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

1. What did Castro do?

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

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

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

2. Was there a deal in place?

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

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

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

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

But what did she know before it all went down?

4. How is McFadden the problem?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Links of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

Links of the Day:

 

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

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

- Support for marijuana legalization is rapidly outpacing opposition.

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

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

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

star leaf stripe sky (Large)-L

Credit: City of Rochester

 

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

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

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

Why is this happening? PolicyLink says:

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

What do we do now? PolicyLink has some suggestions:

1. Create new good jobs.

2. Raise the floor on low-wage work.

3. Strengthen schools and job training programs.

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

 

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

 

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

 

Links of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charlotte Street

 

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

It’s about time.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Charlotte Street

 

Fight Poverty Among Local Women!

 

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

 

Links of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: City of Rochester

Credit: City of Rochester

 

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

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

Let’s look at the numbers in Rochester.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Links of the Day:

 

- A study says downtown Syracuse will keep adding residents.

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

- Albany is getting red light cameras.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Links of the Day:

 

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

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

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

- Syracuse University bravely saves students from exposure to journalism.

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

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

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

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

How many households have a computer?

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

How many households have broadband Internet?

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

Do children have broadband Internet at home?

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

Do senior citizens have broadband Internet at home?

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

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

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

What types of broadband Internet are in households?

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

Must be Nice

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

What does this mean?

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

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

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

 

Join Me on October 26

 

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

 

Links of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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

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

- The brunch backlash.

- Remembering Jimmy the Chimp.

Credit: Swash

Credit: Swash

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: Swash

Credit: Swash

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Come on, Help?

 

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

 

Links of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: University of Rochester

Credit: University of Rochester

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

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

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

Here’s an excerpt from a memo:

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

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

  • IEP changes

  • Safety concerns

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

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

Ironically, Superintendent Bolgen Vargas is a former guidance counselor.

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

Links of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Upstate New York is getting into bikeshares.

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

 

Help Fight Poverty

 

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

Wedding at Maplewood Rose Garden

Wedding at Maplewood Rose Garden

 

If you think Rochester’s dating scene is terrible…

Maybe you’re a man?

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

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

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

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

 

Movie About Rochester’s Older Singles!

 

 

Links of the Day:

 

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

- Terry Pegula will be the fourth wealthiest NFL owner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Join Me to Fight Poverty!

 

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

RCSD high school teacher's APPR rating.

RCSD high school teacher’s APPR rating.

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Links of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Help Fight Poverty:

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Bicycle Boulevard

Bicycle Boulevard

Links of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

- I miss LOST, too.

 

Help Fight Poverty:

 

 

Rochester Metro, Brookings Institution

Rochester Metro, Brookings Institution

 

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

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

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

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

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

Why do we care? Brookings reports:

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

 

Links of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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

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

- Walmart will offer checking accounts. 

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

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

- RIP, Joe Floreano.

 

Help Fight Poverty:

 

skyline

 

The national poverty rate went down in 2013, but not in Monroe County.

The 2013 poverty threshold for a family of four was $23,834.

Census data released Thursday shows the following about Monroe County’s poverty rate for all people:

  • 2013: 15.8%
  • 2012: 15%
  • 2011: 16.7%
  • 2010: 15.4%
  • 2009: 13.4%

In 2013 in Monroe County, 11.5 percent of families lived in poverty. One in five families with children lived in poverty. Nearly half of all single mothers with children under 18 – 46 percent – lived in poverty. (That’s up from 42 percent in 2012 and the same as 2011.) Among children under 18, 23.9 percent live in poverty. Among people 65 years and older, 6.7 percent live in poverty.

The City of Rochester’s poverty rate was 35.4 percent, up from 2012, but virtually the same as 2011. Rochester had the highest poverty rate among the state’s big cities.

Median household income has barely budged:

  • 2013: $51,665
  • 2012: $51,365
  • 2011: $51,562
  • 2010: $52,694
  • 2009: $54,491

Census data on health insurance was also released. In Monroe County, 7.1 percent of people have no health insurance, a figure that has remained relatively steady over the past five years.

 

Poverty

 

Help Fight Poverty

 

If you’re disturbed by the above poverty statistics, there’s a way you can help. I am thrilled to be the honorary chairperson of the Women’s Foundation of Genesee Valley’s 5k Race and Walk on October 26. This organization helps women and girls become economically self-sufficient. Please consider joining my team. I bet we’ll have some great conversation walking through Genesee Valley Park! You can also make a donation large or small. Click here for my team page.

 

Links of the Day:

 

- The Syracuse mayor’s house was burglarized. Note to thieves: Even mayors have the “Find my iPad” app.

- Can’t we make the people who use the Tappan Zee Bridge pay for it? (I realize they do already, but it’s clearly not enough)

- The Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater, where Susan B. Anthony, Booker T. Washington and FDR spoke is about to be dismantled and modernized, rankling preservationists.

- The race for New York governor is now officially goofy.

- Los Angeles schools are returning a grenade launcher to the federal government. But they’re keeping the rifles and armored vehicle. Wait…what?

- CPS visited the home of an Austin woman. Why? Her kids were playing outside alone.

- You know you’ve lived in Rochester too long when…

- A friend of mine communicated with Darien Lake via a cake. She actually got a response…via a cake.

School 50 ClassroomAn article on the Dropout Nation website highlights terrible statistics about the Rochester City School District. The Democrat and Chronicle editorial board linked to the piece by Michael Holzman, which has been making the rounds on social media.

The article is called, “Rochester, Good Lord.”

There are some big problems with this article.

After discussing low test scores, low college readiness rates, and high dropout rates, the article concludes:

At the end of the day, the only thing Rochester does well is reinforce a socioeconomic caste system that keeps young black men and women at the bottom. Thanks to the district, they will have a good chance of being known to the criminal justice system.

The first sentence may be correct. But Holzman is wrong to place the blame solely on the RCSD.  He points out 85 percent of RCSD students are poor. He also says about two-thirds of the city’s white children don’t attend city schools. That does indeed look like a caste system, but the district didn’t create it by itself. The “caste system” comes from decades of middle class people fleeing the city, housing policies that segregate the poor and inflexible school district boundaries. The “caste system” also comes from broader government policies and social ills.

Holzman compares the RCSD to Greece, saying Greece does a much better job educating black students. This is an apples to oranges comparison. Greece is a racially and economically integrated school system. Compared to the RCSD, Greece has half the rate of poverty, and far fewer special education and English language learners. There is no “caste system” in Greece. Studies support the idea that poor students at economically integrated schools perform better.

Holzman also criticizes RCSD teachers:

In the 2011-12 school year, the turnover rate of teachers with fewer than five years of experience was 51 percent. The turnover rate of all teachers was 28 percent, double the state-wide average. In a typical Rochester school, comparatively few teachers are highly educated, few teachers new to teaching are in the classroom after their second year, few of any teachers after their fourth year.

I would love to know what he means by “comparatively few teachers are highly educated.” The requirements to teach in New York State are the same in all districts. Teachers have five years to get their master’s degrees. If he’s suggesting RCSD has so many novice teachers that they do not yet have their master’s degrees, he should provide that data. Salary data doesn’t appear to support the notion the RCSD is teeming with young teachers. The average salary for RCSD teachers is $56,570, which is higher than the Pittsford average. Yet Pittsford pays teachers more. That suggests the RCSD has more veterans.

As for teacher turnover, Holzman’s data tells us very little. How many teachers retired? How many left for the suburbs? How many left the teaching profession? Teacher job cuts in the RCSD have been real, with young teachers often getting laid off every summer. This could impact turnover data.

Among the non-retirees, we also have to know WHY they left. I know of one teacher – not a novice – who left an RCSD elementary for a western suburb because of a high stress level. It’s alarming if the district is losing talented educators who feel overwhelmed by chaotic school environments. The RCSD should take ownership of this issue. But the “caste system” is also at play – the system that loads up schools and classrooms with a high-needs population. This doesn’t serve teachers or students.

The bottom line is this article takes a lot of shots and offers few solutions. There’s no question the RCSD is responsible for some of its failures and could do more to fix them. But holding the RCSD responsible for the “caste system” is grossly unfair. The district didn’t create this mess. We all did.

 

Links of the Day:

 

- New York’s casino developers admit locals will drive business. That runs counter to the governor’s argument they will bring tourists.

- The postage to mail out rebate checks to families will cost New York $1.6 million. I’m burned this is not targeted to low-income families. I may not have children, but I could use free money a lot more than a household earning $150,000.

- The L.A. Times takes a hard look at film tax credits. (They don’t pay for themselves.) Meanwhile, is New York’s deal with Colbert’s new show illegal?

“Dawn Nguyen is being held responsible for her role. Will Gander Mountain be held responsible for its part as well?”

- The U.S. has banned imports of Russian AK-47s. Gun dealers are selling out.

- Tops is rolling out new packaging for its private label to make products look “less cheap.”

- Schumer tried to shake 10,000 hands at the New York State Fair. As for Governor Cuomo, he avoids shaking hands and kissing babies.

 

Stat of the Day:

 

According to UnionStats.com, Rochester union membership has held steady. In 1993, 17 percent of workers were in a union, with 7 percent of private sector workers being unionized. In 2013, 18 percent of the workforce is unionized, including 8 percent of private sector workers.

 

Tweets of the Day:

 

 

 

Brookings Institution

Brookings Institution

 

Foreign students are important to the Rochester economy, new data from the Brookings Institution shows.

There were 6,782 international students at area colleges from 2008 to 2012, ranking Rochester 35th out of 118 metro areas. About half are here pursuing graduate degrees. Fewer than half are pursuing STEM-related fields, which is below the two-thirds national average. The top country of origin is China, followed by India, South Korea, Canada and Saudi Arabia.

The top destinations for for foreign students are Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Rochester, Hobart and William Smith, College at Brockport and SUNY Geneseo.

University of RochesterForeign students paid $242 million in tuition and $82 million in living costs. Only 23 percent end up finding jobs in Rochester, compared to 45 percent national average of students who stay in their college communities.  Rochester ranked 82nd in terms of retaining foreign students, perhaps a sign our job market is not strong.

Buffalo has twice as many foreign students, but that’s because of its proximity to Canada. More than five thousand of Buffalo’s foreign students are from Canada.

Brookings argues easing immigration would help build a skilled workforce and benefit local businesses. Foreign workers could also build bridges to new markets and help local economies.

 

Links of the Day:

 

- RTS is eliminating several stops in Chili, making it tough for people to get to jobs downtown.

 – I dig Irondequoit’s plans to shore up East Ridge Road. Plazas with parking out front and no landscaping are ugly.

- What if Kathy Hochul doesn’t win the primary for lieutenant governor? She’s now scrambling to make sure that doesn’t happen.

- Should Senator Gillibrand have to name her harassers?

- Ninety-five percent of Monroe County’s white children attend majority-white schools. See how we compare to other places in the country.

- In America, we don’t let 9-year-old girls play in parks with their moms. But fire an Uzi? No problem.

- Did Buffalo steal Shark Girl?

- Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei star in a romantic comedy set at Binghamton University.