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SyracuseSyracuse could become the first city in the state to “ban the box.”

City council members proposed a law banning employers from asking job applicants if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime unless they’re about to offer the job. This is supposed to help ex-convicts get work and not be prejudged.

The Post-Standard reports:

Councilors Jean Kessner and Khalid Bey said their so-called “ban the box’’ law — the first of its type in the state — would prevent job discrimination against ex-convicts, which is generally illegal under state law already.


But 44 cities in seven states already have “ban the box’’ laws, a phrase that refers to the box on a job application indicating a criminal conviction, said lawyer Alan Rosenthal of the Center for Community Alternatives.


Employers could inquire about the job applicant’s criminal history only after determining that the job is “of such sensitivity’’ that the inquiry is warranted. And employers could not inquire about criminal background at the beginning of the application process, but only at the end.

Business leaders oppose the idea and there are fears enforcement will be onerous for city workers.

Links of the Day:

– Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula makes his case for fracking.

– More restaurants are opening in Sundays in Syracuse’s Armory Square.

– The Sony 2013 Photography Awards. Check out #27.

Some things Rochester Mayor Tom Richards said on 1180WHAM yesterday:

If you live in one of Rochester’s majority black and Latino neighborhoods, odds are you have a higher-cost government backed mortgage.

That’s according to a study, Paying More for the American Dream, first reported in the Rochester Business Journal. Among the organizations conducting the study were Empire Justice Center in Rochester.

The report looked at 2010 Federal Housing Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs loans.

In Rochester, these loans accounted for 86.4 percent of all home loans in minority neighborhoods. About a third of refinance loans in black and Latino neighborhoods were government backed, twice the rate as white neighborhoods. Forty percent of black borrowers got government backed refinance loans, compared to 23 percent of Latinos and 15 percent of whites. The study says:

The findings indicate persistent mortgage redlining and raise serious concerns about illegal and discriminatory loan steering.


FHA loans can offer certain advantages. Borrowers with lower credit scores, for example, can qualify for FHA loans, which also typically require smaller down payments than conventional loans. Indeed, government backed loans may be the only viable loan option for many borrowers. FHA loans can also present drawbacks, however. They are typically more expensive, for example, and can take longer to be approved than conventional loans.

The report calls for more government oversight and enforcement.

Links of the Day:

– Few kids pass summer school in the Rochester City School District. I’m not sure why this is so surprising. If there’s a massive failure rate during the school year, why would anyone think students will suddenly get their acts together in six weeks? The article did shed light on chaos and computer problems that are not helping matters.

– State senate Republicans say gun control measures are a non-starter.

– Five people are accused of beating and robbing migrant workers in Wyoming County.

Are suburban office parks in trouble?

– A former skinhead writes about what he would have told the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooter.

Anne Hathaway digs the Finger Lakes. 

Links of the Day:

– Did you know it’s illegal in Binghamton for employers to discriminate against fat people? The city passed a law in 2008 that is now the subject of a study by a Vanderbilt University researcher. The Binghamton law also forbids discriminating on the basis of height.

Researcher Jennifer Shinall said it’s too early to tell if the Binghamton law is working. But the Binghamton law lacks a component of effective weight discrimination laws. It doesn’t have a commission for people to bring complaints and find relief.

Shinall found that commissions in Urbana, Illinois and Madison, Wisconsin have made a difference.

According to her research, efforts to combat workplace weight discrimination in Urbana and Madison have worked because it’s easier for people who feel they’re victims of obesity discrimination to seek relief in those locations.

“Discrimination victims who wish to file a complaint (in Urbana and Madison) must go through the local commission’s process,” Shinall said. “The commissions handle the complaints entirely, so complainants do not need a lawyer.”

Shinall found that federal laws including morbid obesity as a disability were not effective in helping people find employment.

In case you were wondering, Binghamton’s obesity rate is 37.6 percent, making it the second-fattest metro area in the United States.

– When we learned Destiny USA won’t have to pay property taxes for 30 years, that was pretty bad. But now we’re learning the Syracuse mall gets reimbursed from the state for property taxes it doesn’t pay!

– RCSD superintendent Bolgen Vargas will get less time off than his predecessor and he has to give the district 12 months notice before resigning.

– Plastic-filled furniture that burns quickly has prompted the New York City Fire Department to rethink the way it fights fires. Ventilating a roof may actually fuel a fire rather than calm it. The department is conducting an experiment burning down vacant houses. The New York Times reports the results could impact firefighting across the country:

Plastic fillings in sofas and mattresses burn much faster than older fillings like cotton, helping to transform the behavior of house fires in the last few decades, firefighters and engineers say.

With more plastic in homes, residential fires are now likely to use up all the oxygen in a room before they consume all flammable materials. The resulting smoky, oxygen-deprived fires appear to be going out. But they are actually waiting for an inrush of fresh air, which can come as firefighters cut through roofs and break windows.

Is it time for New York State to repeal the ban on Sunday booze sales in restaurants?

– A little girl who got lost was too scared to ask strangers for help. Meanwhile, adults looking for her were on the lookout for a “suspicious mustached man.”

– Anderson Cooper is out. He writes poignantly about revealing he is gay.