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Syracuse Common Council Approves Budget; Passes Comptroller's "Stress Test"

Syracuse Common Councilors have approved a slightly revised version of the Miner administration’s $706 million budget for the coming fiscal year that starts July 1. Like the mayor’s plan, there will be no increase in taxes or water rates. Council Finance Committee Chair Nader Maroun says the option was there. "There was the ability to increase taxes by up to $1.6 million, which we opted not to do," Maroun said. "We opted to go the route of moving the funds in concert with the administration...
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Scott Willis / WAER News

Syracuse Common Councilors have approved a slightly revised version of the Miner administration’s $706 million budget for the coming fiscal year that starts July 1.  Like the mayor’s plan, there will be no increase in taxes or water rates.  Council Finance Committee Chair Nader Maroun says the option was there.

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Chris Bolt / WAER News

The finalists for the "Elevating Erie" project were unveiled at the Erie Canal Museum Thursday Night. These cutting edge designs to transform parts of Syracuse and Dewitt could spark change in city infrastructure. 

For many people there's little connection between Erie Boulevard and the Erie Canal.  But a design competition - and some creative future thinking - are trying to change that.

cdc.gov

It appears New York State and Onondaga County have been a few steps ahead of federal law after news Thursday that the Food and Drug Administration was extending its oversight to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.  Turns out local laws restricting youth access have been in place for years. 

www.greeningusa.org/12traits/

  Central New York has a number of environmental groups working on a range of issues, from climate change to alternative energy, pollution in the environment to solid waste reduction, green building to alternative transportation.  The group plans to use its annual meeting Thursday, May 12th, to try and do some speed dating and see if groups might have more impact by working together.

Scott Willis / WAER News

About 100 Syracuse middle school students made their voices heard Thursday at a first-ever symposium designed to collect feedback on their educational experience.  Most were candid with their answers on sensitive topics, including this panel of students who were asked if they felt their peers were treated differently based on race.

This was one of many groups of mixed students at the event who discussed the varying perceptions of race among students and faculty.

Many of the middle school students also see their peers regarded differently when it comes to discipline.

John Smith / WAER News

Walking into the Hotel Syracuse is like witnessing a rebirth of historic tracings of the past.  The man responsible for rescuing the hotel was honored today.  The Onondaga Historical Society presented the Owner, Ed Riley with the OHA Medal Award recognizing outstanding and meritorious service to local history.

Scott Willis / WAER News

A confirmed case of the Zika Virus in Oneida County has prompted Senator Chuck Schumer to urge his congressional colleagues to approve nearly two billion dollars in emergency funding to fight the epidemic.  He made his plea Wednesday at SUNY  Upstate, which has already done significant work with mosquito-borne illnesses.

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The administrator of board tasked with investigating allegations of police misconduct is stepping down Friday to take a related position in New York City.  WAER News caught up with Joe Lipari, who came to Syracuse in 2012 when the Citizen Review Board was trying to regain its footing after years of obscurity and inactivity.

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Carrie Johnson is a Justice Correspondent for the Washington Desk.

She covers a wide variety of stories about justice issues, law enforcement and legal affairs for NPR's flagship programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as the Newscasts and NPR.org.

While in this role, Johnson has chronicled major challenges to the landmark voting rights law, a botched law enforcement operation targeting gun traffickers along the Southwest border, and the Obama administration's deadly drone program for suspected terrorists overseas.

Prior to coming to NPR in 2010, Johnson worked at the Washington Post for 10 years, where she closely observed the FBI, the Justice Department and criminal trials of the former leaders of Enron, HealthSouth and Tyco. Earlier in her career, she wrote about courts for the weekly publication Legal Times.

Outside of her role at NPR, Johnson regularly moderates or appears on legal panels for the American Bar Association, the American Constitution Society, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and others. She's talked about her work on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, PBS, and other outlets.

Her work has been honored with awards from the Society for Professional Journalists and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. She has been a finalist for the Loeb award for financial journalism and for the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news for team coverage of the massacre at Fort Hood, Texas.

Johnson is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Benedictine University in Illinois.

The bipartisan effort to overhaul the criminal justice system for drug offenders has hit a speed bump.

Some members of Congress are trying to tie those lighter punishments for drug defendants to a new bill that the Justice Department says would make it harder to prosecute a range of crimes from food safety to business fraud.

The plan, passed by voice vote by the House Judiciary Committee to little notice last week, would require prosecutors to prove guilt to a higher standard in many cases, by default.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The mayor of Gary, Ind., acknowledged Thursday that police in some cities may be stepping back because of a rise in public scrutiny of their actions, a controversial phenomenon known as the Ferguson effect.

The chief of the Justice Department's civil rights division says "too many barriers still exist in courts across America" when it comes to providing lawyers to poor criminal defendants.

In a speech to the first-ever National Consortium on the Right to Counsel, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said, "The bottom line is this: Denying one's Sixth Amendment right to counsel can negatively impact public safety. And it also drains precious taxpayer resources."

This story was updated at 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday

The acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration said the police may be "reluctant to engage" for fear "rightly, or wrongly, that you become the next viral video," adding a new voice to the debate over public scrutiny of law enforcement.

Over the past few days, thousands of federal prisoners have been leaving confinement early and returning to their communities — the result of changes to sentencing guidelines for drug-related crimes.

And who will be monitoring those former inmates?

In some ways, the buck stops with Matthew Rowland. He's the chief of the probation and pretrial services office at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Dana Bowerman walked out of a federal prison camp in Bryan, Texas, Monday morning and for the first time in more than a decade, she chose her own breakfast.

"I had five pieces of different kinds of pizza," Bowerman told All Things Considered in an interview. "Been waiting 15 years for that. I about choked though because I got kind of emotional and I'd have a mouthful of pizza ... and it still feels very surreal."

The FBI Agents Association honored fallen colleagues and the former head of U.S. Special Operations in a star-studded charity gala in Washington on Wednesday.

The second-annual awards dinner generated money to help provide scholarships for children of FBI workers and funds that offer "special assistance" to agents and their families.

The top Republican and Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee are preparing to introduce a bill Thursday they're billing as "companion" legislation to the major Senate sentencing overhaul unveiled last week.

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