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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3:46pm

Tue September 16, 2014
Regional Coverage

Onondaga County looks for options to help mental health inmates

The Onondaga County Justice Center in Syracuse.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

The number of mental health inmates at the Onondaga County Justice Center is on the rise, and the implications of that are widespread.

Esteban Gonzalez, chief custody deputy for the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office, sees more and more mental health cases in the jail’s daily count.

"It’s gotten pretty high in the last four weeks," Gonzalez said. "We have more than 20 constant observation inmates on any given day.”

Gonzalez believes some of the increase is due to the heroin epidemic currently plaguing central New York.  

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6:41am

Tue September 16, 2014
Business

Mahoney proposes plan to pay for Onondaga Lake amphitheater

County Executive Joanie mahoney speaks to the Onondaga County Legislature to promote her bond plan.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

Slightly lower property taxes and decreased spending are the hallmarks of Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s proposed $1.25 billion spending plan.

The debate over the budget may ultimately be overshadowed by another proposal from Mahoney this week for a bond that will pay for the Onondaga Lake amphitheater project.

At the end of ten days of budget reviews, county lawmakers have injected a review of the western Onondaga Lake revitalization project, that includes construction of an amphitheater on the west shore of Onondaga Lake.

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5:36am

Mon September 15, 2014
Business

Made in America: U.S. government strives for more exports

Courtesy of Mercer's Dairy.

The federal government continues to try to get more businesses to go international, and that includes businesses in central New York.

Among the success stories at a “Made in Rural America” conference in Cortland recently was the growth of an international market for Mercer’s wine ice cream. Mercer’s Dairy in Boonville has been a local ice cream institution for years on Route 12, halfway between Utica and Watertown.

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5:28am

Mon September 15, 2014
Business

Syracuse Hancock International Airport is looking west for continued growth

Hancock International Airport says its passengers want more flights west.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

It’s been a good year for Syracuse Hancock International Airport, according to it’s yearly report to the community. It added new concessions, a new airline and destinations, and improvements to the facility. But perhaps the biggest change came behind the scenes, as facility management was turned over to the Syracuse Regional Airport Authority.

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7:12am

Fri September 12, 2014
Environment

New SUNY ESF president says college could be at the forefront of environmental learning

SUNY ESF President Quentin Wheeler says the college could become a major leader in environmental programs.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

A new era officially begins at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse this weekend. Quentin Wheeler will be inaugurated as the school’s fourth president. Wheeler sees ESF fitting into a world where environmental issues are moving closer toward the forefront.

Wheeler, a biologist who specializes in bugs and biodiversity, comes to ESF after stints at Arizona State University and Cornell. And that biodiversity background bubbles up when he talks about the future of Earth.

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4:59am

Thu September 11, 2014
Health

Very contagious respiratory virus affecting children expected to hit central New York soon

Dr. Jana Shaw says the virus could be more widespread than first thought because it has similar symptoms to the common cold.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

Infection control officials at Syracuse's Golisano Children’s Hospital believe it’s not an issue of if a respiratory virus that’s storming the country ends up in New York state, but when. Jana Shaw, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, says there are no confirmed cases yet in New York, but she doesn’t expect that to be the case for long because the virus is very contagious.

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4:58am

Thu September 11, 2014
Politics

Green Party gubernatorial candidate says primary results could help his campaign

Howie Hawkins is running for governor this fall as a Green Party candidate.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for governor in New York state, likes the position he's in after looking at the results from this week’s gubernatorial primary.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo won with 60 percent of the Democrat vote, while a third of the vote went to liberal Fordham Law School Professor Zephyr Teachout. Hawkins figures that leaves him as the only option for progressives in the fall election.

A UPS worker from Syracuse, Hawkins believes the primary results highlight Cuomo’s weakness among progressive Democrats, saying it validates his reason to run this fall.

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6:43am

Tue September 9, 2014
Regional Coverage

Onondaga County pushes for jail oversight committee

Proponents of a jail oversight committee attend an Onondaga County Legislature meeting.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

A proposal for a jail oversight board in Onondaga County is on the table after 16 months of discussions and community input.

Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon says this committee creates a place to go if something goes wrong at the jail.

“The incident can be reviewed by peers of the community, representatives of the community," McMahon said. "And then if it turns out the incident isn’t an incident, then they know there was due process. And if it is, then the committee’s job is to make a finding of fact and to make a recommendation.”
 

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9:18am

Mon September 8, 2014
Environment

Lobbying increases on both sides of Lake Ontario water level plan

Lakeview Wildlife Management Area in South Sandy Creek.
Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Both sides in the debate over a plan to regulate water levels in Lake Ontario are stepping up lobbying efforts. Plan 2014 pits property owners against environmentalists and sportsmen.

At the center of the debate are wetlands, like the Lakeview Wildlife Management Area in South Sandy Creek.

Bob Jordan is a sportsman who’s been boating, fishing and trapping in these streams and marshes all his life, and doesn’t see a healthy ecosystem when he looks across the marshy area near the shore of Lake Ontario.

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6:25am

Fri September 5, 2014
Health

St. Joseph's Hospital opens new surgical tower

One of the patient rooms in the new Christina Nappi Surgical Tower at St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse.
St. Joseph's Hospital

The new Christina Nappi Surgical Tower at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse features 110 private rooms for patients recovering from surgery. This concept of private room care is an innovative healthcare approach that experts say is the wave of the future.

The halls and rooms don’t look like a typical post-surgical room. They’re large, and able to accommodate all the latest medical technology. There are mechanical lifts at each bed, a special area for family and cabinets that provide all the essentials for a patient recovering from surgery.
 

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6:25am

Fri September 5, 2014
Politics

Maffei, Katko take sides in ISIS debate

Democratic Congressman Dan Maffei (left) and Republican John Katko (right) are running to represent the 24th Congressional District, which includes four counties, including Onondaga County.
Ryan Delaney/WRVO and Katko for Congress

Candidates running for the 24th Congressional District seat, which includes Syracuse, agree there’s no easy answer to the escalating violence in the Middle East.

Democratic Congressman Dan Maffei calls the murders of American reporters in Iraq international crimes and heinous acts. But he says figuring out how to stop the violence perpetrated by the Islamic militant group ISIS is not easy.

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5:52am

Thu September 4, 2014
Politics

Upcoming gubernatorial primary could expose problems with fusion voting

Jen Russo Flickr

New York’s Sept. 9 primary highlights what one central New York election official sees as a weakness in state election law.

Onondaga County Democratic Election Commissioner Dustin Czarny says New York is one of only three states that uses what’s called fusion voting on Election Day, which allows people to run on multiple lines. Those votes are then combined, or fused, toward the grand total for a candidate.

Czarny says that leads to candidates' names in several places on the November ballot.

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5:57am

Wed September 3, 2014
Politics

Maffei, Katko discuss the role of military surplus program

Rep. Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse), while visiting the New York State Fair in Syracuse
Ellen Abbott WRVO

The images coming from Ferguson, Missouri, of police in riot gear facing protesters has some in Congress calling for changes to the way local police agencies are able to use cast off military equipment from the Department of Defense.

The two candidates for the 24th Congressional District seat, which covers all of Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne counties and the western half of Oswego County, have two different views of that.

Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei has already voted against the program that provides surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies.

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5:56am

Wed September 3, 2014
Regional Coverage

State Police joining program to reduce officer deaths nationwide

Gino Geruntino WRVO

The New York State Police will soon embark on a training program meant to cut down on the number of officers killed in the line of duty.

State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico says the “Below 100” program used by other departments, including the Syracuse Police Department, focuses on five tenets of safety.

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2:56pm

Tue September 2, 2014
Politics

Educators show Teachout support, NYSUT doesn't endorse Cuomo

Zephyr Teachout is running for the Democratic nomination in this fall's gubernatorial race.
Thomas Altfather Good via Flickr

Many teachers and educators have had a fractious relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his four years in office over a number of issues, including school funding, the Common Core curriculum; and teacher evaluations.

It’s no surprise then that many are throwing their support behind one of Cuomo's opponents in the September primary.

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7:46am

Tue September 2, 2014
Schools

Two central N.Y. schools opt out of National School Lunch Program

reed_sandridge Flickr

When high school students in the Fayettevlle-Manlius and Baldwinsville school districts go back to class this week, they’ll find food more to their liking in the lunch room.

Both districts have opted out of the National School Lunch Program that limits calories, carbohydrates and sodium in school lunches.

Baldwinsville Superintendent David Hamilton says too many students in his district stopped buying lunches, and that threatened the viability of the school lunch program.

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6:45am

Tue September 2, 2014
Education

Syracuse Latin School brings different learning approach

One of the classrooms at the new Syracuse Latin School.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

Three new schools in the Syracuse City School District will be opening their doors on Tuesday for the first day of classes.

Delaware Primary and the Public Service Leadership Academy at Fowler are the new iterations of Fowler High School and Delaware Elementary, which were closed after failing to raise academic performance over the last three years.

A third school that will be phased out because of poor performance is Hughes Elementary. That school will be replaced by the Syracuse Latin School, which will cater to gifted and talented students.

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7:18am

Mon September 1, 2014
Technology

Common councilors add their voice to high-speed internet push in Syracuse

Marufish via Flickr

Syracuse common councilors are adding their voice to the ongoing fight for better internet access to the City of Syracuse.

Lawmakers unanimously agreed to a resolution that encourages Verizon to apply to the Public Service Commission for a franchise agreement that would establish FiOS internet and cable service inside city limits. Right now the fiber optic system is only available in select Syracuse suburbs.

Council President Helen Hudson says that’s not right.

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6:43am

Fri August 29, 2014
Politics

Teachout blasts Time Warner-Comcast merger, says she would stop it if elected

Zephyr Teachout says the Time Warner-Comcast merger would result in higher monthly bills for users.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

New York state gubernatorial hopeful Zephyr Teachout wants the Time Warner-Comcast merger to be on the mind of Democratic primary voters when they go to the polls next month.

Teachout, the upstart Democratic candidate appealing to the more liberal wing of the party, was in Syracuse Thursday in the midst of a whistlestop campaign tour and accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of being subservient to the two cable giants because they’ve contributed heavily to his campaign.

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6:42am

Fri August 29, 2014
Politics

Katko addresses 14-year-old gun theft that resulted in double homicide

John Katko, republican candidate for New York's 24th Congressional district seat, at the New York State Fair on Thursday
Ellen Abbott WRVO

Republican congressional candidate John Katko says he has no regrets about legally obtaining a gun to use for protection while he was a federal prosecutor in Syracuse.

He accuses political opponents of rehashing a 14-year-old story about  the theft of that gun, and its use in a robbery that ended with the shooting death of two men in Syracuse.

“Despite all the threats I’ve been through over 20 years, I still stuck with it, and went after the worst criminals, the most violence criminals in El Paso, in Puerto Rico and here in Syracuse," Katko said.

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4:34pm

Thu August 28, 2014
Health

State Fair infirmary equipped to handle emergencies big and small

The New York State Fair infirmary handles about 600 patients each year.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

A steady stream of patients visit the infirmary at the New York State Fair each day. Though most people have minor maladies, one fairgoer did have a heart attack early in the fair's run and is recovering. Upstate Medical University Hospital ER Physician Erin Wirths isn’t surprised. She says the fairgrounds has all the pieces in place to deal with an emergency situation. For the most part the infirmary handles small things, and sometimes fairgoers who need a few minutes to rest up.

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7:18am

Thu August 28, 2014
Health

5K run at state fair to help doctors perform hip replacements in Ghana

The Operation WALK team that traveled to Panama in 2013 to perform hip and knee replacements.
Operation WALK Syracuse

For the first time ever at the New York State Fair, there will be a running event at the fairgrounds. The Bubble Blast 5K run will take place Sunday.

One of the beneficiaries of the fundraiser is a group of central New York medical professionals who take their skills to third-world countries.

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5:55pm

Wed August 27, 2014
The Upstate Economy

Craft distillers make their way to the New York State Fair

New York liquors, including moonshine, are on display at the New York State Fair.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

As New York state continues to boost the craft brewery and distillery business, brews and spirits pushed into the wine court at the New York State Fair.

David Tadros has been collecting brews and spirits from Clayton to Brooklyn to sell at his stand on the edge of the wine court. State Fair Showstopper Ale, a brew concocted only for the run of the fair, by Empire Brewery, is sold here, along with other New York state beers. And for the first time distilled spirits are available outside, opening them up to a bigger audience.

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8:47am

Wed August 27, 2014
Regional Coverage

Lawmakers, preservationists call for historic building renovation credit to be saved

The main lobby of the Hotel Syracuse.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

Preservationists and Syracuse-area economic development specialists are uniting to try and save a federal tax credit that’s helped renovation of historic buildings.

They made the push  from one of the grandest rooms in an historic building that turned 90 years old this month, the Hotel Syracuse.

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3:00pm

Tue August 26, 2014
Regional Coverage

Snow shoveling legislation returns to Syracuse Common Council

People shovel snow along East Fayette St. following a February snowstorm. (file photo)
Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Temperatures may still be in the 80s, but Syracuse's common councilors are looking beyond shorts and sandal weather. The issues of people not shoveling snow from their sidewalks is once again on the agenda.

Last year, Councilor Bob Dougherty couldn’t get the votes to pass a law that would have ticketed property owners who didn’t clear snow off their sidewalks. So he’s spent the summer looking at what went wrong and devising a way to encourage homeowners to keep sidewalks clear when the inevitable Syracuse snow begins to fall.

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11:24am

Tue August 26, 2014
Politics

Syracuse Common Council considers Ban the Box legislation

Syracuse lawmakers are making more changes to the proposed Ban the Box legislation. A scheduled vote has been put off until after another committee meeting, to discuss the latest iteration of the civil rights legislation.

Ban the Box legislation is meant to get rid of the check box on a hiring application that asks if applicants have a criminal history. For Brian Johnson of Syracuse, that box is keeping him from getting a job, even though it’s been seven years since his encounter with the law.

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4:34pm

Mon August 25, 2014
Business

Hotel Syracuse pilot program will help restore landmark to its former glory

George F via Flickr

Syracuse lawmakers agreed to a pilot program Monday that will ease the tax burden for developers renovating the historic Hotel Syracuse.

City Deputy Commissioner for Development Ben Walsh says this is a big step in moving the project forward.

“The project is complicated, and frankly, as expensive as this, it needs as much certainty and predictability as possible," Walsh said. "And that’s what the pilot provides. It provides a certain payment for a period of time when the hotel is most vulnerable in it’s initial years of operation.”

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5:35am

Mon August 25, 2014
Regional Coverage

Police departments get new vests through state-funded program

Bulletproof vests, like the one shown, have been given out to several regional law enforcement agencies, including the Syracuse and Utica Police Departments.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

A new state program is providing bulletproof vests for police departments across the state. One Syracuse Police detective is living proof of how important these vests are to an officer on the street.

It was April 13, 2009, when Syracuse Police Detective Richard Curran and his partner found themselves in a shootout on Syracuse’s south side with a wanted parolee who was carrying an illegal .357 handgun. Curran was wearing an up-to-date bulletproof vest, and was shot at close range.

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4:05pm

Fri August 22, 2014
Regional Coverage

New York State Fair offers visitors the chance to fix tax problems

Tom Mattox, tax department commissioner, explains how fairgoers can resolve tax issues and get their questions answered.
via New York State Tax Department

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance is back at the New York State Fair this year. They had a very positive experience last year signing homeowners up for the STAR tax credit.

This year, Department Commissioner Tom Mattox says they’re taking it one step further by providing private assistance to resolve tax issues on the spot.

“Yesterday alone, we worked with a couple dozen taxpayers to resolve issues in real time," Mattox said. "Everything from eligibility for certain veterans exemptions to certain sales tax collection related issues."

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3:52pm

Fri August 22, 2014
Regional Coverage

Law enforcement officials remember lost officers at the state fair

Today is Law Enforcement Day at the New York State Fair. Police officials remembered officers lost in the line of duty with a special memorial. State Police Superintendent Joe D’Amico says it’s been a tough 15 months in his department, with five officers killed while on duty. He says it’s hard on morale.

“They’re friends, they're people you work with," D'Amico said. "You talk about the law enforcement family, and it really is. It’s more than just colleagues. People become very close, so it’s very difficult.”

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