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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Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The 24th Congressional District race between Democrat Dan Maffei and Republican John Katko is very competitive according to the first public poll of this race released yesterday.  

The Syracuse.com/Post-Standard/Sienna College poll gives the incumbent Maffei an eight-point edge over his Republican challenger, former federal prosecutor John Katko. The poll shows that Maffei has a bigger edge with Democrats than Katko has with Republicans, but that Katko has a seven-point lead with independents.

http://peoplesclimate.org/march/

Central New York will be represented in this weekend's climate change march in New York City.

Several buses of local activists, college students and people concerned about climate change are heading to New York for what organizers are calling the largest climate march in history.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

A St. Lawrence County couple, accused of kidnapping two Amish sisters, has been indicted on federal child sexual exploitation and child pornography charges. The indictment shows that the pair is also accused of exploitation of a third child.

Twenty-five-year-old Nicole Vaisey and 39-year-old Stephen Howells, Jr. already face state charges for allegedly kidnapping the sisters from their rural family farm stand in St. Lawrence County last month. A five-count federal indictment handed down this week also accuses the couple of sexual exploitation of another girl starting in 2012.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

More than 100 students and staff rallied on the steps of Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel Wednesday, protesting the way the school closed a center that helped sexual assault victims. Some students ultimately took their complaints to the SU chancellor.

Students don’t like the way SU shut down the Advocacy Center in June, consolidating sexual assault services in the school's counseling center and moving student support groups into the the Office of Health Promotion.
 

For one freshman, the Advocacy Center was one of the reasons she came to SU.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

The latest projects slated for Syracuse’s Inner Harbor focus on education.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined county and city officials Tuesday to announce a state grant for the new SUNY Water Research and Educational Center.

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.  

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”
 

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.

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.
 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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