Monday, July 1, 2013

July 2013

Wednesday, July 31

In response to a letter received last week, the Sandy Hook Community Foundation has begun its own internal review of donor intent.

The letter, from U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, called for an independent audit of the $11.4 million donated in response to the Sandy Hook shootings.

An independent audit is one of the options being considered by the foundation.

Foundation board member Charles Herrick said Tuesday, “We are certainly willing to have more review but we have to work on a process that's mutually agreeable to everyone. ,,,,These reviews can be a very involved process and we are trying to figure out the best way of doing that."

Concerns have been raised in recent months about how the foundation determined that $7.7 million of the donations would be distributed among the 40 families most affected by the shootings.

Some family members of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook shootings have been critical of the foundation's disbursement process as well as the amounts to be given to the families.


The Department of Social Services reported saving $2.6 million from April to July by investigating applicants of social benefit programs.

But that’s a fraction of the spending the department will be expected to avoid in the next two fiscal years.

The budget reduces Medicaid expenditures by $169 million over two years in anticipation of consultant groups identifying “patterns of waste, fraud and abuse in government programs.”

Benjamin Barnes, Governor Malloy’s budget director, said the savings can be realized, but outright fraud is only a piece of the puzzle. He said there are a number of other inappropriate payments” the state can avoid to achieve the savings.

Barnes said a consultant is already working with the Social Services Department to identify trends pointing to errors in Medicaid billing systems. The state is currently accepting bids on a consulting contract to recognize systematic overpayments in other areas.

Newsday reports: On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that greatly expands casino gambling in New York -- including creating one new video-slot machine parlor apiece in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Each would have a maximum of 1,000 video lottery terminals.

Both counties had strongly backed a gambling bill as a way to boost county finances.
The plan authorizes four upstate casinos, which must also win approval in a statewide referendum this fall.

Both Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano [man-GAN-o]  and Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone [ beh-LONE] lauded the legislation as benefiting Long Island by keeping millions of dollars  at home and funding school and municipal services and creating jobs.  Cuomo has touted the plan as a way to boost the upstate economy.

Residents and officials generally praised Brookhaven's latest Carmans River protection plan  at a public hearing Tuesday night.

But critic MaryAnn Johnston, of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization, said the plan does not make clear how the town will prevent development in the environmentally sensitive watershed. 

The new plan calls for the town to purchase vacant private land along the 10-mile river and impose new zoning to restrict development there.

A key element of the proposal is state legislation expanding the protected Central Pine Barrens region to include 3,875 acres along the river.   The bill is awaiting Governor  Cuomo’s approval.

Councilwoman Connie Kepert endorsed the plan.  Vivian Viloria-Fisher, the Democratic challenger to Republican Supervisor Edward Romaine, and Kevin McDonald of the Nature Conservancy, supported the plan with reservations.

The East Moriches Property Owners Association said the plan was a "good faith effort" to protect the river, but questioned the town's financing plan for purchasing vacant land. 

The hearing was attended by fewer than 50 people.

Supervisor Romaine said he will ask the town board to accept written comments about the plan through August. Another public hearing will be held in September or October, and the board is expected to vote on the plan in November.

Tuesday, July 30 

Governor Dannel Malloy along with other state and federal officials celebrated a milestone Monday in the ongoing $2 billion overhaul of I-95 through New Haven.

The complete replacement of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, also known as the Q Bridge, is ahead-of-schedule and under-budget.

The new bridge is half-done, and since Friday is carrying all highway traffic in both directions.. 
The state closed the old bridge’s last lanes Friday. It diverted traffic, for now, onto the already-completed northbound lanes of the new Q bridge. For now, three lanes travel northbound, three southbound, on the completed portion of the new bridge.

The original plan for the new bridge called for Including light-rail. State Department of Transportation commissioner Jim Redeker told reporters  that the light rail option was dropped in lieu of Shore Line East which was expanded.
Connecticut lawmakers are urging their colleagues in New York to consider legislation that requires labeling for genetically modified food.
Connecticut was the first state to move toward labeling such food, but the labeling requirement won’t go into effect here until certain triggers are met.
Connecticut needs four states, including one neighboring state, to pass labeling legislation. The four states must have a combined population of 20 million. Neighboring New York has a population of more than 19 million.
Two Connecticut legislators submitted testimony to the New York Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection, which held an informational hearing today.

GMO legislation failed to pass in the New York legislature this past year. The legislature doesn’t reconvene until January.  Supporters have plenty of time to work on the legislation. They have public opinion on their side. Recent polls show about 90 percent of the public in favor of labeling GMO products.


Newsday reports: Anthony Esposito of East Yaphank was diagnosed with West Nile virus, at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson on July 5.  He had suffered for a week with high fever.

But Esposito's case has still not been officially confirmed as West Nile by the state health department.  Health officials Monday said there have been no confirmed human cases in New York State so far this year.

Symptoms of the mosquito-borne virus include headache, body aches and fever, and generally show up within two weeks of a bite by an infected mosquito. Most people who become infected with West Nile virus develop no symptoms.

Some victims recover within days. Still others can get more severe symptoms, including paralysis and disorientation.
On Monday, Health Commissioner James Tomarken said that 12 more mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile virus in Suffolk County. To date this year, 16 mosquito samples and two birds have tested positive for West Nile virus.
Commissioner Tomarken,  of the Health Services department told Smithtown Patch “The confirmation of West Nile virus in a mosquito pool indicates that the virus is actively circulating within the mosquito population.  While there is no cause for alarm, we urge residents to cooperate with us in our efforts to contain the spread of the virus, which can be debilitating to humans.”

The county is asking residents to take action to eliminate areas of stagnant water, where mosquitos breed.


Newsday reports: Nearly 100 houses near Stony Brook University are suspected of being used as illegal off-campus rentals for hundreds of college students according to Brookhaven Town officials.
Since launching a crackdown earlier this year, the town has taken 68 landlords to court for allegedly renting rooms in single-family homes in Stony Brook and Setauket,

An additional 30 houses are under investigation

Supervisor Ed Romaine said most of the alleged violations involved renting without town permits.
Neighbors have complained about loud parties and other nuisances. Landlords face fines ranging from $250 to $10,000 per offense, depending on the violation; repeat offenders are fined more, and students may be evicted by court order if their landlords are convicted.

The University now requires landlords to show valid town rental permits before they are posted on the university's off-campus-housing website.

The school advises students to make sure an apartment has a valid permit before renting it. 

Monday, July 29

Governor Dannel Malloy defended his economic development policies Friday against criticism from State Senator John McKinney, a Republican seeking his party’s nomination for governor next year.

McKinney criticized Malloy policies designed to attract businesses to Connecticut through tax incentives, grants, and forgivable loans.

McKinney said in a statement. “After three years of picking winners and losers and giving away hundreds-of-millions of taxpayer dollars to big corporations already based in Connecticut, the results of Gov. Malloy’s economic policies speak for themselves: We are the only state in the nation with a shrinking economy, and our unemployment rate, at 8.1 percent, remains above the national average”

McKinney alluded to loans the administration gave to Bridgewater Associates, a large hedge fund planning to move its headquarters from Westport to Stamford. He said the state aid could have been better used by struggling small businesses.

On Friday, Malloy defended his economic record without mentioning McKinney.
Malloy said the incentives offered to businesses are based on a model that looks at a company’s potential for growth and tries to forecast how quickly the state will see a return on its investment. He said the deals pay for themselves.
Malloy said he was helping small businesses as well and the vast majority of the 900 firms aided are small businesses.

The Connecticut Bond Commission approved $537 million in borrowing to finance several road construction and maintenance projects, including repaving 250 miles of state highway.

The annual transportation allocation will help leverage $600 million in federal dollars. This brings the combined total to more than $1 billion for the various projects.

These include widening of I-84 in Waterbury between Exits 22 and 25A, the continuation of the Q-Bridge construction project on I-95 in New Haven, and rehabilitation or replacement of more than 40 bridges.
Environmental protesters with the group were arrested after they blockaded the offices of Environmental Resources Management  or ERM in Washington DC on Friday.

The group included 54 elders, young people and others, including some from Connecticut.

ERM is the State Department contractor hired to assess the environmental impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The firm has come under scrutiny following the recent news it failed to disclose financial ties to the tar sands industry in Canada.

In a statement, said the action was taken "to expose ERM’s corruption and conflicts of interest in having contractual relationships with Big Oil."

The East Hampton Star reports most of the 100 formerly full time employees at the local Waldbaum’s supermarket have had their hours cut.  

The cuts which started in April saw reductions of 20 hours a week or more.
In the months since, many workers have been scrambling to find second and third jobs in order to make ends meet.

An increasing number of businesses country-wide are relying on part-time workers in place of full-timers,

Starting in January businesses with 50 or more employees working more than 30 hours a week will be required to provide affordable health insurance or face steep fines. Before the law takes effect, many businesses are switching to a part-time workforce. 

Richard Abondolo, president of Local 342, the union that represents Waldbaum’s East Hampton.employees said the union recently filed a group grievance against the store. They are proceeding with arbitration. Hearings scheduled for August and September.

Waldbaum’s is owned by the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co., the A&P. Shariff Duncan of A&P’s media office declined The Star’s multiple interview requests.

Meanwhile shoppers at the supermarket’s Southampton location have discovered that the store has hired several visiting foreign workers including 3 Chinese nationals. 

In previous years Waldbaum’s employed youth from various Long Island towns who were bussed in to augment the staff during the busy summer months.


Newsday reports: Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the LIPA re-structuring bill today. The bill turns over management of Long Island’s power grid to Newark, New Jersey based PSEG.

It shrinks the LIPA staff to 20 and its board to nine trustees. LIPA trustees will still approve rates, but rate reviews and other oversight functions will be turned over to a new Long Island branch of the state Department of Public Service, which will also field consumer complaints about the utility.

Friday, July 26

Paul Vallas will remain in charge of the city school system until the Connecticut Supreme Court acts on the appeal of his qualifications to hold office.
The ruling to reinstate a stay removed by the trial court came Thursday, just hours after the Supreme Court received an 11-page statement from Kevin Smith and Norman Pattis, attorneys representing those fighting to remove Vallas.

The Hartford Courant reports that a low-interest $20 million loan from the state of Connecticut has enabled NBC Sports to expand its facilities in Stamford. The loan is forgivable if NBC Sports creates at least 200 new jobs in five years and invests at least $100 million.

Over the past six months, NBC Sports has consolidated four former locations from three Northeast states to the Stamford facility. More than 500 employees now work there.
The broadcaster already had more than a hundred employees in Stamford when the state announced the development deals in October 2011.

The First Five program, administered by the state Department of Economic and Community Development, supports large companies that are willing to both invest at least $25 million in an expansion and create at least 200 new jobs within five years.

Companies in the program include Bridgewater Associates, a hedge fund that received $100 million dollars to move its headquarters 12 miles from Westport to Stamford.   

South Windsor's Ticketnetwork, withdrew from the program after its chief executive was arrested.

New York State is making available $200 million in federal funds to health care, social services and mental health groups to cover expenses resulting from superstorm Sandy. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that the groups can apply for the funding made available through a supplemental social services block grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Representatives of voluntary health and human services agencies were meeting today in Bethpage partly to discuss applying for the funds. Many agencies went through their funding in the immediate aftermath of Sandy, but continue to provide services.

North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman has been appointed by Governor Cuomo as the storm recovery czar for Long Island.

Kaiman will serve as special adviser for Long Island Storm Recovery as part of the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program that Cuomo introduced Thursday at a news conference in Albany.

In the role, Kaiman will be the liaison between Cuomo and Sandy-affected areas of Long Island, and will coordinate state support for communities under the program, according to the governor's office.
Kaiman's term as supervisor expires at the end of the year. It is not clear whether he will step down as Supervisor to take the new position. 

A group of Long Island farmers are taking steps to cut fertilizer use — and still ensure sustainable crop yields in order to protect the water supply. 

The water-quality improvement projects are part of a program being offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, American Farmland Trust, and AgFlex, a private company that minimizes farmers' risks when adopting new conservation practices.

With nitrogen loaded waters a critical issue on the East End, concerns have been raised about the quality of drinking water, as well as protecting the Peconic Estuary and the Long Island Sound.

Of the 35 farmers farmers participating in the program, 16 sweet corn and potato farmers are testing a new controlled-release fertilizer, which is designed to break down over time, according to the plant’s need for nutrients.  Conventional fertilizers can dissolve during heavy rains and enter local water supplies.

On Saturday, the Riverhead Foundation is set to release five sea turtles back into the wild — they are the first rehabilitated turtles to be set free this season. 

The turtles,will be sent off at the Ponquogue Beach in Hampton Bays at 6 p.m. 

The turtles all arrived at the foundation after they were found over the winter suffering from profound cold stunning otherwise known as hypothermia.
Thursday, July 25
Connecticut’s first microgrid power projects have been announced.

A microgrid is a mini-power grid. When the power from the main grid goes out, the microgrid automatically turns on and can operate independently.

Nine projects  were approved as part of a pilot project conceived after storms in 2011 left large swaths of the state without power for more than a week. Services such as food providers, gas stations and pharmacies could not operate. 

The goal is to keep essential services running during future power outages and  to use cleaner energy sources.

Some of the projects approved rely at least partially on less-than-clean diesel or natural gas generators. Only two use fuel cells. Three use small solar arrays in conjunction with other fuel sources.
Bridgeport, Fairfield, Windham and Woodbridge were approved for systems that handle public buildings and other facilities such as cell towers. The sub base at Groton was also awarded a project.
The pilot project provided grants totaling about $18 million for anything except the actual generation equipment – which is the most expensive part of any project.
The legislature approved another $30 million for more microgrid projects in the last session. 

The state Department of Public Health will monitor Surgical Center CT of Bridgeport for two years in connection with flaws inspectors found in record-keeping, cleanliness, radiology, fire safety and post-surgery care.

In March, the center failed to document whether it had evaluated patients after surgery to make sure they were not dehydrated, vomiting or suffering respiratory or cardiac problems. The center also failed to document which staff member administered anesthesia in some cases.

Reviews of the center’s records show that patients were not routinely shielded from radiation when X-rays were taken. The center said it would stop using the equipment until all appropriate guidelines are in place for shielding patients. Other deficiencies were cited.
A Coast Guard helicopter team rescued John Aldridge, a Montauk commercial fisherman, about 40 miles south of Montauk. He survived for hours in the ocean, using his boots as a flotation device. He had fallen overboard from the vessel Anna Mary. 

He was in the Atlantic Ocean for nearly 12 hours before being rescued Wednesday, more than 40 miles from where he had fallen overboard. 

A type of algae which can be toxic to humans, pets and wildlife has appeared on Mill Pond in Water Mill and Lake Agawam in Southampton.

Last year, a blue-green algae bloom was found in East Hampton’s Georgica Pond. 

A dog that died after drinking water there tested positive for cyanobacteria.  

Blue-green algae blooms often occur in water bodies with high levels of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen. Low water flow, and warm temperatures are contributing factors.

Mill Pond and Lake Agawam,have had similar blooms in the past, and this year the outbreaks are large. 

Mill Pond is surrounded by homes built directly on the water. 

In late April, the Southampton Trustees initiated an experimental treatment of Mill Pond to reduce phosphorus, which was blamed for a 2008 fish kill there. 

A mineral called Phoslock that absorbs phosphorus was applied.
After several days of rain earlier this month, the bloom re-appeared, but has lessened  which is attributed to Phoslock. 
The Cole Brothers Circus came to town in Southampton and Greenport this week, along with a group protesting the circus.  

Wednesday, a small group of animal advocates, Long Island Orchestrating for Nature, or LION, were at the Polo Grounds in Greenport to protest the conditions under which animals are allegedly kept in the circus.
The group has been protesting at each of the  Cole Brothers Circus' scheduled dates, including performances held at the Shinnecock Reservation earlier this week. 

According to the group’s president, John  Di Leonardo “The circus has been cited for multiple violations of the USDA Animal Welfare Act, including failure to provide adequate shelter for animals, physical abuse of elephants and other animals, and endangering the public, resulting in multiple deaths, including a New York resident.” 

Renee Storey, a Vice President of the Cole Brothers Circus. said  
"There is a lot of misinformation concerning Cole Brothers Circus' record concerning animal welfare,"  She said  Cole Brothers.has never been found to have violated any animal welfare law or found to have mistreated elephants."
Wednesday, July 24

Connecticut’s health insurance rates offered through the Affordable Care Act will be released next week. and Kevin Counihan, Access Health CT CEO, has asked for more truth in reporting.
Last week’s New York Times front page article states that health insurance rates for individuals in New York State will go down by 50 percent under the Affordable Care Act.  But, Counihan points out that because there are no restrictions for pre-existing conditions, consumers with illnesses will tend toward purchasing coverage, thus causing premiums to rise.

Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said Monday that rates offered in the exchange will continue to vary on a state-by-state basis. She pointed out that when purchasing insurance coverage through a state health care exchange, federal tax credits will be available. A person who makes less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level — which is $94,200 for a family of four — will receive a subsidy from the federal government.

In his presentation to insurance executives Tuesday, Counihan also pointed to California, where he worked briefly before coming to Connecticut.

California announced in May that their rates were going down 28 percent under Obamacare, but they were comparing the individual market to the existing small group market, according to Counihan.

The Access Health CT Board of Directors is expected to learn from actuaries what the cost of the Connecticut exchange’s plans may be at its special meeting on Tuesday, July 30.
Five companies have submitted plans to the state Insurance Department for review.
Now that the Supreme Court has struck down DOMA, the Cuomo Administration announced that married gay, lesbian, and transgender people whose spouses have passed away can apply for estate tax refunds that had previously been unavailable, The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) case started with a lesbian woman in New York City, Edie Windsor, who went
to court to get a refund on the estate tax paid after her spouse died in 2009. She filed a similar claim with New York State.
Governor Cuomo said, “As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, New York State is now able to issue refund checks to qualified same-sex spouses who were required to pay taxes for no reason other than their sexual orientation.”
New York State became the largest state to achieve marriage equality in June 2011 with the passage of its Marriage Equality Act. This prompted the Tax Department to define that the Act takes effect for the estates of decedents who died on or after July 24, 2011. This treatment now also applies to estates of individuals married to same-sex spouses who died prior to July 24, 2011.

As reported by the Suffolk Times: Critics of Greenport’s proposed rent regulations for residential properties continued to speak out against the proposal at a second public hearing on the issue Monday night.

Landlords repeatedly called the plan racist and unnecessarily restrictive.
Robert Jarosak, owner of the 16 rental unit Ludlum Place, says the law as written discriminates against

Mr. Jarosak said he  typically leased to Latino families during his seven years as the property owner. He said sometimes the family consists of three close-knit couples,“So if I lease to six people in a three bedroom apartment now I am a criminal.”

Under the draft law a family is defined as two or more persons related by blood and up to five persons not related by blood occupying a dwelling and living together as a traditional family.

Village officials say the code would help eliminate illegal apartments, which lead to excessive traffic, parking problems, a strain on municipal services and general public health and safety concerns, but critics say the way the law penalizes landlords is excessive.
Another Greenport landlord, James Linkowitz, said he favored strengthening criteria for rental housing to prevent overcrowding and unsafe living conditions, but said that the provisions in the draft law are extreme. He suggested the board meet with members of the housing community to create a safe and fair law.

Members closed the public hearing with plans to discuss the proposal at the next work session.
Tuesday, July 23

Last month, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to pass a bill requiring labels on genetically modified foods.

Governor Malloy signed the bill into law on June 25, but the law requires that 4 nearby states enact similar legislation.  One of these must share a border with Connecticut.  Also the combined population of the northeastern states that enact GMO-labeling laws must total more than 20 million.
Maine, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island are specified. Most of these have been unable to get their legislation passed.
Maine was the only state to pass a GMO-labeling bill this year.

But Maine Governor Paul LePage has said he will not sign it until the next legislative session because of “concerns about its constitutionality”.
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, citing the US Commerce clause, says a state-level GMO-labeling bill unlawfully attempts to pre-empt food regulation by the federal government.
Vermont’s GMO  labeling law passed the state House of Representatives and will be taken up by the Senate when it reconvenes in January.
In New York - Senator. Kenneth Lavalle of Port Jefferson sponsored the Senate’s version of a GMO labeling bill, but it never made it to the Consumer Protection Committee.
The Assembly’s bill was killed when it went to a vote in committee.
The Assembly committee will hold a public hearing on July 30 to hear testimony about the bill, The New York General Assembly reconvenes in January. 

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney announced his entry into the 2014 Connecticut governor’s race with a press release Tuesday morning.

McKinney, a Fairfield Republican, said he has filed the necessary paperwork to establish a candidate committee and is beginning to seek donations to qualify for the state’s public financing system.

The Suffolk County Water Authority says public water usage hit an all-time high of 8,790 gallons per minute in Southold Town on Monday morning, as reported by the Suffolk Times.
The water authority set a county-wide record last Friday, pumping 533,000 gallons per minute, besting last July’s record of 523,400 gallons per minute.
The SCWA, which provides public drinking water to nearly 1.2 million people in Suffolk, said it has a sufficient water supply, but is urging customers to use it prudently.

Monday Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone revised his controversial plan to merge the elected positions of comptroller and treasurer. He is reducing the number of jobs it would cut to 5 and the amount of money it would save to 833 thousand dollars as reported by Newsday.
Under one change, all five job eliminations would come from the office of Republican Treasurer Angie Carpenter, who opposes the merger. The staff of GOP Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, who backs the proposal, would remain.
Bellone, a Democrat, initially said consolidating the offices of Sawicki and Carpenter would save $1 million a year by eliminating seven management jobs in the two departments.
Carpenter, who lost to Bellone in the 2011 county executive race, has called the merger "political," and said it would imperil the treasurer's "checks and balances" over finances. Many speakers echoed her.
A legislative committee will consider Bellone's resolution on Thursday.

Monday, July 22

Connecticut's two U.S. senators, Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, announced their support for President Obama's push for action on climate disruption at a Friday press conference at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. They were joined by several speakers who addressed related labor, public health and national security concerns. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus was there:

Blumenthal said the problem is growing beyond fixing if major steps aren't taken in the short term. Murphy said Congressional inaction is not an option, as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has topped 400 parts per million for the first time in three million years and the earth could be 8 degrees warmer by the end of this century if nothing is done.

John Harrity, president of the state council of machinists, also spoke.

Harrity: 'The first thing I would like to say, not as a labor rep but as a parent and as a citizen of the world is climate change is going to be the most important issue of our lives'.

Harrity went on to say that addressing climate disruption could provide jobs and it's not an either/or proposition.

Blumenthal said he thinks bi-partisan support for action is fast approaching, though others are more skeptical.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
The legislature declined Monday to override any of Governor Malloy’s vetoes this session despite some consternation over his rejection of a bill impacting the acquisition of Waterbury Hospital.
The bill would have made it easier for Vanguard, a for-profit company, to acquire the hospital. It cleared both chambers June 5 at the close of the legislative session.
Malloy vetoed the legislation this month, saying the changes required more scrutiny. But proponents of the bill accused him of bending to the labor unions who lobbied against it.
As Governor Malloy and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal looked on, the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan was launched into the waters of the Mystic River Sunday at Mystic Seaport. The ship had undergone a 5 year restoration funded in part by $500,000 from the state. 

It was re-christened by Sarah Bullard, a descendant of the original owner Charles Morgan.
The ship had an  80-year whaling career sailing the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.


Newsday reports: New York State's action plan for spending $1.7 billion in federal Housing and Urban Development grants for disaster recovery includes funds aimed at giving Long Islanders a say in making their communities more resilient to withstand future storms.

Nearly $194 million from the first installment of Community Development Block Grant money -- appropriated for recovery from storms Sandy, Irene and Lee -- will go to 20 Community Reconstruction Zones, on Long Island.

Thursday in Albany, county executives Edward Mangano and Steve Bellone are to gather with Governor Cuomo, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and other officials for a daylong conference that will focus on ways to redesign communities, strengthen resiliency and contribute to New York's effort to build back smarter before extreme weather events.

Communities from Long Beach to Mastic Beach will receive grant money for planning of projects and activities.

Also, in June, Cuomo announced his support of a $700 million project that will upgrade natural and man-made storm protections from Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point.

The project provides for a range of measures – including beach rebuilding, dune construction, road raising, home elevations and other erosion-control steps.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is calling on President Obama to direct all federal agencies under his control to adopt a marriage “Place of Celebration” standard.

This would require federal agencies and programs to recognize all valid same-sex marriages, regardless of the current residence of the same-sex spouses.

The Graduate Arts program at the Southampton campus of Stony Brook University  received a gift of $1 million. 

The money comes from Southampton resident and Stony Brook Foundation Trustee Dorothy Lichtenstein, the widow of the artist Roy Lichtenstein.

Friday, July 19

Connecticut’s unemployment rate inched up in June to 8.1 percent from 8 percent in the past 4 months.
The unemployment rate is still down from last June when it was around 8.5 percent. 

The state did see an increase in employment but just by 500 jobs. The job gain marks the fourth monthly increase in a row and the fifth monthly gain in the first six months of 2013.

The New York State unemployment rate in June was 7.5 percent — the lowest seasonally adjusted monthly jobless rate since 2009.

The national unemployment rate stayed stagnant at 7.6 percent from May to June..

These figures do not include those who have stopped seeking work. The actual unemployment rate may be double those numbers. 
The unemployment rate for veterans is about 32 percent and more vets are expected to be coming home as the war in Afghanistan winds down.

Governor Malloy staged a ceremonial signing of a jobs bill for veterans on Thursday that passed by the legislature with unanimous support.

The bill expands coverage in an existing jobs plan to more vets and more businesses.
The $10 million program helps place veterans with private employers, who receive a subsidy from the state during the first six months of employment. The hope is that employers will continue to employ the veteran after the subsidy runs out.

Newtown Patch reports: The House of Representatives failed to authorize additional funds for the re-building of the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown sought by Representative Elizabeth Esty and other congressional representatives.  

As reported yesterday, $50 million in state aid is available and must be approved by Newtown voters in an October referendum.  Also an initial expenditure of $750 thousand must be approved by voters this month.


A deal to sell Bethel's water rights to a private company, Aquarion, was roundly defeated by voters Tuesday.

First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker released a plan for needed work on the town’s water supply including completing the South Street pump station at a cost of up to $500,000.


Victor Yannacone, the activist lawyer who led the fight to ban the "insecticide DDT , now has a new target in his crosshairs: the Long Island Power Authority.

Yannacone will take issue with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's recently  approved plan to turn over nearly full control of LIPA to New Jersey utility, PSEG. The talk is part of a broader discussion on the future of LIPA and possible alternatives scheduled by the business group Long Island Metro-Business Action.

In place of the governor's plan, Yannacone is calling for a new structure that makes LIPA a fully ratepayer-owned, not-for-profit public utility answerable only to ratepayers.

A spokesman for Cuomo said the governor was "the only one to put forward a real plan to change the utility and institute desperately needed reforms," and noted the bill "went through a public review process and was passed by the legislature."

Under Yannacone's idea, trustees of the fully ratepayer-owned utility would be elected by ratepayers and make power and management decisions with the sole purpose of improving service and lowering rates -- without a profit motive.

LIPA's nearly $7 billion in debt would be renegotiated with bondholders

Cuomo last month pushed through a bill in the state legislature that vastly reduces LIPA's role and limits its authority.
Ernie Fazio, executive director of LIMBA, the group hosting Yannacone, said he plans to support Yannacone's plan. He said "Enough of politicians making deals that taxpayers and ratepayers have to pay for,"

“Measure twice, cut once,” was some of the advice that Governor Andrew Cuomo gave earlier to communities trying to rebuild after recent floods and Hurricanes Sandy, Irene and Lee.

Cuomo hosted local leaders from around the state as well as HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan for a day-long storm rebuilding conference in Albany yesterday. Planners from various regions across the state discussed how they can best rebuild with an eye toward a climatologically uncertain future.

The conference also provided an occasion to put out details of the federal/state rebuilding efforts which will offer a total of $750 million in 102 communities.

The Governor also announced the appointment of Jon Kaiman, North Hempstead Town Supervisor, as Special Advisor for Long Island Storm Recovery.
Thursday July 18

In May, Newtown officials voted to demolish and rebuild Sandy Hook Elementary School in its current location. The new building would feature a retooled entrance. The old building is scheduled for demolition in November.
A town meeting to approve a state-funded $750,000 appropriation is set for July 24 by the Legislative Council.
A referendum in the fall would allow the town to accept $50 million set aside by the state for reconstruction.
First Selectman Pat Llodra told Newtown Patch there's "no easy answer" as to what would happen if Newtown accepted the $750,000 and the fall referendum failed. The original appropriation would already be spent.
Llodra said "We're on a very tight construction schedule in the hopes we'll have the school ready for use by the 2016 school year," 

Should residents reject the initial appropriation at the July 24 town meeting, Llodra said the town would stop the project,"

Funds from both appropriations would be covered by the state, not Newtown taxpayers. But town charter requires a referendum on sums of $10 million or larger, no matter the source.

The number of inmates in Connecticut prisons increasing.
On July 1, the Correction Department housed about 17,000 prisoners, 500 more than predicted.
Michael Lawlor, Governor Malloy’s criminal justice adviser, said inmate numbers have expanded because fewer prisoners are being paroled.

The parole process has slowed as a result of recently implemented policies, which were passed after a 2007 Cheshire home invasion when three people were murdered. Both the men convicted of that crime had been on parole for less serious crimes like breaking and entering.
Unions representing the state’s correction workers have warned of prison overcrowding. In 2011, they tried to get a court to reopen a closed prison over concerns that inmates were being housed in prison gymnasiums.
AFSCME Local 1565 President Luke Leone agreed with Lawlor that the state could likely absorb the recent bump in prisoners by utilizing recently-renovated unused prison facilities.
Over 110 people packed Riverhead town hall Tuesday night for a public hearing about a draft document paving the way for development at Enterprise Park at Calverton, a 2,400-acre site on Route 25.

The document lays out potentially significant adverse impacts of the project in the future – including water quality, infrastructure, socioeconomics, traffic and more. It also lays out initial steps to be taken to mitigate impacts and paves the way for a final impact statement to come.
Comments in written form and expressed at the meeting came from government and civic groups, including the Group for the East End and the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition. A spokesperson for the latter cited concerns that the fast-track permitting process could open the door to unwanted projects. But members of the carpenters’ union spoke in favor of moving ahead on development of the site, citing the opportunity for jobs.
As reported by, Riverhead Town received a $567,000  grant from New York State to redevelop its transportation network in a more sustainable fashion. The network could include improved pedestrian access and a bicycle sharing plan that could change the way people travel downtown. Planners will prepare a study of a 452-acre area of downtown that includes 18 vacant sites along East and West Main Street including all of downtown.

The project will explore different modes of transportation and connections between them in an effort to make it easier for people to use the public transportation network.
Tying into the public transit plan, the bike and pedestrian plan will focus on a potential bike sharing program, like the one recently instituted in New York City. It will also analyze the possibility of a continuous walkway along the Peconic River.
Transportation is just the first component of the study, which will look at redevelopment of downtown as a whole. The planners are launching a website,, which will have more details as the study continues. Sustainable Long Island, a participant in the planning process, is looking for public input on the project. Interested persons may with their names, email addresses and phone numbers in order to receive updates.
Wednesday, July 17

Bridgeport schools’ 21,000 students and their teachers may head back to the classrooms this fall without a clear leader.
Connecticut’s Supreme Court chief justice announced Tuesday that the court will hear the case of ousted Bridgeport School Superintendent Paul Vallas.  Last month a lower court ruled Vallas was not eligible to run the state’s largest public school system.
The clerks for Chief Justice Chase Rogers informed the lawyers involved that she would need to hear "compelling reasons and specifics for not assigning this case during the September term," from  September 16 to 27.
A court decision as to whether Vallas is able to stay in office while this legal battle plays out is expected by early August as lawyers for both sides are to submit arguments by the end of July.
Carmen Lopez, who filed the lawsuit to oust Vallas, said Tuesday that she believes the high court will rule in her favor.
Newtown Patch reports: Governor Malloy is asking for an independent third party to handle what's left of the $11.5 million in the Newtown school shooting fund.
None of the $7.7 million has been given out yet due to a battle with the Sandy Hook Community Foundation over the amount the families will get, how much goes to the community, and the process being used for disbursement of the funds.
The Governor would not preclude the victims from getting more money but he said:
"This is not about the money. This is about how it's distributed and how that decision-making process is carried out…”

The New York Times reports:

New Yorkers buying health insurance on their own will see their premiums tumble next year as changes under the new federal health care law, the Affordable Care Act take effect.

State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available.

Beginning in October, 17,000 New York City residents who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower.
Supporters of the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, credit the drop in rates to the online purchasing exchanges the law created, spurring competition among insurers anticipating an influx of new customers.
About 2.6 million are uninsured in New York State.
The plans to be offered on the exchanges all meet certain basic requirements, as laid out in the law, but are in four categories from most generous to least: platinum, gold, silver and bronze. Monthly fees for the silver plan will range from about $55 a month for those with annual income of $17000 to $145 a month for annual income of $25,000.
The least expensive plans may not offer wide access to hospitals and doctors.
Seventeen years ago today a Boeng 747 carrying 230 passengers plummeted into the ocean off East Moriches Long Island. 

As family and friends of those killed onboard TWA Flight 800 gather tonight at a memorial in Smith Point County Park a documentary, questioning investigators' findings about the crash will be broadcast on cable TV.

A four-year investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the cause was an accidental fuel tank explosion. It ruled out a bomb or missile as the cause despite accounts from those who saw what appeared to be a missile approaching the aircraft.

Reporter Jerry Cimisi writing in the weekly “Dan’s Papers” quotes FBI witness Mike Wire who observed the disaster from a beach parking lot at Westhampton. Mr. Wire saw a streak of light rise up from behind nearby houses and the subsequent explosion.

Wire thinks his testimony was distorted to bolster the conclusions of the government’s report.

In the 90 minute documentary. “TWA Flight 800,"six former members of the official crash probe rebut the official cause and claim the investigation was systematically undermined.

The film will also be shown at Staller Center For The Arts at Stony Brook University, Saturday, July 20 at 3PM

 Monday, July 15 

Human rights activist and Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin spoke in Hartford on Saturday and New Haven on Sunday about the U.S. drone war around the world. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports from the event at New Haven's Center Church:

With fans whirring in the heat, about 60 people gathered to hear Benjamin talk about her travels to Pakistan, Yemen and other countries to see the destruction wrought by U.S. drone policy. She said only two percent of those killed by drones were on the U.S. high value target list, and while the majority of those killed were deemed "militants," that term described any male of fighting age found in the regions where drone strikes occur. In addition, hundreds of women and children have been killed. 

Benjamin: "How is that the United States gets away with going anywhere it wants; killing anyone it wants, on the basis of secret information? And what if any other country in the world were doing this to us?  It would be a declaration of war."

Benjamin noted that while Americans' support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan waned over recent years, a large majority supports drone warfare as a useful tool of counter-terrorism. She said the technology is proliferating both among other countries and within the U.S., as many police departments are testing them out. She added that opposition to their use is growing.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
In 2010 flooding along Horton Avenue, in a low lying neighborhood of Riverhead caused abandonment of the area. A $3 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency let the town buy back homes from the flood victims at pre-flood values and demolish the houses.

Now, the Riverhead News-Review reports a plan for Riverhead Town to use federal grant money to install flood-prevention measures on Horton Avenue has stalled.  A new engineering report forced the price of the project to jump nearly five times higher.

The original proposal for $600,000 worth of drainage installation was approved by the FEMA through a reimbursement grant in October 2011, 

But the town’s engineering department found that the amount of land that drains into the Horton Avenue area is nearly double what was originally estimated. That drove the price up to $2.9 million.

Because of the increased cost FEMA will require the town put more of its own money into the project.  Other ways to fund the project are being sought.

The Suffolk Times reports: A federal court has rejected a challenge by helicopter pilots that would have overturned Federal Aviation Administration rules requiring they fly a mile off Long Island’s North Shore during their trips back and forth to East Hampton Airport.
The pilots, represented by Helicopter Association International Inc., have been fighting FAA rules enacted last year.  The agency found “residents emphatically agreed that helicopter overflights during the summer months are unbearable and negatively impact their quality of life.

The 2012 rules came after years of complaints along the North Fork and Shelter Island about the noise from helicopters. 

Under the FAA’s new rules, helicopter pilots are permitted to fly inland on the North Shore only in the case of inclement weather or other emergencies. Offenders could face fines or license revocations.
According to rules established last month by East Hampton, some flights from the airport were to go to the northeast and others south over the Atlantic Ocean.

 With temperatures rising, the heat is on to find a place to stay cool. Splashing in the surf is one option:
All four Riverhead Town beaches will remain open until 7 p.m. from Monday through Friday,
according to Raymond Coyne, Superintendent of Parks and Recreation, Riverhead Recreation Department.

Friday, July 12

An army of outreach workers from all over the state gathered Thursday at New Britain High School to get their marching orders from staff at the Insurance Exchange — now called Access Health CT.

Enrollment in the virtual marketplace created by the federal health insurance law, also known as the Affordable Care Act starts this October.

An “army” of 300 part-time workers, known as Assisters will be making sure people know how to sign up. They are people who currently work for nonprofits, small businesses, faith-based organizations, libraries, unions, and health departments. They are already spreading the word about the program.
With a $1.9 million federal grant, the state is going to offer them more training and a laptop computer with wifi access so they can help enroll individuals and enter data from the field.

There are about 344,000 individuals in the state of Connecticut without health insurance and the goal of the “Assisters” is to find them and make sure they know how to enroll in the exchange — where they can’t be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition. 

Kevin Counihan, CEO of Access Health CT, estimates that they will be able to sign up about 100,000 to 130,000 individuals in the first year.
Also, on Thursday, Congressman Jim Himes announced more than $440 thousand in grants to local community health centers in the Fourth District to enroll uninsured individuals and families in new health coverage options made available by the Affordable Care Act.

The awards will go to Optimus Health Care and Southwest Community Health Center in Bridgeport, and the Norwalk Community Health Center. The funding will be used to hire additional outreach and eligibility assistance workers to help people in the region enroll in affordable health coverage.


Governor Dannel Malloy stopped at the Berlin Town Hall Thursday to announce a $259,000 grant for a street revitalization project as well as similar investments in 13 other towns.

The grants, which amount of up to $500,000 for each project, are being paid for through the state’s Main Street Investment Fund. The projects are in various stages of development and many are aimed at efforts like street and sidewalk improvements.

In Berlin, a $259 thousand grant will go to help fund an initiative aimed at improving pedestrian safety in the area surrounding the town’s train station.

At a noon press conference the governor was flanked by fellow Democrats -Berlin Mayor Adam Salina, House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, of Berlin, and Senator Terry Gerratana, of New Britain.
Malloy, who has not said whether he intends to seek re-election next year, dismissed the idea that the announcement resembled early campaigning. The governor said his re-election plans were a subject he did not want to discuss until “as late as possible.”
What in the world should Riverhead officials do with the Enterprise Park at Calverton? The so-called park, known as EPCAL is a 2124 acre area that was formerly home to Grumman Aircraft and a military air base.

The town has a new plan, though, laid out in its recently published generic environmental impact statement: - Carve it up into lots.
It calls for development in stages over decades, and highlights an intermodal hub, food processing businesses and green technology centers as possibilities for the area.

The study also calls for the preservation of certain wetlands that abut the area and creates habitats where endangered species can live and be protected.
The plan will be debated in public at Town Hall on Tuesday, July 16, 7:30 p.m.

Toshi-Aline Ohta Seeger, wife of Pete Seeger, died Tuesday at age 91.

WPKN’s Jim Motavalli wrote:

“She was Pete Seeger’s right hand for decades, his collaborator in writing songs, and his emphatic partner in progressive politics.

In fact, Toshi embodied Seeger’s treasured internationalism, having been born in Munich to an American mother and Japanese father. The family moved to the U.S., and the pair met and married in New York during the war.

Toshi kept Pete going, and she made films—her 1966 “Afro-American Work Songs in a Texas Prison” is in the archives of the Library of Congress. Pete and Toshi co-founded the Clearwater Festival, Toshi was the one who actually knew how to sail, and that helped the Clearwater get established.”
Speaking at an event Wednesday, Governor Dannel Malloy and Milford Mayor Benjamin Blake condemned a white supremacist group’s apparent attempt to organize a neighborhood watch in town. The Governor said the Klan is not welcome in the state of Connecticut

Milford police say residents found fliers in the area on Monday advertising a neighborhood watch group with the “United Klans of America” logo.

The fliers had been placed inside plastic ziplock bags and weighed down by rocks. They contained an Alabama telephone number and the group’s web address.

The Connecticut chapter of the Anti-Defamation League said the group active in Milford was unrelated to a now defunct group with the same name, the United Klans of America. That group was linked to murders, but was disbanded in the 1980s.

The ADL said they have no reason to believe that Milford residents should feel physically threatened or intimidated by the group’s presence.
The Milford police asked residents who witnessed the distribution of the fliers to contact the department.

The University of Connecticut has unveiled a $25 million water reclamation facility that will process up to 500,000 gallons of wastewater per day at the Storrs campus power plant.
The project was paid for with university funds, which the school put away over the eight-year planning process. 
It replaces the use of drinking water at UConn’s central utility plant to heat, cool, and power the campus. 
The “reclaimed” sewage water undergoes a purifying treatment before it is pumped to the university’s power grid where it is used to cool the plant’s fan turbines. Before the facility was built, “potable” - or drinkable - water was used for cooling, which expended up to 450,000 gallons of drinkable water, per day.
The facility will help to address the area’s growing water demands as the University expands.
UConn is expecting a 33 percent increase in enrollment over the next decade and will build new infrastructure, such as a technology park.
The Long Island Aquarium’s former senior aquarist Christopher Paparo has been hired as the director of Stony Brook University’s new Marine Sciences Center in Southampton.

Mr. Paparo spent more than 14 years at the Riverhead aquarium. He also served educational coordinator for the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

The new marine sciences center is run by Stony Brook’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and is slated to open this September.
The new center includes a computerized seawater circulation system, teaching and analytical labs, and quarantine and culture rooms

The 15,000-square-foot, $8.5 million facility will enable the center to expand their research program on Long Island’s bays and estuaries. It will offer more students the opportunity to learn according to the University.

Wednesday, July 10

Connecticut has missed the July 1 deadline for appointing a 17-member task force to weigh exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act.  The group was created by the legislature in response to the Newtown shootings.

The law prevents the release of any photograph or video recording that portrays the body of a homicide victim and prohibits for one year, the release of law enforcement audio recordings describing the bodies of children who are murdered.

The legislation calls for the establishment of the task force with appointments from a handful of stakeholders. They are to make recommendations on the balance between victim privacy and the public’s right to know.”

Governor Malloy’s spokesman said the administration is still reviewing candidates and expects to make appointments soon. The law asks Malloy to appoint a representative of a crime victim advocacy group and a municipal police official.
The legislation also asks the leaders of the four legislative caucuses to either serve on the task force themselves or appoint someone to work on the group in their place.

The law asks the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists to make four appointments, and its selections were made in June.
The task force must begin working no later than August 1.

An estimated multi-million dollar deficit at Connecticut’s public college system needs to be quickly closed.
The state comptroller notified college officials that more funds will need to be contributed in the coming fiscal year to cover current and retired employees' health and pension benefits,
In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the college system was required to set aside 46 percent of its payroll to cover these costs. Next year, the system must set aside 55 percent.
The community colleges and four Connecticut State Universities had been advised to budget for a 5 percent increase to cover fringe benefits, rather than the actual increase of 8.7 percent. As a result, the institutions will have to take further action once the size of the shortfall is known.
Community college presidents say the budget approved last month by the State Board of Regents already has forced them to cut programs, increase class size, and draw on the system’s rainy day funds.
Suffolk County will add 600 low-income children to its child care program after receiving a $1million increase in state funding according to Newsday.
The program helps low-income working parents pay a portion of their child care costs

Last year, Suffolk dropped more than 2,000 children from the program because of state budget cuts. This year, the county is on its way to restoring more than half of those slots.
The county plans to add another 600 children after it set aside $3.5 million in county funds for the program. This will bring the total to about 4,700 children.
Under the revised eligibility requirements, parents can make up to 150 percent of the federal poverty line, up from 125 percent as announced in April. Last year, they had to fall on or below the federal poverty line to be eligible. 

A family of four can now earn up to about $35 thousand and still qualify for child care subsidies, compared with just over $23 thousand last year.
The Patchogue Village Board has passed a moratorium on applications for new downtown construction projects that do not include adequate parking according to Newsday.
The 6-0 vote means the village will not accept applications from businesses seeking to expand or increase occupancy for up to six months, until a new strategy for parking downtown can be crafted.
Historically, the village has never required downtown businesses to find their own parking, as they were allowed to use municipal lots.

But the village's growth and increasing popularity have limited access to its roughly 2,100 parking spaces.

After six months, trustees Lori Devlin and William Hilton are expected to come up with a plan to solve the parking woes.

Possible options include having business owners pay into a parking fund or charging businesses for using a specific number of parking spaces. 

Tuesday, July 9

The National Shooting Sports Foundation filed a lawsuit Monday against Governor Dannel Malloy, legislative leaders, and other state officials for "misusing" a process called “emergency certification” when it passed the gun control bill.

The bill — which was the legislature’s response to the Dec. 14 Newtown shooting — was passed on April 4 without first going through the committee and public hearing process, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint reads that by bypassing the process the state deprived “the citizens of Connecticut of any opportunity for their voices to be communicated to the legislators and incorporated into the gun legislation."

Attorney General George Jepsen,had not been served with the lawsuit as of Tuesday around noon and so had no comment.

The new gun law passed in April increases the number of firearms that are banned in the state and limits the size of ammunition magazines. It also reduces the time an insurance company has to make a decision about whether it will cover a mental health event and increases the amount of money available for school security.


Gov. Dannel Malloy presided over a bipartisan bill-signing ceremony Monday to mark the latest in what his administration says are under-appreciated steps to reform how energy is procured, priced and delivered in Connecticut.

The ceremony reflects Malloy’s emphasis of energy policy and his administration’s belief in the political value of lower energy costs as he prepares for a re-election run in 2014. Malloy sought to clarify his support for two energy bills passed this year: one redefining how the state will purchase renewable energy, the other codifying into law the administration's comprehensive energy strategy.

Malloy promises these new laws will deliver electricity that is “cheaper, cleaner and more reliable.” But many environmentalists cast the new Renewable Portfolio Standard as a retreat from finding alternatives to fossil fuels, and charged the new comprehensive strategy overly relies on natural gas.

The new Renewable Energy Standard allows the state to use Canadian hydro-electric power to meet its goals if new alternative-energy projects are not competitive on price. Connecticut’s electric costs are among the highest in the  U.S.

Newsday reports the Southampton Town board is considering a proposal to reduce or eliminate property taxes for years on buildings constructed to a high environmental standard.
The first $1 million in value of homes and businesses would be exempt from at least a portion of town taxes for up to 10 years, if the buildings include improvements such as the use of recycled materials in construction, or using low-flush toilets.

In total, million-dollar green buildings would get tax reductions between $7 and $11 thousand dollars over 10 years. Improvements over $1 million would be taxed at the full rate.

The town held a public hearing June 25, where environmental groups, trade unions and builders praised the proposal, but some suggested the town consider raising the cap in the future.
A vote on the proposal, which would include any buildings that started construction on Jan. 1, has not been scheduled.
Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the town considered the cap carefully. "We grappled with what that limit should be," she said. "In the end, we felt it was a reasonable one."

New York State Department of Transportation crews spent most of Monday repairing a stretch of buckled roadway on busy Route 25 at the intersection with Route 347 in Lake Grove. The DOT is inspecting other roadways for potential heat damage.according to WCBS radio.
DOT spokesperson Eileen Peters says that expanding concrete beneath the road surface is the problem.  “The concrete heats to such a degree that it butts up against the next section of concrete, has no place to go, so it rises up. If you have asphalt that is laid over the concrete, the asphalt comes up with it.”
More trouble spots are expected as the heat continues.

Monday, July 8

All youth under 18 in Connecticut can access free meals at more than 500 sites around the state, in a program mostly funded by the federal government that began today. 

Income guidelines are not required because the idea is not to discourage anyone from receiving a meal, state officials said. Last year the state of Connecticut received $1.55 million to administer the program. The bulk of that or $1.3 million was used to purchase food. 
Lutenant. Gov. Nancy Wyman said there are still 100,000 children in the state who don’t know where they are getting their next meal. The feeding program is targeted to kids in summer school, but parents are encouraged to bring all their children, even if they aren't in school. 

For more information about the program or to find a site visit or call 211.


New York City fashion designer and Project Runway star Jack Mackenroth says “It’s not obvious to today’s young people that HIV can kill them.”

Hoping to help, Mackenroth, who was diagnosed as HIV positive 24 years ago, is using his star power to attract those who are vulnerable to a unique health care center in Norwalk. 

He is promoting the Circle Care Center, which provides care to the LGBT community and held a ribbon-cutting today (Monday). Mackenroth emphasized the need for testing and follow-up treatment for those who have HIV. The center also offers extensive outreach. There are a quarter of a million people in the U.S. who have HIV and don’t know it. 78 percent of them are under the age of 30. The majority, two-thirds, are men who have sex with men. That demographic will be a major focus of the Circle Care Center.

The Town of Branford is now the proud owner of 22 acres of scenic and strategically valuable property that will be preserved as open space. The land in the Farm River estuary features trees, grasslands, marshes and agricultural soils.  The area helps protect water quality in the Farm River, serves as a habitat for numerous species of birds, and provides a flyway for thousands of migrating birds each year. Branford received a state grant of $137,000 toward the purchase price of $325,000, and supplemented the funding with money from the Open Space fund, the Branford Land Trust and the town. 


The Suffolk Times reports Greenport’s Perry Day Care Center may soon close its doors due to financial woes.

Director Joan Marie Cortez says the center has enough money to cover operational costs for the next three to six months but its future beyond that is uncertain.

The nonprofit day care facility serves hundreds of Greenport, Southold and Shelter Island children with programs for preschoolers, toddlers and families.

Children participate in a variety of activities and are served two meals each day.

Its $180,000 annual budget covers the cost of supplies, food, building maintenance and salaries for five employees, who hold certifications in child development.

After the state cut its funding by about $10,000 a month the the center layed off staff, raised the price of programs and embarked on fundraising.

But with donations trailing off, however, the day care’s finances reached crisis level in November 2012. 

The board of directors met with Village and Town officials asking for help with securing funding. A $5,000 annual grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development was obtained through Southold Town. 
Grants from private Long Island-based foundations were sought but Ms. Cortez said it needs the community’s help to stay in business.

Contributions may be made online at

The Suffolk Times reports two Connecticut boaters had to evacuate a sinking vessel in Gardiners Bay near Orient, Long Island on Sunday afternoon before they were located and towed to safety. 

James Moran and Doreen Marino, both of Meriden evacuated to a dinghy after their boat began taking on water off Long Beach Point just before 3 p.m., 
The boaters were brought ashore and escorted to Cross Sound Ferry for a return trip home, No injuries were reported.

Friday, July 5

Several dozen protesters rallied on the New Haven Green Wednesday against proposed changes to the way the federal government calculates social security benefits.

One of these, Manny Gomez, worked for Winchester Repeating Arms for 44 years, paying into "social security” with each paycheck. Now he says he can’t afford to live off his social security check and he can’t afford a proposed change to calculating the retirement benefit. 

Social security benefits are calculated based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which tracks the market price of a range of basic consumer goods. President Obama has proposed switching to a “chained CPI,” a method of calculation that proponents say more accurately reflects quick changes in the actual cost of making ends meet. 
But activists say the chained CPI does not reflect the increasing cost of items such as health care that seniors must pay.

The 84- year old Gomez said he works part time as a gate attendant at Southern Connecticut State University; he gets laid off in the summers, but he needs the extra money for medicine and health care co-pays. Even at his age Gomez can’t afford to fully retire.

Gomez said social security payments are not handouts. “We’ve earned it.”
At the rally John Olsen president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO compared the situation to putting money into a bank and then not being able to take it out. 

The Pentagon Monday shrugged off an inspector general’s recommendation that it halt the purchase of Russian-made helicopters that shut Sikorsky out of a contract worth $554 million.

Stratford-based Sikorsky, which recently announced it is laying off 200 workers, tried to bid to supply its refurbished S-61 helicopters for use by Afghanistan’s military says the S-61s are a better alternative to the Russian-made helicopters. 

But the Pentagon says they chose Russian Mi-17s over U.S.-made helicopters because they are less complicated and easier to fly, especially in Afghanistan’s “dusty” climate.

The Pentagon says the US choppers need greater operational training and more sophisticated maintenance. Also the Mi-17 is the helicopter the Afghans asked for.

The Pentagon is under pressure to train Afghan forces so the United States can pull more of its forces out of the nation. The Defense Department hoped Russia would deliver an additional 30 Mi-17s in the next 18 months to supplement those already supplied.

They say halting the Russian production of helicopters and perhaps opening the program to other bids -– could push back the delivery of helicopters to Afghanistan for years, and by implication, US troop withdrawals.
Newsday reports:

A group of Smithtown Boy Scout troops plan to help a Suffolk County lawmaker Saturday clean parts of the Nissequogue River, to increase its rate of flow and help prevent flooding in nearby neighborhoods.

About 30 scouts from Smithtown and Hauppauge  have volunteered for Republican Legislator John Kennedy Jr.'s "Clean the Stream" project.  

This is part of an effort to improve and restore sufficient flow in the northeast branch of the river.

They plan to collect garbage, downed branches and other obstructions that impact the river, The Scouts are also expected to dig out areas of the river made shallow by garbage and silt deposits.
Scoutmaster Russell Giannotti said the Scouts "like to provide community service without a pat on the back. They do it because . . . they want to help others."

Kennedy said that since 2006, more than $1 million in county and town funding has been spent to improve the river.

Suffolk County officials are seeking $1.5 million in federal funds to rebuild poorly designed culverts in the Village of the Branch, which will improve stormwater flow, and to begin 7,500 feet of additional silt remediation work.


 Thursday, July 4

Environmental groups praised Governor Malloy’s decision to veto a bill that would have allowed all-terrain vehicles to be used on state-owned land.

In his veto message Malloy wrote: “ATV use brings “greater potential for degradation or destruction of our unique and delicate natural resources”

The governor said he would favor a more thoughtful legislative proposal that would support the creation of sustainable ATV trails.

The Connecticut Forest and Park Association and other environmental groups praised the veto saying the bill was a “threat to the physical well-being of your blue-blazed hiking trails.”
But Senator Rob Kane, a Watertown Republican who supported the bill said the legislation would increase fines for ATV and dirt bike riders and offer a place off the streets for kids to ride.

Governor Malloy has asked Ye Connecticut Gun Guild a group of about 300 to 500 gun collectors to submit a name as its appointment on the Board of Firearm Permit Examiners.
The board hears firearm appeals after a police chief or resident state trooper has denied one of their local residents a handgun or pistol permit.

M. Peter Kuck of West Hartford, a member of the gun group, will likely be recommended.  Kuck is the longest serving member of the nine member Board

Mr. Kuck is known as a strong supporter of the 2nd amendment.
Kuck took the unusual step in 2007 of suing the board in federal court for failing to renew his pistol permit when he refused to produce a birth certificate or passport. The case was tossed last October, but he’s still considering an appeal.


Nitrogen pollution in bodies of water on the North Fork is dangerously high, local environmentalists told the Southold Town Board Tuesday.

When nitrogen gets into streams, ponds, the Long Island Sound and the Peconic Bay, it causes an overgrowth of algae, which sucks up oxygen in the water. Without the oxygen they need, fish and shellfish die.

Glynis Berry of Peconic Green Growth told board members that her organization is moving forward with plans to implement decentralized wastewater treatment in Orient, Mattituck and on Fishers Island.

Nitrogen pollution can result from poorly treated septic waste and fertilizer used on farms, lawn, and wineries. Ms. Berry said nitrogen levels are particularly high in Southold Town in part because of its active agriculture industry.
Since February, Peconic Green Growth has been looking at phasing out cesspools in favor of developing an alternative cluster of septic systems that have proved effective in reducing nitrogen contamination in environmentally sensitive areas,

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell recommended community meetings to get the public involved in the process.
Wednesday July 3 

  Connecticut;s State Comptroller Kevin Lembo certified that the state will end the 2013 fiscal year with a $236 million surplus.

It’s possible that number could change in the coming months since the books on the 2013 budget aren’t technically closed until September, even though the 2014 fiscal year started July 1.

Lembo said he agrees with the governor’s budget office that Connecticut’s fiscal position has improved by about $24 million from last month and about $600 million since December when deficit-mitigation efforts began.

Nevertheless, one of the four Wall Street rating agencies downgraded their outlook for Connecticut bonds Tuesday, citing “the state’s failure to return to more structurally sustainable budgeting.”

Fitch Ratings changed its rating for Connecticut from stable to negative, but it maintained its AA rating for the state prior to the sale of $200 million in general obligation bonds. The other rating agencies, including Moody’s, Standard & Poors, and Kroll maintained their current ratings, all with stable outlooks, in anticipation of the sale. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced an investigatory panel that will have “broad and sweeping” jurisdiction to investigate officials at all levels of government.

They say it will restore public trust in state government after a legislative session pocked with lawmakers in handcuffs.

Schneiderman said New York’s campaign laws are currently a “national embarrassment.” Cuomo turned to the commission after the Legislature adjourned without enacting any legal changes in response to the indictment of three sitting lawmakers and the resignation of two others in various scandals.

The 25-member panel will be co-chaired by Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, and Milton Williams of the Fund for Modern Courts. It also includes district attorneys from six New York counties.

The new panel will have broad power to subpoena records and compel testimony from officials at various state agencies and sitting legislators.

It is also charged with recommending changes to state law and is slated to issue a preliminary report by year’s end.

Karen Scharff, Executive Director of Citizen Action said “This is a chance to really highlight the need for systemic change” Her group has argued for a system of public campaign finance.
Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos warned that the commission’s work could become a “witch hunt” against sitting legislators. 

Newsday reports: The Long Island Rail Road will try to revoke the pensions of 600 retirees whose federal benefits were cut last week because of suspicions about fraud
the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board voted to end disability payments for the former workers. They were all examined by Dr. Peter Ajemian, who admitted to signing hundreds of bogus disability claims and was sentenced  to 8 years in prison.

The  board acted on the recommendation of its inspector general, Martin Dickman, who wrote in a memo that the application of any retiree who saw Ajemian was "tainted" and that the benefits "must be terminated without exception."

The 600 retirees examined by Ajemian, a Rockville Centre orthopedist are receiving about $2 million a month in federal disability benefits, according to the board. They will have the opportunity to reapply for disability benefits "based upon current medical benefits," according to the decision.

The railroad's pensions are funded by its revenue, including fares, and are separate from federal Railroad Retirement Board funds. Workers collect the retirement benefits instead of Social Security, and pay into the fund. In 2012, the LIRR paid $100 million into the federal fund, according to railroad figures.
To revoke the pensions of those in the Ajemian case, the railroad would have to prove before an LIRR pension board that the retirees committed "fraudulent activity" while being active employees.
Tuesday, July 2

A Superior Court Judge has ordered that Bridgeport Public Schools superintendent Paul Vallas be removed from his office.  Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that Vallas does not meet the academic credentials for the position.

The State Department of Education requires superintendents to have a master's degree, 30 credits in courses related to the position and eight years of teaching or administrative experience.

The requirements can be waived for up to one year while the candidate completes an "educational leadership program" approved by the State Board of Education.

In April, the board approved an independent study plan for Vallas created by the University of Connecticut. But the judge said the short, independent study he completed in May at UConn was merely a simulation.  She says Vallas received preferential treatment.

Vallas said he plans to appeal the judge's ruling.

Before coming to Bridgeport, he served a total of 15 years as superintendent of the Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans school systems.

He currently makes $234,000 a year in Bridgeport.  


The tornado that hit the towns of Windsor, Windsor Locks, and East Windsor yesterday damaged some 20 acres of crops and damaged an additional 20 acres of protective tobacco netting, dropping it up to several miles away in trees up to 60 feet high.

Department of Agriculture officials examined the damage, noting the tobacco is grown in the shade of the netting to give it a texture suitable for use in making cigars. In fact, shade tobacco is Connecticut’s largest cash crop.    
No dollar estimates of the damage were available.
CBS news reported the tornado was about 250 yards across and traveled several miles at touchdown.

All the cars stored at Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL) have been removed.

Insurance Auto Auctions had a contract with Riverhead Town to store the cars damaged in Hurricane Sandy through June.

The storage of the cars raised some eyebrows, with some saying that thousands of damaged automobiles were unsafe to be parked in the area. While the state permitted those on the airport runway at EPCAL to remain, cars on grassland at the site were forced to be removed.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter estimated the town pocketed $1.8 million from playing host to the cars. He said some of the funds would be allocated to the town's fund balance. Others could be spent toward a matching grant the town has applied for in upgrading its sewer system. That project is expected to cost up to $20 million.
Walter said he would like to see some of the money made off the EPCAL lands re-invested in the area.


Two incidents of warm climate animal sightings were reported Monday on the east end according to Newsday.

Several venomous Portuguese man-of-war have washed ashore on Southampton beaches, a according to Town Trustee president Eric Shultz, Shultz said there were no reports of injuries.  .

Five man-of-war were on a beach in East Quogue. One was in Southampton Village; and two were in Sagaponack. A few more were found in East Hampton.

Schultz attributed the mostly tropical species washing ashore to recent storms that pushed them off the Gulf Stream.

And last week, in Water Mill, farmer Rick Wesnofske found a coyote on his potato field and took a photo.
The sighting was confirmed by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation yesterday.  The agency is investigating whether others are in the area.

Monday, July 1

Connecticut's senior U.S. Senator, Richard Blumenthal, was honored Friday afternoon by New Haven's Latino community for his role in Senate passage of the immigration overhaul bill, which now goes to a very uncertain future in the House. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more.

Dozens of residents, including elected officials, social service providers and grassroots activists, welcomed Blumenthal to the front steps of Junta for Progressive Action in the city's Fair Haven section. They thanked him for working with them to promote the bill, which everyone agreed is "far from perfect" but they also agreed it's a historic step toward a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. Blumenthal said he hoped to improve the bill by creating a shorter path to citizenship than the 13 years in the current bill and by making other changes...

But right now we need to continue and redouble our efforts, because -- and that's the reason I'm here today -- we need a call to action across the country, a call to action that says the House of Representatives must pass this bill. 

House Speaker John Boehner has already said he won't take up the Senate bill; rather the House will take up its own bill, one which doesn't offer a path to citizenship. However, Blumenthal likened the coming battle to the one waged around the recent successful renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, when political pressure forced the House to take it up and pass it after the leadership initially refused to do so.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano thanked Blumenthal for helping to pass the bill in the Senate.

He referred to the city's resident I.D. card, which was offered to undocumented immigrants, and was followed immediately by an immigration enforcement raid, as well as to the overwhelming support of legal residents for their undocumented neighbors.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News

U.S. Representative. Jim Himes, Connecticut’s only delegate on the House Intelligence Committee, said late last week that it's time to narrow the scope of the Patriot Act.
He spoke in response to Edward Snowden's revelation that the National Security Agency has been collecting massive amounts of Americans’ digital communications data.
Pointing to a provision in the Patriot Act that says the government can capture “any tangible thing”, Himes said the scope of the authority the Act grants to the government should be more specific, which would better balance national security with civil liberties.

The Patriot Act has essentially made these practices legal.
Himes says that defining standards for data retention on American Internet service providers and telephone companies — and requiring the government to obtain a warrant to retrieve that data — is an approach with which he would be more comfortable.

Things are looking up in Suffolk County when it comes to the area’s unemployment stats, though many locals say the recovery has a long way to go.

The county’s jobless rate fell to 6.2 percent in May 2013, with 48,000 people filing for unemployment benefits, representing a sharp drop from the county’s 7.4 percent jobless rate a year ago, according to Department of Labor statistics.

But Smithtown Patch reader Lisa Procaccini isn’t buying it. “I think its just that everybody is being maxed out on their benefits ... but they are still unemployed,” 

Commack Patch reader Kelly LaPietra  said “No signs of employment here,”. “It must be the hiring of only high School grads which are minimum wage jobs, What about higher wage jobs that are not happening?

Despite local disbelief, most towns in Suffolk showed the same kind of year-over-year drop in unemployment as the county did, though some towns held higher jobless rates than others.

Babylon led the county with a 6.9 percent jobless rate in May, still lower than its 8.2 percent unemployment in 2012. Islip had the second highest, with 6.5 percent, compared to 7.7 percent in May 2012.
The state does not count people who are not able to claim jobless benefits in the unemployment rate.

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