Monday, April 15, 2013

April 2013


Dozens of undocumented immigrants and their advocates rallied in Hartford on Monday. They called for passage of a bill to enable those who drive illegally to get licenses and purchase insurance.

Such licenses would clearly state they may not be used for voting purposes. The measure is being promoted primarily as a safety measure, to make sure all drivers have passed a road test before getting behind the wheel, and also as a way to generate money for the state as more people would be paying for licenses.

The campaign is being led by CONECT, a coalition of 28 churches, synagogues and mosques from New Haven and Fairfield counties. It has the support of  Governor Malloy and 8 Connecticut mayors, yet still faces resistance among legislators.
Some Republicans suggested additional restrictions on such licenses, like renewal every three years instead of every six, and background checks on undocumented applicants.

On Monday House Speaker Brendan Sharkey pledged to find other legislation to which he could attach the bill so it could be debated by the full House and Senate instead of in committee.

100 New Haven teens spoke to supporters in City Hall on Sunday about their dreams and passions as part of the Future Project.

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more:

High school senior Eddy Cordova says his passion is education, and he spoke about helping younger kids confront racism in their schools as part of a boisterous interactive program at New Haven City Hall last night called Revolution: New Haven. He's a senior at New Haven Academy and plans to attend Southern CT State University to become a teacher. His project involves working with middle school students in East Haven -- both Latino and white --  called 3D Community: Derailing the Diversity Divide.

Mayor John DeStefano has pledged to expand the program -- the Future Project -- from three schools currently to at least six by next school year.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

“No development, please.” That was the consensus last night as Southold residents discussed the future of Plum Island at an informal community meeting in Orient.

Representatives of Save the Sound and Group for the East End and Congressman Tim Bishop also spoke.

Plum island houses the Federal Animal Disease Lab.

The island would need to be sold to finance an upgraded Animal Disease lab in Kansas with a 1 billion dollar price tag.  

To help finance the new lab the Federal Government would need to sell the Island to public or private interests and Southold Town must write zoning laws to control land use there.

Congressman Bishop said he and Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney, have written to President Obama, urging that no funds be budgeted in 2014 for the Kansas project.

The Southold zoning plan, calls for a Plum Island research district, which would comprise 20 percent of the island, and a Plum Island conservation district, a nature preserve, making up the remaining 80 percent.

A research facility could possibly keep the 200-250 year-round jobs that currently exist on Plum Island.

Another idea put forth by the Federal General Services Administration, is for 750 residential units on Plum Island

A formal public hearing on the proposed Plum Island zoning will be held Tuesday May 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Southold Town Hall.

The Albany Times-Union reports that New York State’s comptroller Tom DiNapoli says the state ended the last fiscal year in the black. Tax collections are slightly below projections. But, disaster relief payments did not come due in the last fiscal year so spending was $2.5 billion below projections.

The general fund finished the fiscal year with $1.61 billion — that’s about $168 million less than last year, better than was expected.

Di Napoli also said tax revenue has fallen short of initial projections for six years in a row. While we have benefitted in the short run from a number of non-recurring revenues, relying on such resources does not bode well for the long-run.


Friday, activists demanded records pertaining to the evolving energy policy of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The Connecticut Citizen Action Group, Common Cause and two individuals filed a freedom of information request. They demanded communication by Commissioner Daniel Esty and top DEEP staff with energy companies regarding energy legislation and policy.

Last week environmentalists questioned Esty's judgment after learning he participated in a conference call arranged by UBS Securities with stock analysts and investors on the eve of a renewable energy vote in the state Senate.

The vote was postponed. Esty said he shared no confidential information, an assertion supported by the release of a transcript of the call. The FOI request came on the same day that the department released a report on a proposed new Renewable Portfolio Standard, including a recommendation to accept hydro-electric power as a favored renewable.

The Standard requires electric companies to obtain a portion of their power from renewable sources, a policy to create a market for clean energy.

Environmentalists object to giving hydro-electric the same status as wind and solar, saying hydro is a major industry, while wind and solar are still developing. Dennis Schain, a spokesman for Esty, said there is nothing wrong with the department's consulting a wide array of stakeholders.

About a hundred cycling and pedestrian advocates gathered at Yale University on Saturday for Bike Walk Connecticut's annual summit.
WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports.
 The statewide advocacy organization brought local, state and national experts together to discuss how to create bicycle-friendly communities, how to raise funding for projects like rail trails, and to call for support for legislative priorities.

Keynote speaker Jeff Olson, with Alta Planning, says funding must be found to develop bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
“If you took the the transportation pie chart for my state – New York – it would be roughly 50 50 spending on highways - spending on transit. If you took a knife and cut it down the middle –the crumbs that are on the knife are what’s left for walking and bicycling. …. That has to change.
One speaker noted that there is great overlap between communities deemed in various surveys to be "most livable," and communities that have won "bike-friendly" status from the League of American Bicyclists.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s political star is a bit tarnished today following a New York Times investigation that connected hiring of personnel at the Empire State Development Corporation with political contributions and cronyism.

The investigation was based on personnel records obtained through a Freedom of Information request, as well as campaign finance and other state records. Some of the jobs were not open to competition, and were filled with little input from the agency itself. In fact, Empire State has also hired friends of Mr. Cuomo who may help form his political brain trust should he decide to run for president in 2016.
The Times said Empire State hired 49 people in the first 20 months of the Cuomo administration, Nearly a third went to the governor’s political associates, donors and friends.
The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2013” report released Wednesday gave Suffolk County a failing ozone pollution grade. Suffolk was ranked as having the worst ozone air pollution in New York State.
Ozone is the most widespread air pollutant. It’s created by the reaction of sunlight with emissions from vehicles and other sources.

When inhaled, it can irritate the lungs. Immediate health problems can linger for days, including wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks, and even death.
Michael Seilback, of the American Lung Association’s Northeast branch, said, “While we still have too many counties with failing grades, the air quality is still better compared to a decade ago. But…we must set stronger health standards for pollutants and clean up sources of pollution….”
Ozone pollution is measured on a stoplight-like scale, with green indicating clean air and red denoting unhealthy air. Suffolk had 3 of the 7 red days recorded across the state.

FRIDAY, April 26

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s spokesman confirmed Friday morning that the governor is expected to announce his support for increasing the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 to $9 by 2015.

Malloy does not support tying future increases to the Consumer Price Index, as proposed by this year’s Labor Committee bill.

The idea of hiking the minimum wage is popular with the public, but a similar proposal was unable to gain enough support in the state legislature as recently as last year.


Hartford Public Schools -- one of the state's lowest performing districts -- has spent millions in recent years sending money to a nearby charter school, and in exchange the district officials get to use the Achievement First school's high test scores when reporting their students' progress.

Robert Cotto Jr., a member of the Hartford school board, said, "We are basically buying their test scores. Our scores have gone up to the roof."

A bill that has already cleared the state House of Representatives will allow the nine other low-performing school districts with charter schools to count their scores in exchange for support.

Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, the co-chairman of the Education Committee, said all parties benefit from the arrangement, where previously, struggling districts were at war with 


For cities like New Haven or Bridgeport -- where about 8 percent of students attend charter schools -- this bill could possibly have a significant impact on test scores if officials decide to take advantage of it. But with 

districts like New London and Bridgeport facing budget shortfalls of their own, diverting funding to charter schools could soon become a contentious issue.
Helicopter noise at all hours of the day and night— much of which is from choppers en route to East Hampton Airport in Wainscott — now ranks high on the concerns of Southold Town residents, according to  Supervisor Scott 

Kathleen Cunningham, of East Hampton, the chairwoman of the Quiet Skies Coalition, addressed the board about ways to mitigate the problem. She said that East Hampton’s acceptance of Federal funding several years ago means that East Hampton cannot regulate hours of operation or flight routes, or even the number of flights permitted, although it owns the airport. 

That funding, Cunningham said, has a 20-year window, during which time the town had to surrender its rights as proprietors of the airport. It regains those rights at the end of 2014.

Jeff Smith of the FAA has said helicopters must fly over water and that the aircraft could take the southerly route, over the Atlantic. That idea, however, does not sit well with wealthy residents of Georgica Pond and other areas of East Hampton, he said. Meanwhile Southold 

residents oppose travel over Long Island Sound, and Mattituck Inlet.

Newsday reports Orient Beach State Park will reopen Saturday after the state hurried to repair superstorm Sandy damage to the popular North Fork beach before the summer rush.

State workers have rebuilt parts of the 2-mile entrance road, restored the shoreline along Gardiners Bay, and created an 880-foot buffer around the park's building complex using 4,500 cubic feet of sand and gravel.

The park, whose Long Beach is a National Natural Landmark, receives about 350,000 visitors a year, according to the state. 

It has been closed since the Oct. 29 storm. New York is on track to have at least 30 Long Island state parks open for Memorial Day weekend.

Work at Orient -- also designated as an Audubon Important Bird Area -- included grading the swimming-area beach, 

restoring the water treatment facility, and restoring and elevating all the utilities to above the flood zones.


Thursday, April 25

Voting on Connecticut’s controversial renewable energy bill has been postponed, following the revelation that Department of Energy and Environmental Commissioner Daniel Esty had shared information about the contents of the bill with potential Northeast Utilities investors.

Esty denied wrongdoing but acknowledged his timing was poor. Meanwhile, environmentalists in opposition to the bill celebrated the postponement.  This gives them more time to organize against what they say would be steps backward in the effort to get Connecticut using 20 percent renewable energy by 2020.

Rather than including out of state or Canadian hydropower in the renewable energy requirement, they want to see more renewable energy from wind, solar and fuel cells produced within the state and producing local jobs.

In the latest draft of the legislation, large-scale hydropower could account for up to 5 percent of the state’s Renewable Portfolio by 2020 - if it appears emerging energy technologies, such as wind and solar, will not accomplish the 20 percent goal by then.

Esty said he believes in creating a more competitive market with “hydro nipping at the heels of wind and solar”, and a competitive market will get the state where it wants to be faster than protecting the emerging renewable technologies.


Several dozen cyclists rode down Orange Street in New Haven Wednesday night, below the path of the "Night Rainbow" -- seven lasers the colors of the rainbow that shone out from atop East Rock Park to mark the city's 375th birthday. The piece is the work of artist Yvette Mattern, who’s mounted similar laser installations around the world. She was commissioned by the New Haven organization Site Projects. Night Rainbow will shine for four nights, from about 8 p.m. until 2 a.m. Thick clouds on Wednesday night obscured the lasers somewhat from down below. But they shone brilliantly atop East Rock. 


Newsday reports that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pursuing a new proposal that would give a New Jersey company nearly complete control of the Long Island electric system, replacing LIPA.

Larry Schwartz, secretary to the governor, said Wednesday that state officials havei begun discussions with Public Service Electric and Gas of Newark, to consider expanding the scope of a management contract set to take effect in January 2014 to include full control, reducing LIPA to a holding company.

Under this scenario, PSE and G would be responsible not only for the operation and maintenance of the electric system, but also would control capital and operating budgets, storm preparedness and response, call centers, computer systems and customer service.

Schwartz said Cuomo also envisions a greater role for the Public Service Commission in overseeing LIPA, in rate making and other functions. At present, LIPA customers make complaints about LIPA to LIPA, or, alternatively, to the state Consumer Protection division, which has no enforcement power over the authority. A new consumer advisory board made up of business and consumer leaders and lawmakers would make recommendations on rate decisions.
However, all options are still on the table, including continuing the status quo, rather than adopting the PSE and G contract in January

Southampton Patch reports, Southampton Town set aside $50,000 for a rebate program to help cover some of the costs for homeowners who upgrade their septic systems.The aim is to reduce the amount of nitrates getting into local waters and killing fish.

Nitrates are produced after the decomposition of animal or human waste. They also enter the waters with nitrate fertilizers.

The rebate program offers an incentive of 50 to 60 percent of the total upgrade cost.  

But Water Mill architect Bill Chaleff told WPKN News that 
“$50,000 will help cover half the cost of only 28 systems costing $3500 each. Southampton town has over 50,000 septic systems.

Chaleff says “The only cost and performance-effective solution is a collective solution; neighborhood underground vacuum-driven collection systems feeding into state-of-the-art treatment/recycling facilities. 

These systems have a reach of 2 ½ miles. We might need only 10 “neighborhood” facilities – 5 on each side of the canal.

Southampton Town Board member Christine Scalera who sponsored the rebate plan said:

“While ultimately, I believe a regional approach is what is going to be needed to address this critical issue, I believe this a good beginning,”


Wednesday, April 24

400 lively seventh graders from 10 New Haven public schools filled the student center ballroom at Southern Connecticut State University today for their "Welcome to College Day."  WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more.

Southern and the city's public schools are collaborating in an effort to promote a college-going culture and to help 7th graders actually get into Southern when their class graduates high school in 2018. Southern's academic director for the program, Dr. Joy Fopiano, says undergrads and grad students apply to be paid tutors.

Once in New Haven schools, the tutors are supervised by Southern faculty. Volunteers from Southern also mentor the 7th graders. Southern sophomore Phylicia Lilly works in two schools, and says she's seen results from her efforts over the past school year.

 ‘Most of the kids like to work one on one. They get a better understanding …..mentoring …the girls have opened up”

Scholarships will be available to students who are admitted to Southern.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.       


The Connecticut Farm Energy Program allocates Federal grant money to fund up to 25 percent of the total cost of renewable energy projects that help farmers and rural businesses keep costs down.

Now the program itself is in danger of not receiving the $80,000 grant it needs to operate. That means the office will likely close its doors May 1.

The program helps boost Connecticut’s participation in the federal Rural Energy for America Program – REAP.

The Administrator, Amanda Fargo-Johnson, has filled out grant applications for dozens of time-strapped farmers who are unfamiliar with the complex procedure involved in applying for funding.

Past projects have included everything from multimillion-dollar rural hydro operations and large solar installations to basic energy efficiency retrofits like heat curtains for greenhouses and more efficient lighting and heating.
The possible loss of the Farm Energy Program coincides with the first report recently released by the Governor's Council for Agricultural Development, which identified dealing with the cost of energy as one of its recommendations.


As reported in Newsday - the future of LIPA, the Long Island Power Authority continues to be discussed in Albany and on Long island.

The question of public versus private ownership of the electric utility is still undecided.

Many feel a completely privatized LIPA would result in higher electric rates on the Island.

The Long Island Association, the region's largest business group, has formally recommended against a plan by Governor Andrew Cuomo to sell the Long Island Power Authority's assets to a private company.

Instead, the Association favors the plan to have Public Service Electric and Gas of New Jersey take over management of the LIPA system in January with a ten year contract.  Currently, British owned National Grid manages the LIPA system.

This week, its Board of Trustees tapped John McMahon to be CEO of LIPA. He is a 37-year veteran of Con Edison of New York and had recently retired as CEO of Orange and Rockland utilities, a Con-Ed subsidiary.


The Town of Brookhaven’s planning board has approved a plan to convert an existing barn on Mt. Sinai-Coram Road to a mosque.  The unanimous decision came after weeks of discussion and some public opposition.

The property owner agreed to install signage to prevent parking or stopping on the road, to control night lighting to meet “dark skies” ordinances, and to install parking spots for worshipers.   

Just in time for Earth Week, the Sag Harbor School district received a $101,000 rebate check from LIPA, the Long Island Power Authority, for replacing light bulbs in the schools with high efficiency ones, which will save the School District about $32,000 each year.

Tuesday, April 23

A leading Democratic candidate for mayor of New Haven held a raucous kickoff last night at Artspace with hundreds of supporters, just after state Senator Toni Harp also threw her hat into the mayoral ring.
WPKN's Melinda Tuhus was there.

Henry Fernandez co-founded an innovative youth program, served in top positions in city government under current Mayor John DeStefano, and now runs a consulting business from his home in Fair Haven. Residents active around immigrants rights, workers' rights and the arts were among supporters who cheered when he was introduced.

John Lugo said Fernandez has been a good friend to the immigrant community.

He said inclusion of immigrants in civic life gives meaning to Fernandez's campaign slogan, "One city."

Henry Fernandez said his 8-year-old son is the reason he's running for mayor.
He said not all the city's children have an equal chance at success, and he's running to give them that chance.

Besides Harp and Fernandez, the other Democrats in the race are business leader Matthew Nemerson, State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, Alderman Justin Elicker, and plumber Sundiata Keitazulu. The primary is September 10.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News

Monday was Earth Day, and on display at Yale's Beinecke Plaza was a representation of the Quinnipiac river, in an interactive art project about sustainability.
Local artist Fritz Horstman said he decided to focus on water because he'd always been bothered by the number of people walking around with plastic water bottles from places like Fiji and France, when Connecticut has water resources that are more readily and sustainably available.

Passersby were invited to take plastic bottles he filled with drinking water from the Quinnipiac River watershed and place them between the blue lines of the river. Horstman said his project was not a call to ban plastic water bottles but a way for the community to come together to enjoy the poetic beauty of water and light - and also to have a moment to think about where the New Haven area's water comes from.

It was sponsored by the Peabody Museum Sustainability Committee, which noted that another unsustainable aspect of bottled water is the oil used to produce the bottles and to transport them.

Zoning for Plum Island, home of the Federal Animal Disease Lab will be the subject of two up-coming meetings.

Although the Federal Government intends to build a new facility in Manhattan, Kansas, to replace the Plum Island labs, it has not found a source for the one Billion dollar cost

Sale of the lab’s current home, the 845-acre Plum Island off Orient Point would contribute to the funding.

Although Plum Island is part of Southold town, it has been exempt from zoning, an issue that must be addressed before a sale can proceed.

The zoning the town adopts will impact the price the Government receives.

Proposals put forth range from preservation of the current physical plant for a research center, to a 600-acre conservation district. The existing ferry terminal will have to be grandfathered into the zoning plan. Development plans may require an upgrade of North Fork’s highways.

Save the Sound and the Group for the East End will host an informational discussion about Plum Island and steps  being taken to protect it from development on Monday, April 29 at 6:30 p.m. at Poquatuck Hall in Orient.

It will feature a panel discussion with local advocates and some words from Congressman Tim Bishop. Attendees are asked to RSVP at the “” website.

An official public zoning meeting is scheduled for Tuesday. May 7th in Southold Town Hall.


Monday, April 22

A recent Quinnipiac Poll found that only 31 percent of Connecticut voters favor allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses, and 65 percent are opposed.
But proponents of licenses for the undocumented argue that roads would become safer since about 54,000 undocumented drivers would have to pass a driving test.
Public meetings in favor of licensing immigrants have drawn large crowds and rallies in Hartford, but have failed to move legislators to act .
Efforts to develop a successful piece of legislation are running into roadblocks. Legislators have opted instead to research results of legalization in other states.   Four separate approaches were developed, but not in time to meet a deadline to get through the transportation Committee.
Another rally for immigrants licenses is planned for April 29 at the capitol.
Partisanship was on display Friday as Republicans in the Democratic-controlled House and Senate railed against Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy's proposal to create a $43 billion budget over the next two years.
Senate Republican leader John McKinney had frequently praised the governor for his handling of the Newtown crisis that resulted in bi-partisan gun safety legislation. But on the budget, he  said Malloy is guilty of overestimating economic growth and underestimating Medicaid caseloads, a sure recipe for a deficit. He said the current budget crisis is Malloy's fault, not anyone else's, including his predecessor, Jodi Rell. Democrats responded that the Malloy administration inherited a record $3.6 billion deficit from Rell, who was governor for six years.


Today is Earth Day, and two events in New Haven and Hartford over the weekend brought out throngs of celebrants and protesters.

In New Haven on Saturday, 1,100 cyclists raised almost $145,000 for 23 local grassroots environmental groups in the fifth annual Rock to Rock ride.
In Hartford, two faith-based groups sponsored an event at Riverfront Park featuring Dan Esty, Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, as the keynote speaker. 
But as he stepped to the podium, he was confronted by the message “Don’t Cut Clean Energy” on a giant banner hoisted above the heads of the crowd.
It was a reference to the Malloy administration's proposal to add out-of-state hydro power rather than local energy sources to help Connecticut meet its clean energy target of 20 percent by 2020.
Suffolk County Community College trustees are considering a proposal to increase tuition by $150 per full-time student for the 2013-2014 school year.

This brings the tuition to $4140, an increase of almost 4 percent. The measure is proposed as part of the $198 million budget pitched for the coming school year.

Suffolk Community College is the largest in the state’s system and hit record levels of enrollment after the recession first hit in 2007. Student enrollment is expected to decline by 2 percent for the upcoming year.


A movement to boycott standardized educational tests by "opting-out" has spread across New York State, fueled by parents and teachers concerned that school curricula are increasingly geared toward standardized testing. Real education, they say, is being overshadowed, and the testing is stressing  students.

The tests are given to third through eighth graders and align with the new Common Core curriculum, which was implemented state-wide this year

Northport-East Northport School District Superintendent Marylou McDermott sent a letter recently, warning parents not to opt-out their children from the new, more rigorous state tests.

In her letter, she warned that opting out is not recognized as a legal option by the state., , "and the information gained from this testing enables us to better plan our students’ academic program in the coming school year."

Friday, April 19 

Bill McKibben, founder of, which organizes globally against climate change, received the Gandhi Peace Award Thursday night from Promoting Enduring Peace. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus was there: has organized thousands of events in every country in the world except North Korea to draw attention to the actual and impending impacts of climate disruption and to demand government action to address it. He spoke to about 200 people at the Unitarian Society in Hamden and said governments have been dragging their feet for decades, especially in the U.S.

McKibben: “We've had a 25 year effort in which to accomplish  nothing and its been entirely successful

He said the grassroots activists who are trying to address the problem are part of the mainstream, while the fossil fuel industry leaders are the true radicals.

McKibben said “Now with the visual proof that the polar ice cap has melted….
If you are willing to do that you are a far more radical actor than any human before you.
and Ii’s our job to figure out how to check that radicalism and to have some kind of basic common sense make the day.“

McKibben was the first environmental leader to receive the Gandhi prize in the half-century history of the award. The award included a monetary prize for

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
The General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a bill that rescinds the governor's authority to appoint the president of the state's largest public college system. The bill, will place the responsibility of selecting a president and setting employment terms solely with the 15-member Board of Regents.
The top position at the 100,000-student system is currently vacant following a series of missteps made by the college leaders the Governor put into office.
The president and vice president of the system resigned last October after disclosures that several top officials were awarded double-digit percentage raises. Also that the President spent several weeks "working remotely" from his second home in Minnesota, and that the community college presidents' jobs were being threatened.
The governor plans to sign the bill into law. Other bills aimed at increasing transparency in higher education spending are also being considered.
An accountant and an economist tossed cold water on Connecticut’s financial outlook this week when they released a report detailing the “deep fiscal hole” policymakers have dug the state into over the past few decades.
The report found that Connecticut has “some of the highest — if not the highest — total liabilities and unfunded obligations per taxpayer of any state in the nation. The unfunded pension liabilities, retiree health care, and bonded debt comes to $37,700 per taxpayer. New Jersey is next highest. It’s debt per taxpayer is $1,300 less than Connecticut's.
The report also noted that Connecticut ranks 18th in the nation in state taxes collected as a percent of personal income. 


The Albany Times-Union reports that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a proposed scorecard to help grade utility firms on how quickly and efficiently they respond to power outages such as those that followed Superstorm Sandy.
The scorecard will be issued by the Public Service Commission for public review and comment.
The scorecard builds on the work of the Moreland Commission on Utility Storm Preparation and Response. The commission was convened by the Governor after Superstorm Sandy to ensure that the State’s critical systems and services are prepared for future natural disasters and other emergencies.

This summer, weekenders will be able to get from Penn Station to the Hamptons and back a whole lot faster.

The Long Island Rail Road’s Cannonball train will feature non-stop express service to the Hamptons from Penn Station.

On Fridays the train will stop in Westhampton, Southampton, Bridgehampton and East Hampton on its way to Montauk, taking about 2 -1/2 hours.  On Sunday evenings it will return to Manhattan, stopping in Hampton Bays and Jamaica as well in about 3 hours.  The new service will run from  Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends. It was prompted in part by increased ridership (34 percent in 2012 over 2011)


Thursday, April 18

One of the hardest campaigners for gun safety legislation in Connecticut said he was dismayed 

but not surprised when the U.S.Senate yesterday rejected all gun safety proposals, including a 

watered down version of criminal background checks for gun buyers. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more.

Marty Isaac is president of CT Against Gun Violence, which has been

working for two decades to promote greater safety in the state's urban
areas and then jumped into the assault weapons debate in the wake of
the Newtown massacre. He commented on the defeat of the Manchin-Toomey
amendment that would have expanded the use of background checks to
most private purchases, including on the Internet.

He said even though his organization didn't get everything they wanted

in Connecticut's recently passed gun legislation, it seemed like a
"monumental accomplishment" compared to the inaction in the Senate.

Asked what he thought of the Senate's action, he said,

the Connecticut law lacks some things his group  pushed for,
such as handgun registration and a retroactive ban on magazines
holding more than 10 bullets, but he added that Connecticut is far
ahead of Congress on the issue.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.


In order to save $65 million over the next two years Governor Malloy proposed kicking an 

estimated 37,500 parents off their state-sponsored health insurance plan and moving them to the 

insurance exchange on January 1. 

The move didn’t sit well with parents and advocates, a group of whom came to the state Capitol 

on Wednesday to ask the legislature to restore the funding.

The issue is complicated by the fact that they might become eligible for Federal subsidies to 

help pay part of the premiums, but maybe not enough to afford keeping it.

Working parents, will have to make some hard choices if the legislature doesn’t amend the 

governor’s proposal. 

Children and pregnant women would continue to receive coverage under Malloy’s budget, but the 

parents who fall around 133 percent of the federal poverty level — which is an income of 

$25,975 for a family of three — would be forced to purchase their insurance through the 

insurance exchanges where they might qualify to receive a subsidy from the federal government.

It’s still unclear how the legislature is going to handle this specific spending cut. But 

advocates pointed out that the cut seems to fly in the face of the spirit of the federal 

Affordable Care Act, because it means fewer people would have access to health insurance.


As reported by Indian County Today:

On Monday, an historic economic summit between tribal leaders and New York state officials was 

held at the capitol in Albany. Unkechaug Nation Chief Harry Wallace of Long Island and leaders 

of upstate tribes participated. 

They talked about economic issues and strengthening tribal - government relations. 

Unkechaug Chief Harry Wallace talked about the long history of his tribe’s trading economy, 

particularly in wampum. Wallace said, the wampum belt that sealed the 1794 Treaty of 

Canandaigua between the tribes and the United States was made by Unkechaug people, They still 

make and sell purple beads from local quahog [kwawg] shells.

Wallace also spoke about the protection of graves and about education. 

He said “Long Island is one of the most populated areas of the state and every time they put a 

shovel in the ground they’re digging up one of our ancestors”.

Wallace said the Nations should be part of the negotiations on contracts for schools attended 

by Native children. 

On taxing of native businesses, Wallace quoted Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall who 

said “The power to tax is the power to destroy,”

Wallace said  “if we give you the power to tax us you will destroy us. We’re a peaceful people. 

We like to live in harmony, but we will not allow our destruction without,” 


Venomous snakes, large lizards and even crocodiles will be accepted at Sweetbriar Nature Center 

in Smithtown as part of Suffolk County’s Amnesty Day for illegal reptiles and amphibians.

According to Roy Gross of the Suffolk SPCA .

 “The purpose of this effort is to get these reptiles and amphibians into a controlled 

environment where they can be cared for properly,” 

The program will be held on  April 27, from noon until 4 pm


Wednesday, April 17

Retired teachers brought apples to the Legislative Office Building on Tuesday to ask their former students, now state legislators, to continue funding their health benefits account.

Governor Dannel. Malloy’s budget depletes the state’s contribution to the Health Insurance Premium Account.
That fund helps pay for a portion of retired teachers’ health insurance. Teachers don’t qualify for Medicare benefits unless it’s through a spouse, which is why the state created the fund back in 1996.
The Association of Retired Teachers of Connecticut said that without the state’s contribution it almost guarantees that the fund will become insolvent.
Malloy’s budget would eliminate the state’s contribution to the fund totaling $70 milllion in 2014 and 2015.
The Teachers Retirement Board concluded that if there is no state contribution to the fund through 2017, it will become insolvent.
But the governor’s budget office says the fund will be reduced from $92 million to $52 million without the state’s contributions.

About 53,000 active teachers and 33,000 retired teachers contribute to the fund.

In Hartford the Finance Committee restructured the state’s debt Tuesday in a way that also allows it to sunset the electric generation tax as promised.
Payment of the debt will be pushed off until after the November 2014 elections.
The idea was promoted by Democratic Senator Andrea Stillman, of Waterford, whose district includes the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant. She defended the decision to borrow in order to sunset the tax because of the adverse impact that extending the tax would have had on electricity rates in the region.
Attorney Generals in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have asked Connecticut’s legislators to remove the tax which would raise the rates on residents in their states


Tuesday was National Library Workers Day, and some of the New Haven
library’s 40 workers represented by AFSCME celebrated on the steps of
the main library on Elm Street.
WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus was there.

With just 1 percent of New Haven’s budget, the library provides a wealth of services, from computer literacy to English classes for immigrants to children’s activities to hosting sometimes controversial programs, all in addition to its physical resources

Librarian Bill Armstrong mentioned some of the things the library can do for patrons.

Some speakers talked of the need to fight for funding to keep and expand services for all residents in the community. Nationally, AFSCME represents 25,000 library workers.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.


Is this the year both houses of the Legislature pass a bill legalizing medical marijuana in New York?.

And if it does, will Governor Andrew Cuomo apply his signature?
The Albany Times-Union reports that grass-roots support is growing since the activity would be taxed at $250 per pound or more, with half of the proceeds going to local governments.
A packed conference room of elected officials, advocates and patients with debilitating illnesses gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday to renew the push for a newly revised bill to set up a medical marijuana production and distribution system.
This year’s version of such legislation was crafted to pass in the Senate, and would create “the most tightly regulated, controlled, seed-to-sale model in the nation, ”
In a Tuesday news conference, Cuomo said that while he hadn’t studied the latest version of the bill, “at this point I don’t support medical marijuana,”


The Albany Times Union reports that on Tuesday, members of the New York State Senate Finance Committee endorsed a bill that,would create a commission to study and, if needed mandate, regular pay raises for over 8,000 management/confidential employees.

These “M/C” employees, because of the confidential nature of their work, are not unionized. They include supervisors and lower-level secretaries who serve in sensitive positions, meaning they often handle information such as personnel or medical files.

With the exception of a longevity increase in 2011, M/Cs have had no raises in five years. It remains to be seen how the governor would greet an M/C pay raise if the bill passes in the Legislature.
Tuesday, April 16

Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration wants to include energy from big
hydro projects in Quebec in the state’s renewable energy portfolio, 
but opponents who say that would harm renewable energy producers in
Connecticut are ramping up their opposition. Meanwhile comments on the state’s energy policy will be accepted until this Friday April 19.
WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:

Activists held a rally late last week in Hartford, then many of them testified at a public hearing against Senate Bill 1138, which would allow the inclusion of energy from big hydro projects in Quebec to
count toward the state’s mandated 20 percent of its electricity generated by renewables by 2020. The Malloy administration has said the state can’t meet the deadline without this energy source.
Opponents like Roger Smith, co-director for Clean Water Action Connecticut, disagree with both the conclusion of the state energy study and the way officials are trying to push the bill through the
General Assembly before the comment period even ends.
Smith says the state should be prioritizing renewables like wind,solar and fuel cells.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
New Haven’s 98 year-old Schubert Theater may be getting new owners after 20 years of City ownership.
The Board of Aldermen received a proposed deal that would transfer ownership to the Connecticut Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA).
CAPA has managed the property over the past 10 years for the city.
Along with the theater, the transfer of ownership would include $3 million, part of the $7 million needed for renovations. The balance will be raised from grants and various private, state and federal sources.
The city’s annual subsidy for the theater, currently at $249,000 would taper down to zero over the next ten years
The plan is now headed to an aldermanic committee for consideration ahead of a vote by the full board.
Yale researchers have discovered a bacterial infection that is spread by the same deer tick that causes Lyme disease.
The illness is so new to people that it doesn’t have a common name.
It causes a recurring fever, muscle aches, fatigue and, sometimes, a rash and neurological problems.
There are currently no tests available for the illness, but patients have responded well to a short course of doxycycline, the antibiotic used to treat Lyme disease.
The Yale scientists do not know if the disease causes long-term damage if left untreated and plan to apply for more funding from the NIH to further study symptoms.
John Mayer, a Commack, Long Island father. is pursuing legal action after his pistol license was suspended and his guns taken away by Suffolk County police.
The confiscation came after his 10-year-old son allegedly talked about using a water gun on classmates who had picked on his friends in school.
The father, who posted his story on, said the issue stemmed from a March 1 incident at Pines Elementary in Hauppauge.
A spokesperson for the police department’s pistol licensing office said a final agency determination has not been made in regards to Mayer’s New York State pistol license. In the meantime, all the firearms in Mayer’s home were removed
“One Million Seed Bombs for Hurricane Sandy Relief” plans to throw balls of seed and soil on dunes to regrow vegetation that keeps the Long Island dunes strong.
A “seed bomb factory” is planned in Sag Harbor at the weekly Fair Foods Farmers Market, located at Christ Episcopal Church on Union Street. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 20.
Only specific local native dune plants will be used.
Cyclists will pick up the seed bombs on May 4 and 5, when the “bombing” will begin at beaches from Montauk to points west.

Monday, April 15

Should citizens be allowed to sue police officers who interfere with their ability to videotape or photograph officers on the job?

A bill to establish this right was sent to the state Senate Friday.
Senate Democrat Martin Looney of New Haven, introduced a similar bill in 2011 after the arrests of citizens who video-taped police.
The bill passed the Senate in both 2011 and 2012 but failed to receive a vote in the House.
The new legislation includes exemptions for police officers. Individuals can’t bring a lawsuit if the officer is protecting public safety, enforcing a municipal ordinance, preserving the integrity of a crime scene, and safeguarding privacy interests.
Senate Republican.John Kissel of Enfield says “the exceptions almost swallow the rule” Kissel thinks as long as you’re not interfering with police you should be able to photograph or videotape them.
But Republican Representative.Tom O’Dea of New Canaan, said the bill will “dramatically increase the amount of litigation police officers are going to face….It’s going to have unforeseen consequences to our law enforcement”
A very unusual event unfolded in Superior Court in New Haven over the past couple of weeks. A man took his case to trial, rather than plea bargain the charges. On Friday a judge declared a mistrial after the jury said they couldn’t convict the defendant.
WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has the story.
Listen here
Suffolk County Legislators are urging the union representing the Foley Skilled Nursing Facility workers to reschedule a vote on whether to drop their lawsuit against the county, in order to make way for a deal to privatize the facility,
The vote by members of the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees was scheduled for April 9. However, it was cancelled pending the outcome of negotiations resolving a lawsuit to block sale of the county-run facility to private operators. Without a vote from the union, the $23 million sale remains in limbo.
Several Foley nursing home residents have expressed concern about their future. The cancellation of the union’s vote gives the county the go-ahead to continue closing down the facility.
Almost six-months after Superstorm Sandy, many families are still housed in hotels across Long Island. However the deadline to move out of the FEMA-paid accommodations has been extended another 17 days until May first.
At the request of the State, FEMA has approved an additional extension to the Transitional Sheltering Assistance program.
The extension allows eligible survivors from Hurricane Sandy who can’t return to their homes to stay in participating hotels or motels.
FEMA will call applicants eligible for the extension to notify them of the new checkout date.
Friday, April 12
On Thursday hospital volunteers and members of the Connecticut Hospital Association called upon legislators to restore $5.5 million in funds and reimbursements for the uninsured Governor Malloy proposed to be cut from the state budget.
Jennifer Jackson, president and CEO of the Connecticut Hospital Association, said that the sweeping cuts would impact patient care and force hospitals to lay off staff and reduce services.
But Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes said, “ hospitals have benefited from extraordinary increases in state funding over the decade- from $712 million in 2003 to $1.75 billion this year.”
Griffin Hospital CEO Patrick Charmel said the past strategy to make up for state payment shortfalls, was to simply charge Managed Care Companies — and indirectly Connecticut employers who pay their premiums — more.
Charmel said if hospitals have to shift more of their costs to insurance companies then more employers are going to be forced to drop coverage.
He said it’s unfair that the state wants to balance the budget on hospitals, which account for about 5 to 10 percent of the state budget.
New Haven joined many other cities around the country on Thursday in a day of solidarity with the prisoners held at Guantanamo who are on hunger strike, demanding their release. WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus was there:
Two dozen protesters stood on the steps of the federal building to demand the closure of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, the release of those deemed by the U.S. government as innocent of any crime, and the chance for the others to plead their case in court. They were in solidarity with the more than 100 prisoners who are in the sixth week of a hunger strike to press for resolution of their 11-year indefinite detention.
The Rev. Allie Perry with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture said 86 of the 166 prisoners still at Guantanamo have been cleared for release, but still they languish there. She explained why she had come to the protest.
“To honor the prisoners who have stood up against ….
One speaker noted wryly that if the national championship women Huskies basketball team had come to town, thousands of people would have come out, and that apathy in the face of government-sponsored torture and abuse imperils American democracy.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
Do the needs of Long Island farmers who have to protect their crops from insects, and the public’s desire for uncontaminated drinking water conflict so seriously that no compromise is possible?
The Department of Environmental Conservation introduced a 122-page report at a public meeting in Riverhead on Wednesday.
But the meeting, attended by almost 100 people showed that compromise on changes to the proposed and existing DEC policy will be difficult.
The proposed strategy calls for a technical review and advisory committee to review water quality data, so it can weigh factors such as human health risks and the availability of effective pesticide alternatives. The committee would provide the DEC with background information needed to support future regulatory action.
One proposal is tying DEC regulatory action to measured chemical contamination of ground water once the measurements exceed certain thresholds.
The DEC is accepting public comments regarding the draft strategy until April 30.
More than 700 acres of North Fork farmland are in danger of flooding
after Superstorm Sandy damaged 4.5 miles of protective levees. Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has deemed the levees eligible for emergency repair funding.
Five Cutchogue and Orient farms will benefit.
The estimated cost to repair the North Fork levees is $1.7 million, and federal funding will cover 75 percent of the repair costs.
In addition to protecting the farms from flooding, the levees also protect Peconic Bay from agricultural runoff, which contributes to high algae levels that threaten marine life.
The levees’ repairs and funding are subject to further review, but it is almost a certainty that the money will be granted
A candlelight vigil for federal action against gun violence will take place Saturday evening at Riverfront Park in Riverhead from 8 to 9.
Several incidents of gun violence have hit close to home, including the death of Riverhead High School graduate Demitri Hampton, who was gunned down in January in Flanders.
More information is available at
Thursday, April 11
Over 200 marchers strode through New Haven on Tuesday evening, chanting their way to a rally on the Green. They called for reform of the country’s immigration laws—now.
The rally was one of three held statewide under the coordination of the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance. The effort is aimed at keeping the pressure on lawmakers in Washington, who are about to take up a plan for immigration reform.
Current elected officials, including Mayor John DeStefano, as well as candidates for mayor and aldermen, joined the rally.
The march came amid a statewide roundup of immigrants resulting in 27 arrests, including two in New Haven. A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the targeted enforcement focused on undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of major crimes. The operation is continuing.
The largest municipal lobby in the state is pushing back against Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget proposal that it says would hurt towns and cities.
Jim Finley, is executive director and CEO of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, At a Wednesday news conference in Hartford, Finley said
“Please pass a budget that doesn’t raise property taxes even further, that doesn’t result in cuts to municipal services, and doesn’t force my colleagues behind me to lay off more municipal employees.”
A leader of Malloy’s budget office is defending its budget proposal, which it says increases municipal funding even if it forces cities and towns to spend more of it on education. Gian-Carl Casa said the changes are necessary because the state is facing a budget shortfall next year of over a billion dollars. Cuts are needed to comply with the state spending cap.
As housing construction in an area of Southampton known to contain ancient burial sites continues, Native American activists and Town Board members were at odds over graves protection laws.
The ancestors of the Shinnecock Indians buried their dead thoughout the Shinnecock Hills.
New York State has no law to protect these ancient graves. A law introduced in the legislature by Assemblymen Fred Thiele and Steven Engelbright requires that human remains unearthed during construction not be moved.
A resolution in support of that proposed state law was voted down Tuesday by the Southampton Town Board although Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Bridget.Fleming voted in favor.
Since 2003 the Shinnecock have lobbied the Town for a law that would outline a process to protect graves when they are un-earthed.
Tuesday the Shinnecock Archeological Advisory Committee (SAAC) charged that adoption of a local law has been thwarted by the Town Board.
The say “when the Committee met with Town Board members and the Town attorney, Councilwoman Bridget Fleming suggested the only way to move graves protection legislation along was to agree to removal of any human remains and funerary objects found on a property. That is not graves protection but graves destruction”.
Shinnecock elder Elizabeth Bess Haile and others picketed in front of a new construction site earlier this week.
Ms. Haile read from the Committee statement:
“The Town Board’s hesitancy to adopt any graves protection legislation in the Township of Southampton is responsible for the desecration of many more sacred places.”
The Huntington Town Board voted Tuesday to require homeowners to control running bamboo so that it won’t spread and damage the property of others.
Under the new law, owners with bamboo planted on their property will be responsible for either removing the bamboo or taking reasonable measures to confine it to their own property.
There is a six-month moratorium to clear and/or contain the bamboo before any penalty provisions begin.
After the moratorium expires, penalties kick in, including a $1,000 fine for planting and/or replanting running bamboo and fines of $250 to $500 for failure to remove or contain bamboo.
Wednesday, April 10
The UConn Health Center has teamed up with the state’s Insurance Department to create a tool to help consumers better navigate mental health claims. The tool that cuts through red tape should help 1.8 million privately insured Connecticut residents gain access to mental health treatment.
The collaboration and the creation of the tool kit won’t cost the state any additional money since the UConn Health Center already has a relationship with the Insurance Department.
Deputy Insurance Commissioner Anne Melissa Dowling said, “It’s been the Department’s observations that incomplete or incorrect information, coding errors, and other documentation issues are often the cause of claims denials requiring multiple appeals. We don’t want families having to fight to get the care they need.”
State Attorney General George Jepsen charged Connecticut’s largest electric utility Tuesday with withholding information about its slow response to the October 2011 Nor’Easter . The storm left more than 800,000 homes and businesses without power for as many as 11 days.
Jepsen petitioned the state’s Public Utility Regulatory Authority to impose new penalties against Connecticut Light & Power Co.,
He said that while the company promised publicly to restore power to 99 percent of its customers within seven days, internal documents revealed company officials thought it would take 11 days.
CL&P issued a statement Tuesday disputing Jepsen’s charges, saying, “All of the information in the AG’s filing refers to the 2011 storms, which CL&P voluntarily provided to his office,
Tuesday marked the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, but it also was a reminder that little progress has been made.
Teresa Younger, is executive director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.
Younger says “During those 50 years, wages have only improved by 18 cents. Today, in the state of Connecticut women are making 78 cents to every $1 that a man makes. That difference amounts to over $12,000 a year, and over a lifetime, women may be losing between $250,000 to $1 million, because of the gender pay gap.
Labor Commissioner Sharon Palmer and Economic Development Commissioner Catherine Smith will co-chair a task force created by Governor. Malloy to look at the issue of pay equity.
Smith said the task force has been charged with looking at the root causes for the disparity in pay, which impacts women mostly in the private sector. It will also identify best practices and guidelines for businesses to follow. She said the end result may not require legislation, but she hopes the task force will also help raise awareness of the issue. 
A group of Patchogue Village residents have been recording their Village Board of Trustee meetings.
Their organization, Citizens Campaign for Open Village Government, was founded in 2012 with the mission of educating fellow Village residents and to increase transparency regarding the policies, practices and procedures of village government.
Their videos are available on the web at
Village and Town Board Meetings are available in some Long Island towns on local cable TV channels, notably in East Hampton – on LTV and Southampton on SeaTV.
Mother nature is throwing various threats in our direction this year, including the heavy snowstorm with high winds that toppled trees.
And yesterday a high temperature of 84 degrees F was reported on eastern Southampton.Town.
But wait. there’s more!.
Extremely dry weather caused the National Weather Service to place all of Long Island on a Fire Weather Watch last week and brush fires broke out in East Hampton.
But adding insult to injury, this is the year of the re-emergence of the 17-year locust (aka – cicada). They will begin emerging from the earth as soon as soil below the frostline reaches 64 degrees. Another species, the 13-year locusts, last emerged in 2009. At their peak, there can as many as one-BILLION locusts active per square mile, serenading us with their unique call. They are a threat to vegetation, and also to pets; dogs have been known to suffocate while trying to eat them.
Tuesday, April 9
President Barack Obama spoke to students, faculty and staff, as well as Governor Malloy and invited White House guests, at the University of Hartford Monday.
Hoping to re-energize pro-gun safety efforts on Capitol Hill, the President urged his audience to “get involved, to push back fear…and misinformation,”
Proposed federal legislation includes expanded FBI background checks and stiffer penalties for “straw purchases.”
Citing polls showing 90% of the public support background checks, Obama said :
“You would think with those numbers Congress would rush to make this happen….they’re not just saying they’ll vote against the bill, they’re saying they won’t even allow a vote….That’s like saying your opinion doesn’t matter”
The crowd started chanting: “We want a vote. We want a vote.”
But not everyone was a gun control advocate. Craig Bentley, a senior at the University of Hartford, said he felt Connecticut had taken the wrong steps in response to the Newtown tragedy. Bentley told reporters Connecticut lawmakers should have focused more on school safety than gun control.
Colt Competition,a firearms company that makes AR-15 style rifles, will open a plant in Breckinridge,Texas according to CBS in Dallas.
The CEO of Colt Manufacturing in Connecticut has said there will soon be few good answers to keep his company in the state after Connecticut passed some of the nation’s most restrictive gun laws last week.
Other Connecticut weapons manufacturers announced plans to relocate to New York State and Kentucky locations recently.
State Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri said her office was able to save Connecticut consumers more than $2.5 million on the cost of healthcare services, procedures, and claims in just the first quarter of 2013.
In addition, the office has teamed up with the Department of Children and Families to make sure children with parents who have private health coverage are covered under that private plan before the state pays for services.
The Office of Healthcare Advocate also released a comprehensive report on barriers to mental health and substance abuse treatments. Also they launched an outreach program in anticipation of enrollment in the insurance exchange under Obamacare.
After Southold Town planners suggested land use ideas for Plum Island last fall a public hearing on the suggestions will take place on May 7
The status of the federal Animal Disease facility remains up in the air as federal funding for Plum Island’s replacement in Kansas remains hard to come by.
In the meantime, the immediate future of Plum Island is business as usual – at least through 2019. Long term, the town is zoning the land for an eventual sale, the proceeds of which would be required to help pay for the Kansas facility.
The list of suggested zoning plans includes the creation of a Marine II zone, which would accommodate ferry access to the island. Currently the 840-acre island, purchased by the federal government in the 1800s, is unzoned.
In addition to the Marine II zone, town planners pitched a 175-acr Plum Island Research District and the Plum Island Conservation District, at least 600 acres. Town leaders hope to use the existing infrastructure to continue the island’s use long-term as a research facility.
The Suffolk County District Attorney has served a grand jury subpoena to Brookhaven officials as part of an investigation into how the town spent taxpayer dollars cleaning up after Sandy.
Suffolk prosecutors are investigating how the cleanup funding was spent, how contractors were chosen and whether state laws governing how governments picks contractors were followed in the aftermath of the storm.
Federal records show that Long Island towns, villages and counties have undertaken Sandy-related projects totaling close to $250 million as of this week, with FEMA reimbursing $178 million so far.
Brookhaven officials have spent approximately $8.3 million on debris removal after Sandy, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency committing to repay the town $6.2 million.
Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said. “The town is cooperating and we welcome the oversight of the DA’s office,”
Monday, April 8
Eleven Sandy Hook families were to fly back to Washington with President Barack Obama today after the President’s speech at the University of Hartford.
The President will use his political capital to encourage Congress to pass legislation that would expand background checks for gun purchases.
The families sent a letter to U.S. Senators last week calling for universal background checks, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and reinstatement of the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.
The Sandy Hook families will speak with lawmakers and encourage their votes. The Senate needs 60 votes to move forward with debate on legislation.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal said last week that he was optimistic they will get the votes necessary to proceed, but admitted it’s an uphill battle.
The Connecticut Legislative Public Health Committee crawled through its deadline to act on bills with hours of partisan “back and forth” last Friday.
But one of the pieces of legislation that did pass the committee was important to Newtown lawmakers.
The law would limit public access to some death certificate information such as the birth date of the deceased and specifics about the death.
Republican Representative Debra Lee Hovey, of Monroe, who also represents Newtown said that town clerks there have requested some limitations on the information they are required to release because they were “badgered” after the shooting massacre that occurred in December.
Hovey said “…there are those who would just like to exploit the sensitivities of a community. I would suggest that we need to protect that community a little bit.”
Democratic Representative. Peter Tercyak, of New Britain, opposed the bill, pointing to a news story which highlighted abuse and deaths of developmentally disabled people in the state’s care. He said those types of investigations might not be possible if the state limits access to public information.
The East End Health Alliance on Long Island struck a contract extension deal with Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, ending a brief period in which the three hospitals in the alliance stopped accepting the insurance.
The alliance, which includes Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport, Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead and Southampton Hospital announced on their web site that a tentative settlement was reached bringing the three Alliance hospitals back in network with Empire Blue Cross as of Saturday, April 6
The insurers contract with the alliance had expired on March 31, after early negotiations failed.
Suffolk County’s new jail in Yaphank, once dubbed the “Taj Mahal” by County Executive Steve Bellone, is open and now housing inmates.
The new jail was constructed at a cost of $185 million. Newsday reported that 105 inmates were transferred to the new Yaphank correctional facility from the Riverhead jail this past week, approximately one year behind schedule. Additional inmates are expected be transfered from Riverhead to Yaphank weekly until the new facility is operating at full capacity.
The new correctional facility is one of the county’s largest construction projects in more than 30 years. It was built under a 2004 state mandate to ease overcrowded conditions at the Riverhead jail.
Yaphank prisoners will live in one of six residential pods, each of which has its own indoor recreational area. The new facility’s opening increases the county’s inmate capacity to 1,831 beds, a net increase of 156. A planned second phase will increase the facility’s capacity by an additional 440 beds.
Friday, April 5

With the ink barely dry on Connecticut’s new gun law, several gun rights groups have announced plans to explore legal challenges to the new restrictions on Constitutional grounds. Governor Dannel Malloy signed the bill into law on Thursday.
Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, announced his group’s plans to hold a rally at the state Capitol on April 20 to “regroup and renew efforts to challenge this new law.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry trade association based in Newtown, is also considering a challenge. Some critics say the banning of almost 100 more models of assault weapons, based on characteristics like a pistol grip, is arbitrary and won’t stand up to a challenge on Second Amendment grounds. Others, including Attorney General George Jepsen and Malloy’s point man for criminal justice policy, Mike Lawlor, said they believe the law will withstand any challenge.


Meanwhile, the state’s Office of Fiscal Analysis estimates that the new law could cost the state up to $25 million a year in additional prison costs, based on increased penalties for certain crimes. The bill adds mandatory minimum sentences to some crimes, increases penalties for several firearm-related offenses — including gun trafficking and illegal possession of a weapon — and reclassifies some offenses as felonies. 63


The state African-American Affairs Commission held its first-ever meeting in New Haven Thursday night. They are hoping to bolster support in the face of possible consolidation with other commissions by the Malloy administration in a money-saving effort.
Malloy wants to consolidate the legislature’s commissions on women, African-Americans, Latinos, children, Asians, and the elderly into a new Commission on Citizen Advocacy. The new commission would also represent the interests of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
Each commission has insisted it needs and deserves a separate existence to promote issues of special concern to its constituents. For example, the African-American Affairs Commission has focused on the racial gap in educational achievement in Connecticut, the biggest gap in the nation.
Newtown Patch reports that Newtown’s Legislative Council voted to send the town and education budget proposals forward to an April 23 referendum. The budgets include more than $72 million for schools and $39 million for the town, for a total of about $111 million — overall, a 4.7% spending increase from 2012-13. The proposal calls for $420,000 in a contingency fund on the town side, enough to hire police officers to staff Newtown’s public schools, with an additional $150,000 to provide grants for security at private schools.
Suffolk County has been slapped with a new lawsuit involving the County Correctional Facility.
According to a Newsday report, five women have filed a federal lawsuit, alleging that they and others were “sexually assaulted, harassed and degraded by a male correction officer” at the facility.
The women- were all awaiting trial at the in Riverhead between April 2009 and August 2010 when the incidents occurred.
The five women claim that the correction officer’s supervisors ignored their complaints or threatened them with retribution if they kept raising their voices about the matter.
The report says 40 others were similarly treated but are fearful of coming forward with their stories.
A nationally renowned program to help communities plan for and mitigate coastal hazards is coming to Montauk next week.
The Concerned Citizens of Montauk and the Montauk Chamber of Commerce are sponsoring the Coastal Community Resilience Training Course at Gurney’s Inn.
More than 20 local, state, and federal agencies and organizations are slated to attend.
The course is designed to help communities in Suffolk County understand and reduce the risks from coastal hazards, speed up recovery after a major event and adapt to the ever changing environment.
It will be conducted by the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.
Thursday, April 4
At noon today, Governor Dannel Malloy signed gun control and mental health-related legislation prepared by a bi-partisan group of Connecticut legislators.
The bill passed the state House of Representatives 105 votes to 44 and the State Senate by a vote of 26 to 10..
The legislation would require universal background checks for purchasers of all firearms, and expand the state’s existing ban on assault weapons such as the AR-15 used by the Newtown shooter. Magazines holding more than 10 rounds could not be sold or purchased.
But owners of large-capacity magazines would not be required to turn them in. Their use would be restricted and they would have to be registered with the state by Jan. 1, 2014. Those who already own semiautomatic rifles defined as assault weapons could keep them if they submit to new registration procedures.
Beginning Oct. 1, all purchases of ammunition and long guns would require an eligibility certificate. A federal criminal background check would be required to purchase ammunition. A dangerous weapon offender registry will be created and penalties for illegal gun trafficking will be expanded.
The Hartford Courant reported that yesterday, hours before the legislative proceedings began, hundreds of gun owners jammed the halls of the Capitol – some carrying signs such as “Connecticut is the unconstitutional state,” and many breaking into occasional chants of “just say no!” They booed at gun control supporters who went by.
The governor, a strong gun supporter, canceled a scheduled appearance yesterday at an autism group’s event in a Capitol room near the Senate, after state police decided it would be unwise for him to pass through the crowd.
The legislation signed into law today also includes provisions relating to mental health.
These include offering a “mental health first aid” program to help educators recognize signs of mental illness. Also doubling the number of teams providing intensive support to people with serious persistent mental illness living in the community
Provisions of the legislation relating to health insurance include:
requiring insurers to make faster decisions about whether certain urgent mental health and substance-abuse services will be covered, and making it easier for consumers to see what criteria carriers use in determining if care is covered.
The legislation does not include requirements that commercial insurers cover specific services. Private plans typically cover fewer mental health services than Medicaid does.
Governor Dannel Malloy will pick the new head of the governing board of the state’s largest public college system.
Board of Regents Chairman Lewis Robinson said of the three finalists, “Which ever one he chooses, we have a fine leader.”
State law requires the board to forward just one name for the governor’s approval but the governeor has requested three names. The three finalists visited Connecticut last month to meet faculty, staff and the public. They are Jack R. Warner, the leader of six of South Dakota’s public universities since 2009; Gregory W. Gray, head of Riverside Community College in California since 2009; and Jay V. Kahn, interim president of Keene State College in New Hampshire.
East Hampton Town’s motion to dismiss a suit launched by beachfront homeowners over beach erosion was denied, allowing the case to proceed in Federal court.
More than 40 homes, as well as motels and cooperative apartments in Culloden Shores a neighborhood of about 400 homes are directly on the beach. Many of them have suffered storm damage as a result of about 300 feet of eroded beach and dunes.
The lawsuit alleges that the Montauk Harbor Jetties caused catastrophic erosion and damage to the public and private beaches, sand dunes and homes west of the jetties.
The area faces Long Island and Block Island Sounds and is across from southeastern Connecticut.
The homeowners’ attorney, says the town should begin to include the area in its sand replenishment projects that followed Superstorm Sandy.
Wednesday, April 3
This is national Public Health Week. While deaths and injuries by gun is considered by many to be a public health issue, there are many other issues that have seen progress over the years.
Writing in the CT News Junkie, columnist Paul Gionfriddo says spending on public health (as a percentage of all health spending) has doubled in the last fifty years.
But It is still less than 3 percent of our national health budget.
Among the biggest public health successes he and others point to is removing lead from paint and gasoline, since ingesting lead leads to brain damage and other problems.
Other biggies are control of air pollution, banning smoking in public places, fluoridating water, sewer separation, the oral polio vaccine, and promotion of nutrition and exercise – even if Americans have a long way to go in those departments.
The Hartford Courant reports that Marlin Firearms Company closed its plant in North Haven last Friday after 141 years of manufacturing.
Marlin was acquired in 2008 by Remington Arms Company, a subsidiary of Freedom Group Compny. of Madison, North.Carolina. Three years ago, Marlin employed 345 people at its headquarters in North Haven and 225 in Gardner, Massachusetts.
Remington said in March 2010 that it would close the North Haven Marlin plant, which had 265 employees at that point. The company has been at the North Haven location since 1968 when it moved from New Haven.
Marlin was founded when John M. Marlin left Colt in 1870 and started manufacturing his own line of revolvers and derringers.
Remington said last year that it was consolidating manufacturing because of “intense” competition in the market.
Remington also closed a Bushmaster’s plant in Windham, Maine, and is moving operations from both the North Haven and Maine facilities to plants in Ilion, New York and Mayfield, Kentucky.
At the upstate New York plant the company said it plans to add nearly 100 jobs and spend $5 million in three years. Remington is expected to add 100 jobs and invest $5 million at the Kentucky facility.
Remington will receive grants totaling about $2.5 from New York State and incentives and grants totaling close to $5 million from Kentucky.
Members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation voted Tuesday in their annual Tribal Trustees election on Long Island. There were eight candidates in total to serve on the three-member board.
The top vote-getter, was Daniel Collins Sr., who will serve as chairman. Also earning trustee seats were D.Taobi Silva, and Brad Smith.
Among the other candidates were Lance Gumbs, and Gordell Wright, who were elected in 2012 but were ousted last summer — in a move they contend had no basis in law.
Firefighters spent more than an hour dealing with a brush fire that broke out in East Hampton on Wednesday afternoon, preventing it from spreading further, during a period of time in which the entire island is under an increase threat of brush fires.
The National Weather Service has placed all of Long Island in a Fire Weather Watch (a red flag alert) through 8 pm this evening, as very dry air and dried vegetation could lead to more brush fires. The alert may be extended.
The cold front that pushed through the northeast on Monday afternoon brought with it extremely dry air with low relative humidity, leading to the area having conditions that could lead to a brush fire outbreak.
Long Island faced a period of wildfire outbreaks last year, when a dry air mass lasted over the area for a few weeks. Large fires swept across wooded and residential areas in the Town of Brookhaven.

Tuesday, April 2
The General Assembly’s leadership finalized a bipartisan response Monday to the Sandy Hook school massacre. They scheduled a vote for tomorrow on a sweeping bill that imposes new restrictions on the purchase and ownership of firearms and ammunition in Connecticut.
The deal will create the nation’s first gun-offender registry, require universal background checks for all gun purchases and ban the future sale of large-capacity ammo magazines. Magazines now legally owned will have to be registered with the state.
In a upbeat press conference, leaders of both parties said no further gun legislation is anticipated this session, though lawmakers are open to further action addressing school security and mental health issues. The bill establishes a School Safety Infrastructure Council that will develop safety standards for school building projects.
The legislation will expand the state’s existing assault weapons law, applying the ban to an estimated 100 new weapons. It creates a new crime of the illegal possession of ammunition.
Robert Crook, who represents sportsmen at the Capitol, said most of the legislation would be a burden to sports shooters, while doing little for public safety. He said the universal background checks, even for private sales, were a good idea, even though they are opposed by the National Rifle Association.
The bill also addresses the related issues of school security and mental health. It requires the state insurance department to evaluate and report on its method for determining compliance with state and federal laws regarding coverage of mental health treatment.
Meantime, in Washington, the Senate has received an N.R.A. proposal to place armed guards in every school in the country. With the Senate set to debate gun control legislation next week, the National Rifle Association on Tuesday made good on its promise to develop a plan to train and arm security guards at every school in the nation.
As Congress moves closer to an overhaul of federal immigration policy, a dozen local pro-immigrant activists sat in at Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro’s office in downtown New Haven today to press her to speak out more forcefully on the issue, and especially on one case. WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports.
Listen here:
The tumult at the Bridgeport Board of Education, which runs over 30 schools and is the State’s largest second-largest district, continues with a new court challenge.
The State deposed the elected Board three years ago, and replaced it with a five-member board chosen by the State Department of Education, but that action was overturned by the Courts last year.
The appointed Board then selected Paul Valla to be Superintendent . However, State law requires superintendents to meet certain standards, including completion of a training program to be developed by the 11-member State Board of Education. Valla was given one year to pass the course, which he was unable to do since such a course was never developed, and was hired on a probationary basis.
Fifteen months having passed, the appointed Bridgeport Board of Education gave Mr. Valla a three-year contract at an annual salary at over $230,000 . That action is now the subject of a new lawsuit which declares Mr. Valla of not being qualified, despite the fact he formerly led the New Orleans, Chicago, and Philadelphia schools. The suit asks that Superintendent be removed forthwith.
The deadline to apply for the affordable rental apartments in downtown Riverhead has been extended to May 1.
Summerwind, 52 the four-story residential/commercial building under construction on Peconic Avenue, will house a Bridgehampton National Bank financial services center, restaurants and 52 units of housing.
The apartments offered are efficiency, one-bedroom and two-bedroom rental units. The apartments will remain affordable in perpetuity.
The units will be affordable to households earning up to 120 percent of the area median income, with half of the units being affordable to households earning up to 80 percent of the area median income. Rents for efficiency and one-bedroom units are expected to range from about 900 to 1300 dollars depending on tenants income. Two Bedroom units will rent for about 1600 dollars.
County Executive Steve Bellone said. “Providing additional housing options for our local workforce is critical to continue the revitalization of this up and coming downtown.”
Bellone said the Long Island Housing Partnership will screen applicants and conduct a lottery. Details are available by calling the Long Island Housing Partnership at 631-435-4710. An application can also be downloaded from the Suffolk County website.
Monday, April 1
The families of victims’ of the Newtown shooting spoke to reporters at the capitol in Hartford this morning.
They were forceful about their desire to see 30 round magazines banned.
Nicole Hockley, the mother of Dylan, one of the victims said, “We specifically want an up or down vote on the banning of these large capacity magazines. No grandfathering clause”
Search warrants from state prosecutors confirmed that 154 bullets were fired in less than five minutes killing 20 children and six educators.
William Sherlach, the husband of the school psychologist, said he wonders what would have happened if the gunman was forced to reload 15 times with smaller magazines than the six times he reloaded the 30 round magazines.
He said lawmakers must ban even existing high capacity magazines because if they don’t they’re “leaving a gaping loophole… By not closing that loophole, people will be able to purchase high capacity magazines in other states and bring them back to Connecticut and claim they owned them prior to the ban.
Gun groups have argued that forcing them to give up their high-capacity magazine constitutes confiscation of property they purchased while it was legal.
Lawmakers were to meet behind closed-doors this afternoon to discuss the various proposals. At the end. Sen. John McKinney, the Fairfield Republican, said he believes it will be the most “comprehensive package” of gun legislation in the country.
Connecticut State Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo reported a $91 million deficit Monday in the state’s chief operating fund. That’s a $40 million improvement from the shortfall projected one month ago. That change is due largely to an unanticipated surge in estate tax receipts.
But the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) also is tracking improvement in the state’s fiscal outlook, both in terms of rising revenues and shrinking expenditures.
OFA analysts are projecting a $50 million deficit in the general fund, a reduction from the $128 million shortfall the office projected one month ago.
Both Lembo and legislative analysts noted that more fiscal improvement could be seen in the coming months if income tax filings around the April 15 deadline show more economic growth statewide.
Lembo said.”Connecticut’s economy is showing signs of a moderate, but steady, recovery,”
The Albany Times-Union reports that an advocacy organization created to support Governor Andrew Cuomo’s agenda was the state’s top lobbying group in 2012. The information comes from the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE)
The Committee to Save New York is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation created with the governor’s blessing just after his election in 2010.
Next on JCOPE’s top-spenders list is the Exxon Mobil Corporation, which spent most of its $2.1 million on print advertising to boost the natural gas technique known as hydrofracking. Major League Soccer spent 2.1 million in support of an attempt to build a stadium on New York City parkland in Queens.
Others on the list include the United Federation of Teachers, Wall Mart Stores, Inc, The New York Hospital Association and the civil service union AFSCME as well as other unions.
Here’s more on lobbying and the controversy about fracking in New York State.
The pro-fracking Independent Oil and Gas Association filed a complaint with the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics, asking it to look into the apparent failure of Artists Against Fracking, an organization that includes Yoko Ono and her son Sean Lennon, to file as a lobbying organization.
AAFs activity includes ad buys and the release of a video for the environ-Freudian freak-folk song “Don’t Frack My Mother”.
A statement from AAF says “Yoko and Sean, as true with many New Yorkers, have expressed concerns about fracking, participated in the submission of comments to the Department of Environmental Conservation, and visited Albany with their own resources. As such, neither Yoko, Sean, nor their “Artists Against Fracking” endeavor have been required to be registered lobbyists. If there is a need to register, of course that will occur.”

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