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Sarah Hall

Stories by Sarah

Mr. Katko goes to Washington

Congressman-elect shares his thoughts about his coming term

On Nov. 4, voters in the 24th Congressional District sent a resounding message: they no longer wanted Dan Maffei to represent them. Maffei, a Democrat, lost to Republican challenger John Katko, a former U.S. Attorney, by a margin of 73,317 votes to 55,268. Katko said he wasn’t necessarily surprised by the victory. “We were going door-to-door for the last couple of weeks of the campaign … and we were getting a pretty good response,” he said. “I just felt the momentum, so I wasn’t surprised that we won.”

The ultimate act of love

Placing a child for adoption is heartbreaking, but sometimes the best choice for the child

Carrie Howard was thrilled when she found out she was pregnant. “I always wanted to be a mom,” Howard said. “I was living with my boyfriend and his family. I was 20 years old and was very excited when I found out.” But things quickly went downhill. “My boyfriend didn't want to be a father,” Howard said. “I ended up having to move out and back in with family. My family was supportive, but they were unwilling to have a newborn in the home. I found myself at a crossroads where I had no job, no home, no license or car, not really anything to offer a child.” So Howard, a Liverpool native, decided to place her unborn child for adoption.

Lights on the Lake opens Nov. 14

Starting Friday, Nov. 14, Central New Yorkers can visit Onondaga Lake Park and take in one of the biggest light shows in the Northeast. Lights on the Lake kicks off its 25th anniversary season next week. The event draws somewhere around 35,000 cars each year.

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Antonacci falls in bid for state comptroller

Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci has failed in his attempt to become the state’s next comptroller. Antonacci, a Republican, earned 55,155 votes in Onondaga County to Democratic incumbent Tom DiNapoli’s 66,602. Statewide, Antonacci said he earned more than a million and a half votes, setting a record for an Onondaga County candidate.

Conway is the new sheriff in town

DeWitt Police Chief Gene Conway has beaten out Toby Shelley for the Onondaga County Sheriff’s seat. Conway, who earned 66,569 votes to Shelley’s 58,829, said he was honored to have been chosen by the people of Onondaga County.

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Unopposed state legislators return to office

Neither John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) nor Dave Valesky (D-Oneida) had an opponent this election season. The lack of opposition allowed both state senators to coast easily back to the state legislature, earning 65,967 and 35,515 votes, respectively.

DeJoseph returns to the bench

Longtime Judge Brian DeJoseph will return to the New York State Supreme Court bench, having beaten Republican challenger Robert O’Leary by a margin of 76,907 votes to 46,540.

Roberts returns to assembly

Democratic incumbent Sam Roberts has once again beaten back a challenge from Republican John Sharon.

Stirpe beats DeMarco

Incumbent Assemblyman Al Stirpe has beaten back challenger Rob DeMarco by a margin of 22,308 to 19,772.

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Katko wins congressional seat

Republican John Katko has ousted Dan Maffei from the 24th Congressional District seat. Katko claimed victory on Election Night by a margin of more than 18,000 votes. Though Maffei had obtained a court order impounding absentee and military ballots, it’s unlikely they’ll change Tuesday night’s outcome.

State increases penalties for repeat drunk driving

Michael Iannettoni had been charged with driving while intoxicated five times when he killed Vincent Russo. Iannettoni had four previous convictions for DWI and was awaiting sentencing on a fifth when he struck Russo’s car on Buckley Road in Liverpool on Jan. 9, 2011. Russo, 82, of Liverpool, was on his way to Mass. Iannettoni was drunk. Russo died three days later. Iannettoni was convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide, first- and second-degree vehicular manslaughter, reckless driving, crossing a double solid line and failure to keep right. He was sentenced to eight and a third to 25 years in prison. But for Russo’s family, it wasn’t enough; they believed he never should have been on the road that night in the first place, given his dangerous history. With the help of State Sen. John DeFrancisco, the Russo family pushed forward a law that would increase penalties for those with repeat drunk driving offenses.

State Board of Regents approves new graduation options

In the hopes of both improving graduation rates, the New York State Board of Regents last week approved a plan to add flexibility to its graduation requirements. On Monday, Oct. 20, the Board of Regents agreed to create a 4+1 pathway option, which would allow students to opt out of one of the social studies exams currently required for graduation. Instead, they could take a "comparatively rigorous" assessment in career/technical education (CTE), science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), the humanities, foreign languages or the arts.

EDITORIAL: Vote yes on Prop. 1

For too long, New York’s system for drawing electoral maps has been broken. Under current legislation, members of the New York State Legislature draw the lines for legislative and congressional districts. Those lines are redrawn every 10 years by a committee made up of sitting legislators. That means that the people responsible for drawing the lines are the very people who benefit from how the lines are drawn.

Justice center to offer help to inmates with pets

Inmates at the Onondaga County Justice Center can now be assured that any pets they leave behind while incarcerated will be taken care of.

On the campaign trail: Mahoney endorses Katko

Republican Congressional candidate John Katko has received the backing of Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney.

SAS to hold annual walk this weekend

For three years, Stand Against Suicide has been working to end the stigma associated with mental illness. In order to help further that mission, the Elbridge-based nonprofit holds a walk every year at the Syracuse Inner Harbor. This year’s event will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 18; registration begins at 10 a.m. The event also includes music, raffles, face painting and other

On the campaign trail: DeJoseph will have a ballot line

Judge Brian DeJoseph has earned the Conservative Party nomination in his bid for reelection to the New York State Supreme Court. DeJoseph’s name will appear on Row C this year along with other highly qualified Conservative candidates. This position will appear on ballots in Onondaga, Oswego, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida and Herkimer counties.

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OCM BOCES opens new Innovation Tech high school in Liverpool

For too long, we’ve been doing education the same way — and it’s doing our students a disservice. At least, that’s what the administrators at Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES believe. And they’re trying to address the problem by introducing a new kind of instruction in Central New York. OCM BOCES held an official grand opening for its new Innovation Tech high school Wednesday, Sept. 17, at the facility at the Lee G. Peters Career Training Center in Liverpool. Classes began Sept. 3.

On the campaign trail: Maffei agrees to debates

During the 2012 season, Rep. Dan Maffei participated in just two debate. He's upping that number this time around. The Democratic incumbent running for the 24th Congressional District has announced a series of debates and joint appearances with Republican challenger John Katko. Four debates will be televised by local stations, and two will be broadcast on public radio.

On the campaign trail: First responders endorse Maffei

Rep. Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse) announced last week that he had earned the endorsement of local public safety officials in his campaign to keep his seat in the 24th Congressional District. Several first responders joined Maffei at a press conference to announce their support for the incumbent, who is running against former federal prosecutor John Katko of Camillus.

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Sixth annual Teal Ribbon Run to benefit Hope for Heather

For the sixth year, some 800 teal-clad runners and walkers will take to the streets to raise awareness for ovarian cancer. The Teal Ribbon Run/Walk benefits Hope for Heather, a Liverpool-based organization dedicated to helping women with ovarian cancer and raising awareness about the devastating disease. The nonprofit was started by Frieda Weeks to honor the memory of her daughter, Heather. In November of 2008, Heather lost her battle with an aggressive form of colon cancer. But before her passing, she worked for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, making it her mission to eradicate the disease. After her death, her mother started Hope for Heather to carry on that mission.

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Bridgeport Food Pantry to hold sixth annual duck race

Every year in early September, Chittenango Creek in Bridgeport gets clogged with brightly colored ducks. It’s not some new kind of invasive species; this particular invasion is temporary. These ducks, made of colored plastic, are part of the Bridgeport Food Pantry’s annual “Don’t Duck Hunger” duck race, which raises money to support the pantry’s mission. The event typically raises about $25,000.

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Humane Society of the U.S. to host New York symposium in Syracuse

Cat rescuers, animal advocates and veterinarians, along with other animal lovers, will gather on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at the Genesee Grand Hotel in Syracuse to discuss issues surrounding cats as part of the Humane Society of the United States’ symposium, “Rethiniking the Cat.” The free, day-long event, co-sponsored by PetSmart Charities, will provide training in two tracks: “adoptable” cats (i.e., shelter cats and rescues) and “community” cats (the feral cat population).

On the campaign trail: Katko responds to allegations: ‘I was the victim of a crime’

Republican Congressional candidate John Katko is fighting back against accusations of wrongdoing relating to a gun crime that took place in April of 2000. According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, Katko purchased a personal firearm to protect the safety of his family in late 1999. On April 3, 2000, Katko and his wife attended an event at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on the city’s west side. He left the gun, loaded, out of view in his car. While Katko was inside the church, someone broke into his car and stole a duffel bag, which contained the gun.

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Sharkey’s to host country music festival for Clear Path for Veterans

Too often, veterans returning home from combat zones aren’t getting the support they need. That’s especially true if they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an often silent disability triggered by a traumatic event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. While PTSD can happen to anyone who has experienced trauma, it’s particularly common in veterans; while it occurs in approximately 7 to 8 percent of the general population, 11 to 20 percent of Afghanistan or Iraq vets, 10 percent of Gulf War vets and 30 percent of Vietnam vets suffer from PTSD. In order to support these veterans, a group of volunteers has organized a benefit called the Victory for Vets Country Music Festival to take place Aug. 16 at Sharkey’s in Liverpool. The proceeds from the event will go to Clear Path for Veterans, a nonprofit based in Chittenango that provides support for returning veterans, including peer-to-peer support, classes, service dogs and more.

On the campaign trail: Maffei releases first TV ad

Congressman Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse) has released his first television campaign ad, sparking sharp criticism from the opposition. Maffei’s ad, a 30-second spot entitled “Hard Work,” features the congressman visiting with small businessmen and –women, chatting with senior citizens and posing with his family. The ad asserts that Maffei, too, is sick of Congressional gridlock and perks and is working hard to get rid of them.

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Howie Hawkins challenges Cuomo, Astorino in gubernatorial race

Howie Hawkins is hoping to change the political landscape of New York state. “If you do public polling, the majority is very progressive on economic issues, but they never get what they want,” Hawkins said. “A study just came out, the oligarchy study, looked at 1,799 federal issues. They went to the top 10 percent. Any time [the top 10 percent] wanted one thing and the 90 percent wanted the other, of course, they got their way on every issue there was conflict. This goes back to 1979. That tells you. They say, is this a democracy or a plutocracy or an oligarchy? And I think it is [an oligarchy] until we organize a party that can speak for the majority of the people. That’s been the thing that I think we need to do, what we’re trying to do.” That’s why Hawkins is running for governor, taking on the Democratic political establishment and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as well as his Republican challenger, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.

On the campaign trail: Katko named Republican ‘Young Gun’

Congressional candidate John Katko has earned the status of “Young Gun” from the National Republican Congressional Committee after reaching the third and final tier of the group’s recruitment program. Founded in the 2007-08 election cycle by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the Young Guns program provides financial support to candidates in races across the country.

On the Campaign Trail: Katko calls out Maffei; Kessner backpedals on primary

At a press conference on July 2, Republican Congressional candidate John Katko criticized Democratic opponent Dan Maffei, the incumbent representative for the 24th Congressional District, for his grandiose infrastructure plan as well as his vote against a House measure that encourages oil drilling within the U.S.

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AAGS seeks funding to build low-cost spay/neuter clinic

Every year, more than 1,000 cats and dogs are euthanized purely because the shelters have no place to put them. According to the Animal Alliance of Greater Syracuse (AAGS), an animal welfare agency that serves all of Central New York, the Syracuse area has a higher rate of euthanasia than any other area in Upstate New York. In the meantime, hundreds of homeless pets die on the streets.

Vietnam veterans’ organization seeks photos of those killed in war

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund seeks to locate photos of all those killed during the conflict in Vietnam. So far, organizers have collected nearly 34,000 photos of 58,286 casualties. The photos are being displayed on a virtual “Wall of Faces,” which can be found at vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces.

Help me help the MDA

I need your help to make bail. No, not that kind of bail. I’ve never been arrested. But I am going to “jail.” I’ve been recruited to help the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) with their annual Lock-Up fundraiser. Such events occur nationwide all year long. Business owners and community leaders (and, apparently, weekly newspaper reporters) agree to be “put behind bars for good.” We’re asked to raise money from friends, family, co-workers and, in your case, readers to help make “bail,” which will then benefit the MDA’s research, medical clinics and summer camp experiences.

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Camp Good Days flooded out

Heavy rains in Western New York have done significant damage to a camp that provides a respite for kids and young adults touched by cancer. Camp Good Days and Special Times in Branchport experienced more than $160,000 in damages in last week’s floods in and around Penn Yan, in Yates County, and that number is expected to climb as workers continue to assess the camp. The damage was so catastrophic that the camp has had to cancel its first sessions of the spring.

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Motorcycle ride for Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital celebrates 20th year

For several years, Tony Testa and his wife, Becky, participated in the Miracle Ride for Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. Both were motorcycle enthusiasts, and they enjoyed helping to raise money for the children’s hospital. But in 2004, it got personal. “My stepson, Jim, had a child who was born in 2004, Aiden,” Testa said. “Aiden was born with quite a few challenges.” Aiden Snell was born with Pierre-Robin Syndrome (PRS), a birth defect that causes cleft palate, smaller-than-normal or underdeveloped jaw, a tongue that sits back too far in the throat, obstructing breathing, and several other issues. The genetic condition affects approximately one out of every 1,500 children. In Aiden’s case, the disorder required surgery just a few days after he was born.

Eagle editors honored

Editors at Eagle Newspapers were honored for their work at two recent awards ceremonies that celebrate the best journalism in Central New York and statewide.

OCM BOCES to host Common Core academies for educators

Central New York educators can take advantage of courses designed to help them implement the Common Core curriculum at OCM BOCES next week. From 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. March 27 and 28, educators in the Syracuse area can attend Discovery Education’s Common Core Academies at BOCES’ Central New York Regional Information Center, 6075 East Molloy Road, Syracuse. The courses will be lead by Common Core state standards expert Dr. Karen Beerer and hosted by Discovery Education, a publisher and content provider that offers textbooks and multimedia content that support Common Core implementation.

OCC child care faces cuts

Community college students may soon have a harder time finding child care while they go to school. In his 2014-15 executive budget proposal, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed cutting $653,000 from the state’s operating grant to the State University of New York’s child care centers. The cut would come in addition to a reduction in the federal Child Care Block Grant, which subsidizes care for children of needy student-parents. While the New York State Senate restored Cuomo’s cut in their budget proposal, advocates say the cuts faced by SUNY centers in the last several years are still devastating and need to be restored. And it’s community colleges that will likely see the most damaging consequences.

Get rid of the GEA now

According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York is looking at a $2 million budget surplus. Cuomo has talked a lot about the surplus and his plans for it. Unfortunately for him, it’s not his money to spend.

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As testing regulations increase, more and more parents choose to homeschool their children

As controversies over Common Core and mandated standardized tests become more and more prevalent, many parents are choosing a new option in educating their children: homeschooling. Once the sole province of the very religious, homeschooling is becoming more popular every day, with a growth rate of 7 to 15 percent per year. Nationwide, about 2 million children learn at home instead of in a brick-and-mortar school, up from about 1 million in 2003. According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 88 percent of U.S. homeschool parents express concern about the school environment, citing drugs, negative peer pressure and general safety.

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Team Believe raises money for area charities through running

Running a 10-mile race is a tremendous challenge. But if you’ve got the right motivation, those 10 miles can feel like nothing at all. That’s the idea behind Team Believe, a grassroots organization that brings together local runners to help the Central New York community. The group, which got its start in 2009, asks participants to help raise money for local children’s charities while training for the Dunn Tire Mountain Goat Run in Syracuse in May.

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CNY SBA to hold forum on schools’ fiscal crisis Feb. 4, 5

School districts in Central New York and beyond are in trouble, and it’s time we do something about it. That’s the message behind a pair of forums to be held Feb. 4 and 5 in Auburn and North Syracuse by the Central New York School Boards Association (CNY SBA) in conjunction with the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison, Cayuga-Onondaga, Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga and Oswego County BOCES. The forums, which will take place at Auburn West Middle School and North Syracuse Junior High School, respectively, will focus on the major factors causing those financial issues and how school administrators, teachers and community members can make a difference.

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CNY SPCA raising money for new kennels

The Central New York SPCA is looking for the community’s help to raise the money to construct more than three dozen new kennels to improve the health and safety of their large dogs, accomplishing the second phase of a project they call Kennels for Canines.

OCM-BOCES to hold referendum on building purchase

On Thursday, Jan. 23, voters in 23 school districts across three counties will be asked to go to the polls to approve a building purchase that will have no impact on their wallets. Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES is looking to purchase the former Nationwide Insurance building, located at 110 Elwood Davis Road in the town of Salina. According to BOCES information officer Laurie Cook, the purchase would allow OCM-BOCES to relocate several programs now housed in leased space.

Caregivers in crisis: New York ranks 48th in support for family caregivers

The lack of available help from senior care agencies is just one of the reasons New York state was ranked 48th in a 2011 national report by AARP’s Public Policy Institute, the Commonwealth Fund and the SCAN Foundation out of 50 states with regard to support for its family caregivers. Caregivers also face extensive waiting lists for adult day care programs and rehab facilities, a lack of support for in the work environment, limited or no access to transportation and inadequate informational resources regarding care options for their loved ones. And with the Baby Boomer generation moving into their golden years, the problem is only going to get worse.

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Give local: Help a local charity this holiday season

’Tis the season of giving, and you needn’t look too far to find a worthy recipient for your time and financial donations. Central New York has a wealth of deserving organizations doing good, and they’re all in need of your support. To get you started, here’s an A-to-Z primer (minus X), complete with a description of each along with websites, contact information and basic needs. Remember, these are just a few of the many deserving nonprofits in Central New York, and the introductions offered barely scratch the surface of the services they offer. Check out the websites of these organizations for more information. Got your own favorites? Feel free to share at Facebook.com/eaglestarreview.

Liverpool woman conducting drive for Humane Association, CNY SPCA

Helping others around the holidays doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. It can be as simple as cleaning out your linen closet or picking up some extra pet food. Joelle Litz of Liverpool is conducting a donation drive for the Humane Association of CNY and the CNY SPCA from now until Dec. 22. Both shelters are always in need of supplies (see the sidebar for their wish lists), and Litz said every little bit counts.

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Becoming Drew: CNY family discusses coming to terms with son’s transgender journey

For 15 years, Terri and Vince Cook thought they had a daughter. But as they watched their child change from the vibrant, happy kid they’d always known to a withdrawn, depressed and ultimately suicidal teen, they knew something was very wrong. “We’d been through the hard teenage years with [our older son], and we’d seen this,” Terri Cook said. “This was different. This was someone who was just struggling and nobody could figure out why.” It took years of turmoil before the Cooks could determine the root of the problem: Drew Cook was transgender, which meant that although he was physically female, he identified mentally and emotionally as a male.

Fleet Feet opens Clay store

When you’re named the top running store in America, it would seem there’s nowhere to go but up. That’s exactly where Fleet Feet Sports went — well, north, anyway. Fleet Feet, a locally owned and operated store “dedicated to creating an inclusive environment in which all types of people receive outstanding service in the fitting of running, walking and cross training shoes as well as accessories and apparel for the active lifestyle” (according to its website) opened a second location in Market Fair North Plaza at 4136 Route 31, Clay, across from Great Northern Mall Friday, Nov. 1. The expansion was a result of expanding business in the original location in DeWitt, as well as a growing customer base in the north suburbs.

Feeding mind and body: OCC food pantry helps struggling students

When you hear about problems on college campuses, you tend to think of binge drinking, budget cuts or fraternity hazing. But one of the biggest problems these days is hunger. A growing population of college students is struggling to make ends meet, unable to make tuition payments and pay for meals. There’s no comprehensive data available, but a City University of New York survey found that “39 percent [of students] had either gone hungry for lack of money, skipped meals, or been unable to afford balanced meals” in 2009. In order to help its students through the struggle, Onondaga Community College has joined a number of colleges nationwide in starting a food pantry.

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Surviving the saddest loss: CNY-PIBN provides resources for those facing perinatal and infant loss

The smell of Laurie Farrell’s daughter is starting to fade from the box of mementos she brought home from the hospital five years ago. The contents of the hand-painted box — a Beanie Baby, a receiving blanket, a small knitted cap, a crocheted blanket, a tiny gold ring and a bracelet — is all Farrell has left of her little girl. Emily was stillborn in November of 2008. “These are things she wore, and these are amazing mementos for me as a parent,” said Farrell, of Onondaga Hill. “Every year when I open it up on the anniversary date, I can still smell her.”

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