Connecticut scores plunge as students take new, tougher Smarter Balanced Assessment tests; New York’s highest court won’t hear Suffolk County’s appeal on their raid of Drinking Water Protection Program funds; Mayor Finch wants to name Bridgeport’s new high school after President Obama; and, connecting Long Island to the mainland is in the new Suffolk master plan.
The standardized test scores parents are accustomed to seeing for their child's school have plunged as the state implements a harder test aligned with the controversial Common Core State Standards.
Scores released last Friday for tests taken last school year show that 39 percent of Connecticut public school students were judged proficient on the state's math exam — a significant drop from 83 percent in 2013.
In English, 55 percent of students were judged proficient last year — down from 81 percent in reading and 84 percent in writing in 2013.
State Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell said last Friday: "These results do not mean that our students are learning less, rather it reflects that we raised the bar.”
State officials plan to use the test scores to identify the state's lowest-performing schools. In recent years, as additional state funding for education became available, these schools and districts received almost all of that added funding.
The state’s highest court won’t review an appellate court ruling that declared illegal Suffolk County government’s “borrowing” of $30 million from the county Drinking Water Protection Program without a voter referendum.
The N.Y. State Court of Appeals last week refused to review an appellate decision that a county amendment borrowing $30 million from the Drinking Water Protection Program’s dedicated fund was “illegal, null and void” because it was not submitted to the electorate for approval.
The fund consists of one quarter-percent sales tax monies collected by the county to protect water quality in the Pine Barrens and other areas.
The County Legislature in 2011 approved moving nearly $30 million from the special water protection fund to the general fund. Former county executive Steve Levy signed the bill. The measure was called a “raid” by environmental activists, who sued because it could only be changed by referendum.
Pine Barrens Society executive director Richard Amper said: “Suffolk taxpayers are paying two-and-a-half times the national average in taxes, but they’ve repeatedly approved taxing themselves one-quarter penny more as long as it is used for water quality improvement. The Levy administration betrayed that requirement when it raided the fund and the courts have now said that’s not just wrong, it’s against the law.”
According to the Connecticut Post, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch wants to drop Warren G. Harding’s name for the city’s new high school in favor of President Barack Obama.
A ceremonial ground breaking was held on the site of the former General Electric plant on Boston Avenue last Friday. The $106 million new high school will be 210,000 square-foot, and will be home to 1,150 students.
Mayor Finch has been an unabashed supporter of Obama and friend of the president. Finch said: “This new high school is another sign that cities are getting better during his presidency, and I suggest we honor him by naming this new school ‘Barack Obama High School.’”
The sprawling General Electric plat that included 13 interconnected, five-story buildings was built in 1917. The plant closed in 2007 and was demolished recently.
Construction of the current Warren G. Harding began the year after his death. Naming the school after him was a tribute to the 29th president.
The ambitious idea to dig a tunnel or build a bridge across the Long Island Sound, which has floated around for more than 50 years, lives on.
While past proposals have been derailed by citizen opposition and lack of funding, Suffolk County's master plan, which was adopted this month, promises to "explore feasibility for alternate means of ingress and egress" between Long Island and the mainland, including bridges and tunnels.
County spokesman Justin Meyers said: "We're proactively looking at older studies and older concepts that are out there. The idea of having a direct connection to the mainland is very attractive. Whether or not it's economically feasible, environmentally feasible and where it would go, are still open questions."
The planning department is gathering information on connections that start either in Suffolk or in Nassau and connect to the mainland, but could seek grants for a more formal study in the future.
The master plan makes no promises about whether the idea will work, much less how to pay for what would be an enormous infrastructure project.
Friday, August 28 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Wendy Brunell, Neil Tolhurst, and Mike Merli.)
Senator Blumenthal advocates for smokers trying to quit; Governor Malloy’s Transportation Finance committee considers a new mileage tax; Commack public schools consider selling a historic farm; and, impending power plant closures set to take a toll on New York State.
On Wednesday, Senator Richard Blumenthal joined heart and lung care advocates in Hartford to call upon ConnectiCare and United Healthcare to “halt unfair and potentially illegal” practices that prevent people from getting the help they need to stop smoking.
Blumenthal said two out of four insurers on Connecticut’s insurance exchange have not complied with federal healthcare exchange guidelines when it comes to the availability of smoking cessation medications and counseling.
The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance plans purchased through federal and state exchanges to cover certain preventive products and services with no co-pay or deductible.
The August, 2015 update of a report by the American Lung Association shows that ConnectiCare’s list of approved drugs available free of charge does not include nicotine lozenges, nicotine nasal spray, or nicotine inhalers.
ConnectiCare has released a statement claiming it is in compliance with federal and state requirements.
The same American Lung Association report cited United Healthcare, based in Georgia, for not automatically covering medications outlined in ACA guidelines.
A statement from United Healthcare neglected to address the prior authorization allegations.
Blumenthal said he will ask authorities at the state and federal level to take action if the insurance companies do not comply with the guidelines.
A special committee created by Governor Malloy to figure out a way to pay for the state’s new transportation system is looking into a new tax on the number of miles driven each year.
The Governor’s Transportation Finance Panel has not yet made a decision, but they have been looking to other states to see what new funding plans could work. In a test program in Oregon, volunteer drivers are paying a tax on the number of miles they drive as measured by GPS, and they get credit against the state gas tax.
For raising money, “the beauty” of a mileage tax as opposed to tolls is that it would spread the cost across all drivers, not just those who chose a particular highway.
The Governor’s office steered clear of discussing the “mileage tax” Thursday, but the chairman of his special panel says they have no choice given how much money the transportation projects will cost.
The panel has to move pretty quickly. They are expected to make a decision on the best way to pay for the rebuild of Connecticut’s transportation system by October.
Attorneys for Commack public schools are again entertaining proposals from those interested in buying Marion Carll Farm, a roughly nine-acre farm, which dates back to 1701 and is listed in the Historic Register of Historic Places.
Kimberly Quarty, project manager for the Peconic Land Trust, who was interested in buying Marion Carll Farm in 2011, said: “The Trust is very interested in the future use, ownership, and management of the property. We are assessing all options but are mindful that nothing can be done until ongoing litigation regarding the property is resolved.”
Scott M. Karson, an attorney who represents the district, said school officials are considering whether a sale could spur a settlement with the heirs, who sued in 2012 to retake ownership because they alleged the district had not met the conditions that Carll set back in 1969 for the farm to be maintained as a historical site or educational farm.
Karson said the district has asked Peconic Trust for a firm, written proposal for officials to consider. The district would be happy to talk to others, but Peconic is the only party that has reached out so far.
New York legislators recently created a $20 million fund to help communities that lose power plants as energy production transitions from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
Due to expected power plant closures in the coming decade, that fund will need to grow significantly. As the state reshapes its energy infrastructure, power plant closings will take tax revenues and jobs from communities where those plants are.
Existing power plants in New York State are aging, with 40% at least 40 years old, and 30% more than 50 years old. Age-related replacement will be compounded by New York's goals for renewable energy and reduction of carbon emissions, plus the Federal Environmental Protection Agency's Clean power Plan.
In 2012, the Cuomo administration acted on the need to prepare for power plant closures. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s "Energy Highway" blueprint laid out the issue.
State officials wrote: “The Energy Highway Task Force recommends that the existing process be enhanced to minimize the potential additional cost burdens on customers and to more proactively prepare for potential critical situations in advance of when power plants provide official notice of plans to retire.
Dynamic and proactive scenario planning can provide many benefits.”
Thursday August 27 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser and Kevin Brewer.)
Manufacturing jobs lost in Connecticut as companies threaten to leave over taxes; more harmful algae in area waters; Connecticut’s hospitals face re-admissions penalties; Montauk beach project moves ahead despite law suit; and, Shinnecock and Southampton say good–bye to Elizabeth Thunder Bird Haile.
Jobs have continued to be lost in Connecticut's manufacturing sector over the last year, but the rate of decline has slowed, according to Manufacturers News Incorporated, an Illinois firm that compiles industrial directories and databases.
The number of state manufacturing jobs has declined nearly four percent over the last five years, but fell to only a half percent decline over the last year.
A new General Electric Laboratory opening in Plainville, and other firms expanding in Windsor and Torrington, are bright spots for Connecticut manufacturing.
But opposition to some business tax increases in the new state budget have led firms, including General Electric, to consider moving their operations out of the state.
All but one of Connecticut’s acute-care hospitals will lose Medicare reimbursement in 2015-16 as a penalty for high readmissions of discharged patients.
The federal Medicare program has been tracking the rates at which patients discharged from hospitals after treatment for certain conditions, including heart failure and pneumonia, are readmitted within 30 days. Hospitals that exceed Medicare’s standards lose a percentage of their Medicare funding.
The penalties against 28 hospitals mean Connecticut has one of the highest percentages nationally, more than 90 percent of hospitals facing Medicare reductions.
None of the state’s hospitals faces the maximum three percent reduction to Medicare reimbursement, but seven face reductions of more than one percent.
They include Milford Hospital, Middletown Hospital; Charlotte Hungerford in Torrington, St. Vincent’s, in Bridgeport; and Yale-New Haven.
The Connecticut Hospital Association has been working with member hospitals to address problems leading to high readmissions, such as infections, inappropriate antibiotics use, and lack of follow-up care after hospitalization.
Yesterday we reported that Suffolk County health officials warned swimmers to avoid Lake Ronkonkoma because of the presence of blue-green algae.
Today, blue-green algae in the water made swimming unsafe Wednesday at Indian Well State Park in Shelton and at Kettletown State Park according to the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Exposure to cyanobacteria bloom, or blue-green algae, can cause illnesses including stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, and breathing difficulties,
Despite a lawsuit filed in March by the environmental group Defend H2O, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will begin rebuilding dunes on the eroded Montauk oceanfront in October.
The $8.4 million emergency plan would place 14,000 "geotextile" sandbags -- each weighing 1.7 tons -- along 3,100 feet of beach that has been scoured by storms in recent years, including Superstorm Sandy.
In their lawsuit, Defend H2O and supporters argue that if the sandbags were exposed by a storm, they would act as a wall that would worsen erosion.
Earlier this month, The Corps and the Department of Environmental Conservation reached agreements with East Hampton Town officials to make modifications that would resolve anticipated drainage problems.
Critics of the project had raised concerns that the buried sandbags would block the flow of storm water into the ocean, resulting in flooding in downtown Montauk.
Although litigation between Defend H2O and the Corps hasn’t been resolved, H&L Contracting of Bay Shore is expected to begin work after Columbus Day, October 12, and be finished by Memorial Day weekend.
A standing-room only crowd said goodbye to Shinnecock elder Elizabeth Thunder Bird Haile on Tuesday at the Hamptons United Methodist Church in Southampton.
Ms. Haile, known to her family and friends as Chee Chee, was a teacher who helped found the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum on the reservation and the Hayground School in Bridgehampton.
Her father Henry Bess, known as Chief Thunder Bird led a cultural revival at Shinnecock and started the Labor Day Pow Wow in 1946.
Daughter Chee Chee performed a dance to The Lord’s Prayer at the Pow Wow every year until recently.
Ms. Haile lectured adults and children on native culture and history.
At an Earth Day presentation they gave, her niece Rebecca Genia told listeners: “My aunt Chee Chee had a gentle way of talking to people.”
Despite her gentle manner, Ms. Haile often reminded her neighbors of the history that saw Shinnecock land, once covering all of today’s Southampton Town, reduced to a 300-acre reservation.
Here she spoke to a gathering of the Southampton Democratic Club in 2009:
“On the East End of Long Island we say ‘the biggest business is real estate’. Where did we get this real estate? When does stolen land become un-stolen? .. and that’s a problem you’re going to have work out.
Because you will be looking for the true stories - the things that happened really -how they happened to be….A legacy - what we’re going to do with it, and I think you will seek some kind of justice.
And I think that the Shinnecock people are still sitting there, waiting for justice to come along and I think you need to know that.”
Elizabeth Thunder Bird Haile will be missed.
Connecticut may have a budget surplus in 2016; the state DMV suspends service at its photo license center; Southold enacts a short-term rental law; and, the Suffolk County Health Department warns swimmers to steer clear of algae blooms.
One month into the 2016 fiscal year, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes estimated that Connecticut will end next June with an $800,000 surplus.
In his monthly letter to state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, Barnes projected that both revenues and expenditures will be consistent with the budget plan.
But he noted administration officials have overestimated the amount of revenue it will receive from licenses, permits, and fees because those categories all ended 2015 below expectations, which may continue into 2016.
Barnes also said the state will be keeping a close eye on the revenue it anticipates from the implementation of Keno, which will roll out in January 2016.
The game is part of a long-term growth plan, and the budget assumes the state will realize $17 million in revenue before the close of the 2016 fiscal year.
The state will officially close the books on fiscal year 2015 in September, but it’s likely they will need to transfer $70 million from the rainy day fund to close that year’s deficit, but the numbers have not been finalized.
The Connecticut Post reports that long lines at other DMV facilities forced the Department of Motor Vehicles to temporarily suspend service Tuesday at its photo license centers in Milford, Derby, Stamford and Middletown.
The suspension allowed staff at the part-time centers to be reassigned to help reduce long wait times at other DMV offices throughout the state, as the department deals with a changeover in its computer system.
The agency said the suspensions are temporary, and the centers will reopen when the long lines at other offices subside.
The DMV is encouraging customers who want a duplicate or renewal of a license or ID card to go to AAA offices in the state.
Customers seeking registration renewals and duplicates, or returning or canceling a license plate, can do so online at ct.gov/dmv.
Customers wanting disabled parking permits, name changes and copies of driving records need to go to a branch office.
The Suffolk Times reports that the Southold Town Board passed a rental law Tuesday that limits short term rentals to a 14-night minimum stay.
The law defines short-term rentals as residential homes which are rented out — mostly on home-sharing websites such as Airbnb— for less than 14 nights at a time.
It passed by a 4-1 vote, with Fishers Island Justice Louisa Evans absent and Councilwoman Jill Doherty voting against the law.
“I think at the end of the day, you have to make decisions about tourism versus quality of life,” said Supervisor Scott Russell.
Fines for violators range from $1,500 to $8,000, according to the legislation, which will take effect sometime in October.
The Town Board will hire a part-time code enforcement officer to help enforce the new code definition.
Under the law, any property owner who lists their space for rent on an online short-term rental site like Airbnb.com will be presumed to be violating the code.
The town will also include a 24/7 email hotline for residents to file complaints.
Suffolk County health officials warned swimmers to steer clear of Lake Ronkonkoma because of the presence of blue-green algae.
Exposure to cyanobacteria bloom, also known as blue-green algae, can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, fever, muscle weakness and breathing difficulties, according to health officials.
Researchers from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services said Tuesday they have confirmed the presence of cyanobacteria at Lake Ronkonkoma.
The algae also persists in several other waters, including Sagaponack Pond in Southampton, Georgica Pond in East Hampton, Roth Pond at Stony Brook University, McKay Lake in Calverton, Fort Pond in Montauk, Kellis Pond in Bridgehampton, Wainscott Pond in Wainscott, Agawam Lake and Mill Pond in Southampton and Maratooka Lake in Mattituck.
If contact occurs, swimmers should rinse off with clean water and see a doctor and if pets are exposed, call a veterinarian.
Tuesday, August 25 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Chris Cadra.)
In the news tonight: Connecticut wrestles with long-delayed graduation requirements; more conditions may be approved for medical marijuana in Connecticut; on Long Island, an East End assemblyman calls for more rail service; and, Suffolk County school administrators weigh in on recent state assessment scores.
Connecticut state lawmakers are looking for a way to implement a sweeping and expensive reform bill they passed five years ago. The bill was passed as part of the state’s bid to land federal money through the Race to the Top competition, a federal initiative to give states incentives to make certain education reforms. Reforms would include additional credits in math, science and foreign language and end-of-course exams in algebra, geometry, biology, American history and English.
Connecticut did not receive any of the federal funding and implementation of the bill was put off, first in 2012 and again during the last legislative session.
Lawmakers have created a task force to determine if the added requirements still make sense. The task force has until January 1 to recommend to delay further, or move forward with the reforms.
Currently, 65 percent of Connecticut’s school districts do not meet the legislation’s original requirements.
Connecticut may add more conditions to its list of 11 qualifying health issues for medical marijuana.
Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris said the Medical Marijuana Program Board of Physicians has recommended the approval of seven conditions, ranging from Lou Gehrig’s disease to severe psoriasis.
Harris will submit a draft of the change to the Office of the Attorney General for legal approval. A public hearing on the matter is expected to take place this fall.
The Medical Marijuana Board of Physicians evaluates and votes on each petition based on three questions: Is the condition debilitating; is marijuana more likely than not to benefit the patient; and, are there other relevant matters to consider.
The state has authorized construction of three more dispensaries to fill the growing need in New Haven and Fairfield counties.
In response to reports of overcrowding on the seasonal Cannonball Express train to the Hamptons, Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr. has called on the LIRR to provide additional service to the East End.
Thiele has also proposed regular shuttle trains on both the South Fork and the North Fork, according to a press release. The State Legislature had included $37.2 million in the MTA Capital Plan to purchase the necessary smaller diesel equipment for a shuttle, however the MTA hasn’t taken steps to implement the service, according to the release.
Thiele called on the MTA and the LIRR to take immediate action, asking them to add more express trains to the South Fork and focus on shuttle trains so they can start running in 2016.
He also added that if the MTA and LIRR continue to ignore the needs of the East End, he, together with the five East End Towns, would pursue the concept of creating a Peconic Bay Transportation Authority.
Only a portion of Suffolk County students were found proficient in state math and English Language Arts exams this year. With a growing number of students refusing to take the tests, local superintendents say the assessments don’t accurately reflect student performance.
About 36 percent of students in the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District met state ELA proficiency standards and 55 percent in math, according to this spring’s testing results of students in grades 3 through 8, which the New York State Department of Education released last week.
Superintendent Anne Smith said she’s concerned about the state’s current approach of using assessments and believes testing shouldn’t be the only method.
She said 35 percent of her district’s students refused to take the ELA exam and 40 percent opted out of the math exam.
About 61 percent of Greenport students refused to take the ELA exam and 68 percent didn’t take the math test. Nearly 64 percent of Southold’s students skipped the ELA tests with 58 percent skipping the math.
Results from test takers show about 31 percent of Greenport students and 37 percent of Southold students as proficient in ELA and 41 percent of Greenport students and 37 percent of Southold students proficient in math.
Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch defended the state’s use of assessments despite rising refusal numbers. She said: “Without an annual testing program, the progress of our neediest students may be ignored… This cannot happen.”
Monday, August 24 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Scott Schere.)
In the news tonight: The Malloy administration is quiet on possible aid to GE; comment period for Long Island Sound dredging is extended; talk of finance reform for Bridgeport mayoral elections; and, Greenport tentatively approves a peak power plant.
Late last week, Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration would neither confirm nor deny a media report that it was preparing an aggressive package of economic assistance to keep General Electric from moving its headquarters out of state.
GE was one of several major Connecticut employers that publicly criticized Malloy and the General Assembly after they negotiated a new biannual budget that would have increased state taxes about $1.5 billion across this fiscal year and next combined.
Malloy relented on the deal his administration originally signed off on, and pressed his fellow Democrats in the legislature’s majority to scale back the overall tax hike.
A revised two-year plan was enacted in late June that reduced the overall two-year tax hike by just over $175 million.
State Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, of North Haven, said: “These lawmakers feel strongly that GE is not negatively impacted by the new state budget. So why is Governor Malloy prepping a taxpayer-funded aid package for GE less than two months after he signed the state budget into law?”
A deadline for written comments on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Dredged Material Management Plan has been extended to 60 days, Representative Lee Zeldin announced on Thursday. The new deadline for comments is October 18.
Zeldin wrote to the Army Corps seeking an extension of the 30-day deadline set by the federal agency for public comment. Zeldin wrote: “I feel that this is much too short a period for documents which have been years in the making and will have an impact on our area for decades to come.”
Zeldin added: “EPA testing must be performed on all dredge waste to ensure that the material will not harm the environment into which it is placed. Long Island cannot be a dumping ground for any questionable waste dredged out of Connecticut rivers.”
County Legislator Al Krupski and the supervisors of Southold, Riverhead and Brookhaven all spoke out against plans to continue open water dumping and the short timeline for public review and comment.
A public hearing was held this evening in Port Jefferson. A second public hearing will be held on Tuesday in Uniondale. Two public hearings will also be held in Connecticut: one in Stamford on Wednesday and one in New London on Thursday.
The Ct Post reports:
By November’s general election, the various Bridgeport mayoral candidates could easily spend well over $1 million in the fight to lead Connecticut’s largest municipality.
Mayoral Candidate Joseph P. Ganim wants to implement campaign finance reform and get “special interests” out of city elections.
Ganim’s model would be New Haven’s Democracy Fund, which that city implemented nearly a decade ago as part of a state pilot program.
Jared Milfred, chairman of New Haven’s campaign finance board, said New Haven’s Democracy Fund, which is voluntary, encourages candidates to engage with all voters, including modest- and lower-income households.
Bridgeport’s lesser-known mayoral candidates, including Howard Gardner and the GOP’s Enrique Torres, whose party is greatly outnumbered by Democrats, said they would embrace public campaign financing.
Mayor Bill Finch said: “In the final analysis, the voters have to elect honest people.”
Long Island's electric power needs continue to grow, and PSEG-Long Island continues to search for alternate sources of electricity, especially during peak demand times, when its normal wholesale source of power—LIPA--is unable to satisfy demand.
The Village of Greenport has chosen to not rely on outside electric sources, but generates electricity in its own municipally-owned generating plant. It is one of over 2,000 municipal utilities which provide almost 15% of the country's energy needs.
Greenport's generating station, however, suffers regularly from equipment breakdowns. Under debate currently is the staffing level and its adequacy in maintaining the aging physical plant.
Late last week, the Greenport Village Board gave tentative approval for a so-called privately-owned peak-energy power plant which would be fired up when PSEG-Long Island cannot meet demand.
The proposed power plant would burn natural gas to generate electricity, which would be sold to PSEG-Long Island at peak power usage times.
A number of such plants are being activated on Long Island since the obstacles to a large new generating station seem insurmountable.
PSEG is also contracting to purchase solar and wind power from independent companies.
In tonight’s news, the University of Connecticut to begin layoffs in attempt to close budget gap; a Middletown resident spends birthday protesting fracked gas pipeline project; rights groups respond to Riverhead Board on treatment of undocumented residents; and, Cuomo signs new horseshoe crab protection bills.
The University of Connecticut confirmed yesterday that it started sending layoff notices last month to its employees in Storrs, its regional campuses, and its health center.
Around 40 positions are being eliminated at the Storrs and regional campuses, and nine full-time positions are being eliminated at the health center, along with funds for another nine per diem employees, who are paid by the day.
The health center employees include dental assistants, lab techs, radiology specialists, a podiatrist, and a dentist.
The university approved a $2.3 billion budget in June, requiring it to close a $28.8 million budget gap. University officials said at that time they expected to close the gap with layoffs.
The layoffs don’t necessarily close the budget gap. The changes will result in $4.7 million savings at Storrs and the regional campuses, and about $450,000 at UConn Health.
The notice sent to workers Wednesday at the UConn Health Center cited “lack of work” as the reason it would be eliminating positions September 30.
A Connecticut activist celebrated his 75th birthday on Thursday by blocking the entrance to a fracked gas pipeline project in Windham, Connecticut.
WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more:
Middletown resident Vic Lancia locked himself to two giant “birthday cakes”—actually concrete-filled barrels decorated with candles and frosting— on the road leading up to a site where Spectra Energy stores equipment and materials related to its construction of the Algonquin Incremental Market -- or AIM -- project, which is planned to cross the entire state from New York to Rhode Island.
Lancia is part of a group called Capitalism Versus the Climate, and was supported by ten others during the action. They say new pipelines will increase fracking in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania, and new reports out this week show release of methane from fracking makes it more polluting than coal.
“I felt like I needed to do this action, especially at my age. You know, I've had people tell me, ‘Hey, Vic, why are you doing this stuff, because you're not going to be around.’ And I wanted to counter that attitude, because I really, really think we older people owe something to the younger generation and the beyond.”
After blocking the entrance to the site for over two hours, Lancia negotiated with the police and unlocked. He was not arrested and the group got to keep its concrete "birthday cakes."
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
Immigrant and civil liberty advocates and community members spoke Thursday at a meeting of the Riverhead Town Board in response to comments made by board members about changing town policy toward undocumented immigrants.
Last month, several town board members said the town’s policies toward undocumented immigrants are too similar to policies governing so-called “sanctuary cities” and that they needed to be changed.
That includes the town police department’s refusal to detain someone solely on the request of a federal immigration agency and without a judicial warrant.
The advocates said Riverhead has fostered a “climate of fear” in the local Hispanic community, further discouraging members from reaching out for help from local authorities.
Earlier this month, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio told Riverhead Local that town police should consider taking action when someone is pulled over without a driver’s license and without any other documentation to prove immigration status.
But according to Amol Sinha, director of Suffolk’s New York Civil Liberties Union chapter, federal law prohibits police from detaining an individual or prolonging a traffic stop solely based on the suspicion that the person has committed an immigration infraction. Sinha said: “A lack of lawful immigration status is a civil, not criminal, violation.”
Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller is standing by the department's current policies. He said: "Immigration is up to the feds to take care of.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed two new horseshoe crab protection bills on August 13.
The laws extend the Department of Environmental Conservation’s authority to regulate the horseshoe crab fishery for two years.
The legislation also limits the harvest of female horseshoe crabs, mating horseshoe crabs and crabs found at shorebird-feeding beaches.
Long used as bait for conch and eel fishing, horseshoe crabs populations have been on the decline due to over-harvesting. Their blood is also used in biomedical testing.
A threatened shorebird known as the red knot, which feeds on horseshoe crab eggs, has also been impacted by the decline in horseshoe crab populations.
The Brookhaven Town Board voted last month to ask the DEC to ban horseshoe crab harvesting within its waters.
But Town Supervisor Ed Romaine told Newsday it is likely the DEC will throw out their request.
Thursday, August 20 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer and Nadine Dumser.)
Nail shops closed over minimum wage violations; Senator Blumenthal weighs in on Coke-funded research; funding for Long Island Railroad tunnel repairs cut – delays expected; and, plan to store derelict oil tank cars in New York’s Adirondack Park is opposed.
Investigators from the Connecticut State Department of Labor conducted unannounced investigative visits at 25 nail salons this month that resulted in 23 of them being temporarily shut down.
The closed shops, which have all since re-opened, were not paying the state minimum wage, overtime pay, or workman's compensation, and weren't keeping payroll records.
$47,000 in back wages and $100,000 in penalties have been recovered so far.
Gary Pechie of the State Department of Labor and Moo Yong Lee of the Nail and Spa Association of Connecticut agree that there is widespread misunderstanding of state labor laws in the heavily Korean industry.
Saloon owners wrongly assume they are exempt from minimum wage laws because employees rely on tips, much like restaurant servers.
The Nail Association has requested a one-day wage and labor law seminar to better educate shop owners. The seminar will be conducted by state officials at a Korean Church in Hamden on August 26.
Connecticut’s U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal has written to three university presidents, urging them to make public any grant arrangements between their schools and the The Coca-Cola Company.
Blumenthal said: "I am asking them to assure that the research done on their campuses will be unbiased and un-bought, impartial and objective.”
He sent letters to the presidents of West Virginia University, the University of South Carolina and the University of Colorado.
Blumenthal's move comes after multiple health officials wrote letters published in The New York Times condemning what they described as misleading research performed by professors at those schools for the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), a health research group funded by Coca-Cola.
A Times article said that Coca-Cola provided $1.5 million to the GEBN, its website is registered in Coca-Cola’s name, and since 2008 Coca-Cola funded $4 million in research by two professors who founded the group last year.
Its research stressed the importance of exercise over reduced sugar and calorie consumption in combatting obesity. GEBN has ties to professors at each of the three universities Blumenthal sent inquiries.
The insurance payout to fund repairs to Amtrak’s East River tunnels damaged by Superstorm Sandy has been capped to just $125 million by a recent U.S. District Court ruling.
The ruling could cause big delays in planned repairs, according to Newsday.
Amtrak plans to rehabilitate two of the four rail tunnels primarily used by the Long Island Railroad that run between Queens and Penn Station.
Each of the two tunnels would be removed from service for a year at a time and a cost of several hundred million dollars.
The tunnels were inundated with 14 million gallons of floodwaters during the October 2012 storm. Amtrak says corrosive salts and chlorides have continued to deteriorate the underground structures.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff sided with insurance providers in ruling that the tunnel damage falls within a $125 million limit for flood damage.
In a $1.1 billion suit filed earlier this year, Amtrak argued that the damage was caused by wind-driven storm surges, which are different from flood, and that the water and salt damage were separate.
MTA Board member Mitchell Pally said that whether insurance money, Sandy funding, or other grants pay for repairs, putting them off any further is not an option.
The Albany Times-Union reports:
The Adirondack Council is calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo to stop a shipping company from using tracks in the Adirondack Park as a storage and inspection area for derelict oil tanker cars.
The Council, a privately funded group, says plans by the Chicago-based Iowa-Pacific holdings pose a threat to the park’s waterways and wild nature.
A railroad official recently told the Warren County Board of Supervisors that the company intends to wait until the tankers are at their destination in Essex County, before inspecting them to see how much oil is left in them and deciding what to do with the oil.
The Adirondack Council says: “Waiting until they are here to inspect and attempt to clean them out is even worse and should be the subject of a state environmental review. We urge the governor to take action, and to work with federal officials, to eliminate this hazard to the future of the Adirondack Park.”
The Adirondack Park is the source of most of New York’s major rivers. It is a globally significant, protected landscape that attracts 10 million visitors per year.
Wednesday August 19 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.)
Sikorsky gets a defense department grant for pilot-free helicopters; relatives of Sandy Hook victims charge the NRA illegally funneled money to defeat Governor Malloy; local officials slam a federal plan to dump dredge material in Long Island Sound; and, the New York state attorney general gets a Citigroup subsidiary to send refunds to customers.
The Department of Defense awarded Sikorsky Aircraft a $9.8 million grant to continue its development of a system that would allow helicopters to fly autonomously, according to the Connecticut Post.
A longtime subsidiary of United Technologies, Sikorsky is based in Stratford and is in the process of being acquired by Lockheed Martin.
DOD awarded the grant through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.
Sikorsky previously received $8 million under the DARPA program and has committed $7.6 million of its own funding for the project, which is scheduled to be completed in January 2017.
The company plans to expand the project to include pilot-free fixed-wing aircraft.
The Connecticut Post reports that the brother of a teacher murdered in the 2012 Sandy Hook School massacre filed a complaint Wednesday against the National Rifle Association, charging the NRA improperly used money from its federal political action committee to oppose Gov. Dannel Malloy’s re-election campaign last year.
The complaint was presented to the State Elections Enforcement Commission by Carlos Soto, whose sister, teacher Victoria Soto, was killed; Sarah Clements, whose mother, second-grade teacher Abbey Clements, survived the shooting; Po Murray, the mother of four Sandy Hook School graduates; a neighbor of gunman Adam Lanza; and others.
Dredged materials will continue to be dumped in Long Island Sound under a plan released yesterday by the Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency.
The complaint alleges that the NRA illegally funneled money from its federal PAC for use against Malloy in violation of state election law.
The plan is for managing the projected 53 million cubic yards of materials to be dredged from rivers, harbors and inlets in the Long Island Sound over the next 30 years.
Elected officials blasted the federal agencies for relying on open water disposal of the material, arguing it will have negative environmental impacts on an estuary of national significance.
They were also outraged that the Army Corps gave the public just one week to review the 1,300-plus page document prior to an Aug. 24 public hearing in Port Jefferson — and will close the comment period after 30 days.
Both Rep. Lee Zeldin and Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski called for an extension of the comment period and additional public hearings.
Local officials said the contaminants from dumping will further degrade the water quality of the Sound and harm marine life.
The public hearing starts at 6 p.m. on Monday, August 24 at the Port Jefferson Village Center at 101-A East Broadway in Port Jefferson.
Newsday reports that an investment subsidiary of Citigroup will pay $4.5 million to 15,000 customers who were overcharged fees, including more than 600 on Long Island, under an agreement with New York State officials announced Wednesday.
The payment is the second resulting from a state investigation of Citigroup's Global Markets Inc. subsidiary.
State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said customers were overcharged when Global Markets failed to rebate certain accounts after periods of inactivity.
For a variety of reasons, a customer's account may be "frozen" during a particular period of inactivity, but when customers requested refunds of the fees in the frozen period, Global Markets sometimes did not rebate the fees.
Tuesday, August 18 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Chris Cadra.)
A dangerous New Haven building ordered razed in 2011 is finally demolished; Connecticut lawmaker wants to let student-athletes form unions; New York State enacts emergency rules to curb Legionnaires’ disease; and, Governor Cuomo pays a recruiting visit to GE in Connecticut.
In New Haven, an emergency crew demolished the building located at 808-810 Chapel Street on Monday.
City buildings official Jim Turcio ordered the demolition on Sunday after the roof collapsed and bricks began tumbling onto the sidewalk as reported by the New Haven Independent.
The city sought the building’s demolition for years, according to a review of the Building Department’s property file. An order was first issued in 2007, until repairs were made. A second order was issued in 2011.
According to Turcio, there is no evidence that all repairs promised in 2012 by the building’s owner Paul Denz were completed. Denz said on Monday that the promised work had been done.
Costs for the demolition, estimated at more than $100,000, will be paid by Denz’s Corner Block Development.
Turcio announced during a press conference that he and Fire Marshal Bobby Doyle plan to inspect all commercial buildings, beginning with abandoned ones, to seek to avoid similar near-collapses.
The bus stop next to the building lot will be closed the rest of the week while crews clear the rubble and fix the sidewalk.
Representative Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, announced Monday that he will reintroduce legislation in Connecticut next year to allow some college athletes to form unions.
His announcement comes the same day the National Labor Relations Board declined to answer the question about whether student-athletes on scholarship are employees. But the NLRB unanimously decided that having union and non-union teams could lead to different standards and create competitive differences within an athletic conference.
Lesser said the decision only increases the pressure on states to act and decide “whether or not we value athletes’ rights.”
Similar legislation he introduced this year didn’t get a public hearing. However, another bill that called for studying the issue did get a public hearing before it died in committee.
University of Connecticut Athletic Director Warde Manual told the Labor Committee in February that full scholarship athletes will be provided an additional stipend in the 2015-16 school year to cover the full cost of attendance.
The Albany Times-Union reports:
An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the South Bronx has led to emergency regulations on cooling towers. The Public Health and Health Planning Council in New York City approved the regulations, effective immediately, at a special meeting Monday.
Building owners must register their cooling towers with the state, test them for Legionella bacteria within 30 days, and have their towers regularly inspected thereafter. Building owners must put cooling tower maintenance programs into place by March, according to the proposed rules.
Hospitals and nursing homes would additionally need a plan for testing drinking water.
The South Bronx outbreak, linked to contaminated cooling towers, has sickened 124 people and killed 12. People contract the disease by breathing in water vapor containing Legionella bacteria. A type of pneumonia, the illness does not spread from person to person.
Under the emergency regulations, state or local health department employees can inspect the cooling towers, and building owners not in compliance would be subject to civil or criminal penalties.
The emergency regulations are in effect for 90 days, during which they can be changed before being made permanent.
Politico New York reports: Governor Andrew Cuomo visited top General Electric executives last month as part of an ongoing campaign to lure the company's headquarters from Connecticut.
Cuomo visited the industrial conglomerate's C-suite in Fairfield on July 30. Two people outside the governor's office briefed on the trip say Cuomo and several aides met with top GE executives about a possible move to Westchester County and incentives New York might offer. One of the people said GE's CEO, Jeff Immelt, was not present for the meeting.
GE spokesman Dominic McMullan responded to inquiries with a general statement: “We have formed an exploratory team to assess the company’s options to relocate corporate headquarters."
Company officials started talking about moving their headquarters out of Connecticut after Governor Dannel Malloy pushed through a budget with more than $1 billion in tax hikes.
Monday, August 17 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Scott Schere.)
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News."
Senator Blumenthal says rail safety violators must be fined, but not Connecticut; Law enforcement access to drug monitoring data raises privacy concerns; New York’s Common Core test results are low but improving; and Quogue’s plan to protect its beach debated.
Senator Richard Blumenthal wants the Federal Railroad Administration to fine those who fail to meet a December 31 deadline to implement rail safety technology called Positive Train Control —but he would spare Connecticut from punishment.
The Railroad Administration said most railroads are expected to miss the year-end deadline to implement the Positive Train Control system known as PTC.
The system monitors trains and can automatically slow or stop them if they are going too fast or are in danger of colliding.
There is no PTC technology on Metro-North’s routes in the state but Metro-North received nearly $1 billion in Federal funds to install that technology.
While Blumenthal is calling for tough punishment for rail companies, he’s willing to make an exception for the state of Connecticut.
The state must implement PTC because it owns hundreds of miles of track.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation said PTC would not be implemented on the tracks the state owns in Connecticut until 2018.
Blumenthal said the state is making a “good faith effort” to comply with the federal regulations regarding PTC, drafted after two trains crashed head-on in California in 2008, killing 25 people.
The Connecticut Prescription Monitoring Program aims to monitor possible drug interactions or prescription abuse by patients, but access to the system and its information by law enforcement has led to concerns about the confidentiality of patient information.
The State limits access to system information to trained and vetted law enforcement officers working on cases involving specific individuals and situations, with "no fishing expeditions allowed," according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Dan Barrett, legal director of the Connecticut American Civil Liberties Union, counters this, saying the system was built for one purpose, but is being used for another, and has become a situation where the computer tells the police what is going on with a patient.
Prescription monitoring programs reveal illegal activities such as doctor shopping, drug diversion and over-prescribing by medical practitioners, with officials adding that "we'd be completely in the dark about prescription drug abuse without these monitoring programs."
The ACLU has successfully sued the DEA in an Oregon prescription monitoring case, with the Court ruling a warrant must be obtained to search a person's private prescription information.
The State of Connecticut does not require a search warrant to examine medical prescription records.
According to the New York State Education Department, students across New York scored modest gains in the latest round of Common Core testing in English and math, as reported by Newsday.
Test score results released Wednesday are clouded by the large numbers of children in grades three to eight who opted out of the exams.
In English, the percentage of test-takers scoring at the "proficient" level inched up to 31.3 percent statewide in 2015, compared with 30.6 percent in 2014.
In Math, those scoring at the proficient level rose to 38.1 percent in 2015, from 36.2 percent in 2014.
Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia said: "The transition to new learning standards is not easy, and success isn't instantaneous. Teachers across the state are working hard to help students reach the high bar we've set for them."
More than 200 people turned out Monday night in Quogue to a public hearing organized by New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation over a proposed beach nourishment plan.
Most of the 30 people who spoke were opposed to the project.
Quogue Village has asked the DEC to approve its plan to excavate 100 acres of ocean bottom several thousand feet off the Quogue oceanfront, placing the sand along a 2.7-mile stretch of ocean beach.
The project is slated to cost nearly $15 million, but, if it decides to go forward with the plan, Quogue Mayor Peter Sartorius said the village has not yet decided how to pay for it.
Proponents say it would protect the village’s tax base and that the beach is vulnerable to ocean storms which could breach the island.
But Concerned Citizens of Quogue board member Terry Young said that only 7.5 percent of the tax base would be protected by the project and that the oceanfront properties are covered by federal flood insurance policies.
He said they would be rebuilt “closer to the road, where they should have been built in the first place”
Quogue resident Kevin McAllister of Defend H2O agreed.
McAllister said New York State projections of sea level rise are 2.5 feet higher by mid-century, and 6 feet higher by 2100.
He said: ‘Facing such enormous coastal changes must be done in a cohesive manner along the entire South Shore, not in piecemeal efforts by village government. The principle of any plan is coastal retreat.”
Wednesday August 12 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.):
Sales Tax Holiday week is coming up in Connecticut; mosquitoes test positive for West Nile in Stratford; Southold debates short-term rentals; and, bacteria and blue-green algae are found in East End waters.
Despite the looming budget deficit, Connecticut residents will still enjoy the annual Sales Tax Holiday Week — but they won’t be able to save on as many items as they could in past years.
This year tax-free week begins Sunday and runs through August 22.
All qualifying clothing and footwear items costing less than $100 each will be exempt from state sales tax all week.
Past tax holidays allowed shoppers to avoid sales tax on items that cost less than $300, but the threshold for tax exemption was lowered this year because of the budget deficit.
The one-week tax exclusion applies to qualifying sales made by Connecticut and out-of-state retailers to Connecticut consumers, according to the Department of Revenue Services.
It also applies to each individual item of clothing or footwear sold, regardless of how many items a customer purchases.
Individual items that cost $100 or more are subject to the usual 6.35-percent sales tax.
The tax holiday is timed each August to help families who are back-to-school shopping.
The Stratford Health Department announced Tuesday that the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has found that mosquitoes trapped at Beacon Point on August 5, have tested positive for West Nile virus.
According to the Connecticut Post, Stratford is one of eight communities in Connecticut where West Nile has been discovered this summer.
The others are Greenwich, Darien, Guilford, New Haven, Stamford, West Haven and Waterford.
August and September are the months when risk of West Nile virus infection is greatest in Connecticut, said CAES Director Dr. Theodore Andreadis.
He urged residents to take steps to prevent mosquito bites, such as using insect repellent and covering bare skin, especially during dusk and dawn, when biting mosquitoes are most active.
The mosquito that carries the disease can survive and reproduce well in years with wet springs followed by hot, dry summers because it prefers very still pools of water, Andreadis said.
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has information for the public on mosquito surveillance control and mosquito-borne diseases which can be accessed on their website.
A standing-room only crowd packed Southold Town Hall on the East End last night to make their voices heard at a public hearing on a new draft of a short-term rental code that would impose a limitation of no less than 14 nights.
But after nearly four hours of comments on all sides of the controversial issue, the town board took no action.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the board would think about all that was said and discuss it at the next meeting in two weeks.
The issue has sharply divided residents for months since short-term rentals from sites such as Airbnb have proliferated throughout the town.
Some residents called for shorter minimums and others said at least 14 nights or longer will help preserve quality of life in residential neighborhoods.
Hotel and B&B owners said they expected fair and equal treatment, and said those operating short-term rentals should also pay taxes and insurance.
Many agreed the town is at a crossroads, with the board faced with a decision that will affect the future of Southold.
The Suffolk County Health Department reported yesterday that researchers from Stony Brook University have confirmed the presence of cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) at Georgica Pond in East Hampton.
Health officials said residents should not swim or wade in these waters and keep pets and children away from the pond.
Blue-green algae also continues to be a problem at McKay Lake in Calverton, Fort Pond in Montauk, Kellis Pond in Bridgehampton, Wainscott Pond in Wainscott, Agawam Lake and Mill Pond in Southampton and Maratooka Lake in Mattituck.
Meanwhile, due to yesterday’s heavy rainfall, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services issued an advisory against bathing in Havens Beach in Sag Harbor, based on the potential for the presence of bacteria at levels that exceed New York State standards.
Tuesday, August 11 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli.):
Connecticut will not be getting a mileage tax; a racial profiling incident inspires a new law in Hartford; will new deer hunting regulations make a difference in Suffolk County?; and, Army Corps plan calls for dumping dredged materials in Long Island Sound.
Democratic lawmakers in Connecticut have denounced a mileage tax that had been proposed at the governor’s Transportation Finance Panel meeting.
Last Friday, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff released statements in opposition to a mileage tax as a way to pay for Governor Malloy’s 30-year, $100-billion transportation initiative.
The idea of a mileage tax was one of several ideas discussed at a two-hour meeting of the bipartisan panel tasked with figuring out a way to pay for the transportation initiative.
Yesterday, Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed a new bill into law inspired by a racial profiling incident that took place in Hartford last winter.
Doug Glanville, a former MLB player currently working as an analyst for ESPN, was out shoveling his driveway when he was approached by a West Hartford police officer. The officer had crossed the town line looking for a person shoveling driveways who had allegedly violated West Hartford’s solicitation ban.
In April 2014, The Atlantic published Glanville’s first-person account of the profiling incident, titled “I Was Racially Profiled In My Own Driveway.”
Malloy apologized to Glanville yesterday, and spoke of the importance of both the bill, and the conversation the incident sparked.
Malloy said, “Part of what we have to do in the state of Connecticut is be vigilant about understanding the implications of racial overtones.”
The new law makes it illegal for municipal police to cross municipal borders to enforce a local ordinance.
Glanville believes it is important the state has recognized there are clarifications to make in existing law. Glanville said, “It can be big if we continue to look at what’s happening in our country and figure out a way where Connecticut can be proactive and that’s the most important thing.”
Suffolk County hunters will have to wait a bit longer than usual to begin hunting that trophy buck once the bow hunting season commences in October.
As part of an effort to curb deer overpopulation, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced new rules allowing only antlerless deer to be hunted during the first 15 days of the season.
The effort will be the first time the state environmental regulatory agency has curbed buck hunting in the County.
Some North Fork hunters doubt whether those regulations will be effective at addressing a serious local problem.
Since most hunters only go out a handful of times, Tom Gabrielsen, chair of Riverhead’s Wildlife Management Committee, said most would wait until they could hunt bucks — which are far more appealing since they are trophy animals.
Gabrielsen suggested the DEC pursue other policies, such as granting more than one doe tag per hunt, establishing a crossbow-specific hunting season to increase interest and granting one buck tag for every two does killed.
Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski wrote a letter yesterday voicing “strong objections” to the continued use of Long Island Sound for open-water disposal of dredged materials.
Krupski wrote the letter in response to the Army Corps of Engineers’ soon-to-be-released plan which involves disposal of materials dredged to maintain navigability of more than 50 channels, harbors and basins in and adjacent to the Long Island Sound.
The Army Corps of Engineers currently maintains four open-water disposal sites in Long Island Sound. These sites are pits dug in the sea bottom which are filled by dredged materials.
In 2005, the Army Corps of Engineers was tasked with developing a Dredge Material Development Plan for the Sound.
The Plan and a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, which is not site-specific, will be released on August 17, one week in advance of the first public hearing on the plan.
The Army Corps has scheduled a Monday, August 24 public hearing in Port Jefferson, followed by an August 25 hearing in Uniondale, a hearing in Connecticut at UConn Stamford on August 26 and at the Holiday Inn in New London on August 27.
Krupski has called on the Army Corps to extend the public comment period to “allow stakeholders enough time to read the documents, consider the findings and respond.”
Monday, August 10 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Scott Schere.):
Connecticut is still diverting dollars meant to prevent smoking to the general fund; two Port Jefferson mosquitoes and a bird test positive for West Nile; a meeting is planned on Silver Sands State Park improvements; and, a Fire Island homemaker fights to keep his beachfront home.
As Connecticut diverts money from a tobacco abuse prevention fund to the general budget, advocates blame lawmakers for failing to support efforts to quit the habit.
The two-year budget, passed in special session June 30, included a provision to strip the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund of its yearly allotment of funding through a 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with the nation’s major tobacco companies.
Bryte Johnson, state director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Action Network, said “the latest edition of the organization’s annual progress report released Thursday shows the state is not giving people the tools they need to quit smoking or to prevent them from picking up a cigarette in the first place.”
According to the American Cancer Society Action Network, Connecticut ranks in the bottom tier of U.S. states for state-funded programming to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use among youth and adults.
State Rep. Matt Ritter, co-chairman of the Public Health Committee said: “You get a lot of competing demands for revenue in a tough budget year, if lawmakers had instead cut funding in the area of health insurance, for example, it could have led to other negative health outcomes.”
Health officials announced Friday that twenty-six new mosquito samples, including two collected in Port Jefferson, have tested positive for West Nile virus in Suffolk County according to the Port Jefferson Patch.
The samples, all culex pipiens-restuans, were collected on July 29. A bird, an all American crow, also tested positive and was collected on July 31 from Port Jefferson.
To date this year, 46 mosquito samples and four birds have tested positive for West Nile virus in Suffolk.
West Nile, first detected in birds and mosquito samples in Suffolk County in 1999 and again each year thereafter, is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.
No humans or horses have tested positive for West Nile virus in Suffolk this year.
Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken said, “The confirmation of West Nile virus in mosquito samples or birds indicates the presence of West Nile virus in the area.”
To reduce the mosquito population around homes, officials say residents should try to eliminate stagnant water where mosquitoes breed.
The Connecticut Post reports that the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s vision for the future of Silver Sands State Park in Milford includes public bathrooms, changing areas, lifeguards, law enforcement space, and a snack bar with a wraparound deck.
DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee said in a release: “Our goal is to provide better services to people who visit Silver Sands State Park...With thousands of visitors annually, it is important to provide bathroom facilities, a snack bar, and a place for staff support at this popular location on Long Island Sound.”
The state has invested more than $10 million dollars since 1960 in acquiring the park property, addressing landfill closure and adding amenities. Milford residents and officials have expressed some reservations over the plans that will likely draw more people into the neighborhood.
People will have the opportunity to talk about these plans with state officials during a public information meeting on improvements to Silver Sands. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 24, at Milford Town Hall.
Superstorm Sandy destroyed many homes on Long Island three years ago. Now finally, on Fire Island, the Army Corps of Engineers plans to begin building 15-foot-high protective oceanfront dunes along about a third of the 32-mile long barrier island to protect those homes that survived.
But, according to Newsday, a strange twist of fate finds that one home which Sandy couldn't topple will become the first on Fire Island to face condemnation to make way for the federal dunes. Elton Strauss, the owner of the only home in Saltaire facing demolition lamented, "We are 15 yards too far south."
Strauss is desperately hoping to save his home by moving it back 45 feet onto a disputed lot owned by the town, but unless a court rules favorably on that move his family’s beach house could be facing bulldozers soon.
Suffolk County is charged with buying the homes and obtaining easements from more than 400 property owners and they went to court last week to start eminent domain proceedings in obtaining four of the easements, in Kismet and Saltaire.
County Executive Steve Bellone has vowed to "minimize impacts" on homeowners.
Friday, August 7 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Leslie Stenull and Mike Merli.):
Connecticut teachers union survey backs opposition to the SBAC exam; a new scam targets Connecticut companies; sanctuary policy stirs up controversy in Riverhead; and, Quogue Village will hold a public hearing on a proposed dredging project.
The results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium exam won’t be released until the middle of the month but Connecticut’s largest teacher union already is cautioning the public about the information it will provide.
Connecticut Education Association President Sheila Cohen says,“The results are likely not a valid indicator of student knowledge.”
A survey of 1,660 teachers found that their students lacked the computer skills to succeed on the test.
That number increases in lower grades and school districts with higher rates of poverty.
And 43 percent of the teachers reported that significant portions of the test covered content not taught at their students’ grade level.
Governor Malloy announced Thursday afternoon that the federal government approved Connecticut’s waiver requesting a reduction in the amount of standardized tests required for public high school students. That means the SAT will replace the SBAC test for 11th graders next year.
While the move was praised by the teachers union, it wants to eliminate the SBAC tests for lower grades as well.
Connecticut state officials are warning businesses about a scam in which Connecticut companies are being solicited for money.
Businesses have been receiving fake forms from “the Division of Corporate Services” claiming they owe money for an “annual records statement.”
According to state officials, the bogus mailing claims the payment is mandated by state law.
Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, and Attorney General George Jepsen warned businesses about the scam yesterday and said an investigation is underway.
Companies that receive any business filing notice they are unsure about are urged to contact the Secretary of the State’s Office at 860-509-6003.
Some Riverhead elected officials and the local New York Civil Liberties Union are at odds over police policy regarding undocumented immigrants.
According to Police Chief David Hegermiller and Supervisor Sean Walter, Riverhead does not detain someone just at the request of federal officials.
Supervisor Walter states, “If the federal government wants to enforce immigration law, they have to follow the law and get a warrant.”
This unwritten policy has earned Riverhead an official status as a “sanctuary city,” a fact that has disturbed certain members of the town’s council.
Jodi Giglio, John Dunleavy and George Gabrielsen all believe the town shouldn’t have to wait for a warrant to detain someone at the federal government’s request.
Amol Sinah of the NYCLU points out that that such a policy would put the town, and not the federal government, at risk of lawsuits where a person was unlawfully detained.
Most New York localities require a warrant or court order before detaining an individual, just like the current practice in Riverhead.
Council members have proposed a more activist role for the police department by suggesting that police should not even wait for a warrant when they suspect someone is undocumented.
Sinha of the NYCLU says actions like requiring citizenship documentation during traffic stops, which has been proposed by members of council, amount to racial profiling and risk damaging strides the community has made with minority residents.
A controversial $15 million proposal by the Village of Quogue (KWAHG) to dredge sand from the ocean bottom and place it along the entire 2.7-mile length of the village’s oceanfront will be up for public hearing at 6pm next Monday evening in Quogue Village Hall.
The village has asked the DEC to approve its plans to excavate a 100-acre area of ocean bottom several thousand feet off the Quogue oceanfront, and place 1.1 million cubic yards of sand along the village’s oceanfront.
The project would be paid for through increased property taxes for village residents.
According to the DEC permit, the excavation will lower the height of the ocean bed by about seven feet, and the fill will be placed along three distinct sections of oceanfront, known as “reaches.”
The easternmost section, which will contain the bulk of the dredged sand, would serve as a “feeder” beach, providing sand for the western beaches as the littoral drift carries the sand westward along the shore over time.
The Town of Southampton must also approve the project.
Earlier this year, Concerned Citizens of Quogue, a group formed to fight the dredging project, asked Dr. Robert S. Young, Director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, to prepare a report on the village’s plans, which will be discussed Monday night.
The public is welcome to submit comments in writing before Monday.
Thursday, August 6 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer and Nadine Dumser.):
Connecticut lawmakers consider how to finance transit; representative Esty seeks guidance on Iran pact in Jerusalem; judge okays suit over new East Hampton power line; and, student will go to court over his arrest by Suffolk police after an incident he video-taped.
Connecticut state lawmakers are being urged by Governor Malloy to consider all available ways of financing his 30-year, $100 billion transportation initiative.
A mileage tax that would charge motorists based on how far they drive in the state is one of several plans under review by the Transportation Finance panel,
Most of last week's Finance Panel meeting centered on the viability of reinstating tolls that would charge motorists through electronic means and license plate cameras that remove the need for toll plazas.
However, a bill to allow electronic tolls has stalled on the House floor with lawmakers divided on the proposal.
Quinnipiac University polls show that 58% oppose re-introduction of tolls, but 57% of respondents support the tolls if the revenues are used for bridge and highway maintenance and repair.
The Transportation panel is expected to meet again in September.
Its final report and recommendations are due to the General Assembly in mid-October.
Governor Malloy says he doesn't anticipate needing a special session on transportation until the Fall.
Esty, Connecticut’s 5th District representative, is one of 22 Democrats on a trip to Israel funded by the educational arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC, the group leading the lobbying charge against the deal.
The Iran pact is a subject of discussion with Israeli officials the lawmakers are meeting, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
They arrived in Israel late Tuesday and will return to the United States next week.
Besides the 22 Democratic lawmakers, AIPAC is also taking 36 Republican lawmakers to Israel. They will leave this weekend.
In 2013, 267 new utility poles were installed between East Hampton Village and Amagansett.
The suit claims that the poles, which were treated with the chemical preservative pentachlorophenol, pose an environmental and health hazard to residents who live along the roads where the poles were installed.
Judge Tarantino also allowed the residents’ claims that LIPA and PSEG-LI had failed in their duty as public utilities when they did not alert and inform residents about their plans to install the poles along some 6.7 miles of roadway.
The judge also upheld claims by the residents’ attorneys that the utility failed to adhere to the State Environmental Quality Review Act when LIPA unilaterally gave the go-ahead for the project.
Twenty-year old Thomas Demint, a student at Suffolk County Community College, said he was arrested May 21, 2014, and charged with obstruction of
governmental administration and resisting arrest after he videotaped Suffolk police officers arresting two friends.
Demint's attorney, Kenneth Mollins, said his client's problems began when Demint offered a ride to a friend whose mother reported him as suicidal to 911.
According to police, the friend's family and Demint intervened when they attempted to administer him aid and Mr. Demint had to be physically escorted away from the scene.
But at a news conference, Mr. Demint’s attorney provided a six-minute video clip shot on Demint's phone the day of the incident.
He said his client was standing there videotaping and on the tape itself you can hear him telling police, "I'm just videotaping,” and when the officer told him to step back, he did.
Shortly after he stopped recording, Demint said police tackled him to the ground, arrested him, took his cellphone and attempted to delete the video he had recorded. They ended up erasing the wrong video.
Demint is due back in District Court in Central Islip on September 15.
Wednesday, August 5 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.):
MGM challenges a new Connecticut casino law, Connecticut warns consumers about pets for sale in parking lots, utility works to restore electricity after a powerful storm hit the East End, and high bacteria levels are found at a Southampton beach.
The Hartford Courant reports that MGM Resorts, developer of a casino in Springfield Massachusetts, is challenging a new Connecticut law that gives two Indian tribes the exclusive right to operate and build a competing casino near the border to draw gamblers away from Massachusetts.
The MGM lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Hartford.
MGM claims the law violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause and federal gaming regulations by giving only the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes the right to operate a third casino on private land.
Legislators authorized a new Indian casino this year to protect jobs for tribal casino employees and give northern Connecticut gamblers an alternative to traveling to Springfield.
MGM claims the law discriminates on the basis of race or ethnicity by limiting development rights to two federally recognized tribes and violates the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
The company also claims it violates the Constitution's commerce clause by prohibiting commercial developers from competing in Connecticut.
The law authorized the Mohegan and Pequot tribes to form a joint development entity and negotiate with cities and towns for development rights so the tribes could operate a casino just south of Springfield.
State Attorney General George Jepsen said the complaint is under review.
The Connecticut Post reports that the state Department of Agriculture is warning that out-of-state groups claiming to be animal-rescue organizations are selling dogs and cats in commuter parking lots.
It’s illegal to sell these pets because many of these out-of-state organizations do not have licenses and the animals could have health issues.
The warning came after animal control officers took part in a multi-state task force earlier this summer that targeted unlicensed animal importers transferring dogs and cats to adopters for a “donation fee” at commuter parking lots along I-395 in eastern Connecticut.
It resulted in the arrest of an importer from Tennessee who was transporting more than 30 dogs, 17 of which were without proper health certificates.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture licenses and regulates transport and sale of animals, and transporters doing business in Connecticut must obtain an importation license from the state and file notice of any sale.
Verification that a seller or importer is licensed and has filed event notices can be found on the state’s E-Licensing website at www.elicense.ct.gov.
Newsday reports that power was expected to be restored today to some 15,000 PSEG Long Island customers after entire trees toppled onto tracks, roads and homes in an intense, predawn storm early Tuesday.
PSE&G had about 950 line workers and tree trimmers working Wednesday to restore the remaining outages, with another 230 on the way from New Jersey and other regions, spokesman Jeff Weir said.
In all, 80,000 of the utility's 1.1 million customers experienced an outage after the storm ripped across a northern swath of western and central Suffolk early Tuesday.
PSE&G expected to get the vast majority of the remaining 15,000 back up today and conclude any additional cleanup tomorrow.
Downed trees, wires and some poles constitute the bulk of the work.
Storms that carried winds of up to 60 mph jolted Long Islanders awake before dawn Tuesday, wrecking rail and road commutes. No serious injuries were reported.
Most of the customers still without electricity Wednesday morning were in Brookhaven, Southold, Smithtown Riverhead and Shelter Island.
Suffolk County health officials said Tuesday that Emma Rose Beach in North Sea in the Town of Southampton has been closed to swimming, due to bacteria found at levels higher than state standards, according to Newsday.
Dr. James Tomarken, county health commissioner said swimming in such contaminated water can result in gastrointestinal illness, as well as infections of the eyes, ears, nose and throat.
To learn more and stay up to date on affected county beaches, residents can call the county's bathing beach hotline at 631-852-5822 or check http://gis2.suffolkcountyny.gov/bathingbeaches/
Tuesday, August 4 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, Chris Cadra, and Tony Ernst.):
New Stratford school named for slain Newtown teacher Victoria Soto; Connecticut’s Senators fight for no gun sale without a background check; New York State Attorney will use new investigation powers for the first time; Suffolk sprays for mosquitoes on Fire Island.
The Connecticut Post reports: This fall, the Victoria Soto School will open in Stratford. The school is named for the first grade teacher slain along with 25 others at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Soto attended Stratford schools.
The school is the first one built in the town in decades and will serve prekindergarten through second grade students. The school contains hi-tech features such as WiFi and smartboards, and several safety features, including bullet resistant glass.
Response time for first responders is less than three minutes, according to school superintendent Janet Robinson.
The Soto family added a mural created with the help of Ben’s Bells, an organization that works to inspire individuals and communities to engage in kindness education. Many of the glass and clay pieces were designed by Soto’s extended family and include carvings of flamingos, a bird she loved.
“This is a school Vicki would actually love to teach in,” said Soto’s brother, Carlos. “You walk in and you are just happy.”
The Victoria Soto School will open September 3.
Connecticut’s U.S. Senators called for stricter gun laws Monday, demanding that gun dealers across the country refuse to sell the hardware before a background check is completed.
U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy were two of the lawmakers who signed a letter to three major gun retailers.
According to Blumenthal and Murphy, gun dealers wondering what they would have to do to comply with the legislation should look to the country’s largest gun retailer, Wal-Mart. Since 2002, Wal-Mart has required a completed background check in order to approve a gun sale.
Blumenthal said Monday at a Hartford press conference, “No check, no sale. It’s as simple as that.”
Past evaluations from the FBI show that the bureau likely thought along the same lines as Murphy — that when it comes to extra-long background checks, the purchasers are likely to misuse the weapon.
The push for gun sale reform comes in the wake of the Charleston, South Carolina shooting that took the lives of nine people inside an Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The shooter would not have been able to purchase the gun if the legislation was in place.
The Times Union reports: New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Monday that he will use for the first time newly granted authority to investigate the death of a civilian in police care.
Schneiderman will look into the death of Raynette Turner, a 42-year-old woman who was found dead in a holding cell in Mount Vernon last week. Turner had been waiting arraignment for allegedly stealing crab legs two days before.
Governor Cuomo gave the state attorney general power to investigate and prosecute police killings of civilians in an executive order last month.
The build-up surrounding the order mostly dealt with more explicit cases of death at the hands of police, including the chokehold death of Eric Garner and shooting death of Ramarley Graham.
In a statement, Cuomo said a situation like Turner’s death is the reason he penned the executive order: “I believe that we can begin to restore trust, eliminate any perceived conflicts of interest, and let the community know, once and for all, that justice truly is blind.”
Suffolk County Department of Public Works will spray all streets of Davis Park and Point O'Woods on Fire Island today to control mosquitoes. The ground spraying is scheduled between 6 and 10 p.m.
Officials advise pregnant women and children in particular to remain inside with windows, doors and air conditioning vents closed during spraying, and for up to 30 minutes after.
Anyone exposed to the pesticide spray should rinse eyes and skin with water and wash any clothes that may have come in contact with the spray separately from other laundry.
The pesticide used is Anvil.
A Wikipedia entry says: No-spray protests have called for more organic methods of preventing West Nile Virus due to health and environmental concerns as well as recent studies showing the spray’s ineffectiveness. The chemical is also toxic to bees and fish.
Monday, August 3 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Scott Schere.):
A medical marijuana dispensary is coming to Riverhead; the Vibes wraps up another successful run in Bridgeport; mandatory drug tests and background checks of Suffolk taxi and limo drivers starts today; and, Melinda Tuhus reports about a meeting in Connecticut regarding a proposed gas pipeline.
The New York State Department of Health announced last Friday its selection of five organizations to manufacture and dispense medical marijuana.
Each organization picked will have one manufacturing site and four dispensing sites across various counties in the state. One of the organizations selected, Columbia Care NY LLC, based out of New York City, will have one Suffolk County site for dispensing.
A spokesman for Columbia, Peter Kerr, said a dispensary will be in Riverhead on Route 58, but couldn’t provide any further details.
Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said last month that he had spoken with representatives of two companies that were interested in locating medical marijuana growing facilities at EPCAL, one of which later withdrew its plans.
Last Friday, Mr. Walter said he didn’t have any information on Columbia choosing Riverhead as a location for a dispensary. The state hasn’t contacted the town, either, about its latest decision.
The other closest manufacturing site to Long Island is Bloomfield Industries Inc which will have a site in Queens. Bloomfield will also have a dispensing site in Nassau County.
Organizers won't have final attendance figures until Tuesday for the annual Gathering of the Vibes Festival that concluded Sunday here in Bridgeport but the Connecticut Post reports over the weekend that they pronounced their satisfaction if for no other reason than the beautiful weather.
The four-day event, broadcast live here on Radio Vibes WPKN, featured a variety of artists ranging from alternative rock acts like Wilco and Weezer to rock and blues heavyweights Warren Haynes and Gregg Allman. Haynes played two different times on Saturday evening after joining Bill Kreutzmann’s band for a rendition of the Beatles song, While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
Mike “Mac” Macnamara guitarist/vocalist of the Bridgeport band Relative Souls, has “always felt like an outsider looking in.” This year, the group won the Road To The Vibes contest, earning a spot opening the festival and all the exposure that comes with it.
Vibes, celebrating its 20th birthday, contained the usual Kids Zone where the younger set was hula-hooping, making arts and crafts and jamming out to music on the School of Rock stage.
And on Sunday, the flags of the world waved high during the World Peace Flag Ceremony.
Suffolk taxi and limo drivers, including those with Uber and other ride-sharing companies, will have to get drug tested and go through background checks beginning today, Suffolk officials said.
A new law, passed unanimously last year by the county legislature, requires owners of cars to pay $300 to register with the county Taxi & Limousine Commission, and then $250 a year for renewal.
Frank Nardelli, commissioner of the Suffolk Department of Labor, Licensing and Consumer Affairs said drivers for Uber and other ride-sharing companies will have to follow the same rules as traditional taxi companies.
The new Suffolk regulation costs are likely to be passed on to consumers through higher charges, said Taxi & Limousine Commission member Robert Cunningham, president of the Long Island Limousine Commission and owner of Platinum Limousine, based in Stony Brook.
"It definitely will impact rates," he said. But he called it a safety issue, "You want to make sure some maniac is not behind the wheel."
A sparsely attended meeting about a proposed gas pipeline in Connecticut drew almost equal numbers of supporters and opponents to give testimony, though the supporters also had a cheering section of laborers hoping for jobs if the project gets approved.
Opponents claim solar and wind generate more jobs.
WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission -- FERC -- has held these meetings along the length of the proposed pipeline from Pennsylvania through New Hampshire to get feedback on residents' environmental concerns about Tennessee Pipeline Company's proposal to send fracked gas through New England, much of it for export.
Proponents cited the several thousand jobs that would be created, albeit for only two years.
They also said the gas the pipeline would send to New England would help lower electricity costs, now the highest in the nation.
Opponents said the gas is a fossil fuel that, due to leaks from well head to final destination, can generate as much global warming pollution as coal.
Ben Martin, a member of 350CT.org, also cited several recent deadly gas explosions, including one in Middletown that killed six workers.
He thanked the union movement for giving him the 8-hour day and the 5-day work week, then added:
“And in return I want to bring you jobs where there’s not danger of explosions; I want to bring you jobs that last 40 years, instead of two years; and I want to bring you a state that cares about you – the air you can breathe, the safety of your families, with renewable energy.”
Anyone wishing to send comments to FERC on this project has until August 31 to do so.