Updated: Gantt Stands Alone?

Links of the Day:

– The Democrat and Chronicle reports that Assemblyman David Gantt appears to be the “lone driver of the mayoral control train.” No one – not even Lt. Governor Bob Duffy – is rushing in to fight round two of this debate. Excerpt:

 Leaving office a year ago, he said his successor — who was unknown at the time — should support such a change and that he, as lieutenant governor, would work from Albany to get the legislation passed in the Senate.

Meanwhile, Mayor Tom Richards has been silent. He didn’t return calls from the D&C or yours truly yesterday.

UPDATE: In an op-ed in the Democrat and Chronicle, Richards says he is not in favor of reintroducing the legislation at this time. Gantt tells me he never asked for Richards’ support and will proceed, anyway. Sounds like this is DOA.

– I frequently get asked how many people are actually sleeping in Washington Square Park. We see the tents, but the place looks like a ghost town. I stopped by yesterday and got the answer.

Brighton came oh-so-close to dissolving the West Brighton Fire Department. The town contracted with the city for fire services, but will keep a small volunteer force in case the city crew is out on assignment. I wonder if this consolidation will be an anomaly or wave of the future.

A number of New York City entrepreneurs have come up with hangover remedies.

“You think there’s a halo over all of Rochester.”

A couple nights a week, my friends and I get into an animated discussion of politics, sports or whatever happens to come up. We know what pushes each other’s buttons. There are never any hard feelings, except for the night one of us stormed out after an argument over which song made the Beastie Boys famous (She’s On It on the Krush Groove soundtrack vs. the License to Ill album).

Last night’s debate started with my blog post about New Year’s Eve. I lamented the city’s tradition of having downtown child-centered activities that commence with fireworks at 10 p.m. Some party, right? I said people would come downtown for a full night of festivities if the city gave them a reason.

One of the guys launched into a rant so compelling (and long), I took out my iPad and started taking notes. He does not want me to use his name.

This was directed at me:

You think there’s a halo over all of Rochester. I miss the monorail and Cathay Pagoda, but the city has serious issues.

The suburbs are so great we don’t need to leave. We have everything, they’re the best suburbs in the country.

If you’re my dad, he has no reason to leave Webster. He has fine dining, shopping and Wegmans. You think people are always denigrating the city, but our suburbs are second to none.

You think life would stop in Brighton and Pittsford if downtown died? The city is not the hub for those people. I’m one of them.

I’m not smart enough to have a prescription to fix downtown. It’s sad and it’s a shame, but (the death of downtown) wouldn’t have the impact you think.

We need to focus on the entire area. We have great suburbs and crime is going down. You think I’m so anti-city and I’m not. I just don’t think downtown and the city are as important.

I (shockingly) disagree. Downtown is the center of our civic and cultural life. Fifty thousand people work downtown every day. There are many people who value a vibrant urban environment and lifestyle, even in a medium-sized city. Downtown is an important part of our identity.

The entire city is the core of our community. The concentration of poverty and blight in the city affects all of us in terms of crime, social services, education, economic development, quality of life and the perception of our metro area.

While I agree with my friend that we should think regionally, we should not think about only the good and dismiss the bad. None of us – not even city-centered me – should be isolated.

Fracking Boom Without Fracking

The New York Times reports Chemung County is reaping the benefits of hyrdrofracking without any hydrofracking.

The county, home to Elmira, Horseheads and Big Flats, is on the New York-Pennsylvania border. Drillers in Pennsylvania are streaming to Chemung County for housing, shopping and entertainment.

Last year, Chemung led all New York counties in the growth of sales tax and hotel tax revenue, as well as in the expansion of its tax base, avoiding the property tax increases and economic doldrums faced by local governments elsewhere in the state.


Many businesses provide support and technological services for gas fields. One of the biggest, Schlumberger Technologies, is completing a 400,000-square-foot plant in Horseheads that will employ 400 people by next year.

New York State has not decided if it will allow hydrofracking. There are serious concerns about the environmental impact. But this kind of economic impact can also not be ignored.

Wegmans Figuring Out Urban Model

Wegmans is building a 70,000-square-foot store in Newton, Massachusetts. This is drastically smaller than the prototype store, such as the 140,000-square-foot Pittsford Wegmans.

The Boston Globe reports:

“We want to have most of the things we have in all our stores, but can you have a Market Cafe that seats 300 people and serves chef-driven meals and 700 different types of produce?’’ said Jo Natale, director of media relations at Wegmans. “We haven’t quite figured that out yet.’’


The smaller stores that Wegmans and Walmart are building help extend their brands. “If you can have a Wegmans experience in a smaller footprint, people are going to dig that,’’ said Griffin.

The new East Avenue Wegmans can’t really be considered one of the smaller urban stores, at 95,000 square feet. It will be similar to the Calkins Rd. Wegmans, which is 110,000 square feet.

The East Ave. store is the last remaining Wegmans location in the City of Rochester. Wegmans has countered criticism that it abandoned the city by pointing to stores right on the border, including Lyell Ave., Ridge-Culver, and Hudson Ave.

Wouldn’t it be great to see Wegmans figure out an urban model and move back into the city? Perhaps one day downtown can get the critical mass and wealth needed to make this happen.

Mayoral Control Lost Momentum

The Democrat and Chronicle reported today Assemblyman David Gantt would reintroduce his legislation giving Rochester’s mayor control of the school district.

This is not a surprise, as it has already passed the assembly. The bill has powerful allies in Gantt, Assemblyman Joe Morelle, Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy and the business community. But the state senate is a lot trickier, as senators Joe Robach and Jim Alesi have expressed strong reservations.

Meanwhile, a lot has changed in the two years since then-Mayor Duffy campaigned for control of schools.

  • We have a new mayor who may not want the job as badly as his predecessor. Tom Richards  never talks about mayoral control unless prompted and doesn’t do so with any depth. While Richards has expressed support for mayoral control, I find it hard to believe Albany would hand over control of a $700-million-a-year, 32,000-student district to a man who lacks any outward passion for taking the reigns. There’s still time for Richards to show he wants control of the district. So far, he hasn’t laid out any vision.
  • Opposition to mayoral control has grown among area residents. The 2011 Voice of the Voter poll shows 50 percent of respondents oppose and 38 percent support mayoral control. In the 2010 poll, only 30 percent opposed mayoral control.
  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s record on education has been knocked in polls and gains in test scores under his leadership were nearly wiped out.
  • The Rochester City School District is no longer run by mayoral-control-friendly Jean-Claude Brizard.  The district is in a state of relative calm compared to the turmoil of the last few years. Is it time to rock the apple cart as the school board searches for a new leader – one who may already be in the position? Maybe it’s the perfect time, if you want to install the mayor as chief.

Kodak News, Walsh Arrest Details, City Homicide Data

More links of note today:

– Two members of the Kodak board who represented KKR’s stake in the company and were supposed to help lead a turnaround resigned today. From the Wall Street Journal:

The men obtained their seats after KKR helped Kodak with a fresh injection of funds needed to weather the recession.

Kodak is again seeking funds as an expensive turnaround burns through its cash. The resignations signal KKR isn’t planning to step in this time.


Messrs. Chen and Clammer are young and tech-focused, the type of directors Kodak needed as it tried to make the transition from an analog film company to one that focused on digital products, people familiar with the matter said.

– The Democrat and Chronicle obtained the police report of Airport Director Susan Walsh’s arrest. Excerpt from article:

…she explained the vehicle was not hers and asked him to help her.

“I asked her what she wanted help with and she looked up and me and said, ‘You know what I mean,’ ” the officer, Michael Brandenburg, wrote in his report. “As she was speaking, I could smell a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from her breath and her speech was mumbled and slurred. I also observed that her eyes were glassy, bloodshot and watery.”

– Rochester has had 29 homicides so far this year. It’s one of the less violent years in the city’s recent history. In the early ’90s we had several years with more than 60 homicides. I crunched some numbers in a 13WHAM News post.

Rochester’s New Year’s Party is Lame

Once again, Rochester has announced its official New Year’s Eve celebration will end at 10 p.m.

That’s ridiculous.

The city describes the festivities as “family-friendly” and “wholesome.” Other cities, however, manage to hold family-friendly events and ring in the new year when the new year actually arrives.

Here’s what is happening at the Riverside Convention Center, according to the city’s press release:

The festivities will kick off with a DJ Dance Party for the whole family featuring Jimmy C’s Music Machine.  Kid-friendly inflatable attractions will include a giant bounce house,  climbing wall, obstacle course, bungee run and giant slide.  The City’s “Recreation on the Move” program will be providing crafts and games.  Visitors will be able to dress up and get their picture taken in an Old Time Photo Booth.  Also featured will be two caricature artists, henna and airbrush tattoo artists, a stilt walker, clowns and a magician.

At 9:50 p.m., the crowd will move outside the front doors of the Convention Center where they will be welcomed by Mayor Richards.  Gary Mervis, founder and chairman of Camp Good Days and Special Times, will lead the crowd in a “KazooFest” just prior to the City’s spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks finale which will close out the evening with an amazing aerial display at 10 p.m.

Sounds like a blast…if you still play with GI Joes and Barbie dolls.

The cities of Saratoga and Syracuse hold self-described family-friendly “First Night” celebrations that include music, activities and midnight fireworks. Buffalo has a midnight ball drop preceded by a concert.

I rang in the new millennium on the Main Street Bridge watching the city’s fireworks display. The streets were filled with people having a great time. People weren’t indoors watching their kids play house inside of a balloon. They didn’t go home at 10 p.m. to watch a ball drop on television.

Come on, Rochester, let’s have a real New Year’s Eve party. I promise we’ll behave ourselves.