It’s time to clean up downtown Syracuse

(Submitted to May 4, 2015)

To the editor:

Downtown Syracuse hosted some great events this past weekend, including the Mountain Goat Run, the Crawfish Clam Fest, beggars on highway off-ramps, riff-raff accosting passers-by, and a kid on a bike who tried to mug my wife.

Admittedly, these last three aren’t great, but they are certainly commonplace. I work downtown and see, smell and get hit up by beggars regularly. And trust me, these folks truly are beggars — the same scam artists day in and day out preying on the well-intentioned.

I feel safer in Midtown Manhattan than in downtown Syracuse. Why? Because New York City police arrest loiters, beggars, and anyone making a public nuisance. Yes, there are troubled and homeless folks among these crowds, but we have many places in walking distance of Salina and Fayette that can accommodate them with meals, shelter and other meaningful assistance.

Why, then, do Syracuse leaders and police look the other way? When, pray tell, will they take seriously the real threat to safety and commerce the persistence of these riff-raff represent? Lots of good is happening downtown; with a little firmer hand, it could be great.

Book about my battle with ulcerative colitis now on Amazon

coverMy book, “G.I.: A Brief History of the Weird Battle Raging Inside Me,” was published Oct. 6 and is now available on The book, a sometimes funny, always intimate look at my battle with this strange disease, will be available in a print edition later this month.

I hope the frank account will help raise awareness of common, but rarely talked about inflammatory bowel diseases that affects more than 1 million Americans.

When I was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis nearly 25 years ago, the experience was difficult, confusing and painful – like it is for most new sufferers of the disease. I was embarrassed and scared, particularly when I had to be hospitalized.

Part of the book takes place in Elmira, where I was treated at Arnot Ogden Medical Center for bleeding and rapid weight-loss associated with ulcerative colitis. However, the book begins in Cortland, where I was living and working as a reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard.

Fortunately, my story ends well, and I’ve been in nearly complete remission for about 15 years. I’ve gone on to live what I like to think is a productive life, but many continue to struggle every day, and it occurred to me that it’s past time that the topic moved from the shadows – and TV commercials we scoff at – and into mainstream conversation.

Though it’s not often discussed, millions of Americans suffer from ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease and related auto-immune disorders. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease that causes the colon to become inflamed, making life miserable for its sufferers, who sometimes retreat from the world in order to stay close to a bathroom.

This book is an intimate look at those first days, weeks and months of my battle with this disease, which has no known cure. I hope my story is of some value to people seeking clues – and perhaps a few laughs – about this confusing illness.

“G.I.: A Brief History of the Weird Battle Raging Inside Me” is available on at

Elmira judge’s victory shows strength of some third-party candidates after the government shutdown

If Judge Otto Campanella’s 26-vote lead over his closest opponent in the Elmira City Court race holds – and there’s no reason to believe it won’t – it will mark the first time in decades, if not in history, that a third-party candidate has won a political race in Chemung County.

Continue reading ‘Elmira judge’s victory shows strength of some third-party candidates after the government shutdown’ »

Lots at stake for cities with Nov. 5 statewide propositions

Two statewide ballot initiatives New York voters face Tuesday, Nov. 5, will have a real and direct impact on the state’s cities, and one proposal that seeks to allow seven full-service casinos may well boost turnout on an otherwise lackluster off-year Election Day.

Continue reading ‘Lots at stake for cities with Nov. 5 statewide propositions’ »

Six concrete ways to begin fixing our cities

This article first appeared in the Syracuse Post-Standard Aug. 25, 2013

Long before Detroit declared bankruptcy, cities and villages across New York have struggled to stay solvent and provide the services citizens need and demand. But contrary to what you may have heard, the fix won’t come from Albany alone or in a neat one-size-fits-all box.

Continue reading ‘Six concrete ways to begin fixing our cities’ »