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

This budget season in Albany has further eroded the relationship between teachers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

When Cuomo linked school reform to school spending in this year’s budget process, it ratcheted up the rancor from teachers, school districts and some parents across the state.   

Chris / via Flickr

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says the recently approved state budget took an important first step towards fixing water systems across the state. 

Miner was happy to see a $200 million fund earmarked for fixing water and sewer systems in the spending plan. Getting state support to fix aging infrastructure, is something she, other municipalities and a statewide coalition have been vocal about for months.

timlewisnm / Flickr

A parents organization in the Westhill School District in Onondaga County is asking families to consider having their third through eighth graders refuse to take the next round of state english and math tests.  The group called Westhill Elementary Schools Together, or "WEST," is concerned about the way the tests are constructed and potentially used by the state in connection with teacher evaluations.  

Cyndi Hynes' two children took the state English language arts and math tests last spring.  This year they are opting out.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

This is a big weekend for central New York’s hospitality industry – 30,000  people are rolling into town this weekend for the NCAA men's East Regional basketball games at the Carrier Dome held Friday and Sunday. And they’ll bring plenty of dollars to spend. 

Tracey Burkey of the Syracuse Visitors Bureau says this is one of the biggest events the city hosts over a short period of time. They’ve been planning for months. But they decided against what many other communities do when hosting games, that is creating a fan festival that brings visitors to one place.

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Excellus BlueCross BlueShield now has a better idea of why four out of every ten upstate New York adults don’t always take prescriptions as prescribed. The insurance company got the answers from patients through a comprehensive survey.

City of Syracuse / Facebook

As budget discussions in Albany rumble towards a conclusion, supporters of the Rebuild New York Now coalition are pressing their case, that surplus money in the state budget should fix roads and bridges and water systems across the state.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse will be on display as tens of thousands of basketball fans flood to the Carrier Dome for the NCAA East Regional Basketball games this weekend. The city is working on putting its best foot forward.

Syracuse Department of Public Works Commissioner Pete O’Connor admits the end of March isn’t the best time to show off Syracuse.

“Because we are between seasons. A cold winter, a lot of dirty snow out there, a lot of potholes, and unfortunately when the snow does melt, it uncovers all the dirt that’s been accumulating all winter” he said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Union members at financially distressed hospitals across the state are taking action to urge state budget negotiators to include funding for these hospitals in the final state spending plan.  

The state’s biggest health care union, 1199SEIU, is highlighting what it says is a critical piece of funding, vital to keeping 28 financially troubled hospitals afloat.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Cyclists in the Syracuse University area have had it with the shutdown of a portion of some bike infrastructure. It was closed due to a lawsuit between Syracuse University and the potential builder of a bookstore on University Avenue.

Richard Drdul / Flickr

The town of DeWitt is looking to become more friendly to bikers and walkers. The suburban community, east of Syracuse, is gathering suggestions from residents and businesses before making any changes.

DeWittshire, one of the earliest housing developments in the DeWitt, was built in the 1920s and ‘30s. Its streets are lined with sidewalks. Many of Dewitt’s later developments, built in the 1950s and ‘60s, reflected America’s post-war love affair with cars. There’s not a sidewalk in sight.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The three Republican members of Congress that now represent northern and central New York have been presenting a united front when it comes to issues important to the region like Fort Drum and border control. And, they say they are not afraid to stand up to their party at a time when Washington often is paralyzed because of inflexibility from extreme elements in the Republican and Democratic parties.

Kirsten Gillibrand/via Facebook

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is once again introducing federal legislation that would create paid family and medical leave. The Family Act would establish a national, gender-neutral insurance program that would mean a paycheck for families with new babies, or ill family members.  

Gllibrand says it’s becoming more imperative to have this kind of program with so many women working.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News file photo

The new director of the Secret Service is facing questions from a House of Representatives committee today about recent scandals that have plagued the organization. New York’s senior senator is one of many lawmakers that feel there should be an extensive investigation into the Secret Service,

In Syracuse Monday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) says he believes that some of the Secret Service’s tough standards have slipped.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development is getting blasted for pulling back promised funds for some infrastructure projects in Onondaga County. Last September, HUD promised about $500,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to several municipalities in Onondaga County to help pay for various infrastructure projects. Two months later, the way HUD figured out which communities were eligible for the funds changed, and much of the funding was taken away.
 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

State Sen. Dave Valesky is optimistic that negotiators will come through with significant increases in public school spending when the state budget plan is finalized.  

The Oneida Democrat notes the both the Senate and the Assembly budgets include almost $2 billion increases in public education spending over last year.  

But, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he won’t approve big spending increases for education unless lawmakers agree to his package of controversial education reforms. Valesky says lawmakers don’t want the two dependent upon each other.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Dozens of Central New Yorkers concerned about potential service cuts from CENTRO turned out at a public hearing on the issue at the Oncenter in Syracuse, for the biggest in a series of hearings on the issue so far.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

The three members of Congress that represent upstate New York From the North Country, through central New York, to the Southern Tier, are making a case for a regional defense symmetry. Reps. John Katko, Richard Hanna and Elise Stefanik toured upstate military facilities together Tuesday, to put the focus on potential federal budget cuts that could hurt bases in their districts.

WRVO

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have joined forced to try to get more funding for urban school districts.

Miner says the leaders of the two cities believe the state has a moral and legal responsibility, to come through with just over $5.8 billion for municipalities across the state which they say is mandated from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuits several years ago.

Durrie Bouscaren / WRVO File

Among the debates in Albany this budget season -- what to do with $5.4 billion in surplus money from a state settlement with banks. Much of that discussion has come down to two options for spending a portion of the cash --either on economic development or infrastructure.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney and New York State Fair officials have Gov. Andrew Cuomo squarely in their corner as they advance plans to make dramatic changes at the fairgrounds in Geddes.  

Onondaga County

For the first time since Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed spending $50 million to update the New York State Fairgrounds in Geddes, central New York is getting a look at some of ways that money could  be spent.

Mike Mozart

With spring approaching, gas prices are on the rise across the country and in central New York.  And the increase may be a little more dramatic at pumps in the Syracuse area.

According to the AAA Western and Central New York, this region watched  the price at the pump jump an average of 22 cents a gallon last month. And that’s pretty typical for this time of year, as oil companies make the expensive switch from winter to summer blend fuels, and take some refineries offline for maintenance.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) stopped at college campuses across upstate New York Monday, continuing her push to get support for a bill that would combat sexual violence on college campuses. Her last stop was at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School.

When Meaghan Greeley was sexually assaulted on a college campus six years ago, there wasn’t much help for her.

"There were no confidential advocates to turn to for support. The administrators or staff members I sought guidance from had never received any training in how to advise me or support me,” said Greeley.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

This is the third year in a row family planning advocates are lobbying for passage of the Women’s Equality Act in Albany. Supporters say they are optimistic about its future, despite some opposition.

Three years isn’t a long time to get legislation passed, says M. Tracey Brooks, president of Family Planning Advocates of New York State.

"That’s young in legislative years,” she said.

The package of ten bills has failed in the past, because of point number ten, which would bring the state’s legislation on abortion in line with the federal standard of Roe v. Wade.  

Lorianne DiSabato / via Flickr

As this seemingly never-ending winter of record cold temperatures and stubborn snowstorms drags on in central New York, it seems hard to believe that a new season is around the corner. But, spring is lurking beneath the snow pack.

The State University of New York is among those making a pitch to get some of the state’s $5 billion windfall from the bank settlements.

Presidents from SUNY schools across the state say they are asking the New York State Legislature to “step up and invest in SUNY.”  

A program that paired college students with military researchers at the former Griffiss Air Base in Rome will now move on to other military bases across the country. The Commercialization Academy has helped students get a feel for what it’s like to be an entrepreneur by using patents, developed by the military, that currently aren’t being used.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

As workers begin the job of demolishing much of the dated interior of the Hotel Syracuse, the historic parts of the hotel are being preserved -- including one piece of artwork that once dominated the lobby of the landmark hotel.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The deadline is approaching to sign up for health insurance for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and one Syracuse agency that signs people up for plans wants to make sure the word about that deadline is out.

February 15 is the last day that individuals can buy health insurance during this year’s open enrollment period. People who don’t meet that deadline will face a tax penalty.

Steve Wood, of ACR Health in Syracuse, expects there will be people who won’t meet the deadline.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse’s Hancock International Airport is kicking off one of its busiest seasons of the year with a new direct flight to Florida. Allegiant Airlines will start flying to Florida on Friday.

Allegiant Airlines will be flying non-stop twice a week from Syracuse to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Airport Executive Director Christina Callahan says it’s a good time to kick off the flight, because this is the time of year the airport sees a lot of action.

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