did when I first started this website. It was not hard. Later, I got something fancier. There are many freelancers who can create a nice design for anywhere from $250 to $1,000. You may even know a friend or family member who has coding and design expertise.

For many customers, the first impression of a business will not be when they walk in the door. It will be when they type your name into Google.

 

Links of the Day:

 

– Rochester refugees say they’re targeted for robberies and violence. They are preparing to go to war.

– Why is 7-Eleven cracking down on franchises? 

– The guy Colorado authorities held up as the poster child of driving-while-high was actually super drunk.

– “Secondary drowning” and fear-mongering.

 

About My Rant…

 

On Facebook, I slammed the School #58 addition as ruining the historic building and out of character. I understand that experts say the goal isn’t to “match” the old building, but the School #58 design struck me as plain and ugly.

This weekend, I visited my alma mater, Cornell University, for the first time in five years. I was floored by a humongous science building tacked onto an old, stately building in 2010. It reminded me of the School #58 design, albeit on a much grander scale. It made me think about my Facebook post.

I have very mixed feelings about both the Cornell and School #58 additions. My gut reaction was, “gross.” I would have preferred separate buildings, with some kind of nice connector. Or an addition built out of sight. Maybe it will all just take some getting used to.

 

School #58

School #58

 

Cornell University

Cornell University

This morning, the mug shot of a woman arrested for prostitution in Wayne County was plastered on Facebook and Twitter.  The comments below her picture:

“Ive been drunk once or twice, however, never THAT drunk!”

“Did men actually pay for that??????”

“she looks like she regularly makes excellent life choices”

“Looks like she banged her head one time too many on the headboard”

Mug ShotThe woman’s arrest appeared in the news after the Wayne County Sheriff sent out a press release. In recent weeks, the Monroe County Sheriff has sent out two press releases about prostitution sweeps in Henrietta. Mug shots of the women were similarly displayed on news websites and social media, as well as in some news broadcasts.

While there’s no question prostitution is illegal and the arrests are public information, there are several reasons police and the media may want to rethink how they report on this issue.

A lot of people are arrested for a lot of things on a daily basis without press releases alerting the media. Rochester police don’t send out releases on prostitution arrests. So why do the Monroe and Wayne Sheriffs offices think prostitutes are so newsworthy? Furthermore, where are the mug shots of the johns and pimps?

There is a movement in New York to treat prostitutes as victims. They are often sexually abused and assaulted. They are often addicted to drugs. There are special courts set up to deal with their charges, while also helping them regain their lives.

Police and the media haven’t caught on. Cops still send out these press releases and the media still parrot them without question. News organizations have policies about not reporting the names of sexual abuse victims, so it’s worth asking why they’re so comfortable showing the mug shots of prostitutes. At the very least, news outlets could be asking themselves what purpose this kind of reporting serves.

I understand that prostitution is not a victimless crime. The women who sell their bodies are hurt. In the case of streetwalkers, the neighborhoods where they do business are hurt. Underage girls and boys are being trafficked in the sex trade.

But most of the reporting of these press releases appears to nothing more than the salacious shaming of downtrodden women.

 

Links of the Day:

 

– A TV reporter writes about his struggle with mental illness.He also discusses how the media does a bad job reporting on mental health.

– Bob Duffy regrets leaving Rochester “when he did” and insists Buffalo didn’t really get a billion dollars.

– Suburban school districts spend nothing on parent engagement. RCSD spends millions. Some say that’s not enough.

– 7 things to know about Common Core tests, which start this week. Also, these tests count for teachers, but not students.

– How the wine industry spread across New York state and grew into a $4.8 billion business.

Angry MobThe social media mob was out in force last week against a Greece teacher.

The American Sign Language teacher wrote words her students wanted to learn how to sign on her SMART Board. One of the students called out the word c–ks—er and the teacher wrote in on the board. Months after the incident, a parent posted a picture of it on her Facebook page.

A few days later, the teacher had resigned.

The parent was within her rights to post the picture. People were within their rights to comment and express their opinions. But I’m wondering if sometimes we let a social media frenzy dictate outcomes.

Maybe the teacher should have lost her job. There are things we likely don’t know. But I’m willing to bet she’d still be employed if the parent had privately approached school officials.

On Facebook and Twitter, people pick up their pitchforks and demand action. They want to KNOW SOMETHING WAS DONE. Did school officials react to the mob? Would they have taken the teacher complaint as seriously if it hadn’t gone viral and hit the news? Did social media perform a public service or commit a possible injustice?

We’ve see incidents go viral in Rochester before: the Greece bus monitor video, Craig Schaller’s LPGA blog, and the Muslim checkout line at Wegmans.

GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram wrote this about the woman fired from her job after a terrible tweet about AIDS and Africa:

With tools like Twitter and Facebook and the focus on real-time news, a single comment or bad joke or moment of poor decision-making can quickly escalate into an international incident. But is this kind of behavior a good thing? Is this how we encourage positive social values now? Or is it just a faster and more modern variation on the ugly mob?

At what point does the behavior of those responding to the offence become more offensive than the original comment, or at least out of proportion to it?

Is there a way to get the benefits of this kind of public shaming without it going overboard and becoming a mob with pitchforks? That’s hard to say. But we seem to be getting more and more chances to get the balance right, so perhaps we will figure it out eventually. I hope so.

I’m worried we no longer accept two words that used to symbolize an effort to learn, heal and show good faith: “I’m sorry.”

Links of the Day:

 

– Give the RCSD $325 million to rehab schools. What could possibly go wrong? Turns out a lot. In a report clearly showing the media was asleep at the switch for two years, the Democrat & Chronicle uses audits to expose overspending and mismanagement of the Facilities Modernization Plan. For example. principals were allowed to change work orders after projects went out to bid.

– Drop the kids off at school. Go fly a drone. Maybe pull the trigger. The Niagara Falls Air Base has a new, controversial focus.

– By cracking down on prescription pills, the government pushed people to heroin. It’s a big War on Drugs blunder.

– “Libraries have become bustling community centers where talking out loud and even eating are perfectly acceptable.” Libraries are more popular than ever.

Computer - featuredWith two separate announcements last week, Time Warner Cable likely raised the cost of my Internet another $60 a year.

The rates for customers will go up an average of $3 a month. In addition, the cost to rent a modem went from $3.95 to $5.99 a month. Time Warner only last year started charging the modem fee.

Many of us will now buy our own modems.

What are the choices if you want to jump ship?

If you do not want to bundle with television or phone service, there’s only one other major choice: Frontier. It offers home Internet service over its landline phone network. Speeds can be slower, though there are technologies that are boosting copper speeds.

Dish and DirecTV require a television subscription. Earthlink is an option, but a quick check of prices don’t indicate huge savings over Frontier or Time Warner. The dish services and Earthlink use the lines from your local phone and cable companies.

Greenlight Networks is a local startup, but its geography is very limited. Also, it’s plans start at $50 a month, more than I pay now.

AT&T and Verizon offer wireless Internet options, but they are expensive, often have data caps, and slower speeds. (People with smartphones pay for the Internet twice – for mobile and home use. I’ve long wanted one Internet bill.)

I pay $37.99 (pre-rate hike) a month for Time Warner’s “lite” Internet service. I do not have cable television. I’d like to keep my bill under $50 a month, but I’m not sure how much longer that will be feasible. Sure, I can switch providers to find better deals, but that’s a pain in the neck. Every time a promotional period runs out, I’d have to go back to market.

As more of us cut the cord, the giant telecoms and cable providers will find a way to make up that cash. That’s why our broadband bills will keep going up.

Some wonder if the Internet should be regulated as a utility. Think about this fact: Time Warner, which raked in more than $21 billion last year, has 700,000 subscribers in the Buffalo and Rochester markets. I’m not sure how many of those are businesses. But the Western New York market has 875,000 households. That’s an astounding market penetration. Does this mean Time Warner is the best choice or the least worse option?

 

Links of the Day:

 

– A Buffalo News columnist calls for a metro school district. Donn Esmonde points out reform models don’t take into account the importance of economic diversity.

– Eighty-six percent of Pittsford graduates go to four-year colleges. In poorer districts, fewer than half do.

– Forty percent of the University of Rochester’s Simon School students are from other countries.

– Ankle monitors give a false sense of security. They simply produce too much data for law enforcement to reasonably check.

– Important read on why the government crackdown on leaks threatens the public’s right to know. Confidential sources are crucial to journalism.

More low-wage workers are fighting back.

Source: Brookings Institution

Source: Brookings Institution

 

Rochester is doing pretty well when it comes to high tech jobs. Brookings Institution found Rochester ranks among top one-third of metros in percentage of STEM jobs. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Brookings decided to include STEM jobs that require technical skill, but do not require a bachelor’s degree, such as machinists and auto techs.

The chart above makes it clear why we care so much about STEM jobs. They pay more. The people in STEM jobs also invent things. These innovators are crucial to growing companies.

This is why I wish our local and state government would focus more on attracting STEM jobs than casino, retail and call center jobs.

(Buffalo is not so hot on the STEM front.)

Links of the Day:

 

– “There is no saving me.” Edward Snowden knew the risks.

– Booz Allen employs 25,000. Nearly half have top secret security clearances.

Has the United States become the type of nation from which you have to seek asylum?

– Joining the ACC is a financial windfall for Syracuse University athletics.

– “Across the country, schools & school districts are overreacting to risk.”

Google Car

 

New York State could pave the way for self-driving cars.

Assemblyman David Gantt, chair of the transportation committee, has introduced a bill (read it here) that would allow the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles.

California, Nevada and Florida all have laws allowing self-driving cars. The technology, spearheaded by Google, raises a number of issues, as this TIME magazine article points out:

There are some compelling reasons to support self-driving cars. Regular cars are inefficient: the average commuter spends 250 hours a year behind the wheel. They are dangerous. Car crashes are a leading cause of death for Americans ages 4 to 34 and cost some $300 billion a year. Google and other supporters believe that self-driving cars can make driving more efficient and safer by eliminating distracted driving and other human error. Google’s self-driving cars have cameras on the top to look around them and computers to do the driving. Their safety record is impressive so far.

(snip)

That is a reasonable concern. If we are going to have self-driving cars, the technical specifications should be quite precise….

How involved — and how careful — are we going to expect the human co-pilot to be? As a Stanford Law School report asks, “Must the ‘drivers’ remain vigilant, their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road? If not, what are they allowed to do inside or outside, the vehicle?” Can the human in the car drink? 

Gantt’s bill calls for a study period in New York. The commissioner of motor vehicles would propose laws and regulations to the governor by February 2015. The bill was introduced a couple weeks ago and is still in committee.

 

Links of the Day:

 

– Rochester area residents and police are worried kids will disrupt festivals all summer. 

– President Obama nominated Ann Marie Buerkle to a $155,000-a-year post.

– New York high school students will be paid to develop new high school equivalency degree. Meanwhile, kids subjected to field tests get nothing.

– John McCain wrote an editorial calling for a la carte TV programming.

– Why David Simon, creator of “The Wire,” is against legalizing pot.

– What Jane Saw: An art gallery visited by Jane Austen, put on line for virtual tours.

TelevisionWe should all be paying attention to the Aereo TV case. Using antennas, the company delivers over-the-air broadcast channels to subscribers’ computers for $10 a month.

Broadcasters have sued. Judges have refused to issue an injunction stopping the Aereo service, which is not available in Rochester. Angered, Fox threatened to make its channel cable-only.

Poynter reports:

Aereo customers pay a monthly or annual subscription fee, based in part on how much digital storage space they’d like. Then, they’re assigned a tiny antenna – no cable box or any other equipment – that’s kept with all other antennas at an offsite location maintained by the company. That antenna allows subscribers to watch live broadcast television on their computer, and they can also save content to watch later.

(snip)

Broadcasters are “concerned from a revenue standpoint,” said Mike Cavender, executive director for the Radio Television Digital News Association. They worry that online subscriptions to Aereo could cut down on cable subscriptions for the networks – and that could mean less advertising revenue and fewer advertising deals.

I think broadcasters will lose this fight, if not this particular battle. Tired of $100 a month cable bills, 5 million households have cut the cord. It’s a small fraction of U.S. households, but it’s growing. As iPads get cheaper and online video content gets better, people will turn away from their television sets.

A la carte television is coming. We will end up paying for only what we watch. It will be a major disruptive force for the entire television industry. It could directly affect my own job as a TV reporter. But consumers want this kind of choice and services like Aereo will keep popping up to provide it.

Links of the Day:

– Lovely Warren is attempting to paint Mayor Tom Richards as a man without vision who’s focused on big business and downtown at the expense of neighborhoods.

– “He never seemed like a spy.” Albany is riveted by a Bronx assemblyman who wore a wire for four years.

Cuomo’s alleged coup against Silver backfired big time. Meanwhile, criticism of the governor grows, marking the end of his long honeymoon.

– Xerox could change the way electronic devices are made, with tiny chips woven into objects.

– Why is the news media fascinated when a child walks somewhere alone and is not kidnapped, but helped by nice strangers? This is the norm (and it’s not news).

Cicadas are returning after a 17-year sleep.

TelevisionConsumers have noticed cutbacks in newsroom spending and they are increasingly abandoning traditional media. These cutbacks leave news organizations less capable of monitoring companies and business.

Those are the findings of Pew Research Center’s annual State of the Media report.

Consider:

– Television news coverage of government has dropped by half since 2005. Traffic, weather and sports now make up 40 percent of the content, which is not a good sign, since those things can easily be found by a variety of other sources.

– “Regular local TV viewership among adults under 30 fell from 42% in 2006 to just 28% in 2012.”

– Cable news is more “cable talk,” with the delivery of traditional news stories dropping 30 percent from 2007 to 2012.

– Nearly one-third of study respondents said they abandoned a news outlet because it no longer delivers the content they expect.

– “Campaign reporters were acting primarily as megaphones, rather than as investigators, of the assertions put forward by the candidates and other political partisans.”

– Figuring out a viable digital model is still a challenge for news organizations, which are failing to grab huge shares of the online ad market.

The findings suggest news outlets have yet to find the sweet spot for producing quality news and balancing their budgets. If we don’t find it, consumers will continue to jump ship.

Links of the Day:

– If New York City is allowed to test speed cameras, it’s only a matter of time before they come to Rochester.

– Cuomo’s top cop double dips. I’m not sure why this is such a big deal, considering it’s happening all over the state. Lt. Governor Bob Duffy is among a plethora of retired law enforcement personnel allowed to collect their pensions and salaries.

– Before they decide on gay marriage, let’s look at the marriages of the Supreme Court justices.

– NFL players are subjected to different medical standards than the rest of us.

Computer - featuredThe National Day of Unplugging starts at sundown.

USA Today reports:

Part of the Sabbath Manifesto, the campaign is designed to get people to slow down in an increasingly hectic world, an idea inspired by that most un-Microsoft of documents, the Old Testament.

In short, God rested on the seventh day — and so should you.

(snip)

All this makes perfect sense to David Sitt, a psychology lecturer at Baruch College in New York, who coined the term “cell-ibacy” to describe what he thinks are vital recesses from today’s world. For example, he advises people to put their phones in brown paper bags during dinners with friends.

There have also been high schools and colleges that challenge students to stay offline for a full day or week.

I don’t like these exercises for several reasons. First, they assume there’s something inherently bad about technology and connectivity. This is the world we live in and I happen to enjoy it. Second, the campaigns equate the avoidance of social media use with a giant mental test of endurance. Good for you for staying off Facebook. You proved…what? Finally, I don’t like someone telling me what’s good for me. If I want to take a break, I’ll take a break.

There’s no question smartphones, social media and constant Internet access have consequences. But it’s better to work out those issues than turn away, even for a day.

Links of the Day:

– State test scores will plunge, as the Common Core standards are rolled out for the first time. Students and schools are totally unprepared.

– Windstream is on track to open its Midtown offices in July.

– New York state is giving $420 million in tax credits to the TV and movie industry this year.

– The Urban Land Institute once told Rochester redeveloping Midtown would take a lot of public money. It told Buffalo the same thing about HSBC Tower.

– Class rings are still important to many high school students.

– The feel good story of the day, about a baby found in a subway.

Putnam County, New York has made national headlines for refusing to turn over pistol permit data to The Journal News. The newspaper caused a giant stir when it published the names and addresses of pistol permit holders.

Putnam County officials say they’re protecting the privacy of 11,000 people. Some critics of The Journal News say the gun owners will become burglary targets. Other critics say non-gun owners will become burglary targets. State Senator Greg Ball is so furious with the newspaper his office sent out the following statement:

“The county clerk has my full support to protect these law abiding citizens and if The Journal News thinks they can intimidate Putnam, they are sorely mistaken. Before I waver, the egghead editors at the Journal News can kiss my white, Irish behind.”

The New York Committee on Open Government says pistol permits are public records and Putnam County has to release them.

There are good reasons the pistol permits are public documents. Guns can be lethal weapons. A public system builds accountability and minimizes corruption. It makes sure the rigorous approval process is followed. If someone with a permit commits an egregious crime, there’s a paper trail. There’s a way to see if anything was missed.

Individual pistol permits must be approved by the State Department of Mental Hygiene, the State Department of Criminal Justice Services, a local police agency and a county judge. There is a detailed application, including four character references, fingerprints, photograph and questionnaire. Applicants listing guns have to include the make, model, serial number, caliber and a bill of sale. No one is allowed to possess an unregistered pistol.

Clerk WebsiteIn Monroe County, anyone can look up pistol permit owners on the county clerk’s website. The actual permit documents are not there, just the names of permit holders. The online system does not have the addresses of licensees or the guns on their permits. If the Democrat and Chronicle wanted to do a database similar to The Journal News, it would have to file an open records request, as the online system is far too limited and cumbersome.

Just because information is public, however, doesn’t mean it should be published. Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute thinks The Journal News blew an opportunity for more meaningful coverage on the issue of guns:

Journalists broadcast and publish criminal records, drunk driving records, arrest records, professional licenses, inspection records and all sorts of private information. But when we publish private information we should weigh the public’s right to know against the potential harm publishing could cause.

(snip)

Journalistic invasions of privacy ought to produce outstanding insights into an issue or problem, as The Washington Post did in “The Hidden Life of Guns.”

Tompkins suggested The Journal News look at the relationship between the prevalence of pistol permits and crime or whether there are flaws in the permitting process. He says plotting permits by Zip Codes could have the same impact without publishing individual information.

I think we can debate publishing pistol permit databases without severely limiting public access. State pistol permit laws recognize that owning a gun comes with enormous responsibility and shouldn’t be relegated to the shadows.