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Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen 

Moravia's Jenna Morris is The Citizen's Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. 

Next steps for Auburn Schine Theater restoration presented at city council meeting

AUBURN — The next steps in the restoration of the Auburn Schine Theater were laid out Thursday during a presentation by the project's developer to the Auburn City Council. 

Currently, the 1938 movie palace is undergoing asbestos abatement, which began about two weeks ago, Bowers Development Vice President Eric Smithers said. The abatement is being funded by an $800,000 grant awarded to the project through the city of Auburn's Community Development Block Grant entitlement funds. 

Next, the city will apply for $1 million grant through the Empire State Development Corporation's Restore NY Communities Initiatives. A public hearing was held Thursday night during the council meeting as a requirement before applying for the grant. Four members of the public spoke, they all expressed their support and encouraged council members to approve the application, which council will vote on during its Dec. 7 meeting. 

If awarded the grant, the money will be used to renovate the theater's exterior, including the marquee and front facade. Then, the outer and inner lobbies will be rehabilitated, as well as the main stage, restrooms, balcony, projection room and basement. 

Starting next week, as crews continue to remove the asbestos, the building's roof will begin to be replaced. The abatement process has to be finished by Jan. 15, Smithers said. 

The whole project is expected to cost $6 million, Smithers said, which is less than originally anticipated. He said he is "confident" the project will stick to the budget.  

The rest of the funding will come from a historic tax credit through the National Park Service, which should supply $2.5 million, and other grants that project will apply for, Smithers said. Auburn Office of Planning and Economic Development Director Jennifer Haines stressed that no city general fund money or local taxpayer dollars have gone into the project and the city does not own any part of the building. 

Smithers also presented a drawing of the theater's proposed floor plan. 


This rendering shows the proposed floor plan for the Auburn Schine Theater, which is in the process of being rehabilitated by Bowers Development.  

The black squares located near the main stage on the left-hand side of the drawing represent tables. Toward the back of the theater will be an eating and drinking area. 

"The intent of this is not to turn it into just a movie theater, but have additional (events) at the Schine Theater," Smithers said. "A place where people can eat, see a show, stay and gather."

The plan is for Smithers and partner Bryan Bowers to eventually own the property though limited liability company Schines Theater LLC.

During his presentation, after being asked by Mayor Michael Quill to explain who owns the property, Smithers said Schines Theater LLC is the current owner. Smithers reiterated that sentiment after the meeting as well. However, Cayuga County Arts Council board Chair Ed Onori said the arts council still has ownership of the property, although, the transfer is "very close to being finalized." 

Auburn resident Diane Napoli said during the public hearing that she supports city council approving the grant application next week. 

"You don't see this anymore," she said of the historic theater. "It still has its beauty."

Resident Allan Finch said he remembers going to the theater with his mother and watching cartoons on Saturday afternoons. 

"The theater was once a beautiful theater and it will be again," he said. 

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Hospice tree-lighting ceremony honors departed in Auburn

AUBURN — As the lights on a single Christmas tree cut through the rain and darkness at Hoopes Park in Auburn, Norma Olcott thought of the people she has helped during her time with Hospice of the Finger Lakes. 

Olcott said there isn't always time to mourn the people she assists in their final moments, as she must go on to the next person. The 30th annual Light Up a Life Tree Lighting Ceremony, held Thursday night, gives her a moment to think about those whose lives she tried to make easier.

"Every light on the tree is like an angel," Olcott said.

Some people treated by hospice still go out to events and don't stay at home constantly, she said. Olcott has found her 10 years with hospice to be tremendously rewarding.

The ceremony, hosted by hospice, features a tree placed in the park's gazebo. Before the event began, people walked to the gazebo guided by the lights hanging from the structure. 

Terry Kline, hospice's executive director, was among those who spoke at the event. She thanked the crowd for attending. Doug Parker, the secretary for hospice's board of directors, also spoke to the crowd.

"Hospice holds a big place in my heart. As I look out at you, I know you feel the same," Parker said.

After the tree was lit, children from the group Perform 4 Purpose sang "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." 

Speaking after the event, board president Tim Callahan said he never forgot how the staff with a different hospice treated his mother, who decided she wanted to die at home.

"They told us what to expect, they helped us with everything," Callahan said. "It just made the situation so much easier."

Meredith O'Hora and her niece, Amelia Duhamel, 3, with O'Hora's dog Benny in tow, also attended the event. O'Hora said they live near the park, so they decided to come by. O'Hora said the event brought up memories of her aunt, Mary O'Hora, even though she was never with hospice.

Kline said she appreciated how many people came out to the tree-lighting. 

"Many of the people that came today have had loved ones that have been cared for by hospice and I think that coming together at this time of year with others that have experienced loss just feel comforted being with other people," Kline said.

Gallery: The 30th annual Light Up a Life Tree Lighting Ceremony in Auburn


Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen 

Brennan Cole Carr stands next to the Christmas tree after the Light Up a Life Tree Lighting Ceremony for Hospice of the Finger Lakes at Hoopes Park on Thursday night.

Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen 

Perform4Puprose entertains people during the Light Up a Life Tree Lighting Ceremony.

Court filing: Security increased for Rep. John Katko after death threat

A Syracuse man accused of threatening to kill U.S. Rep. John Katko and his family shared his knowledge of net neutrality with FBI agents and admitted to making a phone call "that could be construed as a threat," according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court. 

The four-page document details the allegations against Patrick Angelo, a 28-year-old who has been charged with interstate communication of a threat and threatening a federal official. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

The call in question was received at approximately 7:50 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19 at Katko's Washington office. However, due to the volume of calls his office receives, the voicemail message wasn't reviewed until Monday, Oct. 23. 

After Katko's staff received the message, it was referred to the U.S. Capitol Police's Threat Assessment Section. The agency launched an investigation in coordination with the FBI. 

A check of public records revealed that the call originated from a Verizon Wireless phone number belonging to Angelo. On Nov. 1, FBI agents spoke to a family member to establish contact with Angelo. 

According to the criminal complaint, when Angelo contacted the agents, he called them from the same phone number used to make the threatening call. He didn't provide his address to the agents, but agreed to meet in a public location. 

Angelo met FBI agents at a McDonald's in Syracuse. He denied making a threatening call to Katko's office and claimed he "doesn't involve himself in politics." He responded to a question about net neutrality by describing it as "all about telecom companies tiering internet service providers to provide faster service to certain companies." 

After the question about net neutrality, Angelo told the FBI agents he left a voice mail and was "upset about net neutrality." He expressed his support for net neutrality and admitted that "I used strong language, probably something that could be construed as a threat." 

Federal prosecutors released the text of the voice mail message Wednesday. The caller stated, "Listen Mr. Katko, if you support net neutrality, I will support you. But if you don't support net neutrality, I will find you and your family and I will kill ... you ... all. Do you understand? I will literally find all ... of ... you and your progeny and t- just wipe you from the face of the earth."

The message continued: "Net neutrality is more important than the defense of the United States. Net neutrality is more important than free speech. Net neutrality is more important than health care. Net neutrality is literally the basis of the new society. That even if you don't understand, how important it is, net neutrality is literally the basis of the new ... free ... society. So if you don't support it, I am willing to lay down my li-." The recording ended before the caller could finish the statement. 

After the threatening message was received, court documents indicate that the U.S. Capitol Police increased security for Katko while he was in Washington. FBI agents coordinated with the New York State Police, Onondaga County Sheriff's Office, Syracuse Police Department and Camillus Police Department to provide security for the congressman's appearances in central New York. 

"All threats are reported to the U.S. Capitol Police in order to ensure the safety of Rep. Katko, his family and staff," said Erin O'Connor, Katko's spokesperson. "The congressman and his family appreciate the diligent work of our local, state and federal law enforcement in monitoring these threats and taking appropriate action." 

Angelo appeared in federal court Wednesday afternoon. He is being held at an undisclosed site pending a detention hearing at 2 p.m. Friday. 

The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office for the Western District of New York. While the criminal complaint was initially filed in the Northern District of New York, which covers the Syracuse area, the case was moved because of Katko's past ties to the U.S. attorney's office in Syracuse.

Katko is a former federal prosecutor. Before being elected to Congress, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of New York. 

The threat against Katko has received additional attention because of the caller's net neutrality position. The Federal Communications Commission will vote Dec. 14 on a proposal to repeal the net neutrality rules that were established by the agency during the Obama administration. 

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement Thursday condemning the threat against Katko. 

"I would also like to express my sympathy to Congressman Katko and his family and thank law enforcement officials for taking this matter seriously," he said. 

Miner reconsiders run for Congress against Katko

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner is reconsidering whether to challenge U.S. Rep. John Katko for Congress in 2018.

Miner, a Democrat, announced in October that she wouldn't run for Congress. But that was before the House voted on a tax reform proposal that has been panned by members of her party as a giveaway to wealthy individuals and corporations.

Katko, R-Camillus, was one of four New York Republicans who voted for the House tax bill earlier this month. The measure passed by a vote of 227 to 205.

After the vote, Miner said she was disappointed Katko supported the tax bill. On Wednesday, she said he and other New York GOP members "voted against the needs of their constituents."

"This tax plan is proving to be such a disaster that many people nationwide are reconsidering their decisions on House races," she said. "The Trump-Ryan-Katko failure to govern dooms many Syracusans and it will doom Rep. Katko's chances for re-election."

Miner highlighted three provisions that could impact the Syracuse area. Under the GOP plan, tuition waivers for graduate students who work as research or teaching assistants would be considered taxable income. The proposed change will result in lower graduate student enrollment at Syracuse University and SUNY Upstate Medical University, she said.

The bill would also end the historic preservation tax credit. While Katko voted for the bill, he later expressed concern about the potential elimination of the tax credit.

The credits have supported projects in central New York, including the rehabilitation of Hotel Syracuse (now Marriott Syracuse Downtown). Miner noted that Katko held a fundraiser at the hotel. The 2016 event was headlined by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Miner also railed against the elimination of the state and local tax deduction in its current form. Katko opposed ending the deduction, but helped negotiate a compromise: Homeowners could deduct up to $10,000 of state and local property taxes. But the deduction would no longer apply to state and local income and sales taxes.

Cutting the state and local tax deduction, Miner said, will increase taxes on homeowners in Syracuse and in surrounding suburbs.

Katko has acknowledged that the bill isn't perfect, but also touted the benefits of the proposal. It would double the standard deduction for single filers and couples. It would also increase the child tax credit from $1,000 to $1,600 and establish a new $300 credit for parents and nondependent children.

For businesses, the bill would slash the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent and lower taxes for certain small companies. Katko held a roundtable discussion Monday with central New York business leaders who outlined why the tax plan would be good for their companies.

"If Stephanie Miner wants to run against me because I want to cut taxes for the vast majority of my constituents, then her priorities are even more out of place than I suspected," Katko said. "I welcome the opportunity to discuss the economic malaise and stunning rate of local poverty she's leaving behind in the city of Syracuse."

If Miner enters the 24th district race, it would become one of the most competitive contests in the country. There are already two Democrats vying for the party's nomination — Dana Balter, an activist and Syracuse University graduate student, and Anne Messenger, an executive coach who has been involved in several central New York organizations. But they don't have Miner's name recognition or connections within the party.

Miner didn't offer a timetable for when she will make a final decision on the congressional race. She was unavailable for an interview Wednesday because she was at Harvard University addressing a gathering of newly-elected mayors.

A two-term mayor, Miner was first elected in 2009. She has served two terms as Syracuse's top executive. Her final term concludes this year.

With her mayoral run coming to an end, she has been mentioned as a possible candidate for higher office. While the congressional race is a possibility, she is also considering whether to challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the 2018 Democratic primary.