This is Rochester
A summary of noteworthy news about Greater Rochester government
Most recent developments
Cuomo unveils list of projects to combat lake floodingOct. 23, 2019 -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled projects with a combined price tag of $43 million to make the Lake Ontario shoreline in Monroe County better able to withstand future high water levels.
Two-thirds of the money -- part of the state's $300 million response to recurring flooding problems -- target improvements to sewage and storm water collection systems that were overwhelmed by record-high flood waters in 2017 and 2019. Eight projects valued at $9.3 million were selected to address problems along Edgemere in Greece, five of them focused on storm water and sanitary sewage collection systems. Among the more expensive undertakings will be extending public sewers to homes in Parma, Hamlin and Irondequoit whose septic systems flood and release sewage during high-water events.
"We must anticipate that this flooding is going to happen again," Cuomo said in a visit to Rochester. "Let's rebuild with a different plan."
Wayne County will receive $41 million in assistance, Orleans County $16 million and Niagara County $33 million. Projects for Cayuga, Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties have not been announced yet.
Locust Club challenge rejected by appeals courtOct. 17, 2019 -- Rochester residents have been given the green light to vote next month on a referendum proposing a Police Accountability Board.
The referendum was placed on the November ballot earlier this year but the Rochester Police Locust Club filed a lawsuit against it, claiming it violated the City Charter and was unconstitutional. A State SUpreme COurt justice had placed a preliminary injunction on the referendum last month.
The New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department, ruled that the referendum can be voted on Nov. 5, writing that the police union "failed to establish that they would suffer irreparable injury if the referendum were permitted to proceed."
The ruling did not completely close the door on the union. The decision states that the court's determination "does not bar a subsequent action in the event that the referendum is approved by the voters."
"Today's unanimous decision is a victory for democracy, no one's voice should be silenced on this important issue," City Council President Loretta Scott said in a statement.
New York sues International Joint Commission over floodingOct. 14. 2019 -- The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has filed a lawsuit against the International Joint Commission blaming the IJC for the flooding from Lake Ontario that has cost the state millions of dollars in emergency responses.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the lawsuit would be coming last week.
The state DEC blames flooding in 2017 and 2019 on "Plan 2014," adopted by the IJC as the new policy on regulating lake levels via the release of water through the ST. Lawrence River. The department says "the IJC must answer for its wrongful conduct."
The DEC is requesting compensation for "the costs already incurred by DEC and the State in repairing damage to property and infrastructure caused by flooding." This includes any future costs the State will incur from flooding.
Pittsford residents pack Town Board meetingOct. 1, 2019 -- A Pittsford Town Board meeting to discuss how to develop one of the last remaining parcels attracted so many residents that some had to be turned away.
Town Supervisor Bill Smith proposed a change to the town's comprehensive plan that would offer incentives for affordable housing for people age 55 and older. Town Board member Kevin Beckford proposed an amendment to offer incentives to developers to help build housing suited to incomes between $50,000-$90,000.
The median income in Pittsford is more than $108,000 per year, and Beckford said he feared Smith's proposal would prevent younger people and families from moving in to Pittsford because they'd be priced out of it.
Beckford's proposed amendment did not pass, andthe board adopted Smith's proposal.
Rochester City Council asks for state intervention at RCSDSept. 30, 2019 -- Rochester City Council voted unanimously to call for state intervention on the Rochester City School District's finances.
In approving legislation drafted over the weekend, Mayor Lovely Warren and City Council President Loretta Scott are requesting that the state assign a fiscal stability authority be oversee the district finances. A letter signed by both Warren and Scott cites the recent disclosure of a $30 million budget deficit as the catalyst for the legislation.
Warren said last week that she believes the district and school board concealed the looming deficit from the city for months and may have lied about it in order to borrow more money.
The city has raised concerns that the district's finances could negatively impact Rochester government's credit rating. Moody's recently placed the city on a 60-day credit watch for a potential downgrade.
Reports first surfaced about the district's budget problems in a Sept. 21 report by the Democrat and Chronicle, which cited sources indicating the shortfall could be as much as $50 million for the 2018-19 school year. In a subsequent message to employees, new RCSD Superintendent Terry Dade said the figure was closer to $30 million and preliminary findings found overspending may have occurred in fields such as employee benefits, retirement benefits, contract transportation, teacher substitutes and tuition relating to charter schools.
The New York State Comptroller’s Office is scheduled to meet with district officials next month to discuss RCSD finances. Federal and state lawmakers have also asked that the New York Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Department of Justice investigate.
New Brighton police chief takes overSept. 25, 2019 -- David Catholdi has been sworn in as the new police chief in Brighton.
The former department captain was announced as the new chief last week, filling the vacancy created when Mark Henderson announced his retirement after three decades as a police officer.
Catholdi began his career as an officer for the Village of Lyons in 1995. He joined the Brighton Police Department in 1999.
PAB referendum put on hold in State Supreme CourtSept. 25, 2019 -- The future of a proposed vote to create a police oversight board in Rochester is uncertain after a court ruling placed the matter on temporary hold.
State Supreme Court Justice John Ark granted a request by the Rochester Police Locust Club for a preliminary injunction blocking a vote on the proposed Police Accountability Board but allowed the Board of Elections to continue printing and distributing ballots containing the referendum. The matter cannot be voted on, however, or those votes cannot be counted, "until further order of this or an appellate court," Ark wrote.
Several hundred absentee ballots already printed and were sent to city residents living overseas. Local absentee ballots also are printed but have not yet been distributed.
"The statute may be legally permissible as written," Ark wrote in his decision "but if judicial review requires changes ... those modifications will only be complicated if a legally defective version of the statute has been approved in a hastily-passed referendum. Ultimately, any legislation submitted for a referendum on a matter of this importance should be well-crafted, possibly judicially honed law."
The police union contends that the creation of the board would violate state and federal law, the City Charter and their collective bargaining agreement with the city.
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