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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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.”

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.”

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