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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It's that time of year when experts recommend getting a flu shot, but many central New Yorkers aren't getting that message.

A larger percentage of central New Yorkers get vaccine preventable diseases like the flu than in any other part of upstate New York, according to state Health Department numbers compiled by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. Regional President Dr. Arthur Vercillo says that mirrors the number of people getting flu shots.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

With five weeks until election day, Rep. Dan Maffei’s reelection campaign is embarking on a campaign strategy called “30 Days and 30 Ways John Katko is Too Reckless and Radical for Central New York.”

Maffei, a Democrat, is running for his third term in Congress, and says the idea is to outline differences between him, and Republican nominee John Katko. Week one focuses on the candidate’s jobs agenda.  Maffei says he has a record and accuses Katko of having nothing but a one-page jobs document.

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ACR Health has expanded its needle exchange program in Utica.  

In the Syracuse area, the organization’s three-year-old needle exchange program has reached almost 1,000 injection drug users. ACR health prevention director Erin Bortel says one of the reason it’s so successful is that it goes to where the injection users are.

"We’re able to infiltrate the community in a little bit more practical way, than expecting people who continually experience stigma and discrimination from having to come to us. So our mobility is our huge asset in our ability to reach individuals.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Syracuse University showed off an $18 million renovation of the Newhouse 2 building on campus with arguably one of the most successful television personalities in the country cutting the ribbon.

"Let the new generation of innovation come forth," said long-time talk show host Oprah Winfrey to those standing beside her. "One, two, three. Cut!"
 

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Spent grain will once again be allowed to be used as livestock feed in New York state. Sen. Chuck Schumer says the by product of the brewing process had been used for centuries by farmers to feed livestock, until the federal government got involved.

"All of a sudden the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, came in and said 'you can’t send this spent grain except under certain conditions.' That hurt our craft brewers, say Empire Brewing and F.X.Matt here in central New York," said Schumer. It hurt our farmers getting this grain. Otherwise they’d have to pay to dispose of it.”

Gino Geruntino / WRVO/File photo

Onondaga County and emergency management officials are taking the next step to help central New Yorkers prepare for a natural or man-made disaster. Officials believe it’s not a matter of if a disaster will strike, but when, and residents need to be ready.

Following a survey last year of central New Yorkers asking how ready they were for a disaster, one statistic stood out to Rosie Taravella of the Red Cross. Most people believe emergency responders will be able to help them right away if there is a community-wide storm, flood or man-made disaster.

ACR Health Prevention Services in Syracuse is looking for ways to reduce HIV and hepatitis C infection rates in New York state prisons.

According to federal statistics, inmates have the highest rate of HIV in New York, compared to any other state, and many of those inmates are  co-infected with hepatitis C. To fight that, the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS has a campaign that emphasizes public awareness, education and access to testing and treatment.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The jockeying for a coveted casino license in New York state's Southern Tier and Finger Lakes was on display at a public comment session in Ithaca Wednesday. The New York Gaming Facility Location Board wrapped up a series of public hearings by listening to arguments about proposed casinos in what is called the Eastern Southern Tier region.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Sen. Charles Schumer is pushing for federal grants to create a new training program to ease the shortage of high-skilled jobs in central New York.

If the $15 million federal grant comes through, Onondaga Community College will be able to partner with local businesses and place graduates in a job and train local residents in the growing field of mechatronics.

Mechatronics requires students to be skilled in engineering, mechanics, electronics and other technical skills. Potential jobs in the field range from maintenance and repair workers, to industrial machinery mechanics.

Oliver Hine / via Flickr

Some members of the Syracuse Common Council are at odds with Mayor Stephanie Miner about how certain landowners pay back taxes. The dispute centers on just who can use tax trusts to repay overdue bills.

The city used to allow all property owners, owner-occupied homeowners and absentee landlords alike, to use tax trusts to pay bills over time. But Miner says the policy ultimately turned into a tax loophole for some landlords, with several delinquent properties.

Mercy Health / Flickr

The Syracuse.com/Post-Standard/Siena College poll shows 17 percent of potential voters surveyed say health care is the most important issue to them.  In recent interviews, the two candidates in the 24th Congressional District race say there are good things and bad things about it.  

Democrat two-term Rep. Dan Maffei voted for the Affordable Care Act back in 2010, and he says he still supports the reforms that came with it.  But he admits there are problems.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The 24th Congressional District race between Democrat Dan Maffei and Republican John Katko is very competitive according to the first public poll of this race released yesterday.  

The Syracuse.com/Post-Standard/Sienna College poll gives the incumbent Maffei an eight-point edge over his Republican challenger, former federal prosecutor John Katko. The poll shows that Maffei has a bigger edge with Democrats than Katko has with Republicans, but that Katko has a seven-point lead with independents.

http://peoplesclimate.org/march/

Central New York will be represented in this weekend's climate change march in New York City.

Several buses of local activists, college students and people concerned about climate change are heading to New York for what organizers are calling the largest climate march in history.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

A St. Lawrence County couple, accused of kidnapping two Amish sisters, has been indicted on federal child sexual exploitation and child pornography charges. The indictment shows that the pair is also accused of exploitation of a third child.

Twenty-five-year-old Nicole Vaisey and 39-year-old Stephen Howells, Jr. already face state charges for allegedly kidnapping the sisters from their rural family farm stand in St. Lawrence County last month. A five-count federal indictment handed down this week also accuses the couple of sexual exploitation of another girl starting in 2012.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

More than 100 students and staff rallied on the steps of Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel Wednesday, protesting the way the school closed a center that helped sexual assault victims. Some students ultimately took their complaints to the SU chancellor.

Students don’t like the way SU shut down the Advocacy Center in June, consolidating sexual assault services in the school's counseling center and moving student support groups into the the Office of Health Promotion.
 

For one freshman, the Advocacy Center was one of the reasons she came to SU.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

The latest projects slated for Syracuse’s Inner Harbor focus on education.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined county and city officials Tuesday to announce a state grant for the new SUNY Water Research and Educational Center.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The number of mental health inmates at the Onondaga County Justice Center is on the rise, and the implications of that are widespread.

Esteban Gonzalez, chief custody deputy for the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office, sees more and more mental health cases in the jail’s daily count.

"It’s gotten pretty high in the last four weeks," Gonzalez said. "We have more than 20 constant observation inmates on any given day.”

Gonzalez believes some of the increase is due to the heroin epidemic currently plaguing central New York.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Slightly lower property taxes and decreased spending are the hallmarks of Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s proposed $1.25 billion spending plan.

The debate over the budget may ultimately be overshadowed by another proposal from Mahoney this week for a bond that will pay for the Onondaga Lake amphitheater project.

At the end of ten days of budget reviews, county lawmakers have injected a review of the western Onondaga Lake revitalization project, that includes construction of an amphitheater on the west shore of Onondaga Lake.

Courtesy of Mercer's Dairy.

The federal government continues to try to get more businesses to go international, and that includes businesses in central New York.

Among the success stories at a “Made in Rural America” conference in Cortland recently was the growth of an international market for Mercer’s wine ice cream. Mercer’s Dairy in Boonville has been a local ice cream institution for years on Route 12, halfway between Utica and Watertown.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

It’s been a good year for Syracuse Hancock International Airport, according to it’s yearly report to the community. It added new concessions, a new airline and destinations, and improvements to the facility. But perhaps the biggest change came behind the scenes, as facility management was turned over to the Syracuse Regional Airport Authority.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

A new era officially begins at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse this weekend. Quentin Wheeler will be inaugurated as the school’s fourth president. Wheeler sees ESF fitting into a world where environmental issues are moving closer toward the forefront.

Wheeler, a biologist who specializes in bugs and biodiversity, comes to ESF after stints at Arizona State University and Cornell. And that biodiversity background bubbles up when he talks about the future of Earth.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Infection control officials at Syracuse's Golisano Children’s Hospital believe it’s not an issue of if a respiratory virus that’s storming the country ends up in New York state, but when. Jana Shaw, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, says there are no confirmed cases yet in New York, but she doesn’t expect that to be the case for long because the virus is very contagious.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for governor in New York state, likes the position he's in after looking at the results from this week’s gubernatorial primary.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo won with 60 percent of the Democrat vote, while a third of the vote went to liberal Fordham Law School Professor Zephyr Teachout. Hawkins figures that leaves him as the only option for progressives in the fall election.

A UPS worker from Syracuse, Hawkins believes the primary results highlight Cuomo’s weakness among progressive Democrats, saying it validates his reason to run this fall.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

A proposal for a jail oversight board in Onondaga County is on the table after 16 months of discussions and community input.

Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon says this committee creates a place to go if something goes wrong at the jail.

“The incident can be reviewed by peers of the community, representatives of the community," McMahon said. "And then if it turns out the incident isn’t an incident, then they know there was due process. And if it is, then the committee’s job is to make a finding of fact and to make a recommendation.”
 

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Both sides in the debate over a plan to regulate water levels in Lake Ontario are stepping up lobbying efforts. Plan 2014 pits property owners against environmentalists and sportsmen.

At the center of the debate are wetlands, like the Lakeview Wildlife Management Area in South Sandy Creek.

Bob Jordan is a sportsman who’s been boating, fishing and trapping in these streams and marshes all his life, and doesn’t see a healthy ecosystem when he looks across the marshy area near the shore of Lake Ontario.

St. Joseph's Hospital

The new Christina Nappi Surgical Tower at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse features 110 private rooms for patients recovering from surgery. This concept of private room care is an innovative healthcare approach that experts say is the wave of the future.

The halls and rooms don’t look like a typical post-surgical room. They’re large, and able to accommodate all the latest medical technology. There are mechanical lifts at each bed, a special area for family and cabinets that provide all the essentials for a patient recovering from surgery.
 

Ryan Delaney/WRVO and Katko for Congress

Candidates running for the 24th Congressional District seat, which includes Syracuse, agree there’s no easy answer to the escalating violence in the Middle East.

Democratic Congressman Dan Maffei calls the murders of American reporters in Iraq international crimes and heinous acts. But he says figuring out how to stop the violence perpetrated by the Islamic militant group ISIS is not easy.

Jen Russo / Flickr

New York’s Sept. 9 primary highlights what one central New York election official sees as a weakness in state election law.

Onondaga County Democratic Election Commissioner Dustin Czarny says New York is one of only three states that uses what’s called fusion voting on Election Day, which allows people to run on multiple lines. Those votes are then combined, or fused, toward the grand total for a candidate.

Czarny says that leads to candidates' names in several places on the November ballot.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The images coming from Ferguson, Missouri, of police in riot gear facing protesters has some in Congress calling for changes to the way local police agencies are able to use cast off military equipment from the Department of Defense.

The two candidates for the 24th Congressional District seat, which covers all of Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne counties and the western half of Oswego County, have two different views of that.

Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei has already voted against the program that provides surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

The New York State Police will soon embark on a training program meant to cut down on the number of officers killed in the line of duty.

State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico says the “Below 100” program used by other departments, including the Syracuse Police Department, focuses on five tenets of safety.

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