Wednesday, April 30
In the news tonight: the achievement gap for Connecticut high school graduates;
protecting electric customers against fraud; the bankrupt Suffolk OTB makes another bet; and protecting the Peconic Estuary.
More minority and white students in Connecticut's public schools are graduating high school on time, but Connecticut still has one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation when, it comes to which students graduate high school in four years
According to a report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education's research arm, nine of every 10 white students in Connecticut will graduate on time, but fewer than seven in 10 Hispanic children will finish on time.
94 percent of students from middle- to high-income families will graduate on time while, only 70 percent of students from economically disadvantaged families will finish by then.
Seventy-three percent of black students will graduate in four years -- an 18 percent gap between their white peers.
At a press conference staged in January by AARP, legislative leaders promised strong consumer protections for electricity customers. Governor Dannel Malloy raised the stakes four weeks ago, promising "nothing less than a consumer bill of rights."
Consumer advocates finally will be able to judge reality against the hype.
A bipartisan compromise, the product of negotiations with the much-maligned retail electric industry, has been drafted and is expected to be approved by the Senate.
The Democratic co-chairs of the Energy and Technology Committee, said the bill will deliver on the promises to protect consumers against aggressive, misleading marketing of electric retailers.
Some third-party electric suppliers have been enticing customers with teaser rates that quickly exceed the standard offer available from Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating. Advocates say fraud and misleading marketing is rampant, costing consumers millions of dollars.
The Riverhead News-Review reports:
An East End partnership is in the works that will take a regional approach to managing the harmful effects of storm-water pollution on the Peconic Estuary.
In coming weeks, the Suffolk County Legislature is likely to vote on a resolution to join the Peconic Estuary protection committee, thereby entering into a voluntary agreement with 10 east end towns and villages that have signed on to contribute funding to improve water quality and reduce pollution to comply with Clean Water Act regulations.
The Peconic Estuary comprises water bodies that lie between the North and South forks. It was designated an “estuary of national significance” in 1992.
The Peconic Estuary Program plan, approved by the EPA in 2001, identified five major issues facing the estuary: brown tide, nutrient pollution, threats to habitat and living resources, pathogen contamination, and toxic chemicals — many of which are connected to storm-water pollution.
Suffolk County legislator Al Krupski [KRUP-skee] said the protection committee would take a regional approach, rather than as individual towns and villages, in finding efficient and cost-effective ways of meeting storm-water management requirements.
The partnership would then allow its members to apply for grant funding cooperatively.
As reported by Newsday:
The board of directors of the bankrupt Suffolk Off-Track Betting Corp. has voted to borrow up to $90 million to finance construction of a 1,000-electronic-slot-machine casino. It would immediately pay off all its creditors, who are owed more than $16 million.
Phil Nolan, Suffolk OTB president, said the agency expects to receive as many as four proposals and could have a decision in about a week and he hopes to issue bonds within a month.
Nolan said preliminary indications are that OTB could get a better interest rate by financing construction and land acquisition for the $65 million casino because as a public benefit corporation it could use tax exempt bonds. Interest connected to paying creditors would be higher, he added.
County budget analysts also disclosed last week that Suffolk is no longer anticipating receiving $4 million from the casino that had been budgeted for this year. While a former multiplex movie theater site in Medford is a leading contender, no final site selection has been made.
Under Delaware North's contract with OTB, the firm is supposed to pay the betting agency $500,000 at contract signing, $500,000 at site selection, $500,000 at groundbreaking and $500,000 when the casino opens. The first of those payments has been held in abeyance while the financing arrangements are finalized.
Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser and Henry Letcher.
Tuesday, April 29
In the news tonight: Governor Malloy’s tax refund off as revenues disappoint, Nurses would practice independently under new law, Sink holes delay Long Island Railroad access to Grand Central; and a rally planned for breast feeding rights
Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration is scrapping the $55 taxpayer refund and supplemental pension payment as tax revenues come in “hundreds of millions” less than expected.
Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee co-chairs said they don’t plan to increase taxes to balance the budget, but they said some of Malloy’s proposed tax relief may have be postponed.
The proposed sales tax exemption on over-the-counter drugs would cost the state about $16.5 million in revenue; exempting part of teachers’ pensions, about $23 million; and exempting health insurance tax for municipal employees, about $8.7 million.
The Office of Policy and Management declined to say exactly how far down its revenue projections are or if they’re different than the Office of Fiscal Analysis—an estimated $276.9 million. The offices must agree on revenue estimates by Wednesday.
Democratic Senator John Fonfara of Hartford said that no matter what happens, “I can tell you one thing, we’re not raising taxes.”
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses will be allowed to practice independent of a doctor under legislation the House sent to Governor Malloy’s desk Monday for a signature. The bill passed the Senate more than two weeks ago by a 25-11 vote.
It will allow nurses who have been licensed and practicing with a physician for at least three years to practice independently of those physicians. Current law only allows them to work in collaboration with a physician.
The advanced registered nurses will be required to maintain an agreement with a doctor for the first three years before being permitted to practice independently.
The Governor said the change will help Connecticut’s health care system address the demand from newly insured residents. He said access to primary care has been a challenge in some communities.
The Connecticut State Medical Society released a statement expressing “extreme disappointment” in the vote. The group said the bill did not include adequate detail regarding a nurse’s three-year agreement with doctors or what education requirements would be placed on them.
There are about 4,000 Advance Practice Registerd Nurses in the state of Connecticut, according to state officials.
A Westhampton woman who says a Riverhead police officer violated her legal right to breastfeed her child is planning a "nurse-in" at Riverhead Police Headquarters on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
Andrea Zeledon-Mussio is organizing a breastfeeding demonstration outside the police department to protest both a police officer's request that she cover her breast while she was feeding her infant and the police chief's conclusion that the officer "did the right thing."
Chief David Hegermiller said Police Officer Patrick Loszewski responded to a report of a domestic incident by Zeledon-Mussio in Wading River on the evening of April 14, to find the complainant sitting in a parked car breastfeeding an infant.
According to the chief, Loszewski asked Zeledon-Mussio to cover her breast. He was uncomfortable and concerned that since he needed to interview her, he could be accused of staring at her breast. Hegermiller said "He didn't tell her to stop. He asked her to cover up"
Chief Hegermiller could not be reached for comment, but he told Riverhead LOCAL last week that he supports a woman's right to breastfeed in public.
Newsday reports: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s East Side Access Project to link the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal, already delayed and over budget, now has a problem with sinkholes.
MTA officials are investigating the cause of five ground collapses -- one measuring 9 feet deep -- at a Queens train junction where much of the work is taking place. One 9-foot sinkhole was likely caused by workers not backfilling a void created when they removed a boulder. Other sinkholes have formed and the MTA is closely inspecting all work for evidence of other potential collapses.
The MTA temporarily suspended work in Sunnyside Queens, just east of the tunnels that bring the LIRR into and out of Penn Station. Some operations, deemed safe, have resumed. The MTA has hired an independent engineering firm to investigate conditions.
The project aims to save 160,000 riders up to 40 minutes a day in their commute.
The project was originally projected to be finished by 2009 at a cost of $4.3 billion but is now scheduled to be done in 2023 at a cost of about $11 billion.
Monday, April 28:
In the news tonight: Supporters rally for jailed trans-gender youth; Stolen Native artifacts at Yale; Comptroller views New York’s finances; FEMA funds for Fire Island
A 16-year-old transgender girl who was born biologically male but identifies as female has been held in solitary confinement at a Connecticut state women's prison, since April 8, although she has not been charged with or convicted of any crime.
Supporters nationwide and in Connecticut have demanded that Jane Doe, as she is known, be placed in a therapeutic setting to deal with her severe trauma from a lifetime of abuse.
After a rally Friday afternoon in Hartford a DCF spokesman said the department is looking for a more therapeutic placement for Jane Doe.
WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:
About 50 people rallied in front of the Department of Children and Families, or DCF, because the decision to place Jane Doe in prison was made by DCF Commissioner Joette Katz. She said the girl is violent and there is no more appropriate and available
setting for her at this time.
Jane Doe is suing both the Department of Correction and the Department of Children and Families in an effort to be placed in a more appropriate setting. In an op-ed published in the Hartford Courant, she said even the traumas she suffered for most of her life were not as bad as the solitary confinement she has been subjected to in prison, where she is getting no treatment and no education, in violation of state law.
She has been under DCF's care since the age of 5.
JeriMarie Liesegang is a trans woman and founder of the Connecticut Trans Advocacy Coalition.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
The Indian Country Today reports:
When stories of stolen Tlingit objects at the Yale Peabody Natural History Museum hit
the press this week, museum officials came under fire. Yale was not alone in having
these kinds of items in their collection.
In 1899, the Harriman Expedition, loaded with scientists, artists, and collectors,
ransacked an Alaskan Tlingit village, which was abandoned following a small pox
epidemic. They brought the items back and distributed them to museums all over the
Most of those items have already been returned, but Yale's were not.
Earlier this month, Yale students and experts gathered for a panel discussion on the
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Three speakers presented
the challenges tribes face when seeking repatriation of remains and sacred objects,
and in Yale’s case, that includes the two Tlingit items, a carved wooden bear and a
Erin Gredell, of the Tohono O’odham, the repatriation coordinator at the Yale museum,
said that work has been done over the years to return the objects, and that several
Alaskan tribes have applied for a grant to bring a group of elders to Yale so they can look at the entire collection, at once.
Gredell said, "If there are other items that need to be repatriated, we could do one large shipment. Hopefully, that will happen, but I don’t know when.”
State Comptroller Thomas Di Napoli says New York ended the 2013-14 fiscal year in the strongest fiscal position. As a result, the state was able to deposit $175 million in the Rainy Day Reserve Fund for the first time since 2008.
DiNapoli said: “After a tough few years, New York State is in better fiscal shape thanks to an improving economy and difficult fiscal choices made by the Governor and
the Legislature, The on-time Enacted Budget seeks to keep spending growth to less than 2 percent while providing increased aid for schools and tax cuts.”
The 2014-15 Enacted Budget relies on an estimated $4.9 billion in temporary state resources and $2.7 billion in extraordinary federal aid related to Superstorm Sandy recovery and the Affordable Care Act. The total also includes $2.1 billion in revenues from temporarily higher tax rates on upper income individuals and $1 billion from State Insurance Fund transfers.
The Town of Brookhaven will receive a $1.8 million federal reimbursement for debris cleanup following superstorm Sandy.
U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrats, announced the Federal Emergency Management Agency aid package on Friday.
The town's north and south shores and Fire Island were heavily damaged by storm surges caused by Sandy in October 2012.
Town crews removed downed trees and vegetation that blocked traffic and caused potential safety hazards.
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said the town dipped into reserve funds to pay for labor, equipment, materials and other costs related to storm cleanup.
Federal authorities have announced a plan to restore Fire Island dunes destroyed by the storm.
The project is expected to begin later this year.
Friday, April 25:
In the news tonight: Connecticut bill on shrinking ‘drug free zones’ around schools is dead, Plan to kill Long Island’s mute swans is back, east end real estate is hot; fracking waste water is banned in Southampton, and what to do with expired drugs.
Legislation to reduce the size of “drug free zones” around schools died quietly in the Education Committee on Thursday following a meeting outside the House chamber.
The perennial bill would have reduced the areas around schools which trigger automatic harsh penalties for drug convictions. The current policy is an issue in urban communities where the zones make up most, if not entire cities. As a result, anyone who’s convicted of a drug charge in those cities faces a stiffer penalty.
Proponent Sen. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, attended the Education Committee’s meeting Thursday and said there was little discussion about the bill before the committee members declined to let it progress.
“The chair asked if there were any questions on the bill. There were no questions,” Holder-Winfield said. When the votes were tallied later that morning “we didn’t have the votes we needed, so unfortunately the bill wound up dead.”
The bill was defeated in an 11-17 vote. Holder-Winfield said opponents of the bill did not make arguments against the proposal. “It just kind of died a little, lonely, pitiful death,” he said.
Last year’s public debate on the total cull of the Mute Swan from New York State is about to be rekindled, according to the Suffolk Times.
Long Island is home to about half of the state’s 2200 free-ranging swans, which can have a wingspan of six feet, and become aggressive their nesting areas are approached. The Department of Environmental Conservation had planned on eradicating the swan from New York by 2025. The project was delayed following widespread opposition, but a meeting in Albany last week indicates the DEC hopes to restart the program.
At the meeting were opponents and supporters of the wildlife management plans, with accusations of flawed research and public outcry.
The swans hiss loudly, and peck at approaching children and adults, but exact little physical injury. However one kayacker drowned in Chicago 2012 when he was forced into the water by a swan.
Of concern to the DEC is that the swan population increases by 13 to 20% annually.
The State of Maryland reduced its swan population by 95% over the decade ending in 2010.
Two years ago, Suffolk County passed a law banning the acceptance of hydro-fracking wastewater at county sewage treatment plans. This week, Southampton Town has expanded on that ban by outlawing the acceptance of the waste anywhere in town. That includes at town and privately owned sewage treatment plants.
Also the Town is outlawing briny wastewater use as a de-icer since the state DEC has not prohibited such use - even though it contains a proprietary concoction of chemicals that are hazardous to human health and could taint drinking water.
East End real estate sales numbers are rolling in strong for the first quarter of 2014, with realtors across both forks reporting increases in inventory, sales and, in most areas, price.
The numbers are no more eye-popping than in Southampton Village, where, driven by 10 high-end home sales between January and March, the total sales volume increased by nearly 1,000 percent, according to Judi Desiderio of Town & Country Real Estate.
In the first quarter of 2013, Southampton Village posted just under 7 million for its total home sales volume and a year later it is $76 million.
On the North Fork, realtor Douglas Elliman reports, there were more sales in the first quarter than at any time in the past seven years, with 109 home sales, up 40 percent from last year.
Elliman’s report also showed more than triple the number of sales in the $1 million-plus range over the first quarter of 2013.
Got expired prescription drugs?
A take-back initiative sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, for pills and patches only, is being conducted Saturday, nationwide.
In Riverhead the Police Department and Peconic Bay Medical Center are drop-off points for disposal of unused and/or unwanted prescription medications from 10 am to 2 pm.
The service is free and anonymous — no questions asked according to Riverhead police.
The DEA can't accept liquids or needles.
In Fairfield County locations include the Newtown and Westport police departments.
For your closest location google ‘drug take back’ for the DEA site.
Thursday, April 24:
Hillary Clinton visited UConn Wednesday and told students and faculty “to get involved”.
As reported by The Hartford Courant, she fielded questions from the audience but had nothing to say regarding her candidacy for President.
Asked her opinion of American journalism, Clinton said “serious news reporting has largely given way to entertainment-driven, opinion-based content. ….. There's a lot going on in the world that needs explanation. We need better information, more effectively delivered."
About Edward Snowden, she said "I have a hard time thinking that somebody who is a champion of privacy and liberty has taken refuge in Russia, under Putin's authority.''
With Connecticut income tax collections lower than expected , Senate Republican leader John McKinney, a candidate for Governor, called for Governor Malloy to scrap his proposal for $55 tax rebates.
McKinney said tax collections were nearly 16.7 percent below projections as of April 22.
McKinney said. “A $55 rebate in lieu of permanent and meaningful tax cuts is an insult to taxpayers that should never have been proposed in the first place. Governor Malloy's record tax hike has been estimated to cost as much as $700 per year per family at a time when our residents can least afford it.”
But Malloy's spokesman, Andrew Doba, says Governor Malloy's refund proposal is part of an overall effort that will put money in the rainy day fund, pay down our long-term obligations, and provide some necessary tax relief for residents.
Doba said a Republican budget “included a $120 million tax increase on working families and $54 million in phantom, unspecified cuts not detailed anywhere."
Connecticut activists who protested the UBS financial services company’s support for mountain top removal coal mining, appeared in Superior Court in Stamford Tuesday.
The 14 activists had locked down inside UBS’s Stamford offices last November.
WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports:
The 14 are charged with trespass, breach of peace and conspiracy to commit both. The individuals who scaled the crane are also charged with "trover" -- a common law action stemming from the appropriation of private property. The crane company was seeking to recover $30,000 in damages for the down time allegedly caused by the banner drop.
Earlier this month, UBS downgraded its clients Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources from "neutral" to "sell" and lowered the target price for both from $5 to $3 a share.
One of the 14, Ricki Draper, spoke at a small rally before their court appearance on Tuesday.
Draper: “UBS just recently downgraded Arch and Alpha holdings, and that actually had a big effect on those companies. And we understand that's mostly for economic reasons; coal right now is not doing well. At this point we want to say for economic reasons you've done this, but now issue a policy because of the human cost of coal, and issue a policy saying you will not fund these companies or support these companies financially again.”
Mountaintop removal, or MTR, in addition to destroying the land, pollutes the air and water, and studies show residents living near these sites have significantly higher rates of both cancer and birth defects.
A spokeswoman for UBS emailed a response that said "an enhanced due diligence and approval process is triggered whenever UBS engages in a potential transaction with a coal mining company that uses MTR as an extraction method." She said UBS also considers concerns of stakeholder groups and whether the client is committed to reduce over time its exposure to this form of mining."
Meanwhile, the UBS 14 received yet another court date on June 11.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
The East Hampton Star reports:
When the next major storm hits Montauk, its downtown will have to rely on large sandbags covered with sand to reinforce its dunes along the shoreline.
That’s what the Army Corps of Engineers is offering the town under a Hurricane Sandy recovery program. The project would cost $6 million -- paid for by the Federal government -- and was deemed to be the only currently cost-effective measure.
After doing a cost/benefit analysis of potential projects, the Army Corps concluded the costs to complete a project that would adequately protect the downtown buildings near the beach would be “extremely high.” An alternative, scaled-down plan calls for the periodic addition of sand to the beach to offset long-term sand loss from natural erosion processes.
The emergency beach stabilization project is considered separate from the overall scope of work that could take place under a Fire Island to Montauk reformulation study.
Monday, April 21:
In the news tonight: UConn graduate assistants have a union; legal aid funding in Connecticut;
Comcast to make political spending public; and avoiding a strike on the Long Island Railroad.
More than 2,100 graduate assistants working at the University of Connecticut have won the right to form what will be the largest bargaining group at the school.
The State Board of Labor Relations certified the petitions submitted by the group last Thursday. The vote means graduate assistants, research assistants, and teaching assistants will be represented by the United Auto Workers union.
According to a university spokeswoman, about 85 percent of UConn’s employees are unionized.
Currently, graduate assistants are paid stipends that range from $20,000 to $23,600 for the academic year. They are considered full-time if they work 20 hours or more per week.
The group will negotiate directly with the UConn Board of Trustees rather than the Office of Policy and Management like other state employee unions. The group’s negotiating efforts under the agreement cover wages and workplace issues.
The New Haven Legal Assistance and other legal aid organizations in Connecticut may soon have increased funding to continue helping those who lack legal representation.
In 2008 when the market took a hit, so did the Interest On Lawyer Trust Accounts (or IOLTA).
Peter Arakas, president of the Connecticut Bar Foundation, said. “Money in IOLTA accounts plummeted … we went from having $20 million in revenue in 2008 to this year we’ll be coming in at less than $3 million.”
In 2012, the legislature increasing court filing fees and allocated 70 percent to help fund legal services for the poor. That law came with a sunset provision. It was set to expire in 2015.
The proposed legislation will result in an additional $1.6 million increase in funding in 2015 and a $6.3 million increase in 2016. That won’t bring the fund up to where it was at $20 million in 2008 when the markets crashed and interest rates dropped.
Governor Dannel Malloy said he’s asked the legislature to eliminate the sunset provision in the law and increase the portion legal assistance organizations receive through the fund.
Newsday reports: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the unions representing nearly 6,000 Long Island Rail Road workers will be negotiating today in Manhattan, after a four-year-long contract dispute.
The White House-appointed Presidential Emergency Board will hear from LIRR labor leaders and MTA negotiators. Without a resolution, LIRR unions could go on strike as early as July.
It's the second time since November that President Obama has assembled a three-member mediation board to try to resolve the contract impasse. A first board largely supported the unions, calling for raises totaling about 17 percent over six years, and no changes to work rules.
The board's recommendation is not binding.
After reaching a tentative agreement with the Transport Workers Union last week for raises totaling 8 percent over five years, MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast said TWU contracts typically establish a pattern that the agency expects its other unions, including those at the LIRR, to follow.
An LIRR union source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he expects the railroad labor groups will stick to their guns in pursuing the more lucrative terms of the first presidential board.
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced last week a shareholder agreement with media and technology company Comcast Corp. to disclose political spending made with corporate funds.
In December, as trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, DiNapoli filed a shareholder resolution calling for the company to make public its political spending.
The new agreement resulted in a withdrawal of the resolution. As of March 14, the Fund owned shares of Comcast valued at $383 million
DiNapoli said “In light of the recent Supreme Court decisions governing political contributions, it’s more important than ever that shareholders continue to call for greater transparency when it comes to political spending,”
The agreement outlines the company’s policy to disclose all money used for electoral political purposes including contributions to political candidates and parties, as well as payments used for political campaigns to trade associations and political action committees.
Friday, April 18:
In the news tonight: Tax credits for United Technologies; fracking waste not welcome in Connecticut; Riverhead deals with attacks on Latinos and the east end deals with heroin epidemic.
The Connecticut House approved legislation Thursday to allow United Technologies Corp. to use $400 million in unused tax credits to reduce their tax liability and expand their facilities in the state. The bill now goes to the Senate.
UTC, which had profits of over $6 billion in the last year, will invest up to $500 million in capital improvements over the next five years. The tax offsets from the state of Connecticut will be extended over 14 years. The total income tax credits for the various entities cannot exceed $400 million.
The deal also ensures that Pratt & Whitney stays in Connecticut for a minimum of 15 years and keeps Sikorsky’s corporate headquarters in Stratford for a minimum of five years.
The firm will build a 425,000-square-foot global headquarters and engineering building for Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford.
UTC also will build a 12,000-square-foot customer training center at its Aerospace Systems business in Windsor Locks and make capital improvements at Sikorsky. Construction would begin this year and continue through 2018.
Although Connecticut has no underground natural gas deposits to permit the process known as “fracking,” many are concerned that fracking wastewater will be trucked into Connecticut from operations in nearby states.
Advocates seeking to ban storage of fracking wastewater in the state delivered petitions with thousands of signatures to policymakers Wednesday as the legislature considered two bills on the subject.
The petitions with more than 5,600 signatures, urged Governor Malloy and lawmakers to support a bill that would prohibit the storage and disposal in Connecticut of all wastes associated with the hydraulic fracturing process.
Laura McMillan of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, one of the groups bringing the petitions, said the state needs to act now to prevent fracking waste from entering Connecticut in the near future.
McMillan said advocates are not sure exactly what is contained in the waste because the chemicals used in fracking are considered trade secrets by energy companies so, “The only sure way to protect our waters from toxic fracking waste is a complete ban”
However other activists said they preferred a bill proposed by Malloy’s Energy and Environmental Protection Department. That legislation would ban the waste in Connecticut until such time as DEEP has adopted regulations for it.
Following the vicious beating of a Hispanic man who was walking on the railroad tracks in Riverhead last Sunday afternoon, Riverhead officials say they are concerned about "a pattern" of attacks on Hispanic men in the community.
The Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said “it happens too frequently"
In Sunday's attack, the victim, a 33-year-old Hispanic male, suffered a fractured skull and other injuries.
He reported being beaten and robbed of $400 in cash.
Several other assaults occurred this year.
In a phone interview Wednesday with Riverhead Local, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said "This pattern is something that's worried me for a while”.
Walter said "This is a Riverhead for all, not just for some. We won't tolerate this.”
Walter visited Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Hispanic Apostolate in her Riverhead office.
Sister Margaret, who helps immigrants through the agency, said, "I invited town officials and police to come to the Spanish Mass at St. John's church every Sunday evening to talk to the community,"
She said "People do get jumped for money, people also have money stolen from their homes. One woman had $15,000 in cash stolen from her home.”
"People do not use banks to the extent that they should be using them. I tell them all the time, opening an account is simple. You need a passport and a taxpayer ID number, which most people have"
A new program intended to help stem an onrushing tide of heroin use was announced Monday by state lawmakers who represent the east end.
The Heroin Addiction Legislative Task Force, or HALT, will meet for the first time next month, with the hope of combating the scourge of heroin and other opiates.
Within the past two months, the East End Drug Task Force successfully disbanded two different heroin operations, one of which involved the sale of an ultra-potent premium form of heroin in Riverhead.
Heroin-related deaths in Suffolk County have increased by almost 300 percent in the past four years — from 28 in 2010 to about 82 deaths reported in 2013
HALT will bring together town and village law enforcement agencies, town supervisors and village mayors, to formulate a plan to address the heroin epidemic.
Substance abuse counselors, treatment groups and other providers will also be represented.
The effort also aims to provide treatment services for those in need including a drug that assists in overdose situations.
Thursday, April 17:
In the news tonight: The Connecticut gun law and the race for Governor; surprise fees on Hospital bills; Smithtown plans a rec facility; and the Onondagas go to Washington with a message crafted on Long Island.
Newtown Patch reports: Connecticut Democrats are accusing Republican gubernatorial candidate John McKinney of "political pandering" for a statement he made about the state's new gun law.
The Democrats distributed a YouTube clip taken at a Tea Party meeting, where McKinney made his remarks.
Asked if he would sign a repeal of the law, SB 1160, McKinney said
“If the legislature repeals something, I think the governor owes a great deference to what the legislature does, and I would.”
McKinney voted for the gun law, saying it was a compromise against even stricter gun control measures proposed by Democrats.
He is not the only Republican running for governor being targeted for his stance on the gun law — and the issue of gun violence in general.
Last week, another GOP contender, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, drew criticism for his decision to withdraw from Mayors Against Illegal Guns. He has said he believes Connecticut's gun law "went too far to curtail the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Twenty-two of Connecticut’s 29 hospitals now charge separate facility and professional fees at their newly acquired outpatient departments or clinics, according to Attorney General George Jepsen’s report.
The fees, ranging from $100 to $1,000, are separate from a patient’s co-pay and often take patients by surprise.
As hospitals acquire more independent clinics and physicians, more patients will be
charged these fees. Some hospitals notify patients of the fees—before or at the time of the appointment—but not all. The report found the language wasn’t always clear and concluded most of the patients didn’t know of the facility fees.
Jepsen said that several hospitals acknowledged the need for greater patient information. He believes this year’s legislation is important to ensure all patients get adequate notice.
The General Law and Public Health Committees approved the legislation, supported by the Connecticut Hospital Association, and is awaiting action in the House. Jepsen said he would like to see the legislation mandate the disclosure of these fees.
He also supports legislation concerning greater transparency in physician acquisitions. That bill passed the Public Health Committee and is awaiting action in the Senate.
The Town of Smithtown wants to proceed with the construction of a recreational facility in the industrial zone north of Old Northport Road in Kings Park despite pending sewage treatment issues.
The town board will meet April 24 to discuss approving the 44.4-acre project in phases, which would allow Prospect Sports Partners LLC, of Farmingdale to build five sports fields and an indoor fitness center while sewage treatment options for a medical building are considered.
The project is expected to create 200 full-time jobs and establish several fields for young athletes. But it faces delays over a decision on the location of its sewage treatment facility.
On Tuesday the Onondaga nation filed a petition against the United States with the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C.
As reported by Indian Country Today: In Washington Onondaga leaders publicly displayed the wampum belt commissioned by George Washington to mark the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua.
That peace treaty guaranteed the Onandaga and the other Nations of the Iroquois "the free use and enjoyment" of their land.
Wampum beads that comprise the belt were crafted from shells on Long Island’s south shore by the people of the Shinnecock and Unkechaug tribes.
The petition accuses the U.S. of human rights violations by stealing 2.5 million acres of the Nation’s land since 1788 in what is now central New York State.
It seeks redress for the violation of the Onondaga people’s rights to property, equal treatment, and judicial protection.
The filing took place six months after the U.S. Supreme Court denied the Onondaga Nation’s request for review of a lower court’s dismissal of its land rights lawsuit.
The Onondaga Nation’s petition is unique in that it does not seek evictions from its historic territory, monetary damages or a casino. Instead, it seeks reconciliation and a ruling that would allow the Nation to continue its role as an environmental steward of the land it once conserved for centuries.
Wednesday, April 16:
In the news tonight: Medical marijuana in Bridgeport might not happen; Jailed former governor gave to both Dems and the GOP; Governor Cuomo’s book contract, New York joins campaign for National Popular vote and a dormitory proposed for Long Island pols in Albany.
The medical marijuana experiment in Bridgeport may be over before it had a chance to begin.
The Planning & Zoning Commission rejected a state-licensed dispensary applicant for a special permit this week. It will now consider joining other towns in enacting a moratorium on future marijuana proposals.
D&B Wellness dispensary had the state's permission to open, but on Monday the Zoning Commission denied them the necessary local approval.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s administration, which had initially tried to work with the fledgling legalized pot industry, now supports the Zoning Commission’s decision to consider a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.
City Councilwoman Michelle Lyons, one of the most vocal opponents of the dispensaries, said she will back a moratorium.
Michael, a cancer patient who lives near Bridgeport, said marijuana helps the nausea, anxiety, and depression he suffers after his chemotherapy treatments. Without a dispensary, he has to buy it on the street.
Michael said Bridgeport is already teeming with illegal drugs. Why not allow something that is legal and helps people like him?
Campaign finance records show that in the years following his incarceration, former Gov. John G. Rowland and his wife, Patricia, made several donations to both Democratic and Republican candidates and town committees.
Despite the record of donations, on April 3, just minutes before announcing his resignation from WTIC 1080 AM as its weekday afternoon radio host, Rowland called the state public campaign finance system that he inspired a “joke.”
The state’s public financing rules were adopted by the legislature in 2005 as a result of Rowland’s corruption conviction.
In 2004, the feds charged Rowland with taking more than $100,000 in gifts from a state contractor. He pleaded guilty to one count of depriving the citizens of Connecticut of “the honest services of its governor.” He emerged from prison in 2006, and by 2007 he was on the speaking circuit talking about the arrogance of power and redemption.
Last week, Rowland pleaded not guilty to the seven-count indictment, which says he “devised a scheme” to work for two congressional campaigns and funnel the payment for those consulting gigs through business entities owned by the candidate or their spouse.
The Albany Times-Union reports: Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that would add New York, along with its 29 electoral college votes, to the National Popular Vote compact. That’s an effort to have presidents elected by the absolute number of votes rather than by the electoral college.
Patch reports: a State Supreme Court judge Monday denied PSEG Long Island's request for a temporary restraining order to quash a stop-work order on a contested transmission project in East Hampton Town.
Acting Justice Ralph Gazzillo said there was insufficient evidence that irreparable harm would result if PSEG were blocked from continuing work at a LIPA substation in Amagansett.
The New York Post reports:
State Senator Phil Boyle of Bay Shore, Long Island has a plan to build a college-style dormitory for legislators in Albany.
The facility would save taxpayers the cost of lodging state politicians in hotels while they’re in the Capitol.
Senators and Assembly members now receive a $172 taxpayer-funded per diem when visiting Albany.
Boyle said once it’s paid off in five or six years, the $9 million dorm would end the need for a lodging allowance.
The Albany Times-Union says writing about being governor is apparently more lucrative than being governor.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s advance from HarperCollins for his forthcoming memoir, “All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life,” is worth at least $188 thousand according to the governor’s 2013 tax return.
But Cuomo’s office declined to say just how big the total advance from the publisher will be.
Cuomo’s tax returns reflect that about $153 thousand of that advance was included in the governor’s $358 thousand federal adjusted gross income, more than double his income the previous year thanks to the book deal.
The book is slated for release August 5.
Tuesday, April 15
In the news tonight: cybersecurity threats to Connecticut’s electrical grid, truckers lobby for relief from sales tax on repairs; April 15 and time to register guns in New York; and fish are on the move.
A recent report from the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority highlights cybersecurity threats to Connecticut’s electrical grid.
The report states that, “Hostile probes and penetrations of utilities occur frequently,” and security challenges are constantly evolving and becoming more sophisticated and nefarious.
Governor Dannel Malloy said the state computer system fended off 40 million probes to its system last year alone. It’s unknown how many attempts were made on computers at Connecticut’s utilities.
Peter Clarke of Northeast Utilities said every day “people are trying to get into the system, but, “There have been no successful penetrations or interruptions caused by hacking.”
Arthur House, chairman of the Public Utility Regulatory Authority said the report will be shared with appropriate parties and “The details of those studies obviously shouldn’t be made public.”
Malloy said if a power outage is a result of a cyberattack, it could be sustained for a period of time and have devastating effects on heating or cooling systems and that’s why this report attempts to coordinate cybersecurity efforts among a wide range of utilities. Cybersecurity also will be included in emergency management drills in the future.
Connecticut truckers say it’s unfair for the state to benefit from the 6.3 percent sales tax on vehicle repairs when it’s the brine the state puts on the roads that causes the damage.
Michael Riley, president of the Motor Transport Association, said the state should give truckers a tax break based on the repairs caused by the Transportation Department’s use of magnesium chloride during winter months.
Governor Dannel Malloy wasn’t convinced a tax exemption for truckers was necessary.
He said truckers have the ability to write-off the cost of a commercial vehicle over the life of that vehicle as part of their taxes.
Representative Pam Sawyer of Bolton, a Republican, successfully amended an omnibus transportation bill with a study of the materials the state puts on its highways. If the bill is passed the study would be completed before next winter.
Starting today, April 15th, owners of semi-automatic weapons in New York will be required to register their guns with the state police, according to the Albany Times-Union.
Tom King, the head of the state’s Rifle and Pistol Association, a gun owners and pro second amendment rights group, says his members don’t like the new requirement that they register any assault weapons they own.
King says those that want to comply are finding the new rules hard to navigate.
Governor Cuomo, who touted the passage of what’s known as the SAFE Act in January of 2013, is not promoting the registration date, and a spokeswoman for the State Police declined to record an interview on how to comply with the new rules.
A state operated website, governor.ny.gov/nysafeact/gun-reform, allows gun owners to register on line. It also offers a detailed description of what guns are defined as assault weapons and must be registered.
Failure to register is a Class A misdemeanor. Under the law, the firearm would be confiscated.
But it’s unlikely that state police will be actively checking for unregistered guns. Violators would likely be caught only if they are arrested or searched in connection with another crime.
Newsday reports that for the first time in more than a century, alewives have swum from the Carlls River into Babylon Village’s Argyle Lake. Conservationists said this is perhaps the fish’s first appearance since the waterway was dammed more than 120 years ago.
Video at the mouth of a fish ladder recorded the first alewife swimming through on April 6. And two more followed. Seatuck Environmental Association executive director Enrico Nardone said, "This is what we were hoping for."
Nardone said Millions of alewives once made the annual journey from Long Island's ocean waters to its rivers and lakes to spawn, but those numbers dropped as dams or other man-made structures in the 1800s blocked many routes.
Fish ladders like the one in Babylon Village and elsewhere on Long Island could reverse that trend by restoring access to the spawning grounds.
Nardone said female alewives will produce about 250,000 eggs each in the coming weeks. Two to 3 percent of those eggs will survive and make the trip back to sea.
Monday, April 14
In the news tonight: Counseling services for sexual assault victims, Republican candidates for Governor debate; School tax exemptions for veterans; and the war between PSEG and East Hampton over power upgrades.
The Connecticut state House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday that would ensure that colleges and universities provide free counseling services when a student reports she has been sexually assaulted, regardless of where the incident took place.
The House bill seeks to improve how all higher education institutions in Connecticut respond when a student comes forward from sexual assault, and to boost prevention through bystander training.
The legislation, co-sponsored by every woman legislator in the Connecticut General Assembly, responds to a federal lawsuit and complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education by a group of current and past students at the state's flagship campus last fall.
The students alleged that the university had shown "deliberate indifference” when they came forward to say they had been sexually assaulted or harassed, some off campus. A spokesman for UConn said school officials "fully support" the legislation.
A spokeswoman for Governor Malloy said he is undecided about supporting the legislation.
During the first televised political debate of the 2014 season, five of the six Republican gubernatorial candidates showed up at the Mark Twain House on Friday.
That includes Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, Avon Attorney Martha Dean, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, and former West Hartford Town Councilor Joe Visconti.
Tom Foley, the 2010 Republican nominee, declined an invitation to debate. His absence was marked with a folding chair outside the Twain auditorium.
The debate took place the day after former Republican governor John Rowland was indicted on campaign corruption charges, to which he plead not guilty.
One of the first questions the candidates were asked was about “Corrupticut,” the nickname the state has earned for the number of politicians who have been put behind bars. They all said they're against corruption.
The candidates were also asked if they favored repeal of a law that tightens restrictions on what types of guns and ammunition a Connecticut resident can possess.
Boughton said there should have been more legislative emphasis on school security and mental health than was included in the bill, and less on legislating gun ownership.
McKinney was the only lawmaker on the panel who voted in favor of the bill and defended his decision. He said he was elected to represent the entire town of Newtown and be their voice in the legislature.
Dean is an avid gun rights advocate and is helping with a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new law. Visconti is also a gun rights advocate.
Lauretti said he would have opposed the legislation.
As reported by Newsday, school districts across Long Island are struggling with whether to enact a new property tax exemption to assist veterans for the 2015-16 tax year, and in the process put a greater burden on nonveteran taxpayers.
The exemptions would amount to from 15 to 25%, depending on whether the vet saw combat.
Unlike the New York School Tax Relief Program (or STAR) exemption, the state does not reimburse school districts with revenue lost from the veterans' exemptions, so non-veterans must make up the difference.
Some school districts - including Farmingdale, William Floyd, and Northport-East Northport, approved the exemptions for veterans and parents of soldiers killed in battle. Several other districts, including Hampton Bays, decided not to address the exemption yet.
The average Hampton Bays home valued at about $450,000 could see a property tax increase of 60 to 70 dollars annually for nonveterans
But the long-term effects of the law could be “dramatic” in some communities according to Statewide School Finance Consortium executive director Rick Timbs.
Newsday reports: PSEG Long Island invoked the prospect of blackouts in a court filing asking that its work on an East Hampton high-voltage line be allowed to continue.
On Friday, PSEG sought a ruling in State Supreme Court allowing the utility to continue work on the 23,000-volt line after the town issued a stop-work order that charged the utility didn't have the proper permits for its Amagansett substation.
But PSEG, siting the law that formed LIPA in 1998, says it is exempt from local building codes - and permits are not required.
PSEG says the work on an overhead line and the sub-station is needed to avoid the possibility of a blackout this summer.
PSEG has already installed the poles for 6.2 miles of the line and has strung conductors on slightly less than half of them.
A hearing was scheduled for this afternoon in State Supreme Court in Riverhead.
Friday, April 11
In the news tonight: Former governor indicted; Bill banning GMO grass seed defeated; Feds sue Long Island town over housing discrimination and VA plans assisted living housing.
A federal grand jury in New Haven indicted former Governor John Rowland on Thursday, charging him with attempting to conceal the extent of his involvement in two federal election campaigns.
Rowland, 56, was expected to be arraigned at U.S. District Court in New Haven today.
The indictments follow revelations two weeks ago in which Rowland was implicated in a 2012 campaign finance scheme involving the 5th Congressional District election campaign. Former Republican candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, pleaded guilty to federal charges and said they had illegally paid Rowland $35,000 in campaign consulting fees without reporting the payments to the Federal Election Commission.
Thursday’s indictment outlines Rowland’s alleged role in the conspiracy with Wilson-Foley and her husband, but also goes back further than Election 2012.
The indictment alleges that in October 2009, Rowland “devised a scheme” to work for the campaign of another candidate who was seeking election in the 5th Congressional District in 2009 and 2010.
Less than 24 hours after the Connecticut Senate approved a bill banning genetically modified grass seed, the House found bipartisan agreement to kill it on Thursday.
The bill was a top priority for outgoing Senate President Donald Williams. But House Speaker Brendan Sharkey did not agree and says he was not consulted about the bill.
Following the vote, Sharkey said Williams never had a conversation with him about the legislation.
Genetically modified grass isn’t on the market yet, but supporters worry about what will happen if it gets out there. Proponents of the legislation say the genetically modified grass would increase the use of glyphosate or other herbicides because it would be resistant to those herbicides.
During Wednesday’s Senate debate Williams said there’s also the threat of the seed spreading and cross-pollinating with other grass species and spreading individual genes from one species to another. This could lead to an artificially modified gene spreading into the broader gene pool, with untold consequences.
However, opponents of the legislation say it sends a bad message to business and scientists
The U.S. Department of Justice sued the Town of Oyster Bay and the Town Supervisor Thursday for allegedly discriminating against black people in two affordable housing programs -- one aimed at first-time buyers, the other at senior citizens. The programs were partly funded by the Town.
In a complaint filed in federal court, Federal prosecutors said both programs violated the federal Fair Housing Act because preferences were given to residents, or their children, living in the town, which has few black residents.
To ensure that black people were not discriminated against in the selection process, the town should have given equal treatment to prospective occupants from the larger, more diverse metropolitan area, the complaint said.
The suit says black families compose only 1 percent of Oyster Bay residents eligible for the two programs. On the other hand, black people are 10 percent of the populations of Nassau and Suffolk counties. The Town of Oyster Bay is 85 percent white.
But the town argued the programs were established "to meet the needs of Town of Oyster Bay residents, and was not the product of racial bias”. When the first-time buyers program was begun, the town said, its goal was "to keep our children here".
Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center officials want a Florida developer to construct a 110-unit assisted living facility on the hospital's grounds.
Under the proposal, the VA would lease 10 acres on its 268-acre campus, so the developer could construct the facility.
Non - veterans will live there if not enough veterans are eligible for the units. There is no age restriction for the proposed facility, the developer and VA officials said.
Settle said the facility will have 110 units -- 22 for those with special needs. He said they are discussing with VA officials how many units will be available at a discounted rate for veterans. Monthly rates will compete with other similar Long Island facilities, but some veterans will quality for federal benefits that could help defray the cost.
Thursday, April 10
In the news tonight: prison policy for transgendered inmates, New Haven alder moves to petition the Obama administration on CO2; airport troubles and fighting bamboo on Long Island.
State prison officials are grappling to establish a new policy for housing transgendered inmates after a court order on Wednesday handed the Correction Department custody of a transgendered minor.
The youth is a 16-year-old who is biologically male but has long identified as a female. The juvenile was committed to DCF in November after assaulting someone at Bridgeport Detention Center.
The juvenile system housed the teen in female living sections or in isolation at male facilities. Now the court ordered the DOC transfer to the women’s prison for 72 hours, initially for an assessment. Then the correction commissioner will decide where she will be placed for a longer period.
Historically, DOC policy has been to place transgendered people with the inmate population they correspond with biologically.
The youth’s lawyer, Assistant Public Defender James Connolly, said the policy presents a civil rights issue for his client.
However, Michael Lawlor, the governor’s advisor for criminal justice policy, said the DOC was re-examining its policy and considering best practices from around the country. He said inmates already are evaluated based on a number of classifications, and gender identity should be one of them.
A New Haven alder has submitted a resolution asking President Obama and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to use the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Testimony was all in favor.
WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:
Many other cities have taken similar steps, and Alder Darryl Brackeen would like New Haven to be on record supporting a 350 parts per million limit on atmospheric carbon dioxide, the main driver of climate change.
One of those who testified, Ben Martin, said that goal is attainable.
Martin: "it's certainly possible to do that when people have proven you can go 100% renewable energy.
So it's not a matter of technology; it's a matter of political will. I'm glad to see that the New Haven aldermen have the right will"
Kathy Fay also testified in favor. She said she'd always been critical of the Board of Alders taking up national or international issues, but feels differently about this one.
Fay: "The reason i'm here is because it's a very important issue and probably the most important
issue we are going to encounter in our lifetime."
The resolution comes before the whole board on April 23.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
Allegiant Air, Long Island MacArthur Airport's newest airline addition, which joined the financially strapped Ronkonkoma airport in December, has announced it will suspend service during the summer and fall months.
The Las Vegas-based airline will stop flying out of the airport on May 26 and anticipates returning in December.
Customers who purchased tickets for those months will receive a full refund.
MacArthur Airport has about 8,000 departing flights a year. It lost 46 percent of its daily flights between 2007 and 2012 and has suffered nearly $4.2 million in losses in the past three years. The number of passengers using MacArthur have also fallen, and airport staff and overtime have been cut in recent years as cost-saving measures.
Allegiant Air had been running two weekly flights to and from Punta Gorda, Florida.
To date, three airlines operate at MacArthur Airport -- Southwest, PenAir, and US Airways Express.
American Airlines is seeking approval for flights to Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport.
New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele is pushing for state legislation that would regulate bamboo that spreads through rhisomes in the soil.
So called “running bamboo” has been the source of neighbor disputes all over the East End in recent years.
The legislation would prohibit people from letting running bamboo creep onto their neighbors’ properties and make them liable for the damage caused to their neighbors.
It would also prohibit the planting of running bamboo within 100 feet of a neighbor’s property and would require bamboo retailers to provide customers with a disclosure reminding them that they need to contain its spreading habit. If adopted, the law would be enforced beginning Oct. 1.
Wednesday, April 9:
In the news tonight: Bridgeport Ferry moving; GMO grass seed debated; Transportation focus of Suffolk meeting and venison on the menu
The effort to relocate the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry terminal from the west side of Bridgeport Harbor to the east side mercifully appears to be headed for resolution.
The plan is to move the ferry terminal out of its cramped quarters on the fringe of downtown to a spacious site on the other side of the harbor. The city's Planning & Zoning Commission is expected to vote on the matter on April 14.
The site of the new terminal would be on part of what is now the barren landscape of a banana-importing operation that closed in 2008. That operation suffered because larger boats could not be brought in to the shallow harbor.
The relocation would be a long-needed shot in the arm to one of the city's historically neglected neighborhoods, the East End.
The Connecticut State Senate is poised to approve a ban on genetically modified grass seed, but House Speaker Brendan Sharkey and Governor Dannel Malloy are not sold on the idea.
The bill was likely to be raised on the Senate floor today.
The legislation bans genetically modified grass seeds and landscape plants, and expands restrictions on using pesticides on school grounds and other public land.
Plants would be prohibited that have been genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate, the chemical found in the popular herbicide Roundup.
The concern is that once plants can tolerate more exposure to the chemical, the herbicide will be used in greater quantities, which will hurt the environment.
However, lawmakers are concerned about enacting legislation that will preemptively ban a product that doesn’t yet exist without allowing the public and experts to weigh in.
Proponents of the bill believe the issue is time sensitive. The grass is not yet on the market. But once it is sold and grown, some believe it will be impossible to get rid of it, even if the state implements a ban sometime in the future.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone says public transportation, roadway safety and connecting Long Island communities are vital on Long Island
Ballone said his Connect-LI plan would connect universities and downtowns through public transportation on major north-south corridors and create opportunities for innovation, which would help stop the exodus of Suffolk County residents.
The program also emphasizes walkable downtowns, rail and bus service and economic development.
Ballone spoke at the second annual Complete Streets summit at Malloy College.
Complete Streets laws require new or retrofitted roads to be designed to accommodate the needs of bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders, and people of all ages and abilities.
Ryan Lynch, associate director of the Campaign, a non-profit policy watchdog in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut also spoke.
Lynch said “Counties, towns and municipalities throughout Long Island have embraced Complete Streets principles in the past few years” But Lynch added what is needed now is to build projects that not only spur economic development, protect our environment and improve quality of life, but also save lives in the process,”
Island Harvest, a Long Island food bank has received about 4,500 pounds of venison from the deer cull being conducted by federal sharpshooters on the East End.
The meat came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, delivered ground, in 1-pound packages, and clearly labeled as venison.
Opponents of the cull welcomed the donations, but said that was not enough to justify what they call an extreme measure to control the deer population.
Does are targeted as the most effective means of population control.
The meat has been distributed by Island Harvest to 570 community-based organizations in Nassau and Suffolk, including food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency feeding programs.
Opponents of the cull have suggested that the deer would be too expensive and difficult to process, and carcasses would be buried or dumped. But a USDA spokesman said deer "are not disposed of in Dumpsters, nor are pelts or carcasses, as has been claimed by opponents.
The cull is scheduled to continue through mid-month and stop before does give birth to fawns. The cull was initiated by the Long Island Farm Bureau, which was concerned about crop damage from deer and other issues, including car crashes.
The USDA has not disclosed how many deer it has shot but an estimated 135 deer have been killed based on 30 to 35 pounds of meat from each animal.
Tuesday, April 8:
In the news tonight: A hedge fund on the waterfront under attack; Connecticut seeks millions for the New Haven line; another Kennedy seeks voter approval; Fire Island homes blocking dune restoration and Comptroller nixes public financing of New York elections he proposed.
A lawsuit filed last week by Soundkeeper, a nonprofit environmental group, alleges that Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development didn’t do an environmental study as required before choosing to locate the headquarters a Westport-based hedge fund on waterfront property in Stamford.
The state has approved about $115 million in loans and tax credits for Bridgewater Associates to move its 1,225 employees from Westport to Stamford. In exchange, Bridgewater has promised to create 1,000 more jobs over the next 10 years.
The deal means 14-acres of waterfront property, a former boatyard, will be replaced by an 850,000 square-foot office building and three-story parking garage.
State Representative Terry Backer of Soundkeeper said an environmental study should be done before a project of this size is built on the little remaining waterfront.
The lawsuit states potential environmental problems include water pollution, flooding, fauna, noise, and traffic and that the project is inconsistent with the goals and policies of the Coastal Management Act.
The Economic and Community Development agency has declined to comment because of the pending litigation.
The state of Connecticut has asked for $600 million in federal Superstorm Sandy grants for a project to replace a balky 118-year-old rail span over the Norwalk River, and signal and power upgrades to fortify the New Haven Line against more frequent and ferocious storms that are expected, officials said.
In an announcement Monday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the state has pledged to kick in $200 million toward the three "hardening" projects, including a major signal system upgrade for the line and strengthening the New Haven Rail Yard's power transmission system, three projects on a list of identified, but unfunded transit projects for the state.
The applications were submitted late last month, and the Federal Transit Administration expects to award the grants this fall, said Angela Gates, spokeswoman for the agency.
The late Senator Ted Kennedy’s son, Ted Kennedy Jr. of Branford will run for Connecticut’s 12th district senate seat, now held by Democrat Ed Meyer who is retiring.
Kennedy Jr. was scheduled to make the formal announcement today.
He previously declined opportunities to run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry and other more prominent positions.
Suffolk County is prepared to use the power of eminent domain to acquire 41 oceanfront Fire Island homes that stand in the way of a new storm-shielding dune -- but the county hopes to avoid taking such a drastic step.
County Public Works Commissioner Gilbert Anderson said a few property owners refusing federally funded buyouts could imperil the project, forcing Suffolk's hand.
Anderson said the Army Corps of Engineers, which has drafted a $162 million dune-building plan for Fire Island, has made it clear Suffolk might have to condemn properties.
The emergency project was carved out of the sweeping $700 million Fire Island-to-Montauk Point flood-protection project, funded with federal Sandy aid.
This autumn, Fire Island's new dunes should start rising on public lands at the east and west ends.
Last year, hurricanes or nor'easters could have wrought much more damage because many of the dunes, wetlands and other storm defenses superstorm Sandy obliterated in October 2012 haven't been rebuilt.
The cost of buying out the 41 properties, mainly in Ocean Bay Park and Davis Park is an estimated $46 million. Homeowners will get the current value, not the pre-Sandy price first promised.
The Albany Times Union reports: New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli won't opt into the pilot program for public financing of campaigns included in last week's state budget agreement.
DiNapoli, a Democrat, has for years pushed for his office to lead the way as a statewide test for public financing.
The enacted budget calls for a public financing option for this year's comptroller race, a timeline that reform advocates have called unworkable. They also object to the plan's call for oversight by the state Board of Elections, an entity roundly criticized for its dysfunction.
In a statement released Monday by his campaign, DiNapoli called the plan "a poor excuse to avoid the real reforms New Yorkers deserve."
Monday April 7:
In the news tonight: gun advocates rally in Hartford, what does the McCutcheon decision mean for public financing of Connecticut elections; environmental advocate running for Suffolk legislature; and unfunded pension cost threaten to boost electric rates on Long Island.
A year and a day after Governor Dannel Malloy signed legislation that banned the future purchase of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, the Connecticut Citizens Defense League organized a rally on Saturday at the State Capitol.
They vowed to take revenge at the ballot box on legislators who supported the bill.
The rally, according to state Capitol police, attracted more than 3,000 from Connecticut and a handful of states, including Mississippi, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York.
Republican gubernatorial candidates Tom Foley, Martha Dean, and Joe Visconti were there.
Scott Wilson, president of the Defense League, said legislators exploited the tragedy at Sandy Hook to push through their gun control agenda.
Protesters are especially furious with Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, a Republican, who supported the bill and who is running for governor this year. They pledged to support any candidates who are pro-gun over any other issue.
A representative from the National Rifle Association, the NRA, was on hand to pledge continued support for the Connecticut group.
A top state election official said his agency is confident Connecticut’s public financing system will “withstand” last week's Supreme Court McCutcheon decision.
That decision allows the wealthy to give even more to political campaigns by removing the aggregate limit on donations, meaning donors can give to any and all federal candidates, political parties, or PACs during an election cycle.
State Elections Enforcement Commission Chair Anthony Castagno said the state public campaign finance system still contains strong disclosure requirements and rules on fundraising for the candidates who use it.
Castagno said, “With almost 80 percent of our legislature and 100 percent of constitutional officers elected without special interest money, Connecticut’s campaign finance system can withstand decisions like McCutcheon"
Some opponents of excessive spending in politics released statements criticizing the McCutcheon decision. Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Connecticut Common Cause, said, The “decision invites a new wave of corruption here and across the country and demonstrates again how out of touch the Roberts Court is with the real world of politics — the one in which big money buys big returns.”
Newsday reports, Adrienne Esposito, a well-known Long Island environmental activist, formally entered the race for State Senate on Sunday.
Esposito said she wanted to tackle "working class" concerns, including jobs, property taxes and women's issues such as affordable day care and equal pay.
Esposito is not registered with any party; she is seeking the Democratic line on the ballot. If successful in any Democratic challenge, she would face Conservative Islip Town Board member Anthony Senft, who has Republican backing to fill the upcoming Third District vacancy.
If elected, Esposito would be the first female state senator from Suffolk.
The Third District seat, which GOP state Senator. Lee Zeldin of Shirley is vacating to run for Congress, is one of three on Long Island that could be crucial to Democrats to tip control from a coalition of state Senate Republicans and dissident Democrats.
Long Island ratepayers, already on the hook for over $260 million in unfunded pension costs related to National Grid, LIPA’s former contractor, face $400 million in future pension costs for PSEG Long Island workers.
As reported by Newsday, the Long Island Power Authority's 2013 audited financial statement noted that LIPA may seek recovery of those unfunded costs through rates in the future, although not until 2016 at the earliest.
The financial statement describes the new arrangement LIPA made for National Grid employees who transitioned to PSEG Long Island.
The $400 million in future payments -- for pension, retirement health care and life insurance plans -- would be in addition to the regular retirement benefit payments that LIPA already makes as part of its operations and maintenance contract with PSEG.
Tom Falcone, LIPA's chief financial officer, suggested that any move to collect money to fund the retirement costs would not happen during Governor Andrew Cuomo's promised rate freeze through 2015.
Friday, April 4:
In the news tonight: GE lobbies for tax breaks, the debate over Connecticut’s gun control law, Southampton’s deer cull, and no arrests yet as State Police swarm over the Shinnecock Reservation after a shooting Thursday.
Congress will soon be deciding how many of the tax breaks that expired at the end of last year should be renewed.
According to a new report by two liberal advocacy groups, the debate has led to intense lobbying led by Fairfield-based General Electric.
The groups, American for Tax Fairness and Public Campaign, say GE Financial is one of the biggest beneficiaries of this tax break. The advocacy groups want an end to the Active Financing Exception, or AFE, because they think if corporations pay more taxes, citizens will receive greater and better services from their government.
GE has deployed 48 lobbyists to urge Congress to renew the AFE. It enables multinational corporations like GE to avoid paying federal income taxes on financial income that is generated offshore.
Other companies, including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Prudential and American Express, also lobbied lawmakers on the AFE.
Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee included the AFE in a tax extender bill that also contained dozens of other tax breaks for individuals and corporations.
Now GE and other companies will continue to lobby to make sure the House of Representatives also renews their tax breaks.
A coalition of gun control advocates on Thursday marked the anniversary of Connecticut's sweeping 2013 firearm regulations.
During a state Capitol press conference Thursday, advocates commemorated the first anniversary of a law that has seen Connecticut ranked as having the second strictest gun laws in the nation. It was passed last year following the 2012 murders of 20 school children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Proponents praised the law as bipartisan and an appropriate response to the severity of the Newtown shooting.
The law has been unpopular with the state’s gun rights groups, who have been unsuccessful in their attempts to challenge the constitutionality of the new restrictions in court. Second Amendment advocates also plan to mark the anniversary of the law on Saturday with a rally on the steps of the state Capitol.
Both groups are launching social media campaigns and attempting to organize as the November election draws closer.
Riflemen working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture have been slaughtering whitetail deer for more than two weeks on as many as 20 different properties in Southampton Town, according to the federal agency as reported in 27east.com
A spokesperson from the USDA, Carol Bannerman, confirmed this week that a “cull” effort has been under way in Southampton Town, and that shooters have been hired by the Long Island Farm Bureau to work on “between 10 and 20” properties on the South Fork.
The killing, which is done at night by teams of hunters using bait, night-vision equipment and high-powered rifles with silencers, is being paid for by the Long Island Farm Bureau using state grant money earmarked for pest control on agricultural property.
Details on the cull effort on the North Fork have not been provided.
State Police Troopers swarmed onto the Shinnecock Indian Reservation on Thursday night, blocking the main access road onto tribal property according to 27east.com.
As of 8:30 pm several state police cars were blocking West Gate Road at the intersection with Montauk Highway, east of Southampton Village. Several other state police vehicles had entered the reservation earlier in the evening, according to witnesses.
Earlier in the day a 36 year old Shinnecock reservation resident was taken to Southampton Hospital after suffering multiple gunshot wounds. State Police vehicles blocked the entrance to the hospital’s emergency room.
The un-identified victim was reported to be in critical but stable condition.
Sources within the tribe said that a large number of police officers, some carrying rifles and wearing body armor, entered the house of a tribal member shortly after 7 p.m. on Thursday.
The Shinnecock Nation’s press officer said the tribe had no comment.
A state police spokesman declined to comment on the department's activities, saying that the investigation into the shooting was ongoing.
As of 2:30 PM Friday, no arrests had been announced.
Thursday, April 3:
In the news tonight: penalty zones for selling drugs re-considered; should we spend Connecticut’s surplus, charter schools and Pre-K for the rest of New York and homelessness grows on Long Island
With less than 20 minutes before its deadline for approving legislation this year, the Judiciary Committee approved a bill Wednesday to reduce penalty zones for selling drugs near schools. The bill passed in a 21-19 vote.
In Connecticut, a conviction for possessing or buying drugs within a drug-free zone triggers a mandatory minimum prison sentence of two to three years. In many urban communities, drug-free zones currently include most, if not entire, cities.
The bill would shrink the size of the zones, which cover school, daycare, or public housing complex areas, to a 200-foot perimeter instead of the current 1,500 feet.
However, opponents view the change as a policy “soft” on crime and drugs.
The bill will now move to the Senate for consideration.
Connecticut State Comptroller Kevin Lembo certified a $504.9 million budget surplus on Tuesday. That could grow following April’s revenue collections, barring any last-quarter spending increases.
The revenue for 2014 is expected to exceed initial projections by about 421 million dollars, largely due to income, sales, and corporation taxes. The largest gain, $213 million, is from the income tax. That increase is based on stock market gains that have fueled income tax payments.
However, Lembo warned that most of the 2014 surplus comes from "a one-time tax amnesty program, and from the most volatile component of the income tax, which relies on strong stock market performance.”
The Connecticut legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis has estimated budget shortfalls beginning in 2016. So Lembo is recommending that any General Fund surplus be deposited directly to the Budget Reserve Fund.
On the spending side, the budget is expected to grow 3.8 percent this fiscal year, but remain below initial targets.
Not everyone in New York is happy with provisions in the 2014-2015 budget affecting the State’s schools.
Billy Easton, Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education says although $300 million will allow New York City to provide nearly all of its four-year-olds with high quality pre-K for the first time – only $40 million will go to the rest of the state, leaving us “far away from providing pre-K for all the state’s children.”
“Following a $5 million hedge-fund backed charter school lobbying campaign, Governor Cuomo and the Senate Majority rammed through changes to benefit charter schools at the expense of public schools. But, the most damaging policies will affect New York City, and are a huge step backwards in working towards fairness and equity in public schools.”
Easton adds “The state changes will ban the charging of rent to charter schools for public school space and makes the city pay their rent in an alternative space.”
Seventeen months after Superstorm Sandy, homelessness is a bigger problem than it was in the initial aftermath.
New York News Connection’s Mark Scheerer reports:
On Long Island, additional blows have been delivered by the foreclosure crisis and the worst winter in recent memory.
Low-income renters lost their dwellings in the wake of the storm. Foreclosure numbers continue to rise and eliminate other rental possibilities.
Greta Guarton of the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless says 17 months after the superstorm few of the dark clouds have gone away.
Guarton: “We’re actually seeing effects of Sandy more now, and more this past winter, than we did immediately after the storm."
She says the rough winter may affect the annual one-day homeless count in January. The cold seems to have caused the homeless to congregate in one place where they can be more readily counted.
Those results will be announced In a few weeks.
Wednesday, April 2:
In the news tonight: Another proposal on Freedom of Information, truth in advertising electric rates, and school aid and estate tax provisions in New York’s new budget.
Proving how difficult it is to balance victim privacy with public disclosure Tuesday, the Judiciary Committee passed its own proposal to compete with one drafted by the Government Administration and Elections Committee.
The Judiciary Committee passed the legislation by a 27-11 vote on the eve of its deadline to act on legislation.
The Judiciary Committee’s legislation hews more closely to the recommendations of the task force, but in some respects it adds more Freedom of Information restrictions. It creates a special class of public records, which the public could inspect but not copy. Recordings of 9-1-1 emergency calls and pictures depicting the bodies of adult homicide victims would be included in this class of records.
Like the task force, the committee places the burden of releasing these records on the person requesting the documents.
But unlike the panel recommendations, the Judiciary Committee’s bill intends to create an absolute ban on the viewing or copying of pictures depicting the bodies of children who have been murdered. Only the consent of the surviving family members would permit the release of those photographs.
Electric suppliers will need to meet new price disclosure standards under a package of consumer protections outlined Tuesday by Governor Dannel Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen.
Electric bills will include a line comparing a customer’s rate to the standard rate as part of a consumer “bill of rights”.
The announcement was prompted after a Connecticut AARP study suggested that senior residents want to see legislative action aimed at deceptive practices by third-party electrical suppliers.
Malloy said that greater disclosure is necessary “to ensure that electric suppliers better inform customers about the rates they will be paying,”
Jepsen said the proposals would cut down on opportunities for abuse among electrical suppliers. He said there is “some serious dysfunction” in the energy markets, which the legislation aims to curb by increasing transparency and allowing ratepayers to drop their utility company more quickly.
AARP has called for the legislation to include a cap on how much electric suppliers can increase their rates under variable rate plans. Malloy agreed that rate caps would be discussed as the bill moves through the legislative process.
New York State’s new $138 billion budget includes several changes that will affect Long Island.
It calls for a $1.1 billion — or 5.3 percent increase in school spending statewide.
Most Long Island school districts will see their aid increase by at least 5%.
Some school districts will receive double-digit increases.
Springs leads the roster with an 11% increase. Others include Sag Harbor with 6.3% and East Hampton with 5%.
Also, Port Jefferson, with a 6.5 % increase, Miller Place with a rise of over 9 % and Northport-East Northport with a rise of about 8%.
The budget legislation also includes a provision to allow students to opt-out of standardized testing without being denied promotion. But the tests will continue to be used for teacher evaluation as per the new Common Core Curriculum requirements.
The budget provides for a referendum vote in November on funding for a 2 billion dollar School Technology Bond to upgrade computers and network infrastructures in public schools statewide.
The budget allocates $5 million to the Town of Riverhead to upgrade their sewer infrastructure at Enterprise Park in Calverton.
An increase in the estate tax threshold will help mitigate the adverse effects of inheritance taxes on farm families. The estate tax threshold will rise from $1 million to $5.25 million—the same as the Federal rate—over the course of the next five years.
Tuesday, April 1:
In the news tonight: child custody cases in Connecticut; youth and the prison system, illegal funding of political campaigns and expanding fossil fuel electric generation on Long Island
Legislation changing how child custody cases are handled in Connecticut courts drew emotional testimony Monday from parents who feel wronged by the people the court assigns to represent their children.
The bill involves “guardians ad litem” who are assigned to represent the interest of minors in contentious custody battles. Last year, the legislature created a task force to study the system, which critics say lacks oversight and often leads to soaring legal expenses for parents. Some of the group’s recommendations were incorporated in the legislation, which allows parents to seek the removal of a guardian.
But some of the parents said the bill does not go far enough because it does not create an oversight mechanism for the guardians and does not cap how much money they can earn working on individual cases. One legislator suggested doing away with the system entirely.
Senator Richard Blumenthal told students at a New Haven high school Monday that the prison system is not working and that sentences need to be lowered.
He spoke at Common Ground High School, which lost a member of the senior class, Javier Martinez, to gun violence over the Christmas holidays.
Martinez appeared to be an innocent bystander. Blumenthal’s comments were part of a wide-ranging conversation with a dozen students on the causes and consequences of gun violence and criminal justice.
Connecticut has one of the most disparate rates of incarceration between blacks and whites: 12 times as many black people are locked up as white, according to The Sentencing Project.
Melissa Spear, Common Ground’s executive director, asked Blumenthal about the “school-to-prison pipeline,” and “how the judicial system seems to disproportionately impact young minority men.”
Spear mentioned that the way that some schools treat discipline—for example, calling cops to arrest black boys who act out in school—can feed into the mass incarceration of black males. Common Ground itself has a “restorative justice” approach to discipline, which focuses on addressing harm instead of punishment.
Blumenthal also vowed renewed support for a federal gun control bill. He said, “The country has become accustomed in a very terrible way to gun violence. We cannot accept that kind of world.”
Lisa Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, pleaded guilty Monday to a federal conspiracy charge described as an effort to conceal $35,000 in payments to former Governor John Rowland for help with Wilson-Foley’s unsuccessful congressional campaign in 2012.
Rowland, a three time Republican Governor, who served 10 months in prison on a federal corruption conviction, was identified in court as a co-conspirator of the couple.
Wilson-Foley admitted Monday that she and her husband kept Rowland off the books in her 5th Congressional District campaign. Instead, her husband paid Rowland as a consultant to his nursing-home business.
A plea document released Monday says that Rowland initiated the conspiracy with an email to the Foleys in September 2011.
The couple admitted that Foley’s $35,000 in payments to Rowland constituted an illegal contribution to Wilson-Foley's campaign, far in excess of the $7,500 contribution limit.
They are to be sentenced June 23. They face a maximum of one year in prison and fines of up to $100,000.
Newsday reports that the Long Island Power Authority will demolish and rebuild the Port Jefferson power station in 2018, provided it’s economically feasible.
LIPA plans to shut the plant in 2018, demolish it and rebuilt it in place over four years. The plant currently burns oil. The fuel to be burned at the new plant was not specified.
Port Jefferson Village residents have supported the project.
Under the timeline, 405 megawatts of power would be taken offline in 2018 with 346 megawatts added back in 2022.
In 2009 LIPA estimated the overhaul would cost more than $685 million.
The plan still includes a new 716 megawatt Caithness II plant in Yaphank by 2018. Its cost is expected to be more than $3 billion. The present Caithness plant burns natural gas.
State Senator Ken LaValle, who lives in Port Jefferson, said he was encouraged by the proposed plan for the Port Jefferson plant, but he questions the excess capacity from Caithness II.
A LIPA power document suggests that they still would be about 11 megawatts short come 2022, even with an overhauled Port Jefferson plant and the new plant in Yaphank.