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. 

Ways To Connect

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The first experiment with the state’s new public campaign financing law went out with a whimper. The method of parlaying private dollars into a public match fell short in the race for the state comptroller.

In order to get $1.2 million in state funds for his campaign, Republican state comptroller candidate Bob Antonacci needed to get 2,000 people to donate between $10 and $175, and it had to amount to at least $200,000.

In the end, Antonacci fell about $50,000 short.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Heading into the last weekend before election day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is crossing upstate New York encouraging Democrats to get out the vote. His first stop was a rally in Syracuse.

"We vote, we win," Cuomo said. "We vote when we work and we knock on doors and we make phone calls... We do it 24 hours a day and we out work the other side."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

With less than a week to go until Election Day, candidates in one of the highest profile races in central New York are in the midst of a debate blitz. Democrat incumbent Dan Maffei and his Republican challenger, John Katko, are both running to represent the 24th Congressional District, and outlined their stands at the Thursday Morning Roundtable in DeWitt.

The candidates offered up views on foreign policy to kick off the latest debate, specifically whether American troops should be used to deal with the advancement of ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, in the Middle East.

John Katko for Congress

As WRVO profiles congressional races in central and northern New York this week, we turn to the 24th Congressional District. It features a well-known Democrat who has struggled to hold onto the office, and a political neophyte. Today, we profile John Katko.

When John Katko decided to quit his job as a federal prosecutor in January to run for Congress, his sister was surprised.

"I’m like really, are you serious,” Cindy Hoyne said. “He’s like yeah. He’s not your typical politician; I think that’s what floored me the most.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The future of an amphitheater project on the western shore of Onondaga Lake comes down to a vote by Onondaga County lawmakers next week. 

The amphitheater is part of a $100 million project to revitalize the communities on the western shore of Onondaga Lake. The state will pay for infrastructure improvements and housing projects in Solvay and Geddes but Onondaga County will have to pay for the $50 million amphitheater, by way of a 30-year bond.

Ryan Delane / WRVO file photo

Rep. Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse) is courting senior voters as Election Day approaches. He stood with some local seniors in Syracuse, promising to protect Social Security. He admits there are some changes that could be made to the federal program.

“But it’s not in crisis," Maffei said. "It’s a program that continues to make sure that seniors can continue to live a dignified life, even if their private savings didn't work out, or something like that. And that’s the whole point of the program that Roosevelt put in.”

Sarah Jean Condon / The Citizen

The first of a series of televised debates in the race for the 24th Congressional District kicked off last night. Democratic incumbent Dan Maffei and Republican challenger John Katko sparred in the studios of Time Warner Cable News.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

In the waning days of the election, Republican congressional candidate John Katko is focusing on poverty.

Katko, a former federal prosecutor in Syracuse, says he’s seen up close the poverty plaguing the 23rd poorest city in the country.

"I remember many times walking up a dark stairway, trying to find a witness with one of the agents, knocking on the door, not knowing what’s going to happen when the door happens," Katko said. "But when that door opens, you see unbelievable living conditions in the city of Syracuse. Where is the outrage? Where is the concern?”

WRVO

For the first time in two decades, Onondaga County will have a new sheriff next January. The two men vying for the opportunity to succeed longtime sheriff Kevin Walsh, who’s retiring, are making the rounds across the county this fall, trying to convince voters to pay attention to the race.  

The candidates are Republican Gene Conway, currently the police chief in the town of Dewitt, and Democrat Toby Shelley, a 16-year veteran of the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department, who retired in 2011.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Onondaga County says part of its jail overcrowding problem could be eased with a little help from New York State. Lawmakers are asking the state to make changes in a policy regarding state prisoners who’ve run afoul of their parole.

Right now, Onondaga County is forced to take state prisoners, who have violated parole, and keep them in the local jail while the justice system decides whether to send them back to state prison. County officials say that policy is squeezing an overcrowded county jail even more.  

U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

As the home heating season approaches, the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency, or NYSERDA, is pushing a program that offers incentives for heating homes with wood pellets and cordwood, and using the latest high-efficiency, low-emission wood heating systems.

New York state started the Renewable Heat New York program in July. The $27 million initiative promotes the highest efficiency wood burning technologies in the country.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The controversial issue of hydrofracking will come up in Wednesday night’s gubernatorial debate if Howie Hawkins has anything to do with it. The Green Party candidate will be on the stage in Buffalo with Democratic incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Republican Rob Astorino and Libertarian candidate Michael McDermott.

NIAID / Flickr

New York State Health Department officials are in Syracuse this week looking at how SUNY Upstate Medical University is preparing to become one of two hospitals in upstate New York designated to deal with Ebola patients.

Being an Ebola hospital means Upstate has to be ready on three fronts, according to hospital CEO John McCabe.

"One is identifying the patients early," McCabe said. "Second is taking care of them in a safe way, and third is being sure that no other patient, staff member, family member has any exposure.”

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Vice President Joe Biden tried to stir up some election fervor during a visit to Syracuse Monday.

Biden, a Syracuse University alumnus, made sure to point out to Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner that he was sporting an orange tie for his visit to a city he called “almost home."

"Steph, I just want you to know I got my colors on, I got my colors,” Biden joked.

Then it was down to business, stumping for Democrat Rep. Dan Maffei, who’s facing a competitive Republican opponent in former federal prosecutor John Katko in the race for the 24th Congressional District.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Unions representing law enforcement officers in central New York are throwing their support behind former federal prosecutor John Katko in his race against Democratic incumbent Rep. Dan Maffei for the 24th Congressional District seat.

Syracuse Police Benevolent Association President Jeffrey Piedmonte says the main reason he’s speaking out is because he’s irritated about Democratic attack ads that accuse Katko of being light on crime, especially in connection with the plea agreement offered to former Oswego Mayor John Gosek for a sex crime.  

Attorney General candidate John Cahill is proposing a plan to fight the heroin epidemic that’s ravaging communities across the state.  

Cahill, a Republican, says the five-point plan attacks the problem from a number of angles. It starts with tougher laws that go after the drug traffickers, including tougher sentences and changes in the classification of the drug in penal law.

Matthias Ripp / Flickr

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler is helping an organization that’s advocating for more after school programs.

The highest profile member of the Afterschool Alliance is former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

“After school programs are between three and six o’clock, which is the danger zone for our kids,” Schwarzenegger said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Syracuse is in line for more money for its land bank. The state announced a second round of awards Wednesday to help communities restore abandoned and dangerous properties.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that another $20 million is going out to land banks across the state, while at a house on Syracuse’s Southside. The home was renovated, and has been sold to a first time home buyer.
 

Katelyn Wright, executive director of the Greater Syracuse Land Bank says the city is in line for $2 million from this round of awards.

NIAID / Flickr

Officials in Onondaga County want to be ready if a case of Ebola turns up in central New York. Earlier this week, all of the players who would be involved in treating the virus laid out a road map for Ebola preparedness.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

It was a relatively easy budget season for Onondaga County lawmakers this fall. Legislators unanimously approved County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s proposed $1.25 billion spending plan. There was only one hiccup; concern about spending more money for construction of a dog kennel at the Jamesville Correctional Facility.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

More police cameras are heading to crime-ridden Syracuse neighborhoods, spreading into more areas on the city’s Northside.

Patricia Simmons is pastor of a church in the Washington Square neighborhood of Syracuse. She’s happy the crime-deterring cameras are coming.

"Our church is on the corner of Park and Turtle,” Simmons said. “Outside our door we see prostitution, we see drug activities happen. If we have a big event, the folks come out to solicit and I think the cameras would also help to alleviate some of that.” 

Rob DeMarco Campaign / Al Stirpe Campaign / Facebook

One of the most hotly contested races on Election Day in central New York is for the 127th state Assembly seat. Democrat incumbent Al Stirpe faces Republican Rob DeMarco in the fight for the district that runs along the eastern end of Onondaga County, from Clay to Tully.

During a debate on WRVO’s Campbell Conversations, DeMarco suggests New York’s business climate is poor and it’s time for a change.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Advocates for the disabled in central New York are calling for more housing and support for families with children who have disabilities. The focus is on help for families with adult children.

Barbara Resseguies' 28-year-old daughter has Down Syndrome and a dream to have her own apartment.

"Just a safe place she could get support and not be treated like a 10-year-old or 12-year-old," Resseguies said.

NAMI Syracuse

A mental health advocacy group in Syracuse is pushing for better services and understanding of adolescents with mental illness. Families say adolescent mental health services fall short in a number of ways in central New York.

Karen Winter Schwartz was coping with a late night mental health crisis with a family member, when a mental health specialist told her to go to the phone book and look up CPEP, the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program in Syracuse.

Onondaga Emerald Ash Borer Task Force

Onondaga County’s Emerald Ash Borer Task Force is trying to take a more regional approach as it tries to corral the spread of the invasive insect.

The task force has been on the trail of the Emerald Ash Borer, or EAB, for three years now, so when it showed up in parts of Syracuse and DeWitt last summer, local governments started an aggressive campaign to take down or treat infested ash trees.

Onondaga Community College hopes to close a skills gap in the local agribusiness and food industry sectors of the economy.

According to OCC President Casey Crabill, she estimates there are 2,400 openings in this field every year in central New York.

“It’s a growing field," Crabill said. "It was cited in our region's economic development plan as a field for the future. I think that’s part of the reason our grant was successful, is that we are very tied in to a lot of community efforts tied into this industry already.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Republican congressional hopeful John Katko is criticizing Democratic incumbent Rep. Dan Maffei’s legislative record from his two terms in Congress as part of the latest salvo in a race that is getting tighter, according to some national political pundits.

During a news conference this week, Katko, a former prosecutor, pointed to a list of legislation Maffei has introduced in the 113th Congress.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The mishandling of an Ebola patient at a Texas hospital has health care institutions across the country on alert, and that includes central New York. Local hospitals and health care providers have stiffened protocols when it comes to dealing with a patient who could have the deadly disease.

Soon after walking into the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse, prospective patients are asked about more than their symptoms. They’re quizzed on where they have been.
 

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his democratic running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul, and other women’s rights advocates spoke to a cheering crowd of union members and local elected officials as part of an upstate bus tour to promote a 10-point women’s rights plan.

Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act failed in the state Senate, when neither party could muster enough votes for an abortion rights provision. Now Cuomo and Hochul are making it a campaign issue.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

There are still children being treated at the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse for symptoms of a respiratory virus that’s hospitalized hundreds of children across the country. But the numbers of suspected cases of Enterovirus D-68 has leveled off.

It was just a few weeks ago that the pediatric emergency room at Upstate was jammed with families worried that their children had come down with the enterovirus that’s swept across the country. Pediatrician Jana Shaw says things are considerably calmer now.

Pages