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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Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh gave his second State of the City address in front packed crowd at the Redhouse Arts Center Thursday evening, and went into detail on what he calls the biggest economic growth initiative in the city’s history.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Local gender rights advocates are applauding passage in the state legislature this week of the transgender rights bill known as GENDA.

Mallory Livingston, a Syracuse Attorney and founder of the local group Transgender Alliance, has been personally advocating for GENDA for seven years now.

"This bill being passed is a kind of note of hope during a time for trans people where there seems to be a shortage of hope," said Livingston.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday released details of his plan to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Under the proposal, the drug would be taxed, regulated and sold to those 21 and over. It's expected to pass the state legislature this year, and drug prevention advocates are getting ready.

Kein Trease is an educator at the Prevention Network in Syracuse. He said when he goes to professional conferences, the talk is not about if marijuana becomes legal in New York, but when, and how to deal with that eventuality.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is using the shortage of a vaccine in central New York to showcase the impact of a record long partial government shutdown. 

Schumer and reporters jammed into the tiny Burnet Pharmacy in Syracuse Monday to talk about shingles, and how the government shutdown is compounding a shingle shot shortage. 

"This is a glaring example of the shutdown causing real problems," said Schumer.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

Researchers at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse have joined those at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Health in advancing a novel approach to treating heroin addicts. They hope a heroin vaccine can be a factor in the fight against opioid addiction.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Scientists at SUNY ESF have been trying to bring back the American chestnut tree for decades.  Three to four billion of the trees were destroyed by blight in the first half of the 20th century, but researchers are now getting close to bringing back an American chestnut resistant to blight.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The partial government shutdown could be having an impact on some students who get federal financial aid. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Department of Motor Vehicle offices across the state are expecting to be busier than usual the next few years as new federal standards for driver’s licenses go into effect. One central New York DMV office is gearing up for the extra time it takes to process these licenses. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A new court specifically aimed at helping individuals addicted to opioids has started in the city of Syracuse. It’s meant to cope with an opioid addiction crisis that has ballooned in recent years.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

As the new session of Congress opens in Washington, activists are continuing to keep the pressure on central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus). At a rally in Syracuse Thursday, they focused on the issue of campaign finance reform.

A few dozen people gathered in front of Katko’s office in downtown Syracuse with one message. They want Katko to vote for H.R. 1,  a package of good government and election reforms proposed by Democrats.

Wayne Marshall / via Flickr

The city of Syracuse is considering legislation that would continue to fight the city's lead poisoning crisis, now that the federal government is once again providing funding for lead abatement programs in the city.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

One of the longest serving elected officials in central New York is retiring at the end of the month. State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) has some thoughts about how those who follow him can make politics a productive profession.

“I’m practicing retirement, and I think I’m going to be very good at it,” DeFrancisco said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

Social service nonprofits that deal with poverty in Onondaga County are finding more ways to collaborate through a year-old community assessment program.

The program led by the Central New York Community Foundation, lets individual nonprofits figure out what the biggest needs are in regards to poverty through surveys of their clients. Then they can share that information with other nonprofits. It’s something Frank Ridzi of the foundation said really never happened before.

Upstate Medical University

The health of a community depends on many things, like race, income and access to care. Because of that, there continue to be barriers to health care in particular communities. But there is one model that works in central New York that has impacted a hard to reach urban community.

One area where there is a big racial disparity in health care is among women diagnosed with breast cancer. Overall, white women are slightly more likely to develop the disease, but African-American women are more likely to die from it, by a substantial margin. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Proponents of election reform in central New York are urging lawmakers to take action on the issue when they go back to Albany in January.  

With Democrats in control of the State Senate for the first time in several years, there’s optimism that a fair elections package can make it through the legislature. The proposal would create small donor public financing, limit the influence of big money, and make it easier to vote, by way of automatic voter registration and early voting, among other things.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

School districts in Madison County are getting some help paying for security in school buildings.  The Madison County Board of Supervisors recently approved a budget that included enough money to pay for a school patrol officer in every district.

Funding for an armed officer is available for every school building in any district that wants it, according to Board of Supervisors Chair John Becker.

WikiMedia Commons

As families gather for the holidays, it is a good time to gauge the health of older family members.

This is one of the busiest times of the year for the Department of Geriatrics at Upstate Medical University, according to department chair Dr. Sharon Brangman. That is because adult children often come home and spend more time with their parents.

"A lot of times when you are talking to people over the phone, they can put a good face on things," Brangman said. "And it’s not until you see them in person that you start to realize that something may not be quite right."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

A new snow removal program in the city of Syracuse is getting off to a slow start. It’s taking longer than expected to find contractors who will plow sidewalks on some especially busy streets, with negotiations continuing with contractors who might take on the job.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

Onondaga County and the city of Syracuse have avoided the acrimony that’s happened in the past, when it comes to deciding how to split the sales tax revenue that is generated in the county. Leaders have agreed to extend the current agreement another ten years.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County has worked out a deal to provide increased funding to villages over the next decade. 

This enhanced village improvement program will allocate millions of dollars to the 15 village governments within Onondaga County, based on their size.

The first funds would be available in 2020.

Fayetteville Mayor Mark Olson said this is important at a time when village budgets are strapped, especially when it comes to paying for infrastructure improvements.

WRVO News (file photo)

The city of Syracuse isn’t doing as well as other upstate cities in dealing with issues connected to poverty, according to an analysis of data conducted by the city. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse and Onondaga County are joining forces to get some chronically homeless individuals off the streets and into a job. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon has been on the job for just over a month now. He’s in the midst of a series of town hall meetings meant to introduce himself, and his governing style, to the community.

McMahon was appointed to the job earlier this fall when longtime County Executive Joanie Mahoney left to take a job with SUNY ESF in Syracuse. Since then, he’s been a familiar sight at events across the county, something indicative of what he calls his aggressive style.

freeimage4life / Flickr

A special task force has been holding listening sessions across the state to get an idea about where ride sharing services fit in for individuals with disabilities.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse's new police chief said Monday that he's ready to get to work. Kenton Buckner, who previously served as chief of police in Little Rock, Arkansas, was sworn in as Syracuse's chief Monday morning.

Buckner was visibly emotional as he spoke to a packed lobby in the Public Safety Building downtown Syracuse.

"I’m very thankful for the city of Syracuse for selecting me," Buckner said. "As you can see, law enforcement, if I were to give you something that you would be able to qualify what it means to me, I would liken it to your wife and kids.”

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

The Syracuse Catholic Diocese Monday released a list of priests with credible allegations of child sexual abuse against them, going back decades. The list contains the names of 57 priests, 38 of whom are deceased.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse is putting a paid parental leave policy in place starting this month. Non-unionized employees in the city will get the benefit, receiving 12 weeks of paid leave which can be used in the cases of a new birth, adoption or foster placement. The city had no paid leave policy in place before this, according to Mayor Ben Walsh

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 6 million Americans over the age of 65 suffer from depression. A large percentage of those cases, though, are never identified or treated.

One of the problems in diagnosing depression in an individual over 65 is that it does not look the same as depression in a younger person.

WRVO News File Photo

If New York state hopes to reach a goal of getting half of its electricity from renewable resources by the year 2030, wind energy will have to be part of the formula. That was the focus of a wind summit held in Syracuse this week, and boosters of wind power are optimistic it will happen.

Right now energy from wind turbines provides under three percent of the state’s energy portfolio. Alicia Barton, president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), expects that number to grow because of a number of projects in the pipeline.

HeatSmart CNY

A two-year community-based campaign has started in central New York meant to drive down heating and cooling costs and greenhouse gas emissions by using geothermal energy.

The campaign is called HeatSmart CNY, and it helps homeowners install ground-source and air-source heat pumps designed for cold climates. 

HeatSmart CNY program manager Lindsay Speer explained how these pumps work.