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. 

Ways to Connect

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County lawmakers are trying to figure out the future of the historic Carnegie Library building next to Columbus Circle in downtown Syracuse.In the past, there's been talk about moving some county offices there, but there’s been no movement on that issue recently.  

So Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon wants to find out what it’s worth on the open market. He’s asking the Onondaga County Legislature to approve a 90-day request for proposal to gauge private sector interest in the building.

Mike Mozart / Flickr

Sales tax revenue is down for almost half of New York state’s 64 counties. Sales tax receipts were down across the state by 2.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, compared to 2014.

Officials with the New York State Association of Counties say this is a troubling trend, because the fourth quarter includes holiday sales, which traditionally boost sales tax revenues. Officials don’t know exactly what’s causing the decline in spending. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Amid innovations that address crumbling infrastructure, creation of new low income housing and plans to synchronize traffic light timing, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, in her State of the City address Thursday night, announced plans for new fire and police classes this year.  

Courtesy Tom Dadey

Onondaga County Republican Chairman Tom Dadey is endorsing Donald Trump for president. Dadey and Trump go back a few years to 2014, when he was part of a group that met with Trump to discuss a run for governor. Trump at one point came to Syracuse for a GOP fundraiser, and Dadey has been a fan ever since.

"Our economy is sluggish, we’re not respected in the world and we need somebody who is going to be a good strong leader, and I believe that is Donald Trump," Dadey said.

He said he’s not the only one in central New York with that opinion.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News File Photo

One topic that’s missing from the Consensus CNY Commission’s 80-page report on government modernization released earlier this week, are suggestions to modernize the way schools are run. 

Consensus has developed a list of over 50 proposals to modernize government in Onondaga County, including creation of a new county-wide metropolitan government that would merge the county with the city of Syracuse. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Change in the way government is organized could be on the way to Onondaga County. The first step towards a municipal government that includes both the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County has taken place with the release of the Consensus CNY commission’s preliminary report.

New York Invasive Species Information

Onondaga County’s ash tree management plan could be losing some momentum. The plan to take down or treat trees infected by the emerald ash borer could face cuts in its anticipated funding.

The Onondaga County Legislature Ways and Means Committee have balked at the $1 million bond that would pay for this year’s fight against the emerald ash borer infestation. They say $750,000 is a better figure in light of the county’s stagnant sales tax numbers. 

WRVO News

2015 was a banner year for kidney transplants at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. Surgeons performed 80 transplants, the most ever.

For the last 25 years, doctors at Upstate averaged about 30-40 kidney transplants a year, according to transplant chief Rainer Gruessner.

“The institution made a commitment to transplantation," Gruessner said. "More people came on board in terms of faculty and staff. New York State is underserved in terms of transplant facilities. And, that all contributed to the fact that last year the most kidney transplants were done at upstate.”

Homeless advocates in Onondaga County say there are no known individuals sleeping outside at this time. 

But while agencies and advocates have gotten homeless individuals to sleep inside during the dead of winter, they have heard that some are moving instead into abandoned buildings. And that is not a good alternative, according to Dan Sieberg, chair of the Housing and Homeless Coalition of Syracuse and Onondaga County.

Consensus CNY

The discussion over consolidating government in Onondaga County will begin in earnest in the coming days.  And, it should be a lively debate.

The starting point for this discussion is Consensus CNY, the commission on local government modernization that was formed two years ago by the city of Syracuse, Onondaga County and some non-profit groups. It’s expected to issue preliminary recommendations by the end of this month.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Syracuse Police Department is trying to use technology to get more people to tip them off about criminal activity. A new smartphone app for Apple and Android phones, called SPD Tips, is now available. It allows people to anonymously contact police directly with a tip. It goes along with the 411 tips link on the department's website, according to police Chief Frank Fowler.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department is starting up a couple of new programs in response to the opioid abuse epidemic in Central New York. 

Addicted inmates at the Onondaga County Justice Center will have an option to help start the process of kicking the habit, with a dose of a drug called Vivitrol. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Hospitals are using technology to help bridge a gap where there are shortages for certain medical services in rural parts of upstate New York.

Telemedicine is nothing new. Doctors have used Skype-like programs that allow specialists to talk to patients in another geographic area for years, but the practice could take off this year in New York State.

"As of January 1, 2016, New York state legislates that commercial insurers cover telemedicine services," said Jeanette Angeloro, director of outpatient behavioral health at St. Joseph’s Health Center in Syracuse.

Colleen / via Flickr

The Syracuse City School District continues to show improvement in its graduation rates. According to state statistics, Syracuse’s graduation rate last year was 55 percent, compared to 51 percent the year before.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There are no federal laws that prevent the trafficking of illegal guns between states. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wants to change that, and is finding support in central New York.

Tonya Dugan, of Phoenix, is the mom of a young child. And that’s what she says has pushed her to join the ranks of anti-gun activists.

“What spurred me to take action was when we started looking at pre-K for my son, and I found I was terrified to send him.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A new president is on the job this week at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. After more than four months getting to know the community, Danielle Laraque-Arena is replacing interim president Greg Eastwood, and wants collaboration to be a focus of her leadership.

“I think the best science emerges when you have effective teams. Medicine in the 21st century is all about team based care. It’s not me as a physician, what I can do individually, because what I can do individually can be augmented and magnified if I can do it effectively as a team,” said Laraque-Arena.

Centerstate CEO

Central New York’s economy continues to lag behind other Upstate New York communities according to an assessment of last year’s regional economic trends from last year. Economic forecasters predict continued slow growth.  But business leaders are hoping that a recent state investment into the central New York region can turn that around.

M & T Bank regional economist Gary Keith says the economic numbers from last year weren't horrible, but didn’t show a lot of growth either.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo admits he is laying out an ambitious agenda for New York state lawmakers this year.  In his State of the State speech today in Albany, Cuomo laid out plans to  spend money on roads, schools, the environment, transportation, homeless shelters and housing. He also asked lawmakers to consider an eight-point ethics reform proposal, a $15 minimum wage and a paid family leave program.

SUNY ESF

Scientists in central New York will soon be able to use a new high tech microscope.  Federal research funds will help pay for the latest in transmission electron microscopes at SUNY ESF in Syracuse.

The National Science  Foundation has awarded an over $1 million grant to SUNY ESF to buy the new field emission scanning/transmission electron microscope. It will be the only one of its kind in the Syracuse area, and professor Susan Anagnost says it will afford scientists a look at tiny molecular structure.
 

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The implosion of the grandstand at the New York State Fairgrounds this weekend signals the start of big changes at the aging facility in the central New York. 

With a push of a button the grandstand was reduced to a pile of rubble. Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined local dignitaries for the event, which really starts the ball rolling for a $50 million plan to renovate the aging fairgrounds into an updated year-round facility. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

The race for the Democratic nomination in the 24th Congressional District is ramping up. The three hopefuls met voters at a forum in Manlius last night, as they look for party support.

A mostly older crowd that packed a room at the Manlius Library applauded when party officials noted there will be a choice for Democrats when it comes to deciding who should face freshman GOP Rep. John Katko in November. 

And while the trio agreed on decidedly Democratic issues like income inequality, they offered differences in style and background.

Luke H. Gordon / Flickr

Some Syracuse Common Councilors still have no access to the city’s computers. The legislative body begins a new year with some new members, and their computer access still in the hands of the courts.

Common Councilors filed a second lawsuit asking the city to turn on computers in early December, and it has languished there since.

Common Council President Van Robinson says he is doubtful a local judge wants to rule on the case, which asks that computer access be restored to councilors, their staff and the city clerk’s office. 
 

Doug Kerr / via Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2016 agenda includes more spending on transportation infrastructure and a plan to ease tolls on the the New York State Thruway for some New Yorkers.

Cuomo unveiled the latest peek into his plans for the coming year in Liverpool yesterday, proposing $22 billion for fixing roads and bridges upstate over the next five years, in what he calls the biggest ever transportation capital plan.

Sidsel Overgaard / WRVO News File Photo

Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon was already in the midst of learning about the connection between deer and Lyme disease last summer, when he noticed a bulls-eye rash on his son’s back.

"And I freaked out and I went to urgent care and I knew more what I was talking about than some of the folks did there. So I’ve seen on all ends of the spectrum how this can impact from a concerned parent, to talking with parents who’ve had their children with this issue, to talking with adults who’ve been bitten and have Lyme disease,” said McMahon.

The third time wasn’t a charm for Onondaga County CSEA workers, as members of the county’s largest union have again rejected a contract offer.

The vote wasn’t close: 1057 workers were opposed to the agreement, only 747 agreed with it. 

This is the third negotiated deal between Onondaga County and employees of several departments, including the district attorney’s office, the Department of Social Services and OCC.   

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

An attempt to reverse pay raises for some Onondaga County elected officials is still alive, but barely. Republican Legislator Kevin Holmquist railed against the 15 and 30 percent raises for legislators and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney when they were voted on last month. Now, he's trying to get those raises rescinded.

Holmquist couldn’t get the votes to consider it at the Legislature’s organizational meeting this week and had to settle for potentially taking it through the committee process.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News File Photo

As 2016 gets underway, Rep. John Katko (R-Camilius) is embarking on his second year in Washington, representing the 24th Congressional District. The former federal prosecutor had never held political office before winning the seat in 2014.

While Katko said he went to Washington with his eyes open to the dysfunction and the partisan politics of the Capitol,  things weren’t as bad as he expected.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Authorities are hoping 2016 is the year New York state gets a handle on a growing drug problem -- the increased use of synthetic cannabinoids, also known as spike or spice, which led to hundreds of hospitalizations in New York state last year. One downstate lawmaker hopes the answer lies in copying a federal law that’s been on the books since 1986.

Insomnia Cured Here/It's A Wonderful Life (1946) / Flickr

Watching the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a holiday tradition for many. It takes on added significance in central New York because of the suspected connection between the fictional town of Bedford Falls and Seneca Falls.

Locals think they have a pretty convincing story that their town is the same one in the 1946 movie.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) has only been in Congress for a year, but says he’s seen a lot of changes in what many Americans view as a dysfunctional arm of government. 

After Katko took his oath of office last January, and started learning the ropes in Washington, he says the atmosphere was highly politically charged. A push to defund the Department of Homeland Security over immigration policy was just one of those very partisan issues that lawmakers faced.

"It was divisive. And some of those early votes, I was pulling my hair out, what the heck’s going on here.”

Pages