Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October - November 2013

Friday, November 29   

A divided Connecticut task force on public disclosure and victim privacy agreed Wednesday on proposals allowing some police records to be inspected.
The group was created, following the Sandy Hook shooting, under a law intended to prevent the disclosure of crime scene photographs and certain audio recordings collected by police
The task force discussed a number proposals.
One would create a central location where the public could view the records, but not copy them. The recommendation included a process for reporters or other members of the public to make a case for releasing certain protected records if they believe disclosure would serve the public interest.
It also includes a punishment of up to a $10,000 fine and a 20-year prison sentence to anyone who removed or photographed protected records .
Representative Debra Lee Hovey said lawmakers wanted the law to protect all victims of homicide - both adults and minors. 
James Smith, a task force member and president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, said the law should apply only to child victims.
The task force is charged with making recommendations to the legislature by January. Their final meeting is scheduled next month.
For the fourth time this year, a vote on Connecticut wind generation regulations has been postponed.
Robert Stein, chairman of the Connecticut Siting Council, asked Tuesday to withdraw the proposed regulations for wind generation.

He said there simply wasn’t a consensus within the committee to approve the regulations that the council had submitted.

Sen. Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, said the conditions under which the Siting Council can waive certain provisions of the regulations is a concern and is “giving a lot of people some angst.”
Representative Selim Noujaim, co-chairman of the committee, said they had a number of questions two months ago and it was the job of the Siting Council to get the answers. Instead, the Siting Council resubmitted the same application.

Chris Phelps, executive director of Environment Connecticut, said “We’re probably the only state in the country banning wind power. Six or seven legislators are sending a loud message about Connecticut that it doesn’t want clean, renewable energy in its own backyard. They want no wind power at all.”
Noujaim said that’s absolutely not true. He said he just wants to make sure it’s done right.
The state has had a moratorium on wind generation for almost two years as it has struggled to come up with regulations.

Food pantries and food banks struggled to meet demand this Thanksgiving, just weeks after food stamp cuts for millions of Americans took effect.
On Nov. 1st,  the 47 million people who rely on food stamps — also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ( or SNAP) — saw a decrease in benefits when Congress allowed a 2009 program funding boost to expire. As a result, a family of four will now receive $36 less in food stamps, according to the USDA.
After the cuts, SNAP benefits allow an average of $1.40 per person per meal.
The average cost of a meal in New York is $2.68.
Governor Cuomo delivered Thanksgiving meals and an infusion of funds to Long Island Cares and other food banks around the state on Wednesday.

Long Island Cares/The Harry Chapin Food Bank, based in Hauppauge
[HAH-pug], will receive about $250,000 from the extra $4.5 million Cuomo pledged to emergency food providers because of the SNAP benefit cuts.

Recent federal cuts to the SNAP program will eliminate $302 million of annual SNAP benefits in New York State so the $4.5 million in grants barely make a dent, but do represent a 15% increase in the state’s funding to food banks and can provide approximately 2.8 million meals.


The Albany Times-Union reports New York State voters remain divided on whether to drill for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale

According to a Quinnipiac University poll 44 percent support drilling because of economic benefits while 46 percent oppose drilling because of environmental concerns.
Upstate voters are divided with 44 percent for drilling and 47 percent opposed. New York City voters are opposed 51 to 38 percent and suburban voters support drilling 52 to 39 percent.
From November 20 – 24, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,337 New York State voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points. 
Thursday, November 28

This Thanksgiving marks the 44th annual Day of Mourning by indigenous peoples and their supporters at Plymouth Rock on the coast of Massachusetts, the site of the Pilgrims' landing in 1620.

Instead of celebrating what they call the "myth" of colonist-Indian brotherhood, the day highlights the ongoing struggles of native people in America.

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports.

Listen here

Black Friday, the kickoff of holiday shopping, encroaches on Thanksgiving this year, with major retailers starting their sales today.
Mark Scheerer reports on one antidote to galloping consumerism –
Giving Tuesday - and one Connecticut group that's involved.

Listen here:

The Connecticut Food Bank has been gathering holiday meals for the last week.  at Its facilities in Fairfield and New Haven counties.
It distributes food and other resources to more than 650 local emergency food assistance programs in most of Connecticut all year.
Information on how we can help is at ctfoodbank.org.
On Long Island -  Island Harvest works island wide to supply local food banks.

A list of food pantries they supply in Suffolk and Nassau counties is on line at islandharvest.org. Look for “Who We Help”.
Another agency serving Long Island with food assistance is Long Island Cares. Volunteers are solicited at licares.org.

Wednesday, November 27

14 people were arrested on Monday in two related actions and charged with multiple misdemeanors when they protested the involvement of UBS bank in the financing of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia.

Melinda Tuhus reports from Stamford:
A small group entered the U.S. headquarters of Swiss financial giant UBS, and quickly walked up the stairs to a glass-fronted lobby area. Ricki Draper of Knoxville, Tennessee, described what happened next.

UBS finances companies like Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources that have blasted the tops off more than 500 mountain ridges and buried more than 2,000 miles of streams. Several peer-reviewed scientific studies have documented the dire health impacts of the practice, including increased rates of cancer and birth defects.

Your reporter was threatened with arrest while trying to get a response from UBS officials.) In a statement released later, the company said, "We have developed and continue to develop policies and guidelines to identify, manage and control environmental and social risks in our business transactions." But those living with mountaintop removal say the practice must end.

Two groups, Hands Off Appalachia, and Capitalism versus the Climate, organized the Stamford protests, which also included hanging a banner from the top of a crane at a construction site, calling on UBS to stop funding mountaintop removal.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

Recordings of the 911 calls made during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting will be released by Dec. 4.

Judge Eliot Prescott issued the decision Tuesday, denying a request by State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky to prevent their release.
Sedensky had argued that the tapes should not be released because they represented records of child abuse and making them public may discourage residents from using the 911 system in the future. The judge gave Sedensky until Dec. 4 to appeal the ruling. 
Governor Dannel Malloy said the final report on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting released Monday raises “the possibility of additional work” on issues like mental health services and school safety.

But he said that likely would not include additional gun control legislation beyond technical fixes to the law enacted this spring.

That law made sweeping changes to the state’s firearm regulations.

Malloy said the report should help the advisory commission, created to make recommendations in response to the murders, complete its work. The state has already invested about $24 million for school safety projects across the state.

But more work may be required. Whether it’s financing and funding or thinking about how we build schools differently. On the mental health front, I think we’ll continue to evolve and look for best practices and best ideas.


The Riverhead News-Review reports:

Long Islanders outraged over New York’s implementation of the Common Core Curriculum took their concerns directly to state education commissioner John King Tuesday night during a public forum at Eastport-South Manor High School. 

Some of the 1,000 attendees often became disruptive, jeering as the commissioner attempted to respond to audience questions.

Mr. King continued to defend the program, which requires, among other things, instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age.

But he acknowledged some adjustments are needed.

Many parents told stories about how test anxiety has hurt their children. Others expressed their annoyance at how the state Department of Education rolled out the new requirements for public schools.

But two people spoke in favor of Common Core, to the displeasure of the crowd.

The state Department of Education has been criticized by school officials across New York for pushing the new mandates before districts were ready for them. While many educators embraced Common Core when it was first introduced, they’ve since demanded that the state hold off on implementing the new student assessments until the rigorous curriculum is properly implemented inside the classroom.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund has filed a shareholder resolution at AT&T Inc. asking the company to disclose what consumer information it has shared with U.S. or foreign governments. 
The resolution will be voted on at AT&T’s annual meeting in April.

 Tuesday, November 26

New Haven’s police chief said late Monday afternoon that it seems likely that eyewitnesses may have mistaken a cop for a roaming gunman Monday—sending New Haven into a daylong panic.

Local, state and federal law-enforcement agents searched downtown buildings all day looking for a rifle-toting man.

The commotion started with a call from a pay phone at 9:48 a.m. The caller, who did not identify himself as a Yale student, said his roommate had a long gun.

Police subsequently reported that “several” witnesses saw someone carrying a long gun. Later,  a Yale official said only one person reported seeing a man with a gun on campus. Police said, that man was probably a cop

Yale officially lifted its “lockdown” of Old Campus shortly after 5 p.m. No gunman was found.


A new report from the Connecticut Department of Education shows that nearly half of Hartford public school students now attend integrated schools.

It has been 17 years since the Connecticut Supreme Court ordered the state to eliminate the educational inequities caused by the segregation of Hartford’s minority school population.

State officials and plaintiffs’ attorneys in the Sheff vs. O’Neill desegregation case are negotiating whether to provide even more students with an integrated education.

A school is deemed "integrated" when less than three-quarters of a school's student population are minorities.

Nearly 5,000 students from Hartford who attend segregated schools –- one-quarter of the city’s students –- applied to leave their current school this year. Thousands were not offered a seat.

During the 2007-08 school year, 1,800 Hartford students attended integrated schools -- or 11 percent of the district's students -- compared with 42 percent this year.

When the state failed to provide at least 41 percent of Hartford students with a seat in an integrated school by last November, the state was compelled to negotiate a new settlement with the plaintiffs.

How many more students the state will agree to enroll in integrated settings is not known as negotiations continue. Governor Dannel Malloy has said he opposes raising the standard.

But attorneys for the plaintiffs have argued that the state Supreme Court decision was clear in requiring state lawmakers to provide every student with an equal, and un-segregated, education.

The Sheff Movement, a coalition of parents led by the mother of the lead plaintiff in the years-old case, is calling for the state to enroll 82 percent of Hartford students in an integrated school by the 2018-19 school year.

The Suffolk Times reports:

The growth of the deer population on Long Island’s East End is raising alarms and a search for solutions. By aggressively cutting down the deer population  the North Fork in particular will see less environmental damage from deer grazing, fewer tick-borne illnesses and will reduce deer-related car accidents.

Don Stewart with the North Fork Deer Management Alliance volunteer group said he is hopeful a new program — which uses teams of skilled marksmen to eliminate dozens of deer at a time — will begin next month.

The sharp shooter program is run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services department, and will be paid for in part by a $200,000 grant secured by the Long Island Farm Bureau.

While deer management officials say there should be no more than 15 deer per square mile, the North Fork already has about 65 per square mile, and if  nothing is done to stop the deer population explosion, there could be an estimated 400 deer per square mile in the next 10 years,

Other so-called humane approaches, like sterilization or contraception, are more complex than they seem and would not do enough to limit the deer population according to Stewart.

A forum on the Common Core school curriculum, hosted by New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King is being held now and is being live-streamed at Long Island Patch sites.

It was scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. at Eastport-South Manor High School in Manorville.

The intent of the meeting is to give parents, students, and educators the opportunity to ask questions and express their opinions about the New York State Education Department’s roll out of the Common Core, teacher evaluations, testing and student privacy.

Monday, November 25

As reported by the Hartford Courant:

Danbury State's Attorney Stephen Sedensky issued a summary report today on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

Sedensky concluded that "there was no evidence to suggest that anyone other than the shooter” Adam Lanza – “was aware of or involved in the planning and execution of the crimes that were committed on December 14, 2012

Sedensky wrote."Why did the shooter murder twenty-seven people, including twenty children? Unfortunately, that question may never be answered conclusively, despite the collection of extensive background information on the shooter through a multitude of interviews and other sources,''

Records show.the guns used in the shootings were all purchased legally by Nancy Lanza since 2010. She also encouraged her son Adam Lanza to learn to use the weapons, taking him to shooting ranges in the area.

A trade association for more than 600 home heating oil and propane dealers is considering legal action against the state for approving a plan that allows three natural gas companies to convert 280,000 customers to natural gas. The Public Utility Regulatory Authority gave final approval to a plan by three natural gas companies to expand their footprint in the state. The final decision concluded that all new natural gas customers will be able to spread the cost of conversion over a period of 10 years. Governor Dannel Malloy has pushed for more natural gas both to lower rates and to reduce global warming pollution in the state, as gas is cleaner than oil. Chris Herb, president of the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association, quotes U.S. government data to show that prices have shifted in the past year, raising the cost of gas and lowering the cost of oil.
Meanwhile, clean energy supporters oppose the plan because they say it favors one particular fossil fuel and will hinder development of wind and solar.

One high school in Connecticut has drastically reduced the number of students who are arrested on campus. WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus explains:

A few years ago, Manchester High School had one of the highest arrest rates in the state. After a single incident in 2010 in which 19 students were arrested, concerned youth workers pulled together a broad spectrum of individuals to address the problem in the community, from top school officials to religious leaders to the police chief. Just one of the solutions they devised is the School Safety Review Board, according to school social worker Heidi Macchi.
Melinda Tuhus – WPKN News
The Riverhead News-Review reports:

More than 50 North Fork residents, some with tick-borne illness gathered for an opportunity to hear from health experts at a special East Marion Community Association forum last Saturday.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Rajeev Fernando and Jerry Simons, certified physician’s assistant and contributor to the national publication Lyme Times magazine, spoke about illnesses answered questions from anxious audience members.

The two have teamed up with Southampton Hospital to start the Tick Borne Disease Resource Center, which seeks to educate both health care professionals and the public about tick-borne illnesses.

The experts said differences in the way physicians test and treat patients can play a huge role in whether the patient is cured or left suffering.

A 25-year-old Lyme disease patient, Amber Abolafia, who attended the meeting, has been looking for a physician who’s truly knowledgeable about her disease.

She says “Our doctors are not informed enough and I don’t think they have the tools to be informed enough.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an estimated 300,000 new cases of Lyme annually in the United States – a tenfold increase over the previous year’s estimate.

Friday, November 22
The Connecticut Post reports:
A 40-page summary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting investigation will be released Monday, according to the office of the Chief State’s Attorney.

Newtown school administrators are preparing parents and staff members for the release of the report and the expected media onslaught.

Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra said Thursday she now believes recordings of 911 calls from the school should be made public.

Comparing the steady leak of information about the investigation of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School to "Chinese water torture”, Llodra said “I think everything that can be released should be released."


Connecticut will not to allow insurance plans canceled under the Affordable Care Act back into the marketplace.

Governor Dannel Malloy said today that “the solution offered a week ago by the president doesn’t work in Connecticut.”

Insurance companies have already told the state they don’t plan on continuing policies that are already slated to be replaced.

Malloy said even if the insurance companies renewed them “we know that rates on those plans would increase significantly this year, and again next year.”

In order to help give residents time to transition to a plan on Connecticut’s exchange, Malloy said he would push the enrollment deadline from December 15 to December 22 for anyone who wants to be insured starting on January 1.

He also said Access Health CT, Connecticut’s exchange, will work closely with private carriers to make sure they reach out to residents who may lose their insurance as a result of these changes.
Aetna notified 12,500 individual policyholders in Connecticut that their health plans would not be renewed when they expire. But about 40 percent of them so far have chosen to buy a new policy that begins this year.

Insurance Commissioner Thomas Leonardi said that about 27,000 individual health policies were being canceled in Connecticut. Of those, he added, only about 9,000 were being canceled as a result of the health law.

In the case of Aetna, customers with plans not slated to be renewed in 2014 were given the option of buying a new plan that takes effect Dec. 1. That means the plan is subject to current market rules and prices, rather than those that will take effect January 1 as part of the health law. Aetna members have until November 27 to decide if they want to take that option.


New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says tax collections through October 31 are up this year by 7.6 percent to $38.6 billion, compared to the same period last year.

But total receipts were below the Division of the Budget’s most recent projections. DiNapoli said growth to date has been strong, but is slowing”

Tax collections increased primarily due to growth in Personal Income Tax   collections which have rose 9.4 percent  to $23.9 billion.
New York supporters of comprehensive immigration say they need Republican Long Island Congressman Peter King to turn up the volume with the GOP leadership.

New York News Service’s Mike Clifford has more:
 Listen here:


Thursday, November 21
A report issued Tuesday by Governor Dannel Malloy’s office encourages employers to publish their salary ranges as part of a series of recommendations to reduce pay disparity between men and women in Connecticut.

The report was the product of a nine-month study on the gender wage gap, commissioned by Malloy.
It says women working full time in Connecticut earn an average of 22-24 percent less than their male counterparts.

Even when contributing factors like education, experience, hours, and career choices were taken into account, the report suggested women still make 5-10 percent less than men.

The report also suggests encouraging women to explore careers in science and technology fields. 
Malloy said he believed the report’s recommendations will help to reduce the pay gap.
However, Teresa Younger, executive director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, said the recommendations will not solve the problem.
She said collecting unemployment insurance information on workers based on their jobs and tracking how employers are addressing the issue will help.

With a $12 million hole to fill over the next five years, the head of the state’s trash authority believes the state should allow it to receive a renewable energy credit for the trash it burns and turns into energy.

That’s part of a plan Thomas Kirk, president and CEO of CRRA, the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, presented to a state task force Tuesday.

Kirk suggested that if it reduced the $2.2 million a year it pays to the city of Hartford in lieu of taxes, reduced its education budget $97,000 per year, sold about $7 million in unused property, and applied the fiscal surplus from 2013, it could sustain its operations for five more years.

Kirk maintained that the organization can continue to be sustainable without any direct taxpayer support.

Over the past few years, CRRA lost 19 municipalities who had used the facility to dispose of their trash. 

Abe Scarr, director of the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group, said
“The proposal to include electricity from incineration in the top tier of our renewable electricity standard has been considered and rejected multiple times. It should be rejected again.”

He said the purpose behind renewable energy is to incentivize new, clean energy sources.

CRRA will be required to submit their final plan to the task force by Nov. 30.
The Suffolk County Legislature Tuesday unanimously passed a bill amending the county’s Farmland Preservation Law. The bill will allow activities promoting tourism to take place on preserved farmland. That will help such farm operations stay economically viable in the future.

The legislation, proposed by County Executive Steve Bellone, applies to land purchased in part or in whole by Suffolk County for the purpose of farmland development.

It would allow Agricultural tourism activities like U-pick operations, crop mazes and hayrides, as well as larger farm stands, permeable parking areas, and processing facilities that create locally crafted goods such as wine or potato chips. Educational tours to teach visitors about agricultural production and environmental sustainability would also be allowed under the bill.

The East Hampton Star reports: although Long Island's East End is generally regarded as affluent, there are pockets of poverty and homelesness, exacerbated by the recent reductions in Federal benefits to poor families.

Food Stamp cutbacks have put increased pressure on non-profit food banks, which face an uncertain future this winter, with growing client lists, and diminishing contributions.

The East Hampton pantry has clients ranging from a homeless man who lives in the woods, to large families unable to feed their young.

The pantry’s cash reserves are the lowest ever, while demand is at about three times the level at the beginning of the recession.

Technology is helping fill the need. Donations can now be made on line and grocery gift cards are available at most supermarkets. 

Wednesday, November 20

Senator Richard Blumenthal is advocated for passage of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would change how sexual assaults in the military are prosecuted.

The amendment requires that decisions regarding sexual assault prosecutions be handled by trained and objective prosecutors rather than military commanders.

At a press conference in Hartford, Blumenthal maintained his optimism that the Senate would find enough support to move forward with the amendment

The rules of the Senate demand that an amendment has 60 votes before debate can begin. Blumenthal said the amendment is a few votes short of that. 
He was joined Monday by four former members of the military, who had been sexually assaulted while serving. The four women, from Connecticut shared their painful stories. They expressed their immense frustration with the military’s justice system.

Last year there were an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults, but only around 3,000 of the assaults were reported.

Blumenthal said, “The reason it is underreported is because the chain of command is so closely involved in making decisions."
Governor Dannel Malloy touted the benefits of his natural gas expansion plan Tuesday to a construction workers union. Regulators recently gave the plan preliminary approval.

Malloy spoke at an International Union of Operating Engineers Local 478 training center in Meriden. Its Connecticut members plan to train for pipeline construction jobs created by the proposed project, which will expand 900 miles of natural gas lines to 280,000 customers and create 3,000 to 4,000 construction jobs over the next 10 years.

Malloy said, “We will have a substantial positive impact on the environment while we lower costs, while we make Connecticut competitive for jobs.”

The hope is those jobs all go to Connecticut workers. The union is sending $4 million worth of equipment and experts to teach pipeline construction classes at the Meriden facility.

Nate Brown, of Local 478  said the majority of heavy equipment operators are prepared for the job. His focus is to make sure Connecticut residents doing this work.

Newsday reports: The Suffolk county legislature passed a $2.76 billion budget for 2014.
General fund taxes will remain frozen, but residents of the police district covering Suffolk's five western towns will see a 2.34 percent increase next year, or $20.65 for an average homeowner.

The spending plan includes the controversial deficit-closing proposal to tap environmental reserves to cover $33 million in rising debt repayments.

County Executive Steve Bellone, predicts that Suffolk will end 2013 with a deficit of only $10 to $13 million, In 2012 it closed with a $155 million shortfall.

The four-year pact with the Suffolk Association of Municipal Employees union, which has over half of the county's workforce was a key element in the budget.

The contract is retroactive to the start of 2013 and stretches through 2016, with workers getting no raises in the first two years, a 2 percent increase in 2015 and 3 percent in 2016.

Union leaders agreed to lower salaries for new hires by between 1 to 5 percent, and to lengthen the time it will take them to reach the top pay step. 

In exchange, the workers received a no-layoff clause that covers any privatization attempt.

The Suffolk County Water Authority (SCWA) has won $1.1 million in settlements with eight firms in its lawsuit against makers and sellers of dry cleaning compounds that contaminate the County's drinking water. The firms include Bayer Cropscience, Electrolux Home Products, and duPont.

SCWA, supplies groundwater to 1.1 million customers. They filed suit in 2010 against Dow Chemical and other firms to recover costs to investigate, test, and remove the chemical per-chloro-ethylene (or PCE) from underground water supplies.

Authority officials say the pollution has not entered the public water supply, but it is costly to study contamination problems and remediate wells.

SCWA alleges that the damages come largely from dry cleaning shops that used chemicals and equipment for decades.

Regulators say that PCE may harm the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system and increase the risk of cancer if ingested at levels exceeding federal standards of 5 parts per billion.

PCE has been documented in 49 percent of all Superfund sites on Long Island.

Monday, November 18

If State Senator John McKinney is right, then President Barack Obama’s pronouncement that
people can keep their canceled health insurance plans doesn’t apply in Connecticut.
McKinney who is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, pointed to a law passed in
2011 that says the state must comply with the Affordable Care Act and all of its regulations.

McKinney said the insurance commissioner does not have discretion to make any changes to that requirement, which means those plans would still remain illegal in Connecticut, McKinney called upon Malloy and legislative leaders to call a special session of the General Assembly to fix it.
But Malloy told reporters that In the privately secured insurance market there’s a 46-percent turnover per year and in any given year up to 30 percent of policies are cancelled.

Malloy said that people will be pretty happy with the packages available to them under the state’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT, particularly those who are eligible for a subsidy.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said McKinney was just playing electoral politics.
Sharkey said. “We are the only state that has more private insurance sign-ups than Medicaid sign-ups.
Our health care system is too important, for too many people, to be used as one of Senator
McKinney’s campaign props.”

The Malloy administration has decided to use a new accounting method to track its budget outlook, which differs from the Nonpartisan budget analysts’ predictions. The legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis predicted deficits ranging from $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion from 2016 through 2018.

However, the Office of Policy and Management (OPM), the governor’s budget office, has
predicted smaller deficits ranging from about $376 million to over $600 million from 2016 through

OPM Secretary Ben Barnes said, “Estimates for the budget beyond next year are consistent with what out-year projections typically show: that we need to continue our efforts to grow the economy, add jobs, and budget within our means in the future just as we have done for the last three years.”

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney criticized Malloy's budget office's outlook. McKinney said:

“For three years, Governor Malloy has calculated state deficits using current services estimates,”

“Now, as he approaches an election year, he has chosen a different accounting method in order
to show a rosier picture.” 

The New York State PTA is jumping into the Common Core fight.

Statewide PTA leader Lana Ajemian told the Albany Times Union the PTA plan an outreach campaign seeking a “course correction,” especially with how tests on the new curriculum are being used to evaluate teachers. She said “We cannot afford more confusion and discontent.”

While the New York State United Teachers, wants a three year moratorium, the PTA wants to delay the teacher evaluations for a year based on test results, which is actually a small portion of evaluations overall.

They stressed that they don’t want to withdraw from the Common Core concept, in which most states are agreeing on a common curriculum, but they say more time and preparation, including teacher training, is needed.

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Calarco of Patchogue says he plans to introduce a bill that will come as a delight to many motorists.

Under the bill, people who have traffic tickets dismissed as not guilty will no longer have to cough
up a $30 or $50 administrative fee, according to a Newsday report.

Suffolk's Traffic and Parking Violations Agency has been hit with complaints from residents who have had their tickets dismissed, only to find out they are still on the hook for the administrative fee.

Calarco said “If you're innocent, you shouldn't have to pay, I don't think it's fair to individuals in that position."


Friday, November 15

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and Police Chief Joseph Gaudett announced the resumption of the city’s Gun Buyback program yesterday.

Eariler this year the police department took in more than 750 guns.

The gun buyback will be held tomorrow, Saturday, November 16, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Police Training Academy, 405 Newfield Ave., Bridgeport.

Police will offer up to $200 for a working handgun. People turning in rifles will receive up to $100. A weapon determined to be an assault rifle will be eligible for up to $400.

Police Chief Joe Gaudett said  “Every gun that is turned in and destroyed is a gun that can’t end up on the street in the hands of a criminal or in the hands of a young person who could injure himself or someone else.”

The department tentatively plans to hold several more buy back sessions in November and December.


In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court concluded that a court is not the proper venue to decide the qualifications of Bridgeport Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas.

The decision, however, may have come too late. Vallas announced last week that he will return to Illinois to be Governor Pat Quinn’s running mate in 2014.

Vallas was named as interim Bridgeport Schools Superintendent in Dec. 2011. He became the acting superintendent in 2012 pending the completion of a University of Connecticut course.
In the lawsuit, his critics challenged the credibility of that course, which he helped design in order to obtain his certification in Connecticut.

The Supreme Court found Thursday that Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis erred in siding with Vallas’ critics, who contended he wasn’t qualified for the position because the special certification waiver he received wasn’t adequate.

The justices dismissed the lawsuit, saying that Bellis lacked the jurisdiction to rule on the case because the plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative options with state education officials before bringing their complaint to the court.
The Brookhaven Town Board has unanimously adopted its proposed one-quarter Billion dollar budget.

The 2014 budget, adopted Tuesday night by a 7-0 vote, increases spending by 1.9 percent over this year’s budget. There are no layoffs.

But the average Brookhaven home owner would pay close to $1000 annually to the Town, slightly less than last year.

Brookhaven’s $53.5 million capital budget includes $10 million for open space acquisitions, including $6 million for purchases within the Carmans River watershed area.
The Town board also formed a Carmans River Conservation and Management Plan performance committee to oversee the protection strategy for the 10-mile estuary.
The town board developed the plan to conserve the Carmans River watershed. It would do so by buying land along the waterway and imposing tougher zoning along the estuary. 
The committee will be charged with helping the town implement the environmental plan. It would meet at least quarterly and issue progress reports to the board.

A new policy requiring interpretation and translation for vital public services in key languages is now in effect in Suffolk County. New York News Service’s Mike Clifford reports.

Listen here

Thursday, November 14

Connecticut is the only state in the country in which more people have applied for private coverage through the health insurance exchange than for Medicaid.  

The state began expanding Medicaid in 2010, shortly after the health law passed. That means fewer people are becoming eligible now for Medicaid in Connecticut than in other states.

Access Health CT, the state’s exchange, has taken more than 11,000 applications. Of those, about 6,000 are for private insurance customers, and about 4,700 will receive Medicaid.

As part of Obamacare, the Medicaid program in Connecticut and many other states will expand Jan. 1 to cover more adults without minor children.

In addition, exchanges like Access Health are selling private insurance plans that, for many people, are expected to come with discounted premiums, subsidized by the federal government.

Black and Latino youth have a greater chance of being funneled into the juvenile justice system than white youths who commit the same offenses. Now, a new program is changing that.  Melinda Tuhus reports.

The Connecticut Post reports:
An artificial reef could soon blunt the huge waves driven into Stratford Point by hurricane-force winds from storms like Irene and Sandy.
By late April, a reef of 40 concrete structures will be built on 3.5 acres of intertidal zone at the point by a team from Sacred Heart University and the Connecticut Audubon Society.
The marine project is funded by a $59,000 Long Island Sound Futures grant earmarked for the preservation of wildlife habitats in the area.
The artificial reef works by slowing down and breaking up waves and storm surges. The concrete structures filled with Wiffle Ball-like holes that allow water, sediment and marine life to flow through them.
As a result, sand and sediment settle near the shore and help build a habitat for tidal marsh grasses, which are conducive to some marine life, such as blue crabs and the egrets and herons that feed on them.
Stratford Point is owned by Sporting Goods Properties Inc., a subsidiary of duPont. The area is protected by a conservation easement held by the state and managed by the Connecticut Audubon Society.


An East End-based advocate for cleaner waterways is suing state parks and Stony Brook University, claiming four waterfront state parks and a SUNY campus are discharging polluted wastewater from cesspools and septic systems into area waterways.

Kevin McAllister of the Peconic Baykeeper filed his suit along with another advocate, Soundkeeper of Norwalk, CT

McAllister said the parks and campus, are home to six of the largest septic/cesspool systems in Suffolk County. “Together, they have the capacity to discharge more than 279,000 gallons of septic waste daily.”

Specifically the lawsuit mentions four state parks that are in “violation”, including Robert Moses in Babylon, Heckscher in East Islip, Belmont Lake in North Babylon, Sunken Meadow in Kings Park, Wildwood in Wading River, as well as Stony Brook University’s Southampton Campus.

The campus is home to the Marine Sciences Department of the University.

A Stony Brook University spokesperson said the school does not comment on pending litigation.

Officials from the state parks department did not respond to requests for comment.


Wednesday, November 13

On Tuesday Governor Dannel Malloy expressed frustration that the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office has not yet released the final report on the December 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.   

He said that prosecutors have concerns about personal information that might be contained in the report and that, “This has gone on longer than any of us would have liked and certainly is not representative of how I would have handled the timing of the report.

Governor Malloy announced a second wave of state funding to help local school districts bolster their school security systems in response to the Newtown shooting.

Together with funds announced in September, the state has now directed $21 million in bond funds to reimburse 111 local districts for their efforts to harden their existing school infrastructure. The money will help fund projects at 604 schools.  

Towns are being reimbursed between 20 and 80 percent of the total cost for infrastructure projects such as the installation of surveillance cameras, bullet proof glass, electric locks, buzzers and card entry systems.

With the first anniversary of the shooting next month, Malloy said he expects a fair amount of discussion about what took place and how Connecticut responded to it.

He said, “I can tell you I feel the state has responded admirably and that we are leading in the area of school security again.”


An emotional crowd of about 1,500 parents and educators packed Ward Melville High School's auditorium and cafeteria last night for a forum with state Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. Cheering speakers assailed state testing and Common Core academic standards and at times shouted down King as he tried to speak.

Eric Gustafson, a teacher in Three Village school district, said that parents and teachers are begging for delay in implementation of new curriculums and tougher tests, but "nothing is happening."

"Your message is clear," he said to King. "You are staying with the governor and big business."

During the raucous meeting, King began to explain how student test scores are used to weight teachers' performance evaluations, under a controversial system that became law early last year.

Several members of the audience began to shout, "What about the kids?"

King changed the subject. "We have been having a thoughtful phase-in of the Common Core," he said. The crowd booed.

The forum at Ward Melville and one today at Mineola High School are among about a dozen statewide that King and other state officials had described as opportunities to air concerns over revved-up testing, the Common Core standards, teacher job evaluations, and protection of student data.

Almost 50,000 New Yorkers have enrolled in health plans through NY State of Health, the state-run online insurance market launched Oct. 1 to meet requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act.

The number, reported by the state Health Department Tuesday, represents those who have not only completed the online application process and been deemed eligible to enroll, but actually chosen a health plan, whether through Medicaid or a commercial insurance carrier.

Altogether, almost 200,000 New Yorkers have applied online and shopped for coverage on NY State of Health, according to the state Health Department.

The WPKN LOCAL NEWS is prepared from various sources including CTNewsJunkie.com, EastEndBeacon, RiverheadLocal and Long Island Patch sites.

WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser and Dita Varleta contributed to today’s report.

The WPKN Local News is on the web at wpkn.org.   
This is ……..



Tuesday, November 12 

Federal funding for food stamps known as the SNAP benefits could be cut by $10 billion over 10 years under a compromise that would break a House-Senate deadlock and continue funding for a program that helps feed 430,000 across Connecticut and thousands more on Long Island.

In Hartford, where the unemployment rate has been around 15 percent, more than 50,000 people receive SNAP benefits, by far the most in Connecticut.

On Long Island, the Suffolk Times reports close to 150 hungry neighbors lined up by the Peconic riverfront in downtown Riverhead Friday afternoon, waiting on line in the cold to pick up grocery items compliments of Lighthouse Mission.

The mission is one of many food pantries serving the North Fork to see an influx of people in need – a 10 percent increase in recipients so far this month.

They say it’s in response to the recent cuts to the federal food stamp program.

Each of the pantries said the influx of patrons mixed with the upcoming holiday season leaves them in need of donations now more than ever.

Lawmakers will hold an informational hearing Wednesday to review the University of Connecticut’s policies for preventing and responding to sexual assault in response to a discrimination complaint raised in October by current and former students.

In a Title IX complaint, the seven students claimed UConn violated their rights by showing “deliberate indifference” when they reported being raped or sexually harassed.
Beginning Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the Legislative Office Building, the legislature’s Higher Education and Public Safety Committees will hear from UConn students and the school’s officials including its police chief.

Officials from Connecticut’s public university system are also expected to speak as is a representative of the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Inc.

Last Thursday the Inter-religious Eco-Justice Network organized a day-long conference on climate change for people of faith. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports. 
120 people registered, and 200 showed up to Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford. The morning keynote speech was delivered by Mary Evelyn Tucker, who has appointments both at Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Yale Divinity School.
She said it's critical that humans recognize the intrinsic value of nature, not just what it can provide or create for humans.

The day also featured panels on Faith, Morality and Climate Change and Pathways for Advocacy and Action, and nine workshop sessions, including one on divestment of fossil fuel holdings from faith communities'  endowment portfolios, an action that some churches have already undertaken.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

A major component of Governor Cuomo’s New York SAFE Act gun control law, which bans owning and selling assault-style weapons, is a state secret. Those who already owned such guns before the measure was signed can keep them if they register with the State Police by next April 15th.

But State officials say they aren’t required to reveal how many people have registered assault weapons with the state. Shortly after the law was passed, State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico estimated that there could be hundreds of thousands. Others have said 1 million isn’t an unrealistic number.

Advocacy groups — including those that supported the gun control measure and those that took no stance — said they oppose keeping SAFE Act data secret.

The New York Public Interest Research Group has neither supported nor opposed the SAFE Act. But its legislative director, Blair Horner, said he believes the number of registrants shouldn’t be a secret.

Monday, November 11

New Haven's mayor and superintendent of schools joined the president of the teachers union Friday in celebrating the ratification of a new three-year contract. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports from Hill Central School:

In a second-grade bilingual classroom, officials and a dozen teachers gathered to tout the new contract. It continues the district's four-year-old school reform campaign, which is a national model. The contract includes an 11-percent wage hike for teachers who are deemed effective to exemplary, and additional training for struggling colleagues. Union president Dave Ciccarella said a key element is developing career paths for good teachers to stay in the classroom.

Funds for pay increases come out of a federal grant.
Teachers approved the contract by a margin of ten to one.

Another key element of the new contract is increased collaboration among teachers, with more experienced teachers working with newer or struggling colleagues. Cora Munoz, a bilingual teacher in whose classroom the conference took place, is one of 50 new teacher-facilitators.

Teachers who volunteer to work in "hard to serve" schools will earn additional compensation, based on levels of poverty, transience, foreign language speakers, and other factors.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

Superior court judge Eliot Prescott concluded Friday that he could not decide a dispute over the release of 911 recordings from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting without first hearing them.

The judge heard arguments Friday from Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky, lawyers for the Associated Press and the state’s Freedom of Information Commission. Sedensky is asking Prescott to block the release of the recordings while he appeals a decision by the commission calling for their release.

Victor Perpetua, a lawyer for the FOI Commission said the eight members of the commission listened to them and decided they should be disclosed.

Judge Prescott noted that there was no evidence that personal anguish was among the considerations the FOI Commission weighed in its decision.
In advance of Veterans' Day, famed talk show host Phil Donahue came to New Haven last week. Melinda Tuhus reports he showed his award-winning 2007 documentary, Body of War, to an appreciative audience.

It's the story of one veteran, Tomas Young, who joined the army right after 9/11 hoping to fight in Afghanistan, but was instead sent to Iraq after the invasion of that country.

After just five days in-country, he was critically injured while traveling with other soldiers in an open, unarmored truck. The documentary is a painfully intimate portrait of a young American who becomes an anti-war activist while dealing with the fall-out of his injuries.

After the film, Donahue skyped with Young's wife, who answered questions about the couple's life now, including that he was too ill to get on the call himself.


Newsday reports: Suffolk County advocates for homeless veterans are offering them housing help and other services after receiving a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The federal Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant was awarded to the Patchogue-based Economic Opportunity Council.

Qualified veterans can expect services that include personal financial planning, counsel on legal issues, financial assistance, day care, employment training assistance and peer support among other aid.

The Housing and Urban Development reports that between 2007 and 2011, 7.7 percent of veterans in the state were homeless.

Suffolk program coordinator Robert O'Donnell said he hopes to have better access to mental health and employment services for vets in the future.
The program is open to Suffolk County veterans who have served in any branch, any conflict or any era. Those with a dishonorable discharge are not eligible.
Anyone who knows a needy veteran can call the program at 631- 289-2601.

Friday, November 8 

Connecticut utility regulators gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a plan by the state’s three natural gas utilities to greatly expand their natural gas operations.
The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority approved a joint proposal by Southern Connecticut Gas, Connecticut Natural Gas, and Yankee Gas to expand 900 miles of natural gas lines to 280,000 customers over the next 10 years. The expansion is part of Governor Malloy’s “Comprehensive Energy Strategy” legislation approved by the General Assembly. 

Rather than paying an upfront cost, the ruling would create a new higher rate for new natural gas customers to cover the costs over 10 years. Afterwards the new customers would return to paying standard rates.
Malloy praised the regulators’ decision as pro-consumer. “Part of our plan to provide cleaner, cheaper and more reliable energy is to expand natural gas service to people who are interested in lowering their energy costs.”
Chris Herb, president of the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association that represents 600 home heating oil and propane dealers, said the proposal benefits large utility companies while hurting small oil companies.
He said family-run home heating oil companies will be forced to close, putting some 4,000 people out of work.

More than 9,000 people have died as a result of gun violence since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown eleven months ago.

Yesterday, Representative John Larson suggested that perhaps Congress could make progress on curbing violence if it approached the issue from another perspective, that is, to temporarily put aside the divisive issue of gun control and focus on ideas with broader support

Larson hosted a forum with state Social Services Commissioner Roderick Bremby in the Legislative Office Building. They heard from a number of experts on issues like the impact nutrition can have on behavior.

Following the several-hour program, Larson said he was looking forward to taking some of the ideas he heard to his colleagues in Washington.
He said. “I do believe there is a willingness down there If we can put guns aside for the moment and focus on both the nutritional and mental health aspects”

School superintendents throughout Suffolk County are uniting to send embattled state Education Commissioner John King Jr. a strong message: Stop over-testing, slow down the Common Core curriculum and rethink teacher and principal evaluations.

A letter supported by all 18 superintendents in the Western Suffolk BOCES district -- was sent to King this week. A second, from the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, which represents the county's 68 public school districts, will be sent in a few days.
Both are meant to spotlight educators' ideas for changes before King attends two forums next week on Long Island.

The school leaders said the state should slow introduction of new exams, reduce testing, re-evaluate the links between student test performance and teacher evaluations and give teachers more time to prepare for classroom instruction.

Education Department spokesman Dennis Tompkins said the annual tests now administered are required by federal law and the evaluations of teachers and principals are required by state law.
King has said the state will not delay implementation of Common Core standards, but he is open to changes going forward.

Tuesday's forum will be held at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket from 6 to 8 p.m. 
 Another forum is scheduled Wednesday at Mineola High School, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Later meetings are set for Nov. 26 and Dec. 9.

Thursday, November 7

Attorney General George Jepsen is asking federal regulators to “aggressively scrutinize” United Healthcare’s decision to drop doctors from its network.

Jepsen doesn’t have authority to compel the health insurance carrier to provide information about its network or to extend the Medicare enrollment period beyond December 7, so he’s calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to get involved.

Bryan Carroll, UnitedHealthcare’s associate general counsel responded  “Although we’ve made some changes to our Medicare Advantage network in Connecticut for 2014, UnitedHealthcare will continue to offer a high quality network of physicians, specialists, and other providers to our Medicare Advantage beneficiaries.This includes almost 3,000 primary care physicians and more than 4,400 specialists in Connecticut who will participate in our Medicare Advantage network in 2014.”
United Healthcare won’t confirm which physicians it has terminated, but sources say it sent letters to every member of the Yale Medical School’s faculty.
The Fairfield County Medical Association and the Hartford County Medical Association filed a federal lawsuit against the company in an attempt to stop the terminations from going forward.
The complaint says United is shifting the financial burdens imposed by the Affordable Care Act from itself, a multi-billion dollar company, to the providers and patients, with the aim of maximizing revenues.

Toni Harp’s election as New Haven mayor will leave vacant the Senate chair of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, a position she has held for more than a decade.
The Appropriations Committee is one of the legislature’s two budget-writing panels. It determines how the state spends taxpayer dollars. However, with Harp’s election Tuesday night as mayor of New Haven, someone else will be taking the reins of the Appropriations Committee as New Haven’s charter prohibits its mayor from holding other public office.
Who fills her seat in the state senate chamber will be up to New Haven voters in a February election.
Adam Joseph, a spokesman for Senate President Donald Williams, said no decision has been made regarding who will take over the committee leadership position if Harp steps down.

Newsday reports:

The Suffolk County legislature has decided to take 32.8 million dollars from the county’s sewer assessment fund to help balance the budget, but environmentalists complain that the move is illegal and will lead to future raids on the voter-approved program.

The move came Wednesday night among several amendments to County Executive Steve Bellone's $2.76 billion budget. 

The county's $140 million sewer fund stabilizes tax rates for Suffolk's 22 sewer districts to offset the spike in the county’s anticipated debt service next year.

Supporters say the move will save the county $46 million in interest costs and will not affect any of the existing county environmental initiatives. They claim the county would expect to start repaying the money in 2017.

But critics fear that the plans to pay back the fund are uncertain, because they are not mandated in the budget resolutions. Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said, "If we break faith with the public they will never allow one dollar more."

Lawmakers also rejected stand-alone amendments that would have increased sales tax revenue sharing to East End towns and some villages by $3 million dollars.

The New York Daily News reports:
Governor Andrew Cuomo says he believes the new casinos approved by voters Tuesday will help revive struggling upstate regions and reclaim gambling dollars spent in other states. Investors are already placing their bets on where the gambling palaces might be located.
The state’s plan calls for an initial rollout of four casinos in three upstate locations: the Catskills, the Capital Region and the Southern Tier along the Pennsylvania border. Each region would get at least one casino. Long Island  would get 2 or 3 video lottery terminal parlors.
The Cuomo-controlled state Gaming Commission is expected to formally seek bids from casino operators early next year.

A selection committee will then review each bid and select winners.

The first four casino licenses would be issued by the end of 2014. License holders would then be required to open casinos within two years.

Casinos are banned in the New York City and its suburbs for at least seven years. New casinos are also banned near the five gaming palaces operated by Indian tribes upstate.
The State reached agreement with those tribes this year regarding expansion of Indian owned gaming.  But so far Governor Cuomo has declined to discuss a Long Island casino with the Shinnecock Nation.

Wednesday, November 6

Election results across Connecticut yesterday gave both Democrats and Republicans the chance to claim election victory.

In the most historic race, 10-term state Senator Toni Harp becomes New Haven's first female mayor, and first female African American mayor. The Democratic candidate ran against another Democrat-turned-independent, Alderman Justin Elicker, and will replace 11-term Democratic Mayor John DeStefano, who is retiring. It's a one-party town.

Ansonia, Bristol and Meriden now are headed by Republican mayors.  New Britain has a new mayor, but still a Republican.  Norwich and Derby gained Democratic mayors; the first women to take those positions. After twenty five years there is again a Democratic as mayor in Ansonia.  Norwalk also now has a Democrat as mayor.

Republican incumbents won in East Haven, Stratford and Trumbull and in Danbury, the Republican mayor won a seventh term; Mark D. Boughton is a potential challenger for Governor Dannel P. Malloy next year. 

Democrats retained their mayoral seats in Waterbury, Hamden and Milford; and Stamford is now headed by Democrat David Martin as Republican Mayor Michael Pavia, who succeeded Malloy in 2009, did not seek a second term.

Similarly, Torrington’s Democratic mayor did not seek re-election, and Republican Elinor Carbone won the open mayoralty in that city.

The mayors of Hartford and New London  and Bridgeport, were not up for re-election, but Bridgeport’s Bill Finch lost control of the Board of Education, where the Democratic establishment is out and Democratic insurgents, represented by unionized teachers and members of the Working Families Party, are in.


In the wake of a police racial profiling scandal in East Haven that resulted in four cop convictions and a $2.5 million federal fine, voters nevertheless decided by a comfortable margin to re-elect their mayor to an eighth two-year term.    --------------------------

In 1991, Connecticut became the fourth state in the nation to formally protect gay and lesbian workplace rights. In 2011, Connecticut became the 15th state to afford those same rights to transgender individuals. Now Connecticut politicians are calling on the federal government to do that same. On Monday, the U.S. Senate voted 61-30 to avoid a filibuster on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for non-religious employers.
As he traveled the state Tuesday stumping for local municipal candidates, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy issued a statement urging Congress to pass the legislation. He said an employee should be judged on how well they do their job, not on who they are.
Tuesday night, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy gave a speech on the Senate floor asking his colleagues to support the bill because he wants the rights afforded to Connecticut workers to be extended to all Americans. He said large multi-state and multi-national companies headquartered in Connecticut have been thriving under the legislation, and two large Connecticut-based companies -- General Electric and Boehringer Ingelheim issued statements agreeing with Murphy’s analysis.
Opponents, including House Speaker John Boehner, say the bill would impose burdens on businesses and hamper religious freedom. The chances of passage in the House are slim to none.

And in New York, state voters approved a constitutional amendment that will
pave the way for non-indian casino gaming at upstate locations.
On Long Island - Brookhaven Town Supervisor Republican Ed Romaine defeated Vivian Villoria-Fisher (a Democrat) with 62% of the vote to Villoria-Fisher's 38%.

Republicans took all contested Brookhaven Town Council Seats

In East Hampton Town, Candidates for Town Council Fred Overton  a Republican and Kathee Burke-Gonzalez a Democrat took the top votes.  The Supervisor will be Larry Cantwell who ran un-opposed.

In Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst running on the Independence line, was re-elected defeating a former Supervisor - Republican Linda Kabot by a comfortable margin.  In the race for town council Democrat Bradley Bender and Republican Stan Glinka were the top vote-getters. 

In Riverhead Republicans John J Dunleavy Jr  and Jodi A Giglio were elected to the town council.

Tuesday, November 5

Voters are going to the polls today in all but four of Connecticut’s cities and towns.  126 communities have contests for the top post, including open mayoral seats in New Haven and Stamford.

In New Haven, 10-term state Senator Toni Harp, a Democrat and the front-runner, is up against two-term Alderman Justin Elicker. Elicker is running as a petitioning candidate after losing the Democratic primary.

In Stamford, Republican Michael Fedele, the former lieutenant governor, is competing with Democrat David Martin in an expensive contest to succeed Michael Pavia, a one-term Republican.

Speaking of voting, this is the first year that a Connecticut citizen can register and vote at the same time. But hurry. Polls close at 8 pm in Connecticut.

On Long Island voters have ‘til 9 PM,

Contests include a statewide referendum that will determine if non-Indian gaming casinos can be built in upstate New York. 

Town Supervisor and Town Council races will be decided in many locations.  

Responding to pressure from the public, a group of U.S. senators, and a dozen federal judges, the federal Bureau of Prisons has decided not to transfer all female prisoners from the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury to a prison in Alabama.

Instead, about 400 women, mostly from the Northeast, will remain and more than 1,300 others will be transferred to prisons  closer to their home states.

Under the Bureau's original proposal, Danbury would have become an all-male prison, but the plan now is to house about 1,000 male prisoners there in a separate section.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and two Albanian immigrants made a case for immigration reform Monday.

Blumenthal’s office intervened in the cases of Valent Kolami and Adrian Emin The men, who have lived in the U.S. for 13 years, were detained after their visas expired. They spent months in federal detention and were released recently. Both faced deportation, which has now been stayed for a year.

Despite being here illegally, the two men have built lives in the United States. They co-operate a masonry business and both have families.

Blumenthal said that many of the 11 million people living in the country without proper documentation have similar stories.

The U.S. Senate passed bipartisan legislation in June that would have created a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. The bill did not come to a vote in the House. Blumenthal said both Kolami and Emin would have been eligible to seek citizenship under the legislation.

Suffolk lawmakers have rejected County Executive Steve Bellone's plan to defer about $33 million in debt repayments as a way to help balance next year's $2.76 billion dollar budget.  They say the initiative -- which is dependent on state approval – is too risky.

County legislative leaders Monday unveiled a series of amendments to Bellone's $2.76 billion spending plan for 2014. The full legislature will vote Wednesday on the changes, which also include several funding restorations for nonprofits.

Bellone’s plan would have pushed off a $33 million increase in debt payments to next year, at greater future costs.

Suffolk's assessment stabilization reserves, which would be tapped to pay the debt increase, are funded by a portion of the quarter-cent sales tax meant for drinking water protection purposes. 
Richard Amper  of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society said lawmakers are illegally balancing the budget with funds restricted for water quality purposes. He said "They might as well rob a bank,"
Republican Legislator Tom Cilmi of Bay Shore said he's unsure how he'll vote on the amendments. Cilmi says  the process is dominated by the Democratic majority and doesn't occur in the open or allow enough time for review before being finalized.
Beginning November 7, The Peconic Institute is hosting a series of six FEMA-certified National Disaster Preparedness Training courses focusing on the needs and opportunities of islands.

The Institute is housed at the Southampton Campus of Stony Brook University.
John Botos of the Peconic Institute says the course is for people who are interested in preparing a resiliancy plan.

A team of disaster experts affiliated with the University of Hawaii will lead the training, which includes classes in resilient building design, caring for seniors during disasters and flood risk reduction. There is also a class specifically for elected officials. Details are at peconicinstitute.org.

Botos said he would like to see a regional plan prepared for the East End so that if, say, Riverhead was spared by a storm but East Hampton was badly hurt, Riverhead’s resources could be deployed to help other towns.
 Monday, November 4
In filing a federal lawsuit against the University of Connecticut on Friday, four plaintiffs who allege the school failed to adequately respond when they were raped said they felt victimized again by President Susan Herbst’s comments last week.

Herbst said “the suggestion that the University of Connecticut, as an institution, would somehow be indifferent to, or dismissive of, any report of sexual assault is astonishingly misguided and demonstrably untrue.”

Kylie Angell, a 2013 UConn graduate and plaintiff in the lawsuit, said:
“Listening to my personal study labeled as ‘demonstrably untrue’ and ‘astonishingly misguided’ felt like I was re-experiencing the trauma incurred by the university’s failure to protect me all over again.”

But UConn spokeswoman, Stephanie Reitz said what President Herbst was challenging was the broad charge that UConn as an institution is “deliberately indifferent” to sexual assault and its victims. THAT is what she described as “misguided” and “untrue...”

Tomorrow is election day.

In Connecticut,  polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. 
In New York State polls are open from 6am to 9pm.

Some polling places have changed. 

In Connecticut locations can be found at www.sots.ct.gov. Clicking on the "voter information" tab and filling out a form with your name, city and date of birth will tell you where your polling place is - if you're registered. 

If you are not registered, because of the new Election Day registration law, you can register and vote in person at your town's Election Day Registration location. You will need to supply proof of identity and residence.

A resolution to support mandatory labeling of food products containing genetically modified organisms was voted down by a narrow margin at the Long Island Farm Bureau's annual members’ meeting last week.

The issue is one that's been playing out nationally for several years. Last year the same resolution was approved.

Joe Gergela, the Long Island Farm Bureau's executive director, says although the New York Farm Bureau's current position does not regard GMO’s negatively, consumer suspicion is mounting and may force farmers to rethink labeling.

The debate centers on whether food producers are to be mandated to label products containing crops that have had genes artificially spliced into them.

Meg McGrath, a vegetable pathology researcher with the Cornell Cooperative Extension said Monsanto’s Roundup-ready GMO crops enable production with reduced tillage which leaves soil with more nutrients.

McGrath says "labeling is insinuating something is wrong with it” and that no known health risks have been definitively linked to genetically engineered crops.”

She says the public's perceptions about GMO's and health risks are often based on fear rather than science.

Opponents of GMO crops cite the lack of growable seeds from the plants. The seeds must be purchased from the manufacturer each year.

The Farm bureau’s Gergela said GMO's have advantages most people don't hear about, with Roundup-ready crops needing less pesticides.

But this claim has been refuted by a study conducted at Washington State University's Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources.

It shows GMO's led to increase in use of herbicides, and more toxic ones.
Also, decrease in pesticide use is temporary, as insects have developed resistance, leading to eventual use of more pesticides.


Scientists who study Peconic Bay scallop populations are predicting a decent season, which opened at dawn today. 

This is despite algae blooms and deteriorating conditions in East End waters this past summer.
Dr. Stephen Tettelbach of the Peconic Bay Scallop Restoration Project at the Cornell Cooperative Extension said his research team finished their fall scallop population survey of the bays last week.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation has reported about 40,000 pounds of scallop meat from the Peconic Bays for the last three years. Tettelbach believes the landings are closer to 100,000 pounds.

Before the brown tide hit the bays in 1985, baymen were landing about 300,000 pounds of scallop meat annually. 

Tettelbach thinks a combination of the warm winter and rust tide may have adversely affected last year’s scallop harvest.

A few hundred Southampton High School students held a peaceful sit-in on Friday to protest the defeat of a Southampton-Tuckahoe school district merger proposition last Tuesday.

If approved the merger would have resulted in a 2/3 reduction of the school tax in the small Tuckahoe district and an increase of about 8% in the much larger  Southampton School district.  

Tuckahoe sends its high school students to Southampton but the district may not be able to continue paying tuition costs.

Sebastian Cuyjet, a sophomore who lives on the Shinnecock Reservation, which is within the Southampton School District, organized the protest after hearing from other students who were also disappointed with the outcome which may see their fellow students from Tuckahoe leaving.

Friday, November 1

Roughly 400,000 state residents who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. or SNAP -- formerly known as food stamps -- will face a cut starting today.

The cut comes out to about $10 per person per month, or about 5.5 percent across the board for households of one, two, three, or four people. Nolan said Thursday that the funding cut is not related to sequestration, which is the across-the-board federal spending cut that Congress put in place in 2011 if it couldn’t agree to a budget deal. Rather, it's a reduction of an earlier increase in SNAP payments under the American Recovery Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, passed right after President Obama took office in response to the economic crash of 2008. Some of that funding was shifted into a school feeding program. Lucy Nolan, executive director of the Hartford-based nonprofit End Hunger Connecticut! said, “The families that are hungry are going to be hungrier,” Nolan said. “But the kids will be eating healthy at school.”

In its first month, Access Health CT, the state’s health insurance exchange, enrolled 7,615 people in health care coverage, according to figures released Friday. Of those, 53 percent have signed up for private insurance plans. The other 47 percent are signed up for Medicaid. In addition, 55 small businesses have signed up for coverage through Access Health's small business exchange. Altogether they have 306 employees.

The program is Connecticut's response to Obamacare, in which states either chose to create their own exchanges or leave it to the federal government to do so. Though it has had some glitches, the Connecticut site is operating much better than the federal site, which has been plagued with computer problems that have prevented almost everyone who tried to sign up from actually doing so.

In 2004, 13 indigenous Grandmothers gathered from all over the world to form a Global Alliance to heal the earth and all beings. Five of them spoke at Quinnipiac University near New Haven, Connecticut, this week. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:

Flordemayo, originally from Nicaragua, has been a healer since the age of 4. She said she had a dream that humans turned into robots, because they have lost connection with each other and with other animals and plants.

But she added that humans can choose which way they will go, and she prays they will return to their roots.

Agnes Baker-Pilgrim, is a leader of the Takelma tribe in Oregon. She said she praises water for its life-giving properties.

The women travel the world, raising awareness about the destructive impacts of modern life, on both the planet and on all its inhabitants. They were honored with an award from the Fellowship of Reconciliation for their work to achieve freedom from poverty, racism, violence and materialism.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.


New York voters will go to the polls Tuesday to decide whether the state should bet on casinos to help lift a sagging upstate economy.

If approved, the state would allow up to seven non-Indian casinos to be built, including in the Catskills, which long ago lost its favored status as a retreat for New York City residents.

Newspaper editorial boards, including the New York Post's, argued the measure doesn't promote job growth and won't lead to increased aid to schools.

The New York Times editorial board has also turned against the referendum, stating "you should not accept the way this amendment is advertised on the ballot as a jobs and growth initiative for upstate New York. It is liable to fail to deliver on that promise."

Suffolk Times reports:

What makes a family? A definition is needed as housing responds to changing demands from family restructuring.

Shortly after crafting new apartment rental regulations, Greenport Village board members are now aiming to answer that question themselves, as they seek to define “family” under the village code.

The proposed changes in Greenport come after the board adopted a new rental regulations law over the summer that defines a family as two or more persons related by blood and up to five persons not related by blood occupying a dwelling and living together as a traditional family.

Before Greenport’s rental law was enacted, local landlords have protested the village’s definition of family, repeatedly calling the plan racist during public hearings.

The Greenport village board scheduled a public hearing for Nov. 25 regarding the proposed amendment. 

Thursday October 31

Hartford is home to a successful health care coordination model for children with complex medical needs.

And now it has been expanded to reach vulnerable children at risk due to poverty.

Dr. Paul Dworkin, of the Connecticut Children's Medical Center, says an evaluation of multiple outreach efforts showed the need is obvious.

"It still took, on average, seven contacts to successfully link the child and family to the appropriate program or service," he says.

A $97,000 grant from the Connecticut Health Foundation will help expand the community systems approach to children and families in the greater Hartford area, and set the stage for expansion statewide.

Dworkin says the outreach model cuts across systems.

"Not only within the child's health sector," he says, "but also within the early care and education sector and within the family support sector."

Dworkin adds the care coordination collaborative model promises lower costs and better outcomes for children.

Southold Town officials are still waiting for roughly $2 million in Sandy relief funds. 

Months of red tape, employee turnover, and mistakes by the state have held up the town’s money.

The delays have pushed back repair projects, including $600,000 in road reinforcement and more than $1 million in repairs to the Fishers Island airport.

In the meantime, Southold Town officials are holding off on repairs or finding other ways to fund projects, trying to buy time until FEMA funds arrive, so they don’t have to dip into the town’s budget to pay for the projects.  

A fire that destroyed the Shinnecock Indian Nation's gaming authority trailer is now being investigated as an arson, the Southampton Town Fire Marshal's office said this morning.

The fire was determined as suspicious after it was discovered that the blaze on Wednesday started on the outside of the trailer, which is near the community center on the Shinnecock Reservation in Southampton.

The FBI and New York State Bureau of Criminal Justice are also investigating, according to several accounts. 

New York State education commissioner John King announced yesterday that it will be holding a forum in Riverhead – one of two meetings being held in Suffolk County – to discuss the Common Core State Standards Initiative and state testing.

The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 26, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Mr. King’s announcement came a few weeks after he was criticized for canceling some previously scheduled meetings, including the only event that had been scheduled for Long Island.

Education officials said there will be four forums on Long Island. The other Suffolk County meeting will be held on Nov. 6 at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, at 7 p.m.

Mr. King said he believes the state’s new direction is the best way to ensure students are college and career ready upon graduating from high school.

Governor  Cuomo signed a law last week aimed at protecting and preserving East End coastlines that are at significant risk to sea level rise.

The new law notes rising sea levels as one reason towns can purchase shorefront property using Community Preservation Fund dollars.

While towns could previously purchase undeveloped land on the shore, climate change could not specifically be the only reason why towns were paying for them.
Each of the five East End towns uses a Community Preservation Fund to preserve environmentally sensitive land for open space, farmland preservation, historic preservation and parks for recreational use, however existing law did not specifically include at-risk coastlines.

The fund, applies a 2 percent tax on all real estate transfers to set aside funds for land preservation purchases.

Long Island Pine Barrens Society executive director Richard Amper said “the key word in this legislation is ‘undeveloped’ lands.” “This is what the original act intended, so this particular bill makes clear that vulnerable coastal areas will be a priority for CPF funding in the years ahead,” Mr. Amper said. “Sea level rise will affect Long Island Sound and it will affect the Peconic bays.”

Wednesday, October 30

Connecticut state officials are among the 17-member committee releasing the first draft of a document that proposes a change in how medical services will be delivered to up to 80 percent of the state’s population, including those on both public and private insurance.
With a $2.8 million grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, most of which went to the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the group is looking to reduce the overall cost of health care and improve access to services through better coordination of care.
 Per capita health care spending was over $10,000 in Connecticut in 2012, totaling more than $29 billion – the 3rd highest in the U.S.
The goal is to save more than $1 billion over the next 10 years.
The proposed payment model moves away from a system where a physician gets paid for every procedure performed to a system where a physician is rewarded for providing high-quality care that reduces waste and inefficiencies.
Ellen Andrews, executive director of the Connecticut Health Policy Project, is concerned that the main way they seem to be cutting waste out of the system is by rewarding doctors for denying patients care.  She expressed concern that there are no independent consumer advocates or hospitals on the committee drafting this plan.
Municipal associations asked the legislature’s Labor Committee to support changes to the Connecticut’s wage policy at a public forum Tuesday in New Britain.
Connecticut law requires contractors working on state and town construction projects to pay their workers wages and benefits at least equal to rates posted annually by the Labor Department. The prevailing wage law applies to all new government construction projects above $400,000 and renovations projects over $100,000.
Litchfield First Selectman Leo Paul, a Republican, asked the committee to support legislation raising the threshold that triggers prevailing wage for new projects to $1 million and for renovation projects to $400,000. 
Prevailing wage frequently pits organized labor unions who believe the policy sets important wage standards for construction workers against municipalities who view it as a burdensome unfunded mandate.
Democratic Middletown Mayor Daniel Drew said “If we increase those thresholds, you’re going to see workers all over the state of Connecticut bringing home smaller paychecks, which means less money is going into those local economies and less money to pay taxes for public services.”
Tuesday’s hearing served as an informational forum on the topic. It is unclear whether there are any plans for legislation modifying the prevailing wage law when the legislature comes back in February. 

Voters in the Southampton School District overwhelmingly voted against a merger with the smaller nearby Tuckahoe school district on Tuesday. 

The merger would have increased school taxes in the Southampton district by about 8 per cent.  The school taxes in the smaller Tuckahoe district would have been reduced by about 65 per cent. 

The Tuckahoe School District which has one K to 8 school, faces possible bankruptcy according to the Southampton Press/ 27east web site.
84 27east.com
A year ago this week, Superstorm Sandy hit New York hard. Environmentalists say it’s an opportunity to rebuild with an eye toward curbing wastewater discharges. New York News Connection’s Mark Scheerer reports:

NYNC-Waiwode.Mp3 0:47

Tuesday, October 29

Connecticut is expecting to receive $65 million in federal Community Development Block Grant dollars to help 200 Milford homeowners rebuild and repair their homes.
Connecticut Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein said the $65 million is “gap” funding, meaning its purpose is to fill the gap between what private or federal flood insurance doesn’t pay, or what the Federal Emergency Management Agency doesn’t cover.
The state received about $45.4 million in disaster assistance grants and loans, $135 million for about 4,000 federal flood insurance claims, and another $72 million in Housing and Urban Development funds for repairs and mitigation efforts.
Milford Mayor Ben Blake said “While many of those evacuated have been able to return to the comfort of their homes, far too many Milford residents are still in the process of rebuilding.”
About 2,000 homes and buildings in his town were compromised, shifted off their foundation, or washed out to sea.
Blake said. “In order for these homeowners to rebuild they need to get the payment from the insurance company, but the insurance company is holding that payment in escrow because in order to meet the requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program they need to elevate their home before they’re able to rebuild.
He said it’s kind of a “Catch-22” for many of these homeowners because the cost of the settled insurance claim doesn’t cover the cost of elevating the home. They can’t access the money and they can’t elevate the home until they have money to elevate.

Top-ranking Connecticut officials are angry over Con Edison’s refusal to take responsibility for the September outage that left tens of thousands of New Haven-line commuters scrambling to find other transportation for 12 days.
During a Senate field hearing Monday at Bridgeport City Hall, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy asked Con Edison President Craig Ivey whether the New York-based utility would reimburse customers inconvenienced by the failure of the 36-year-old feeder cable that crippled the New Haven line Sept. 25. Ivey said it would be unfair to Con Edison’s customers to provide compensation because one customer — Metro-North — made a decision with unforeseen consequences.
Ivey said Metro-North asked Con Edison on September 13 to remove one of the two high-voltage cables feeding the Mount Vernon station from service so that Metro-North could perform mechanical upgrades. On September 25, the remaining line failed.
On Monday, Ivey said the line was installed in 1976. Blumenthal responded that the line was only designed for 30 years of service, and was thus six years past its design life.
According to the New York Times, the utility said it was unsure why the feeder cable had failed.  Also, the transit authority said their request to take one feeder cable out of service came after tests showed that a single feeder could carry enough power to operate effectively.
On Monday, New York Senator Charles Schumer repeated calls for a federal investigation into the episode. The State Public Service Commission also said it would conduct a review of the power loss, asking that Con Ed retain damaged equipment and other materials for inspection.
The Flanders neighborhood of Bayview Pines on Peconic Bay in Southampton Town  was one of the hardest hit on Long Island by hurricane Sandy,  Twelve months later,  some homes are still vacant.

Rich Naso, a member of the Bayview Pines Advisory Committee, said  "I stayed throughout the storm…. I watched the side of a garage float by, docks float by. A dock was ripped off the back of a neighbor's house a block away. There were propane tanks going down the block."

According to Southampton Town officials, at least six homes in Flanders were totaled and condemned. But one year later, some residents have still not seen relief.

According to Naso, there are four homes still unoccupied while waiting for adjustments from either FEMA or the National Flood Insurance Program.
He says some residents have hit a wall while trying to receive help from New York state’s Rising Recovery Program, designed to help flood-devastated communities rebuild. Although NY Rising is sponsoring a buyout and a house-raising program there seems to be a Catch 22 associated with each."
Residents who took out federal loans to help rebuild are not eligible for full help from the state program.

On October1, flood insurance rates went up.  Some neighbors, Naso said, are forced to pay back rent monies they received once they receive their FEMA settlement — and still must pay mortgages on homes that were too damaged to be occupied. He says “it would have been nice if the town had kicked in and given a slight reduction in taxes"

Monday, October 28

Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, which has largely avoided the technical problems that have plagued the federal Healthcare.gov website, was caught in the middle Sunday when it was no longer able to verify information through the federal data hub.

Terremark, a Verizon company that operates a data center for the federal government, was trying to replace a networking component Sunday when it brought the entire network down.

Connecticut residents will still be able to log onto Access Health CT and create an account and comparison shop, but no one will be able to actually sign up for a plan until Terremark resolves the problem, but Terremark gave no indication of when that would be.

Connecticut is one of 14 states that have opted to set up their own exchanges. However, even though it has its own software and servers it’s required to communicate with the federal data hub in order to verify information like the identity or income of an individual applying for coverage.

The federal healthcare.gov site, which is being used by 36 states, has been plagued with problems since enrollment began on Oct. 1. The Obama administration has vowed to have the problems fixed by the end of November.

The Connecticut Democratic Party is raising money nearly three times faster for the 2014 election than it did four years ago while Republican fundraising is stagnant.

Governor Dannel Malloy, a first-term Democrat up for re-election, is aggressively headlining his party’s fundraising, utilizing a law passed this year by the Democratic majority legislature. It raised donor limits and allows the state parties for the first time to make unlimited expenditures to support candidates for governor and other state offices.

The Democratic Party has raised more than $1.5 million since January; almost a third in $10,000 donations.

While the Connecticut Republican Party nearly matched the Democrats dollar for dollar four years ago, the GOP now lags far behind, raising just over half a million dollars this year.

Supporters of public financing argue the new rules are reinforcing the concept of "pay to play" in Connecticut politics. Essentially, the state now has two sets of contradictory campaign financing rules: one provides public financing to candidates who agree to accept donations of no more than $100 and abide by spending limits that vary by office; the other allows maximum donations of $10,000 and unlimited spending.

A new report by the New York state Comptroller's Office says more than a quarter of all property value in New York state is free from county, city and state taxes.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli told a news conference “Those that own taxable property are left to carry a heavier burden, and municipalities are left to make up the difference" 

The total value of tax-exempt properties statewide is $680 billion, according to the report. That number rises to $826 billion for properties exempt from more than one type of local government or school district taxes, such as those that receive the STAR exemption for school taxes.

Some areas contain even more tax-exempt property than the state-wide average of 26%.

For several upstate cities, the percentage of exempt property value is over 50 per cent, including Syracuse, Troy and Ithaca.  

Newsday reports:

Long Island is at risk for major damage a year after superstorm Sandy because its infrastructure has not been strengthened, leaving tens of thousands of residents vulnerable.

Major resiliency measures to make the region better prepared to withstand severe weather are years off, leaving homes and streets exposed, officials and experts say.
Upgrades to the Long Island Rail Road's Long Beach line -- portions of which were underwater during Sandy -- won't be finished until 2018.

 The Long Island Power Authority has erected temporary barriers to keep water away from its critical equipment, but a permanent solution won't be finished until 2015.

The state last week began announcing a series of major infrastructure-strengthening outlays but they reflect just a fraction of what the region needs.
 Friday, October 25

Governor Dannel Malloy joined Republican legislative leaders Thursday in calling for hearings on allegations that the University of Connecticut has failed to pursue complaints of sexual assaults.

Malloy said "One of the most basic responsibilities of our institutions of higher learning is to keep our young people safe. If they have failed in that responsibility in any way, or if any victim of sexual assault has been treated with anything but the utmost respect, I will be outraged."

The leaders of the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate quickly issued similar statements.

Republican leaders said they worry that when students reach out for help they are being directed to a university panel that handles academic discipline, which could hinder their ability to seek criminal charges later. They want assurances that the criminal and academic proceedings work in collaboration.

Representative Lawrence Cafero and Senator John McKinney suggested that when sexual assault complaints are first brought to UConn’s student disciplinary board they should be automatically forwarded to UConn police for investigation.

In the last five years, 55 sexual-assault complaints were made to the school’s police department. The university panel responsible for academic discipline has received complaints of 43 sexual assaults in the last two years. University officials were unable to say if any of the sexual assault complaints have led to anyone being criminally charged.

Connecticut state plans to open assistance centers in East Haven, Fairfield, Milford, and Norwalk for homeowners hit by Hurricane Sandy.

The centers will open Thursday and assist affected homeowners to access grants under the Housing Department’s Owner Occupied Rehabilitation and Rebuilding Program. Online assistance is also available. The grants range from $10,000 to $150,000 to cover repairs or to make homes more resistant to storms. The assistance will only cover expenses not covered through insurance or other types of assistance.

The offices will be open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. as well as Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Residents can make appointments by calling 1-866-272-1976. For more information, homeowners can visit ctrecovers.ct.gov.

New York State’s farmers are getting some relief from constant increases in land assessments on their agricultural acreage, thanks to new bill signed into law by Governor Cuomo this week.

Historically, ever-increasing assessments on farmland have led to property tax increases which put pressure on farmers to sell their farms for real estate development. Over the past seven years, the base assessment value for agricultural lands statewide has nearly doubled, leading to skyrocketing property tax increases, according to the governor. This, coupled with increases in municipal and school taxes, has led to a difficult business climate for some farmers.
When taken off the tax rolls as agricultural use, the property can be reassessed as residential or business-use, resulting in higher tax revenues for local government. Increases in agricultural assessments were historically limited to a maximum of 10% per year, but now are capped at 2% annually by the new legislation.
Owners of 70 homes in Sandy-damaged areas of Suffolk County are asking the state to buy their properties so the land can be returned to nature and serve as a buffer against future storms. The 70 parcels are among 613 flood-prone Long Island properties targeted by the state for voluntary buyouts.

Of the total -- 234 are in Lindenhurst. Homeowners In Flanders, in Southampton Town, and in Mastic Beach, Bayport, Oakdale, Patchogue, Sayville and Yaphank also are eligible for buyouts.
The maximum price is $730 thousand for a single-family home and $934 thousand for a two-family. The state expects to make conditional offers to the first 25 applicants this month.  
Homeowners were told that their properties were chosen for voluntary buyouts because they are located in areas "highly vulnerable to damage from future natural disasters." Parcels were chosen based on federal flood maps and local residents' perceived interest in buyouts.

Thursday, October 24

Some say that comprehending the ins and outs of Connecticut's high cost of health care is more complicated than rocket science, so the Universal Healthcare Foundation of Connecticut is sponsoring an event to break it all down. WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports:

listen here
The Hartford Courant reports:
The Windsor town council voted 8-1 to provide online retailer Amazon with a 60 percent tax abatement over five years and a 50 percent reduction in building permit fees for its proposed $50 million, 1.5 million-square-foot warehouse facility to be constructed on Day Hill Road. The vote ends a three-month saga of about whether Amazon would come to Windsor. The company and the town traded proposals for tax abatement packages.

The package will save the company about $3.9 million over five years, while the town will receive about $6.2 million in taxes and permit fees. Amazon has committed to creating 380 full-time jobs with medical and dental benefits.

The company has been criticized over its low wages and poor working conditions in other U.S. locations.

One elected official advocated that the town require companies getting tax abatements to hire local workers for construction and permanent distribution center jobs and pay them above-average wages.

Newsday reports: Islip Town officials have been shuttering foreclosed and abandoned homes that have become a blight on sections of the town and are targets for crime and vandalism.

So far in 2013, the Town Board voted to board up and clean 157 properties, compared with 76 in 2012 and 35 in 2011. 

Deborah Rotunda, president of the Central Islip Coalition of Good Neighbors, a community watch group, and board member of the Central Islip Civic Council, said the town still isn't doing enough.

She said "The town's doing halfway decently, but there are just so many properties that need to be dealt with - it takes months to deal with them”
Last week, town officials, working with Suffolk's Third Precinct Community Oriented Police Enforcement officers, announced they had closed an abandoned house in Central Islip that was long used as a drug and prostitution den.
Councilman Steven Flotteron said "It wasn't just a cleanup; it was getting rid of criminal activities that are right there in the street.”

The cost of cleaning and boarding up homes -- which can range from $1,200 to about $7,000 -- is billed to the homeowner and shows up on their tax bill

The Riverhead News-Review reports; Shoreham-Wading River school Superintendent Steven Cohen says the budget shortfall in the coming school year could be $8 million, $2.5 million more than anticipated in September. This may result in cuts in several course offerings and in teaching positions.

Though this year’s budget gap of $5.5 million was filled by dipping into reserves, Mr. Cohen said, that’s not going to be an option in the future.

If the district were to eliminate all non-mandated courses, band, chorus and orchestra, all business and technology courses, and theater arts would be cut from the high school: At the middle school, band, chorus and orchestra, and sixth grade health and foreign language courses would be cut.

Both schools could face reductions in class sections in subjects such as science, English, social studies and foreign language and the high school’s art program could be reduced.

About 30 full-time teaching positions could be eliminated from the district’s current program.

The Superintendent says he will meet with the community in November to decide which courses could be cut and which ones are considered essential.

Wednesday, October 23

The state employees’ union is calling on state legislators and Governor Dannel Malloy to fix a glitch in the 2011 concessions deal on pensions.

It requires public colleges and universities to spend millions of dollars more every year to bolster the cash-starved pension system.

Nine hundred employees of the University of Connecticut, Connecticut State Universities and community colleges are switching from the state’s 401k-type retirement plan to the state’s pension system.

The state’s pension system is more attractive for many workers because it’s perceived as being more stable than a retirement fund that’s dependent on Wall Street.

But the state’s pension system has been cash-starved for decades It requires a huge influx of funds to make up for past deficiencies. Union officials say the funds would come disproportionately from higher education institutions under the current system.

There are no plans for hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in Connecticut since there are no shale deposits. But advocates want the state to close a loophole that could allow companies to truck billions of gallons of wastewater into Connecticut from fracking operations in nearby states.

A new report from Environment Connecticut’s Research and Policy Center found that wastewater from fracking operations throughout the country in 2012 would be enough to flood all of Hartford “in a toxic lagoon more than 77 feet.”

Rep. Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, who sits on the Energy and Technology Committee, said the states that allow fracking have come up with regulations to prevent the disposal of fracking wastewater within their borders. However, existing regulations are not sufficient to prevent waste coming into Connecticut from other states, “contaminating the Connecticut River, Long Island Sound, and our water supply.”

Advocates say this is an important issue because fracking wastewater is exempt from the federal Resource Conservation Recovery Act, which tracks the movement of certain types of hazardous waste, 

An audit by the New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found that the Mount Sinai Union Free School District overestimated expenditures five years in a row creating surpluses that exceed statutory limits.

Actual expenditures were about 19 million less than budgeted amounts from 2007 through 2011.

As a result the district’s unexpended surplus funds continued to grow – ranging from 6 percent to 14 percent of budgeted appropriations.

The state’s Real Property Tax Law limits the amount of surplus funds that school districts can retain to 4 percent.

The Comptroller noted that during the same five-year period, the district’s tax rate increased from $1,792 to $2,351 per $1,000 of assessed value.

In the two months since the Centers for Disease Control announced that Lyme Disease is 10 times more prevalent than they had previously thought, there’s been a lot of action on the part of East End governments to try to tamp down the deer ticks that carry the disease.

A proposal by the Long Island Farm Bureau to bring in sharpshooters from the United States Department of Agriculture to kill deer throughout the East End has risen to the forefront of serious options being considered. The Bureau has proposed spending $200,000 in state grant money to bring in USDA sharpshooters to towns and villages. It's asking the towns and villages to pitch in with $25,000 each of their own funding.

Research has shown that the town would need to reduce the deer population to 60 percent of its current size in order for it to be manageable.

Some residents are adamantly opposed to the proposed plan. They prefer contraception, which would cost more.

Bill Crain, president of the East Hampton Group for Wildlife, has staged several hunger strikes at town hall to try to change the town’s policy on deer hunting. He called the plan "barbaric." But area farmers support it, claiming the deer are costing them millions in crop losses each year.

Tuesday, October 22

Seven current and former University of Connecticut students filed a discrimination complaint Monday with the Office of Civil Rights. They claimed the university violated their rights by showing “deliberate indifference” when they reported being raped or sexually harassed. 

Gloria Allred, attorney for the women, said it’s unclear if the U.S. Department of Education will decide to investigate the Title IX complaint. If it does and finds there’s a basis for the allegations, the university could face sanctions or the loss of federal funding.

UConn President Susan Herbst said she was confident that UConn was a safe place for women. The University released a statement saying the administration takes the women's allegations extremely seriously and is confident that these cases were handled thoroughly, swiftly, and appropriately.

Tammy Sneed of the Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families says cases of underage children caught up in the sex trade are on the rise.

Also of concern, although less prevalent, is the situation of immigrants forced into virtual slavery as domestic workers or laborers. In some cases, their documentation is held by their exploiters, trapping them through fear of deportation.

The League of Women Voters of Connecticut is bringing experts and officials together to explore the human trafficking problem. A panel discussion, open to the public, starts at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology in New Haven.

New Haven's department of transportation is conducting workshops all this week to get residents' feedback on the idea of converting most of downtown's streets from one-way to two-way.

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more from one held at the downtown library this morning.
About 15 people gathered with city officials and transportation consultants to look over maps of downtown and give their opinions about changes they'd like to see. Brian Robinson said one popular idea  was to make  Chapel Street two-way all the way, instead of one-way heading west.

In general, two-way traffic tends to run slower than on one-ways, increasing safety for all users. With more people living downtown, not just driving in and out from the suburbs, participants said it's time to make the streets more livable for pedestrians and cyclists and more convenient for motorists who live in the city.

Anstress Farwell is a city resident and head of the New Haven Urban Design League. She said photos from the late 1950s show a very different downtown than exists today.

Anyone wanting to add their two cents can stop by the main library between now and Thursday to speak to a city transportation staffer.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

The New York Daily News reports implementation of the Affordable Care Act in New York State continues to be beset by problems.

Not one person had succeeded in using the site to enroll in the New York State of Health marketplace as of last Friday.

134,000 people have registered and shopped on the state’s online health care site since its October 1 launch, and thousands signed up to enroll in a plan. But the state has delayed transferring users’ data to insurers in order to verify the accuracy of the information submitted.

It said it would transfer the first batch of enrollees’ data as early as Friday night.  Meanwhile, insurers were worried that the state website had incorrect information on details of plans that are available.
One week after being criticized for canceling his only forum to discuss Common Core curriculum and state testing on Long Island, the state’s chief of schools, John King, has announced a new series of forums on the topic.

Mr. King says he will partner with the state’s Board of Regents to host a dozen forums across the state, including four on Long Island.

Two of the events will be held in Suffolk County and two more in Nassau.
The events will be moderated by state legislators and held in school auditoriums. 

Mr. King said the forums will be scheduled over the next six weeks
Four forums will be recorded for broadcast on Public Broadcasting Stations.

Monday, October 21   

Connecticut’s health insurance exchange received high grades from HealthPocket, a firm that analyzes and compares health insurance plans across the country. 
Health Pocket found that Connecticut’s Access Health CT, was able to produce a plan comparison on its website within four steps — the fewest among states with their own exchange. 

The 36 states using the federal exchange at healthcare.gov require nearly four times as many steps to produce a health plan comparison page. An analyst from HealthPocket says that more steps increase the risk of users abandoning the on-line shopping process.

There are an estimated 344,000 uninsured in Connecticut, about 9 percent of the state’s overall population. In the first two weeks, more than 143,000 individuals visited the website and more than 12,900 called the hotline.

Still, by October 15, fewer than 4,000 residents completed insurance applications, Under 1,900 qualified for Medicaid, and another 1,900 signed up with one of three private insurance carriers.

The New Haven Federation of Teachers and school officials are working past a deadline to settle a new four-year contract. The current contract runs to June 30, 2014.

Teachers union President Dave Cicarella said he remains optimistic about striking  a deal with the school district on a new contract covering 1,800 teachers before arbitrators would step in on November 11.

The new agreement will likely include a new way to reward high-performing teachers using a $53 million grant.

Issues on the table include the length of the school day and how to define the roles in the union of guidance counselors, school psychologists and social workers.
Cicarella said he hopes to hold a vote with his membership next week.

Connecticut residents behind on mortgage payments or underwater on their home loans can discuss foreclosure prevention options with lenders on Tuesday at a day-long mortgage assistance event at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.

The free event will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m..   More than a dozen lenders will be there, including Bank of America, CitiMortgage, HSBC National Bank, JPMorgan Chase, People’s United Bank, Webster Bank, Wells Fargo and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.


Newsday reports the Suffolk legislature's Budget Review Office has released its analysis of County Executive Steve Bellone's budget proposal.

The $2.76 billion budget reduces overall spending by $22 million from 2013 and raises police district taxes by 2.3 percent.

Robert Lipp, budget review director, said one of his chief concerns is the reliance on $32.8 million in savings from deferring county debt repayments, which would require state approval.

Lipp said the budget under-funds the county treasurer's department by $833,000 in anticipation of a merger referendum that failed to make the ballot. 

The county still faces a structural imbalance caused by repeated borrowing to cover sharp increases in Suffolk's annual pension bill.
Lipp said Suffolk has controlled costs by shedding about 1,000 positions over the past 21 months through attrition, layoffs and retirement incentives.
Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider says all its problems can’t be solved in a single budget.  He believes the administration will get state approval for debt restructuring. He noted state-approved video slot terminals will generate $4 million in 2014.

Southampton Town is getting rid of its "Bias Free Zone" at Town Hall.The area actually caused more harm than good, according to those who successfully sued the town after trying to protest the Marriage Equality Act in 2011.

James Boyd, deacon in the Southampton Full Gospel Church said "It's just an example of small government encroaching on the constitutional rights of citizens," 
Boyd said he and six others were told they couldn't protest on the steps of town hall  because it was a designated a "Bias Free Zone". 
In a settlement the town agreed to rescind "Bias Free Zone" legislation, remove the signs referring to it, and pay the group's $40,000 in legal fees.
Councilwoman Bridget Fleming said the "Bias Free Zone" was created "to promote civility and respect, and to erase racism in our community.

According to Fleming the town board is planning to erect new signs at town facilities "to assure the residents and visitors of our continued commitment to treat all people with dignity, respect and in an unbiased manner when interacting with town officials.” 

Friday, October 18

Officials for Connecticut’s health insurance marketplace said Thursday that after the first two weeks of enrollment they’ve seen a lot of “pent up demand” from older individuals who are purchasing plans at higher rates than people under the age of 55.

Nearly 400 individuals ages 55-64 who enrolled in the exchange between Oct. 1 and Oct. 15 qualified for Medicaid because their income was at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Nearly 600 in that same age group have signed up for plans with one of the three private insurance carriers.

A mix of age ranges is necessary to avoid what’s called the death spiral where older sicker individuals purchase plans and drive up its costs.

The Bridgeport Police Hispanic Society is demanding the resignation of the department's assistant chief after police officers said he allowed a college professor to give an ethics lecture full of racist statements and slurs.

In a letter sent to Mayor Bill Finch, the Hispanic Society claims Assistant Police Chief James Nardozzi asked a graduate faculty member from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York to conduct several ethics training sessions last month.

During at least one of those sessions, they claim Nardozzi stood quietly by as the professor -- William McDonald -- used the word "spic" repeatedly to refer to Hispanics. The Hispanic group also accuses McDonald of admitting he is racist and, in a separate ethics training session, making a direct correlation between a decrease in inner-city crime during and after the Vietnam War and the fact that African-Americans were killed in that war and did not then procreate.

Hispanic Society president Juan Santiago Jr. said he wants Nardozzi to resign or for the administration to fire him. How could he not say anything?"

More than 100 of the roughly 427-member department are Hispanic.

The state auditors' office outlined a series of “excessive” spending practices Wednesday at the UConn Health Center involving professional development, compensatory time, retirement benefits and specialized legal fees topping $800 per hour.

The auditors cited the UConn center with failing to document millions of dollars in purchases that might have required competitive bidding.

And while the health center agreed to revise some of its practices, it argued that others remain necessary to ensure fairness or proper staffing levels.

The audit covered the 2010-11 and 2011-12 fiscal years. -------------------

This Tuesday, the East Hampton Town Board continued discussing plans pitched last month by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to shore up beaches near downtown Montauk against future hurricanes.

Tens of millions of dollars are riding on whether East Hampton presents a united front to the Army Corps over whether the town wants the work done at all.

The money is part of $700 million in federal emergency response funding recently granted for protecting the south shore of Long Island after Hurricane Sandy.
Some Montauk residents don’t want the beaches shored up with rocks or bulkheads or groins, and are advocating that sand or textile tubes filled with sand, be used to shore up the beach.  They also want the project extended to Ditch Plains, the popular surfing beach about a mile east of downtown Montauk that has fared badly in recent storms.

The Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee, is urging the town to hire a coastal engineer to evaluate the Army Corps plan and to ask the Army Corps to consider replenishing sand on Ditch Plains Beach.

But some board members refused to request the Army Corps consider Ditch Plains.  They said that could put funding for the Montauk project in jeopardy.

The Army Corps will present cost projections for several options for East Hampton in November.

Meanwhile in Southampton Town, 3 miillion pounds of sand are being pumped from offshore onto 6 miles of beach in Water Mill, Bridgehampton and Sagaponack.  Those areas suffered after Hurricane Sandy and other storms threatened homes built on or behind the dunes. It is hoped that the new sand will help natural dunes rebuild.

The plan was funded by beachfront homeowners.
The project started this week and should be completed by year’s end.

Thursday, October 17

The Connecticut Elections Enforcement Commission has now referred the alleged misuse of a false address by Representative. Christina Ayala of Bridgeport to criminal prosecutors .

An investigation revealed evidence that Ayala “falsely registered to vote at the address in Bridgeport in July 2009 and remained registered at this address until January 2013, ”

The address was used to vote in nine primaries and elections, according to Attorney Kevin Ahern of the SEEC who investigated the matter.

There also is evidence she ran for elected office twice using the address and applied for funds from the Citizens’ Election Program using the false address.

Ayala’s mother Santa Ayala is the Democratic Registrar of Voters in Bridgeport.

Ahern wrote in his statement to the commission that she “may have conspired with Representative Ayala to commit fraud,”

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey reacted swiftly to the news by removing Ayala from all three of her committee assignments.

Sharkey said in a statement: “For an elected official, maintaining the public trust is paramount. The fact that this case has moved to a different level calls into question whether that trust has been breached.”

Representatives of Connecticut news media and open government groups argued at a public hearing Wednesday against weakening public disclosure laws.

The testimony came at a public hearing of a  task force created under a new law that prevents the release of information about a homicide victim. 

The bill was passed after families of Sandy Hook shooting victims appealed to the legislature to stop disclosure of records pertaining to the December incident.

Chris VanDeHoef of the Connecticut Newspaper Association, pointed to a CNN story that led authorities to reopen an investigation into the death of a teenager in Georgia after the network obtained autopsy records showing the youth had suffered blunt force trauma to his head and throat.

Hartford Courant editor Andrew Julien described an investigation the newspaper conducted using publicly available recordings of 911 tapes and dispatch calls to demonstrate delays in emergency response times. He said the story led to changes In how emergency calls are communicated.

 Some legislators expressed doubts about the motives of reporters.
Representative Debra Lee Hovey, who represents part of Newtown, said that after witnessing coverage of the Sandy Hook incident, she did not trust the media to appropriately balance privacy with the public’s right to know.

Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane suggested modifying the state’s disclosure laws to enable the media and the public to access sensitive records but to also prohibit them from recording or copying them.

Claude Albert, of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information said the law should allow family members of crime victims and government agencies to release  information if they deemed it would serve the public good. He said there should also be an appeal process.

New York State’s highest court has blocked a Suffolk County ballot referendum to combine the county’s Comptroller and Treasurer offices, The court upheld lower courts’ rulings that the county improperly added an amendment to the referendum.

The county’s plan would have consolidated the offices of the Treasurer, Republican Angie Carpenter, and Comptroller, Republican Joseph Sawicki. Mr. Sawicki and Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone praised the merger as a way to cut costs and trim down government. Suffolk County is the only county in the state with both a Comptroller and Treasurer.

But Ms. Carpenter had argued the merger was politically motivated as a way to force her out of office. She ran against Mr. Bellone for his seat in 2011.

Though the County Legislature had approved the referendum in July, a New York Supreme Court judge threw out the measure in August, saying the county improperly altered the language of the referendum. The original measure stated the move would save the county $1 million, while the changed version claimed the merger was “for the purposes of streamlining and improving government efficiency.”

Mr. Bellone called the court’s decision “outrageous.” He said though the referendum will not be on the ballot this November, voters can still choose between candidates who support improving efficiency and those who want to maintain the status quo.

Wednesday, October 16   

Governor Dannel Malloy says he is hopeful that the report on the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary will soon be released. When it is, Malloy believes the report by the office of Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky will show that the response by police and first responders “saved lives.”

Malloy also noted that the state will look to Sedensky’s report for further guidance even though advocates for open government are skeptical that the full report will be
released to the public.

Sedensky argued that the tapes of the shooting didn’t have to be made public because they were covered by state laws making certain child-abuse records confidential.

Earlier this month, Attorney Dan Klau who chairs the board of the Connecticut Foundation for Open Government, wrote on his blog that based on this argument the public will probably only see “a highly redacted document or a brief summary of its contents.”
Homeowners falling behind on payments or facing foreclosure will have a shot at getting some relief when Connecticut officials host their sixth mortgage assistance event next week.

As they continue to juggle finances in response to the federal government shutdown, state officials announced a forum for distressed homeowners to be held October 22 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. 

Homeowners will have an opportunity to meet face-to-face with representatives of 15 banks or other lending institutions, as well as counselors, pro bono attorneys and members of nonprofit agencies. The event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., is an outgrowth of a 2012 settlement Connecticut and 48 other states reached with the nation’s five largest mortgage lenders. The lenders agreed to pay $26 billion to compensate homeowners for foreclosure processing abuses.
More than 6,000 Connecticut homeowners have received over $450 million in relief since the settlement was reached. 

New York parents and teachers upset about new public school tests are even more upset by the State Education Commissioner's latest move.
New York News Service’s Mark Scheerer has more: 

Angry parents loudly confronted State Education Commisioner John King Jr. at the first of a series of town hall meetings in Poughkeepsie.  
He responded by refusing to attend any more of the meetings sponsored by the state parent-teacher association. 

The PTA's Rick Longhearse says "We felt that the town hall meeting provided parents with an opportunity for two way dialog and the commisioner felt otherwise.   So we were disapointed that the meetings were cancelled   

A spokesperson for the Commisioner's office, Tom Dunn said the forum in Poughkeepsie was not productive and that the disruptions deprived parents of the opportunity to listen, ask questions and offer comments.
A brown tide that first began to develop in September has continued to increase into the fall months along Long Island’s south shore, scientists say. The alga’s development could have a significant impact on the future clam population as mature clams begin to prepare for mating season in the autumn months.
According to marine scientists the tide has impacted most of the Great South Bay, Moriches Bay and Shinnecock Bay,

Particles reaching as high as 1,000,000 cells per milliliter have been found. Density higher than 50,000 cells could be harmful to clams and other marine life. 

The water tests were conducted by experts from Stony Brook University’s Southampton Marine Science Research Center.

According to the center, only the south shore’s inlet systems has been spared the algae bloom.

Brown tide first appeared on Long Island waters in 1985. Researchers believe an increase in nitrogen in the water, combined with poor tidal flushing is the cause.

Tuesday, October 14

Despite the government shut-down, the Federal Bureau of Prisons is proceeding with a controversial plan to move women from Danbury --  the only federal women's prison in the northeast -- to other prisons up to thousands of miles away. A coalition of faith-based and prisoners' rights groups held a press conference this morning outside the
federal building in New Haven to protest the action. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports.

 Yale Divinity School student Greg  Williams said 130 of the roughly 1,200 women in Danbury Federal Correctional Institution have already been moved to a new women's prison in Alabama to relieve overcrowding.

Speakers emphasized the importance of family visits to easing prisoners' re-entry to society, and noted such visits will become more difficult if not impossible with the long distances involved. They also said overcrowding could be relieved by other means, like alternatives to incarceration for the majority of inmates who are non-violent offenders. 

One of the speakers was Tamara Petro, whose sister is serving an almost four-year sentence in Danbury for mortgage fraud. She said one cost of moving the 1,200 women is monetary, over a million dollars.

The transfers are happening despite the federal government shutdown. But due to the shutdown, no one from the Bureau of Prisons was available for comment.

Melinda Tuhus,WPKN News.

Attorney General George Jepsen and former Governor John Rowland separately petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to overturn a lower court’s finding that layoffs ordered by Rowland a decade ago were intended to illegally punish union members.
The state argues that the decision in May by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit hobbles governments by wrongly subjecting public officials to a review of their motives in layoffs, the ultimate pressure point when state or local governments seek concessions.
But David Golub, the lawyer for the coalition of 13 state employee unions that successfully sued Rowland, said the case appropriately forces public officials to show they are laying off employees to achieve specific economic ends, not as a general bludgeon in negotiations. Golub said Rowland laid off union members whose positions were funded by the federal government or regulated industries, meaning the elimination of their jobs saved no money. That made their layoffs punitive, a violation of their free-association rights under the First Amendment.

After three years of failed attempts, Brookhaven Town may finally have a conservation plan to protect the Carmans River watershed.
The town board will vote today on a plan that calls for purchasing parcels along the 10-mile river and restricting new construction. The plan has raised little opposition.
Previous efforts fell apart because of concerns about wastewater discharges and proposed development credits.
Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister, who served on the planning committees, said earlier wastewater control plans had been inadequate. The new plan would require using the best available technologies for removing nitrogen from wastewater.
East Moriches community activist Jim Gleason said he worries the Zoning Board of Appeals could blunt the plan by granting variances and he questioned the land acquisition strategy. 
Pine Barrens Society of Long Island executive director Richard Amper hailed the plan as “a major conservation victory for Long Island.”
A state Supreme Court judge has blocked New York's ban on outdoor smoking in state parks, ruling that the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation exceeded its authority when it implemented the ban.

The parks office said it was considering an appeal.
They say their authority includes the regulation of outdoor smoking on playgrounds, swimming pools, beaches, and other locations where children and visitors congregate.

But state Supreme Court Justice George Ceresia, Jr. argued that the smoking ban is not backed by any legislative policy.

Monday, October 14

Connecticut's homeless population continues to increase, but the latest numbers also show that major strides have been made in curbing the problem for veterans and their families.

According to Lisa Tepper Bates, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, more than 4500 people were homeless in the state at the start of 2013. That's a 7 percent increase over last year, including a doubling in the number of homeless or inadequately sheltered families. Bates says one bright spot is a 25 percent decrease in the number of Connecticut's homeless veterans since 2005.
She credited the Veterans Administration for offering permanent housing options for families of soldiers who return with disabilities.
Peter Salovey was inaugurated the 23rd president of Yale University Sunday.

At a ceremony in Woolsey Hall, Salovey said that some politicians have come to question the value of a college education and research. He vowed to support Yale's mission of a liberal education, to support research and to continue strengthening ties to New Haven.

Salovey, who is 55, earned master's and doctoral degrees at Yale and joined the faculty in the 1980s. He subsequently held several high level administrative posts. He succeeds Richard Levin who was president for 20 years.


New York State Justice Richard Platkin promised Friday to expedite his decision on whether a lawsuit can go forward challenging the wording of a statewide casino referendum.

The judge said he'd rule as soon as possible on whether to dismiss the case on technicalities or allow it to be decided on the merits. In his suit against the state Board of Elections, Brooklyn attorney Eric Snyder claimed that the wording of the proposed amendment to the state constitution to allow for seven casinos is biased.

Snyder alleges the board secretly adopted ballot language that represented improper advocacy for the proposal. Judge Platkin said he would rule on the issue after Columbus Day.

The ballot language has been criticized by good-government groups and numerous editorial boards for including a warm description of the amendment's legislative intent — "promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated." The other five amendments on the ballot contain no similar descriptions of hoped-for benefits.
The final ballot language came after consultation with Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration and representatives of the Legislature. Cuomo officials have emphasized that the Board of Elections had final say over the ballot wording.

East End Beacon reports:

One of the last large undeveloped and unpreserved pieces of land in Southampton Town could soon be a 436-acre golf course with 82 houses on it.

The property in East Quogue, is close to the headwaters of Weesuck Creek, which empties into western Shinnecock Bay, one of the most impaired water bodies on the East End.  

Developers need Southampton Town to issue a change of zone from a residential to a mixed use development district.

East Quogue residents had mixed views about the proposal at a public hearing on the zone change before the Southampton Town Board last Tuesday.

Some welcomed the estimated $3.5 million in tax revenue, which would offset costs at the school without sending more students to the district. Others worried that fertilizer from the golf course and nitrogen from housing septic systems could end up in the bay.

Southampton Town had offered to buy the property for preservation, but could not offer a high enough price.

The golf course sits over the pine barrens’ aquifer protection district.
The project’s environmental planner said his clients know they can only fertilize 15 percent of the property. They are considering a waste treatment system to keep nitrogen from entering the bay.

Skip Heaney, of the Southampton Business Alliance, said the project was a “target of a disinformation program” by environmentalists.

If the zoning change is approved, the project must go through a stringent environmental quality review before the town’s planning board.

The town board closed the public hearing and gave residents two weeks to submit written comments.

Friday, October 11

The Hartford Courant reports:
Most of Connecticut’s Federal grant for storm Sandy cleanup has not been used.

The federal government sent Connecticut enough money to hire 120 people for 20 weeks to work on cleanup and repairs from storm Sandy. Eleven months later, only 24 people have been hired. The deadline for using $610,000 is under three weeks away.

In April, when no one had been hired five months after the grant was awarded, Governor Dannel Malloy announced the state would apply for a waiver to hire people to clean up its own parks, because towns, which were supposed to be the beneficiaries, had not requested help.

Even with the state stepping in, it took two months to get anyone hired. Only $126,000 has been paid out.

Kim Andy, a program manager in the state Department of Labor's Office of Workforce Competitiveness said “It was a process. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection had to find projects that could be done.
A request for an extension, submitted Sept. 27, has gone unanswered due to the federal shutdown.
Newstimes.com reports:
A time for mourning -- the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre -- is developing into a call to arms for gun owners.

The Second Amendment Foundation announced Thursday that it is proclaiming Dec. 14 as Guns Save Lives Day and is planning events in all 50 states to counteract what it characterized as anti-gun propaganda that exploits the tragedy.

Alan Gottlieb, the group's president, told Hearst Connecticut Newspapers Thursday "Our intent is not to allow our opponents to try to own that day. We assumed that they would try to use that date to try to push their gun-prohibition agenda."

Gottlieb said the logistics of the national campaign are still being hashed out and couldn't say whether there would be an event in Newtown, which is expected to be overrun with national media and politicians for the anniversary.

Gottlieb said, "No one at Newtown should have been a victim and no one in the future should be victimized by laws that do not allow people to defend themselves."
Gottlieb supports allowing teachers to arm themselves in the classroom.

Hauppauge parents and residents packed the Suffolk County Legislature building Wednesday night with concerns about an influx of a dozen students enrolling in their school district after their families moved into a nearby shelter for the homeless.

There are more than 1,000 homeless children and 500 homeless families in Suffolk County. The Hauppauge district has an enrollment of 3,917 students.

The citizens asked questions about who would bear the financial burden of new students being added to the district.  They refuted claims that Hauppauge families didn't want students from shelters added to their schools.

Hauppauge parent Anna Niola said "We do care about the children, everybody cares about the children, but we also care about our own children. We're not here to put down the homeless or anyone else."

Federal law mandates that homeless children can attend the public school district to which they move, or they can remain at their school of origin, with that school paying their transportation costs.

Hauppauge resident Karen Dennis, a teacher in another district, said homeless children are needier and demand more attention than the rest of the class. She said "There's nobody in this room that's not in jeopardy at one point or another of losing everything they have. My concern is that we are getting an unfair burden on such a small school district."
Newsday reports:A Long Island Rail Road worker who claimed a disability only to pursue a jiujitsu black belt and another who went on to serve as a volunteer firefighter were convicted of conspiracy and fraud Thursday in federal court in Manhattan. They face up to 75 years in prison. Their sentencing was set for February 26.

Prosecutors have convicted all 33 defendants charged in an alleged decade-long conspiracy by hundreds of LIRR workers to claim phony disabilities that could have cost the federal Railroad Retirement Board $1 billion, an amount that would have been passed on to taxpayers.

The prosecutions stemmed from revelations in 2008 that more than 90 percent of workers taking advantage of an early retirement plan at the LIRR were claiming disabilities to supplement their pensions.

Beginning in 2011, the government brought a series of cases alleging a "culture of corruption" at the LIRR aided by three doctors running "disability mills" and a network of corrupt consultants. Most retirees pleaded guilty, and many became government witnesses.

Thursday, October 10

Governor Malloy announced Wednesday, the state would be releasing $800,000 in state funding to Action for Bridgeport Community Development (ABCD), the organization that runs the Bridgeport Head Start program. 

This came after Texas philanthropists offered $10 million to save seven Head Start programs including one in Bridgeport.

William Bevacqua, assistant to the executive director at ABCD, said while they appreciated the offer,  it had certain “misgivings” about the money from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. They were afraid it wouldn’t cover all the monthly expenses and it may not reach them quickly enough to immediately serve the children.

The state funding is about the same amount it would receive from the federal government and is what the state gives to the program throughout the course of the year.


The Hartford Courant reports;

United Health care will eliminate thousands of doctors from its physician network for Medicare Advantage next year.

United Health Care plans to eliminate 810 primary-care physicians and 1,440 specialists from its Medicare Advantage network in Connecticut next year. The insurer said that, in 2014, it will have at least 1,500 primary-care physicians and more than 4,000 specialists in the network.

Mark Thompson, of the Fairfield County Medical Association, said the news has shaken up patients and doctors.

Thompson, who has been outspoken in his opposition to the move, said UnitedHealthcare is cutting the most expensive doctors, including those with the sickest atients.

A UnitedHealthcare executive denied that the insurer was targeting doctors who are most expensive to the system.

Dennis O'Brien, regional president of UnitedHealthcare Networks, emailed The Courant, “We are assessing our network in Connecticut to help us provide higher quality and more affordable health care coverage for Medicare beneficiaries," 
Nonprofits set to lose funding in Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's 2014 budget have begun lobbying lawmakers to restore the cuts. They say critical programs for the ill and needy are at risk.

Bellone's $2.76-billion spending plan would trim about $3 million in contract agency funding from the $100 million in this year's budget. 

The cuts brought numerous advocates to Tuesday's county legislature budget hearing. Lawmakers will vote on potential budget amendments Nov. 6, the day after most of them face re-election.

At Tuesday's hearing, pleas came from the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, which would lose $35,000 for a heroin addiction social worker; the Long Island Association for AIDS Care, which would lose its $154,000 contract; and Response of Suffolk County, a suicide prevention hotline for teens that would lose $47,000.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said Wednesday the administration must continue to make "tough choices," to close an estimated $180 million deficit.
Schneider said county funding should not become part of these groups' baseline budgets.

Route 58 in Riverhead is a mecca for developers of retail shopping malls. 

A new COSTCO warehouse center there has become a rallying point for aggrieved groups including seniors from an adjacent retirement community, and organized labor who allege that few local unionized construction workers have been hired by the out-of-state contractor building the store.

Homeowners in Foxwood Village, the senior housing adjoining the construction site, say they are fed up with town officials who have not taken quick enough action to protect them, after allowing the developer to clear-cut 42 wooded acres adjacent to their homes, to make way for the 271,000-square-foot retail center.

Residents at Foxwood housing have been complaining to town officials since the clear-cutting began in mid-June.  

Resident Paul Spina said "We believe they are stalling until after the election"
But Town Supervisor Sean Walter told RiverheadLocal.com that that’s not the case.
He said town officials have been meeting with representatives of the housing developer twice a week. 

Also, Walter said a proposal to impose tougher buffer requirements on developments like the Costco site would be on Thursday's town board work session agenda.

The stricter requirements will be in place before the developer files a plan for the second phase of the project which would double the size of the retail project.

Wednesday, October 9 

While the Access Health Connecticut exchange has only been open for eight days, CEO Kevin Counihan said he’s encouraged by some of the early demographic information of the policyholders buying plans.

So far there have been 1,017 policies sold, but there’s no information to say how many people those plans would cover.

Of the policies, 26 percent have chosen gold plans, 49 percent have selected silver, 21 percent have selected bronze and four percent have chosen catastrophic plans only offered to adults under age 30.

In order for the concept of the exchanges to work and drive down costs for older and possibly sicker populations is for young people to participate and pay monthly premiums even though it’s unlikely they will need to use many services.

Meanwhile, New York State has signed up 40,000 policyholders according to the New York Post.

After trying to deport him for nearly a year, a federal immigration agency suddenly decided to let Josemaria Islas stay in the country, for at least a year.
Islas, who was born in Mexico, was arrested in July 2012 on a robbery charge. He was cleared of the crime, but handed over to federal immigration authorities before he could walk free. Since then, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has been seeking to deport him to Mexico.

Islas’ case became a rallying point for immigration activists and advocates. He earned the support of U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro and U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Dick Blumenthal, who all wrote letters on his behalf.

In July, ICE allowed Islas to leave government custody, with an ankle bracelet monitoring his movements.

In August, the government removed Islas’ ankle bracelet, according to immigration activist Megan Fountain. Islas then discovered that he’d been granted a “discretionary relief.” He’s allowed to stay in the country for a year, which started on July 19.

The Department of Children and Families has been under federal court supervision for more than twenty years following a 1989 class action lawsuit that documented the state's failure to adequately care for some 4,000 abused and neglected children.

If not for an on-going problem of inadequate staffing levels, years of state reforms to the agency would mean DCF would be on the path toward ending federal oversight.

Raymond Mancuso, the federal court monitor, reported last week that, “ …case workers describe their inability to effectively meet all of the daily demands to assist their clients.”

But DCF officials have not requested increased staffing from the governor's office for years.

Asked if the court monitor's findings have persuaded the agency to seek additional social workers, DCF spokesman Gary Kleeblatt said, “It’s an issue we are willing to examine and look at.”

Outside Bradley International Airport Tuesday night a handful of Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union (PASS) members were demonstrating to let air travelers know that the government shutdown is impacting the safety of the country’s aviation system.

There are more than 40 aviation safety inspectors who have been furloughed at Bradley.  Across New England, about 130 inspectors and support staff have been furloughed.

George Husted, a radar specialist who is currently furloughed without pay, said at the demonstration, “We’re not allowed to get other jobs. We can’t collect unemployment, so basically this can only last a short time or we’re going to have to start looking for other work.”

Suffolk County legislators on Tuesday approved the sale and lease back of the H. Lee Dennison building in Hauppauge, the central office of many of the county's branches, including the county executive's office.

The $70 million deal scored approval from the governor in late September, and Tuesday's county vote finalizes the sale to the Suffolk County Judicial Facilities Agency.

County Executive Steve Bellone pitched the sale as a way to help trim the county's $300 million budget deficit in 2013. The county still faces a $180 million budget gap in 2014.

According to Newsday, the county will lease the building for $4.8 million a year for the next 20 years.

Tuesday, October 8

A $10-million donation from a Houston-based hedge fund manager and his wife will help keep Head Start programs, including one in Bridgeport, running during the federal government shutdown.

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation’s  donation will help serve more than 1,000 at-risk children in Bridgeport. The Bridgeport program, run by Action for Bridgeport Community Development, did not receive its payment from the federal government on Oct. 1. The organization sent 313 employees home and closed its 13 locations when the shutdown began.

U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro said. “This announcement is great news for the children who will continue receiving critical education, nutrition and developmental services at their local Head Start center, (but) relying on generous donors is no way to keep our country on the right path.”

Officials from the National Head Start Association said that when these centers close “many low-income parents must miss work… as they scramble to find alternative child care. If the government does not reopen by November 1, additional Head Start programs serving more than 86,000 children in 41 states and one U.S. territory stand to lose access to Head Start funding”


As of Monday, 1,118 people have now registered to use medical marijuana in Connecticut, but other potential patients have had difficulty finding a doctor participating in the program.

The state’s law allowing the palliative use of marijuana permits people with certain debilitating illnesses to get a recommendation from a doctor if they wish to register with the state to use the substance.

However, the state will not release the names of the hundred doctors authorized to prescribe. They make up a fraction of the 6 to 7 thousand medical doctors practicing in Connecticut.

That means there is no easy way for patients seeking to participate in the program to locate a doctor willing to consider writing a recommendation unless that doctor has chosen to publicize his or her willingness to prescribe it.

Riverhead Local reports:
Rust tide is back in the Peconic Estuary for the 10th year. So far the toxic algae doesn't seem to be having the devastating effect on marine life it had last year.

Researchers studying the algae blooms say it has pushed far to the east into places like Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton.

Christopher Gobler, a professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. said “We first noted it in the western part of the Peconic in the middle of August, and we’ve been tracking it ever since”

Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister said he understands the problem to be a long-term one that threatens underwater organisms all the way up the food chain.

McAllister said “You can’t see a foot below the surface in areas with blooms. With little or no light penetration, important plants begin to die off from lack of photosynthesis and their decomposition uses oxygen, stressing all life and forcing fish to flee.

McAllister said development in the 1960s and 1970s could be to blame. Aging brick septic tanks experiencing a slow seep could mean decades more of the unwelcome groundwater additives. “We’re at a tipping point. Toxins are now at levels where water quality is affected,”

McAllister said that storm water runoff is more immediate cause, sweeping nitrogen from fertilizer and wastewater-tainted groundwater into the bay.

 Over one million homeowners in New York State have registered for the School Tax Relief (or STAR) exemption in the last six weeks according to Governor Cuomo.

Last year New York's Department of Taxation and Finance found that thousands of individuals with multiple properties were receiving more than one STAR exemption.

The new registration is designed to stop that practice.

Basic STAR exemptions save New York homeowners $700 every year on average.
Homeowners with annual incomes under $500,000 can register by December 31 at www.tax.ny.gov.

Monday, October 7

The New Haven Register reports: Chris Herb, president of the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association or C-E-M-A, is calling out Northeast Utilities’ decision to outsource 200 information technology jobs to India.
State utility regulators are considering whether to approve the natural gas portion of a comprehensive energy strategy, which calls for the state’s three utilities to expand 900 miles of natural gas lines to 280,000 customers over the next 10 years.

C-E-M-A’s Herb believes the energy strategy will cost thousands of blue-collar workers their jobs, any jobs created will ultimately be outsourced, and the plan would give an unfair advantage to the utility companies. 
Northeast Utilities owns Yankee Gas. Mitch Gross, a spokesman for the companies, says that C-E-M-A’s claims are “misinformed.” “He says the state’s energy policy ... aims to provide Connecticut consumers with more choice for their heating needs. The comprehensive energy strategy is an effort to integrate energy, environment and economic goals.

Newtown Patch reports Newtown voters approved a $50 million grant from the state of Connecticut -- funds that will pay for a new Sandy Hook Elementary School, to be built on the site of the old school on Dickenson Drive. The school is expected to open by September 2016.


As reported in the New Haven Register: about 150 marchers led a Sunday walk among the New Haven’s religious communities in an event heard on WPKN Radio.

The IWage Peace Walk brought together 35 Faith Communities, former Israeli and Palestinian Combatants and hundreds of concerned area citizens who publicly made a commitment to honor and protect Jews, Christians, Muslims and all people of faith, and no faith, here in United States, Israel, Palestine, and the world.

The founder of the march, Bruce Barrett of Milford, said “We’re here for healing, “Healing for our nation, healing for Israel and healing for Palestine. “We do not need to agree on everything to heal and work for justice” 

The Combatants For Peace, included two former members of the Israeli army and two former Palestinian combatants.

Before the march, Rabbi Joshua Ratner of Congregation Kol Ami in Cheshire greeted the participants at the Green.

Rabbi Ratner said “We must embody the change we seek” He noted that centuries of religious persecution and anti-Semitism illustrate how damaging war can be, but it must not stop the work of peacemakers. 

Also marching was Saifuddin Hasaan, a member of New Haven’s Masjid Al-Islam.

Hasaan said “As Muslims, our whole religion, our name, means peace. This is something we have to do.”

Metro-North service was back to normal  on the New Haven Line this morning. 

One of the two main electrical feeder cables failed while Con Edison was repairing the other one, causing an eight-mile stretch of track between Stamford and New York to go dark on September 25.
In the first few days of the outage, diesel trains helped carry passengers until electrical service was restored. 

Governor Dannel Malloy advocated for Metro-North and the MTA to compensate commuters for the inconvenience. 

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty called for Congressional hearings to identify problems in rail infrastructure where immediate investment may be necessary.

Newsday reports: An acute care facility in Medford is serving as the real-world classroom for seven Suffolk County high school seniors with developmental disabilities.

Students enrolled in Project SEARCH at Eastern Suffolk BOCES will learn job skills such as clerical work, housekeeping, maintenance and doing laundry at Medford Multicare Center. They will spend the academic year in training with the hope of finding a job and gaining independence upon graduation.

Each day, the students, supervised by teachers and mentors, have an hour of classroom time at the multicare center and then work in their specialized areas for the rest of the day. They are responsible for arranging their own public transportation to get to the facility.

Eastern Suffolk BOCES launched the pilot program in September, Students are assigned to specific areas under the supervision of teachers, job coaches and employee-mentors, and they rotate among work areas every 10 weeks.

The students will graduate in June. New York State provides special education for students until age 21.

Friday, October 4  

The federal government shutdown could sorely test Connecticut’s checkbook, particularly when it comes to social service and health care programs, according to contingency plans state departments filed Tuesday.

The hardest hit programs would be those that help needier families and individuals.

Connecticut received $76 million last fiscal year, for example, to run the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. But the program isn’t exempt from the shutdown. Social Services officials estimate that $7.4 million is left unspent from last year’s program — enough to pay for “the first wave of fuel deliveries" -- until about Nov. 15.

A law went into effect Tuesday requiring police to issue each motorist they stop instructions for filing a complaint if that driver believes he or she has been racially profiled.

The notices are part of an effort by the state to collect data from police agencies and analyze it for evidence of racial profiling. 

In addition to handing drivers instructions for making a complaint, officers are now required to fill out a questionnaire with information on every traffic stop. The form includes data on the gender, race, and age of the driver. It also tracks how long the stop took and what actions were taken by the officer.

Although lawmakers have pushed to update the law for a few years, the legislation gained traction after some high-profile instances of racial profiling in Connecticut last year.

The U.S. Department of Justice accused the East Haven Police Department of racially profiling Latino motorists and charged four of the town’s police officers with targeting Latinos for harassment and beatings.

State Police Col. Danny Stebbins, who serves on the Racial Profiling Advisory Board, said the state police typically receive around three or four complaints a year. That number could go up now that every driver will have instructions for filing them. When complaints are made, he said, the agency investigates them.

For the second time in two years Republican House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero has called upon the state to stop paying the salaries of union stewards while they are representing their colleagues in workplace grievances.

Cafero says the number of union stewards has increased and that the unions should pay for the work the stewards do while they are representing their colleagues in workplace grievances.  He estimates the amount they are paid exceeds $100 million.
State Labor Relations Director Linda Yelmini objects to Cafeero’s cost estimate saying it assumes union stewards spend 100 percent of their work time conducting union business.

Union officials say the amount of time these stewards spend on union issues ranges from a half-hour to 10 hours per week.

Larry Dorman, a spokesman for AFSCME Council 4, accuses Cafero of trying “stir up a frenzy” against state workers.
How much of a buffer should a commercial property have to maintain between itself and it’s neighbors? That’s the question debated by the Riverhead Town Board this week. At issue was a proposal to increase setback buffers for new commercial developments from 10 to 50 feet. Two owners of commercially zoned land opposed the change, saying it would impinge on their right to fully develop their property.

But civic and environmental group representatives expressed support for the code change, saying it strikes a balance between commercial development and protecting the character of the town.

The proposal grew out of the uproar over the clear-cutting of 42 acres of commercially zoned land adjacent to a residential area on Route 58.  
The proposal increases the minimum required side- and rear-yard setbacks on commercial site plans for land adjoining residential districts from 10 to 50 feet, or to 25 feet where the commercial buildings are smaller than 5,000 square feet.

A proposed law to aggressively address tick-borne illnesses was unanimously approved by the Legislature’s Public Works and Transportation Committee this week.

It was introduced by Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk.

It will go to the full Legislature for a vote next Tuesday in Riverhead.
The law would require the Suffolk County Vector Control to submit an annual plan that indicates steps being taken to reduce the incidence of tick-borne illnesses.

Vector Control has focused mainly on mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile.  


Thursday, October 3

A majority of Connecticut’s social service programs will feel the pinch of the government shutdown, especially if it lasts longer than this month, according plans posted on the Office of Policy and Management’s website Wednesday.

Only a handful of state agencies don’t receive federal funds, or have federally-funded programs like Medicaid that are exempt, and won’t be affected.
It could cost the state millions to keep un-exempt programs going without their federal funding.

Some programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, have enough money to continue at least through this month. But it’s unknown what would happen in a prolonged shutdown. The same applies to the Department of Correction.

Programs for senior citizens and children have contingency plans that allow their services, like meal-delivery to senior citizens’ homes and child day care, to continue only for a few weeks, unaffected.

However, Bridgeport’s Head Start program had to shut its doors, leaving about 1,000 low-income children without early care and education services because of federal money that didn’t come.  The Office of Early Childhood is working with the Bridgeport agency to see if it can provide support to those students during the shutdown.

U.S. Representative Jim Himes, who represents Bridgeport, called it “absolutely unconscionable that, because of petulant behavior by a small minority of irresponsible members of Congress, nearly a thousand Bridgeport children are denied an education, their parents must choose between work and leaving children home unattended, and hundreds of teachers sit at home temporarily unemployed.”

At the moment, the state’s cash position is good, according to State Treasurer Denise Nappier. But depending on how long the shutdown lasts, she wrote, “there could be an adverse impact on the state’s cash flow.”

Citing high taxes that have driven families from the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced the launch of a new state Tax Relief Commission. It will focus on trimming state budget items and passing savings onto residents in the form of lower state tax bills.

The commission will examine the state's corporate, sales and personal income tax codes. It will be comprised of a panel of state leaders including former Governor George Pataki and former state comptroller H. Carl McCall.

The panel will report to the Governor by December 6 with recommended tax reduction plans.

The Riverhead Town Board voted 4-0 Tuesday to adopt a draft generic environmental impact statement for the planned development of the 2300 acre EPCAL property at Calverton.

The statement outlines all issues the town must examine as it plans to break the town-owned property into 50 separate parcels to be purchased by private developers for various uses.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio abstained from the vote, saying she had received the 22-page document Friday without enough time to study it.

Town officials want to have a single environmental review for the entire site so  every firm that wants to build there does not need to perform its own environmental assessment. 

The environmental statement calls for at least 60 percent of the property to remain undeveloped, creates a 1,000-foot buffer around designated wetlands, and commits nearly 600 acres to habitat restoration.
Because the EPCAL site is within the Central Suffolk Special Groundwater Protection Area, special emphasis is given in the environmental review to groundwater monitoring and possible contamination caused by future commercial, industrial and recreational uses.
Wednesday October 2:

Mike Clifford of Connecticut News Service reports:  The government shutdown didn't stop local AARP volunteers from delivering new study results to local congressional offices, detailing Social Security's $16 billion impact on the state's economy. 

Nora Duncan, director of AARP Connecticut says the study should give lawmakers pause before they'd support tying cost-of-living increases to the Chained CPI. Chained CPI considers product substitutions made by consumers and other changes in their spending habits. The net impact, she said, would be smaller benefit checks and a reduction in the
program's positive economic punch.

Duncan says each dollar paid to Social Security beneficiaries in Connecticut generates nearly $2 in spending adding  $16 billion to the Connecticut economy.

The government shutdown made it somewhat challenging for the volunteers to contact all the local congressional offices.  They did deliver the study results to some of them - along with petitions signed by 45,000 local AARP members.

Social Security benefits helped local workers find or keep more than 100,000 jobs in 2012, according to the report.  

The study is online at states.aarp.org.

This was the 18th year of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, which took place in June.  Its economic impact was announced at a gathering Monday evening. The dollar figure includes
direct income such as from ticket sales and indirect, such as restaurant meals purchased by festival-goers. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more:
Festival Board member Tom Griggs reeled off various data, like the total attendance of just under 140,000; the total number of events at 170 -- 85 percent of them free; and the geographic breakdown that exactly half of attendees were from New Haven and the other half were from the rest of Connecticut or out of state.

This was Mary Lou Aleskie's ninth year as executive director of the festival, and board members and community leaders showered praise on her.

Will Ginsberg is head of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, a major festival sponsor from the beginning. He said the festival has grown over the years.

Next year's festival is set for June 14-28.

With the Federal Government poised to close and sell the 59-year-old Plum Island Animal Disease Center, Governor Andrew Cuomo, on Monday, called on officials to reveal its secrets about groundwater

contamination on the island.

Threatening legal action, Cuomo  also stated that the "federal government

needs to allow the state to have final sign-off before selling the land."
Zoning legislation, which was approved in August, calls for a 125-acre

Plum Island research district and a 350-acre Plum Island conservation

district, which would be a nature preserve.

Members of the New York and Connecticut congressional delegations,

local environmentalists, town officials, and other federal agencies have

also expressed concern about the environmental and economic impacts

of closing the lab and selling the island.

The island would have to sold through a public auction process, which

officials believe would yield significantly less money because of new

zoning that was enacted on the island by the Town of Southold.

But that zoning has not stopped real estate operator Donald Trump from

proposing to purchase the island and build a golf course there.  According

to the Suffolk Times Southold Supervisor Scott Russell says he talked

with representatives of Mr. Trump.  

But Russell has his reservations about that plan, considering that new

zoning would prevent any significant commercial development on the

New York's new online health plan marketplace is dealing with technical

problems after about two million visitors rushed to the new site Tuesday morning.

The state placed a bulletin on the homepage, asking "users who are

unable to log in to come back to the site later when these issues will be

resolved," adding that overwhelming demand was to blame for the

technical issues.

Various links were not working consistently on Tuesday afternoon,

including one that allows users to get a quick quote and "get started.


Tuesday October 1

A University of Connecticut economist warned Monday that the shutdown of the federal government that began today will have economic consequences in Connecticut, including lost jobs. Steven Lanza, editor of UConn’s quarterly state economic report, spoke at a press conference with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal at Habco, the Glastonbury-based manufacturer. He said Moody’s Analytics has forecast that a shutdown of just a couple days would have negative consequences on the state’s Gross Domestic Product. That could result in loss of 300 jobs, which translates into $13 million in lost income on an annual basis. If the government were to stay shut down for three or four weeks, Lanza said it could cost 2,000 jobs in the state for a loss of more than $100 million in income over the course of a year, he said. The CEO of Habco, which makes aircraft-related products, said the uncertainly keeps him up at night and creates problems in making business decisions.

The state’s new insurance marketplace opened for enrollment Tuesday, and officials are marking the occasion with a warning: Be prepared for glitches, or even a system shut-down if problems are bad enough. Access Health CT, the state's insurance exchange created by the federal health reform law, is intended to offer customers a way to comparison-shop for health care coverage offered by private insurers. Exchanges are among the major ways the law commonly known as Obamacare aims to expand health insurance to millions of Americans.
But rather than touting the upcoming changes on the eve of opening, Access Health officials took a more cautious approach. In a press release issued Monday evening, they focused largely on the likelihood of errors occurring once customers begin using the system, in spite of what the statement called “rigorous testing” prior to launching. 
Even so, what happens in the exchange's early days could help set the tone for the coming months, as outreach workers try to entice those who have gone without insurance to buy into the system. The extent to which their pitches work, particularly among young and healthy state residents, will go a long way toward determining the effectiveness of the health reform law, and the viability of the new marketplace.

Many new Connecticut laws went into effect today, Oct. 1. Among them, gun owners who never owned a pistol will have to get a pistol permit, certificate of eligibility, a long gun permit, or the new ammunition certificate if they want to purchase bullets, shells, or magazines. The new ammunition certificate will cost $35 and will be good for five years. The certificate was part of the stricter gun laws passed by the General Assembly in April in response to the shooting of 20 first graders, and six educators in Newtown.

Another part of that bill that goes into effect Tuesday addresses the mental health issues raised by the shooting. The new law reduces the time health insurers have to make initial determinations on requests for treatments for certain mental or substance abuse disorders and asks the company to review claim denials and other adverse determinations of such requests.

There’s also a new human trafficking law that increases the penalty for patronizing a prostitute and allows anyone convicted of prostitution to apply to vacate the conviction if they were a victim of trafficking.
Another law closes a loophole in the state’s sexual assault act and extends the definition of “physically helpless” to include people who are physically unable to resist an act of sexual intercourse. Yet another law requires more law enforcement organizations to collect traffic stop information and to adopt a profiling policy. The law stems from the long ignored Alvin Penn Racial Profiling Act.

The Bridgeport school district has won a three-year, $11.1 million federal grant to help support its four new magnet high schools. Bridgeport will receive $3.2 million this year, then $3.9 million each in the second and third years.

An announcement was made today on the Fairchild Wheeler campus. The facility houses three new science high schools, and for the time being, the new Military High School which does not yet have a permanent home. The three science high schools all have different themes: information technology, zoology and aerospace engineering. The plan is for them to come together for joint activities.

Others in Connecticut to receive money include New Haven, which has won before, and LEARN, a regional education service center based in Old Lyme.

As interdistrict magnet schools, the Fairchild Wheeler science high schools already receives $10,443 a year in state funding for each suburban student in the school. At the Military Academy, the grant funds will help provide military and public safety career exploration.


Those visiting New York's North and South Fork farm stands for fresh fruits and veggies will now be able to also buy local wine.

On Monday, Governor Cuomo signed legislation that now makes it legal for farm stands to each sell wine from two local wineries that are located within 20 miles of the stand.

The legislation Cuomo said aims to help promote "New York’s wine industry across the state and beyond, boosting tourism, local economies and job growth."

According to the governor, New York is home to nearly 500 wineries, breweries, distilleries, and cideries and producers account for more than $22 billion in annual total economic impact in the state.

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