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RATS INVADE SUPERMARKET The blog My Upper West reported on the second vermin sighting in the Upper West Side Fairway Market in recent weeks. Earlier, the blog posted a video of rats scurrying through the aisles, and Fairway's management responded that they were addressing the rodent problem. But on Sept. 26, another alert customer captured a video of what he believes is a baby rat hanging out in the olive bar, sitting in a bucket of green olives and climbing all over the exposed food. Fairway responded by calling the incident "unconscionable" and launching a rodent investigation along with renovations that the store says are costing them thousands of dollars. Management has suggested that the nearby construction is the source of the rat problem. Upper West Side shoppers may have some sympathy for Fairway, as residents have been dealing with an influx of the furry pests throughout the neighborhood. LOCAL PARENT GRILLS ROMNEY Upper West Side parent and vocal public education advocate Noah Gotbaum attended an Education Nation forum with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney last week and was one of the few audience members able to ask him a question about his education policy ideas. After asking Romney about choice in public schools, Gotbaum said, "The parents here support the union to protect our kids three-to-one over the mayor and the chancellor. That's a recent poll. So, to say that the unions are holding back our kids, as a parent and as parents in polls said, it's the opposite." Gotbaum was citing a Quinnipiac poll released in February. The poll asked New Yorkers whether Mayor Bloomberg or the teachers' union could be trusted more to protect the interests of public school students. Sixty-nine percent of respondents who have children in public school chose the teachers' union, versus 22 percent who picked Blooomberg. But Romney wasn't interested in the poll numbers, apparently, and told Gotbaum, "I don't believe it for a minute," suggesting that the poll numbers could be manipulated. "Having looked at schools, I know that the teachers' union has a responsibility to care for the interests of the teachers," Romney continued. Gotbaum said in an email after the event that he felt Romney's attitude was indicative of the bigger problems in public education. "Romney's dismissal of parents' views and inability to handle the truth reflects the much larger problem in which education policy in this country is made largely by a small group of businessmen and corporate-backed elected officials and foundations who mostly send their kids to private schools yet brook no dissent whatsoever from public school parents, teachers, principals, students and educators who live in the system," Gotbaum wrote. GARODNICK PROPOSES SICK LEAVE COMPROMISE Upper West Side City Council Member Gale Brewer has been pushing to pass the paid sick leave bill that she authored, but has been thwarted thus far by Speaker Christine Quinn's refusal to bring the bill to a vote. Mayor Bloomberg has made it clear that he would veto it, citing a negative effect on small businesses. But now a new version may make its way to the floor of the council and could win over critics. Council Member Dan Garodnick proposed four amendments to the bill that so far have been well received, as the New York Times reported last week. The biggest change would be to lower the number of paid sick days required for businesses with 20 or more employees. Currently, the bill requires businesses with more than five employees to provide five paid sick days annually, and businesses with 20 or more employees to provide nine paid sick days. Garodnick's amendment to "remove the cliff" and simply require all businesses with over five employees to give five days quells small businesses' concerns that the higher number would keep businesses from hiring more workers to avoid bumping up to nine days. Garodnick also proposed exempting seasonal employees, allowing employees in the service sector to swap shifts if they're sick without having to utilize a paid sick day, and limit the time in which an employee could sue for paid sick leave benefits.

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