Ellen Abbott

Reporter, Syracuse

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County.  Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered. 

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Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

State Sen. Dave Valesky (D-Oneida) has his first Republican opponent in eight years. Economist Janet Burman has decided to run against Valesky, in a district that stretches from the city of Rome in Oneida County into Cayuga County, and includes half of the city of Syracuse.

Burman said she and her husband almost decided to leave New York for a lower taxed state two years ago, but decided against it, because they loved Syracuse. Now she says she’s going to try to do something about those taxes, by running for state Senate.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

Primary Day is less than two weeks away for two women who want to be the Democratic candidate in the race for the central New York congressional seat currently held by Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus). As their campaigns sprint toward the finish line, they face one factor beyond their control: the calendar. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Two to three women a week who walk into the Upstate Cancer Center in Syracuse with a diagnosis of hormone driven breast cancer will be affected by news this month that says it’s okay to safely skip chemotherapy in certain cases.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Organizations that help impoverished central New Yorkers get an education, find jobs or decent housing are getting a boost from a pot of state money meant to help the poor. 

Wayne O'Connor, of the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection of Syracuse, said the extra cash will help expand his organization that focuses on workforce development, starting in the middle school years.

"It will enable us to hire five youth advocates, and some support for those advocates,” said O’Connor. “Every time we add more students, we grow the culture, we grow the program, so it’s significant."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Supporters of the family of Selena Hidalgo-Calderon, an undocumented farm worker found dead on a farm in Wayne County last month, met with reporters in Syracuse Tuesday. 

It was emotional for immigrants’ rights advocates to talk about a family they knew well.

“We wish we weren’t here today. Three weeks ago a horrible nightmare began that was dear to us, an immigrant family,” said Rebecca Fuentes of the Workers Center of CNY.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Updated at 8 p.m. Tuesday

County lawmakers voted 17-0 to override County Executive Joanie Mahoney's veto of a local law that would allow the county legislature chairman to consult outside counsel if there is a conflict between lawmakers and the county executive. 

Our original story

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney is hoping the third time is a charm in a back and forth with county lawmakers over letting legislators get their own legal counsel.

WRVO News File Photo

Concern about access to health care is an issue that both candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination in the 24th Congressional District are concentrating on as the June 26 primary date approaches.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft have been operating in Syracuse for less than a year, but the local taxi business has lost substantial business. Now, local taxi drivers are going to city hall with the hopes of leveling the playing field with the ride sharing giants.

Ramona Bellavia of Bellavia Transportation has been working in Syracuse’s taxi industry for almost 30 years.

“I loved going out on weekends and having the university kids and the younger crowed," Bellavia said. "But now, they live with technology."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

One of the side effects of the opioid epidemic in central New York is the explosion of the number of Hepatitis C cases. Onondaga County now has one of the highest rates of the disease in New York State.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There will be more deputies patrolling local lakes and rivers this summer according to Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway. The department will hire a dozen retired men and women from law enforcement on a part-time basis to augment the Navigation Patrol already in place.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media

Designated Democratic candidate for the 24th Congressional District Dana Balter has brought abortion into the conversation as a June Democratic primary looms. Balter is questioning Juanita Perez Williams, her Democratic opponent, on the issue. Perez Williams’ participation in the “March for Life” two years ago, according to published reports, is what Balter is concerned about.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

Passengers are flying out of Syracuse’s Hancock International Airport in numbers the airport has not seen in a decade. The passenger traffic at Hancock this past April was up over 18 percent compared to April of 2017. It is the highest number the airport has seen in over ten years according to Airport Executive Director Christina Callahan. It punctuates a 10 percent increase in traffic the first four months of 2018.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Onondaga County lawmakers want to make it clear that a potential study that outlines the possibility of a beach along Onondaga Lake, doesn’t mean there will be swimming there anytime soon.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Central New York is taking the next step in the fight against climate change with something called Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA.  It’s going to be one of the major topics at a regional Climate Solutions Summit in Syracuse this weekend, as the city hopes to take the lead on an energy supply model that uses renewable energy.

Common Councilor Joe Driscoll said it’s a fairly simple solution. Because of its population, the city uses its buying clout to purchase renewable energy like solar or wind power, and provides it to residents at a lower cost.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

More cameras, both on the bodies of police officers and on the streets, could be coming to Syracuse soon. A new trial could put body cameras on 100 police officers for a year at no cost.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The lone Republican on Syracuse’s Common Council is the latest candidate to announce plans to run for the 50th State Senate district seat that's being vacated by longtime State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse).

Surrounded by family and friends in front of the family business, Joe Carni said he has unique qualifications that make him the best candidate for the job.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

A dramatic spike in the use of a particular type of electronic cigarette among middle and high school students has local parents, educators and activists, clamoring for action. Sen. Charles Schumer is putting pressure on federal agencies to move swiftly on the issue.

The craze among kids these day is called Juul. The ads for it claim that one pod of the sweet tasting liquid, contains the amount of nicotine equal to an entire pack of cigarettes. Baldwinsville mom Amy Delia said the dispensers don’t emit vapor, and look like an everyday item.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

The race for the Republican nomination for the state Senate seat being vacated by longtime Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) is heating up.

Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonocci has sent a letter to Onondaga and Cayuga County Republican Party members announcing his intention to run for the 50th state Senate district seat, which covers parts of Onondaga and Cayuga counties.

Antonocci believes he has the skill set to make a difference in Albany.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Sales tax receipts are up in Onondaga County. Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said it shows there has been a return on the investment in things like the St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

A non-profit group is rolling out a set of resources it hopes will make it easier for film companies to shoot a movie in central New York. CNY Film Professionals is creating a new database on its website that movie makers can use to find any of the 50-500 people, on average, needed to staff a movie set. Elias Gwinn is president of the organization and said it fills a gap that’s kept the movie industry from taking off.

“There are films that were considering shooting here, but decided it wasn’t feasible because of the lack of crew,” Gwinn said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney vetoed a law this week having to do with a law that outlines when legislators can turn to outside counsel for advice, instead of the county law department.

Mahoney said this move upends the way county government has done business for more than 50 years.

“This is very significant in the placement of a lot of power in county government in the hands of one individual,” said Mahoney.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Green party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins is calling for an expansion of public housing in New York State. At the same time, Hawkins is criticizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s housing investment strategies.

Hawkins decried the decline of public housing options in Syracuse, standing between two weed infested vacant lots.

“In this case both on this side of the street, and the other side, there was once over 400 units of affordable housing,” Hawkins said. “But no affordable housing has been built since this project was torn down in 2013.”

Syracuse Common Councilors Monday unanimously approved Mayor Ben Walsh’s first city budget.  The $245 million spending plan didn’t stray much from Walsh’s original proposal.

Majority Leader Steven Thompson said aside from some changes in school spending prompted by the state budget, lawmakers agreed to Walsh’s budget blueprint. It is a spending plan that includes an $11 million deficit, something that was an accomplishment for the first-year mayor. Early projections showed the city facing a more than $25 million deficit.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

 

The Surgeon General has issued a public health advisory urging more Americans to carry naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose. It is not the only solution to the opioid epidemic, but experts say keeping people alive is the first step.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

Students at more than a dozen school in central and northern New York are expected to take part in a national high school walkout today to demand action on gun control. The walkout is being held today, because it is the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Smokers who visit Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse will be able to get their nicotine fix while on the no-smoking campus. But they won’t get it through smoking or vaping.

The hospital will begin offering nicotine replacement therapy lozenges to smokers who visit campus, according to Upstate respiratory therapist Theresa Hankin.

“We need to acknowledge that people are under a lot of stress, and they’re going to what is comfortable to them at the time, and we want to keep them comfortable,” said Hankin.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Hawley Markets on Syracuse’s northside gets a lot of business from a nearby elementary school, as well as neighborhood folks who don’t have access to cars so they have to do food shopping at cramped corner stores. It’s been six months since co-owner Rita Algattas started offering more healthy options than the candy bars and chips that crowd many corner store shelves.

"Having fresh fruit and vegetables, having it all the time visible on the counter," Algattas said. "Trying to have healthy choices."

Quadrant Epigenetics LLC

Researchers at Upstate Medical University are almost ready to send a test to market that would use saliva to help determine if a child is autistic.

The average age a child is diagnosed with autism is 4.5. But researchers at Upstate say testing the microRNA found in the saliva of a toddler can help doctors determine if a child is autistic sooner than that. Principal investigator Dr. Frank Middleton says that’s important because earlier treatment can help the outcomes of children facing an autism diagnosis.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse Common Councilors began budget hearings this week over Mayor Ben Walsh’s proposed $245 million spending plan, and anyone can watch. It marks the start of live streaming of council activities, offering residents the chance to watch what happens on the city website, or YouTube channel.

Council President Helen Hudson says it’s about time it's easier for residents to watch government in action.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul has been crossing the state talking about some of the items in the recently passed state budget. During a stop in Syracuse recently, Hochul highlighted parts of the $168 budget that New York lawmakers passed last month. She followed many of the budget themes the governor emphasized during budget negotiations - the impact of the new federal tax plan on state spending, the importance of an on-time budget and a focus on sexual harassment policies.

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