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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Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Residents of Onondaga County will have more time to have their say about reorganizing local government. There have been calls for more time to look at an 80-page report that includes 51 recommendations for changing the way government works in central New York.

The deadline for public comment had been March 16. But Friday morning, Consensus CNY extended the comment period by six weeks, to May 1.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A new Interstate 81 isn’t the only change in central New York’s transportation system  on the horizon.  The Syracuse Metropolitan Area Regional Transportation Council has started looking at the feasibility of light rail or bus rapid transit along certain corridors in Syracuse.

Council Director Jim D’Agostino says the Syracuse Metropolitan Area Regional Transit Study, or SMART, actually grew out of the Interstate 81 discussion.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney says the recent lawsuit between the city of Syracuse and the developers of the Inner Harbor project hurts Central New York. The city sued COR Development after COR went to the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency for tax breaks on the project. The city said the developer agree to not seek tax breaks from the county. But earlier this week, a judge dismissed the suit, saying there was no proof of an agreement.

Mahoney says ultimately litigation like this, sends a negative message to anyone that wants to do business in Syracuse.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Some state lawmakers want to try out a new job training program for small and medium sized manufacturers in central New York. The state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) wants to spend $500,000 to create a way to train a new pool of workers at a time when a large number of these workers are reaching retirement age.

The average age of an employee in manufacturing today is 56. That’s why Randy Wolken, president and CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York, says a crisis is brewing when it comes time for companies to replace those workers.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

For the first time in almost 50 years, Le Moyne College is offering classes in downtown Syracuse.  

There’s no room for growth at Le Moyne’s Salt Springs Road Campus. So the school rented out a long-vacant wing of the Larned M & T Building on Hanover Square, to house its new occupational therapy program. President Linda LeMura says this brings the Jesuit school back downtown, where classes were first held in 1946.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

A State Supreme Court Judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the city of Syracuse against COR Development.

At the center of the legal action -- tax breaks, and whether the developer promised the city that they wouldn’t seek any. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The way presidents are picked is changing according to central New York Bernie Sanders supporters. And, they say that plays right into the Vermont Democrat’s campaign.
 

The Syracuse millenials who support Sanders say they aren’t relying on political commercials and biographies from the candidates to make their political decisions.

As New York state prepares to restore the former New York Central train platform next to Interstate 690 in Syracuse, arts enthusiasts want to ensure that the public art on that platform, stays.

They’ve been waiting for the night train for over 30 years. White statues that mimic passengers on a crumbling train platform. They have no faces, these ghostlike commuters, with only a splash of color when red scarves mysteriously appear around their necks every winter, reminding passersby of a time when trains and not cars carried most central New Yorkers in and out of Syracuse.    

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

New York’s Democratic primary isn't until mid-April. Hillary Clinton is viewed as the favorite, after moving to New York and getting elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000. But, there is a dedicated group of volunteers who are working for the other candidate in the democratic race, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Senate Democrats are crisscrossing their states this week looking for support for proposed legislation that would help students saddled with college debt. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) asked students at Syracuse University Monday to lobby lawmakers to support the "In the Red Debt Free College" proposal.

Flanked by students in SU’s Eggers Hall, Schumer proclaimed that a college education in this day and age is a necessity, but is being priced as a luxury, breaking the bank for students and families across the state.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) says Republican suggestions to hold off approval of a new Supreme Court justice until next year will tie the court in knots. After the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia this weekend, President Barack Obama will have to nominate a new justice for a court that is now, which is split evenly on ideological lines. With Scalia, the court leaned conservative 5-4.

While in Syracuse today, Schumer said the Senate should at least consider a nominee.

kristen_a / Flickr

The Onondaga County Board of Elections is urging local villages to move their election dates to November.  

Currently, central New Yorkers who live in villages choose their mayors and all the other local elected officials in March or June. That could change if county elections officials have their way. Democratic Election Commissioner Dustin Czarny says the board is asking local governments to consider holding elections in November. Logistically, Czarny says this would be a good time to do it.

Payne Horning / WRVO News File Photo

It took two ballots but the Onondaga County Democratic Committee finally settled on Colleen Deacon, as their designated candidate in the race for the 24th Congressional District. But despite the county party nod, there will still be a primary to see who will face incumbent Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus).

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

The dispute over pay raises for Onondaga County elected officials will have its day in court next month.  

The raises lawmakers voted themselves and County Executive Joanie Mahoney last December continue to make waves. County Comptroller Bob Antonacci is taking the county to court. He claims that the move violated the Onondaga County charter. Since announcing the lawsuit, accusations of politics have been flying back and forth between the two sides.    

Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon is among those named in the suit.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Local progressive leaders, including a candidate for Congress, are putting pressure on Rep.  John Katko (R-Camillus) to support the SAVE Benefits Act, that would provide a one year bump in Social Security benefits.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A Democratic senator and Republican congressman in central New York stood at the same podium this week, pushing a bi-partisan effort to help create more manufacturing jobs.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News file photo

As voters go to the polls Tuesday in New Hampshire, there’s still a long way to go before we’ll know who will get the Republican Party designation in the race for president. Central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) expects the field to start to get more competitive once the results are in from the New Hampshire primary and even more after contests in South Carolina and Nevada in the coming weeks. Katko says whoever gets the nomination will be running at a good time for the GOP.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Last week was a bad week for historic buildings in Syracuse.  First, the city’s Land Bank demolished what was known as the Gothic Cottage, a more than 150-year-old historic home on South Salina Street.  A day later, a portion of a more than century old four-story brick building on South Salina Street’s 300 block collapsed. The building was vacant, but created a gaping hole and a dangerous situation for anyone who ventured nearby. The city demolished the building over the weekend.

World Bank Photo Collection

As New York state moves towards eradicating AIDS, there's one demographic where the disease continues to grow: the community of color. Syracuse isn’t immune to this trend, so advocates are trying new strategies to reach this population.

ACR Health AIDS educator Lanika Mabrey of Syracuse said her story is pretty typical. She didn’t realize her mother had AIDS until after she died six years ago. 

Meesh / Flickr

It’s been a year since Onondaga County lawmakers approved the creation of a jail oversight committee, which would be an independent commission that would review serious incidents at the Justice Center and make recommendations if necessary. Now that committee members have been approved, the group can begin work in earnest.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Community activists in Syracuse are calling on Onondaga County to make changes in policies that prevent family members from seeing deceased loved ones at the medical examiner’s office in a timely manner. This often involves who are pronounced dead at a crime scene, instead of a hospital.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News File Photo

Syracuse is on the leading edge of using technology to deal with ways to fix a crumbling infrastructure. It’s the work of the city’s so called I-team that is bringing new technology to central New York.
 

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.”

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