• The Rochesterian in Your Inbox:

    Join 633 other subscribers

hillaryAfter Hillary Clinton’s loss, women around the country grieved. So did their young daughters. The glass ceiling held.

“To all the little girls watching this, never doubt that you are powerful and valuable and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world,” Clinton said in her concession speech.

Clinton reminded us of the little girls throughout her campaign, even producing an ad showing them looking in the mirror while listening to Donald’s Trump’s put-downs of women. Clinton implored us to remember this election would speak to them.

That’s why Trump’s victory was a crushing, devastating blow to those hoping to send a message that misogyny would no longer be tolerated.

It’s not enough to tell little girls they still matter. It’s not enough to tell little girls they can become anything they want in life. It’s not enough to tell  them they’re equal to little boys.

Little girls should know they may be in for a different ride in life. When they show leadership, they may be told they’re bossy, attention-seeking and annoying. They may not get the same kind of praise for a job well done. They may not get the same raises. They may not get the same promotions. They may be told they’re not likable. They may be told they’re too ambitious. They may be told to wait their turn. When they wait their turn, they may be told they’re entitled.

No one wants to have that conversation with little girls. We don’t want to admit this stuff still happens. We don’t want to expose them to these unpleasant realities. We don’t want to confront our own biases and our own complicity.

Many people say Clinton didn’t lose because she’s a woman. Even if that’s true, we can’t deny she’s been held to a different standard her whole career. We can’t deny Trump’s misogyny didn’t prevent him from winning an election.

I have no doubt there will one day be a woman president. Maybe it will be more likely if we confront what often happens to women when they strive for success. Maybe women would be more prepared for these obstacles if they were warned — when they were little girls.

My book, Broad, Casted explores the role of gender in my journalism career and campaign for state assembly. It is available in print and digital editions. There will be a book signing at the Little Theatre Cafe on November 20, from 2 to 4 p.m. Coffee and cookies provided.

 

Links of the Day:

graveThe annual Election Day tradition of posting stickers on Susan B. Anthony’s grave in Rochester, N.Y. gained international attention this year. After all, this was the year we were supposed to elect our first female president. People lined up for hours to pay tribute to our hometown hero who helped secure women’s right to vote. This was a special, long-awaited moment.

Something didn’t feel right. I tweeted my misgivings about the massive celebration at Mt. Hope Cemetery. There was no joy in my heart about going to the polls the next day.

Maybe Clinton lost because she’s a woman. Maybe she didn’t. We all know she was a flawed candidate. That’s not the point. The point is that during this campaign, Clinton faced the same sexism women face every day in America.

A Clinton win wouldn’t have erased what happened during the campaign. A Clinton win wouldn’t have prevented other women from enduring sexism when they jump into politics or seek a promotion. Just as Barack Obama’s presidency didn’t end racism, a Clinton presidency wouldn’t have ended sexism.

In America, it’s okay to demean women candidates. Republicans and Democrats engage in this behavior. Men and women are guilty.

“Trump that bitch.”

“Such a nasty woman.”

“She’s likable enough.”

Entitled. Power-hungry. Ambitious. Corrupt. Controlled. Bitch.

We don’t question the motivations of men who seek political office. But we pick apart women. It doesn’t seem natural for women to seek power, so she must be up to no good. Women are held to a different standard. Women pay a heavier price when they’re attacked or they falter.

The worst part of this kind of sexism is it’s not always easy to see. Good people who believe in equality can be guilty of devaluing women — myself included. Gender tropes are insidious in our culture.

susanbI’m enormously proud to live in a city that cherishes a feminist icon. There’s no doubt Anthony would have loved to see all those women lined up at her grave. But Anthony would have been the first person to tell the hopeful throngs that their work is not done.

Anthony said in 1893, “It is because women have been taught always to work for something else than their own personal freedom; and the hardest thing in the world is to organize women for the one purpose of securing their political liberty and political equality.”

Use those stickers to stick together.

My book, Broad, Casted explores the role of gender in my journalism career and campaign for state assembly. It is available in print and digital editions.

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.

Alain Kaloyeros

Alain Kaloyeros

University of Rochester President Joel Seligman and Assemblyman Joe Morelle are probably sitting back and saying, “I told you so.”

The pair was concerned about SUNY Polytechnic wielding too much power over the Rochester photonics initiative. Yes, it’s a federal program, but the state is kicking in $250 million and is a major stakeholder. Seligman and Morelle unsuccessfully fought SUNY Polytechnic and its powerful leader, Alain Kaloyeros, over where the headquarters would be located. The governor clearly sided with Kaloyeros, who enlisted Bob Duffy’s help in the fight. ( I explained the dynamic of this power struggle here, one that was mischaracterized by local media as local leaders infighting. It was always Rochester v. Albany.) The dispute may have cost Seligman his co-chairmanship of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Council.

Now there are new questions about whether SUNY Polytechnic should control photonics.

That’s because SUNY Polytechnic may have done shady things in its stewardship of the Buffalo Billion project. The program is under federal investigation for bid-rigging and conflicts of interest among lobbyists and others involved in the project. SUNY Polytechnic used nonprofits to issue contracts and these contracts were not open to public scrutiny. For months, reporters had been questioning the total lack of transparency involved in Buffalo Billion.

I asked the governor last week if Kaloyeros and SUNY Polytechnic should remain in charge. He said there’s no proof anyone did anything wrong. But Danny Wegman said the investigation is slowing things down.

There’s a simple solution. Don’t allow SUNY Polytechnic to run photonics, or at least allow the entity to structure deals in the same manner. Even if the probe finds nothing criminal, it’s clear the state erred in the way it manages some of these large economic development contracts. Too much power is in the hands of too few people, who operate behind closed doors. Seligman, Morelle and other local leaders should renew their call for more local control. They should also demand more transparency moving forward.

NYS Labor Department

 

Governor Andrew Cuomo came to Rochester in early January and held a campaign-style event at Tower280. He talked about how Upstate New York is on the way back and the state has more private sector jobs than ever before.

cuomoAfter his speech, I asked him how he can be so positive when Rochester has 40,000 fewer people working than it did at its peak in the late 1990s. Cuomo called me a cynic and said we’re all going to die one day. The governor was joking, of course. But new data shows the Rochester economy is no laughing matter.

First, census data shows a net loss of 25,000 people in Rochester over the last five years when you add up the number of people who moved in and the number of people who moved out. If it wasn’t for new births and international immigrants, we would be in a population free fall. People blame taxes, the weather and lack of jobs.

Speaking of jobs, data out last week from the New York State Labor Department shows Rochester had the most job losses in the state over the last year. We lost 1 percent of jobs between February 2015 and February 2016. That’s 4,700 jobs.

Meantime, in a Democrat and Chronicle article holding the state accountable about jobs promises, officials say some of their efforts to create jobs are paying off. Others will pay off in the future. And some probably won’t pay off, after all. For now, we wait.

The state’s economic development policy is to throw obnoxious amounts of money at companies and hope they create jobs. The state calls it investment, but it could also be called gambling. Most recently, Cuomo came to Rochester to announce two photonics companies are coming here. He said they would create 1,400 jobs, even though neither company makes anything right now and both have a tiny number of workers. As with other announcements on photonics, the jobs estimates are purely speculative.

As much as I love Rochester, it’s clear there’s something deeply wrong with our economic climate. Instead of focusing on making Rochester a wonderful place for all to do business, the state is focusing on only a few businesses in programs such as Start-Up NY. The big picture has been lost.

It turns out I was right to be cynical. I was also right. The region is not on the upswing, as Cuomo would have us believe.

Update: The state labor department questions its own data. Whatever the case, it’s not a pretty picture. – RB 3/29/16

Links of the Day:

 

Credit: City of Rochester

Credit: City of Rochester

The Democrat and Chronicle released a poll showing three of four people in the Rochester area don’t know about the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative.

Despite the D&C’s constant attention to the RMAPI, few people are interested. In addition, the group has done very little marketing. Actually, RMAPI hasn’t done much.

RMAPI’s goal is to reduce poverty by 15 percent in five years, 30 percent in 10 years and 50 percent in 15 years. The group also wants to increase the number of families that are self-sufficient, though it admits it has no idea how it will measure success.

Already, one full year has been spent assembling numerous committees and sub-committees, developing strategies and simply taking stock of the problem. There’s still no plan to reduce poverty. There’s barely a plan to come up with a plan.

That said, placing special focus on poverty is a very, very good thing. It’s wonderful there are so many stakeholders from all segments of the community at the table. I know many people involved and they are taking this very seriously. They are giving their time and expertise. It’s great people are talking more about poverty. But as the poll showed, no one is listening.

At least not yet.

I’m cautiously optimistic about RMAPI. But I’m also worried this is already a vanity project for politicians including Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assemblyman Joe Morelle, Mayor Lovely Warren and everyone involved in the Finger Lakes Economic Development Council. The United Way also stands to benefit, as it’s steering the $500,000 initial grant. There’s already a staff, including the $95,000-a-year director. The city obtained $6.5 million in additional funding to the project. RMAPI could end up being a nice vehicle for officials to say they’re doing something without really doing anything.

There’s reason to be cynical. The governor says he’s duplicating the RMAPI in other areas of the state, using it as a model. That is ridiculous, because RMAPI hasn’t accomplished one stinking thing yet. RMAPI doesn’t even have a road map for tackling poverty, but it’s already a model? This kind of work will take undoubtedly take time.

Here’s what is happening: Elected officials are jumping on the solve poverty train because they think this will make them look good to voters. The D&C poll showed it won’t. DO something to make the lives of poor people better, and they might start paying attention.

 

Links of the Day:

 

 

SyracuseA commission of community leaders in Syracuse and Onondaga County say it’s time to discuss metropolitan government. It released a report detailing how a merger could save $20 million immediately and taxpayers could save $200 each a year.

The commission wasn’t shy. While it stopped short of making recommendations, it discussed consolidating police, fire, EMS, public works, courts, clerks, code enforcement and governments as a whole. It says $100 million is being spent on duplicated services. The report does make the situation look ridiculous.

The commission avoided the third rail topic of schools, believing there’s no public will on that front.

The commission will now solicit feedback from the community. If Syracuse and Onondaga County were to merge, there would be just under 500,000 residents. Syracuse would be the state’s largest city outside New York City. The commission notes there are advantages beyond cost savings to residents, such as shared planning and elevation in stature.

It will be interesting to see how this discussion plays out in the Syracuse area. Past discussions on metro government in the Rochester area have been met with fierce resistance. Former mayor Bill Johnson loved to talk about metro government, even metro schools. Maggie Brooks used his support for the idea to trounce him in 2003 in the race for county executive. The GOP’s infamous Pac-Man ad showed the city gobbling up all the towns. Needless to say, people like their towns and villages. Many want no part of the city.

Governor Andrew Cuomo loves to talk government consolidation, but I don’t see the will anywhere in this community to even have a discussion. Maybe our friends in Central New York will show us a path.

 

Links of the Day:

 

WarrenOnly 22 percent of voters in the City of Rochester came out on Election Day. That compares to 29 percent in 2011, the last race for county executive. That’s about 6,400 fewer voters, an astonishing drop.

Can’t blame the weather. It was a beautiful, sunny day.

The county executive contest was the main reason for city Democrats to go to the polls. The citywide races were won in the primary, as Democrats outnumber Republicans in the city 6 to 1.

Maybe Sandy Frankel wasn’t the most exciting candidate, but she suffered from a weak party. The local Democrats are deeply divided. The party has a limited get-out-the-vote operation and limited funds. Mayor Lovely Warren does have a get-out-the-vote operation and a huge campaign account. But she won’t lift a finger to help. She let Sandy Frankel twist in the wind.

Doing the math, if city voters turned out at the same rate as the towns, another 8,200 people would have voted. That’s not enough to have changed the outcome in the county executive race, even if all voted for Frankel. But city voters can make a difference in countywide elections. Rep. Louise Slaughter lost the suburbs, but won the city and was able to keep her seat.

The following is a post-election Twitter exchange with several local journalists.  It discusses whether the state of the local party is to blame for Democratic losses and whether Mayor Warren is obligated to help right the ship.

 

 

 

What accounts for the horrible showing on Election Day?

 

 

 

Cuomo - 220X165A lot of people said Andrew Cuomo created the Buffalo Billion because he didn’t win Erie County when he ran for his first term as governor. He wanted to win over the community. The strategy was successful, as he carried Erie County when he ran for his second term.

Is it Rochester’s turn?

Cuomo did not win Monroe County in the 2014 election. You can blame resentment over the Buffalo Billion, Safe Act, Common Core, a perception he’s a bit of a bully and the general feeling he doesn’t care about Rochester. Having a lieutenant governor from Rochester during his first term did absolutely nothing to shore up his popularity.

In 2015, Cuomo seems to have discovered Rochester exists.

Gannett wrote an article called “Rochester clearly in Cuomo’s focus now.” It reads in part:

Anti-poverty initiative. Photonics center. Capital for a day. Medical marijuana facility.

After losing Monroe County in November, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration are clearly paying more attention to the Rochester area.

(snip)

In January, the Democratic governor appeared in Rochester to announce a $1.5 billion competition for upstate economic development aid. He spoke once here in February about his budget proposal, then twice in the county in March.

(snip)

Cuomo could use the boost, too. His job-performance rating in May fell to 37 percent,the lowest point since he became governor in 2011.

I think it’s too soon to say Cuomo is all about Rochester. (And if he is – where was he before? Why now? Does this make the first four years of not being here go away?)

First, the state’s pledge of $250 million to the photonics institute was a no-brainer. The money, coupled with SUNY Polytechnic’s track record, helped Rochester win the Department of Defense’s award. But this was a pledge of money to a maybe. It was also a pledge of money that will undoubtedly be handed out over many years. In addition, Rochester is already a leader in photonics. The governor did nothing to make that happen. He’s supporting something that already exists.

Second, the Capital for a Day thing was a dog and pony show. Does he think Rochester felt special? It was actually kind of insulting to see a bunch of high-level state officials learning about our community over the course of a single day. They should already know Rochester. It shouldn’t take a highly-orchestrated public relations stunt and the sprinkling of pork to get these officials to come to town.

Third, the anti-poverty initiative is a giant unknown. The plan is there is no plan. The governor gave us $6 million and no one has any idea what it will be used for. So far, there have been some nice brainstorming sessions.

Fourth, the medical marijuana facility and its 195 promised jobs is very nice. But Rochester wasn’t the only place chosen for such a facility. Sure, politics could have played a role in the selection, but Columbia Care – as well as Eastman Business Park – may have won on their merits.

Fifth, Gannett thought it was a great thing for Rochester that Cuomo came here to announce another economic development competition. This “Hunger Games” announcement was panned by many.

Finally, trying to shore up Rochester’s economy will not be as tough as other places. We don’t have the same population loss or unemployment as say…the Southern Tier. Things are not great, but they’re worse in other parts of the state. Rochester also has the colleges, workforce and infrastructure for a great success story.

Cuomo could use Rochester to boost his struggling favorability and job performance ratings. The question to start thinking about is this: If Rochester’s economy improves, how much will be due to Cuomo?

 

Links of the Day:

 

– COMIDA: “Nearly a quarter of the projects projected no new jobs and 30 percent estimated creating one new job each.”

– Great history lesson: Why does Jeb Bush admire James Polk?

– The Millennial Commune: An expensive dorm for adults.

– Sweet story: A Syracuse man depended on his bike. When it was stolen, friends and coworkers stepped up.

– Try something new: At 64, Utica man launched second career — as a nude model.

 

Meet Pixie!

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

And the facts speak for themselves:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Links of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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

National school superintendent searches are unnecessary.

Museums feel the need to ban selfie sticks.

 

Video of the Day:

 

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

The Syracuse Post-Standard reports Cuomo said:

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

cuomoCuomo needs to take a lesson in history. Continue reading

James M.E. O'Grady

James M.E. O’Grady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New York Times, November 4, 1928

New York Times, November 4, 1928

 

Sheldon Silver Fallout Roundup:

 

– Sheldon Silver will temporarily relinquish his duties as Speaker.

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

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

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

 

Links of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Car, go park yourself.

cuomo

 

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

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

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

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

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

This poll is total crap. Here’s why:

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

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

The Good:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Bad:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Links of the Day:

 

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

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

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

– Finger Lakes wineries are fighting a gas storage plan.

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

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

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

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

 

Pedestrians are People, Too

 

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

 

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

Governor Andrew Cuomo offered one theory. WGRZ reports:

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

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

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

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

 

 

Links of the Day:

 

– Could climate change bring more lake effect snow?

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

Fun lake effect memes.

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

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

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

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

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

McFadden

Adam McFadden Facebook Page

 

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

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

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

First, let’s talk about the differences.

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

Now let’s talk about the similarities.

1. Both of the appointments raise ethical issues.

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

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

2. People lied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tweet of the Day:

 

tweet

 

Links of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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

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

– Boston’s charter schools have high suspension rates.

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

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.

skyline

Credit: City of Rochester

 

During a visit to Rochester earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo made a couple comments that cannot go unchecked. He told the Democrat and Chronicle:

“Things haven’t look this good in Rochester in decades and decades and decades…Are we bumping up against nirvana? No. But are we better off now than we were four years ago? Yes.”

Is Rochester is better off than it has been in decades? There’s a lot of evidence to the contrary.

According to the New York State Labor Department, the Rochester area hit its peak jobs number in 2000, with 529,800 non-farm jobs. Last year, there were 514,500 jobs.

Unemployment was 3.7 percent in 1990, 3.6 percent in 2000 and 7.1 percent in 2013.

But perhaps the most telling statistic is that there were 522,800 people in the local labor force last year. That’s the lowest number of people since before 1990.

In 2000, the median household income in Monroe County was $44,891. In 2012, it was $52,700. If the median household income had kept pace with inflation, the 2012 earnings would have been $59,853.

Are we better off than we were four years ago? The area was already starting to recover jobs lost during the recession when Cuomo was elected. But during his tenure, our economy was called out as the second-slowest growing in the entire country. Meantime, poverty is up and income inequality has grown.

There are reasons to be optimistic about the future, as well as our area’s tremendous potential. But the governor must have been wearing rose-colored glasses during his visit.

Links of the Day:

 

– The state spent $37.5 million of Hurricane Sandy relief money on advertisements!

– State Senator George Maziarz is in trouble.

– Child migrants have been coming along to America since Ellis Island.

– Cellphone bans have not made us better drivers.

– Eight charts explain the return of school segregation.

– Teacher tenure also protects good teachers.

– Red light cameras tag thousands for undeserved tickets in Chicago. (Same operator as in Rochester.)

– “The fear of predators is part of what’s making kids fat, by keeping them inside, sedentary, and near the fridge.”

– Here are nine outcomes of human cloning.

 

Tweet of the Day: