Friday, August 2, 2013

August 2013

Friday, August 30
Beginning early Thursday morning in Hartford, workers from McDonalds, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, and other fast food outlets left work to protest their low wages. Similar demonstrations were taking place in cities from Boston to Los Angeles  in what was expected to be the largest nationwide walkout so far.

James Goolsby is one of about a dozen area fast food workers to strike Thursday. He is a 24-year-old Hartford resident who said he’s worked for Subway for the last seven years. He decided to go on strike Thursday from the Asylum Street shop where he works because he earns only $9 an hour.

The striking workers are seeking, in part, to have the federal minimum wage increased to $15 an hour. The Connecticut legislature approved a bill this year to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9 an hour over the next two years. It is currently $8.25 an hour.

On the same day, Connecticut Voices For Children, a public policy nonprofit, released an annual report indicating that recent job growth in Connecticut has occurred in the lowest-paid sector of the workforce.

The state added around 16,000 new jobs since 2011 but 10,000 of these were in the health care, retail, hotel, and food services sectors. For every job lost in the higher-paying sectors like finance and insurance, two and one half were added in food services.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch announced that the city increased its recycling participation rate in the last two years by 67 percent as compared to the previous two-year period.

The increase follows the City's switch to single-stream recycling and the expansion of the Recyclebank rewards program citywide.
Recyclebank rewards people for taking everyday green actions, like recycling, with discounts and deals from locally-based businesses and national brands.

Bridgeport has dramatically increased its recycling participation rate since it launched the enhanced recycling program in September 2011.

The federal government issued its record of decision for the sale of Plum Island Thursday, finalizing the environmental review and allowing sale of the 840-acre island. The island is 1 1/2 miles off the tip of the North Fork and houses the federal Animal Diseases Laboratory.

The site, which federal officials expect to auction online, would be sold to the highest bidder and the federal lab shuttered once a new, higher security lab is completed in Kansas, about 2019.

Earlier this week the Town of Southold passed zoning regulations for the island.  Most of the island would be part of a conservation zone and housing would not be allowed. The lab site would be part of a research zone. 

The General Services Administration and Department of Homeland Security jointly issued Thursday's decision. But other agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and Fish and Wildlife, have raised concerns that the environmental review did not adequately address contamination and cleanup and endangered species on the island.

GSA spokesman Patrick Sclafani said the agency leadership met with EPA officials last week  and that "Both agencies renewed their commitment to work together". 

He said the record of decision will include separate resources available from the EPA to assist future owners and local officials with environmental cleanup.

The Shinnecock Powwow is on now at the tribe’s reservation off Montauk Highway west of Southampton Village.

The Pow Wow was started by then ceremonial chief Thunder Bird in his front yard on the reservation in 1947. It outgrew that venue long ago.

The Pow Wow gives great insight into Native American culture.  It is also the major source of funding for the tribe since a planned gaming casino has been put on hold.

Beverly Jensen, communications director for the Shinnecock Indian Nation told Newsday:

"It's one of the times when we open our doors and invite the public to share a good time with us" 

Dancers adorned in traditional robes and head-dresses will compete among more than 100 different tribes who arrived from all over the country.

Native food and crafts will be offered for sale as well.  And for the first time the Shinnecock Cultural Center and Museum has a special exhibit at the Pow Wow.
Thursday, August 29

The Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education, is addressing the future of the State’s  17 universities and colleges to turn around declining enrollment, strengthen finances, reduce or eliminate tuition increases and even change the name of the system.

Under the plan, still in development, each of the state's four regional state universities would focus on an academic specialty which could be engineering for Central Connecticut State University, liberal arts for Eastern Connecticut State University, allied health programs for Southern Connecticut State University and the arts for Western Connecticut State University.
In addition, Gregory Gray, president of the Board of Regents hopes to sharpen the mission of the state's 12 community colleges to offer training for available jobs and to eliminate duplicate programs.
From the Hartford Courant: Aetna has added New York to the list of states in which it is withdrawing from public health exchanges. This leaves 16 potential providers of individual health insurance.
Public health exchanges are online marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in 2010. People who don't already have health insurance through an employer or some government-sponsored plan, such as Medicare, can buy coverage for next year starting October 1.

Theoretically, an exchange is still competitive so long as it has at least two competitors.

In Connecticut, three insurers are competing for individual customers: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, ConnectiCare and HealthyCT.

Three insurers are competing for small-group business: Anthem, HealthyCT and UnitedHealthcare.
On Long Island, a prominent East End conservation group wants the town of Southampton to spend millions of dollars to preserve land it controls, a proposal that has divided the local preservation community.

Officials from the Peconic Land Trust say they will reluctantly consider selling the 14 acres in Bridgehampton for development if the town does not buy the development rights.

Opponents said the proposal threatens the public support behind the Community Preservation Fund, a program that has raised $842 million over 15 years and protected more than 10,000 acres of land on the East End. They said the fund was supposed to supplement the work of conservation agencies, not fund them.

But John v.H. Halsey, president and founder of the Peconic Land Trust, said that, while his group did not want to see houses on the land, they could use the money to protect 60 to 100 acres of active farmland. The farmland, he said, could then be sold to new farmers at prices below market value, with conditions to ensure the land continues to be used for agriculture.

Farmers contend there are increasing difficulties to farming on the South Fork, including competing with second-home buyers for land that is already protected by the town. Some of that land has been packaged as part of estates, pricing it out of the reach of farmers.

The Suffolk Times reports: Southold Town will host a community meeting to inform the public about the Long Island Green Homes program, which offers free or low cost energy audits aimed at reducing electricity costs and carbon emissions.

The audit consists of diagnostic tests performed by an accredited contractor to determine what improvements can be made to make home’s more energy efficient. The contractor would then provide the homeowner with a list of recommended improvements along with their costs and the estimated energy savings.

The cost of the upgrade could be paid upfront. However incremental payments can be made through the homeowner’s electric bill. LIPA may provide rebates from 10 to 60 percent of the cost of installation of energy efficient measures and the contractor could coordinate and leverage these rebates to reduce out of pocket costs.

The town has not yet set a date for the forum.
Lake Ronkonkoma Beach has been closed to bathing as a result of higher than acceptable levels of blue-green algae Wednesday according to the The Suffolk County Department of Health Services.  This is the second time this month the beach was closed to bathing for the same reason.  
 Wednesday, August 28

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday that the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance will give $2.5 million in funding to the Connecticut State Police and The Newtown and Monroe police departments for their response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The funding compensates the agencies for costs related to overtime, forensics, and security in the aftermath of the shooting.

It includes funds to compensate the Town of Monroe for police officers’ time to secure and monitor the vacant elementary school used as the new Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Starting this school year, Connecticut’s new system of teacher assessment requires rigorous annual evaluations that link teacher performance rating to student achievement.

The new evaluation, guidelines were approved by the State Board of Education in June 2012 and piloted in 10 districts last year.

Glastonbury Superintendent Alan Bookman, said his district did a formal assessment of tenured teachers every four years and "now it is required every year. We are concerned about the extra work and the extra load on administrative staff."

The evaluation guidelines are designed to improve teacher performance and ultimately to raise student achievement, especially in the state's struggling urban school districts. They tie 45 percent of a teacher's evaluation to student performance, with half of that based on state standardized test scores.

In the first year, about half the state’s school systems have chosen the option of using the new system for only a portion of teachers or schools.

Connecticut’s new medical marijuana program was approved Tuesday by the General Assembly’s regulation review committee.

Within two weeks the Department of Consumer Protection will start accepting applications for producers and dispensaries.

Licenses will start to be awarded around the beginning of the new year.

It is estimated that initially three to ten producers and three to five dispensaries will be licensed.

There are some concerns that the state’s medical marijuana program, though approved, may conflict with federal law which still does not legally allow its recreational or medical use.
The Suffolk Times reports: The Southold Town Board on Tuesday, unanimously approved zoning for Plum Island that would prevent residential development on the island.

The zoning would allow laboratory research to take place on 125 acres where the current Plum Island Animal Disease Center sits. But the balance of the roughly 840-acre island will be zoned as a conservation district. Housing, other than that associated with the research facility, would not be allowed.

The federal government is looking to close the Animal Disease Center around 2019 and to sell the island to help offset the cost of a new animal disease facility to be built in Kansas.

Opponents claim a more thorough environmental review is needed before any sale, as the island has become home to several endangered species.
Under the original proposal, the town’s current Marine District zoning would have been amended to require ferry terminals on the island with a number of parking spaces for passengers. The Town Board removed that section of the proposal to avoid future conflicts with expansion of existing ferry services in Southold.

Supervisor Scott Russell said the town will now focus on keeping the 400 jobs at the location "whether it's the federal government or the private sector."


Greenport is joining at least three other neighboring municipalities to help fund a committee aimed at protecting the Peconic Estuary.

The estuary consists of bodies of water between the North and South Forks. It includes Flanders Bay, Great Peconic Bay, Little Peconic Bay, Shelter Island Sound, and Gardiners Bay.  The major sources of fresh water to the estuary are the Peconic River and groundwater seepage.

The East End municipalities will pay for the estuary committee to improve water quality, reduce pollution and comply with federal regulations. It would also allow municipalities to apply for grants jointly.

The Greenport board voted to provide the committee with $3,000 in annual contributions towards the effort.

Southold, East Hampton and Brookhaven towns have already signed the agreement. Shelter Island and Southampton Towns, Suffolk County and other east end villages have been asked to join as well.

Tuesday, August 27

Electricity rates may have gone down slightly over the past few months, but Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, or DEEP, is proposing a rate increase of about $4 to $7 per month for electricity and natural gas customers to help fund energy-efficiency programs.

DEEP calls for nearly doubling annual spending on energy efficiency from $122 million to $231 million for each of the next three years. The legislation that allowed for the hike to occur was passed during the 2013 legislative session. But the public will still get a chance to weigh in on the proposal at a public hearing September 10.

A finalized plan is expected to be approved in the fall.
During a conference call Monday, Dan Esty, the DEEP Commissioner, stressed that fully-funded efficiency programs will create 5,500 new jobs in the state; improve air quality by reducing pollution emissions 5 to 10 percent, and; help make the state a national leader in achieving energy efficiency.

Esty said the $122 million annual investment the state makes in energy efficiency has leveraged $40 million in private capital. The energy savings are even greater.

Environmental groups, whose members found themselves at odds with the Malloy administration during the legislative session, praised the proposal.
Connecticut’s Congressional delegation has been busy visiting defense manufacturers to highlight how integral the industry is to the state’s economy. In March, Connecticut’s Office of Fiscal Analysis warned that the state could lose about $907 million in annual defense spending as a result of sequestration, including funds for research and development.

The Office says the defense industry is worth about $25 billion a year in Connecticut. Congressmember John Larson predicted that lawmakers returning from their summer break in their districts would be motivated to end the secuestration cuts, though with the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, he was skeptical that action would be taken.  Meanwhile, peace groups in the state have been calling for decades to reduce Connecticut's reliance on military spending and to diversify its economy. 


Newsday reports: A panel of three federal judges has refused to reinstate a $40 million civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of Marcelo Lucero.  Lucero was killed five years ago in Patchogue by a pack of youths targeting Hispanics.

Lucero's family had appealed last year's decision by U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler to toss out the suit, which accused Suffolk County and the police department of an "indifferent and unconstitutional failure" to protect immigrants.

The process server hired by the estate's attorneys had mistakenly served a state court building, not the county clerk. Judge Wexler declined to extend the time limit to fix that problem.

Agreeing with Wexler, the Second U.S. Circuit Court judges ruled estate administrator Luis Almonte had not given a "reasonable excuse for his inaction and delay" in serving papers.

The family's attorney, Frederick K. Brewington, called the decision disappointing, and said, "it does not change the failures of Suffolk County in protecting Hispanic members of its community."
As reported by Newsday  a new U.S Geological Survey says Fire Island lost more than half its pre-storm volume of sand during superstorm Sandy, The structure of the barrier island was significantly changed, leaving it vulnerable to future storms.

Stretches of beach are narrower and the elevation of the island is lower.

The beaches and dunes lost 54 percent of their pre-storm volume and the dunes experienced overwash along almost half of the island.  Most of the sand lost was moved offshore.

The island was breached in three locations, and there was widespread damage and destruction of coastal infrastructure, including private residences.

During the winter, the shoreline position shifted as much as 189 feet inland.

Monday, August 26

The state’s Child Advocate petitioned a court Friday to demand Newtown public schools release Adam Lanza’s educational records for their investigation into his slaying of 20 children.

In January, the Child Advocate’s office, as part of the Child Fatality Review Panel, began its investigation into the deaths of the 20 children killed on December 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The panel customarily reviews the deaths of children in the state when they occur out-of-home or are unexplained.

The panel by law is expected to determine if there were contributing risk factors resulting in the deaths that could point to preventive measures to "decrease the incidence of such deaths”. Another goal of the review process is to improve coordination of services for children and families in the state.

As part of the investigation, in March, the Child Advocate's office subpoenaed the school records of Adam Lanza who had attended Newtown public schools. The school superintendent has not yet complied with the subpoena.

The Child Advocate is seeking records including Lanza’s psychological reports and evaluations, report cards, attendance records, nursing reports and notes, social work records, disciplinary records, education plans, and any communications with his family.
Legislative attorneys signed off Thursday on changes to the medical marijuana regulations that a legislative committee plans to debate this week. 

The issues include whether there will be background checks for caregivers and questions about when patient fees should be waived. Gov. Dannel Malloy said Friday that he hopes the legislature will pass the regulations. He said while medical marijuana may not be the right medicine for every patient, Malloy said he feels very strongly “this is the right way to go.”
Under Connecticut’s law, patients would have to be at least 18 years old and be diagnosed with a debilitating disease by a physician in order to buy marijuana from a licensed producer.

But the Regulations Review Committee, which has tabled part of the item at least three times since March, is still struggling with the best way to move forward.

Malloy said the regulations process and the legislative process are two different and distinct functions, and that the law was passed and should be implemented.

As of July, 735 Connecticut residents have registered with the Department of Consumer Protection to use medical marijuana.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating a longtime Hamptons sand and gravel mine after opponents of the operation accused it of illegally using mulch to fill in a 160 foot deep pit. 

The 50-acre operation, tucked into the woods of Southampton Town and known as Sand Land, has operated for sixty years. But neighbors of Wainscott Sand & Gravel Corporation say the pit's mulching operations are not legally permitted and add that the noise and stench make it a nuisance. The pit goes 160 feet down "and sits directly atop the most sensitive recharge zone of the aquifer protection district"

A DEC spokesperson said the site operations are currently under investigation. but would not comment further because of the ongoing investigation.

The Southampton Zoning Board of Appeals ruled in 2012 that the company has a pre-existing right to mine, store and sell sand there. It could also receive trees, brush, stumps and leaves. But, the ZBA ruled, it could not process topsoil or mulch.  That  decision has been appealed, and a State Supreme Court ruling is expected in the next few weeks.  
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein will be a visiting professor at Stony Brook University. Bernstein along with Bob Woodward broke one of the biggest stories in American politics in the 1970s when they exposed the Watergate controversy as reporters for The Washington Post.

The university announced Thursday that Bernstein has been appointed to a two-year position as a visiting presidential faculty member. He will teach and give lectures for the School of Journalism and the departments of English, history, political science, sociology and writing and rhetoric.

Friday, August 23 

In a report released Wednesday, regulators gave Connecticut’s utility companies generally high marks for their preparation and response to damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The utility providers have been under increased scrutiny since a series of severe weather events the past few years left many of the state’s residents without electricity for more than a week at a time. 

The long power outages led Governor Dannel Malloy and the General Assembly to approve legislation creating performance standards and fines for utility companies if they fail to meet power restoration goals following a major storm. 

According to the report issued by the Public Utility Regulatory Authority, Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating learned some lessons from the recent string of bad weather and were better prepared for the statewide damage caused by Hurricane Sandy last year. 

One change was they procured and pre-positioned supplemental line workers prior to the storm. 
The public utility regulators also ordered CL&P and UI to submit a report by the end of March on developing an emergency generator readiness program to support critical facilities, and called upon CL&P to conduct employee training to ensure utility workers pass on accurate information to customers. 

Enrollment at the University of Connecticut has surged. With classes set to begin Monday in Storrs, the freshman class is 21 percent larger than last year's. 

To accommodate the almost 3,800 incoming freshman, university officials have opted to house dozens of students at the hotel on campus, complete with maid service and access to the pool. 300 students are on a waiting list for housing. 

The university plans to increase enrollment at the university's main campus by one-third over the next decade. The state budget approved by the  legislature also provided $15 million for the university to hire 66 new faculty and counselors to accommodate an estimated 650 additional students starting in the 2014-15 school year. 

The incoming freshman class comes with credentials that supersede last year's freshman class. The university reports reports enrolling a record number of students who graduated at the top of their class and the highest SAT average. Meanwhile, the state’s other four state universities are struggling to maintain current enrollment.
The nonprofit Long Island Community Foundation announced sizable grants this month for a number of East End organizations.

Grants went to the Pine Barrens Society for a multi-year plan to protect Long Island water quality; the Cornell Cooperative Extension to support environmentally sound pest-management programs at North Fork vineyards; and the North Fork Spanish Apostolate to create volunteer programs and serve more people. 

The School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook Southampton received a grant for the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program, which includes seeding eelgrass and shellfish beds to improve water quality in the bay.  

Another grant went to the Peconic Baykeeper  to advocate for nature-based solutions to coastal hazards and climate change, like wetlands and eelgrass beds instead of hardening shore structures.

Other grants went to The East End Arts & Humanities Council, the Amagansett Food Institute and the Nature Conservancy in East Hampton.  

The east end grants ranged from 10 to 35 thousand dollars.  Island-wide the LICF grants totaled over 600 thousand dollars. 

New York’s highest court ruled Thursday that longtime Long Island prosecutor Thomas Spota can continue his re-election bid, because Suffolk County lacks the authority to set his term limit.

The Court of Appeals said in a 6-1 ruling that Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota is not bound by the 12-year limit approved by Suffolk voters in 1993.

Spota faces attorney Raymond Perini in a September 10 Republican primary.  Spota also has Democratic, independent and conservative cross-endorsements.
Thursday, August 22

A freedom of information advocate and member of the legislature’s panel tasked with balancing transparency and victim privacy says the group’s membership is weighted too heavily in favor of reducing public access to information. 

James Smith is president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information. He says the law was negotiated in secret by the governor, the legislature and the state’s attorney. 

The panel was formed as part of a new law which prevents the public release of photos or videos showing the body of a homicide victim. The law also prohibits, for one year, release of some audio recordings describing the bodies of murdered children.  

Families of some of the victims of the December 14 Sandy Hook shootings lobbied heavily for the bill late in the legislative session. 

In addition to Smith, the 17 member group includes 4 lawmakers, 4 members of the media, the chief public defender and the chief state’s attorney.

Smith said the panel should not seek to “sanitize” culture, a practice he said newspapers often engage in rather than upset their readers. He said upsetting images of violence in Vietnam helped change the public’s perception of that war.

Committee member, Representative Dan Carter of Bethel was concerned with whether or not “graphic images of a victim…. is something that should be released for public consumption." 
Smith said “We have to be very careful about what we think we can make people avert their eyes to”.
The Office of State Ethics says $58 million was spent on lobbying at the state capitol in 2012. Three quarters of that was for button-holing legislators, the rest on the executive branch. 

Top spenders on lobbying in 2012 were the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, Northeast Utilities, AT&T Connecticut and Affiliates, the Connecticut Hospital Association and the Connecticut Conference on Municipalities.  

The top five issues lobbied last year were health and hospitals; government spending; human services; environment and business.

The Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board was scheduled to randomly select 10 of the registered lobbyists for a 2013 audit. Last year, the Office of State Ethics selected 40 of the over 1000 registered lobbyists for an audit, but budget cuts caused it to scale back to ten. 

On Long Island:
Just under the wire, a Riverhead civic group was able to put the brakes, at least temporarily, on excavation and clearing permits from the town that would have let work begin on a controversial development in Wading River.

The Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition is hoping the delay will cause a second look at the impacts a new shopping center would have on the surrounding neighborhood. 

The group obtained a stay preventing the town board from approving the land clearing permit for the development, called the Knightland Project, while the development itself comes up for judicial review. The Coalition is seeking a restraining order on the project.


Holding back the sea and moving development inward from the shore in the face of rising waters was the subject of a meeting of the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee at the local Library last week – as reported by the East Hampton Star.

Former FEMA official Walter Bundy delivered a report on the Flooding Risk Faced by Napeague [NAP-eeg] Stretch Communities. The low-lying stretch lies east of the village center on the way to Montauk and is particularly prone to flooding from large storm surges.

Bundy informed an overflow crowd that the land is slowly sinking at a time that the seas are rising because of global warming. Sea level rise is happening more quickly than anticipated with serious impacts expected now by 2050, if not sooner. 

Bundy said “A Category 3 hurricane would overstep the dunes with a 25-foot wall of water. And a Category 4 — forget it,” 

Development would make the problem worse, channeling storm surge water more easily to the road, while preventing the water from draining.

Bundy recommended re-establishing the dune system along the ocean. “It’s not going to be an easy task,” he said “because every single structure that’s within that dune system is going to be asked to be relocated. ‘Retreat’ is the word everybody should be looking at.” 

Sea level rise coupled with increased frequency of severe storms could make Montauk into an island.


Wednesday, August 21

More than 500 construction workers are busy this summer building portions of the dedicated busway from New Britain-to-Hartford along with bridges, and 10 new stations along the 9.4 mile route. 

When it’s completed in 2015, it’s expected to deliver passengers from downtown New Britain to Union Station in Hartford in 17 minutes. 

But Michael Sanders, of the state’s Transportation Department, described the system as more of a spider web than a linear express bus route. The busway will give commuters an opportunity to reach locations beyond both Hartford and New Britain. 

Buses will arrive every three to four minutes at the 10 stations. 

The project will cost about $567 million, most of which came from a federal grant.

But not everyone is positive about its value. 

Michael Nicastro, the Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce president said that a 2011 study found Bus Rapid Transit systems do “not convey the economic or real estate upside that fixed rail networks do.”

He said “It’s still going to be a hard pull to get people out of their cars and onto a bus,” 
State officials say health care costs may unbalance the Connecticut budget.  

First, the cost of the Medicaid program may exceed projected levels. 

There has been a sharp increase in enrollment for the Low-Income Adults Medicaid program.  In three years, enrollment has doubled from 45,000 to more than 90,000. The state receives partial reimbursement now from the federal government for the program.

In order to qualify for that program an individual must be making 55 percent or less of the federal poverty level. This will increase to 138 percent in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, increasing the number of people enrolled. 

Second, implementation of the Affordable Care Act in January could also impact  expenditures in the Department of Social Services and in other agencies beyond budget projections. 

Newsday reports: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone joined immigrant advocates launching a billboard advertising campaign at the Brentwood railroad station Tuesday to back registered status and eventual citizenship for present undocumented immigrants.

The new billboards will be displayed at Long Island Rail Road stations on the Ronkonkoma and Babylon lines. The ads urge voters to ask Congress for "immigration reform with a path to citizenship."
While in office, Bellone has praised immigrants' contributions and ordered that key county documents be translated into six languages. But Tuesday's event marked the first time he entered the debate over federal immigration policy.
Bellone said."It is time for us to pass comprehensive immigration reform” 

Immigrant rights groups had challenged former County Executive Steve Levy over his opposition to amnesty for undocumented immigrants and the handling of the 2008 hate killing of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero. Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, director of the immigrant advocacy group Long Island Wins, said Bellone's backing "represents an important change in tone."  
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, has signed the bill authorizing a referendum on his proposal to merge the elected treasurer and comptroller posts. 
Bellone is a Democrat. Republican Angie Carpenter’s position as treasurer would be eliminated. 
Carpenter must now decide whether to spend campaign funds challenging the bill's legality, or devote her cash to campaigning against it.
The referendum will ask voters in November whether Suffolk should eliminate Carpenter's position and four others on her staff, and fold remaining employees into the office of Republican Comptroller Joseph Sawicki.

Bellone said the merger would save $833,000 in salaries and benefits next year, a figure that has been challenged by critics.

Sawicki, who otherwise must leave office after next year due to term limits, would be allowed to run for election in 2014 under the new title, chief financial officer. Carpenter, who lost to Bellone in the 2011 county executive race, has said the move imperils "checks and balances" that her office provides over county finances.
Yesterday we reported on the re-emergence of Rust tide, an algal bloom that is threatening the scallop harvest in Long Island bays.  We incorrectly stated the cause of the algae growth. It is related to nitrogen loading from run off of water contaminated by fertilizers and household septic systems.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Indian Country Today reports that the period for comments on proposed changes to the federal recognition regulations for Indian tribes has been extended to September 25.

But the State of Connecticut, led by Senator Richard Blumenthal, has already launched a campaign of 
opposition to the proposed new regulations, in order to prevent the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation and the 
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation from possibly regaining their federal acknowledgment. 

The Schaghticoke’s status was reversed in 2005 when then Attorney General Blumenthal led a campaign by local, state and federal elected officials to reverse the tribe’s federal status.  

The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation has a 400-acre reservation in Kent Connecticut and a pending land claim under the 1790 Indian Trade and Non-intercourse Act for some 2,000-plus acres, including land used by the private Kent School. 

In Indian country Blumenthal is known for advocating against tribal sovereignty, federal recognition, and tribal governments’ jurisdiction on tribal land.  He testified in the case that saw a ruling that federal labor laws apply on sovereign Indian land. 

Governor Dannel Malloy has indicated that he is also concerned about what a spokesman called “the potential impact of the proposed BIA tribal recognition regulations”  

Connecticut House Speaker Brendan Sharkey called today on video game publishers to stop promoting 
military-grade firearms in their games by entering into product placement deals with firearms manufacturers.  

Sharkey sent letters to executives at three game publishers calling on them to end the practice. He said the appearance of real-life weapons in games may have contributed to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December.  

Sharkey wrote: “Games designed to recreate the experience of wartime carnage and criminal violence constitute protected speech under the provisions of the First Amendment. But there is little to be said in defense of an industry-wide practice of arranging licensing deals with gun manufacturers for the rights to use the make, model and visual design specifications of their real-life weapons.” 

Sharkey’s letter went to executives at Blizzard Activision, Take-Two Interactive, and Valve Corporation. Sharkey cited reports that the Sandy Hook shooter had been an avid player of Call of Duty games, published by Blizzard Activision. 

Lawmakers proposed several bills during this year’s legislative session pertaining to violence in video games. 

One bill called for a task force to look for a link between video game violence and violent behavior in kids. None of the proposals were passed into law. 

In response to one proposal, Christopher Ferguson, a psychology and criminal justice professor at Texas A&M University, wrote to lawmakers saying real life violence has dropped as virtual violence has increased.  He said. “There is no evidence for a correlation between societal violence and the media culture consumed by that society,” 
EastEndBeacon dot com reports: 

Rust tide, the toxic algae bloom has returned to the waters of the Peconic and Shinnecock Bays threatening the fall scallop harvest. 

Rust tide, is toxic to finfish and shellfish but not to humans. It has appeared in the East End bays for each of the last ten years and is believed to have caused last fall’s scallop die-off. 

Rust tide and other algal blooms are believed to be caused by nitrogen loading from fertilizers and septic systems. 

Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) reported Monday that the rust tide algae is now at densities twice the level that is toxic to marine life.

Dr. Chris Gobler of SoMAS said  “we have discovered (that) the organism makes cysts or seeds which wait at the bottom of the bay and emerge each summer to start a new bloom. At the end of the bloom, they turn back into cysts and settle back to the bay bottom. “

Experiments conducted in Gobler’s Lab have demonstrated that this algae can kill fish in hours and shellfish in days.

Last fall, bay scallop densities declined by ten-fold in affected regions during the rust tide, causing great disappointment among baymen and lovers of this delicacy. 

The impacts of this year’s bloom will likely depend on its duration. The rust tide is expected to spread in the coming weeks. It typically extends into the fall or until water temperatures drop below 60 degrees.”

Monday, August 19

The Sandy Hook Commission met Friday to hear about school security in Israel.

The commission was established by Governor Malloy in January following the December 14 elementary school murders in Newtown. Malloy charged the commission with making recommendations on gun violence, mental health, and school safety.

The commission heard from David Rubin, Israel’s former economic minister to North America and Dov Shiloah , a veteran of the Israeli Secret Intelligence Service.

Rubin said virtually all schools in Israel have secure perimeter fences with guarded gates.  

Shiloah described the security infrastructure at the Weizmann Institute near Tel Aviv.
If includes a 5-mile long wall surrounded by lighting and camera systems. The wall’s electronically controlled gates use license plate recognition software. The school has about 70 armed security guards. Patrols are conducted constantly.

Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, is the Sandy Hook Commission’s chairman.
Jackson said some of the information presented by the Israeli officials was “a little bit jarring.” But he felt it was important to hear about one end of the school security spectrum.  
In drafting its recommendations, Jackson said the commission is seeking to strike a balance between hardening school facilities and maintaining schools’ traditional place as a community center in American towns. 

More than 3,000 undocumented Connecticut youth have applied to shield themselves from deportations, and nearly 70 percent of them have obtained provisional legal status, according to the Brookings Institution.
The report said nearly 75 percent of applications nationwide and 69 percent in Connecticut have been approved.
Only one percent were denied.
The DREAM Act, a bill that was not approved by Congress, would give undocumented children legal status. An executive order by President Obama does not do that, but gives approved applicants temporary suspension of deportation and the right to work in the US.
To win deferred action, an applicant must meet certain age and educational requirements, including: 
Have arrived in the US before his or her 16th birthday.
Have continuously resided in the US since June 15, 2007
Be younger than age 31 as of June 15, 2012, and be at least age 15 years old at application. 
Be currently enrolled in school, have graduated high school or obtained a GED, or be an honorably discharged veteran.
According to The Shelter Island Reporter, access to the North Ferry at Greenport is becoming increasingly difficult, as the volume of auto traffic increases. 

The Greenport ferry terminal is located at the terminus of the Long Island Railroad, and adjoins the parking areas for museums, busses, and fishing boat docks. 

Frequently, residential streets are clogged with ferry traffic. Adding to the traffic, automobile GPS devices direct drivers into making illegal turns approaching the ferry. 

With ferry lines backed up for many blocks, local residents have difficulty accessing their driveways, and have lost on-street parking spots.  

The least onerous solution would require the Long Island railroad to open its property for new ferry waiting lines. However the LIRR is contemplating expanding its schedule to Greenport which would require additional parking spots for its customers. 

Residents often take up traffic control duties in an effort to keep their streets clear. 
The East Hampton Star reports:

In New York, results of the new statewide exams under the national ”Common Core” program show failure rates that are more than doubled over last year. 

The drop in scores is mostly due to a recent change in curriculum which is meant to improve critical thinking and problem solving. Students from third through eighth grade took the tests this spring. 

In Suffolk County, 33 percent of students passed the math exam, while 36 percent passed the English language arts test. Last year’s passage rates for the old tests were nearly double.

An exception this year was the Amagansett school which out-performed its neighboring districts, with 71 percent passage in the third-grade English language arts test.

Although the school tested well, superintendent Eleanor Tritt  questioned the necessity and effect of such testing, particularly on the self-esteem of students.

She said “we’re really concerned about is how the children will react to it… adults can understand that the state changed the criteria, but for children, it’s not that easily comprehended.”

Friday, August 16 

Senator Richard Blumenthal joined the fight for benefits for a female disabled Navy veteran who is married to a woman.  Blumenthal sent letters to 

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shineski and President Barack Obama.

The Senator said the VA told him it will continue to recognize only opposite gender couples until it hears otherwise from U.S. Attorney General’s Office or the president.

Blumenthal said that makes it one of the few federal agencies that is ignoring the president’s directive to comply following the court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act.

Carmen Cardona, has been fighting for three years for the spousal disability benefits she would receive if she was married to a man. 

The disability benefits for her wife amount to an additional $150 per month, but Cardona said it’s not about the money.

At a press conference with Senator Blumenthal she said “I love the military. I love serving my country. This is America of the free and I want to feel free.” 

Employment in Connecticut grew in July by 11,500 jobs even as the unemployment rate ticked up a notch to 8.1 percent, according to the Connecticut Department of Labor. 

The July jobs gains mark the fifth straight monthly job increase and the sixth monthly gain in 2013. But Connecticut’s unemployment rate inched up to 8.1 percent in July. That’s still down by five-tenths of a percentage point from a year ago. 

Connecticut has now added 23,100 nonfarm jobs since July 2012 — a new recovery highpoint in the state. Private sector hiring in July also was robust at 7,300 jobs. Private companies have now added 17,900 jobs over the year.

The unemployment in July increased by 900 over the month to 149,600. The state’s unemployment rate overall has declined by 11,900 since July 2012.

Connecticut’s unemployment rate is still higher than the national average at 7.4 percent. 

Following the Shelter Island Town Board vote Friday to place a moratorium on implementing a law banning underground irrigation systems, Supervisor Jim Dougherty said Monday that help might be on the way from the private sector.

The supervisor said some well-heeled Islanders had offered to bear the expense of an independent study to determine whether a ban on the systems is necessary or whether new technology exists that would make them more efficient.

Friday’s  Town Board vote to delay implementation of the ban,  due to take effect September 1, was unanimous. The board now has until May 1 to either implement or abandon the ban.

Taking money from residents willing to bear the expense of a new study with the caveat that contributors have no influence on who is selected to conduct it is appealing, Mr. Dougherty said. He added that the town has no money to invest in such a study.

At last Tuesday’s Town Board work session a resident wanted more information on a new inter-municipal organization the board is inclined to join.
“We don’t know very much about it,” Emory Breiner told the board. “And that’s the problem.”

The Concerned Citizens of Montauk are celebrating a victory today, after a Tuesday decision by the East Hampton Town Board removed Fort Pond House from the real estate market, reclassifying the 4-acre plot of land as a park.

“I’d argue it’s always been a park,” Jeremy Samuelson, executive director of the Concerned Citizens, said.
Fort Pond House, purchased by the Town of East Hampton in 2003, served the community as one of two access points to Fort Pond — acting as an education center and gathering point for organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Montauk Public Schools, the Hamptons Shakespeare Company and Third House Nature Center. 
In 2010, the town closed the property and listed it for sale. 

“We immediately brought suit against the town,” Samuelson said. “It is illegal in New York State for a municipality to sell parkland. 

On his hopes for the future of the park, Samuelson said, “It is my feeling that having the house cleaned up and refinished will provide Montauk with a much needed facility for educational and arts programming.”
Thursday, August 15 

On the tenth anniversary of the great northeastern power blackout, yesterday a Hamden homeowner and landlord invited local politicians and media over to see his solar panels. Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson was one of them. WPKN's  Melinda Tuhus reports:

Dan Garrett owns his home in Hamden, plus a total of four rental properties in Hamden and North Haven. All have solar panels on the roof. He said putting them up was a no-brainer, financially and environmentally.

He added that in seven years, after he repays the loan he took out to buy the solar arrays, he'll be getting free power from then on.  On a brilliant sunny day, the panels were generating all the power needed to get its residents through the night as well. Mayor Jackson said officials need to look at different ways of providing power to homes and businesses.

The solar installer was on hand to explain that people can purchase the panels at zero percent down and get a significant discount on their bills from their electric utility.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
Governor Dannel Malloy was expected to endorse Democrat Toni Harp for New Haven mayor today. 
Harp, a state senator who co-chairs the legislature’s powerful Appropriations Committee, has worked closely with the Malloy administration 

Harp squares off against Justin Elicker, Henry Fernandez, and Kermit Carolina in a September 10 Democratic primary.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has criticized the General Services Administration’s environmental review of Plum Island.

The GSA and the Department of Homeland Security operate the the Plum Island Animal Disease Center.

The EPA says the GSA failed to detail contamination caused by the animal disease testing lab -- including disease-causing microorganisms that have led the government to kill all deer on the island lest they transmit those diseases to other animals. 

The GSA is in charge of the sale of Plum Island to help fund a new $1 billion facility in Kansas, to be completed in 2019.  

The EPA earlier had told the GSA that its final environmental impact statement on the island's sale should cover long-term potential health implications for future residents and how a cleanup will ensure the safety of future island inhabitants.

A Homeland Security spokesperson said "The federal government will conduct any necessary environment remediation" before the island is sold.

All waste on Plum Island was burned or buried in place until 1991. Environmentalists said the GSA review lacks detail on waste disposal sites. 

Long Island officials, environmentalists and some New York and Connecticut members of congress have been fighting the sale.

Southold Town is considering zoning to prevent residential development on the island.
An agreement between the Suffolk County and the Long Island Power Authority signed Wednesday will allow the construction of a new bike and pedestrian path. 
The 13 mile path from Port Jefferson to Wading River is along a former Long Island Rail Road track, now a LIPA right of way. 

A Federal Highway Administration's grant provided $6.5 million dollars for the path.
The first phase of the project will begin at the site of the future Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe and run 3 miles east to Wading River-Manorville Road.


A suspected hate crime and vandalism reported yesterday at the Shinnecock Cultural Center and Museum has been investigated by the New York State Police. 

Police inspector Eric Baez said the initial belief was that it could have been a hate crime. But further investigation and discussions with tribal members led police to believe it was not.

The fence leading to the recently opened Living History Village was spray-painted with "hateful nonsense," including the "N-word” according to Matauqus Tarrant of the Museum staff.

Inspector Baez said some of the graffiti was believed to reference a rapper.
----------------------------------------------Wednesday, August 14

Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Peter Zarella has sided  with the state regarding a beverage distributors' suit in 2009 regarding unclaimed bottle deposits.

The General Assembly had decided to take the unclaimed deposit money to help balance that year's budget.

Lawyers for the bottle distributors had claimed that the state's taking of the deposits was a violation of the distributors' property rights.

In his opinion, Justice Zarella wrote, "...the trial court improperly determined that the 2009 act resulted in an unconstitutional taking."

The court's decision resulted in a reversal of judgement and it was sent back to the trial court.

Just four months after lowering New Haven’s bond rating from A+ to A, ratings agency Fitch lowered it again to A-.

The downgrade comes just five days after another bond rating agency, Standard and Poor’s, lowered the city’s rating.

All three major bond rating agencies have lowered the city’s bond rating in the last four months. 

A bond rating is an evaluation of the trustworthiness of buying city bonds. A lowered bond rating can raise the cost of borrowing money by making investors wary of trusting their money with the city.

The city has about $500 million in outstanding general obligation bonds, and plans to release $39 million more.

In its latest downgrade, Fitch cites New Haven’s continuing expansion of pension costs, high debt, Board of Ed budget overruns, and low cash reserves.

City Budget Director Joe Clerkin said “The reset to A- is disappointing as the city has diligently worked to reduce costs by resetting pension and medical care costs for city employees, 

New York State Police were called to the Shinnecock Cultural Center and Museum on Montauk Highway near Southampton to investigate a possible hate crime Wednesday morning.

A member of the museum staff reported a maintenance shed had been broken into, and a fence at an outdoor exhibit vandalized with graffiti including vulgarity, a racial slur and gang signs. Spray paint taken from the shed was apparently used on the fence.  

In a statement Matauqus Tarrant, Assistant Curator of the museum said: 

“It is always disheartening when these acts occur. The Shinnecock Cultural Center and Museum is a place where all people are invited to learn about the Shinnecock people and our culture. Whether this is deemed a hate crime or not, this only reminds us that our mission to promote awareness, understanding and appreciation of Shinnecock history and culture is more important now, than ever.”
Newsday reports: Republican primary challenger Raymond Perini asked an appeals court Tuesday to rule on Democratic District Attorney Thomas Spota's eligibility to run for a fourth term under Suffolk County's 12-year term-limit law, which already is under review by another court.

It is uncertain whether the pending appeal will be heard on the merits because the appeals court first must find that the plaintiff, civic leader Peter Nichols, has a right to intervene.
Spota attorney Thomas Garry said the district attorney, a Democrat, is a legal candidate under the existing Supreme Court ruling. Spota has the Democratic, Republican, Conservative and Independence Party endorsements.

 "This is an attempt to remove Mr. Spota from the ballot," his attorney said. "I don't blame Mr. Perini for ot wanting to run against Tom Spota. I would avoid it, too."

Spota, County Clerk Judith Pascale and Sheriff Vincent DeMarco filed a court challenge to the Suffolk term-limit law. The court ruled last year that the county could not impose term limits because the posts are in the state constitution.


On Tuesday, after months of contentious public discussion the Southold town board voted 5 -1 to adopt a new leash law.

Dogs must be restrained on a leash not more than four feet in length on beaches, parks, picnic areas, children's play areas, trails and athletic fields.  

They are allowed on town beaches, if restrained on a leash, from May 1 through October 1, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.  But they are not permitted on designated bathing beaches while a lifeguard is on duty. 

Tuesday, August 13

Only 17 states have funded more than 80 percent of their projected pension liability, but Connecticut has the highest unfunded pension liabilities in the nation. As of June 30, 2012, the State Employees’ Retirement System was funded at 42 percent and the Teachers’ Retirement Fund was funded at 55 percent. 

The good news for the state is in the rebounding investment market, which has helped add $2.8 billion of market value to the pension assets. 
Governor Malloy’s administration has been making an effort to shore up the pension funds after decades of neglect by two Republican administrations. They are expected to be fully funded by 2032.

Earlier this year, Malloy tried to exempt the pension payments from the spending cap, but the General Assembly rejected that idea.

U.S. Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan visited Silver Sands beach in Milford on Monday -- not to swim, but to point out the success of the federal government's response to Hurricane Sandy. 

He was joined by Governor Dannel Malloy and other local and federal pols. Donovan said there were 17,000 federal responders on the ground within a week, far faster than for Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He said $50 billion in federal relief aid has been parceled out, including nearly $72 million just approved for Connecticut. 

Donavan added that 97 percent of the beaches chewed up by Sandy from Cape May, New Jersey  to the Cape Cod National Seashore are open, 

Malloy said Connecticut’s beaches set attendance records on the Fourth of July. But Donovan and the others all agreed that more needs to be done. 
One couple who owns a house along the beach says they can't afford to raise it, which is a requirement for getting insurance. Malloy said he expects more HUD money is coming, and some of it will be available under the right circumstances to finance raising houses above the reach of the next big storm.

Earlier Today New Haven mayor John DeStefano swore in 26 new graduates of the New Haven Police Academy at Career High School. 
The new graduates will complete 3 months of field training, then will spend the first two years of their career walking beats across the City, further strengthening the city's rejuvenated community policing model. 


Newsday reports: Suffolk County, along with most municipalities in New York, will face a 1.66 percent cap on increasing tax levies for the 2014 fiscal year, instead of 2 percent,
The cap adjusts annually with the consumer price index. Because the rate is running below 2 percent, so will the tax cap.

County Executive Steve Bellone recently proposed merging some county offices and executing a sale-leaseback of county buildings to cut expenses.
The property-tax cap allows exemptions for some factors, including pension growth, which means that some municipalities might be able to go beyond the 1.66 percent threshold. Voters can override the cap with a 60 percent supermajority vote. 

A New York Times report says New York State has still failed to fire workers who abused disabled patients in state institutions more than 2 years ago.

The Times cites several employees who care for people with developmental disabilities or mental illnesses, who were found culpable of wrongdoing, but were not fired.  
Only about a quarter of those recommended for job termination, are fired.
Reasons cited were the permissive attitude of state officials and opposition from public sector labor unions.

Administration officials say they were hamstrung by an arbitration process that was part of the collective bargaining agreement. They say the union has held up negotiations over abuse penalties by tying them to a dispute over a health care cost-savings plan.
A spokesman for the Civil Service Employees Association, or CSEA, says the two issues are unfinished business from the 2011 contract negotiations.

The governor established an agency to improve enforcement of crimes against vulnerable populations. But his appointee to lead it, Jeffrey Wise, is a longtime spokesman for private disabled-care providers. Wise has lobbied against legislation that forced the state to start disclosing abuse reports to parents.

 Monday, August 12 

About 400 residents turned out Saturday evening in a park in the heart of East Haven for a vigil to pray for the family of the two children killed on Friday when a small plane slammed into their house. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus was there.

Stephen Johnson, the East Haven Fire Chaplain, was one of the speakers at the 15-minute vigil:

Johnson: "I'm not here to offer explanations or justification or give you religious platitudes that are mostly irrelevant to our current experience."

The children who died were sisters, 13-year-old Sade Brantley and 1-year-old Madisyn Mitchell.

Some classmates of 13-year-old Sade Brantley, one of the victims, spoke of her as funny and friendly. Alexa Acerra said Sade started 7th grade last year at Joseph Melillo Middle School after moving to town from West Haven.

The two others who died were the pilot of the plane, Bill Henningsgaard of Washington State, and his son, Max, who had been visiting colleges on the East Coast at the time of the crash, which is under investigation.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.


A group of Connecticut veterans spoke Thursday about how their lives were knocked off course while they waited for the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department to process their disability claims.

At a Hartford roundtable discussion organized by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, vets related experiences like seeing their homes foreclosed while their cases languished in a VA disability claim backlog.

Blumenthal said reliable statistics on the backlog are difficult to find. But estimates indicate there are about 780,000 disability cases pending at the VA nationally, he said. Two thirds of those cases have been pending for more than 125 days. In Connecticut, he said there are around 1,300 cases backlogged.  

Blumenthal called the situation “unacceptable," and said he is seeking to pass legislation that would require the VA and the Defense Department to combine their medical records. He said the change would help the agencies handle the claims of veterans more efficiently. 

With a Connecticut legislator presiding, the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, met in Chicago last week, promoting a business agenda and drawing fierce protests from labor and questions about its scholarships for lawmakers.
Republican State Representative John Piscopo of Thomaston is the current national president of ALEC.. State law allows the seven state House Republicans registered to attend the conference to accept business-funded scholarships to offset their travel costs. The national leadership of Common Cause has challenged the practice in a complaint to the IRS.
In Connecticut, corporations and others barred from contributing to legislative campaigns are permitted to give to the scholarship funds, as long as their donations are not earmarked for individual lawmakers or events.
ALEC provides model legislation for state lawmakers to introduce, such as the Stand Your Ground law that became infamous in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida. Despite Piscopo’s prominent role, ALEC-backed legislation has not advanced in Connecticut, where Democrats control the legislature and organized labor still carries clout at the State Capitol. 

Newsday reports a New York State program offers a little-known source of money for private companies on Long Island.
The source is the In-State Private Equity Investment Program, part of the State’s pension fund. It buys stakes in New York businesses to earn profits for the Fund -- not to make handouts to companies. 

It invested  $27.5 million on Long Island in the last two years.
In the program's dozen years, $36 million has been invested in eight businesses in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Mattress retailer Sleepy's and circuit-breaker manufacturer PACS Industries were among those getting support.
The $36 million coming to Long Island from the pension fund is just 5 percent of the $684 million it has invested in 252 private businesses across the state, although 15% of New York’s population is on Long Island.

The pension fund plays a passive role: Investments are monitored by the state comptroller. He also approves the investment managers.
Friday, August 9

As of 2:29 PM the New Haven Independent reported:

Two bodies have been found as safety officials continue to piece together what happened in a morning plane crash near Tweed New Haven airport.

Governor Dannel Malloy gave that update in an afternoon press conference near the scene of the crash, on Charter Oak Avenue in East Haven, just north of the airport

Up to five people may have been killed in the crash. The pilot of the plane may have had up to two passengers with him, according to airport authorities.

About 100 people attended a “Healthy Nonprofit Chat” about the Affordable Care Act and Connecticut’s marketplace on Tuesday. 

Terry Edelstein, the governor’s nonprofit liaison, said the new law will have implications for group homes or others offering residential care because there’s a health and safety requirement that mandates client care 24 hours a day.

If an employee works on average more than 30 hours per week, then the company has to offer them insurance because they’re considered a “full-time equivalent.”
David Burnett, executive director of the nonprofit Reliance House in Norwich, one of the attendees, said, “It’s a complex and scary world for nonprofit executives.”  

Burnett said the margins under which he operates are paper thin since the state has not increased funding 16 out of the last 20 years for nonprofits contracting with the state.

But there are companies who don’t believe as strongly as Burnett that workers should have health insurance, and some are looking to reduce hours in an effort to avoid offering it. 

Beginning in 2015, there will be penalties for large employers not offering coverage and penalties for offering unaffordable coverage to employees.  
Businesses with under 50 employees may be eligible for a tax credit. 

The rates for the individual and small group market were finalized on Monday by the state Insurance Department so consumers have some idea about what they may have to pay if they want to join one of the plans offered by the exchange. 


The Board of Trustees for the University of Connecticut has banned romantic relationships between teachers and undergraduates.
The policy, which university officials insist only strengthens long-existing efforts to discourage inappropriate relationships, also restricts certain connections between faculty and graduate students, and between supervisory staff and subordinates.

The new policy comes two months after university officials barred the former head of its music department, professor Robert Miller, from the campus amid charges of sexual misconduct.  The charges are under investigation by UConn police and other law enforcement agencies.

State Attorney General George Jepsen’s office and the university are searching for outside legal counsel to conduct an independent investigation into Miller’s behavior and how university staff responded to the matter.


As reported by 

In East Hampton, Long Island the fight over the town’s controversial airport erupted at a Town Meeting on Tuesday. Councilwoman Theresa Quigley was angry over the $200,000 spent on an environmental report prepared for the airport’s seasonal control tower. She charged that it left the facility with very little money left over to pay for any potential legal challenges it may face this year.

East Hampton board members were also concerned about new helicopter routes being planned. They fear the new routes will funnel all the air traffic through Wainscott and Sagaponack, adjacent to the airport. 
Anger at helicopter noise has boiled over in neighboring towns, including areas to the north of the airport surrounding Sag Harbor on the South Fork and Cutchogue on the North Fork, which have lately been bearing the brunt of it. But some raised concerns that a southern route would expose flights to more frequent severe weather and fog.
Developers of a new highway shopping center in Riverhead recently clear- cut nearly all of the trees from their 41-acre building site which is adjacent to a residential area.
Now, the Riverhead News-Review reports they are asking to install fewer but taller light poles in exchange for adding 10 ft to a 30 foot buffer zone that borders the housing. This would require variances from the town’s lighting code.
Neighbors have told both the Zoning Board of Appeals and the town Planning Board that the current fence dividing the land from their neighborhood, as well as the proposed buffer zone, are not sufficient.
One neighbor said that residents would get flooded in heavy rain storms because they are below the grade of the shopping center.  He suggested that a concrete barrier be built.
The Zoning Board  took no action on the application and adjourned it to the August 22 meeting,
Thursday, August 8

Three mayoral candidates converged on New Haven’s Hall of Records Wednesday to claim their spots on a September primary ballot—and on a second ballot in November, too.
All four candidates running for mayor—Kermit Carolina, Justin Elicker, Henry Fernandez and Toni Harp—declared Wednesday they have collected far more than the requisite 2,406 signatures to get on the ballot for the Sept. 10 Democratic primary. 
Staff have begun looking through the signatures to make sure they qualify.
Three of the candidates—all but Harp—also submitted signatures to get their names on November’s general election ballot. That means if they lose the primary, they can run again as independent candidates.
The Connecticut Post reports: A panel created after the Newtown school shootings is meeting with teachers, principals, administrators and teachers unions to discuss improving school security. 
The School Safety Infrastructure Council will hear this evening from education professionals from around Connecticut during a special meeting at New Britain High School. 
The General Assembly charged the council with developing new standards to improve or enhance school safety and security in Connecticut schools.  
The council must submit its recommended standards by January 1. 
Members are considering the feasibility of reinforcing entryways, and using ballistic glass, solid core doors, computer-controlled electronic locks and buzzer systems. 
The group is also looking into using cameras on school grounds. 
Connecticut’s attorney-general has determined that the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation didn't violate donor intent when deciding to distribute $7.7 million to the families most affected.
According to the Connecticut Post, George Jepsen the Attorney General notified foundation officials and the families of those slain in a letter sent on Wednesday.
Jepsen also noted in the letter that nearly $10 million of the $11.7 million received by the fund was made by donors who expected the money to go to community needs or be spent at the discretion of the foundation.
Also, about $1.2 million in donations included documentation that the money was to go directly to the families.
Jepsen said in his letter: "Accordingly, there is simply no basis to conclude that the foundation's decision to retain $4 million, or 34 percent of the fund for the community and the families, fails to comport with donor intent or is otherwise unreasonable,"
The foundation plans to begin distributions to affected families later this month, including $281,000 to each of the families of the students and staff members who were killed. The two school staffers who were wounded during the massacre would divide $150,000. Families of the dozen children who escaped the gunman would each receive $20,000. 
The Town Board of East Hampton voted this past Thursday to enter into the  inter-municipal  agreement to oversee the protection and health of the Peconic Estuary.  
There are a dozen towns and villages that share the waters of the Peconic Estuary. They have tentatively decided to enter a Peconic Estuary Program before its launch so that each group’s economic contribution is fully understood. 

According to Newsday, Southold and Brookhaven Towns were the first towns to sign on to support the Estuary.  Brookhaven has offered up $10,000 so far, 
Though the effects of storm water was the initial concern prompting the formation of the committee, the other impetuses are the restoration and protection of tidal wetlands, as well as overseeing compliance with State and Federal wetland conservation regulations.
According to the Shelter Island Reporter, at Tuesday’s meeting the Shelter Island Town Board also discussed the Peconic Estuary Program in response to a resident who was concerned about the possible loss of sovereignty if Shelter Island joins the program.   

However Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty and other council members were positive about the program. 

The Town board agreed to set a public hearing on its own Watershed Management Plan on Friday, August 9.  

The Town’s plan is a comprehensive look at the Island’s surface water resources. By putting a plan on the record, grants and other sources of funding for remediation and capital projects would be easier to secure according to Board members.

Wednesday, August 7

On Tuesday evening about a hundred protesters marched in front of Toad's Place, an illustrious concert venue in downtown New Haven at the edge of the Yale University campus. They were angry that rocker and gun enthusiast Ted Nugent was booked to play a show that night. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus was there:

People were angry about comments Nugent made about Trayvon Martin after Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted last month. He said Martin was "a dope-smoking, racist, gansta-wannabe" and got what he deserved.

One of Nugent's fans, Kathy Santoro of Prospect, CT, denied that he's a racist:

"He's a crazy guy, he is, but you know what, we all have a little crazy in us. It's not hate; it's freedom -- he's fighting for your freedom."

James Rawlings, the head of the local NAACP said he had no problem with Brian E. Phelps, the president of Toad's, who wrote the NAACP a letter explaining that Toad's has hosted entertainers with a wide range of views and that he does not agree with Mr. Nugent's divisive comments on the Zimmerman trial, but since Toad's entered a contract with Nugent before those comments it now must honor its obligations to both the entertainer and the ticket holders. The letter ended, "I support your efforts to open a dialogue about Mr. Nugent's comments. I firmly believe that only where ideas, even bad ones, can be freely exchanged and challenged will the truth prevail."

But Barbara Fair, one of the protest organizers, had a different take.  

"Several times we made an attempt to come and talk to Mr. Phelps because that's what we wanted to do, we wanted to have a conversation. He totally ignored us. And we wanted to let him know tonight -- and nights after this because this is just the beginning -- that he can ignore us, but he can't ignore the power of the people to be out here."

She said once Yale students return to campus, she and others will move to initiate a boycott of Toad's.


This summer Governor Malloy has been visiting companies that Connecticut has supported through the Small Business Express program. 

Malloy, who has not yet announced whether he’s running for re-election, has been defending his economic development policies as his Republican opponents get ready to take him on in 2014.

The small business program gives grants and low-interest loans to businesses with 50 or fewer employees. The companies don’t have to promise to create jobs, but at least one business Malloy visited Monday has created five since receiving a $76,000 grant. 

Malloy said the state has over 800 Small Business Express agreements in place that have kept thousands of jobs in Connecticut and added a few thousand more. 

As of May, only four of the 704 companies with agreements in place had closed after receiving the money, giving the state about a 99.4 percent success rate. 
------------------------- reports:

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman has introduced a bill that would restrict the use of pesticides to control mosquitoes around tidal marshes. 

The bill would limit the use methoprene over or near tidal waters.  Methoprene has been blamed by fishermen and environmentalists for killing or deforming crabs and lobsters. 

The legislation would allow it to be used in these areas only if a specific disease, such as West Nile virus, has been positively identified in samples of mosquitoes from the region.

As reported here earlier the County health department says 16 mosquito samples had tested positive for West Nile virus in Suffolk County by the end of July.  

Legislator Lou D’Amaro of North Babylon announced last week that $2 million in the county’s 2014 to 2016 capital budget will be used to  study expanding the Southwest Sewer District into six areas of Babylon and Islip towns.

Wyandanch, Wheatley Heights, Deer Park, West Babylon, North Babylon, and West Islip are considered the most critically in need of sewers due to depth of groundwater and development density. 

The Department of Public Works will issue a request for proposals for a detailed cost study with plans for construction and a strategy for funding the project.

A previous feasibility study found the project would cost more than 2 billion dollars and homeowners would be expected to pay tens of thousands of dollars annually. 

D’Amaro said it would be impossible to move forward unless at least 80 percent of the costs were funded.

Tuesday, August 6

UPDATE - The Connecticut Post reports: A full report on the December 14 Newtown shootings will not be released until at least the fall, following a meeting this morning between top state prosecutors and Governor Dannel Malloy's chief of staff.
The unadjusted rates for health insurance under the Connecticut's health insurance exchange were published on Monday.  These are the rates without the inclusion of offsetting government subsidies to be made available to lower income families. 

Three companies are offering insurance in the individual marketplace.

These are ConnectiCare Benefits, Anthem Blue Cross-Blue Shield and HealthyCT. 

HealthyCt, a non-profit insurer, voluntarily lowered its rates after a review showed individuals looking to join the plan would be healthier than initially predicted. 

The initial monthly premium for the lowest-level plan ranges between $215 and $245. Residents earning less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $94,200 per year for a family of four, may be eligible for federal subsidies.
In the wake of five reported illnesses, the state agriculture department has shut 22 shellfish beds in Norwalk and Westport. A voluntary recall of oysters and clams harvested since July 3 was instituted.
A naturally occurring bacteria, generally seen more on the west coast is responsible. 
It thrives in warmer water. The underlying question is whether water temperatures this summer are responsible for the outbreak and if they are, whether climate change is poised to make things worse.
The bacteria causes diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, and chills.  These are usually non life-threatening except in those with compromised immune systems. It is found in raw and undercooked shellfish. Thorough cooking should destroy it. The five illnesses all came from oysters. Even so, hard clams are included in the recall and closure. 


The Day of New London reports: 

The Trust for Public Land reached an agreement with would-be developers to buy The Preserve, a 1000 acre forest in southeastern Connecticut, for conservation. 

The property is located in the towns of Old Saybrook, Essex and Westbrook.
The Trust would raise about 10 million dollars from private donations, state and federal grants and other sources to purchase the land from River Sound Development. Funding commitments must be obtained by June 2014.  

Governor Malloy said the state would partner with the Trust and others "to make this purchase a reality”.
The Preserve adjoins 500 acres of parkland. It would be made available for passive recreation such as hiking and wildlife watching. It includes vernal pools, wetlands and watercourses. 

It is critical to the water quality of the local streams and will provide protection to wildlife.  

The Albany Times-Union reports:

The New York Civil Liberties Union has applied to the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics – or JCOPE- for an exemption from donor disclosure requirements   The ethics law that created JCOPE allows it to grant exemptions IF donors to a specific group are likely to face "harm, threats, harassment, or reprisals" should their giving become known to the public.

NYCLU Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg  noted that the group and ACLU branches around the country, often represent deeply unpopular clients from all points along the political spectrum. While the group is often categorized as progressive, it has    represented Tax Reform Immediately, a Long Island organization with ties to the far-right John Birch Society.

Eisenberg said: "The question is striking a balance between free speech around core political issues and the right of the people to know who is speaking," 

Newsday reports: LIPA ratepayers will see a roughly 4 percent increase in their bills this month -- an average hike of $5.71 -- after the authority increased its power-supply charge. 

The power-supply charge covers LIPA's costs to buy electricity and the cost of natural gas to fuel local power plants 

The charge, which comprises about half of customers' bills, had been dropping since March.  

But this month it increases by about 0.8 cents per kilowatt-hour, to about 9.3 cents per kilowatt-hour.
The delivery charge, which makes up most of the rest of customer bills, has held steady for most of LIPA's history. It is expected to remain the same through December 2015. 

After Governor Cuomo signed legislation to restructure LIPA last week he set a 3 year rate freeze as a goal.  But the rate freeze applies only to the components of the bill that LIPA controls -- the delivery charge. 
Monday, August 5 

At a news conference at New Haven police headquarters on Friday, both of Connecticut's U.S. senators said they will push for gun restrictions in one area that they hope will help them pass tougher gun laws overall. This, despite Congress' failure to do so earlier this year. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal said his bill -- the Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act -- will deny purchase or possession of firearms to a perpetrator of violence against an intimate partner during the 14-day period when a temporary restraining order, or TRO, is in effect. Laws differ from state to state; in Connecticut those under a TRO -- overwhelmingly but not exclusively men -- are not able to purchase a firearm during that period but are allowed to keep any guns they already possess at a time when they may be most likely to use them against their intimate partner. Blumenthal said there's something about intimate partner gun violence that sets it apart from other gun violence:

Blumenthal: "And it's an emotional overlay that I think is very important, but it changes the political dynamic and I think, ultimately, could lead us to be more successful and maybe use this issue to garner some additional support for some of the other pieces of our program."

Senator Chris Murphy said he's been meeting with fellow senators in an ongoing effort to reach 60 votes to pass gun safety legislation, which failed earlier this year.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

Connecticut's attorney general is one of the 9 states' Attorney Generals who have signed on to a letter objecting to a federal bill regarding toxic exposures, the so-called "Chemical Improvement Act." The bill would pre-empt states from having stricter laws concerning toxic chemicals than the federal government. The 9 states that have signed on to the letter are: California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Hawaii, and Delaware. Critics charge that pre-empting states from being able to better protect their citizens from toxic chemical exposures would not be an improvement. Meanwhile, the chemical industry is supporting the bill.


Long Island parents and mental health professionals are trying to convince the state not to close Sagamore Children's Psychiatric Center's 54 inpatient beds, according to Newsday.

The State Office of Mental Health plans to merge the state's 24 inpatient psychiatric hospitals into 15 regional centers next July. 

Children needing inpatient psychiatric treatment will go to psychiatric facilities in Queens or the Bronx or will be treated at home.

But many parents and mental health professionals say Sagamore provides help to children who are too ill to remain at home and need longer-term institutionalized care.    

State Senator Kemp Hannon of Garden City, chairman of the Senate's health committee, said he wants to convene a roundtable to discuss the plan.  

Assemblyman Fred Thiele of Sag Harbor said that for those in eastern Long Island where mental health services are already scarce, the possibility of having to travel to Queens or the Bronx is not good. 

----------------------- reports:

Last week Southold Town’s planning department unveiled the latest chapter in its comprehensive plan, designed to put lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy into practice.

The chapter is titled “Hazard mitigation, coastal resilience, and post-disaster recovery planning.”
Southold has 220 miles of shoreline and more than 1,100 homes and many businesses in the flood zone.  The chapter cites studies showing sea level on Long Island will likely rise two to five inches by the 2020s and could be as much as 10 inches higher by then.

The chapter reads “Local government is charged with responding immediately before and after natural disasters to protect its citizens. “Government has a shared responsibility with its constituents to plan and manage emergency resources.”

The town has been working with Suffolk County on a Hazard Mitigation Plan. It recommends reinforcing causeways with seawalls, government buying properties and elevating roads in floodplains, and construction of emergency operations centers. 

The chapter calls for the town to expand on those relationships, and to prepare a coastal resilience plan and guidelines for recovery and reconstruction after storms.

It also calls for mitigation and preparation for drought and heat wave emergencies.

A public input session will be held Tuesday, August 6, at 10 a.m. at the Peconic Community Center.
Friday, August 2

In the name of immigration reform, New Haven’s Kicka Matos sat down in a Washington 

D.C. roadway and refused to move.

Matos was arrested by Capitol police Thursday. She was on Capitol Hill as part of a civil disobedience protest calling for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  .
In all, 41 labor and civil rights leaders were arrested as they led a rally of hundreds of people.
Matos is the director of immigrant rights and racial justice at the Center for Community Change.  She read to the crowd from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s “Letter From Birmingham Jail.”

Matos said  “We are here to demand an end to deportation and an end to the disruption of families”  

Representatives  Jeffrey Berger and Tim Larson have been targeted by a state employee labor union  for 
pointing to Detroit’s economic situation to support a plan to take out life insurance policies on state employees.

The two Democrats penned an editorial published Wednesday in the Waterbury Republican American, citing Detroit’s underfunded employee pension program as a major factor in its recent bankruptcy filing.

Although Connecticut is in better shape than Detroit when it comes to paying for its pension obligations, Berger and Larson said it lacks a funding mechanism for some of its retiree benefit programs.

They recommend passing legislation allowing the state to take out life insurance policies on current and former state workers, a practice they say could earn the state millions in survivor benefits.

Larson and Berger said the practice is frequently employed by businesses and is referred to as “Key Man” insurance.

But the union, AFSCME Council 4, called it “Dead Peasant” insurance.

The union said the state makes money when their employees die. Not only is this bad fiscal policy, it’s 
morally bankrupt.”

After four years, The Salvation Army on Osborn Avenue in Riverhead has stopped serving lunches to the area's needy. Salvation Army Lieutenant. Kelly Ross said, "the funding source ran out."

The Salvation Army had collaborated with the Open Arms soup kitchen to distribute lunches after the Town terminated Open Arms’ lease at the railroad station.  
Town Supervisor Sean Walter said at the time that the transportation hub was important as the first look many visiting the area got of Riverhead. His hope was to bring some kind of new business to the station.

Lt. Ross said other concerns arose, including safety issues. She said "Having 180 people in our building for lunchtime became a safety concern," Also, the kitchen was too small and only one bathroom was available.
For those who are in dire need and hungry, the Salvation Army still offers a food pantry on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. 

In addition, those in emergency situations can still get a sandwich and juice.  

Ross said."We're not leaving them with nothing,"

The Salvation Army is working to garner funding in the fall for a mobile food truck that will distribute sandwiches and coffee.
 ------------------------------- reports:

Late blight, the plant disease that caused the Irish potato famine, has been found in a crop of tomatoes in Riverhead this week. Cornell University’s Riverhead research lab is urging home gardeners to check their 
tomatoes for late blight lesions, in order to avoid the spread of this fast-moving, spore-spread disease.

Late blight, which only affects tomatoes and potatoes, has become somewhat endemic on the East End over 
the past several years, cancelling tomato tasting contests and wreaking havoc in home gardens. It is 
appearing on the scene relatively late this hot, dry summer. The first patches of late blight were discovered in May last year.

The symptoms found were rather large v-shaped dead areas, resembling those caused by drought stress; 
however, the tissue had a small light green wilted border with a small amount of white fungal growth of the late blight pathogen on the underside that was barely discernible without magnification. 
Home gardeners are should call Cornell’s diagnostic lab if they have any suspicions late blight might be present in their gardens, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon, at 631.727.4126.
Thursday, August 1

in Hartford 25 groups have joined forces to help create an environment that eliminates health disparities among Black and Latino residents. 

Funding is from a $150,000, two-year grant through a partnership with the YMCA and the federal Centers for 
Disease Control. 16 cities are participating. 

Nationally, the CDC found that the risk of being diagnosed with diabetes is 66 percent higher among Hispanics and Latinos, and 77 percent higher among blacks.

James Morton, president and CEO of the Hartford YMCA said the effort is about changing the policies that impact community health. 

The money will be used to hire a person to make sure the groups work together on solutions to problems like obesity and diabetes.  

The grant gives the coalition the goal of reducing three chronic conditions: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, 
and asthma.

Possibilities include advocating for more walkable, bikeable communities, making fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible and teaching consumers how to prepare them.


The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence released the 2013 findings of the state’s Domestic 
Violence Fatality Review Committee on Wednesday based on 2011 data. 

14 women were murdered in 2011 by their partners, with children being present for three of the killings. 
The group issued a series of recommendations to curb family violence and protect children. 

Coalition executive director Karen Jarmoc said the number of women seeking help at shelters around the state has been at 95% to 98% of capacity.
This year’s report focused heavily on the impact domestic abuse has on children in households where it occurs.
Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz said DCF is changing how it responds to 
domestic violence in an effort to minimize the trauma inflicted on children. 

The Coalition Against Domestic Violence report made a series of policy recommendations to reduce family 
abuse and protect children. These include how investigators interview children who witness domestic abuse and a statewide public awareness campaign to curb family violence. 

Newsday reports: 

A developer plans to turn 440 acres in East Quogue into 82 vacation houses and a golf course, after talks between Southampton Town and Suffolk County officials on preserving the land failed to produce an acceptable price.

A Scottsdale, Arizona. firm acquired the land about three months ago. A representative said the Town was not willing to match the price paid on an adjacent property a few years ago.

Under the vacation house-golf course proposal, 280 acres of the site would be left as open space. A portion of the property is a former gravel mine.

Jennifer Garvey, Southampton deputy chief of staff, said a purchase of the land by the town’s Community 
Preservation Fund is still possible.

The approval for the site to be designated as a planned development district requires a supermajority of the five-member board.

The first public hearing on the proposal, called The Hills at East Quogue, will be on August 27 

Newsday reports: The Long Island Power Authority and its contractor National Grid, are negotiating to settle a more than decade-old dispute over retiree pensions and benefits that could cost ratepayers up to 600 million dollars.

The dispute, revolves around a "significantly underfunded" pension benefit plan for utility workers at the former Long Island Lighting Company. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised a three-year rate freeze as part of a LIPA reform bill he recently 
signed.  His spokesman downplayed the issue's potential impact on future rates. 

LIPA trustees in the past have said it's unlikely that ratepayers would be faced with a big lump sum payment to settle the case. Still, the amounts being discussed aren't small.

Every $40 million of cost to LIPA requires a 1 percent hike in bills, so a new cost of $600 million, for example, could require a 15 percent rate increase.

The issue has taken on a new urgency because LIPA's contract with National Grid expires at the end of the 
year, after which PSEG of New Jersey will take over the system.

A spokesperson for National Grid, said that in any case, employees "will be made whole."

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