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Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Today is the day the Salvation Army gets to play Santa Claus. The annual Christmas Bureau gets help from local organizations and volunteers to provide gifts and food for Onondaga County families who can’t afford it themselves.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO/file photo

The state is losing its education commissioner, as John King takes a job with the Obama administration. King was in charge of school policies during a tumultuous time, and he admits there are things he could have done better.

King is leaving after five and a half years to become assistant U.S. education secretary under Arne Duncan. In an interview with public radio and TV, King says he hopes his legacy in New York will be his intense focus on getting the Common Core learning standards push started in the state.

Young farmers head effort to feed those in need

6 hours ago
Veronica Volk / WXXI

Farmers and agriculture industry leaders are coming in from all over the state for the New York Farm Bureau’s 58th State Annual Meeting.

The Bureau kicked off its meeting by announcing they had broken their record for this year’s “Harvest for All,” a national farm donation program. In partnership with the Regional Food Bank Association and FoodLink, New York farmers have collectively donated 9.6 million pounds of produce.

FoodLink's Co-Executive Director Jeanette Batiste-Harrison says this particular program is especially valuable to the community.

Julia Botero / WRVO

If you drive into downtown Watertown now, the first thing you won't see is Mercy Hospital.

“It look like a bomb went off. Ground zero," says Watertown resident Sean Johnson. He was walking by the debris that used to be Mercy Hospital. Developers plan to turn the site into a mixed use building with apartments on top and retail and commercial space below.

“That's great. Reuse the property to something like that. It will help Watertown get back on track and get business downtown," said Johnson.

 

David Chanatry/New York State Reporting Project

A thiamine deficiency might be to blame for a recent die-off of steelhead trout in the Salmon River.

The Department of Environmental Conservation says it began receiving reports about steelhead trout swimming erratically and dying in the Salmon River and other rivers off Lake Ontario last month. Three fish were sent to Cornell's Aquatic Animal Health Lab, where research scientist Rod Getchell examined the fish for diseases.

Trysil / Flickr

The time to pull out the winter sporting gear has come, but with it comes the possibility of injury

This week on “Take Care,” Dr. Navan Duggal discusses the strain winter sports can have on the body and what you can do to decrease the risk of injury. Duggal was chief of the Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Service at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and is currently in private practice at Syracuse Orthopedic Surgeons.

chelsea / Flickr

When Rebecca Soffer lost both of her parents in her early thirties, she realized how isolating grief can be. She envisioned a community of younger adults sharing stories, not judgment, in a productive and honest way.

This week on “Take Care,” Rebecca Soffer shares her story and the website that came out of her experience. She is the co-founder and CEO of the website Modern Loss.

Coal vs. natural gas during the polar vortex

Dec 20, 2014
Julie Grant / Allegheny Front

President Barack Obama wants the U.S. to get serious about climate change. He’s proposed to limit carbon emissions from power plants. The coal industry and conservative politicians say new carbon rules will kill King Coal, and they warn that without it, severe weather events, like last year’s polar vortex, could leave people in the cold and dark.

baasiilb15 / Flickr

High traffic on the New York State of Health website is to be expected, according to the head of the state exchange. Saturday is the deadline to sign up for health insurance that starts the first of the year.

So far, during this open enrollment period which started Nov. 15, more than 194,000 New Yorkers who didn't have health insurance have signed up.

Donna Frescatore, the executive director of the New York Health Benefit Exchange, says more than 40,000 of those were added since last week.

Wallyg / via Flickr

A new poll finds New Yorkers don’t want legislators to gain a pay raise if they agree to ethics reforms by the end of the year.

The Siena College poll finds that 63 percent of New Yorkers oppose a pay raise for state lawmakers, who earn a base salary of nearly $80,000 a year for what is technically a part-time job. 

Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg says voters also say, even though they would like to see reform measures as well as other issue resolved, they still don’t think legislators should be allowed to trade agreements on these items for more pay.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Winners of New York state’s casino competition celebrated Thursday. A statewide gaming board this week recommended gaming licenses for three developers across upstate New York, including the proposal from the Rochester-based Wilmorite Corporation to build the Lago Casino and Resort in rural Seneca County.  

While weather kept Gov. Andrew Cuomo from taking part in the Finger Lakes portion of a statewide casino victory lap, unions were out in full force in Seneca County. The potential for jobs for 55 out-of-work electricians has union rep Michael Davis happy.

Steve Rhodes / Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Lewis County's Homeless Christmas Tree Initiative is collecting donated household goods like paper towels and silverware for people who have recently become homeless and are starting over. A sprawling heap of plates, linens, pillows, and cleaning products sit under a Christmas tree in the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce.

Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO

Crossing the border into the United States may have gotten a little more convenient. U.S. Customs and Border Protection unveiled the Border Wait Time app Wednesday. It will provide travelers with estimated wait times and open lane statuses at bridges.

Why snow plus sports so often equals injuries

Dec 19, 2014

Winter sports are certainly popular in northern and central New York. But whether it’s skating, skiing or sledding, falling on the snow or ice is inevitable -- and can lead to injury. This week on WRVO's health and wellness show "Take Care," hosts Linda Lowen and Lorraine Rapp speak with Syracuse-based orthopedist Dr. Naven Duggal about the risks of winter sports and how to prevent injuries.

Brett Levin / Flickr

Cuomo administration officials who are devising regulations for medical marijuana in New York say it’s unlikely any patients in the state will get the drug before 2016.  They say they are working through the details of how to implement the program, but there are still many unanswered questions.

Aides to Cuomo say they’ve made some progress on figuring out how to manage a medical marijuana system that is still technically illegal in the United States.

The preliminary rules on how to carry out New York’s medical marijuana program are due by the end of the year.

governorandrewcuomo / via Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has written a letter to state education officials, saying he wants answers on why 99 percent of teachers scored highly on the most recent evaluations, while other data shows two-thirds of school children performing below acceptable levels in math and English.

James F Clay / Flickr

Oswego County's Center for Instruction, Technology and Innovation, also known as Oswego BOCES, is working with he county's nine school districts to develop a program to helps students with emotional, social and behavioral needs. The specialized classes will attempt to reengage those students and help them succeed academically.

Christopher Todd, district superintendent for the Oswego County BOCES region, says the programs will draw disenfranchised students attending schools all over the county.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Environmentalists are celebrating after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said there will be no hydrofracking in New York for now, citing inconclusive scientific evidence on the health effects of the gas drilling process.

ChrisYunker / via Flickr

It may not have taken place around a roulette wheel, but there was a palpable air of suspense as the state Gaming Facility Location Board announced three of the nearly 20 communities hoping to get a piece of the gaming action on Wednesday. The board was entitled to grant up to four licenses.

The five-member volunteer board immediately got down to business, nixing all seven casino proposals in Orange County and approving one Hudson Valley/Catskill site to the Montreign Resort and Casino, located in the tiny village of Thompson in Sullivan County.

New York State Department of Transportation

New standards for how crude oil is shipped along rail lines through states like New York are moving forward, but Sen. Charles Schumer says the process needs to move faster.

The crude oil crossing the nation now is hauled in train cars known as DOT-111’s. Safety advocates say the cars are outdated and lack equipment to stop leaks or explosions. Introducing newer models has been a slow process. 

Finger Lakes town of Tyre awarded 1 of 3 casino sites

Dec 17, 2014
Matt Martin / WSKG file photo

The state Gaming Facility Location Board has selected three proposals for casinos in in economically distressed communities in upstate New York in Sullivan, Schenectady and Seneca Counties.

The Seneca County site selected was the proposal by Wilmorite Corporation to build Lago Resort and Casino off the New York State Thruway in the small town of Tyre.

Marie Cusick / Innovation Trail

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration will prohibit hydrofracking in New York state, citing unresolved health issues and dubious economic benefits of the widely used gas-drilling technique.

Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens said at a cabinet meeting this morning that he was recommending a ban. Cuomo had repeatedly said he would defer to Martens and acting health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker in making the decision.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Onondaga County lawmakers hope to help the operators of the Syracuse Chiefs build on a successful season of baseball.

County lawmakers have agreed to lend $1.2 million to the operators of the Chiefs, who want to make stadium upgrades that would allow large groups to host parties or events during games. Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon says this is a concept that can help bring more business to the stadium.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

An officially designated convention center hotel in Syracuse has been a goal of Onondaga County officials for decades. It looks like they’ve found it in the soon-to-be renovated Hotel Syracuse.

Onondaga County lawmakers Tuesday designated the Hotel Syracuse as the convention center’s official hotel. It’s a key move in rehabilitation of the hotel, which has been shuttered for a decade.

Legislator Kathy Rapp says the county legislature’s move ultimately unlocks some state money developer Ed Riley will be able to use, as he plans to bring the landmark back to life.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

A reform group studied votes taken by local governments across the state on whether to allow hydrofracking, and found numerous potential conflicts of interest that they say could have tainted the outcome of the votes.

The New York Public Interest Research Group studied 59 municipalities that voted to permit hydrofracking in the past few years, if New York state eventually approves the process. They found numerous questionable activities, including locally elected officials holding gas leases and town attorneys who also represented oil and gas companies.

The state health department announced more than 154,000 previously uninsured New Yorkers have signed up for health insurance since open enrollment began Nov. 15.

Elisabeth Benjamin, vice president of health initiatives at the Community Service Society, a key navigator agency in New York, says her agency has experienced a high volume of requests for assistance enrolling in the state exchange, despite early speculation that it would be more difficult to reach uninsured people this year.

Matt Richmond / WSKG

A temporary ban on the controversial gas extraction method hydrofracking has dragged on for years. Even as the governor says a long-awaited study is nearing completion, a large group of local officials want the ban to continue.

Elected Officials to Protect New York, made up of more than 850 local-level elected officials, says Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration still has not properly studied fracking enough.

Gino Geruntino/WRVO file photo

Over the years, as businesses in Utica left or closed, the city has faced a problem of what to do with the empty buildings. In recent years, Utica has ramped up its efforts to sell these vacant commercial properties in an attempt to generate sales and property tax revenues for the city.

Since 2012, the city has sold at least eight vacant commercial properties to private developers, including a former Superfund site that was dormant for more than a decade. The buildings, which must be empty for at least three years before the city can foreclose on them, are scattered throughout Utica. Fourteen properties are currently being marketed by the city's Urban Renewal Agency.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Madison County is hoping to turn environmental stewardship into jobs. At least one business is putting up  shop near the county’s landfill, with the intent to use energy captured from decaying trash.

Johnson Brothers Lumber, a third generation company out of Cazenovia, is taking their sustainability initiative to the next level. They’re building a kiln that will dry wood next door to the Madison County’s Gas-to-Energy facility in Wampsville, according to company vice president Mike Johnson.

It’s looking less and less likely that state senators and Assembly members will get a pay raise as a holiday present this year, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers still have a number of issues they need to resolve before the year ends, ranging from the siting of gambling casinos to how to close a Thruway deficit and whether to go ahead with hydrofracking.

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