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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5:08pm

Mon March 10, 2014
Health

Governor proposes offering low-cost 'basic health care plan"

People who are finding it difficult to pay for a health insurance policy offered through New York sate’s health care exchanges, may find a more affordable plan, if a proposal in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget goes through.

The governor’s proposed spending plan would allow New York to offer what’s called a "basic health care plan," according to Mary Clark, regional director of Citizen Action League of New York.

“That would really opens the doors to provide coverage at extremely low cost to families at 200 percent of poverty,” she said.

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4:44pm

Mon March 10, 2014
The Upstate Economy

Syracuse Land Bank demolishes first house

Greater Syracuse Area Land Bank/City of Syracuse

The Greater Syracuse Land Bank has torn down its first house. Crews demolished a vacant home just off South Salina Street on Syracuse’s Southside Monday, after the land bank determined it was deteriorated beyond repair.

It’s the first of 25 properties slated for demolition this year, by the organization that buys dilapidated properties and either rehabs them or tears them down.  The idea is to deal with properties that are a drag on neighborhoods and magnets for crime.

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3:51pm

Fri March 7, 2014
Politics

Republican Astorino takes new campaign for governor to Syracuse

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino (R) visits Syracuse as part of his new campaign for governor.
Ellen Abbott WRVO file photo

Two days  after becoming the first Republican to announce a campaign to run for governor, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino spent Friday crisscrossing upstate New York from Rochester and Syracuse to Albany, and his message was the same in each city. He believes he can beat a popular Democrat in an election where Democrats hold an overwhelming voter registration advantage.

Astorino says he did it in Westchester County, where he has twice won the office of county executive.  

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6:43am

Fri March 7, 2014
Energy

Draft energy plan draws criticism from environmental activists

Ellen Abbott WRVO

Environmental activists said there needs to be more emphasis on renewable energy and less on fossil fuels at a hearing on the New York Draft Energy Plan in Syracuse Thursday.  

The New York State Energy plan is a comprehensive economy-wide, multi-year plan put together by the state energy planning board. It’s meant to showcase Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s energy policy.  

Keith Schue, an engineer from Otsego County, said the plan doesn’t have the pieces in place to reach the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions a full 80 percent by the year 2050.

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3:50pm

Wed March 5, 2014
Politics and Government

Mahoney says Destiny hotel may benefit from new duty-free rules

Mahoney at her State of the County Address Tuesday
Ellen Abbott

The Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency (OCIDA) is getting to work on the latest request from the developer of Destiny USA for a tax break to build a 252-room hotel across the street from the mall.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney says OCIDA needs to consider Canadian tourism before granting tax breaks to Destiny. Many of the out-of-town visitors to Destiny are Canadian and, with new duty-free Canadian rules, Mahoney says more visitors are coming to town for more than a day.

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8:19am

Wed March 5, 2014
The Upstate Economy

Nation's first nano film school to launch in Onondaga County

Gov. Andrew Cuomo discusses the launch of the nation's first nano film school, which is going to be located in DeWitt.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

The movie business is coming to central New York. With the help of some state tax incentives, the nation’s first nano film school, along with a film production company, will set up shop in suburban Syracuse.

"Now who would have ever figured? Hollywood has come to Onondaga. Right, you would have never guessed, but it has..."

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7:58am

Tue March 4, 2014
Politics

DeFrancisco says pre-K funding battle could complicate state budget talks

John DeFrancisco says he doesn't believe the pre-K debate will hurt the chances of another on time budget. (file photo)
Durrie Bouscaren WRVO File

The debate over pre-K funding in New York has pit Gov. Andrew Cuomo against New York City area politicians. But one influential Syracuse-area state politician is hoping it doesn’t get in the way of successful budget negotiations, which ramp up this month.

New York state has had an on time budget each year since Cuomo took office four years ago. Sen. John DeFrancisco hopes the pre-K debate doesn’t break that streak.

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4:12pm

Mon March 3, 2014
Government

Syracuse's water main breaks get attention from Albany

Crews work to repair a water main break on East Fayette Street in Syracuse.
Ryan Delaney WRVO

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz is touring the state, talking with cities about aging infrastructures, hoping the state can come up with some help for communities plagued by collapsing streets and broken water mains.

It’s been a really horrible year when it comes to water main breaks in the City of Syracuse, said water department superintendent Paul Trovato.

"Between the cold and being old that’s what the problem is,” he said.

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8:22am

Mon March 3, 2014
Regional Coverage

Katko selected by GOP as designated candidate to challenge Maffei

GOP candidate John Katko speaks to party members during Saturday's convention.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

Former U.S. Attorney John Katko walked out of the Republican convention in Syracuse this weekend as the party designated GOP candidate in the race for central New York's 24th Congressional District. It was the culmination of months of politicking by eight candidates who wanted the chance to unseat democrat Dan Maffei.

"Cayuga, Wayne County, Oswego and Onondaga County has selected on the first round of voting to take on Dan Maffei, U.S. Attorney John Katko."

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3:02pm

Sat March 1, 2014
Politics

GOP nominates candidate to challenge Maffei

John Katko (far right) at a Conservative Party event
Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Former federal prosecutor John Katko has won the endorsement of the Republican Party in the race for the 24th Congressional District.  He garnered enough votes out of a field of seven candidates, to get the nomination on one ballot at a GOP convention in Syracuse Saturday.  

At least one candidate who lost the party nod, Ian Hunter, says  will begin the process of challenging Katko in a June primary.  Three others candidates haven’t ruled out that possibility.  Republicans are hoping to wrest the seat from incumbent Democrat Rep. Dan Maffei.

7:56am

Fri February 28, 2014
Politics and Government

Eight potential Maffei challengers attend GOP forum to make their case

Eight Republicans are vying for the chance to run against Democratic incumbent Dan Maffei in this November's election.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

The race for Congress in the Syracuse area's 24th District is heating up. Republicans in the district that includes all of Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne counties, and part of Oswego County, will decide who gets the party nod at a convention this weekend in Syracuse. The eight Republicans who want the chance to run against incumbent Dan Maffei got to make their case in front of a roomful of conservatives Thursday night.

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3:41pm

Thu February 27, 2014
Regional Coverage

Recycling comes at a cost

Onondaga County's Waste-to-Energy Facility in Jamesville
Office of Onondaga County Comptroller

There will be some important decisions in the coming months about trash in Onondaga County.  An audit of the independent agency that takes care of trash removal and recycling shows that there could be changes in store for how you pay for trash and recycling pick up.

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8:14am

Wed February 26, 2014
Regional Coverage

Geddes town supervisor talks SAFE Act with Cuomo

Opponents of New York’s tough gun control law called the SAFE Act, continue to oppose the legislation more than a year after it was passed, with more rallies and court cases on the calendar. But attempts to engage Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a debate about the pros and cons of the legislation might be better spent in more low-key settings. One vocal opponent of the law met with the governor Tuesday in private quarters in Albany to talk about it.

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7:25am

Tue February 25, 2014
Education

Upstate schools call for more funding, end of the Gap Elimination Adjustment

Katie Keier Flickr

The funding crisis facing public education will be on display during forums held in the coming weeks across central New York. Lobbyists are hopeful that public support for school funding can have an impact on the state budget process in Albany.

Charles Borgongoni has been the head of the Central New York School Boards Association for three years. He says the fiscal troubles for schools just keep getting worse, with not much help in sight from the state.

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8:21am

Mon February 24, 2014
Health

Excellus health insurance launches new community campaign

Credit Excellus

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield (BCBS) is launching a new campaign to remind people of the importance of taking prescription medications as directed. In many hospitals, it’s called medication adherence, and it’s an issue that’s becoming a hot topic in the health world today.

BCBS Regional President Arthur Vercillo says statistics show 75 percent of patients don’t take their prescriptions as directed.

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7:10am

Fri February 21, 2014
Science

Syracuse University Professor to research children with autism

A Syracuse University professor is beginning a study of the sensory issues many children with autism face.  More than 70 percent of autistic children have sensory issues, like extreme sensitivity to sound or light. 

Natalie Russo, of Syracuse University’s psychology department, says there isn’t much research on the issue and she’s hoping a study funded with a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will find out how these issues fit in with a disorder that affects 1 out of every 88 children.

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2:25pm

Tue February 18, 2014
Education

Syracuse school district requests more state aid

Jon Lim Flickr

As the Syracuse City School District goes into its budget process, it’s looking at a $24 million spending gap, a revenue problem stemming from years of stagnant state aid in the face of rising educational costs.

The District’s Chief Financial Officer, Suzanne Slack, decided to name this year’s budget report after a weather event. She saw a news story about frigid temperatures this winter caused by the Polar Vortex.

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8:16am

Tue February 18, 2014
Agriculture

New Farm Bill makes transition to organic dairy farming easier

publicenergy Flickr

For farmers in upstate New York, going organic isn’t easy. But one farmer who’s made the switch is happy that the new Farm Bill will make it easier to transition from traditional to organic farming in the future.

Ben Simons has been a dairy farmer in Remsen for two decades. Two years ago, he decided to convert his operation over to an organic dairy.

"Because I did not want to expand my dairy anymore," Simons says. "It was very difficult to stay a small family farm and compete with conventional milk.”

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2:40pm

Fri February 14, 2014
Religion

Religious leaders spend week eating on $4 a day

A week's worth of food for $29.40
Ellen Abbott, WRVO

The food budget for individuals receiving federal food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), comes down to $29.40 a week, $4.20 a day. Members of the Religious Roundtable of Interfaith Works of Central New York are in the midst of a one-week SNAP challenge, only eating what that amount of money will buy.  

Temple Concord Rabbi Daniel Fellman says this kind of budget limits people to a carbohydrate-heavy, highly processed diet.

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6:57am

Fri February 14, 2014
Agriculture

Hanna says Farm Bill gets a lot right, but doesn't address everything

Rep. Hanna tours Hood Dairy in Oneida
Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Rep. Richard Hanna and central New York farmers celebrated the passage of the Farm Bill, with a tour of a Madison County Dairy producer Thursday.  

At the Hood Dairy in Oneida, Hanna ticked off the things in the Farm Bill that will help upstate New York farmers: the five-year bill provides stability for farmers; it transitions farmers to a more modern dairy support program; it expands crop insurance, offers more support for organic farming, and help to young farmers who want to get in the business.

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6:48am

Fri February 14, 2014
Health

ACA deadlines, penalties approaching

There are less than two months left for people to sign on to a health insurance plan and avoid tax penalties for not having insurance in 2014.  

Steve Wood, community health coordinator of the ACR Health Syracuse office, said they are continuing outreach in nine counties in central New York, encouraging people to get help from specially trained navigators who can help with the process.

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6:20am

Thu February 13, 2014
Politics

Hawkins running for governor again

Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins will run for governor in November

Howie Hawkins, a perennial Green Party Candidate for office in central New York, is expected to officially jump into the race for governor.

Four years ago, Hawkins, a UPS worker who lives on Syracuse’s South Side, was one of seven candidates for governor, in a race that ultimately put Andrew Cuomo in the governor’s mansion and Hawkins in third. He wants to run again, and is hoping to get a little more respect this time after his showing in 2010.

“Last time I think, especially New York City media, said, 'oh he's  an upstate hick' and they totally ignored me," he said.

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5:19am

Wed February 12, 2014
Politics and Government

Union activists protest governor's budget plan

Protestors rally against Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget plan in front of the state office building in Syracuse.
Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Local union activists and community organizers are hoping to send a message to state lawmakers about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget: they don’t like it. And they suggest it will increase the income gap between the rich and the poor.

On a snowy day in Syracuse, union activities and community organizers gathered to rally at the state office building in Syracuse against the governor's budget plan

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1:41am

Tue February 11, 2014
Regional Coverage

Syracuse Common Council votes down fine for unshoveled sidewalks

East Fayette St. during a recent snow storm.
Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Syracuse Common Councilors have voted down a plan to fine property owners who don’t shovel their sidewalks. But that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the story.

While lawmakers resoundingly voted down  the idea of a $50 fine for snow shoveling slackers, they admit there is still a problem. And Councilor Kathleen Joy, one of seven lawmakers who voted against the plan, thinks this whole debate over a fine could lead to more action in the end.

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8:20am

Mon February 10, 2014
Regional Coverage

Destiny USA asking Onondaga County for tax breaks for proposed hotel

An aerial shot of Destiny USA.
Destiny USA

The information gathering phase of a proposed 252-room hotel project next to the Destiny USA mall in Syracuse has started.

Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse both received letters last week from Destiny indicating a plan to build a hotel across the street from the mall. The developer is asking for tax breaks from the county consistent with deals other hotels have gotten. The difference, according to mayoral spokesman Tim Carroll, is that Destiny is going through the county.

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8:11am

Mon February 10, 2014
Regional Coverage

Hancock Air Base anti-drone protesters sentenced

Protester Ed Kinane speaks to DeWitt Town Justice David Gideon.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

Twelve activists opposed to drone warfare are spending the next few weeks in an Onondaga County correctional facility. The sentencing capped off a month-long trial, with an admonition from a judge to avoid any more protests on Hancock Air Base property.

Video shot of the Hancock 17 war crimes protesters last October in front of Hancock Air Base near Syracuse, which houses the 174th Fighter Attack Wing, showed the protesters involved in some confrontations and near-miss traffic accidents. It was that video that prompted DeWitt Town Justice David Gideon to warn activists.

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6:13am

Fri February 7, 2014
Regional Coverage

Syracuse Common Council proposes fines for unshoveled sidewalks

A homeowner in Adams plows the sidewalk, following heavy snowfall that hit the region in early January.
Sarah Crisafulli

The snowiest city in America is debating whether to make property owners pay fines if they don’t clear the snow from their sidewalks and parking lots. Syracuse common councilors will vote Monday on whether the city should impose a fine on property owners who don’t shovel their sidewalks.  

District Councilor Bob Dougherty is the lawmaker behind the proposal. He lives near several schools in Syracuse’s Valley Neighborhood, and says it’s a matter of safety.

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6:07am

Fri February 7, 2014
Politics and Government

State report shows thousands of regulations impede New York businesses

While tax breaks are the cornerstone of some of the programs in New York state meant to boost business, there are other areas where the state can become an impediment to anyone wanting to do business. A state report released recently points the finger at a bureaucracy that gets in the way.

There are 750,000 regulations on the books in New York state, many of them outdated and never reviewed. And many of them can get in the way of New York's businesses.

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7:41am

Thu February 6, 2014
Regional Coverage

Crouse's opioid program expanding to meet rising needs for treatment

Crouse Hospital

A spike in heroin and prescription painkiller abuse in central New York is the reason behind the expansion of a program that helps addicts.

Crouse Hospital in Syracuse says it’s expanding its opioid program, the only one in the area, in response to a community need for methadone treatment. Monica Taylor, director of behavior health at Crouse, says it won’t happen overnight.

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7:50am

Wed February 5, 2014
Regional Coverage

New Onondaga County program combines pet adoption with inmate rehabilitation

Republican Kevin Holmquist arguing on the floor of the Onondaga County Legislature against the kennel.
Ellen Abbott WRVO

Onondaga County lawmakers approved a plan to put a dog kennel at the county jail in Jamesville, with the idea of helping inmates and stray dogs.

Stephanie Higgins of the Syracuse Pit Crew says the dog shelter will serve as an overflow facility for up to 25 dogs from the SPCA and Dewitt Animal Hospital. These are animals that would be otherwise euthanized.

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