Ellen Abbott

Reporter, Syracuse, WRVO Public Media

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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Madison County

You won’t be able to throw out old computers, televisions or video game consoles in the trash anymore in New York state once a new e-waste law is goes into effect Jan. 1.

This is the final phase of the state’s electronic waste recycling law that’s meant to divert electronics that can harbor dangerous metals from getting into the landfill.  

Andrew Radin, with the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Center, says this is meant to keep dangerous metals out of landfills. But he also notes there is a jobs component to all of this.

Onondaga County

It’s been a busy year for economic development for Central New York.  And one of the highest profile projects that will be completed in 2015 is the $100 million amphitheater and Solvay revitalization project. This kind of economic development reflects a new reality when it comes to paying for government.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

This was a milestone year in the ongoing cleanup of Onondaga Lake. The Honeywell Corporation finished up the dredging portion of the cleanup this fall, removing 2.2 million cubic yards of toxic sludge from the bottom of the lake a year ahead of schedule.

The dredging has probably  been the most visible part of the company’s $451 million lake clean up plan.

Syracuse University engineering professor Charlie Driscoll says the community is close to the end of a massive cleanup effort of a waterway that, for years, was a dumping ground for industry.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Utica-area Rep. Richard Hanna will start his third term in Congress in January. But the 114th Congress will be a different dynamic for the 22nd Congressional District Republican.

First, Hanna will have two new congressional representatives in neighboring districts. Gone are Democrats Rep. Dan Maffei  and Rep. Bill Owens. In their place are freshman Republicans John Katko in the Syracuse-centric 24th Congressional District, and Elise Stefanik in the North Country's  21st District.

Hanna says he already given some advice to the newcomers.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Once Republican John Katko begins representing central New York's 24th Congressional District next month, he says he plans to take time to praise police in an era when police-community relations have become strained.

When Katko was a federal prosecutor in Syracuse, he worked a great deal with police officers and came across some of the bad apples.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The city of Syracuse is continuing its fight for accurate FEMA maps that will cut down on the number of homeowners who have to buy expensive flood insurance, and they have a powerful ally.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney says central New Yorkers should expect to hear more from her than usual next year, as she runs for a third term.

At this point, she hasn’t made any formal declarations about running. “I did not make any kind of official announcement, and I think I broke protocol, but I happened to be talking to a reporter who asked if I was running and I said I planned to," she told WRVO.

She does plan to make that formal announcement, she said.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Keeping families from becoming homeless over the holidays is the idea behind a program offered by central New York attorneys this time of year.

There aren’t necessarily more evictions approaching the holidays, but Michael Balanoff of Legal Services of Central New York says losing a place to live this time of year is just more difficult, especially when children are involved. That’s the idea behind the “Home for the Holidays" program, which brings attorneys from all over the region to Syracuse City Court in the days leading up to Christmas.

ACR Health in Syracuse put on a special workshop for educators recently to explore ways schools can become more supportive of transgender students. The session also offered a firsthand look at the challenges these kids face.

Schools are often ground zero for transgender kids, says Terri Cook, co-author of the book “Allies and Angels” and parent of a transgender child.

“School can be a safe space for a student, or it can be a living hell,” said Cook.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO/file photo

United States Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is supporting the nearly $1 trillion omnibus spending bill now under consideration in Congress. One reason is the inclusion of money that will help municipalities fix broken sewer systems.

Schumer says negotiators were able to lock $1.4 billion in the final budget bill for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund that offers municipalities grants or loans to fix sewers.  

Ted / via Flickr

It’s been 30 years since psychiatrists began using the term seasonal affective disorder. As we inch towards the shortest day of the year, a lack of light can lead to what is a debilitating seasonal depression for some people.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, about five percent of Americans suffers from this winter depression and another 20 percent have a milder form of this ailment.  

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Look for a feeding frenzy in Albany next spring, when lawmakers have to figure out to do with about $5 billion in unexpected cash.  A group called Rebuild New York Now is creating a coalition of government leaders, organized labor and private business to urge Albany to spend the windfall on fixing the state’s declining infrastructure.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The city of Syracuse has joined Rochester and Buffalo in approving "Ban the Box" legislation. This was the third attempt by city common councilors to pass the legislation.

The new ordinance would prevent the city, and any contractors doing business with the city, from asking a job applicant about criminal convictions unless that person has received a job offer.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Following a die-in and demonstration on the Syracuse University campus, more than 200 protesters shut down the street in front the justice center in Syracuse last night as they marched down the hill into downtown Syracuse.
   

hermanturnip / Flickr

The Syracuse Police Department will implement new rules regarding the use of Tasers next year. The changes come as the result of a settlement of a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union charging Taser abuse in city schools.

The lawsuit involved the use of Tasers against two students, including one who was trying to break up a fight between other students, and another involving a diabetic student who was upset over academic issues and lying on the floor. In both cases no charges were filed, even as both students were handcuffed and taken from school.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

The Eric Garner protests have spread to central New York. About two dozen demonstrators gathered in front of the federal building in Syracuse today to express concern about latest court case involving an unarmed black man killed by police.  

Anna Morris of Syracuse says she was angry and hurt when she heard there would be no charges filed against the police officer involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York City.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

A downstate Democrat is trying to reinvigorate a plan to create a publicly funded, single-payer health care system in New York state. Assemblyman Richard Gottfried is getting the ball rolling with a series of legislative hearings, including the first in Syracuse.

Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat, says getting rid of insurance companies and putting the state in charge of health care would save consumers $20 billion a year by eliminating insurance company overhead and the administrative costs doctors and hospitals incur while dealing with insurance companies.  

David Guo / Flickr

A federal loophole is letting some dangerous trucking companies continue to operate in New York state. But U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is looking to close it by calling for stricter tracking measures that would keep dangerous trucking companies off the road.

“Rather than pay the fine or face repercussions, some (trucking companies) dissolve and reapply for permitting under a different name," Schumer said. "They’re called chameleon carriers. Same owners, same employees, same vehicles, just a different name.”

Heather L / via Flickr

A move to designate the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn as a National Historical Park is nearing reality.

The proposal has been attached to the Defense Authorization Bill that Congress has to approve every year. Sen. Chuck Schumer told reporters Wednesday he was very pleased the New York congressional delegation was able to get the amendment included.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

There’s a special place at Syracuse’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center for female military veterans.

The Syracuse VA has been offering a Women Veterans Wellness Center for over a decade now. The number of female veterans they see in that time has tripled, so earlier this year, they moved into a brand new suite on the hospital’s ninth floor.

A fireplace and serene furnishings offer a kind of spa-like environment for women needing a wide range of care from mental health consultations to gynecological exams.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s proposal to change the way the military deals with sexual assault cases could come up for another vote in this month’s lame duck congressional session.

Gillibrand (D-NY) fell five votes short last spring of getting a bill passed that would overhaul military sexual-assault policies. But she says she wants to bring it up again, attaching it to a military authorization bill that has to be approved by the end of the year.  

World Bank Photo Collection

Today is World AIDS Day. The director of the Designated AIDS Center at Upstate is optimistic that the state will reach its goal of dramatically reducing the number of new HIV infections across the state.  

In October, New York state announced a target of reducing the number of new HIV infections to 750 per year. Right now there are 3,000 new diagnoses reported every year in New York State.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

School lunches have changed dramatically in recent years in because of the federal government’s Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, meant to curb childhood obesity. Portion sizes, calories and salt have been cut; whole grains, fruits and vegetables have been added. And now one central New York School district is bracing for the next changes.

The group F.O.C.U.S. Greater Syracuse is trying to keep baby boomers from leaving the area as they retire. The community group has completed a study about just how age-friendly central New York is.

Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, make up about a third of Onondaga County’s population. F.O.C.U.S. wanted to find out what would make it easier for them to stay in central New York.  

Ellen Abbott

Research shows a connection between early childhood education and crime. Central New York boosters of universal pre-kindergarten say that should be an important consideration when it comes to funding quality programs.

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler says the statistics logically lead to the conclusion that pre-K prevents crime.

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