In the news tonight: Newly legalized Connecticut immigrants are eligible only for some benefits, a food stamp backlog could cost the state federal money, a plastic bag dress is used to support proposed Southampton shopping bag ban, and Smithtown to pay $37,500 EPA fine for storm sewer system violations.
President Obama’s new executive orders will help thousands of migrants in Connecticut, which has an estimated 55,000 to 100,000 undocumented residents.
Immigrants whose children are citizens or U.S. residents can apply for provisional legal status if they’ve lived in the States for at least five years, pass a criminal background check, and have paid fees and their share of taxes. They will be eligible for Social Security and Medicare, but not food stamps or health care benefits provided by AccessHealthCT.
Provisional legal status doesn’t allow for purchasing health insurance through AccessHealthCT or provide eligibility for Medicaid, food stamps, heating assistance or other safety net programs.
However, their children with legal status could get those public benefits. Many haven’t enrolled their children in those programs, fearing that giving information to government agencies will lead to deportation.
State agencies expect new enrollees in government health care programs, but don’t know how many.
The Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project reports that about 4.2 percent of kindergarten through twelfth grade students in the state have undocumented parents. That’s more than 20,000 children, and most of them were born in the U.S. and are citizens.
Connecticut could lose up to $3.7 million in expected federal funding because of problems in handling food stamp cases.
In issuing a warning to the state Department of Social Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service cited a backlog of 4,135 overdue renewals and 12,939 overdue documents used to make changes in clients’ accounts or benefits in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
DSS could avoid the financial penalty if it submits a plan outlining how to eliminate the backlog, if federal officials deem the plan acceptable, and if the department meets the plan's objectives, according to the letter from the federal agency’s acting regional administrator Kurt Messner.
Social Services Commissioner Roderick Bremby responded that DSS would submit a corrective action plan, and the backlog had been cut to 331 overdue renewal forms.
More than 230,000 households in Connecticut receive SNAP benefits.
A Southampton woman wore a dress made of hundreds of plastic checkout bags to a town board meeting this week -- one of several flamboyant displays activists staged at a hearing on a proposed plastic bag ban.
Lynn Arthur stood at the podium Tuesday in the bag dress and told the town board that the average U.S. citizen uses and estimated 330 plastic bags a year. "What does that look like?" she said, stretching out her arms. "I'm wearing it."
The board is considering a ban on single-use plastic checkout bags that would begin April 22 -- Earth Day.
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst has lobbied this year for a ban in all five Long Island's East End towns and possibly across Suffolk County.
Environmentalists say the bags linger in landfills and waterways for centuries, and can kill sea animals and birds that ingest the plastic or get caught in it.
Supermarket representatives argued against the ban, saying they favor educating customers about recycling.
Throne-Holst and two other town board members spoke in favor of the ban. But board member Christine Scalera said she favored a campaign to promote recycling.
No date has been set for the vote.
The board agreed to continue accepting written comments on the proposal.
Smithtown will pay a $37,500 penalty to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violations in its operations of the municipal storm sewer system.
The town board voted unanimously, 5-0, last week to pay the fine.
The penalty resulted from a 2012 EPA audit that found several oversight and operational issues with the town's storm water management program, including the frequency with which the town inspected pipes that discharge storm water into the Nissequogue River or other waters.
In a 10-page, August 22 decision obtained by Newsday, the EPA reported the town lacked a storm water plan that identified pollutants of concern and written procedures for responding to public complaints.
Town environmental protection director Russell Barnett said Smithtown has made changes. The town also has plans for further improvements.
Thursday, November 27( Thanks to WPKN Volunteers Nadine Dumser, Tony Ernst and Scott Harris).
In the news tonight: local activists protest the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri; patients ask for an expansion of illnesses covered by Connecticut's Medical Marijuana Program; Riverhead Police crime reports include only a fraction of the arrests made, and the village of Asharoken has proposed a new plan for public access to its private beaches.
A diverse crowd of about 200 people rallied in downtown New Haven and then took to the streets during evening rush hour Tuesday to denounce the Grand Jury's decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of unarmed 18-year-old African American Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more:
Nathan Pawelek of Guilford was there with his two young sons.
He said "You can't really shoot someone 12 times and not be committing a crime, as far as I'm concerned, especially if the person is unarmed. So I feel like I really want to support this movement toward peace."
Pawelek's 9-year-old son, Zachary, said he was marching because he wants to stop racism.
Emma Jones was also on the march. Her son, New Haven resident Malik Jones, was shot and killed by a white East Haven police officer in 1997. Jones, who was African American, was unarmed.
Jones: "I am just so sick and tired of having police officers murder African men and people of color and every time it happens they are deemed to be justified in their behavior."
Emma Jones won an almost million dollar civil judgment against the East Haven police department, but it was set aside on a technicality.
The march was spirited but peaceful. Some participants said the media focus on Ferguson has given short shrift to several more recent killings of African American males by police, including that of a 12-year-old boy in Cleveland last week.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
Patients and their advocates pleaded with a state panel of doctors Wednesday to expand Connecticut's Medical Marijuana Program to include additional medical conditions beyond those currently allowed by state law.
This is the first wave of petitions seeking an expansion of the Medical Marijuana Program which was launched on Sept. 22nd.
The program's board of physicians is reviewing petitions to add severe psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, sickle cell disease, Tourette's disorder, and chronic pain resulting from back surgery to the list of qualifying maladies.
State law currently allows Connecticut residents 18 or older to register as medical marijuana patients if they have cancer, glaucoma, HIV-AIDS, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal nerve damage pain, epilepsy, wasting syndrome, Crohn's disease, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
The state Department of Consumer Protection is accepting testimony from the public until December 12th. The board of physicians will discuss the issue in January.
An analysis by Riverhead LOCAL shows that crime reports regularly provided to the media by the Riverhead Police Department include only a fraction of the arrests actually made.
An examination of the Riverhead Justice Court dockets, show that Riverhead Police made 83 arrests during the month of October, while the “Riverhead Police Department Press Report” for October disclosed only 28 arrests
A similar discrepancy was found in September, where court dockets showed 62 arrests but media releases reported just 20 arrests.
Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said he was not aware of the disparity and assured reporters that it wasn’t intentional.
The frequency of news releases issued by Riverhead Police has increased in recent months, though the town still lags behind neighboring town police departments.
The Village of Asharoken has proposed a new plan for public access to its private beaches. Five access points are now offered -- two more than in its last plan, which the Army Corps of Engineers deemed "unacceptable."
The Village would be trading its private beaches for millions in federal dollars to restore dunes damaged by super storm Sandy.
Federal law requires that beaches where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work, must be open to the public because of the use of taxpayer dollars.
Many residents have opposed the plan, arguing that their land will lose value if their beachfront property is open to the public.
As we enter the 'holiday season' remember that Food Pantries in our area need your support.
A web page listing Connecticut and Long Island food pantries providing help to the needy can be found at wpkn.org/food
Wednesday November 26:
In the news tonight: Closing the Connecticut budget gap and closing retailers on Thanksgiving; and how to help feed the hungry on Thanksgiving and beyond.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy announced $48 million in emergency budget cuts last week to close this year’s $100 million budget deficit, but GOP lawmakers say the Democratic governor is about to close much of the shortfall by marketing state bonds on Wall Street to pay off high-interest-rate debt, or to avoid future debt by paying cash for certain projects.
The state, in some instances when issuing bonds, will pay a higher interest rate than originally planned, in return for premiums to the state in addition to the bonds’ face value.
Deputy House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said Monday. “It is essentially like borrowing to build up your savings account. It doesn’t make sense.”
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano of North Haven added. “You are selling out the taxpayers of the future to get operating income today. If businesses did that, they would be out of business.”
Governors and legislatures have used bond premiums during past times of fiscal crisis to turn the bonding process into a piggy bank to support the state’s operating budget.
Both Candelora and Fasano said they would introduce legislation in 2015 to require the treasurer to report monthly to the General Assembly on all bond premiums taken, and on the interest rates involved.
Connecticut House Democrats will try again to pass a labor-backed bill designed to discourage retailers from opening stores on Thanksgiving by requiring them to pay their workers holiday overtime. The bill was defeated earlier this year.
It would require any retailer that opened for business on Thanksgiving to pay their employees at two-and-a-half times their normal rate.
Rep. Matt Lesser, a Middletown Democrat, spoke in favor of the the bill at a Monday morning press conference in Hartford.
Lesser said more than 2,800 people signed a petition asking retailers to at least pay overtime to workers who are forced to work on Thanksgiving.
Lesser said the trend of opening stores on Thanksgiving has impacted family owned businesses, who have lost business to larger stores that stay open
Connecticut AFL-CIO head Lori Pelletier said retail stores would not be opening on Thanksgiving if it was not profitable. She said they should share those profits with workers who are giving up holiday time with their families.
But Tim Phelan, president of the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association, says retailers who open on Thanksgiving do so in response to a demand from consumers, and that “Organized labor wasn’t standing up saying the grocery stores shouldn’t be open on Thanksgiving, because they’re organized,”
Thanksgiving week finds New York nonprofits that deal with hunger and homelessness stretched tight, especially in the wake of Superstorm Sandy two years after it wreaked its havoc. Randi Shubin Dresner of Island Harvest on Long Island says it’s been a “tough year.”
The food pantries and agencies her group, serves have requested some 40-thousand Thanksgiving turkey donations. She says they’re usually able to provide 12- to 15-thousand but
“we’re falling about two thousand turkeys short of where we wanted to be at this point in the season."
Shubin Dresner says donating Thanksgiving turkeys is more than a once-a-year gesture and "Sitting at your table with your family, enjoying a good holiday meal is important. It’s very symbolic that you’re able to keep your family together, you’re able to provide for your family, whatever it may be to you. We want to help people with that."
People interested in helping can drop off frozen turkeys at Panera Bread restaurants on Long Island. Turkeys and canned foods can be left at any McDonald’s.
Island Harvest’s web site is islandharvest.org
WPKN’s Cliff Furnald has created a web page about Connecticut and Long Island food pantries with links to agencies providing help at http://wpkn.org/food
Tuesday, November 25 (thanks to WPKN volunteers Kristiana Pastir and Nadine Dumser):
In the news tonight: Connecticut’s tax structure will be assessed, state lawmakers encourage shops to close on Thanksgiving, Southold to hold forum on gang issues, and an attempted theft of copper lines causes oil spill on Peconic Riverfront.
A panel of accountants, former state legislators and experts in law, economics and finance will review Connecticut's tax structure.
The panel is charged with finding ways to modernize the state's tax system and make it more fair, equitable and stable. This marks the first time since 1991, when the state enacted a personal income tax, that such a major tax study has been undertaken. A report by the personal finance website Wallethub, released earlier this year, determined Connecticut had the country's fourth-highest per capita tax burden. The average resident paid $9,099 in state and local taxes -- 31 percent more than the national average.
"We now have 35,000 people who pay 45 percent of the entire taxes," said former state Senator William Nickerson who is co-chairing the state tax panel. "That is a very precarious and unreliable way to run a railroad."
The panel is scheduled to meet next month.
Some lawmakers and workers’ rights advocates have proposed legislation that would require retailers to pay workers a higher holiday rate if they open Thanksgiving Day.
At a press conference at Hartford’s Legislative Office Building, advocates and politicians had harsh words for retailers that open on Thanksgiving. But their proposed legislation would not force stores to close. The hope is the higher holiday pay would encourage retailers to observe the holiday, but if not, at least workers get something in return.
Proponents of the legislation recognize that police, firefighters, and EMTs have to work the holiday, department stores don’t. They also say many retailers don’t offering any extra holiday pay.
The same group attempted to pass legislation mandating two-and-a-half-time pay for Thanksgiving during the last legislative session, but never made it out of committee. They say will try even harder this year.
Southold Town will host community forum early next month to help allay concerns and inform a public nervous over gang issues.
The meeting is set for Thursday, December 4, at 7:30 p.m. at Southold Recreation Center. It comes after last month’s gang-related shooting in a residential area, during which five alleged members of MS-13 attacked two men from a rival gang with guns and a machete.
Those involved have all been arrested, said Southold Police Chief Martin Flately.
That incident has focused attention to the growing problem of gangs on the East End.
Flatley cited the Guardian Angels crime deterrent group and its recent decision to patrol Greenport Village on Saturdays.
“They have a different perspective when they come into town, and I don’t know that they understand the scope of what goes on in Southold Town just by coming out here a few weekends,” he said.
The chief said he’s hoping to have FBI and Suffolk County Police Department personnel on hand to field questions at the forum, as well as local officers. He also wants input and reports from residents about their own neighborhoods.
New York State Environmental Conservation officers and an environmental cleanup company were at the scene of a significant oil spill on the Peconic Riverfront in downtown Riverhead Saturday, reports RiverheadLocal.com.
They worked to contain and clean up a heating oil spill that occurred when someone cut copper lines attached to two oil tanks. The building, one of Swezey’s Departments Stores’ locations and the site of the indoor farmers’ market last winter, has been vacant for many years.
The parking lot was closed off and workers vacuumed out the oil and debris from the storm drains, and spread an absorbent substance on the pavement to soak up the spilled oil.
“Fortunately, the storm drains no longer discharge into the river,” Riverhead Fire Marshal Craig Zitek said. “They now discharge into leaching pool fields.”
Since the DEC officers were able to determine the source of the oil, the building owner is responsible for the cleanup costs.
Zitek said he wasn’t sure how extensive the cleanup would be or whether the state will dig up the parking lot to determine if, or to what extent, oil contaminated the soil beneath the paved surface.
Monday, Nov. 24 (thanks to WPKN volunteers Scott Schere and Melinda Tuhus):
In tonight’s news, Republican lawmakers in Connecticut challenge the governor’s deficit numbers; Gov. Malloy lays off the director of labor relations; on Long Island tall utility poles get a beauty treatment; and a school shooting drill gets a surprise.
Republican lawmakers called upon Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Friday to convene a special legislative session to address a shortfall in the state budget, which Republicans believe is larger than the administration has acknowledged.
The Malloy administration has placed the budget deficit at $99.5 million, about $10.4 million more than the Office of Fiscal Analysis has estimated. But the Republican lawmakers contend the deficit could be twice as large, and could surpass the $175 million threshold that would require legislative action.
The governor has the authority to make some budget rescissions without approval from the legislature if the budget shortfall is smaller than 1 percent of the total budget. Friday’s letter comes on the heels of a package of cuts released Thursday by the Malloy administration. The $54.6 million in rescissions will have a heavy impact on the state’s social services agencies, as well its higher education institutions.
In a short statement, a spokesman for Malloy said a special session would not be necessary.
The administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy abruptly notified the state’s longtime director of labor relations she is being laid off. Linda Yelmini is a labor lawyer who has served five governors. The position will now be filled by political appointment. She said she is considering other employment and pursuing her legal options. The administration had no comment on the reasons for the move.
Union officials said the change was not sought or wanted by labor. They say they were not briefed by the administration about the reorganization or the decision to use a political appointee as the lead person on labor issues, an approach used in some other states.
Malloy had a stormy relationship with public employee unions early in his first term, but had their overwhelming support in his recent re-election campaign.
PSEG Long Island earlier this year installed 45 80-foot-tall utility poles, to the dismay of residents and local lawmakers in the village of Flower Hill. It’s an issue that’s playing out in other towns across Long Island where PSEG has installed the extremely high poles.
To help divert attention from the poles on the roadside, Newsday reports the village of Flower Hill officials have added small hedges and trees to the medians of Port Washington Boulevard. Mayor Elaine Phillips said, "Our idea was to take the eye away from the poles and into the center."
The median plantings appeared in recent weeks, when PSEG installed $25,000 worth of plantings, in conjunction with the state Department of Transportation and the village.
Alicia J. Klat, an environmental attorney from Port Washington who helped form an advocacy group to oppose the pole project, described the gesture as "nice . . . but the mammoth poles are still there”. PSEG officials have said the poles were needed to ensure reliable service. They can be removed and the wires buried, if the town or residents cover the roughly $20 million cost.
A recent school shooting drill at Riley Avenue School in Riverhead went awry when the principal used a panic button in his office to alert police of the emergency but the alarm company did not call the police for seven minutes.
Riverhead Ambulance Corps Chief Joseph Oliver said the call to the alarm company came in as a burglary alarm, not a panic alarm. “The alarm company didn’t know [the drill] was happening,” Oliver said. “For them it was a real-life thing. Seven minutes is an obnoxious amount of time.” He said the police were dispatched only after principal David Enos called 911.
Riverhead School Superintendent Nancy Carney said what happened underscores the importance of having such drills. “We had been told the alarm went straight to the police department,” she said. “That’s how we found out it goes to the alarm company.”
Carney said all other aspects of the drill, including that of emergency responders, school district personnel, and students, went very well.
Friday, November 21 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers David Majlak, Paul Atkin and Melinda Tuhus)
In the news today, another report on the shooter in the Sandy Hook school shooting; local immigrants celebrate President Obama’s executive action announced Thursday night; consumers file complaints against the successor to AT&T; and Shoreham residents oppose a solar energy project. 5
Today (Friday), the state Office of the Child Advocate released its report on the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre and whether there were any warning signs from the shooter, Adam Lanza.
The report states, “In the course of Lanza’s entire life, minimal mental health evaluation and treatment (in relation to his apparent need) was obtained. Of the couple of providers that saw Lanza, only one -- the Yale Child Study Center -- seemed to appreciate the gravity of (his) presentation, his need for extensive mental health and special education supports, and the critical need for medication to ease his obsessive-compulsive symptoms.”
While the report notes weaknesses and lapses in the educational and healthcare systems’ responses to Lanza, it notes, “No direct line of causation can be drawn from these to the horrific mass murder at Sandy Hook.”
New Haven area immigrants and their supporters hailed President Obama’s executive order to help 5 million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants stay in the country legally, though they will not get a path to citizenship. Most of those affected are the parents of U.S.-born children, who are therefore citizens. If they’ve been living in the U.S. at least FIVE years, complete a criminal background check, and pay taxes, they will get documents enabling them to work legally. But the parents of the so-called Dreamers – young people who were brought to this country illegally by their parents and who have received a similar dispensation by the Obama administration – will not be eligible for the program.
The order also gives clear direction as to who Immigration and Custom Enforcement should target for deportation — namely violent offenders, gang members, threats to national security and any immigrants who recently crossed the border illegally.
New Haven resident Juana Islas, who has U.S. citizen children, said at a gathering at Yale’s Latino Cultural Center Thursday night that she feels blessed that her life likely will get easier, but sad that her brother, who has helped her financially over the years, and is facing deportation, will not benefit from Obama’s order.
Republicans say Obama is exceeding his executive authority.
Less than a month after the conversion from AT&T to Frontier Communications, more than 840 Connecticut customers have filed written complaints with the state Department of Consumer Protection about the changeover.
Stamford-based Frontier has been plagued by complaints ever since Oct. 25 when it converted customers who formerly had AT&T services. The change happened because Frontier recently acquired AT&T’s landline, broadband Internet, and video service operations in a $2 billion deal.
In the deal, Frontier began providing services to roughly 1.3 million Connecticut households but for many the transition did not go smoothly.
Frontier officials have maintained that 99 percent of those impacted by the switch encountered no problems. The approximately 840 complaints filed with the state so far represent a small fraction of 1 percent of the customers who were transitioned.
Frontier said it will refund more than $10 million to Connecticut customers in several ways and is cooperating with state officials, who are urging customers who are still having trouble to contact Frontier first. But those who wants to lodge complaints with the state should do so through the Department of Consumer Protection at email@example.com.
Shoreham residents have filed a lawsuit against LIPA, PSEG Long Island, Brookhaven Town and the developer of a large solar array planned for their neighborhood, saying the 60-acre project lacked proper environmental reviews and that its power contract was invalid.
According to Newsday, the suit, filed in state Supreme Court in Riverhead, seeks an immediate halt to development and any power production at the site, which is on a sod farm behind a residential neighborhood and along Route 25A in Shoreham.
The suit has been expected since residents learned of plans for the 50,000-panel solar array this summer.
Thursday, November 20( Thanks to WPKN volunteers, Nadine Dumser, Tony Ernst and Scott Harris):
In the news tonight: Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy says only minor cuts will be required this year to deal with the state’s budget deficit; The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities released a report identifying the challenges facing the state's poorest cities; New York’s Democratic Senator Charles Schumer and newly elected Republican congressman Lee Zeldin vowed to work together to address issues important to Long Island and Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town officials announced the preservation of 171 acres along the Carmans River.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said the state’s $99.5 million dollar budget deficit reported by his budget office last week was not a major issue.
The 2015 budget’s $99.5 million deficit is less than 1 percent of the general fund, which means Malloy has the authority to make decisions about where to make the cuts without input from the General Assembly. He can rescind up to 5 percent of any line item and 3 percent of any fund without seeking legislative approval.
Among line items not likely to see reductions are mental health services linked with the state’s new gun safety law.
Malloy administration budget director Ben Barnes said next year’s budget will require deeper, more aggressive cuts.
According to nonpartisan legislative analyst’s the state faces a $1.32 billion deficit in 2016 — up from a $1.278 billion projection a few months ago — and a $1.4 billion deficit in 2017.
Malloy will deliver the next two-year budget to the legislature on Feb. 4th.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities on Wednesday released a policy report identifying challenges facing the state's poorest areas. The CCM wants to ensure that lawmakers continue providing vital aid to these towns and cities.
The CCM report identified 25 communities as "distressed municipalities." The top 5 cities cited were Hartford, Waterbury, New Britain, Bridgeport, and New London.
In 7 of the 25 municipalities, twice as many students receive free or reduced lunch than is the state average.
In each of the 25 communities, average income is lower than the state's average per capita income of $37,807.
The CCM report states, "These towns and cities must deal with higher poverty rates, education disparities, revenue challenges, and increased crime rates. The state has a moral and economic imperative to provide increased assistance to these towns and cities."
Lee Zeldin, newly elected Republican congressman for Long Island’s East End, met Tuesday with Democratic Senator Charles Schumer to discuss key federal projects in Zeldin’s district.
Schumer stressed that he has a great working relationship with Republican Representative Peter King and that partisanship is not a problem. Zeldin agreed it’s important that he and Schumer work together to deliver results for Long Islanders.
Schumer’s agenda includes bolstering the shorelines from Fire Island to Montauk Point against storms, rerouting helicopter traffic, continuing federal funding for Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University, and ensuring super storm Sandy aid gets to those in need.
Both legislators sidestepped questions about immigration and health care but criticized President Barack Obama's dealings with Iran and condemned Hamas and the Palestinian Authority over Tuesday's deadly synagogue attack in Israel.
The Long Island Press reports: Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town officials have preserved 171 acres along the Carmans River banks from development.
The parcel of environmentally sensitive land is the largest acquisition in the history of the Carmans River watershed protection project.
On Tuesday the Suffolk County Legislature passed a resolution to approve the purchase of the acreage from the developer Avalon Bay Communities, Inc.,
The $4 million cost will be split between the county and the township.
Designated a New York State Wild and Scenic River Corridor, the 10-mile long river flowing from the heart of the Central Pine Barrens forest is an important source of freshwater feeding into the Great South Bay.
The newly preserved 171 acres, mostly consisting of an oak-pitch pine forest, are on the north side of Mill Road in Yaphank and Medford. It’s estimated that it recharges 267,000 gallons of clean water daily, or 98 million gallons a year, to the underlying drinking water aquifers.
Wednesday November 19 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Paul Atkin):
In the news tonight: more choppers for ‘defense’, higher electric rates for us, more weapons on campus and voters reject local school districts merger.
The Department of Defense said it will go forward with a $772 million contract to buy 41 modified Black Hawk helicopters and 24 Seahawk medical evacuation helicopters for the Army from Stratford based Sikorsky.
The New Haven Register reported that the Navy, citing budget problems, had wanted to end a multi-year joint contract with the Army to buy 102 helicopters from Sikorsky, but the Navy has reversed itself and will go ahead.
Had the Navy canceled its purchases, the Army’s also would have been voided.
The Navy said it would continue a program of purchasing Sikorsky helicopters for a fourth year, saying it will buy eight Blackhawk helicopters and 29 Seahawks and pay costs associated with the programs.
One reason the Pentagon decided to go forward with the plan is that a Navy decision to scrap the already awarded contract would have cost taxpayers a $250 million termination fee.
The New Haven Register reports:
On Monday, Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority approved increased generation charges for United Illuminating and Connecticut Light & Power customers.
The generation service charge represents about 50 percent of a consumer’s electric bill for most residential users.
According to the Hartford Courant, typical United Illuminating residential customer on standard service now pays about $61 a month for generation, to pay for 700 kilowatt hours at 8.66 cents each. Under the new rates for Jan. 1 to June 30, generation costs balloon to $93 a month, for 700 kilowatt hours at 13.35 cents each.
The current spike in the cost of electricity is not only affecting Connecticut, but all of New England and Long Island. More than half of the region’s electricity is now produced using natural gas which has increased in price.
The Long Island Power Authority adjusts its power generation charge each month. On November 1 it increased the rate from about 7.37 cents to 9.35 cents per kilowatt hour.
The generation service charge costs are passed directly to customers with no profit to the company.
About 40 percent of Connecticut’s electricity customers receive standard offer services, with the remainder getting their electricity from third-party power providers.
Capitol New York reports:
SUNY in Old Westbury, Long Island, and state university campuses at Oneonta and Morrisville requested and received M16 rifles and a humvee "to enhance an active shooter response." The campuses asked for the weapons through the defense department's 1033 program, which provides military-grade munitions to local law enforcement.
Old Westbury's application said in its "justification" section:
"Active shooter incidents by their very nature do not last for long periods of time and massive casualties may result if the police response is not quick, decisive and forceful …… An immediate tactical and properly armed response may curtail the movement of perpetrators. ... The requested weapons in the hands of trained officers will level the playing field vs the perpetrators and limit the carnage.”
The 1033 program and similar programs have come under scrutiny since police responded to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, with armored vehicles and military-grade weapons.
The proposed merger of Long Island’s Southampton and Tuckahoe school districts was narrowly defeated on Tuesday.
Voters in the Tuckahoe School District approved the measure 533 to 25. But in Southampton, with write-in ballots deciding the vote, the merger was defeated, 1066-972, effectively killing the proposal.
The school property taxes in the small Tuckahoe district are about 3 times that in the Southampton district The merger would have equalized the tax rates over time. increasing the Southampton taxes by about 14% while greatly reducing the Tuckahoe tax rate.
Newsday reports the current Tuckahoe budget allocates about $49 thousand per student with 203 students enrolled. Southampton allocates $28 thousand per student and has 609 students.
Tuesday November 18 (thanks to wpkn volunteers Kristiana Pastir and Scott Schere)
In the news tonight: Newtown parents question whereabouts of charitable donations, 25% of Connecticut households above poverty line can’t meet basic needs, nonprofit “Defend H20” starts in Long Island, and dead sea turtle washes up on East Hampton shore.
Almost two years after the Newtown school shooting, millions in charitable donations have not gone to adequately support victims’ families, the parents of two murdered children told a state commission Friday.
Nelba Marquez-Greene, mother of Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, and Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel, parents of Avielle Richman, spoke to the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission November 14.
Millions were donated after the December 2012 shooting where a gunman murdered 20 children and six adults at Newtown Elementary School, but the three parents expressed frustration over how those funds have been directed.
Marquez-Greene said her family’s private insurance company has paid and still pays for most of their mental health needs.
Richman encouraged people to visit the “My Sandy Hook Family” website, the only source representing all 26 families. “When you give money, ask where your funds are going…Make sure your donations are going where you intend them to go,” he said.
Both families have set up foundations, the Ana Grace Project and the Avielle Foundation, with different approaches to researching violence prevention.
The 16-member Sandy Hook Advisory Commission is expected to issue a final report sometime next month.
The Connecticut United Way reported recently that about a quarter of Connecticut households are above the federal poverty level but have earnings or retirement income that is barely enough to meet basic necessities.
10 percent of all Connecticut households fall under the poverty level, and 25 percent are between the poverty level and the so-called ALICE threshold. United Way calls families like these ALICE, for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. What advocates traditionally call the working poor.
Because pay is higher here, and because Connecticut has been more generous with child-care subsidies, expanding Medicaid and other human services support, Connecticut has the lowest proportion of residents below the federal poverty level and the lowest combined total in the ALICE category and below the poverty line of any of the states.
Quogue resident Kevin McAllister, the former Peconic Baykeeper, unveiled a new nonprofit group, “Defend H2O”, aimed at protecting and restoring water quality across Long Island.
His first objective is to adopt numeric, metric, science-based water quality standards and move away from “narrative, subjective” standards the federal government set 15 years ago.
Speaking about the Long Island Water Quality Control Act, McAllister said it had elements of greater area waters protection but had “one glaring omission, adopting these numeric standards.” He said “That’s imperative if there’s a do-over on that bill in the works. I will be very vocal about the need to include that.”
McAllister said he’s been petitioning since 2006 for a look at more environmentally friendly septic systems. In addition he said “the fact remains that wastewater from conventional systems is a tremendous factor in water pollution… We have to address this challenge.”
Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation officials reported a turtle found near Napeague is believed to have died from the winter’s first cold spell on Sunday.
Long Island's first "cold-stunned" turtle of the season washed ashore in East Hampton, prompting the marine rescue organization to ask beachcombers to watch for the threatened reptiles. Approximately 30 sea turtles, mostly endangered species, wash ashore each winter after sudden cooling renders them helpless to continue their migration to warmer waters. They may appear dead, but still cling to life.
The foot-long Atlantic green sea turtle, weighing 4 pounds and estimated to be about 2 years old, died despite efforts to raise the turtle's temperature gradually, said rescue program director Kimberly Durham. She urged residents to call the rescue hotline at 631-369-9829 for assistance if they find turtles on the beach. They should not be brought indoors or warmed suddenly.
The Mystic Aquarium operates a similar rescue service. People are encouraged to call the 24-hour hotline at 860-572-5955 extension 107 if they encounter a marine mammal or sea turtle in Connecticut, Rhode Island or Fishers Island, New York.
The rescues are not limited to turtles, but most marine life.
In the news tonight: Connecticut Supreme Court examines long sentences for juveniles, diabetes on the rise in Connecticut, Brookhaven Town Board approves $274.7 million budget, and shooter drill in Riverhead tests emergency response.
Years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a child’s age and maturity should be considered before courts impose harsh sentences, Connecticut’s Supreme Court is updating state laws to comply with that ruling. The state’s highest court will soon decide three cases relating to long sentences imposed on children.
The justices will decide several things. Among them, whether all inmates currently serving long sentences for crimes committed as juveniles should have their sentences reconsidered or if this ruling should only affect future cases.
Nearly 200 inmates in Connecticut are serving more than 10 years for crimes committed as juveniles. Of those, 78 aren’t eligible for parole, the state Department of Correction and the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Parole reported last year. Thirty-one inmates are serving at least 60 years because of crimes committed as children, according to the State Department of Correction.
Connecticut Democratic legislators have attempted for the last two years to update sentencing laws so that juvenile offenders would have the opportunity for parole after serving 30 years or 60 percent of their sentences.
The House passed the bill earlier this year, but didn’t come up for a vote in the Senate.
Connecticut News Service reports a growing number of people in Connecticut are living with diabetes.
“We're up to 189,000 adults who are diagnosed with diabetes right now,” said American Diabetes Association of New England executive director Chris Boynton. He encourages those people visit their doctor and get their feet and lipids check.
Lipids measure things such as good and bad cholesterol, and it’s recommended that people with diabetes get tested once a year. Boynton says about 95 percent of those with diabetes have Type 2, which healthier lifestyle choices can help prevent.
Boynton adds obesity often contributes to diabetes, and for people who are very overweight, even small changes with healthy eating and regular exercise can have positive results.
Finally, he cautions that if the current trends don't change, it's estimated that by 2050, 30 percent of all Americans will have diabetes.
The Brookhaven Town Board approved its 2015 budget over the objections of one councilwoman.
On Thursday, the board approved the $274.7 million operating and highway budgets and two other budget packages by identical 5-1 votes. Democratic Councilwoman Connie Kepert cast each of the dissenting votes.
Before board members voted, Kepert had asked to add a $960,000 plan to the town's $80.1 million capital budget to build bicycle paths along Whiskey Road. It was defeated by a 4-2 party-line vote.
Kepert argued the paths would improve safety for bicyclists using the road while Supervisor Edward P. Romaine and Councilman Dan Panico, both Republicans, said the money would be better spent on road repaving.
Tax bills next year will vary for residents in different parts of Brookhaven. The operating budget includes tax hikes in some funds, such as general spending programs, but cuts taxes in other areas, such as the town highway fund.
Town officials have said there will be no overall increase in the tax levy, and the budget adds funds for snow removal, code enforcement officers and the town's vacant housing registry.
Riley Avenue Elementary School in Riverhead participated in a Realistic ‘active shooter’ drill with emergency responders on Saturday.
This is a nightmare for educators and school administrators: an active shooter in the building, firing at teachers, staff and students.
Riverhead school district assistant superintendent David Wicks said. “It was very real for me,” Wicks was on hand as an observer and watched the shooter enter the building and observed the mayhem he unleashed inside.
Riley Avenue Elementary School principal David Enos said Faculty and staff know the lockdown procedure inside and out. “Everybody’s practiced it. We practice multiple times each year.
Eight emergency medical services departments, Riverhead Town Police, Suffolk County Police, Suffolk County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services, Riverhead and Jamesport fire departments and Suffolk County Police aviation took part in the drill, the first of its kind in eastern Suffolk.
Drill organizer Joseph Oliver said, “There’s always room for improvement… Overall the whole drill went well.”
Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller was on hand to observe the operation and said afterward he was pleased with the outcome.
In the news tonight: Malloy to order emergency cuts to counter impending deficit, study finds doctor-dispensed drugs cost more, Riverhead horse farm owner charged in $10 million embezzlement case, and Suffolk County demands Verizon builds FiOS network.
In light of the state’s impending deficit, Governor Dannel Malloy will order emergency spending cuts and freeze all-but-critical hiring. Private- and public-sector unions are concerned those measures would hinder Malloy’s initiative to hire more Department of Transportation staff and launch more construction work.
In a joint report last week, the administration and Office of Fiscal Analysis concluded that revenues are running $59 million below projected levels.
One fix involves “rescissions” – limited cuts to the adopted budget that the governor can make without legislative approval. Municipal aid cannot be reduced without that approval. Other spending areas, such as debt payments and unionized employees’ salaries and benefits, are also excluded because of contractual obligations.
So what about DOT hires? This year's budget adds 103 full-time positions to the agency that private-sector construction trades and state employee unions have argued is badly understaffed. Sixty-six of those jobs are engineering posts.
“We have already begun to hire more engineers,” Malloy spokesman Andrew Doba said. “The governor has made unprecedented investments in transportation since taking office, and that’s not going to change.”
According to the last personnel report, the DOT had 112 fewer employees than when the last state budget closed June 30.
Connecticut patients who pick up a prescription for Percocet at their local pharmacy pay an average of 58 cents a pill. But the same pill, dispensed by a physician, costs more than double.
That price disparity has narrowed since 2012, when the state enacted price restrictions. But a cost gap remains, according to a new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute.
The study found that physician-dispensed drug prices in Connecticut have dropped about 30 percent since 2012. But the average prices for most of the common physician-dispensed drugs were still 30 to 74 percent higher in 2013 than pharmacy prices. WCRI’s study cites several reasons, including that pharmacies may charge less because of contracts to buy drugs at below-wholesale prices.
Prescriptions for some common drugs with over-the-counter strengths, such as Tylenol and Prilosec, were commonly dispensed by physicians and cost more when dispensed at a physician's office rather than at a local pharmacy without a prescription.
Union leaders and elected officials spoke out at a recent rally in Riverhead demanding state government action to force Verizon to build its fiber optic cable network throughout Suffolk County. The Verizon FIOS service was made available to about 25 percent of customers before Verizon stopped construction.
Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said he’s concerned that the lack of the best-available high-speed Internet technology will impede development in the region
County Executive Steve Bellone said the lack of modern infrastructure in Suffolk is holding back economic development.
The carrier is required by law to provide telephone service but not high-speed Internet and TV. Many spoke of the need for the Public Service Commission to regulate these companies so that they provide adequate service to everybody. Bellone said, “It’s time for the PSC to step in and say that this tech is not a luxury, this tech is a basic necessity.”
A Verizon company spokesman said that the PSC can’t force the company to build out the FiOS network but Verizon representatives did not speak at the rally.
One of the owners of Serendipity Farm on Mill Road in Riverhead has been jailed on a conspiracy charge, after he confessed to stealing more than $10 million from his family’s West Babylon contracting business, according to federal prosecutors.
Joseph Simonelli, 55, who owns a home on Kerry Court in Riverhead and is a principal in the company that owns the horse farm on Mill Road, was arraigned in federal district court yesterday and ordered held without bail “as a danger to the community.”
Simonelli is the chief financial officer of F.W. Sims Co., a West Babylon-based heating and air conditioning company that installed HVAC systems at 1 World Trade Center and Yankee Stadium.
Simonelli is facing one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. If convicted, he faces 11 to 14 years in federal prison.
Thursday, November 13 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Scott Harris and Nadine Dumser):
In the news tonight: Hartford’s City Council will investigate election day failures in that city; efforts are underway to sign up Connecticut’s uninsured for Obamacare; a New York state Appellate Court threw out more than $30 million in changes made to Suffolk County’s Drinking Water Protection Program and New York state’s "Stop Common Core" party has received the votes required for automatic ballot status through 2018.
The Hartford City Council voted Wednesday to investigate major problems that occurred on Election Day at several of the city’s polling places. An unknown number of Hartford voters were unable to cast ballots at their polling sites between 6:00 am and 7:30 am because voter registration lists had not been delivered.
The council approved two measures. One which created a committee to investigate the glitches on Election Day and a second aimed at restructuring Hartford’s Registrar of Voters’ office.
The committee is expected to complete its report no later than Dec. 31st.
Governor Malloy’s campaign ended up taking all three of Hartford’s Registrar of Voters to court in an attempt to keep the polls open longer on election day. A Superior Court Judge allowed two Hartford polling places to stay open until 8:30 p.m. election night.
In addition to the Hartford investigation, Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill has asked the State Elections Enforcement Commission to investigate the matter.
Connecticut had one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country before Obamacare -- and has been one of the most successful states in rolling out the new health care law. But even in the Nutmeg state it’s not hard to find people without health insurance.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 89 percent of the uninsured were unaware that the next open enrollment period begins in November. Two-thirds said they knew little about where to get insurance if they are not covered through their job. And 53 percent didn’t know that financial assistance is available.
The bulk of those who are still uninsured in the state are minorities and urban residents. Access Health CT is now focusing their efforts to reach half of those now uninsured, a figure they estimate at 35,000.
People can get help signing up for Obamacare at Access Health enrollment centers throughout the state or by visiting AccessHealthCT.com
According to Newsday, the state Appellate Division Wednesday threw out more than $30 million in changes made to Suffolk's Drinking Water Protection Program in 2011 as "illegal, null, and void." The decision was tossed because the county failed to hold a referendum to secure voter approval.
While nearly $30 million was used when former County Executive Steve Levy was in office to lower the county bond debt to offset tax hikes, much of another $55 million for sewer infrastructure improvements was not spent.
However, a deal between County Executive Steve Bellone and environmentalists was approved overwhelmingly last week by voters in a referendum. That agreement authorizes borrowing $29.4 million for new land acquisition and sewer projects while permitting the county to continue borrowing money for the next 3 years.
The county water program is aimed at protecting its water supply and the pine barrens region.
Richard Amper, Pine Barrens Society executive director, said: "The most important part of the court decision is that when the government gives the public the right to decide, they can't come back later and say April Fools."
As reported in Newsday: In New York State last week the new "Stop Common Core" party surpassed the 50,000-vote mark needed to achieve automatic ballot status through 2018, according to the unofficial count.
The uproar over high-stakes testing in public schools, and the way in which state officials rolled it out, was a major issue that Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino campaigned on during his failed bid to unseat Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Stop Common Core will now be able to cross-endorse candidates across the state in next year’s local elections.
Tuesday November 11: (thanks to WPKN volunteer Kristiana Pastir)
In the news tonight: Stratford restaurant worker sues for stolen wages, Connecticut budget faces red ink, SCCC gets $850,000 to train drug counselors, and change still needed six years after hate crime in Patchogue.
A former prep cook at Off the Hook Bar and Grill in Stratford filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the seafood restaurant, which has locations in Stratford and Westbrook. The suit claims that for nearly a year, Andrew Testo, the restaurants’ owner, stole Marvin Mendoza’s wages, shouted insults and profanities at him, and threatened him with knives.
The lawsuit claims Testo promised Mendoza $12 an hour in a well-staffed kitchen, but that soon changed when Testo allegedly fired four other kitchen employees and forced Mendoza to perform the work of five people, all while paying him approximately $3 per hour. The lawsuit said that for many weeks, Mendoza was paid nothing.
Mendoza is represented by Yale Law School’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization. The ULA New Haven helped organize a press conference and rally Monday night at the Stratford restaurant to raise awareness of wage theft.
A joint report by nonpartisan analysts and Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration projected total state revenues will fall about $59 million below the level built into this year’s budget, less than 1 percent of the general fund. Projected losses in federal grants and gaming revenues more than offset roughly $10 million in growth in this year’s tax receipts.
This report follows last week’s warning by nonpartisan analysts of larger concerns on spending, involving more than $80 million in potential cost-overruns.
Both the Office of Fiscal Analysis and the governor’s budget staff must submit budget projections to the legislature before the weekend.
The administration and legislative analysts will issue one more revenue projection – on January 15 – before Malloy must submit his next two-year budget proposal to the General Assembly due February 4.
Suffolk County Community College recently received nearly $850,000 from the federal government for its Chemical Dependence Counseling program. The funds will help cover tuition and books over the next three years as well expand career development and job placement services.
The grant will go toward 120 students each year who are enrolled in the program, taught at SCCC’s Brentwood campus. The college was one of 18 programs awarded the grant nationwide, and the only program in New York State, which comes through the Department of Health and Human Services.
Heroin addiction has taken center stage on Long Island, and New York State, over the past year. State leaders passed a series of bills over the summer aimed at tackling the problem and with four goals: assisting enforcement against illegal drug trafficking, helping emergency response in overdose situations, improving treatment options through insurance reforms, and creating public awareness campaigns.
The SCCC grant fits into the third goal.
Six years ago, a group of teens attacked and killed 37-year-old Marcelo Lucero near the Patchogue, Long Island train station. At a memorial Sunday, his brother said that the Hispanic and immigrant populations on Long Island still face significant challenges to safety and equality.
Lucero's beating and stabbing in 2008 sparked international attention, a federal investigation and major internal changes for Suffolk County police.
Lucero's killer, along with the six others involved, were prosecuted under hate-crime statutes. The case is widely viewed as a turning point in the Suffolk County Police Department's handling of such crimes. The U.S. Department of Justice drafted a 27-page agreement, approved by the Suffolk County Legislature last December, which required training officers on bias issues, tracking of hate crimes and reports on police discrimination.
At an annual vigil Sunday, Joselo Lucero called attention to barriers that still exist for immigrants and pointed to violence in other parts of the Island -- notably the handling of the October 12 slaying of Maggie Rosales of Huntington Station -- as evidence that not enough has changed since his brother's death.
Monday, November 10 (thanks to WPKN volunteers Scott Schere and Melinda Tuhus):
In tonight’s news, a plan to deal with election snafus in Connecticut; Sen. Blumenthal backs rights for undocumented immigrants; and two helicopter stories from Long Island.
Major voting snafus on election day in Hartford last week and in Bridgeport in 2010 have highlighted problems with the state's localized voting system and the outdated technology employed. Elections are run by local election officials with the Secretary of the State's office serving in an advisory capacity, which in general does not certify results until a few weeks after the vote. Until that time, local election officials continue to modify the election returns they submit by fax machine to Secretary
Denise Merrill’s office. Merrill said there’s a new election results management system coming online next year that should help alleviate some of the problems in obtaining data from each town. She said currently, “People transpose numbers all the time.” She said the new system will allow local election officials to enter everything electronically in advance, such as the names of the candidates and their placement on the ballot.
Merrill said that currently, there is no way in statute to remove a registrar, even for cause, which seems to leave it up to the voters to elect a new registrar two years later for poor performance.
When voters arrived at some polling places in Hartford last week, voting lists were not available. Merrill’s office filed a complaint with State Elections Enforcement Commission against the Hartford's three Registrars of Voters, alleging “gross misconduct.”
Connecticut U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal has become the first member of the Senate on record to urge President Obama to take aggressive executive action to stop deportation of undocumented immigrants and to bring back the two million he's already deported.
Blumenthal spoke at New Haven City Hall on Thursday, surrounded by young immigrants to whom Obama extended protection from deportation. They are asking for protection for their family members. Blumenthal urged Obama to take "big, bold steps. He can permit deferral for parents of U.S. citizens to keep families together.”
Yale law professor Michael Wishnie said the president has the authority make decisions on arrests, detainments and deportations. “Tomorrow, he could release from immigration prisons around the country thousands of detainees," Wishnie said. "He could use statutory parole powers to bring home the 2 million that have been deported.”
President Obama signaled on Wednesday that he may indeed use his executive powers, now that the election is over, to carry out some of what the speakers in New Haven Thursday were urging him to do.
According to several consultants who presented their findings to the East Hampton Town Board on October 30th, few pilots are complying with East Hampton Airport’s voluntary helicopter flight paths as East Hampton has received 22,700 complaints this year alone.
At a special meeting, the town’s attorneys and consultants laid out their argument for “use restrictions” that the town can put in place at the airport after the Federal Aviation Administration mandate expires at the end of this year that requires the town to not restrict the use of its airport.
The East Hampton town aviation attorney, Peter Kirsch said “use restrictions” include a broad range of actions the town could take to control its airport, including allowing only certain types of aircraft, limiting the number of aircraft that can land in a given time or restricting the hours of operation of the airport.
Airport budget and finance committee member Peter Wadsworth said, while one-third of the traffic at the airport is helicopters, a little more than two-thirds of the noise complaints received this year were due to helicopter traffic. Wadsworth said most of the complaints came from Southampton Town, followed by East Hampton, Shelter Island and Southold.
A homemade "ultralight" helicopter made an emergency landing on a sod farm behind a residential neighborhood Sunday afternoon in Aquebogue.
The pilot was alone in the helicopter when it fell from the sky according to witnesses.
The reason for the landing was not immediately clear.
The pilot was found unconscious outside the small helicopter and covered in gasoline when they arrived to help.
The Riverhead Fire Department and an ambulance responded to the scene.
The pilot, 71-year-old Erwin Rodger of Mattituck, was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.
Friday November 7: (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Paul Atkin and David Majlak)
In the news tonight: Huntington Town board requests ethics investigation, West Babylon treatment plant to get state funds for upgrades, Connecticut college students push for more campus security and Metro-North president’s open letter to commuters.
Crime among Connecticut's public and private colleges has remained relatively steady over the last three years, according to a recent U.S. Department of Education report. Student leaders at the state’s largest college system are calling for campus security improvements.
Southern Connecticut State University graduate student Sarah Greco recently told the board that governs the four regional state universities and 12 community colleges that “Students were concerned by the lack – or complete absence – of security personnel on their campuses.”
According to public data from 2012, seven of the 12 community colleges had no police officers or building and grounds patrol officers.
The 16-campus system, called Connecticut State Colleges & Universities, enrolls 90,000 students. The separate University of Connecticut enrolls about 30,000 students.
The system recently hired consultants to assess security at their schools. Officials reported that, “Many enhancements are underway, and some already completed. One of the consistent recommendations concerned staffing levels.”
The governing board is asking state lawmakers to provide $1.2 million more a year to hire eight security staff for their campuses.
Metro-North Railroad President Joseph Giulietti posted an open letter to commuters on the railroad's website Thursday in response to the National Transportation Safety Board recent report recapping a year and a half's work to correct safety lapses.
The NTSB report, released October 28, found that all five of the accidents it investigated -- three derailments and two track worker deaths -- were preventable and stemmed from poor management of safety measures.
Giulietti’s letter states the railroad has adopted or is at work on 127 of 146 recommendations of a comprehensive audit of its track maintenance program, including inward- and outward-facing cameras in cab compartments to monitor engineers.
According to the NTSB, an automatic braking system called positive train-control system could have prevented one crash, and a health screening of train drivers could have helped identify the driver's sleep disorder before the accident happened,
Metro-North and the Connecticut Department of Transportation are planning a pilot program next year to test positive train-control technology. And Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders told the Connecticut Post the railroad is also considering several bids for a pilot program to screen engineers for sleep disorders.
The Huntington Town Board voted Thursday to ask for a federal investigation into "allegations of unethical practices" against town board members, the ethics board and that panel's legal counsel.
The board also voted to ask the state comptroller's office to review and help strengthen the town's ethics code.
Board member Gene Cook, sponsor of the resolution for the federal investigation, said he has been inundated with requests from residents to ask federal authorities to look into possible ethical lapses in town.
Newsday reports that beginning last month questions were raised about receiverships and business relationships between board member Mark Cuthbertson and Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius. They also examined Cuthbertson's relationship with Robert Fonti, a property management consultant for the town and chairman of the Huntington Housing Authority.
Cuthbertson did not disclose the relationships before voting on town issues affecting Melius and Fonti.
On October 20, the four-member town ethics board found no "technical ethical violation" in Cuthbertson's vote for a zoning change that allowed a condominium development proposed by Melius. The board has not been asked to review Cuthbertson's vote to renew Fonti's consulting contract.
Suffolk County will receive $13.6 million in financing from Albany to fund upgrades to the Bergen Point Sewage Treatment Plant in West Babylon and make it more storm-resilient and efficient at wastewater treatment, officials said.
The structure is the first to benefit from the state's Storm Mitigation Loan Program since superstorm Sandy damaged key Long Island facilities two years ago. The funding is made possible through the federal Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013.
It consists of a combination of a $3.2 million grant and a $10.4 million no-interest loan for Suffolk County.
Officials said the project costs $14.5 million, with the balance being supplied through Suffolk County bonds and municipal contributions.
The project will improve the facility's outfall pumping system by replacing three pumping units and installing a new fourth pump, new electrical controls, mechanism systems and discharge piping, officials said. It should also expand treatment capacity and improve operational efficiency.
Thursday November 6:
In the news tonight: voters reject expanded absentee voting; Naugutuck voters offered choice of Obama or Romney, ten percent of CT healthcare clients may lose coverage,
Suffolk legislators vote for guns for correction officers; and voters select Neil Foley for the Brookhaven Town Board.
Connecticut voters appear to have rejected a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would have eased restrictions on absentee voting.
With 90 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday afternoon, 53 percent — voted “no” on the ballot question, and 47 percent voted “yes.” Final figures were not available as of late Wednesday afternoon.
Had it passed, the amendment would have given the legislature the authority to pass laws that would allow “no excuse” absentee voting, or allowing polls to be open on the Saturday before elections.
In the weeks leading up to Election Day, advocates said changing the Constitution could increase voter turnout by allowing people to vote early and make voting more accessible. Opponents feared the change would lead to voter fraud and endanger the state’s election process.
With the amendment’s defeat, absentee voting is allowed only when a voter is sick on Election Day, outside the district, serving in the military, or has a religious obligation that keeps him or her from the polls.
And in another election day story, some would-be voters in Naugatuck were handed ballots left over from the 2012 election according to WTNH News.
Michelle Moran, one of three voters who got the wrong ballots, arrived at her polling place early Tuesday.
Her ballot included the choice of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney for President.
She was planning to return later in the day to vote for this year’s candidates.
About 10% of Connecticut customers who obtained private medical insurance or Medicaid through Access Health CT will find their health insurance premiums increasing on December 1st because they will lose government subsidies or even coverage altogether on that day. As many as 30,000 are affected.
They're the result of applicants who failed to address discrepancies related to the income or citizenship information they provided when they applied for coverage. A 90-day grace period has now expired.
The federal government recently began using a similar process for the exchanges it runs. Verifying the income and immigration or citizenship status of people who get coverage under Obamacare has been a controversial issue nationally.
The terminations and subsidy adjustments could be a potential source of confusion in the coming weeks as the exchange begins the second sign-up period for private insurance under Obamacare. The new sign-up period starts November 15th.
Newsday reports:The Suffolk County Legislature added about $1.5 million to County Executive Steve Bellone's proposed $2.9 billion budget Wednesday, including a last-minute amendment to provide 200 correction officers with handguns while off duty.
The gun amendment will cost $115,000 and supply the correction officers with Glock 9-mm pistols to carry off-duty. It was approved unanimously.
The lawmakers also approved a multipronged resolution that would increase bus fares by 25 cents, to $2.25 for all regular rides, add health positions considered critical and raise sales tax revenue estimates by $9.6 million.
Bellone, a Democrat who has issued no budget vetoes in two years, is expected to decide whether to veto any budget changes by the legislature's Nov. 18 meeting.
Democrat Amy Keyes conceded defeat Wednesday in a special election to fill a vacancy on the Brookhaven Town Board, according to Newsday.
Unofficial tallies Wednesday afternoon showed Republican Neil Foley, a pharmaceuticals salesman and town board of zoning appeals member, had a 9,600 to 6,946 lead over Keyes, of East Patchogue, an executive assistant to County Executive Steve Bellone. The vote had yet to be certified by the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
Wednesday November 5:
In the news tonight: Urban voters decided the Connecticut Governor race, Connecticut incumbents win US House seats, Republican takes New York’s 1st Congressional District from 6 term incumbent, and east end baymen have a win as the scallop season starts.
Governor Dannel Malloy declared victory early today in his bitter rematch with Republican Tom Foley, not waiting for his challenger to concede what Democrats described as an unexpectedly comfortable victory.
Malloy led Foley by nearly 12,000 votes without including results from the Democratic bastions of New Haven and Hartford, according to his campaign spokesman, Mark Bergman.
Two Hartford polling places stayed open an extra half hour Tuesday after a ruling by a Hartford Superior Court Judge.
The order came after a number of Hartford polling places reported delayed openings, preventing some voters in the overwhelmingly Democratic capital city from casting ballots.
Governor Malloy’s campaign filed suit, asking that Hartford polls stay open an extra hour. An attorney for GOP challenger Tom Foley objected to extending the voting hours.
Connecticut voters returned all five Democratic incumbents to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Reps. John Larson, Joe Courtney and Rosa DeLauro coasted to victories in lopsided contests in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd districts, respectively;
Elizabeth Esty defeated Republican challenger Mark Greenberg in the 5th district; and Jim Himes fended off a well-funded challenge from Republican Dan Debicella in the 4th district..
In New Haven at least 50 people were turned away from same-day voter registration late Tuesday as more voters than expected took advantage of the state’s relatively new Election Day registration policy.
Lines stretched through City Hall, and wait times of more than 2 hours were reported.
The secretary of state issued an edict before the election saying that people had to be registered by 8 pm to vote.
An estimated 650 people registered and voted at City Hall. It took workers about 15 minutes to register each voter.
The large turnout was completely unexpected.
Yale students comprised a majority of the late registrants.
At one point, members of Yale a capella groups serenaded the voters. And renditions of Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time” and Ella Fitzgerald’s “Too Darn Hot,” also played to those in line.
Other Yale students worked for hours, handing out food and beverage donations from local businesses to discourage voters from leaving the line.
However, at 7:30 pm, voting officials informed the remaining people in line they would have to “shut down” at 8.
On Long Island, Republican Lee Zeldin of Shirley won the 1st Congressional District seat, defeating six term incumbent Tim Bishop of Southampton, with 55% of the vote.
In the heavily funded race, $15 million was spent by outside political groups funding largely negative ads.
Zeldin, an Iraq war vet, advocates sending an American general to Iraq to develop a strategy for fighting the Islamic State.
He told supporters as he declared victory ‘We took decisive action to fix America”
Winning re-elections were U.S. Representative Peter King in the 2nd District, a Republican, and Steve Israel in the 3rd District, a Democrat.
In a race for the State Senate 3rd district, Republican Tom Croci defeated Democrat Adrienne Esposito, an environmentalist.
For those hankering for a taste of the much-anticipated Peconic Bay scallops, the wait is over. The season kicked off yesterday and, according to all sources, this year’s bumper crop is sweet and bountiful.
Charlie Manwaring of the Southold Fish Market said “It’s a good harvest. We’ve seen far more already than we had last year.”
Manwaring said favorable conditions, such as the cold winter and a cool summer, had a lot to do with the abundant harvest. “We usually see baby scallops in April, and we didn’t see much then. A lot of what we’re catching must have been a late spawn. Mother Nature came in and did her thing.”
Tuesday November 4:
In the news tonight: sexual assaults up at Connecticut’s colleges, increased funding for scholarships at UConn, Suffolk Executive Bellone’s budget calls for more help and funds for agency helping victims of domestic violence
Newly released data show the number of sexual assaults on Connecticut college campuses jumped 25 percent in 2013 compared with the previous year,
Among 19 colleges and universities in the state, 104 assaults were reported last year, up from 83 in 2013.
The data on assaults was provided by the colleges, as required under a state law.
In 2013, the University of Connecticut in Storrs had the greatest number of reported sex assaults with 23, followed by Trinity College in Hartford with 21 and Yale University in New Haven with 12.
Trinity had the highest rate of assaults, with 8.8 per 1,000 students. Connecticut College in New London ranked second, with a rate of 4.7 per 1,000 students. Mitchell College in New London, Yale and UConn rounded out the top five colleges in terms of assault rates in 2013.
Just two colleges, Albertus Magnus in New Haven and the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, had no reported assaults last year.
The figures include only Connecticut schools that have on-campus housing.
The number of assaults reported on campuses has climbed over the past five years. There were 47 reported in 2009 and 83 in 2012.
The University of Connecticut's chief fundraising arm is on a roll, and many more students will get help paying for college as a result.
The foundation raised $81.1 million in donations in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, a $17.5 million boost, 0r 27.5 percent, over the previous fiscal year.
It is the highest level of giving to the University in the 50-year history of the UConn Foundation.
When lawmakers last year promised UConn millions more in state funding over the next decade to increase enrollment in science, technology and math majors, the UConn Foundation promised to find additional financial aid to support the added students.
Starting in the 2017-18 school year, the foundation must provide an additional $1.8 million in scholarships each year -- a sizable increase over the $8.8 million the foundation spent last school year. By 2024, the foundation is expected to increase the amount it spends on financial aid by $5 million a year.
This aid is in addition to that set aside from UConn tuition dollars.
Newsday reports: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone wants to add nine new positions to his office under his proposed budget, sparking criticism that he's making patronage hires at a time when county services remain stretched.
County officials say six other new employees in information technology would work primarily with the performance management team, an initiative Bellone started to try and make government more efficient.
The yearly salaries of the nine county positions, if fully staffed, total $438 thousand. The six IT positions would have salaries totaling $355 thousand.
The new jobs are among the 37 positions that would be added in the budget, which the county legislature will consider Wednesday.
The administration Monday defended the new positions, saying staffing in the executive's office is below recent levels.
The administration plans to immediately fund only three of the nine new positions in the office.
Some lawmakers criticized the new positions, noting that 1,100 county posts have been eliminated since 2012.
Legislator Kate Browning, a Working Familys Party member of Shirley, said "The message to county workers has been to do more with less. He needs to lead by example,"
But Legislator Tom Cilmi a Republican of West Islip said he backs the proposed performance management positions. But he questioned other jobs, particularly those in management. He said "Exempt positions are basically patronage positions".
The Retreat, an East End nonprofit serving victims of domestic violence,
is receiving $75 thousand in funding through the Federal Family
Violence Prevention and Services Act.
The money will support bilingual services, including a
hotline counselor, legal advocate and general counselor.
It will enable maintenance and expansion of core services for
English and Spanish speaking adult victims of domestic violence as well
as for children who have witnessed traumatic events and been
emotionally impacted by domestic violence.
The funds are awarded on an annual basis through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.domestic-violence-prevention-organization-receives-grant
Monday November 3:
In the news tonight: Connecticut voters will choose a Governor and decide on early voting; Eastern Long Island voters will choose a Congressman, and a rally for an offshore wind farm.
In a final televised confrontation, Republican Tom Foley aggressively pushed Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy on Sunday to match his 11th-hour promise to eliminate the state income tax on Social Security benefits and teacher pensions.
The two candidates met at WTNH in New Haven for a live one-hour forum, their last before voters go to the polls Tuesday.
Petitioning candidate Joe Visconti, who was not invited, quit the race after the debate Sunday and endorsed Foley.
Foley, a Greenwich businessman who predicts he will win by a solid margin, was the aggressor in the show’s opening minutes, repeatedly pressing the Democratic incumbent to endorse or repudiate Foley’s late surprise: a tax cut for retirees.
Malloy, 59, a former Stamford mayor, painted Foley’s pitch as borne of desperation, a late appeal to teachers and retirees that the governor said was a tacit acknowledgement Foley trails in the polls, a reference to a survey released Saturday showing Malloy with a three-point lead.
Malloy referred to his own proposal, now law: A 50-percent tax exemption on teacher pensions phased in over the next three years.
Connecticut voters will also decide Tuesday whether to allow the state legislature to amend the state’s restrictions on absentee or early voting.
The question on the ballot is: “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to remove restrictions concerning absentee ballots and to permit a person to vote without appearing at a polling place on the day of an election?”
The state Constitution now says voting is limited to “the day of the election” and absentee ballots can be used only under strict conditions. Those conditions are “an absence from the city or town of which they are inhabitants or because of sickness or physical disability or because the tenets of their religion forbid secular activity” when a religious holiday falls on Election Day.
Av Harris, spokesman for the Secretary of the State’s office said, Language to allow absentee ballots was put in the constitution to enfranchise Connecticut’s Civil War soldiers, then amended later in the 19th century to what it says today.
Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, is urging voters to support the measure. Republican rival Tom Foley hopes people vote “no."
Voters In eastern Long Island will decide whether to send Congressman Tim Bishop of Southampton, a Democrat, back to Washington.
Bishop, a former college official is challenged for the second time by Republican Lee Zeldin, of Shirley, a veteran of the Iraq war.
Newsday interviewed the candidates and has endorsed Zeldin.
Zeldin believes the president should send an American general to Iraq to develop a strategy for fighting the Islamic State, and that ISIS cannot be defeated by Syrian rebels and the Iraqis alone. He supports a role for U.S. special forces in any intervention.
Bishop, who voted for funding the military during the Iraq war, favors working with allies in the region to fight the Islamic State, and would not vote to send U.S. ground troops back to Iraq.
On climate change: Zeldin believes that individuals have a responsibility for environmental stewardship. He is not convinced that climate change is "as serious a problem" as some believe. Bishop believes climate change is real and we have a responsibility to act to mitigate it.
Zeldin favors a partial social security privatization to allow individuals to invest part of their contributions in the market. Bishop opposes privatization, which he says would increase both the debt and deficit.
Both support immigration reform. Bishop supports, and Zeldin opposes, a pathway to citizenship for people who arrived here illegally, but Zeldin does support a pathway to legalization.
Newsday reports: A meeting of the Long Island Power Authority Board last Thursday was packed with wind-farm supporters who want LIPA to approve a 35-turbine project 30 miles east of Montauk Point.
State legislators, including Assemblyman Steven Englebright of Setauket, urged LIPA to move ahead with the Deepwater Wind project to increase the region's renewable energy
Only one speaker, commercial fishing advocate Bonnie Brady of Montauk, spoke against the project, saying it would reduce fishing grounds and scar the sea bottom.
LIPA trustees will vote, in December, on a proposal for 280 megawatts of renewable power, which could include the wind farm. Officials said no decision had been made.