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This is Rochester
   A summary of noteworthy news about Greater Rochester government
  Most recent developments

RCSD going to court to block proposed November referendum

July 26, 2019 -- The Rochester City School District is filing a lawsuit against the City of Rochester over a proposed referendum to place the district under state control.

The school board is asking for the referendum to be removed from the November ballot and that the city be barred "from further using public funds with regard to the Referendum, along with such other and further relief as the Court deems just and equitable."

The plan proposed in June by Mayor Lovely Warren would ask city voters to allow the state to dissolve the school board and assume control over the district for five years. If approved by City Council, the referendum would be held in November.

At a news conference, Warren criticized the lawsuit, calling it a "Hail Mary play" by the board to stop the process.

"In essence, this action has been taken to prevent what is an illegal advisory referendum from being placed on the ballot in November, and avoid any more taxpayer money from being spent in support of this referendum," the board said in a statement.

City appatently giving up on dynamic staffing for fire stations

July 25, 2019 -- City Hall's controversial plan that resulted in overnight closures of some Rochester firehouses appears to have ended.

"The likelihood of having to close a house in the future is going to be slim to none," Mayor Lovely Warren said.

The decision is based in part on a new class of 30 firefighter recruits graduating, which will relieve staffing shortages that were the basis of the dynamic staffing plan. Under dynamic staffing, on-duty firefighters were moved to cover vacancies and avoid overtime during off-peak, overnight hours. Decisions were made on a day-to-day basis.

Fire Chief Will Jackson said he has utilized dynamic staffing just six times since the start of the budget year on July 1.

The city began the pla despite the unanimous objection of City Council members who called the proposal "too large of a risk to our residents and our first responders."

Firefighters criticize city position on dynamic staffing

July 18, 2019 -- City firefighters say comments from the Rochester Fire Department Chief Will Jackson claiming that response delays would be minimal under its new dynamic staffing model are "irresponsible" and "defy both logic and common sense."

"The city is minimizing the real danger to the community in an attempt to rationalize poor public policy," union Local 1071 said in a statement. "... The citizens of Rochester and our members aren't buying the city's excuses or accepting their dismissive attitude towards the dangers that 'dynamic staffing' poses for our community. They are risking lives to save a few dollars. It is unconscionable."

Speaking at a public meeting last week, Jackson acknowledged dynsamic staffing t could delay response times, but not enough to put the public in jeopardy. Under dynamic staffing, the chief can close a firehouse for a shift if it cannot be fully staffed. Other fire companies would then answer calls in that company's jurisdiction.

City officials say dynamic staffing curbs overtime costs for when firefighters call out sick. Jackson called it a "powerful tool for protecting public safety while saving tax dollars."

City ready for bids to build skate park

July 17, 2019 -- The construction of the downtown ROC City Skate Park is moving forward with the announcement that the project will go out to bid next week and work could commence this fall.

The Rochester City Council approved funding and designs after the public weighed in on a projected three-phase project last year. The city was awarded a $250,000 grant for the 14,300-square-foot from skateboarder Tony Hawk's foundation.

The cost of the facility beneath the Susan B. Anthony/Frederick Douglass bridge is projected at more than $1 million.

Mayor interrupts firefighters' briefing with offer

July 11, 2019 -- Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren walked in and handed Eddie Santiago a proposal to end dynamic staffing while the firefighters' union leader was briefing community leaders about the dangers of the controversial program.

Santiago promptly rejected the proposal, saying that Warren's plan requires a use of union funds that is not permitted.

"Mayor Warren's proposal on Dynamic Staffing was misdirected to the Rochester Firefighters, Local 1071 union, which has no control over Two Percent funds," the union said in a statement. "The Mayor's proposal has been shared with the Two Percent Committee and its legal counsel. Attorney Glenn Pezzulo, who has handled this litigation since its inception, has reconfirmed the fact that the use of the Two Percent Fund in the manner proposed by the Mayor would be illegal and a violation of Insurance Law Sections 9104 and 9105 and more importantly, the decision of Supreme Court Justice Thomas Stander which was incorporated into the Settlement Agreement and signed by the City on August 7, 2012."

Warren's proposal included returning four firefighters from their current positions in the protective unit back to active duty and moving $500,000 out of the Two Percent Fund to the city's 2019-2020 capital budget.

Dinolfo can proceed with lawsuit

July 9, 2019 -- The county legislature passed legislation that will allow Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo to file a lawsuit against the state over the new "Green Light Bill."

The Green Light Bill allows certain undocumented immigrants to get a New York State driver's license. Dinolfo says the state law runs counter to federal law and has directed the county's law department to file the legal complaint as soon as possible.

New plan possibly in the works for Parcel 5

July 2, 2019 -- Mayor Lovely Warren is asking City Council to apply for $4.7 million from the state as part of a proposal to develop downtown Rochester's Parcel 5 into a year-round festival site.

The potential $18.8 million project could possibly include a visitor center, an overhead canopy and green space.

City Council President Loretta Scott said the city can only apply for funding from this pool of state funding once a year, so officials are asking that the application be made now. Scott has been a reluctant convert to developing Parcel 5 because there has been so much feedback in favor of leaving the plot of land as open space.

Former UPrep leader Munno files suit against mayor

July 1, 2019 -- Fired UPrep founder and president Joe Munno has filed a libel and defamation lawsuit in State Supreme Court against the Mayor Lovely Warren and the City of Rochester.

Munno lost his job in the fallout from a valedictorian speech controversy last summer. His lawsuit contends Warren and others concocted the controversy to give her a platform to speak out against racism, in the process miscategorizing his reason for not allowing 2018 valedictorian Jaisaan Lovett to speak at graduation.

Lovett, the school's first black valedictorian, was an intern in the mayor's office. at the time. Warren allowed him to deliver his address at City Hall, posting a video of it on the city's YouTube channel.

When introducing him, Warren said: "For some reason, his school -- in a country where freedom of speech is a constitutional right, and the city of Frederick Douglass -- turned his moment of triumph into a time of sorrow and pain." The video and story made national news and Munno states in the lawsuit that he was terminated "as a result of this slander"

"Warren's actions were politically motivated, convoluting a situation so she could utilize the ugliness of race baiting to grab international media attention," the lawsuit states.

City spokesman Justin Roj declined comment citing pending litigation.

IJC not backing off controversial Plan 2014

June 28, 2019 -- The International Joint Commission says the controversial "Plan 2014" will stay in place while undergoing new examination despite Lake Ontario shoreline flooding for the second time in three years.

"I know it's disheartening for people. It sounds like another study and, to some degree, yes it is," said Commissioner Jane Corwin. "However, what I will say is different now is we are putting resources behind it, we're getting legislators behind it, and this is something we will focus on and we're going to come up with what makes sense. And we will investigate issues such as, should more water get let out in the fall? How high can we open the gates at this time of year?"

Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $300 million plan to help address shoreline flooding.

Dinolfo preparing to sue state over drivers licenses

June 19, 2019 -- Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo is preparing legislation which would initiate a lawsuit against New York State over the recently passed law that will allow undocumented immigrants to apply for drivers licenses.

Legislation she is drafting for the Monroe County Legislature to consider terms the new law unconstitutional.

Monroe County Clerk Adam Bello, who is running against Dinolfo for county executive in November, has previously said he had reservations about the Green Light bill, but that he would enforce the law. A representative for his office said that he will work with officials on the implementation process.


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