In the news tonight: a new poll finds Connecticut governor Daniel Malloy ahead by just one point over his Republican rival; New York City is being sued for violating disability rights; class warfare in the Hamptons; and Montauk is the most expensive place to stay in New York state.
In a Three Way Contest for Connecticut governor, Malloy was found to be Up One Point Over Foley. A Republican polling firm found the one-point spread in the DemocratIc incumbent’s favor over Republican Tom Foley with third-party candidate Jonathan Pelto taking 3 percent of the vote.
The poll found that 27 percent of voters are still undecided. It has a 4.2 percent margin of error and was based on over 400 interviews.
Meanwhile, With Connecticut’s gubernatorial election less than three months away, Republican candidate Tom Foley may have been failing to reach a specific margin of the state’s citizens — those who can’t hear.
Foley’s television commercials have not been closed captioned this year while Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s TV spots have. A spokesman for Foley’s campaign said Wednesday evening that the absence of closed captioning in their advertisements was not intentional. The campaign is now in the process of adding them, he said.
A Federal Civil Rights Case was filed this week claiming New York City Fails to Make Sidewalks Accessible. It’s being called a landmark civil rights lawsuit, and it charges that New York City is in violation of Federal disability civil rights laws. More from Mike Clifford of the New York News Connection:
The suit was filed by Disability Rights advocates and the law firm Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton on behalf of the Center for Independence of the Disabled-New York.
It may not be class warfare, but the Hamptons are dealing with quality of life issues which can be partially explained by the tension between the haves and have-nots, at least relatively speaking.
The working man’s pickup truck has long been a symbol of local pride, but out in the Springs hamlet of East Hampton, a war is now raging between neighbors who bring large work trucks home with them and other neighbors who believe those trucks are ruining their lives.
At a Town board meeting on the issue working men defended their trucks, while their neighbors said their quality of life is being impacted by increased noise and traffic. They claim zoning laws are being violated by businesses located in a residential area. But the service trades, like lawn maintenance and construction, say they can’t afford to have their trucks garaged elsewhere.
After more than an hour of testimony, the board closed the public hearing and held the record open for written comment for two weeks.
And finally, it’s official: the most expensive place to stay in New York State is Montauk according to NewYorkHotels.org. On average, a night’s stay in Montauk costs $342. Following closely in the rankings of the priciest destinations in New York State are East Hampton, Saratoga Springs, Southampton and Greenport. New York City ranks eighth on the list with an average room rate of $153.
Wednesday, July 30:
In the news tonight: An exonerated man seeks millions from Connecticut state after spending 20 years in prison; Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley sparks a heated debate at a closing paper mill; Scientists seek ways to control growing Emerald Ash Borer populations in Connecticut; and environmental advocates want Southold to be the first East End town to ban plastic grocery bags.
Kenneth Ireland, imprisoned in 1989 at the age of 18 for a crime he did not commit, testified on Tuesday during a wrongful incarceration hearing from the state of Connecticut.
The Connecticut Innocence Project retested DNA evidence from the 1986 rape and murder of Barbara Pelkey, prompting Ireland’s exoneration in 2009 at the age of 39.
The new evidence helped convict another man, Kevin Benefield, of the crime.
But after more than 20 years behind bars, Ireland is seeking between $5.5 and $8 million in damages – an amount to which the state has no objection.
On Tuesday, Ireland said he thought he would never be released and would instead die of either old age or in a violent altercation in prison.
He now awaits a recommendation from the Office of the Claims Commission. His case may need to be considered by the state legislature.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley found himself in a heated sparring match with soon-to-be jobless paper mill workers and supporters of Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy at a press conference outside of Fusion Paperboard in Sprague on Tuesday.
Foley blamed a first-year $1.5 billion tax increase and other policies implemented by Malloy for the imminent closing of the mill -- owned by private investment firm OpenGate Capital -- a move that will cost 140 jobs.
But under the Malloy administration, the state gave the company a $2 million loan last September. And mill workers like Mike D’Auria said that market forces, not Malloy, were to blame for the demise of the paper mill, which specializes in food packaging.
First Selectwoman Cathy Osten, a Democratic state senator, said Fusion Paperboard is closing because OpenGate is selling assets to a competitor, similar to the practices she says helped lead to the forced bankruptcy of the Bibb Co. Foley was Chief Executive of Bibb and founder of NTC, the investment firm that owned Bibb.
Though Foley acknowledged he had done no close analysis of Fusion, he said that anti-business government policies were to blame for its demise.
Scientist are working to reduce growing populations of the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive insect first detected in Connecticut in 2012 that has now spread to 39 Connecticut towns.
Most recently detected in Bridgeport, the Emerald Ash Borer is a green beetle that can destroy or weaken millions of ash trees if not controlled.
Kirby Stafford, chief scientist and state entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, said that the insect burrows underneath the bark and then proceeds to feed, stopping nutrient flow and causing death to the tree.
Stafford said that scientists are now using bugs like a native wasp that preys on the invasive beetles to reduce numbers. Containing the Ash Borer is a lot harder because it is often moved around in infested firewood.
In response, the state has put wood quarantines on Fairfield, Litchfield, Hartford, and New Haven counties.
As East End town supervisors continue to gauge public support for a regional ban of plastic grocery bags, environmentalists in the Town of Southold urged their officials at a roundtable discussion earlier this month to take the lead on the issue and become the first town to ban the bags. WPKN's Erin Schultz has more:
Advocates for the ban said that plastic bags linger in the environment for centuries and often end up killing wildlife. The villages of Southampton and East Hampton passed legislation to ban the bags in 2011.
But business people like Southold IGA owner Charles Reichert said that, while he favors a regional ban on plastic bags, he worried that he’d have to mark up prices and would lose business to big box stores still carrying plastic bags in neighboring Riverhead under a town-wide ban.
Despite these concerns, Debra O’Kane of the North Fork Audubon Society told WPKN that she feels a great momentum for a plastic bag ban in Southold Town.
O'Kane: "North Fork Audubon has been in favor of a plastic bag ban here in Southold Town for quite a number of years now, and we have collected about 600 signatures in favor of a plastic bag ban, and we’re very very happy that Southold Town is considering this issue, and we really feel that Southold needs to take on a leadership role."
Erin Schultz, WPKN News
In the news tonight: Connecticut’s shoreline residents can now apply to the state for loans to storm-proof properties; Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley says he’s confident he can fix Connecticut’s projected budget gap; New York State reimburses costs of repair after Hurricane Sandy at a historic Long Island preserve; and public use of Mitchell Park is debated in Greenport.
Property owners on Connecticut’s shoreline have a new option to fund ways to protect their homes and businesses from future severe weather.
On Monday, Governor Dannel Malloy announced a state-funded loan program called Shore Up CT, which will mainly finance structure elevations but will also assist property owners with flood protection and wind proofing.
The General Assembly has approved $25 million in bonding for the program, and $4.3 million of that funding will be immediately available for early projects. Eligible applicants -- which include owners of primary and secondary single-family homes and business owners with fewer than 100 employees --- can borrow a up to $300,000 at a 2.75 percent fixed interest rate.
Governor Malloy describes the state system as a good alternative to federally controlled programs that “didn’t quite work” to protect coastal properties from recent storms.
With a $1.4 billion budget hole projected for Connecticut for the 2015 – 16 fiscal year, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley says he plans to fix the state budget if elected.
Foley told the CT Mirror last week that the key to closing gap is for the state to stick with the same $19 billion budget planned for this year and to hold the line on spending for two years in a row.
The 62-year old businessman added that withholding inflationary increases to departmental budgets and pressuring insurance companies to give the state a better deal are ways he could find some of the needed cuts.
But critics like Democrat Roy Occhiogrosso said that Foley’s plan lacks detail and doesn’t address issues like the $500 million the state is required to spend next year on pension fund contributions nor the projected $100 million needed for wage increases.
The Suffolk Times reports that New York State has reimbursed the Town of Southold for repair work done after Hurricane Sandy at Downs Farm Preserve in Cutchogue.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week that the town of Southold was awarded $30,000 to cover the costs of damages at one of the best-preserved archeological sites associated with Native American life on Long Island’s East End.
The town applied for the grant last October after being told by Town Supervisor Scott Russell that the storm had disrupted public trails with dangerous overhanging tree limbs, making them unusable for a time.
Repairs to the preserve, which includes a 17th-century fort site of the Corchaug Indians and is used today as a recreational and educational area, were completed by town workers last year after more pressing damage to the town was taken care of.
The preserve is one of 14 historically significant properties that suffered severe damage to receive such funding, according to a release from Mr. Cuomo’s office.
Southold Local reports that residents of Greenport on Long Island’s North Fork debated issues concerning public use of Mitchell Park, a popular harbor-side green space, at a village board meeting Monday night.
Greenport Mayor David Nyce said that his administration has tried to avoid “hard and fast rules” regarding different groups using the park and has approached the issue on a case-by-case basis. But this spring, village board members considered denying several events due to what they considered to be “extended use of the park” by special groups and concern that use by the general public would be interrupted. Mr. Nyce adding that the village could not tell people not to use a public park, unless someone was restricting another's use of the space.
Greenport village resident Mike Osinski said that the board “should tread very lightly on the amount of restrictions it wants to place on public property. We as residents of this nation have that right to assemble."
More public input will be sought through meetings, email and written comment and Village board members will continue the discussion regarding Mitchell Park after they clarify what is allowed under New York State rules.
Monday, July 28
In the news tonight: local debate about the war in Gaza, two track to reduce homelessness in New Haven, a fight over trucks in East Hampton, and a dangerous algae bloom there.
Connecticut's junior U.S. senator, Chris Murphy, held a listening session at Glastonbury High School on Saturday. He gave a run down of some current debates in Congress, said he hoped action would be taken on some before the summer recess at the end of this week, then took questions and comments from the audience.
The major issue on people's minds was the conflict between Israel and Gaza, which pro-Israel voters in the room described as the Hamas rocket attack on Israel and those supporting the Palestinian cause described as the war on Gaza, in which over a thousand Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians, along with about 40 Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians.
It appeared that no minds were changed, including Murphy's. He said he supports Israel's right to defend itself but was concerned about the high civilian death and injury toll.
Opponents of U.S. policy want the U.S. to stop funding Israel's military at a cost of $3.1 billion a year, making Americans complicit in the destruction of Gaza.
New Haven's pursuit of housing for its homeless population proceeded on two fronts Friday, as city officials announced progress in finding homes for many of the long-term homeless, while community activists and some homeless folks set up a second tent encampment to pressure the city to stop criminalizing the homeless who sleep outside. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more:
Mayor Toni Harp and heads of several social service agencies said they have worked together to get 39 homeless residents into their own apartments, with 47 more in the pipeline.
The day before, members of the Catholic Worker house of hospitality and several homeless people set up tents on a vacant lot in the Hill neighborhood, after cleaning it up and mowing the grass.
They spent a quiet night there, but the encampment was taken down late Friday afternoon on orders from the city, and three of its occupants arrested. One neighbor called the city to complain, but several others supported it, and after it was removed, they bought dinner for 30 to the Catholic Worker house nearby.
The advocates are asking the city to not arrest people for sleeping outside, to restore the shelter beds that have been cut, and to create a city development plan that prioritizes low income housing.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
The Springs hamlet of East Hampton has been debating for years how best to manage the conflict between neighbors who bring large work trucks home with them and other neighbors who believe those trucks are ruining their lives.
Working men passionately defended their trucks, while their neighbors, many of whom are relatively recent imports to Springs, stated their quality of life is being ruined by trucks at a hearing before the East Hampton Town Board on July 17.
The proposed code change essentially defines a “light truck” as an unmodified pickup truck of any weight or any other commercial vehicle that weighs less than 12,000 pounds, whose rear bed equipment is “no wider or taller than the vehicle’s cab.”
It would allow people to park only two commercially registered vehicles that meet those requirements in their driveways, and would also prohibit people from parking trailers that are longer than 18 feet, more than 1,000 pounds or have more than one axle. Box trailers would be illegal.
After more than an hour of testimony, the board closed the public hearing and held the record open for written comment for two weeks.
According to Newsday, elevated levels of a blue-green algae that produces toxins harmful to people and animals have been found in an East Hampton pond, nearly two years after a dog died from drinking the water there during an algal outbreak.
Christopher Gobler, a professor at Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, said his laboratory discovered the elevated levels of blue-green algae in Georgica Pond last week, in addition to moderate to high levels of Anabaena, another cyanobacteria that also produces toxins.
According to the Suffolk County health department, the bacteria produce toxins that can cause allergic reactions, gastrointestinal upset and other symptoms in people and animals.
East Hampton Town trustees issued a letter last week advising the public to avoid swimming and wading near the blooms and drinking the water, and recommended keeping children and pets away from the area.
The trustees also moved to prohibit the taking of crabs, shellfish and other marine species from the pond until Aug. 12 as a precaution.
Friday, July 25
In the news tonight: legislation on temporary migrant labor, Bridgeport may house migrant children, a New Haven rally about Gaza, residents sue on dumping in their Long Island neighborhoods.
Saying foreign workers are often abused, and even trafficked for sex, Representative Jim Himes has introduced a bill that would require greater disclosures by those who hire temporary immigrant labor and a more centralized system of federal oversight of dozens of worker visa programs.
Millions of foreign workers are authorized to work in the U.S. on temporary, non-immigrant work visas, and are said to be vital to the U.S. economy.
But Himes said a lack of data on these visas facilitates unscrupulous employers who hide workers in abusive conditions.
The bill would create a standardized public reporting system across all non-immigrant visas that authorize work, and requiring that the age and gender of workers is included in the public report.
In a related story, According to a city spokesman Bridgeport is exploring whether it has the facilities that would meet federal requirements to host some of the Central American migrant children who are in overcrowded federal holding centers along the borders.
More protests were held around Connecticut on Thursday opposing Israel's war on Gaza. Meanwhile, rockets from Gaza continue flying over Israel, almost all either intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome shield or falling where no Israelis were hit. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports from New Haven.
Asma Abdelati is an Egyptian-American living in West Haven. She came to the New Haven Green to add her voice to others protesting the attacks on Palestinians in Gaza, who have nowhere to be safe.
Protesters say an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and control of Gaza is critical to a just settlement.
The U.S. gives Israel more than $3 billion a year in military aid, and about a billion dollars a year to Egypt, whose government is also now an enemy of Hamas. The death toll of Palestinians has climbed to more than 800 in Gaza and four in the West Bank, after some of the biggest protests there in years. Fewer than 50 Israelis have died.
At deadline, discussions are ongoing for a possible humanitarian ceasefire.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
Three homeowners took the first legal steps this week to sue the Town of Islip and the Village of Islandia by filing notices of claim charging that negligence by local officials caused toxic waste to be dumped, lowering their property values and putting their health at risk.
The notices of claim are a required step before a lawsuit can be brought.
Attorney Kenneth Mollins of, who represents homeowners in Brentwood, Central Islip and Hauppauge officials acted with "willful blindness . . . they either didn't look, or they looked the other way or looked and didn't see"
Suffolk County Water Authority officials say that groundwater at the Islandia [eye-LAND-ee-ah] site feeds into a nearby well, where the hazardous materials could show up in 25 years,
All three sites have confirmed toxic pesticides and heavy metals. Similar toxic materials were found at a fourth dump site at the Islip-Babylon town line, but this site was not mentioned in the claim. The Suffolk County District Attorney launched a criminal investigation into the dumping in early April.
The cleanup cannot begin until a remediation plan is approved by numerous state and county agencies, including the state Department of Environmental Conservation. It has not been submitted to the DEC.
Thursday, July 24
In the news tonight: Children in poverty in Connecticut, Suffolk County’s fiscal emergency, and Long Island attorney implicated in Governor Cuomo’s corruption cover-up.
Poverty among children living in Connecticut has increased by 50 percent since 1990.
The 25th annual KIDS COUNT Data Book released this week tracks the well-being of children in all 50 states and the nation as a whole. The status of children is measured by indicators like household income, education, health, and family situation. The report is based on data from 2010 to 2012.
Overall, Connecticut ranks seventh in child well-being, which is an improvement from last year’s ranking of ninth place.
Connecticut Association for Human Services policy analyst Tamara Kramer says the state’s overall performance masks major disparities between children of color and their white peers.
Wade Gibson, director of the Fiscal Policy Center at Connecticut Voices for Children, said Connecticut saw a 50 percent increase in child poverty since 1990, when about one in every 10 children lived in poverty. Now, nearly one in six children lives in poverty
Gibson says that more state resources need to be devoted to supporting children. During the 25 years in which child poverty has risen, he said the state has spent a declining percentage of its budget on children. He called for expanding the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit program and increased access to early childhood education programs.
On Wednesday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone cited the county's "fiscal emergency" as he asked legislators to help balance the budget after sales tax revenues fell short of projections, according to a Newsday report.
Bellone characterized the county’s situation as one of “permanent fiscal scarcity."
Suffolk faces a $170.3 million deficit through 2015, according to a report prepared by the legislature's nonpartisan Budget Review Office this week.
County sales tax revenues for the first half of 2014 rose by 0.5 percent, while the county had budgeted a 3.63 percent increase.
The county has tried to balance its budget by cutting nearly 1,100 positions, privatizing county health centers and closing the county nursing home in Yaphank. It also raised money through a traffic and parking bureau to issue fines and hopes to bring in other new revenues from video slot machines and speed cameras in school zones.
Bellone has committed to not raising property taxes for the state's general fund beyond the 2 percent state cap and signed a contract not to layoff workers in the county's largest municipal union.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Governor Cuomo’s office had acted to neuralize a state commission appointed to ‘”root out corruption” in New York State politics.
At the center of those concerns were alleged roadblocks planted by Regina Calcaterra, a New Suffolk, Long Island attorney, who had been appointed the commission’s executive director. The commissioners threatened to quit, alleging that Ms. Calcaterra was running interference on investigations that pointed back to the governor’s office.
But the Governor’s secretary, Lawrence Schwartz, told them that Ms. Calcaterra ““is not going anywhere.”
The Times report says that a supoena issued by the Commission to a firm that had prepared political advertisements for Cuomo had been ‘pulled back’ by commission members.
The pulled-back subpoena was the most flagrant example of how the commission, established with great ceremony by Mr. Cuomo in July 2013, was hobbled almost from the outset by demands from the governor’s office.
In April the Governor came under fire by legislators after he announced he was disbanding the Moreland Commission.
Wednesday, July 23:
In the news tonight: Connecticut state’s end-of-year surplus sparks partisan critique; a landmark education funding trial is delayed until January; Gubernatorial candidate John McKinney opens Fairfield headquarters; historic art studios are saved in East Hampton; advocates rally in New Haven for more housing for immigrant children
The Connecticut state government ended its fiscal year with a $121.3 million surplus, which will be added to the state’s emergency budget reserve.
The surplus is less than 1 percent of last year’s budget; and after being deposited into the emergency reserve, the “Rainy Day Fund” will hold $392 million – just over 2 percent of annual operating expenses.
The latest surplus for the state is three times the predicted $43 million from Medicade reimbursements and state income tax receipts. However, it falls short of the $500 million expected by Governor Dannel Malloy earlier this year.
Critics like Republican John McKinney say the governor created a paper surplus through excessive bargaining.
Since 2011, Governor Malloy and the legislature’s Democratic majority have approved steps such as refinancing debt to cover $392 million in payments owed this year and borrowing an extra $39 million to defer debt payments until after the election.
Members of the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding will have their day in court with the state, regarding proper funding for public schools but not until after the November elections.
Although the trial was slated for September 9 of this year, on Tuesday coalition officials announced a trial date of January 6, 2015.
In November of 2005, the group filed a lawsuit against the state to fully fund the Education Cost Sharing formula, which is intended to equalize the ability of towns to pay for public schools.
However, Jim Finley, a lobbyist for the coalition, said that increased funding to the formula is not enough.
Finley said that if the program was fully funded it would total $2.7 billion. Under the current formula it would total just over $2 billion in 2015.
Republican senator John McKinney opened campaign headquarters at 2000 Post Road in Fairfield on Tuesday.
McKinney, who has represented the state’s 28th district since 1999 and has served as Minority Leader since 2007, qualified for public financing last week and was able to open headquarters in his hometown three weeks before the August 12 primary.
According to the latest Quinnipiac University poll, McKinney is in third place in a six-candidate field for the GOP nomination, with Tom Foley in the lead and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton in second place.
At Tuesday’s opening, McKinney was joined by his fiancée, Kristen Fox, and his three children. McKinney’s father, Stewart McKinney, was a Connecticut Congressman who ran his last campaign out of the same building in 1986.
East Hampton Town Board members took steps last week to preserve the historic studios of James Brooks and Charlotte Park, artists who became famous during the Abstract Expressionist movement in the early 1950s.
The Town purchased their 11-acre property and studios in Springs last year with the intention of knocking down the buildings and creating a preserve. But soon thereafter, many East Hampton artists launched a campaign to save and restore the studios.
Town officials have proposed that the buildings be designated a historic landmark, and a public hearing is scheduled for August 7th to change the purpose of purchase from open space preservation to historic preservation.
Springs resident and advocate for recreation areas Martin Drew said that the preserve “needs to be the community Mecca. And if art is a part of that, it’s a wonderful thing.”
About 50 people -- including many unaccompanied children recently arrived from Guatemala -- held a rally Tuesday afternoon outside an unused state-owned building in New Haven to call on Governor Dannel Malloy to provide housing for up to 2,000 of these kids, as the federal government recently requested. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus was there:
Members of the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance condemned Malloy's decision last week not to open the Southbury Training School to house the kids. He said it did not meet the standards the Obama administration set.
Alliance spokesman Alok Bhatt ran down the group's demands, including the immediate opening of smaller state-owned buildings and an end to deportations. He added:
He must convene a task force of city mayors, state agencies, advocacy and social service organizations to come up with a comprehensive statewide plan to take these children in and make sure their needs are taken care of.
One of the children who spoke was 13-year-old Hazel, who was living with her sister in Guatemala but being terrorized by the murders, kidnappings and rapes going on around them. She said she made the decision to leave and find her mother in New Haven, whom she hadn't seen in eight years.
About 30 Guatemalan children have been reunited with relatives or other caregivers in New Haven. Advocates say the vast majority should qualify for asylum, since they have a well-founded fear of violence if they are sent back. Their cases will be adjudicated individually.
Several calls and emails to Governor Malloy's office seeking comment were not returned. In a statement last Friday, his chief of staff said the administration does not think big institutions are the best place to house the children, and it would "facilitate placement" with their families in Connecticut and offer "more direct support" to families who want to take the kids while their cases move through immigration court.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
Monday, July 21:
In the news tonight: the impact of a Supreme Court decision on the state's health care workers union, a walk in the park with Connecticut's junior senator; a big push on climate change; bad news for Long Island beaches; and a possible money-saving move for Suffolk County.
More than 40 people from many different groups around Connecticut gathered in Middletown yesterday to plan Connecticut's participation in the Great Climate March scheduled for September 21 in New York City, just ahead of world leaders gathering at the United Nations to discuss -- and hopefully address -- climate change.
WPKN's Melinda Tuhus was at the meeting and reports that a major theme was the integration of the peace movement with the climate movement.
The meeting was convened by Connecticut Sierra Club leaders and members of Promoting Enduring Peace, who point out that the U.S. military is the sector making the biggest contribution to climate change, and that that contribution spikes during wartime. Nationally, the march is being spearheaded by Sierra Club and 350.org. One major theme is that the U.S. should take the lead in addressing the issue.
Those at the meeting were energized by the idea that the march is not just a one shot event. Here's Daniel Adam of Socialist Action:
"I'm really excited because there's a real emphazis on planning for an action that follows the demonstration. We are .planning a meeting so that when people come into the march in nyc we'll have a place to meet and have common activities to combat climate change."
Organizers are hoping for hundreds of thousands to turn out, if not the million who marched in New York City in 1982 for nuclear disarmament, which influenced President Ronald Reagan to move toward disarmament with Soviet leaders.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy met with constituents Saturday morning for a hike in New Haven's East Rock Park, for a chance to hear their concerns. It was the day after the Senate unanimously passed a resolution of support for Israel in its war on Gaza, saying Israel had a right to defend itself from rockets fired by Hamas from the territory it controls.
Members of the New Haven Peace Commission, Jewish Voice for Peace, and other groups pressed Murphy to consider the situation of the Palestinian people living in what they call an open-air prison, prevented from leaving by Israel and Egypt sealing their borders with the territory, which is one of the most densely populated in the world. "It's like shooting fish in a barrel," said the Rev. Allie Perry, who questioned why Israel needed to conduct a full-scale military invasion just to close the tunnels along Gaza's borders, which is the stated aim of the invasion.
As of Monday at noon, the death toll in Gaza was over 500, including over a hundred children and the vast majority civilians, according to the U.N. The Israeli death toll stands at 20.
Murphy had to leave the hike earlier than scheduled to attend a last-minute meeting requested by the Ukrainian community of New Haven regarding the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 over Ukrainian territory controlled by the Russian-allied rebel.
Plans to begin collecting representation fees for a recently-formed home health care workers union have been put on ice while state officials grapple with a Supreme Court ruling that may have made those fees illegal.
Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Governor Dannel Malloy said Friday, “The union requested that the state not collect agency fees given. the uncertainty created by the recent Supreme Court decision, Harris v. QuinnWe agreed with the union’s request and no agency fees will be collected from individuals covered by the collective bargaining agreement.”
The high court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn in late June found that home health care workers in Illinois paid through Medicaid can not be forced to pay fees to the union representing them.
State officials, including Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen, are reviewing the case to determine what impact it will have on Connecticut’s recently-formed home health care workers union. The Service Employees International Union represents about 6,500 home health care workers in the state.
Senator Chuck Schumer is pushing to restore $10 million in Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act grant funding, which was zeroed out in President Obama’s 2015 budget. Thirty-five beaches in Nassau County and 103 beaches in Suffolk County are currently listed on the National Resources Defense Council’s list of polluted beaches.
More than ten percent of the samples collected at Mattituck’s Veterans Memorial Beach, Mattituck’s Breakwater Beach, and Long Beach in Noyac -- and fully one-third of the samples at Clearwater Beach in Springs -- have exceeded the National Resources Defense Council’s standards.
Mr. Schumer on July 10 said, “Long Island’s beaches are great resources that attract swimmers, fishers and boaters, and we simply cannot let federal funding for monitoring contamination and water quality be slashed,”.
The BEACH Act was enacted in 2000, and has helped to increase the frequency of water quality monitoring nationwide. The funds can be used for beach monitoring and for public awareness of the problems of swimming in polluted water, which can cause illness, skin rashes and other infections.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has announced a plan that would merge the county treasurer and comptroller positions.
The matter will be put to public referendum when the proposition appears on the ballot in November.
Bellone mentioned that hard cost savings over the first two years, should the merger be approved and begin in 2018, would be $1.2 million over two years,
Currently, Bellone said, the chief deputy's salary is $150,000 per year, and the deputy treasurer's is $125,000 per year; the comptroller's salary would not change, at $185,000 per year — or approximately $200,000 by the time the merger would be enacted in 2018.
Bellone said there is an 18-month to two-year wait in terms of taxpayers who are waiting for their grievance, or property, taxes back. He said, "It's a real area of concern and no matter how many people we throw at it; it's not getting corrected,”.
Suffolk County, Bellone said, is the only county of 62 in New York State to have separate elected individuals to the comptroller and treasurer posts. Bellone added, in the future, additional savings will be realized as technology is utilized to consolidate functions.
Friday, July 18:
In the news tonight: a major development in the sexual assault lawsuit filed by UConn students; good news in the latest Connecticut employment numbers; more mosquitos test positive for West Nile virus in Suffolk County; and an advocate for immigrant children helps families reunite.
Four University of Connecticut students settled their Title IX lawsuit against the school for $1.3 million, according to a joint statement from the university and the students.
Last November, the four current and former UConn students filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the university ignored their rape and sexual harassment complaints. The lawsuit came after seven students filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights.
As part of the joint settlement agreement, both the lawsuit and the complaint to the U.S. Education Department will be dropped on behalf of the four women.
In a joint statement, the women who filed the lawsuit said “a trial would have burdened both UConn and the plaintiffs for years, fight over the past rather than working on the future. Accordingly, UConn and the plaintiffs have agreed to put to rest their factual disputes, settle litigation, and move forward.”
The university issued a similar statement.
Following the lawsuit, the General Assembly passed legislation that clarifies the sexual assault reporting process on college campuses. Governor Dannel Malloy signed the bill into law this summer. It also requires schools to maintain trained Sexual Assault Response Teams and offers anonymous reporting options
Buoyed by a surge of public-sector hiring, Connecticut gained 1,700 jobs in June, dropping its unemployment rate to 6.7 percent, the state Labor Department reported Thursday. This marks the fifth straight month of job growth for Connecticut, which now has added 5,300 positions since the calendar year began. But Connecticut’s recovery continues to the lag the nation. The U.S. unemployment rate stands at 6.1 percent. Connecticut now has recovered just over 60 percent of the jobs lost in the Great Recession.
The New Haven Register reports that a 20-year-old jogger was hit Wednesday by a pickup truck driver and died on Thursday. John Liquori, of North Haven, was hit by Theodore Spalding on Cloudland Road. Spalding was charged with second-degree assault with a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. He was released on bond and is due back in court on July 31. According to WTNH, court documents show Spalding told police he didn’t know what happened and that the runner had darted out in front of him. Cloudland is a road also frequented by bicyclists.
And on Long Island:
Two mosquito samples, both collected in Rocky Point last week, have tested positive for West Nile virus, Suffolk County health officials said Thursday. To date this year, three mosquito sample and two birds have tested positive for West Nile virus in the County.
Suffolk County Health Services Commissioner James L. Tomarken said, “While there is no cause for alarm, we urge residents to cooperate with us in our efforts to reduce the exposure to the virus, which can be debilitating to humans.”
To report dead birds, call the West Nile virus hotline in Suffolk County at 631-787-2200 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
More than 50,000 unaccompanied children have entered the U.S. since October. As reported by the Riverhead News-Review, over the past month, Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate, said she has been helping dozens of immigrant families on the North Fork who hope to be reunited with their children. She helps families file their fingerprints with the U.S. government and complete the necessary immigration paperwork. So far a dozen families have been reunited.
Sister Margaret said “This is traumatic for these children,” referring to the long passage from Central America.
Congressman Tim Bishop from Southampton said he anticipates “the number of kids coming to our area will be low,” but “without knowing the dimension of the problem and knowing where these children are settling,” it’s difficult to determine their impact on local school districts or services.
Thursday, July 17
In the news tonight: Malloy administration rejects feds request to house 2000 immigrant children and Latino advocates react, an east side Bridgeport social club is shut down, A Long Island Railroad strike may be off, and Riverhead taking action after a string of attacks on mostly Latino workers.
Latino advocates are reacting with disappointment, dismay and anger over the Malloy administration’s decision to reject a federal request to house up to 2,000 immigrant children from Central America at the Southbury Training School.
Werner Oyanadel of the legislative agency Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, said “This is a humanitarian crisis and we are saddened that this was a missed opportunity to take a leadership position to help people seeking refuge,”
The agency makes recommendations for the advancement of the Latino and Puerto Rican community to the governor and state legislature.
John Lugo, an immigration advocate with New Haven's Unidad Latina en Accion and a WPKN Radio host, said the real reason Central American children are fleeing their countries to come to the United States is the violence roiling their nations. He blames the United States for aiding countries like Honduras that the State Department has criticized for its poor human rights record.
Lugo said “These are people who are the product of U.S. policy in Central America”.
A Social club on Stratford Avenue in the East End of Bridgeport was shut down on Monday, following a court order. The club, operating as a pool hall under the name “L and A Billiards” was widely known for violent incidents according to NBC Connecticut.com.
The decision followed a suit filed by the State in March, to close loopholes in the law that allowed it to operate.
The Court order was issued one day before Governor Malloy met with City officials to brainstorm ways to further reduce violence in Bridgeport.
According to the Connecticut Post, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane filed a lawsuit to shut down the social club in March. The Post reported that three people were shot in the social club, one fatally, in March of 2011.
The impending strike of Long Island Railrod workers may have been averted according to Newsday.
This morning one of the LIRR unions involved in the negotiations with the MTA informed its members that a tentative agreement has been reached but the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 589 did not provide details.
Negotiators with the MTA and the unions were meeting with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo this afternoon. Earlier, the head of the unions said he was confident a resolution will be reached Thursday to avert a strike, now that Cuomo has taken a lead role in ongoing negotiations.
Cuomo on Thursday morning summoned the unions and the MTA to his Manhattan offices, saying he wants "to make sure I have done everything to avoid a strike."
Riverhead News-Review reports:
A string of violent assaults and robberies in Riverhead’s downtown area this year — most of which have targeted Hispanic men — has town leaders responding by reviving Riverhead’s Anti-Bias Task Force.
Its resurrection resulted from a recent meeting with Rabbi Steven Moss, longtime chairman of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission and co-chair of the county’s Inter-Faith Anti-Bias Task Force.
Eight separate robberies or assaults have occurred mostly in the downtown area so far this year, from the most recent near the motor vehicle office on Route 58 to an attack in Polish Town in January. All of them occurred at night and Hispanic men have been victims in more than half of them.
In one case, a Hispanic man was left beaten and bloodied on the railroad tracks. Another Hispanic man was beaten with a rock.
Supervisor Sean Walter and Police Chief David Hegermiller have both said they are not convinced the crimes are racially motivated, calling them more “crimes of opportunity” than of bias.
Whatever the motive may be, Mr. Walter, who is also police commissioner, and the chief both said they favor resurrecting the Anti-Bias Task Force as a way to reach out to the Hispanic community, whose members often feel unsafe going to the authorities.
Chief Hegermiller said the Riverhead task force has responded to the attacks downtown by reaching out to the Hispanic community in recent months through the North Fork Spanish Apostolate and attending mass with its director, Sister Margaret Smyth, to inform the community that the department is there to assist them.
Riverhead police will be making known that they would not question Hispanics on their immigration status.