Monday, December 1, 2014

December 2014

Wednesday December 31(Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray):

In the news tonight, Quinnipiac University bans a fraternity, Connecticut’s minimum wage goes up beginning tomorrow, New York Governor Cuomo vetoed his own bill, and an audit showed Suffolk County overpaid a homeless shelter $1.42 million.


Quinnipiac University has banned the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity from campus, suspended two students and expelled another after a student conduct investigation revealed a hazing incident at the school, the Hartford Courant reports.

Lynn Bushnell, vice-president for student affairs at the school, said the university issued a cease and desist order prohibiting the fraternity from operating until the student conduct process is completed.

School officials would not elaborate on the incident, but said that one student was expelled as a result, two members were suspended and other TKE members were sanctioned as part of the investigation. Several more will face the student conduct process.

TKE is an all-male fraternity with almost 270 chapters located on college campuses throughout the United States and Canada, according to the website for the national chapter.

Alex Baker, a spokesman for the national chapter of TKE, said the fraternity was working with the university to hold any members involved "accountable for their actions."

Some Connecticut workers will get a raise tomorrow when the state’s minimum wage goes up to $9.15 per hour from $8.70 an hour.

The increase is the result of a new law Gov. Dannel Malloy signed earlier this year.  In 2016, it will go up to $9.60, and then to $10.10 on Jan. 1, 2017.

Malloy said Connecticut was the first state in the nation to commit to increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour because “we want to make sure that no one who works full time lives in poverty," according to the Connecticut Post.

Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman said for the 125,000 Connecticut women who earn at or just above the minimum wage, this increase is critical and it will help support families and improve women's future economic security.


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has vetoed a bill he negotiated to slow down the impact of the Common Core academic standards on teachers, saying circumstances made him change his mind.

In response, the state's largest teachers' union blasted Cuomo for a "flip flop" on the issue and scheduled a protest outside the Executive Mansion today as Cuomo hosted his annual New Year's open house, according to Newsday.

Earlier this month Cuomo questioned the credibility of evaluations that rated 98 percent of teachers statewide as "effective" or "highly effective. As a result, he said “it would make no sense to sign this bill and further inflate these already inflated ratings."

The New York State United Teachers, the state’s largest teachers' union, and the American Federation of Teachers said the governor “has decided that teachers are the only ones who should be held accountable for the state's failed implementation of the Common Core.”


According to audits by Suffolk County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, Suffolk County overpaid a Mastic homeless shelter $1.42 million from November 2006 through 2012, Newsday reports.
Never Alone, Never Afraid Inc. -- also known as NANA's House -- gave employees $570,000 in unapproved raises, and half went to the top four employees, who are related, Sawicki said.
Wendy Falanga-Smalls, executive director of the nonprofit, admitted mistakes were made but said the group never intentionally did anything wrong.

Sawicki said about $285,000 of the unauthorized raises went to the top four managers: Falanga-Smalls; her mother, Judith Cardella, assistant executive director; her father, John Cardella, former head of maintenance; and her husband, Herbert Smalls, associate program director.

Falanga-Smalls' salary went from $61,000 in 2006 to more than $91,000 in 2013, according to publicly available IRS records.

The audit showed the shelter also spent $323,000 more than allowed on administrative costs.  

The nonprofit has about 150 beds at 11 locations in Suffolk. 

Tuesday, December 30 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Paul Atkin and Mike Merli): 

In tonight’s news, Governor Malloy clarifies pay raises for his political appointees, and considers highway tolls to fund improvements to the state’s transportation system; Senate Republicans announce hearings into police safety and protection; and new audits show Southside Hospital overbilled Suffolk County, resulting in an overpayment of half a million dollars.


At a Capitol press conference Monday, Governor Malloy explained the $1.4 million in pay raises he gave to his political appointees the day after Christmas.
The 3- to 12-percent pay increases were included in the 2015 budget, and are part of the $31.6 million budget deficit.

Malloy said the salary increases, which included 12 percent raises for at least 36 of his 200 appointees, “are less than” what comparable positions in other branches received.

According to Malloy, many unionized state employees had received 5 percent pay increases at a time when his commissioners and political appointees had not received a raise at all.

Malloy added, “I was not going to have people work eight years at the same salary that they began in.”

Governor Malloy is considering highway tolls as a means of funding expensive upgrades to Connecticut’s aging transportation system. 

The list of projects the Governor has in mind includes: modernizing Metro-North; replacing aging bridges; and replacing or widening sections of the state’s major highways.

Although he did not explicitly endorse the idea of tolls, the governor now seems more willing to consider the prospect than he was when he was on the campaign trail. If the prospect becomes reality, it will be the first time in 30 years the state has had highway tolls.

Malloy said Monday, “The most important question is: Do the people of Connecticut want to have a world class transportation system?”

When he proposes the next two-year state budget in February, Malloy said he will also present a 25- to 30-year plan for making Connecticut’s transportation system competitive and comparable to other states.


The Albany Times-Union reports: New York Senate Republicans have announced two hearings in the wake of the shooting deaths of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. The hearings are said to take place in New York City and Albany, and will look into “police safety and protection.”

Following the killing of Eric Garner, Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a review of the criminal justice system.

Senate Republicans disagreed with the proposals some Democrats put forth, and offered their own approach.

Senator Marty Golden of Brooklyn said, “It is our belief that a review of the current structure of governance protecting our law enforcement officers must be conducted.”

The following committees will be participating in the hearings, and they will all have subpoena powers: Codes; Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections; Investigations and Government Operations; and Civil Service and Pensions.


Suffolk County overpaid more than $500,000 to Southside Hospital for running a health clinic from 2009 through 2011, according to audits by the county comptroller released Monday.

Newsday reports that the hospital improperly charged the county for resident physician services provided outside of the Brentwood Health Center or that the hospital couldn't attribute directly to the clinic.

Only 52 percent of county funding between 2010 and 2011 was supported by direct services at the health center, according an audit analysis.

"The county cannot be in the business of subsidizing physician salaries at Southside Hospital," Suffolk County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki said in an interview.

Southside Hospital's management disputed the findings and said the disagreement comes from differing interpretations of contract language.

 Monday December 29 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Melinda Tuhus)

In tonight’s news, energy issues create problems in both Connecticut and Long Island; and toxic dumping in Islip stirs concerns about state enforcement.


A fuel cell installed in a New Haven high rise apartment building is operating at half power, while the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority tries to figure out whether regulations allow the owenr to sell power from the fuel cell to residents of the 500 individual apartments, not just the common areas. Critics say it’s one example of Connecticut’s broken utility system.

They contend it is mired in a 1930s business model in which electricity is distributed from a central source. The more sold, the greater the profit. And even though the state’s two utilities are now deregulated and their revenues don't rely on the amount of electricity sold – they still are likely to view projects like the one in New Haven as threats.

But plans are in the works to change that. How to modernize the electric grid will be a major undertaking of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, beginning early next year.

There are questions about how best to integrate individual power systems, like the one at 360 State, into the overall electric system; how to make the grid resilient to climate change; how to make electricity less polluting; and how to help utilities re-invent what they do.


LIPA power supply charges spiked 81 percent between September and December even though natural gas prices increased far more modestly. That’s drawing new regulatory scrutiny of the authority and a promise from PSEG Long Island to address the problem shortly, Newsday reports. PSEG Long Island takes over the power markets function from LIPA in January.

The charge, which makes up about half of customers' electric bills, pays for the cost to fuel power plants and purchase energy from a range of power sources. LIPA defends the charge as the most stable of all New York electric utilities and purely a pass-through of actual costs. The charge hit 10.7 cents per kilowatt hour in December. In statements explaining the increases, 

LIPA has pointed to natural gas prices as the largest single factor in the increases. LIPA also notes that the charge includes amounts for undercollections in the prior two months, each of which also saw 20 percent-plus increases this fall.

The recent uproar over alleged illegal toxic dumping in and around Islip -- highlighted by criminal charges against six individuals -- could rivet new political attention on environmental enforcement.

Newsday reports that Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli this month released a 25-page report focused on challenges faced by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the D-E-C. 

It says a combination of "increased responsibilities, reduced staffing, and ongoing fiscal pressure raises questions regarding the DEC's capacity to carry out its critical functions."

In response, DEC spokesman Tom Mailey said, "This administration has devoted more than $16 billion for infrastructure, resiliency, clean energy and environment programs, while also investing in new technologies and streamlined management systems to make this agency more efficient. The fact remains that this is the boldest commitment of resources and attention to the state's environment in recent history."

Meanwhile, departing Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee chairman Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) has asked for a new state probe of illegal dumping.


Friday, December 26 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Paul Atkin, Mike Merli and Kristiana Pastir):

In the news tonight: Frontier officials field customer complaints at meeting, leading Connecticut economist suggests way to lessen federal taxes, Veterans Way families sue over dumping near homes, and East End Police Departments to get boost in funding.

Frontier Communications customers voice their complaints directly to company officials Monday at a state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority meeting held to address the conversion from AT&T to Frontier that began October 25.

Half a dozen Frontier customers addressed PURA commissioners and the five senior Frontier officials. Most complained of lingering service problems. While some appreciated the company’s effort to fix problems, others were less forgiving.

More than 2,000 customers have lodged formal complaints with the state.

But Frontier has made several changes to improve service. Senior vice president and Connecticut general manager Paul Quick said technicians who previously worked for AT&T have received additional training, and the company has hired more call center employees. 

PURA Chairman Arthur House asked officials why they didn’t better anticipate the problems. Quick said, “We thought we were prepared. I don’t think we imagined that the call center would get that many calls.”

PURA Commissioner and Vice Chairman John Betkoski said Monday’s meeting was merely an inquiry, not an investigation.

Fred Carstensen, head of University of Connecticut’s Center for Economic Analysis, has proposed a two-step effort that could save taxpayers millions in federal taxes each year while also providing state officials access to new economic data.

The first step in Carstensen’s plan would repeal a popular state income tax credit, sending an estimated $214 million back to the state. The second step would involve giving back to residents through a sales tax rebate.

Currently, households can deduct state income taxes from their federal tax returns, but they would not be required to report their sales tax rebate to the federal government.

New Haven Democrat William Dyson is co-chair on a new state tax study panel and believes there is widespread opposition to ending the property tax credit. A 2011 Quinnipiac University survey showed nearly seventy-five percent of the state was against ending the property tax credit. 

Fellow co-chair, former Senator William Nickerson, believes it is too early to predict the proposal’s outcome.

The state’s tax study is expected to last at least two years.

Four Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans filed a lawsuit Monday over toxic chemicals dumped near their home, built to thank them for their service

Thomas Datre, Sr., his son Thomas Datre, Jr., and several of their companies are named as defendants. 

Veterans Way is an Islandia subdivision built in 2013 while Thomas Datre, Sr. was President of the Long Island Home Builders Care Corp, a charity-based wing of the Long Island Builders Institute.

According to the lawsuit, the Dantres arranged for the dumping of materials containing “pesticides, heavy metals, petroleum products, volatile and semi volatile compounds” during the building of the subdivision.

Attorney Kevin Kearon, representing the defendants, stated, “There is nothing wrong with Veterans Way.”

So far, the Home Builders Care Corp has spent over $350,000 removing contaminated waste and an additional $20,000 conducting new tests around each home in the subdivision.

Starting in 2015, local police budgets in Suffolk County will benefit from an additional $1 million of sales tax revenue.

East End legislators have pledged to continue upping the county’s support of small police departments—most of which are on the East End—over the next three years.

The funding comes from the county’s sales tax revenues, used to offset property tax revenues to support the Suffolk County Police Department, which patrols most of the western half of the county. 

On the East End, which generates a large portion of the sales tax revenues for the county, most municipalities have their own police departments.

The shift in the county’s contributions was made possible by cutting the $40 million in sales tax money directed to the Suffolk County Police Department, replaced, in part, by new revenues from red light cameras that have generated nearly $30 million a year.

County Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk said he will try to protect this agreement, but he is in his last term as a legislator. 

 Wednesday December 24(Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray):

In the news tonight, Connecticut political appointees get raises, a Bridgeport principal is arrested, deer season is extended in Suffolk County and the East End will get water pollution alerts.


The holidays will be merrier for about 200 appointees of Connecticut Gov. Daniel P. Malloy and other state officials, who are getting raises ranging from three percent to 12 percent - and will cost the state $1.4 million dollars annually.

The raises were announced Wednesday by Ben Barnes, who oversees the budget as the secretary of policy and management and is Malloy’s top political appointee.  His salary will jump by 12 percent.  All the raises will take effect on Dec. 26.

For Barnes, the top-paid political appointee, and other top officials, the raises are the first since joining the Malloy administration.  After the raises, the highest-paid commissioners will be making a little more than $190,000 a year.

The raises were pegged to years of service, with most officials getting a three percent raise for each year they have held their current job.

The salary hikes came a month after the administration ordered $48 million dollars in emergency spending cuts and restricted hiring and purchasing to help offset a projected budget shortfall.

Unionized state employees received a three percent increase in July, and managerial employees received salary increases of three percent in August.

Malloy and other elected officials will not get raises.


Bridgeport officials said Wednesday an elementary school principal was arrested and charged with larceny after an audit revealed that $10,000 from a school fundraising account was spent at the Mohegan Sun casino.

Marilyn Taylor, 46, of Milford, was charged with first-degree larceny. She was the principal at Dunbar School.

Bridgeport police launched an investigation after an audit by the city's board of education found issues with the school's fundraising account.

Interim Superintendent of Schools Fran Rabinowtiz told the Hartford Courant that Taylor would not be returning to the school.

Taylor was arrested by Bridgeport police on Dec. 19.  She was released after posting $20,000 bond and will appear in Superior Court on Jan. 2.


The Riverhead News Review reported today that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has developed a new system to alert the public of sewage pollution discharges from treatment plants.

Just a few weeks ago partially treated sewage discharged into the Peconic River from Riverhead’s sewage treatment plant due to a mechanical failure.

The new DEC system will alert the public within four hours of any discharge that exceeds the permitted amounts beginning on January 15th.

Discharge information will available via the state’s official NY-Alert system, used by state agencies and municipalities to send out calls, text messages and smart phone notifications about public safety concerns.

Residents can sign up for the notifications at

Riverhead’s sewage plant is one of four treatment plants on the North Fork.  The others are located in in Greenport Village, Shelter Island and Plum Island.


New York State has extended the special firearms deer hunting season in Suffolk to include weekends and has extended the bowhunting season through Jan. 31.

The state commissioner of environmental conservation announced the extension Wednesday.

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said the expanded hunting seasons are neeeded to better manage the increasing deer populations in Suffolk County.  Prior to the changes, the bowhunting season in Suffolk ended Dec. 31 and the special firearms season, established in 2012, was weekdays only.

The new law also clarifies the town permit requirements and landowner permission requirements.

Martens said that law will allow additional access opportunities for hunters on state land.

Tuesday December 23 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Mike Merli and Kristiana Pastir):

In the news tonight: Malloy names Senator Ayala as his first Latino commissioner; possible expansion of casino gaming in Connecticut remains uncertain; New York’s highest court upholds a law banning commercial signs from public land; and a new telephone area code for Suffolk County.


On Monday, Senator Andres Ayala, Jr. was named the next commissioner of motor vehicles, making him the first Hispanic department head in Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration.

Ayala, a Democrat representing Bridgeport and Stratford, declined an administration post in Malloy's first term.

The 45-year-old senator would take over the DMV as it implements a state law that allows immigrants who have no legal status in the U.S. to obtain special drivers' licenses.

The Connecticut Mirror reported that Malloy said he thinks the timing of “the appointment of a Latino commissioner fluent in Spanish… sends an important message to a large segment of our population, both documented and undocumented, that Connecticut is a state in which we will treat all of our residents fairly.”

The governor has faced growing pressure from Hispanic groups about the lack of Latino representation in his administration’s top ranks.

Ayala cannot begin the new job until his legislative term expires January 7. A special election to fill his Senate seat is expected in February.


Six weeks ago, Mohegan tribal chairman Kevin Brown expressed the tribe’s interest in opening one or more new casinos in Connecticut.

Mohegan Sun officials assert their goal is to maintain the jobs and economic revenue threatened by development of nearby out-of-state casinos.

MGM Resorts International is developing an $800 million casino in Massachusetts, and two other casinos recently opened in Rhode Island.

Currently, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods employ about 8,000 and 5,500 people, respectively, and contribute 25 percent of their annual video slot revenue into the state, a number which has dropped from $430 million to a projected $279 million in the past seven years.

Since the tribe’s announcement, reaction has been mixed, with some opponents calling for a new study on gambling addiction.

Representative Peggy Sayers has been the most vocal state legislator to voice support for new casinos. Sayers believes the casinos opening up in neighboring states are a threat to Connecticut’s economy, and the decline in video slots revenue is evidence.

Sayers wants other legislators to consider allowing casino games at places such as the Bradley Teletheater, adjacent to the Bradley International Airport, as well as other off-track-betting locations in Bridgeport and New Haven.


In a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeals voted last week to uphold a Brookhaven town law that bans commercial signs from public property.

The decision overturned last year’s appellate court ruling in favor of On Sight Mobile Opticians. That company, at the center of the case, was originally charged with illegally advertising along a town highway.

Supervisor Edward Romaine announced the Court of Appeals decision during a town board meeting, saying, “The court agreed that this is publicly owned land, and people cannot use it to advertise their personal or political or commercial messages.”

The Court of Appeals ruling has left the attorney for On Sight, Raymond Negron, confused about the details of Section 57A-11 of the town sign code. Negron said, “Although you can be guilty for 57A-11, you can’t fine anybody for it.”

The town of Brookhaven currently has one person working to remove signs in violation of the ordinance, and plans to hire an additional part-time employee next month.


On Thursday, the New York State Public Service Commission announced 934 will be Suffolk County’s second area code, alongside 631.

The new 934 area code is not scheduled to take effect until late 2016, when the state is expected to have exhausted all possible telephone numbers for the 631 area code.

The state chose to implement an overlay zone method, as opposed to a geographical split. Once new numbers take effect, all telephone subscribers in Suffolk County will be required to dial the complete number when making a call, including (and within the same) area code.

The commission hopes this new method will be less expensive for businesses, who will not have to change their contact information on any advertising.

The addition of the new 934 area code raises New York State’s total number of telephone area codes to 16.


Monday December 22 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Melinda Tuhus):

In tonight’s news, a protest in Hartford against police violence stirred controversy; two top Democratic Party operatives resign; two towns in the Hamptons ban single use plastic bags; and a state grant supports retraining of veterans in green construction jobs.


More than 200 people marched to the state Capitol on Saturday afternoon as part of ongoing protests against the police killings of unarmed black males, including Michael Brown and Eric Garner. The Hartford marchers were escorted by Hartford police to the Capitol.

The rally, which was largely peaceful, wasn’t without controversy, after police cited one of the speakers for using a bullhorn, saying he was in violation of the city’s noise ordinance.  The Rev. Jarmaine Lee said he had used a bullhorn many times in the past without being cited and added, 

“Today is the first time I have ever been told you cannot use a bullhorn on the state Capitol grounds in a peaceful protest,” Lee said.

The event was organized by Connecticut United Against Mass Incarceration and UConn Students in collaboration with Mothers United Against Violence. Organizers told participants they must be prepared to keep marching for justice.


Nancy DiNardo is ending a decade as Connecticut Democratic state chairwoman next month and is expected to be succeeded by her vice chair, Nick Balletto, with the backing of the recently re-elected Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. DiNardo, one of the nation's longest-serving state chairs, is leaving on a high note, but her departure also comes at a time of sweeping transition since Jonathan Harris, the executive director, also is leaving.

The state's majority party is coming off an impressive statewide victory, building an infrastructure that helped Malloy overcome tepid job-approval ratings to win a second term with 51 percent of the vote. He is the first Democratic governor elected in a generation.

The choice of DiNardo's successor is up to the 72-member Democratic State Central Committee, but the committee usually defers to the wishes of a sitting governor. Malloy issued a statement supporting Balletto, who served as Democratic town chairman of New Haven from 1996 to 2002. The city is the party's single largest source of votes. 

Southampton and East Hampton towns both voted to ban the use of single-use plastic grocery store bags Thursday night, making it a punishable offense for stores there to offer plastic bags to their customers. The Southampton rule will go into effect on Earth Day, April 22, 2015, while the East Hampton rule will go into effect on Sept. 22, 2015, five months after Earth Day. In both towns, any retailer caught breaking the ban will be fined up to $1,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 15 days.

The decision proved most controversial in Southampton, where two councilmembers voted against it and three voted for it. One opponent, Christine Scalera., said she believed education campaigns about the environmental benefits of reusable bags have proven effective at changing Southampton residents’ shopping behavior. Calling the move an “overreach of government,” she said that amount of plastic bags found in recent beach cleanups has plummeted 67 percent, while recycling at the town transfer stations has increased 43 percent due to education. The other councilmember voting no said he believes the move will be detrimental to the business community and could open the town up to litigation, while the one who introduced the ordinance, Councilman Brad Bender, said he believes the ban will help reduce blight and will reduce the danger to fish and other wildlife from ingesting plastic bags.


A program to train military veterans in the high-tech skills of the green construction industry won a recent boost with a $200,000 state grant, Newsday reports. The VetsBuild Long Island program is run by the United Way of Long Island, in conjunction with the United Veterans Beacon House of Bay Shore, a not-for-profit that works with veterans.

So far, it's trained about 140 veterans in basic construction skills along with more complicated techniques to work in the burgeoning green construction field, which emphasizes energy efficiency and eco-friendly materials.

The state earlier this month awarded the grant to the VetsBuild program as part of $82 million in aid for Long Island projects under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's Regional Economic Development Councils.

Friday December 19 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Paul Atkin):

In the news tonight: A group of Connecticut communities want to build gigabit broadband, Connecticut’s economy continues to add jobs, New York State releases draft medical marijuana regulations, and a recent nor'easter delays start of Montauk Beach project.


CNET reports that a consortium of 46 Connecticut municipalities, representing about half the state's population, wants to build an ultrahigh-speed broadband network capable of gigabit upload and download speeds. 

The cities are working with private entities to form a public partnership that will build the network and ultimately offer the service throughout the region. Officials hope this will spur competition and lead to higher-speed service at lower prices. 

AT&T has already launched a gigabit fiber network in Austin, Texas, and is one of the providers involved in a similar project in North Carolina. Google is also eyeing that region for expansion of its broadband network.

Smaller operators have also begun building gigabit broadband networks. In 2013, regional wireless carrier C Spire announced plans for such a network in Mississippi. And like Google, C Spire will offer the service at more affordable prices.

There's no guarantee that a major broadband company will bid to be a part of Connecticut's plan, but CNET reports that the strong interest among cities to work with the private sector is a good sign. 


A monthly report released Thursday morning from the Labor Department estimates that Connecticut added 4,600 jobs, a third consecutive month of job growth. This comes despite an unemployment rate at a slightly higher 6.5 percent in November.

The unemployment rate increased from 6.4 percent, but is still 1 percentage point beneath November 2013’s 7.5 percent rate.

Labor Department research office director Andy Condon said better-than-average growth ahead of the holiday season helped drive people into the labor market.

According to the report, the state has recovered 78.3 percent of jobs lost during the recession, regaining 93,200 of the 119,000 lost jobs. Connecticut has also recovered 92 percent of private sector jobs, leaving the sector 9,000 jobs short of a full recovery.

But the recovery has not extended to the government sector, where the state continues to post small losses. The sector dropped 100 jobs in November, but the government supersector has lost a net 9,800 jobs throughout the recovery.


Times Union reports that the Cuomo administration released draft regulations of New York State’s new medical marijuana program on Thursday.

This marks a key step toward the ability of business owners to begin applying to be one of the five companies allowed to operate a medical marijuana grow and dispensary operation in the state.

Among the proposed regulations are requirements for only Department of Health registered doctors and pharmacists to be eligible to prescribe and dispense marijuana. And companies will have to provide the Department of Health blueprints of every aspect of the business when they apply.

The regulations follow what Governor Cuomo had wanted when he approved the legislation: Marijuana will not be available to smoke. The state health commissioner will approve other delivery methods such as vaporization, edibles, and pills. 


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is delaying an emergency beach-renourishment project planned for downtown Montauk following erosion from a nor'easter on Dec. 9 and 10.

Work to bury thousands of sandbags to fortify the beach is now likely to begin in February or March instead of January, and probably won't be finished by the time the tourism season starts on Memorial Day, East Hampton Town officials said.

Representative Tim Bishop said damage from the nor'easter could expand the amount of sand necessary for the project by 25 percent. He said he supported halting any work during the summer.

"The economy of Montauk is rooted in the availability of the beaches," he said. "If there's a major construction project going on, it's not going to help the economy."

The plan called for pouring 51,000 cubic yards of sand into the bags and another 20,000 on top, to reverse years of chronic erosion and severe damage left by superstorm Sandy in October 2012.


 Thursday December 18 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Nadine Dumser):

In the news tonight, another electric power rate increase, Connecticut gets funds to re-design health care, New York State bans fracking; Off-shore wind farm rejected but solar projects approved.


Connecticut utility regulators have approved increased fixed rate charges that Connecticut Light & Power customers pay from $16 to $19.25 per month as reported by the New Haven Register.

The ruling will allow CL&P to recover about $130 million from ratepayers 

In addition to the increase in the fixed rate service charge, customers will see an additional increase based on the amount of power used, because of rising costs in the regional energy market.

Connecticut’s U.S. Senator. Richard Blumenthal called the regulators’ final ruling “disappointing and unconscionable.” He said the utility’s fixed charge for residential users will now be the highest in New England and burdensome for low-income and elderly users.


Connecticut will receive $45 million in federal funds to redesign the state’s health care payment and delivery systems.

The funding is part of $620 million awarded to 11 states under the federal Affordable Care Act 

Connecticut’s redesign effort has a wide range of goals, including improving the health of Connecticut residents, eliminating disparities in health between different groups, improving the quality of care and access to it, and lowering costs.

To do it, planners are focusing on improving primary care and changing the way health care providers are paid, establishing a set of standards for quality, health equity and patient experience that will be used by private insurers and public coverage programs.

The Albany-Times Union reports: 
New York’s acting state Health Department Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said Wednesday morning he would not recommend high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the state.

While Zucker took pains to point out that the data on long-term impacts of  hydrofracking is not fully conclusive, he turned personal in his decision.

He said “Would I live in a community with HVHF (high-volume hydraulic fracturing) based on the facts I have now?  Would I let my child play in the school field nearby, or my family drink the water from the tap or grow their vegetables in the soil?  After looking at a plethora of reports … my answer is no.”

The decision comes after 4,500 hours of study by the department. The health review was initially requested in 2012.

Governor Cuomo said he would be bound to whatever the “experts” decided  “because I am not in a position to second-guess them with my expertise.” 

And he said the decision is not political. “It can’t be political — it’s after the election.”

The question of whether or not to allow hydrofracking has been on the state’s plate since 2008, when then-Governor David Paterson charged DEC with completing a report on the technique before it could issue permits for drilling. 

By 2009, DEC had issued a draft report recommending fracking could be allowed with extensive safeguards in place. There have been other key timeline points along the way, perhaps none more important than the state Court of Appeals decision earlier this year to uphold locally passed fracking bans.


Newsday reports: The Long Island Power Authority will pursue 11 large solar-power arrays in Suffolk County to expand its green-energy sources by 2016 but has rejected an offshore wind farm because of its cost.

On Wednesday, LIPA trustees voted to authorize solar projects in Calverton, Manorville, East Shoreham, Medford, Yaphank, and Kings Park.

The arrays would provide 122 megawatts of power from hundreds of thousands of solar panels when completed in 2016. That's short of the original bid proposal for 280 megawatts of green energy.

Critics at the meeting chastised LIPA for failing to commit to the full 280 megawatts.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine said that none of the sites in Brookhaven appeared to be suitable for siting solar arrays. He stated, “I am emphatically opposed to the widespread clearing of trees for solar arrays."

Dozens of wind-energy advocates expressed dismay that the offshore project didn't make the cut.

LIPA board member Mark Fischl said he supported the wind energy proposal but voted against it because of its significantly higher costs.


Wednesday December 17 (thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray):

In the news tonight, Connecticut proposes new stormwater regulations, Suffolk County adds funding to East End police departments with sales tax money and a new study says Long Islanders may leave because of housing costs


Local officials in Connecticut warned Tuesday that new antipollution regulations proposed by the state of Connecticut to control stormwater runoff could cost cities and towns $100 million. 

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities said the proposed regulations amount to a massive "unfunded mandate" on taxpayers, according to the Hartford Courant.

Dennis Schain, spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said the Environmental Protection Agency is requiring states to improve stormwater programs that reduce pollution in municipal catch basins and storm sewers and eventually empties into the Long Island Sound. The proposals are supported by groups like the Connecticut Fund for the Environment.

Recommended changes include sweeping roads twice a year to cut down on salt, chemicals and sand that wash into streams and rivers, inspections of storm drain systems, and sampling storm runoff for pollution.

A hearing was held today in Hartford on the proposed regulations.

South Windsor Town Manager Matt Galligan said total additional expenses for all cities and towns could reach $100 million or more.  Wallingford Mayor William Dickinson said cities and towns "become a convenient scapegoat" for state officials who don't want to ask the General Assembly for millions more in funding for stormwater cleanup projects.


More than three-quarters of Long Islanders are concerned that family members may leave the Island because of high housing costs, and a record 56 percent said they are "somewhat or very likely" to leave in the next five years -- the highest response in the decade since the Long Island Index first asked that question.

According to the latest survey sixty percent said0 they have difficulty meeting monthly rent or mortgage payments, and 37 percent of those ages 18 to 34 said they live with family members, a record high for the survey, which was released Wednesday.

The Long Island Index -- which researches and reports on regional issues -- is a project of the nonprofit Rauch Foundation. The questions about housing-costs have been asked in eight other surveys since 2004, according to a report in Newsday.

The telephone survey was conducted from Aug. 13 to Oct. 16, with calls both to landlines and cellphones.  It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

The survey showed support for alternative housing, with 58 percent supporting zoning changes in some downtowns to allow apartments above stores, and 52 percent said they could imagine themselves or family members living in an apartment, condo or town house in a local downtown.

Ann Golob, director of the index, said despite concerns about high housing costs, she is "hopeful" about the support shown for alternative housing options.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone says the county will funnel additional money to East End town and village police departments over the next three years.

Suffolk has budgeted $7.6 million for 2015 in sales tax distribution, $1 million more than in 2014.  Bellone was expected to announce Wednesday that he will commit to budgeting $8.6 million in 2016 and $9.6 million in 2017 for local police departments. 

Legislator Jay Schneiderman (Independent of Montauk) said "For the first time in a long time, we are seeing a fair distribution of sales tax for police services across the county."

East End lawmakers have complained for several years that the county's distribution of sales tax money shortchanged their police departments.  The Suffolk County Police District covers only the five western towns. The county also provides services to the towns and villages for major crimes such as homicides.

Bellone spokesman Justin Meyers told Newsday that Bellone "has created a fair plan in order to move Suffolk forward in a fair and equitable way."

However, he would not provide specifics on how Bellone planned to make up for any shortfalls created by the additional law enforcement spending on the East End.


Tuesday, December 16: 

In the news tonight:  Sandy Hook shooting victim’s mother sues weapon manufacturer,

another Long Island housing and retail development and a million awarded for wrongful arrest. 

The second anniversary of the December 14, 2012, massacre of 26 women and children at Sandy Hook Elementary School was marked in Connecticut by litigation, prayer and politics.

On Friday, Nicole Hockley became a plaintiff on behalf of her son Dylan, a victim. Sunday she spent with family and friends.   On Monday, she spoke at a press event. 

Hockley stood in a hearing room at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford with Mark Barden, another Sandy Hook parent, U.S. Senators. Blumenthal and Murphy, Representative Elizabeth Esty and others to talk about how to curb the 32,000 gun deaths in the U.S. every year.

She says she refuses to see school shootings and other gun-death violence as random events and  “Every gun-related death is a preventable death."

Hockley and Barden were among the plaintiffs to file suit in Superior Court in Bridgeport against the companies that manufactured, distributed and sold the AR-15 rifle used in the attack. The suit, filed on behalf of 10 victims, claims negligence, saying the AR-15 was based on a military design, and it is irresponsible to sell it for civilian use.

Nancy Lanza legally bought a Bushmaster rifle in 2010 at Riverview Gun Sales in East Windsor. Her 20-year-old son, Adam Lanza, killed her, then took the rifle and 10, 30-round magazines to Sandy Hook Elementary.

In about five minutes, he fired 154 rounds at the school, mostly in two first-grade classrooms, killing 26 and wounding two before taking his own life with a handgun.

The suit filed by a Bridgeport law firm, names Bushmaster Firearms International as a defendant, along with Riverview Gun Sales, its owner, and the gun distributor. 

Bushmaster and Riverview did not respond to CT Mirror’s requests for comment Monday.

On Monday, Hockley and Barden urged the public to remember Sandy Hook and to act. She and the others were not rallying behind a specific bill or proposal. They spoke about a push for programs and policies about mental health and school safety, not just gun control.


State officials have awarded a $1.5 million economic development grant to a Yaphank multiuse development to be built at the site of the shuttered Parr Meadows racetrack.

The grant -- which will help fund construction of a boulevard, a hotel and a sewage treatment plant at the Meadows at Yaphank residential and retail complex -- was one of 97 Long Island projects awarded state aid worth $82 million last week.

Construction on the project's first phase -- including 240 luxury apartments -- began earlier this year and is expected to be completed in 2016, a spokesman for the developer said.

Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association business group and co-vice chairman of the 

Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, says the Meadows will be "a great mixed-use project that could accommodate housing needs of researchers and other employees at Brookhaven National Laboratory."

A federal jury awarded an East Quogue woman $1.1 million Friday, for pain and suffering following her arrest for taking pictures outside a military base.

According to Newsday, Nancy Genovese said she was treated like a terrorist during and after her arrest in 2009 for snapping pictures outside the Air National Guard base in Westhampton Beach. 

Genovese was held in the Riverhead jail for four nights in lieu of $50,000 bail. She was strip-searched and determined to be a suicide risk. Her lawyer said the ordeal left her with symptoms of PTSD.

She had been charged with trespassing. The misdemeanor charge was later dropped. 

There will be a second trial to determine if there should also be punitive damages. 

Genovese said she now wants to start a foundation to help people fight wrongful arrests.


Monday, December 15, 2014 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Melinda Tuhus and Tony Ernst):

In the news tonight, activists carry out an action to oppose gas pipeline expansion in the region, a woman on Long Island was awarded over a million dollars in a wrongful arrest case; and Riverhead rejects a farm-based solar installation. 


Grassroots groups from four states along the proposed route for an energy company’s fracked gas pipeline expansion project, which cuts through New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, are holding a coordinated “Week of Respect and Resistance,” with actions from December 13 – December 19 in opposition to the project. One was held this morning in Cromwell, Connecticut. WPKN’s Mt reports:   

Two activists with Capitalism versus the Climate locked themselves to a plywood bridge they had constructed, and blocked the entrance to a compressor station owned by Spectra. Others held a banner saying, “Fracked gas is a bridge to nowhere,” in contradiction to the industry’s and government’s claim that it is a bridge to a clean energy future. Before being arrested, Vic Lancia of Middletown, explained why he was there.


Most New England governors say more pipelines are needed to get more gas into the region, which they say will lower prices. These activists say we should be focusing on renewables  -- which are becoming or already are price-competitive with fossil fuels – and not lock in dirty, climate-destroying fuels for decades to come.

Lancia and Dan Fischer were charged with 3 misdemeanors and were released on a promise to appear.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.


Newsday reports: The Montaukett Indian Nation is losing patience in its effort to restore its state recognition more than a year after Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed legislation that would have started the process. 

Montaukett chief Robert Pharaoh said last week he’s heard nothing since Secretary of State Cesar Perales told the tribe they were researching a "legal framework" to recognize the tribe at an unspecified time.

A 1910 state court ruling declared the tribe effectively extinct and paved the way for the disputed transfer of thousands of acres of tribal lands to private hands in East Hampton Town. 

The Montauketts and historians have consistently rejected the legality of those transfers.

A State spokesman said the agency was preparing a thorough evaluation of pertinent facts to “determine whether recognition of the Montauketts is warranted", and the agency expects to begin requesting information from stakeholders "within the next few months."

The Shinnecock and Unkechaug tribes on Long Island were recognized by the state since they had government to government relations with the prior colonial authorities - as did the Montauketts.   

State recognition would allow the Montauketts to receive state health and education programs.

Mr. Pharaoh, the Montaukett leader, says the tribe only wants to keep their culture and ways of life alive. They want to build a museum and cultural center in Montauk, with their own funding.


The Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals has rejected a Northville farm’s variance request to erect solar panels that would have been used to sell energy back to power provider PSEG-LI.

The application from Plant Connection, which is owned by Melissa Daniels and Anthony Caggiano, had sought to construct solar panels on a 10-acre portion of its 40-acre nursery on Sound Avenue. That section of the property cannot be farmed because of prior contamination of roundworms known as nematodes.
The ZBA voted 4-0 in opposition of the variance request. 
ZBA chairman Fred McLaughlin said granting a use variance so soon after the Town Board approved legislation limiting solar energy systems to industrial zones would set a precedent that could open the door to other such applications throughout the town.
During a public hearing earlier this year, members of the Long Island Farm Bureau urged the town to allow solar panels in farm zones and said the renewable energy projects would provide additional revenue to keep farms in business.
The Town Board decided to limited solar panels to industrial zones in order to prevent farmland from being overwhelmed by solar panel farms.
Friday December 12: (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kristiana Pastir, Paul Atkin and Tony Ernst)

In the news tonight: Connecticut police struggle to hire more minority officers, Tenet ends bid to acquire five Connecticut hospitals, and headlines from around New York State.


Despite efforts to recruit more minority officers, there are still large discrepancies between the ethnic makeup of the state’s largest cities and towns and their police forces, according to a Connecticut Mirror analysis.

Nearly 39 percent of Hartford’s population is black, while only 12 percent of its police force is. New Britain has a nearly 37 percent Latino population but only about 7 percent of its police officers are Hispanic. Nearly 29 percent of Meriden’s population is black, but about 8 percent of its police officers are African-American.

Police chiefs and civil rights advocates say a big obstacle in making the police force mirror a community’s racial and ethnic makeup is that qualified minority candidates often reject police work.

Misconceptions also hurt minority recruitment. New Britain Police Chief James Wardwell said many youths don’t think they can serve because of prior arrests. But only those convicted of certain crimes are disqualified.

Others think they don’t have enough schooling. But most Connecticut police forces require only a high school diploma or GED.

Police departments in Bridgeport, New Haven and Norwalk are among the most diverse in the state, the Connecticut Mirror analysis showed.


Ten days after the Connecticut Office of Health Care Access proposed setting strict controls over staffing, services and pricing as a condition of approving Tenet Healthcare Corporation’s application to buy Waterbury Hospital, Tenet notified state regulators Thursday it was withdrawing its applications to buy five hospitals in Connecticut.

This decision ended a two-year effort by the national for-profit hospital chain to enter the Connecticut market. Tenet had made offers to buy both of the city's hospitals in a partnership with Yale-New Haven Hospital, as well as hospitals in Bristol, Manchester and Vernon.
The withdrawal is a financial blow to struggling Waterbury Hospital, which is projected to lose $10 million next year, and needs more than $50 million for overdue capital improvements. Tenet planned to covert the hospital from a non-profit to a for-profit institution. 
The withdrawal is likely to be a major political and fiscal complication for Governor Malloy’s administration, the General Assembly and Waterbury, where its two hospital are a crucial source of jobs.

Here are some headlines from around New York State as reported by the Albany Times-Union and Newsday:

* Governor Cuomo announced about $709 million in state economic development awards on Thursday. The 2014 allocation for Nassau and Suffolk counties will be divided among 97 projects, including $4 million toward sewer work in eight Suffolk County communities, $1.5 million to convert a Huntington Station armory into a community center, and $4.7 million for a commercial building in the Wyandanch Rising blight-removal project.

* Public Employees Federation President Susan Kent on Thursday called for an end to one of Governor Cuomo's favored public works strategies: the streamlined "design-build" process that's been used on infrastructure projects like roads and bridges. During a hearing convened by the Assembly Transportation Committee, Kent said local small construction companies are not benefiting. Her remarks came with a good dose of criticism for Wall Street and large corporations, but also as the law allowing the design-build approach is scheduled to sunset this month. Lawmakers will need to renew the law if it is to be used on future projects.

* The Governor said Thursday that state lawmakers had shown little interest in backing his call for substantial ethics reforms, reducing the likelihood that he will agree to give them a pay increase.

* Transgender people and advocates praised Cuomo’s move to require insurance companies to cover gender reassignment surgery, hormone therapy and other gender transition treatments. 

* Flu is now prevalent statewide. That means health care workers must wear masks if they have not been vaccinated.

* With speculation mounting that the long-awaited state Health Department study on fracking could be released soon, two health groups sent the governor some light reading: a telephone book-sized compilation of studies citing its potential risks. The groups — Concerned Health Professionals of New York, and Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Health Energy — pulled together information on a growing body of health studies that have been issued since 2009, when the state Department of Environmental Conservation first issued its potential environmental roadmap for fracking.


 Thursday, December 11 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser, Tony Ernst and Scott Harris)
In the news tonight: Newtown, Connecticut families join lawmakers to renew their call for new federal gun background check laws; More than 300,000 Connecticut households will struggle to pay for heat this winter; New research says that African-American and Latino mortgage borrowers face higher denial rates than whites – and New York State Education Commissioner John King, is leaving his job to become a senior adviser to Education Secretary Arne Duncan

On Wednesday, senators and other lawmakers joined Newtown, Connecticut families and victims of gun violence from across the nation in renewing their call for new federal gun laws at a press conference in Washington.

Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy are distributing pins to their fellow senators bearing the number 227, the number of people in Connecticut that have been killed by guns since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting 2 years ago.  

Gun control advocates nationwide have worked tirelessly—holding events, distributing petitions, and lobbying members of Congress—to expand federal background checks of gun buyers. Currently those who purchase a gun at a dealer undergo an FBI background check that determines if the prospective buyer is a felon or has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution—conditions that would quash the sale. But guns sold by individuals over the Internet and at gun shows are not subject to an FBI background check.

An attempt to pass such a bill failed in the Senate last year.

Operation Fuel reported Wednesday that more than 300,000 households in Connecticut will struggle to pay for heat this winter.

The nonprofit agency provides emergency assistance to low-income residents who don’t qualify for energy assistance from government programs and publishes an annual report detailing the growing affordability gap. This year the agency says energy bills will be $784 million dollars higher than what low-income households can afford.
According to this year’s report, Since 2009 the number of low-income households has increased by 74,000, or 24 percent. State residents at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level will have to pay an average of $2,560 more than they can afford for heat this year.
Sen. Bob Duff, Democrat of Norwalk observed, “We are supposedly in economic recovery, but the fact of the matter is that wages have not gone up, which puts more stress on families across the state.” 
 The nation's economy and housing market may be recovering, but "not all borrowers are experiencing this recovery," according to Gustavo Velasquez, of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Across the country, African-American and Latino mortgage borrowers face higher denial rates than whites, he told a conference at Hofstra University, as reported by Newsday.

More specifically, Long Island home buyers who are African-American or Latino are more likely than whites to be denied mortgages or get offered high-priced loans, even when incomes are similar, according to the new research by Hofstra's National Center for Suburban Studies, which is based on Federal statistics.

But according to Bob Moulton, president of Americana Mortgage Group in Manhasset, lenders are not discriminating on the basis of race or other characteristics. He says that information about borrowers' income, assets and credit scores fed into a computer program to determine eligibility doesn’t include age, gender or nationality in reaching a decision.

State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr., who led New York's public schools to higher academic standards and fought political pressure against implementing the national Common Core curriculum, is leaving the job.

At the end of December he’ll join the U.S. Department of Education as senior adviser to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

King's term as commissioner was one of the most tumultuous in recent years, as the state sought to roll out tough new Common Core testing in grades 3 through 8 for which many schools were unprepared. Simultaneously, the state began evaluating teachers' job performance based largely on student’s scores on these tests. 

As scores plunged in the first round of testing in spring 2013, both King and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch faced angry teachers and parents in a series of public forums held statewide.

 Wednesday December 14 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray):

In the news tonight, Connecticut gets federal money for preschools, gun rights advocates appeal the assault weapons ban and NY State Senate Democrats call for a special prosecutor.


Connecticut will get federal funding to offer preschool to hundreds of additional children from low-income families, and those who are homeless or in foster care.

The state asked the U.S. Department of Education for $47.6 million over the next four years. Tuesday, the state learned it will receive $12.5 million for the first year.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the funds will address a "huge unmet need."

The Malloy administration and lawmakers have made efforts to expand and improve early childcare programs.

The legislature recently passed a law that requires the state Department of Children and Families to adopt procedures to maximize the enrollment of foster children in preschool and to report back to legislators by Jan. 1.


Gun rights advocates fought with the state in federal appeals court Tuesday over Connecticut's ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, passed after the Newtown massacre.

Oral arguments Tuesday before the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals focused on the popular and deadly AR-15-style rifles and large-capacity ammunition magazines used in the Sandy Hook school shooting two years ago on Sunday.

U.S. Circuit Judge Christopher Droney seemed to acknowledge a potential government interest in banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.  He cited statistics that show "over 50 percent of recent mass shootings used a combination of the two," according to the Hartford Courant.

A coalition of Second Amendment rights groups appealed to the 2nd Circuit after a lower federal court upheld the post-Newtown gun control law.

Connecticut Assistant Attorney General Maura Murphy-Osborne said the state passed the law in part because of concerns about the "growing militarization" of society.


Connecticut motorists are paying less than $3 a gallon for regular gas for the first time in more than four years.

Triple A said today the average price of regular gasoline in Connecticut is $2.995. That's down 24 cents in the last month and 67 cents less than it was this time last year.  It's the first time regular gas has been less than $3 a gallon since Nov. 5, 2010. 

Connecticut still has the fourth highest average price in the country, behind New York, Alaska and Hawaii.


The Suffolk legislature’s education committee Tuesday approved an agreement to allow Suffolk County Community College to use 10 acres of county land next to the Selden campus so it can qualify for the START-UP NY program.

College officials are drafting an agreement with the county to allow the college to use part of 62 county acres in a trust, making the school eligible for state programs that will provide students with training and internships.
Ben Zwirn, director of legislative affairs, said siting the business zone on county land avoids the potential loss of property tax revenues to the local community.  The education committee voted 4-1, with Legis. Thomas Cilmi ( a Bay Shore Republican) abstaining.
START-UP NY seeks to attract small technology companies to New York State. They pay no state and local taxes for as long as 10 years in return for investment and hiring.

New York state Senate's Democrats Tuesday called for the creation of a special prosecutor to investigate cases of unarmed civilians killed by police, according to the Albany Times-Union.

The Senate minority conference introduced a bill, sponsored by Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, that would establish an office of special investigation within the state attorney general's office to review criminal offenses committed by police that lead to the death of an unarmed civilian.

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera of the Bronx said: "The tragic death of Eric Garner ... and many others around the country have led communities like the one I represent, who need the most policing, to not trust the people who are supposed to serve and protect," 

On Monday Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asked the governor to grant him the power to investigate these types of cases.

A Senate Republican spokesman declined to comment Tuesday on the proposal.


Tuesday December 9 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Paul Atkin and Kristiana Pastir)

In the news tonight: New London police test body cameras, Yale-New Haven Hospital adds critical response helicopter, salary reimbursements return to Suffolk’s water quality fund, and Long Island residents asked to look out for destructive beetles.


The New London Police Department is testing two types of body cameras, WTNH reports. One kind is mounted on an officer’s glasses or cap visor and the other is mounted on the chest.

Acting police chief Peter Reichard said he’s spoken to other agencies that use the cameras and they’ve explained that when “people know they’re being videotaped they act better and the officers act appropriately when they have a video camera going.”

The initial cost is $125,000 for equipment and then $75,000 a year for service, upgrades, and data storage. Some of the cost could be reduced if funding proposed by President Obama becomes law.

Either way, the chief says he plans to put body cameras in next year’s budget and hopes for approval. Norwich police have already put it in their upcoming budget.


Yale-New Haven Hospital has added a helicopter to its critical care arsenal, a shared service with North Shore Long Island Jewish Hospital, according to a WTNH report.

SkyHealth is the latest in air emergency transport. A flight nurse and paramedic are part of the highly trained three-member crew. 

“You can think of the helicopter as the equivalent of an ICU, ” said Medical Director Dr. Evie Marcolini. “Somebody who needs medication that we can’t give on the ground services will get that critical care in the helicopter.”

Pilot Mike Kelley steers the dual engine aircraft, loaded with sophisticated avionics, including GPS, satellite weather and a ground proximity warning system.

“The aircraft has a radar,” Kelley said, “that actually maps out the ground, the terrain, whether it be buildings, hills, mountains, anything in our path.”

SkyHealth has been in service for nearly a month. Already nine patients have been transported.


In a unanimous vote last Tuesday, the Suffolk County Legislature fixed a law that returns up to $300,000 back into the county’s water quality fund each year. For over 10 years, reimbursed money was put into a general fund rather than the county’s water quality fund, from where it originally came.

Jay Schneiderman, who sponsored the bill, said, “It really helps,” and “We don’t have as much money as we used to for water quality projects.”

The water quality fund was intended for environmental projects, but in recent years some of the fund was put toward paying the salaries of those working on the water quality projects

The state has reimbursed the county for salaries paid from the water quality fund. But instead of going back into the water quality fund, those reimbursements were being placed into the general fund to be used for any county purpose. When approved, the bill will go into effect in 2016.


New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is asking citizen scientists to watch for southern pine beetle damage. Three Long Island parks have already been damaged: Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, Connetquot River State Park, and Henry’s Hollow Pine Barrens State Forest.

This is the first record of the southern pine beetle in New York. Scientists believe the beetles most likely colonized Long Island from the New Jersey Pinelands, where they’ve been abundant recently.

The beetles usually attack pitch pines, but also attack other pines, hemlocks and spruce trees. They can kill trees within two to four months.

In the early phases, the trees resist the attacks by secreting a resin that forms popcorn-shaped clumps on the tree’s bark and s-shaped tunnels under the bark – telltale signs of the beetles. Trees that have recently died usually have reddish-brown needles.

The DEC asks the public to report recently killed pine trees with signs of the infestation to its Forest Health Information Line at 1-866-640-0652 or e-mailing They also ask for pictures of suspect pine trees.

The DEC, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies are developing a response plan.


Monday, December 8 (thanks to WPKN volunteer Melinda Tuhus):

In tonight’s news, big demonstrations in New Haven and on Long Island opposing police killiings of African American males; the new defense bill in Congress favors a Connecticut submarine base; and Long Island towns are seeking a piece of a multi-billion dollar settlement against banks and insurance companies.   


About 500 people mostly affiliated with Yale and organized by students at Yale Law School, made a human chain on Friday from the school to the county courthouse and held a die-in to underscore their opposition to the non-indictment of a New York City police officer in the choke hold death of Eric Garner. 

WPKN’s MT reports:

Garner was yet another unarmed black male to die at the hands of police. Second year law student Jordan Bryant spoke at the end of the silent demonstration. She said the protests around the country were drawing attention to the need for drastic changes:

Bryant: "Whether it be changing federal and state law,  on justified use of force by police to be much narrower and much less broadly construed, 

all of these things need to be considered, and need to be on the table, and I think now they are being discussed, and they are, and that's what we need. "    

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.


The massive defense authorization bill that’s making its way through Congress is an early Christmas present for Connecticut’s defense contractors, containing billions of dollars for submarines, helicopters and other weaponry made by companies in the state. But a special gift is the bill’s establishment of a “National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund” that would allow the Pentagon to put as much as $3.5 billion in a special account, outside the Navy’s normal shipbuilding budget.  

It would pay for a new class of submarines that could be built by Electric Boat in Groton. The special fund allows the Pentagon to pay for these expensive ships without appearing to bust the Navy shipbuilding budget. The money to pay for all this must be appropriated in a budget bill that is expected to be acted on by Congress next week.

Any and all funding for construction at Electric Boat is always supported by the state’s Congressional delegation. New Haven peace activist Stephen Kobasa has protested the nuclear-weapons equipped subs at the base for decades. He said, “The madness gets compounded. The terrible dependence that our state economy has on these weapons systems hasn’t changed.”


About 400 Long Islanders demonstrated Sunday against what they called police brutality in a rally and die-in, in which some laid down on the pavement of busy Sunrise Highway in Amityville, stopping traffic in both directions on the major artery, Newsday reported.

The gesture on the highway lasted for 4½ minutes, a symbolic reference to the 4.5 hours that unarmed black teenager Michael Brown's body was left in the street after he was shot dead by white Police Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. 

The group also protested the non-indictment of the New York City officer who killed unarmed African American Eric Garner by putting him in a choke hold.

Police watched from both sides of the highway but did not interfere.

Organizers said the group plans to highlight incidents of police excess on Long Island, too. 


The after-effects of the 2008 financial meltdown are finally working their way out of the system, and local governments are beginning to seek their pieces of the financial pie from Albany.

A $5 Billion state surplus created from settlements from banks and insurance companies, is being targeted by Nassau and Suffolk County lawmakers, who have asked Governor Cuomo to release $1 Billion for infrastructure projects on Long Island, including for roadway, transit and pedestrian improvements and sewage treatment.

The counties also requested a combined $100 million for two new bus rapid transit routes.

Another benefit of the improving economy is that local governments would see their required contributions to teachers’ pension funds cut substantially.with lower rates expected to save more than $100 million in Nassau and Suffolk counties alone. 

Managers of the New York State Teachers' Retirement System forecast that districts will be required to contribute 13 percent to 13.5 percent of employee salaries to the pension fund for the next academic year, down from the almost 18 percent rate this school year. 

The retirement system covers about 60,000 school administrators, teachers, librarians and other professional workers.

 Friday December 5: 

In the news tonight: Connecticut policymakers take question hospital facility fees, Bridgeport schools to establish own charity, East Hampton weighs limits on airport use, Riverhead looks to bill motor vehicle accident patients for ambulance transports, and a Long Island protest planned Sunday over Staten Island police killing.


Hospital executives denied Wednesday that “facility fees” have driven them to gobble up physician practices, but they told state officials that they need to charge the fees to recoup the losses from the charity care they provide for the uninsured or underinsured on government plans.

Yale-New Haven Health System’s senior vice president of corporate finance Patrick McCabe told a panel, convened by state Comptroller Kevin Lembo to investigate facility fees, that Yale provided more than $500 million in free care and under-reimbursed care last year.

“The place where that funding is made up is those privately insured patients,” McCabe said. “It’s really a cost shift to those privately insured patients.”

Facility or professional fees are separate from a patient’s co-pay and they often take patients by surprise. Hospitals are now charging patients fees for services rendered in offices they own outside the main hospital building. But a facility fee isn’t always assessed.


The Bridgeport public school system is working to establish a public charity that would allow it to solicit donations.

The Bridgeport Public Schools Fund – a tentative name – could open new revenue sources and give the school board a new level of control over how donations are spent. Foundations for the city schools already exist, but were not created by the school board itself.

Connecticut Consortium of Education Foundations president Liz Stokes said school foundations are a growing trend. The state had about 30 education foundations 20 years ago. Now there are 90 and growing. 

Interim Schools Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz hopes the foundation can help the district establish a universal prekindergarten program by 2020.

Already faced with asking for $6 million more next year just to keep the lights on, Rabinowitz's universal pre-K plan must compete with many other district needs, such as smaller class sizes, a full-time nurse for every school and better Internet access.


In a recent 12-month period, East Hampton Airport received 24,000 complaints about aircraft noise in comparison even to major airports such as Boston’s Logan, which gets 1,000 to 1,200 noise complaints each year.

The East Hampton Star reports that an environmental consultant told the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday that limiting use at certain times would be a reasonable way to address aircraft noise. 

Some options include limiting use during certain days and times and limiting the number of takeoffs and landings by time or aircraft type, or banning certain aircraft such as helicopters.  

The board, in response to complaints from local residents, has vowed to put new rules in place by next summer.


The Riverhead town board agreed Thursday to bill for motor vehicle accident ambulance transports.

The board has discussed this before, but some board members and the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps were reluctant to institute such a policy, citing concerns that people without insurance wouldn’t call an ambulance because of the cost.

Port Jefferson EMS, which serves communities within Town of Brookhaven, Village of Port Jefferson and Village of Belle Terre, started billing for ambulance services within the two villages in 2011. The Town of Brookhaven has not authorized it.

Ambulance services in Nassau County, New York City, upstate and across the country also bill.

Councilman James Wooten said the medical billing for accident transports will be incorporated into the new five-year contract with RVAC. Its current contract expires December 3


On Long Island a demonstration is planned to protest the decision of a grand jury in Staten Island, New York, not to indict a police officer in the homicide of Eric Garner.

Organizers across Long Island say they are joining together Sunday at 1:30PM for an action called "This Stops Today" at the Amityville Train Station.  


  Thursday, December 4 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers  Nadine Dumser, Tony Ernst and Scott Harris):

In the news tonight: Connecticut will further limit the way it cooperates with federal immigration officials; Governor Malloy makes transportation issues a top priority; Long Islanders will see an increase in electric rates -- and FEMA pledges to push private contractors to release flood insurance documents suspected of being falsified to deny superstorm Sandy claims.


Connecticut will further limit the way it cooperates with immigration officials who ask that people arrested be held for federal officers, offering some of the strongest protections in the nation, amid the uncertainty of President Barack Obama’s new immigration executive order.

As of December 15th the state Department of Correction will only honor detainer requests if accompanied by a judicial warrant or if the person arrested has a past felony conviction.

"Connecticut has the strongest protection against detainers in the nation," according to Michael Wishnie, a Yale Law School professor who focuses on immigration.  

The change in Connecticut comes after a flurry of activism from groups including Unidad Latina en Acción. Activist groups have rallied, petitioned and met with state leaders, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, in response to the arrest of Esvin Lima, a 21-year-old Norwalk resident who has been held at the Bridgeport, Correctional Facility since March after a dispute with his landlord.


Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy told a group of transportation advocates Wednesday that transportation issues will be a priority for his administration in the coming months.

The governor pointed to a series of projects, including replacing aging bridges, widening I-84 between Waterbury and New York, widening I-95 between Branford and Rhode Island, expanding rail services, and modernizing Metro North railroad.

Malloy said that his administration and the Department of Transportation must work together with the public to confront daunting price tags associated with needed transportation projects.

The governor said, “Part of the problem in Connecticut is that we’ve actually not told people of the true size and the cost of what needs to be done if Connecticut is to compete in the next 50 years. There are many projects that people need to understand the scope of and the potential expense of.”

Long Islanders will see the cost of electricity rising again this month after reaching an all- time low in September.

The power supply charge, which is about half of a typical customer’s bill will rise to 10.7 cents per kilowatt-hour from 9.4 cents in November.

The average cost for the year was 9.4 cents.  It  peaked last winter at 12.3 cents per kilowatt-hour before dropping in the summer to below 7 cents as reported by PSEG Long Island’s web site.

PSEG operates the Long Island power grid for the Long Island Power Authority known as LIPA.

The present increase is based largely on what LIPA said were prior months' under-collections according to a Newsday report.

The utility says the biggest part of the power supply charge - quote “covers the cost of fuels, primarily natural gas, that we buy for use at Long Island power plants, which we do not own” un-quote.

LIPA is scheduled to decide next week on purchasing new power generation capacity from off-shore wind turbines east of Montauk and solar arrays on eastern Long Island.


Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator W. Craig Fugate told a Senate delegation Wednesday that FEMA would push private contractors to release flood insurance documents suspected of being falsified to deny superstorm Sandy claims.

Last month, a federal judge in Central Islip called for the documents' release after determining that at least one was secretly edited to avoid paying a full settlement on a house in Long Beach.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is confident that Fugate will comply but said there will be serious consequences if he doesn’t.

The senators called the meeting with Fugate amid an outcry from more than 2,000 homeowners in New York and New Jersey who have sued over Sandy flood insurance settlements and have complained of being stonewalled by lawyers hired by the government.

 Wednesday December 3 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray):

In the news tonight, a warning about Connecticut electric suppliers, sounding off about railroad fares and the New York State unemployment office cuts staff.


Stunning hikes in electric rates set for January led Connecticut officials and consumer watchdogs to warn residents Tuesday to carefully consider the rates and terms offered by alternative electric suppliers.

Average monthly electric bills will jump $32.55 at United Illuminating and $18.48 at Connecticut Light & Power.  Consumers can save up to $17 a month by switching to other companies, but Elin Swanson Katz, the state consumer counsel, warned customers to carefully check the supplier’s terms since some suppliers offer deceptive variable teaser rates that may expire.

AARP and the Connecticut Citizen Action Group urged consumers to be cautious and said they will ask legislators to ban variable rates.  Senate 

Majority Leader Martin Looney (D-New Haven) said market forces are driving the increases and he is not sure the legislature could offer any rate relief.

Advocates for the developmentally disabled headed to Hartford today to call for the closure of the Southbury Training School by 2020 and the closure of all state-run institutions and group homes. They want state money to be used for less-expensive private programs.

The state Department of Developmental Services, with a $1.1 billion annual budget, has been gradually closing its state-owned group homes, which cost about $367,000 per person, per year. Advocates said the average cost of private group homes is about $130,000 per person, per year.

Leslie Simoes, executive director of ARC Connecticut, and Molly Cole, director of the governor-appointed Council on Developmental Disabilities, said that the answer is not just shifting to private group homes, but a range of programs.

In a statement to The Hartford Courant, DDS said it has been phasing out the Southbury campus, but It has not set a closing date.  Experts monitoring a court settlement that forced reforms at Southbury recommended that it be put on a formal "closure track" with a specific closing date.

More than 100 Riverhead residents packed Town Hall Tuesday alarmed by a notice they received recently stating the town highway department would no longer plow snow from their private roads, Newsday reports.

Town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz said he learned state law prohibits the highway department from plowing the streets, as it had for decades.  The change affects about 900 residents, many who live on dead-end streets in shore neighborhoods.

The issue arose last winter after some residents of private communities complained that plows damaged their roads and properties and threatened to file lawsuits. 

The Riverhead Town Board's proposed solution is to allow private communities to take down their "no trespassing" signs and make their streets public in exchange for plowing services. The vote by the town board, which is tentatively set for Dec. 30.


Gridlock in Congress and a lack of funding have led to layoffs at the New York state Department of Labor for the second time in less than a year.

By Dec. 31, 41 "non-permanent" hourly employees will be let go, state Labor Commissioner Peter Rivera told the Albany Times Union Tuesday.
Workers being cut include those who work in unemployment insurance, unemployment appeals, special investigations and information technology units.  The affected workers were notified Monday.
The Department of Labor depends heavily on federal funding, and Congress hasn't extended is funding. Officials said the cuts will not affect customers and no closures of local offices are planned.
The previous cuts in included staffers who helped people sign up for unemployment insurance payments and look for new jobs.

Long Island Rail Road customers can sound off tonight in Melville about the Railroad’s proposed fare hikes, Newsday reports. 

 A public hearing on the proposed 4 percent increase will be held at 5 p.m. at the Hilton Long Island, 598 Broad Hollow Rd.  Speakers can register between 4 and 8 p.m.

Under the plan, LIRR monthly tickets would increase by between $7 and $19, depending on the distance traveled.  The MTA board will vote on the proposed increases, which will take effect in March.

Customers can also record video testimony at the Hicksville station from 6 a.m. until 10 a.m. Thursday, and at the Ronkonkoma station from 6 a.m. until 10 a.m. on Dec. 9.  Comments can be submitted via email through the Metropolitan Transportation Authority website at 


Tuesday December 2 (thanks to WPKN volunteer Kristiana Pastir):

In the news tonight: Deleted emails delay Connecticut education funding trial, local Connecticut organizations promote Giving Tuesday, tax breaks for downtown Riverhead apartments to be discussed, and Long Island communities face major emergency response volunteer shortage.


Connecticut’s landmark education funding trial has been delayed indefinitely as attorneys try to figure out how many emails were intentionally deleted by the woman who leads the coalition of 18 parents suing the state. 

Attorneys representing the coalition told the court they learned that the group’s head, Dianne Kaplan deVries, instructed parents and possible witnesses to delete her emails, a practice that started as far back as 2005 according to motions filed in court. 

“I’m deeply embarrassed about the disclosure of personal emails that have nothing to do with the merits of this case,” Kaplan deVries said Friday in a statement. “But this case isn’t about emails — it’s about the need to fix Connecticut’s broken education funding system.”

The state argues that, based on some of the emails’ content, the coalition may lack standing to bring the lawsuit, potentially derailing the case.

A hearing on the extent of the email deletions has been scheduled for January 12. 


As Black Friday led to Small-Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, the Bridgeport Rescue Mission is one of many agencies embracing what's come to be called Giving Tuesday.

"It's a way for people who want to give back to have a dedicated day to do so," said Bridgeport Rescue Mission's assistant director of development Donna Romano.

Giving Tuesday was founded in 2012 by New York's 92nd Street Y in partnership with the United Nations Foundation. Today, more than 10,000 organizations worldwide participate.

The Bridgeport Rescue Mission depends on donations, and Romano says about half of its annual budget is raised during the last three months of the year.

St. Vincent's Medical Center, Bridgeport Hospital and other local organizations are also promoting Giving Tuesday.


Tax breaks for a proposed apartment building plan in place of the current Long Island Science Center will be the focus of tonight’s public hearing at Riverhead’s Industrial Development Agency meeting. The hearing will be held at 5 p.m. in Town Hall.

Peconic Crossing, LLC wants tax incentives, including a partial real estate tax exemption, on the affordable 48-unit apartment building proposed at the West Main Street property.

The existing Long Island Science Center would be demolished and replaced with a five-story building, ground floor parking, and 48 workforce housing units.

If the plan goes through, the nonprofit Science Center will use proceeds from the sale of building to move into a building on Main Street.

Peconic Crossing’s $16.7 million project was originally proposed as a luxury apartment complex by Brooklyn-based Simshabs X. Peconic Crossing -- a joint venture between the nonprofit Community Development Corporation of Long Island and Rochester-based Conifer Realty -- has since taken over the project.

Rent includes heat and hot water, with prices projected to range from $960 to $1,060 per month for one-bedroom apartments, and from $1,150 to $1,250 for two-bedroom units.

Applicants must meet income guidelines.


Many Long Island volunteer fire and rescue services need more help, and have put up roadside signs seeking volunteers.

As reported by CBS, the Islip Terrace fire department is even changing the way it responds to medical emergencies. The fire protection district faces a shortage in responding EMT volunteers. So the town is disbanding its ambulance service for now — directing 911 calls to a nearby community ambulance corps that already serves four other districts. 

Across Long Island, medical emergency calls to 911 are up and volunteers are down. For years, Suffolk County communities relied solely on volunteers for ambulance services.  

But that is changing -- some communities are hiring staff to make up the shortage.

Commack is one of the few districts that didn’t need to supplement volunteers with paid staff. The district started accepting non-residents and assigning set shifts. 

In Islip Terrace, the department will stop taking emergency medical calls for one year, while officials say they’ll work to boost the ranks. 


Monday, December 1 (thanks to WPKN volunteers Scott Schere and Melinda Tuhus):

In tonight’s news, Connecticut hospitals come in for criticism; a breakdown of charitable giving by income level might surprise some; Montauk’s getting a surfing museum; and residents on Long Island hold a prayer service to remember African American teen Michael Brown.


Newly released data show that more than 50 percent of the state’s hospitals had rates for at least one type of hospital-acquired infection that were worse than federal benchmarks, in late 2012 and 2013. No other state had a higher percentage of its hospitals exceeding the infection standards set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the data, compiled by Kaiser Health News.

Hospital-acquired infections are caused by viral, bacterial and fungal pathogens. Adverse-event reports filed with the state Department of Public Health show hospital-acquired infections resulted in the deaths or serious injuries of 27 patients between 2005 and 2012.

The federal government has been tracking and publishing the rates of infections that patients acquire in hospitals on Medicare’s ‘Hospital Compare’ website since 2012. Starting this fall, hospitals with the worst rates in 2012 and 2013 will lose 1 percent of their Medicare reimbursements for fiscal year 2015.

Eleven of Connecticut’s 30 hospitals are likely to face penalties.


After Black Friday and today’s Cyber Monday, tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, when non-profits hope shoppers will send some green their way. A new report from The Chronicle of Philanthropy, using tax data, shows Connecticut’s lowest-income residents donate the largest portion of their income to charity, though not the highest total amounts.

Individuals in Connecticut who made $25,000 or less gave 5.5 percent of their income to charities in 2012. For the most part, the more money people in the state made, the smaller share they donated, although those making more than $200,000 gave the next highest percentage, at 2.6 percent.

Statewide, when taking into account all donors across all income brackets, individuals gave an average of 2.3 percent of their adjusted gross income, the chronicle found. Contributions made by Connecticut donors neared $3.1 billion and the median contribution was $2,201.

In Connecticut, the data show donors were more likely to have Democratic political leanings. The age group most likely to give was 45 to 64 year olds. When it came to religion, the largest share of donors — 35 percent — were Catholic, followed by Presbyterian at about 3 percent.


The Montauk Surf Museum project underway at the Montauk Lighthouse has exceeded its goal of raising $25,000 through a Kickstarter Campaign launched in late October. The project raised just under $30,000 from 128 backers, after a one-month long campaign. The Surf Museum and Oceans Institute will be located in a small building next to the Montauk Lighthouse. The Kickstarter funds are expected to be used for the completion of ocean blue flooring throughout the building and the restoration of the doors and windows.

According to the Kickstarter campaign, the museum’s location overlooking three of Montauk’s best surf breaks will be used to tell the story of the science of waves, how they are generated and “what is it that gives Montauk’s waves their singular attraction.” The museum will also feature photos and videos taken by local surf photographers, and an oral history of surfing on Long Island.


About 40 people gathered Sunday outside the Suffolk County Police Department's First Precinct in West Babylon for a prayer vigil to support the family of Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teen shot and killed by a white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri last August. The vigil was held in response to a Nov. 24 grand jury decision not to Wilson.

Newsday reports that Bishop Andy Lewter, president of Long Island Organizing Network, which sponsored the vigil, said, "We feel that the decision not to bring indictment suggests an unfair distribution of justice. Even though we are 1,000 miles removed from Missouri, we feel a kinship with that situation, because there are Michael Browns and Ferguson-type situations all across this country."

Pastors from several area churches stood on the lawn across from the police department and said prayers for Brown and their own communities. They said they were not targeting the police in West Babylon.  At the end of the approximately 30-minute service, Lewter thanked police for accommodating the vigil, and the crowd applauded the officers. Police on the scene declined to comment.


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