Thursday, October 1, 2015

October 2015

Friday, October 30 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Neil Tolhurst.)

In the news tonight: Senator Murphy speaks on the Mental Health Reform act relating to gun violence;  The Affordable Care Act sparks a big reduction in uninsured children in NY State; officials have big plans for downtown Milford; the fifth human West Nile case is reported in Suffolk County; and, a West Haven landmark eatery is closing after 65 years.

Connecticut’s Senator Chris Murphy spoke with reporters this week about the Mental Health Reform Act he co-authored with Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy.

As reported by the Connecticut Post, Senator Murphy is the first to admit that the Newtown massacre — and the spate of mass-shootings since then — are propelling his bipartisan bill to overhaul the nation’s mental health system.

Murphy also advocates for gun-violence prevention measures such as expanded background checks. But he stops well short of many advocates who say a focus on mental health is a smokescreen intended to divert attention from the real problem — the easy availability and massive quantities of guns in America.

The Murphy-Cassidy bill, which could come up for a Senate vote next year, ramps up mental health treatment to put it on par with that available for physical health. Although mental health parity has been federal law since 2008, psychiatric care often is not accorded equal treatment by health insurers. 
The National Rifle Association and other gun-rights advocates have focused on mental illness as a solution to the spate of mass shootings from Newtown onward. 

Ron Pinciaro of CT Against Gun Violence said the Murphy-Cassidy bill would be a “good thing’’ if it succeeds in keeping guns out of the hands of those dangerous to themselves or others.

The New York News Connection reports that New York achieved a big reduction in the number of children not covered by health insurance last year, this according to a new study by Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

The center found that the number of uninsured children declined by almost 20 percent in the Empire State. 

Lorraine Gonzalez-Camastra, director of health policy at Children's Defense Fund-New York, says one reason is that the state got a two-year head start on Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Studies have shown that children who have health insurance do better in school, have a lower high school drop out rate and do better economically as adults.

The Georgetown report says nationally the number of uninsured children fell by 16 percent in 2014. 

States that expanded Medicaid saw reductions in uninsured children at nearly twice the rate of those that did not.

According to the Milford Mirror, Milford's downtown area will gain 100 new parking spaces and another 200 or more spaces will be added over the next three years due to a recent land purchase next to the Milford train station.

Mayor Ben Blake said Milford's downtown parking has limited growth in the area. He said: “We didn’t have a substantial amount of parking.”

Mayor Blake said studies still have to determine the exact concept. He said it may be an elevated parking deck that matches the current grade of land near the train tracks, with parking below as well. A parking garage is also a possibility.

Last year, Governor Dannel Malloy announced nearly $5 million in state funds for the city to buy the properties, which total approximately 2.2 acres. The state also provided $150,000 to pay for a site plan and market analysis.

Blake said there is “still a way to go.” One of the next steps is for the city to appoint a development committee to oversee parking designs and an economic improvement study.

Newsday reports that a fifth human case of West Nile virus was reported Thursday by Suffolk County health officials, bringing to 14 the number of cases this year on Long Island, where no deaths have been reported.

Suffolk's most recent case involves a Town of Brookhaven man over 55 years old whose symptoms started September 27. The man was hospitalized for about two weeks, then released, health officials said in a Thursday release.

There could be further cases, those in which symptoms were mild or lab tests not ordered, said Dr. James Tomarken, County Health Services commissioner.

In some instances, the virus causes serious neurological illnesses that can lead to permanent conditions, including death. Some mosquito bites can transmit West Nile to humans, with mosquitoes picking up the virus by feeding on infected birds.

Chick’s Drive-In, a landmark, hangout, cultural icon and cruise destination along the West Haven shore since 1950, will serve its last Savin Rock-style split, grilled hot dog on November 15. 

Chick’s — famous for 65 years for its hot dogs, lobster rolls and fried seafood -- will close just short of four months after the death of its namesake, Joseph “Chick” Celentano.

The New Haven Register reports that Chick’s sons would have taken over the business, but their father’s wish was that when he died he wanted the restaurant closed.

Thursday, October 29  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news, Connecticut senators introduce a bill to close a loophole in federal gun laws; budget cuts to social service programs bring advocates to Hartford; New Yorkers pay more than they get back in federal spending; and, half of New York schools opt out of new teacher evaluation.

A series of recent killings has revived efforts by gun safety advocates to change federal firearms law.
The focus is on extending background checks to sales made at gun shows and firearms purchased from individuals over the Internet.

Joined by several of their Democratic colleagues, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy on Wednesday fulfilled a promise to introduce a bill aimed at closing a “loophole” in federal gun laws. 

The “loophole” allows a gun sale to proceed if an FBI background check is not completed in 72 hours.

The senators say this flaw in the background check law allowed Dylann Roof to purchase the gun that was used in a deadly attack at a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina in June.

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, a Democrat, also co-sponsored the Background Check Completion Act, which has the backing of 10 other Democrats – but no Republicans.

A lack of bipartisanship may doom the legislation in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster, but only 44 seats are held by Democrats. The bill’s sponsors say they are seeking Republican co-sponsors.

On Tuesday, Meriden Democratic State Representative Cathy Abercrombie assured a group of social service providers and clients gathered in Hartford that their advocacy is not falling on deaf ears.

The day before, Senate President Martin Looney, a New Haven Democrat, said there was bipartisan concern about Governor Malloy’s budget cuts to hospitals and social service programs.  

One option being considered is a 2.5 percent across-the-board reduction to the state budget. 

For many of the social service advocates and clients who were at the Legislative Office Building on Tuesday, no cuts to social services would be acceptable. Instead, they suggest the state raise taxes.

According to Kathleen Flaherty, executive director of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project, helping the state’s most vulnerable populations saves money in the long run.

A report released this week by the state’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women said raising the minimum wage combined with reducing family costs through programs such as child care assistance, food benefits, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, are necessary to help people attain self-sufficiency over time.

Uncle Sam isn't giving back the full value New Yorkers are pouring into federal coffers as reported by the Albany Times-Union.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a report Tuesday showing that for every dollar New York sends to Washington, it's getting back about 91 cents in federal spending. That's below the national average of $1.22 in spending going back to the states.

Per capita, New York paid close to $11,000 in tax revenue to the federal budget in fiscal year 2013, nearly a third more than the national average. 
But we're getting back just under $10,000 per capita in federal spending.

Comptroller DiNapoli said: "A high-income state like New York generates more in federal taxes than other states, but we also have significant costs, and the continuing imbalance raises questions about equity for New Yorkers." 

The Albany Times-Union reports:

Of the more than 700 school districts in New York, more than half may be exempt from implementing a new controversial teacher evaluation system this year that relies heavily on student test scores.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the state Education Department had approved hardship waivers for 420 school districts who said circumstances prevent them from putting the new system into place during the current school year. 

Friday is the deadline to apply for a waiver. 

Wednesday, October 28  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.)

In the news tonight:  Connecticut students show lower test scores in a national assessment; a Yale study reveals many are not aware of their heart attack risk; Suffolk’s top cop resigns amid a federal probe;  and, Montauk gets a new parking lot.

The Connecticut Post reports that the “Nation’s Report” Card is out and it’s not good news for the nation or the state.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress tested a sample of students across the country including 9,300 in Connecticut.

Math scores nationwide were down for both fourth and eighth graders in 2015 compared to 2013 and in reading, eighth grade scores were down and fourth grade scores were flat.

Fourth grade math scores in Connecticut slipped to the national average with fourth graders in Connecticut and the nation scoring an average of 240.

The number of Connecticut fourth graders performing at the proficient level or above was 41 percent, less than the 45 percent score in 2013, and one quarter scored below basic, compared to 17 percent two years ago.

In the eighth grade, 36 percent of Connecticut students were proficient or better but 30 percent scored in the below basic range, higher than the 26 percent two years ago.

In reading, 43 percent of Connecticut fourth graders and 43 percent of eighth graders scored the same as two years ago.

Many people in danger of a heart attack aren’t aware they are at risk and less than half are alerted by their health care provider, according to a new study.

The study by the Yale School of Public Health asked 3,501 heart attack survivors between 18 and 55 years old if they considered themselves at risk and 53 percent said they did.

However, less than half, 46 percent, had been told they were at risk and only 49 percent discussed heart disease with their doctors.

Women were less likely than men to be told they were at risk by providers, and Hispanics were less likely than non-Hispanics to report knowing they were at risk.

Erica Leifheit-Limson, the study’s lead author, said many people are not receiving adequate counseling on heart disease.

The study, published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, interviewed 3,501 heart attack survivors.

Suffolk County Chief of Department James Burke resigned Tuesday as federal officials reactivated their probe into police conduct in the theft of the chief's duffel bag, according to Newsday.

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District have begun again a grand jury probe looking into the December 2012 arrest of Christopher Loeb, a Smithtown man who broke into Burke's department SUV and stole a duffel bag, sources said.

Loeb is a material witness in the current federal investigation, a source said.

The grand jury is considering charges of violations of civil rights and obstruction of justice, sources said. 
Loeb, 29, filed a federal lawsuit against the county, Burke and other officers for violating his civil rights.

An admitted heroin addict, Loeb was sentenced in April 2014 to three years in state prison for his role in the theft.

An initial federal probe into the arrest of Loeb, who admitted in January 2014 to stealing a duffel bag from Burke's SUV, did not result in any charges.
Loeb said he was beaten at the time of the arrest by other officers and Burke.

Montauk is to be built before throngs of vacationers descend on the hamlet next summer.

The announcement was made Tuesday at a news conference held by Assemblyman Fred Thiele and East Hampton Town officials at the site of the new lot -- a 100-by-100-foot wooded area at South Edison Street and South Euclid Avenue.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said the lot would provide 30 to 40 additional public spaces and alleviate some of Montauk's ongoing parking woes that worsen during the summer months.

The new parking lot will be across the street from an existing municipal parking field and near the post office.

Officials said $250,000 in state capital funding was secured by Thiele and $100,000 was secured by state Senator Kenneth LaValle.

Tuesday, October 27 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Chris Cadra.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut gets $10 million for proposed Bridgeport train station; Connecticut’s Democratic Party and election regulators go to court over money spent for Governor Malloy’s re-election; Long Island’s Suffolk County bans microbeads in toiletries; and, New York Senator Charles Schumer fights to renew college loan progam.

The Connecticut Post reports: 
Connecticut received a $10 million federal grant to help build a new Metro-North train station in Bridgeport. 

The highly competitive grant from the federal Transportation Investment Generating Recovery fund will be used to design the $146 million Barnum Station on the former Remington Arms factory property.

Mayor Bill Finch said the 700-acre redevelopment will serve as a much-needed catalyst for job creation and economic growth.

Governor Dannel Malloy said the station is part of an overall $100 billion plan to rebuild the state’s transportation system.

Not everyone is convinced a second train station is a top priority: State Senator Toni Boucher, a Wilton Republican and a ranking member of the transportation committee, said she wonders where the rest of the money will come from. 

To receive the grant, the state committed $6.7 million. 

The proposed station would serve Metro-North and Amtrak trains.

A state court judge heard arguments this morning in a dispute between state election regulators and the Connecticut Democratic Party over whether the party illegally spent money on Governor Dannel Malloy’s 2014 re-election bid.

Attorneys for the State Elections Enforcement Commission (or SEEC) say the commission has been prevented from investigating the Democratic Party’s decision to spend federal election funds on several mailers for Malloy.

The complaint alleges “improper coordination between a contributor and state candidate committee and between a state candidate and a federal committee.”

Attorneys for the SEEC say the Democratic Party has attempted to “completely block” its investigation since early 2015.

Assistant Attorney General Maura Murphy Osborne wrote in her brief, if the Democratic Party is allowed to prevail with this argument, every two years when a federal candidate is on the ballot, the SEEC’s authority to regulate contributions to state candidates “will be effortlessly circumvented.”

Suffolk County will no longer allow personal care products to have microbeads. County Executive Steve Bellone signed the ban into law Monday, making the county the third in New York to prohibit the tiny plastic beads found in soaps, facial scrubs and some toothpastes. 

Bellone said these microbeads can get through wastewater treatment filters, dumped into bays and the Long Island Sound and join the food chain where they're ingested by fish and mollusks.

States such as Connecticut and California have banned the beads. 

Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment Adrienne Esposito said as more counties institute bans it will put pressure on state lawmakers to enact a statewide law. A similar statewide law failed in Albany this year.

Companies are replacing the plastic beads, found to contain high amounts of toxins, with natural products such as ground apricot pits and walnut shells.

The law will go into effect January, 2018.
------------------------------------ reports: 
State Senator Charles Schumer called on his colleagues to immediately reauthorize and extend the Federal Perkins Loan program. 

Schumer said: “With the cost of college continuing to increase, Congress should be doing more, not less, to make college affordable.”

The Perkins Loan Program provides low-interest loans to students who cannot borrow or afford more expensive private student loans. Schumer said this program provides $120 million in aid to New York colleges, including students who attend Long Island schools.

According to the State University of New York System, the program provided aid for nearly 56,000 college students in New York last year.

The program lapsed on September 30, and the House of Representatives has already passed an extension. If the Senate doesn’t approve reauthorizing the program, then those students could be left in the lurch this year.

Students who receive a Perkins loan during the 2015-2016 academic year or before, and remain in the same academic program, could be grandfathered into the program and receive loans through ‎the end of their program, or up to five years.

Monday, October 26 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Scott Schere.)

In the news tonight: Governor Malloy holds fast on transit funding and social service cuts while cutting corporate taxes; as New York closes shellfish beds a new  study has ambitious goals for cleaning up Long Island Sound; and, Suffolk plans to continue application of pesticide harmful to shellfish.

Governor Dannel Malloy spoke to students at a Hartford high school last Friday to signal to legislators an unwillingness to scale back his transportation initiative or give up on cutting at least some social services to close a mid-year deficit. 
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, a Hamden Democrat, said his caucus wants to restore some of the cuts to hospitals and social services. To do that, without raising taxes, means finding cuts in other areas.

But sources say the Malloy administration will suggest a modest business tax cut to improve Connecticut’s economic climate.

Malloy and Democratic legislative leaders had crafted a new two-year budget that would have raised taxes by about $1.5 billion and postponed previously approved tax cuts worth close to $500 million.

After top executives at General Electric, Aetna and other corporations threatened to leave the state, Malloy and lawmakers revised their budget deal.

General Electric, with first quarter earnings of over $4 billion in 2014 as reported by the New York Times, pays no Federal taxes, and received $3 billion in tax refunds from 2008 through 2012, according to Citizens for Tax Justice. No figures on Connecticut state taxes paid are available.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation announced new emergency regulations Sunday that will close 1,844 acres of bays and harbors to shell fishing in the towns of Brookhaven, Huntington, Islip, Smithtown, Riverhead, Southampton, Southold, East Hampton and Oyster Bay.

These restrictions are due to elevated levels of fecal coliform in the water surrounding the shellfish beds, which can lead to illness in people who ingest the shellfish.

This issue is separate from, though its cause may be related to, the ongoing issue with elevated nitrogen level in Long Island’s bays, which is due in large part to the breakdown of nitrogen from urine in failing septic systems.

The closures include year-round decertification of 72 acres along the Long Island Sound in the towns of Brookhaven and Riverhead and 65 acres of the Great Peconic Bay in Southold and Riverhead towns.

A Long Island Sound Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, was released Thursday by the organization Save the Sound.

It’s a revision of a 1994 plan developed by the EPA, Connecticut, New York, and the Long Island Sound Study, according to the Connecticut Post.

The study sets 20 goals for cleaning up Long Island Sound over the next two decades.

It would reduce the number of beach closures by 50 percent, reduce the acreage of water with unhealthily low oxygen level by 28 percent, and improve water clarity.

It calls for restoring 3,000 acres of coastal habitat, conserving an additional 4,000 acres of open space in Connecticut and 3,000 acres in New York. 

It would buffer streams and rivers with natural vegetation, and reduce trash polluting the Sound’s waters and shores.

Upgrading sewage treatment plants carries the biggest price tag.

To date, Connecticut has spent $330 million on improving aging sewage plants and New York has spent $2 billion. It estimates that Connecticut would have to spend another $4.4 billion and New York $8 billion to upgrade sewage plants and separate the storm and sanitary sewers.

Kevin McAllister of the environmental organization Defend H2O has called for an end of methoprene applications over tidal marshes. 

He says scientific studies have shown methoprene inhibits the growth and survival of shellfish, which are morphologically similar to insects.  

In 2013, the State of Connecticut, responding to a University of Connecticut study that confirmed the presence of methoprene in lobsters, banned its use within coastal areas. 

Connecticut US Senator, Chris Murphy wrote Governor Andrew Cuomo this past September urging him to seek similar legislation for New York.

In July this year Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman introduced a bill which would have limited the use of the pesticide to cases where West Nile Virus had been found in the area or where bacterial larvicide treatments were not effective.  The bill has not been passed.

Friday, October 23  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Neil Tolhurst.)

In the news tonight: Grand jury to investigate Hartford Stadium contract; Malloy postpones raises for state agency managers as budget talks begin; Cuomo signs Women’s Equality Act - Abortion Rights not included; candidates debate budget as Suffolk deficit looms; and, Riverhead Town will allow medical marijuana dispensary

The Hartford Courant reports federal investigators are convening a grand jury to investigate financial irregularities in the contract to redevelop Hartford's Dillon Stadium. 

A subpoena seeking records was served on city officials Thursday morning. 

The city's contract with Premier Sports Management Group called on the city to finance a $12 million stadium project.

The demand for records comes less than two weeks after city officials announced an investigation into alleged overbilling by Premier.  

Premier was hired by the city to demolish the aging stadium and build a new arena suitable for a professional soccer team.

The company was the sole bidder to redevelop the stadium.

Sources say the disputed payments could top half a million dollars.

Governor Malloy will postpone pay raises for Connecticut government’s non-union managers, saving $5 million, as part of an effort to close an estimated $118 million deficit in this year's state budget. 

He also directed agency heads to intensify efforts to identify services that are not core government functions and therefore could be cut.

Not affected are $1.4 million in raises awarded in December 2014 to 200 appointees of Malloy and other constitutional officers. 

Malloy blamed the $118 million deficit on weaker-than-anticipated income tax receipts. The deficit represents just two-thirds of one percent of the general fund, which covers the bulk of the state’s annual operating costs. 

The governor’s budget director, Benjamin Barnes, also asked agency heads to continue on-going cost saving efforts which include deferring all spending possible “without impacting health and public safety” and restricting overtime, hiring and other staffing costs whenever possible

Bi-partisan budget negotiations with Malloy and legislative leaders begin Monday.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed multiple pieces of legislation on Wednesday designed to protect and further women’s equality in New York State, as reported by the Albany Times-Union.

The new laws will help achieve pay equity, strengthen human trafficking laws and protections for domestic violence victims and end pregnancy discrimination in all workplaces.

The bills were the noncontroversial pieces of the Women’s Equality Act that has languished in the Legislature since 2012, when it was first pitched by Cuomo. 

What remains unresolved is the final plank of the 10-point Act, the controversial abortion provision that is billed by its supporters as simply a codification of Roe v. Wade into state law, and by its detractors as a dangerous expansion of abortion.

Lawmakers and advocates acknowledged that as long as Republicans maintain control of the Senate, it’s almost certain that the 10th plank won’t win legislative approval.

Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Republican James O'Connor traded jabs in their first and only televised debate Thursday night on News 12 Long Island.

They attacked each other for failing to detail how they will close the county's $100 million to $200 million structural budget deficit, as reported by Newsday.

O'Connor said: "If Mr. Bellone fails to tell you what he would do about the fiscal crisis, he does not deserve to re-elected.”

He accused the county executive of using "sleight of hand" to distract voters from costly police contracts.

Bellone said he has taken numerous steps to reform government after inheriting a $500 million budget hole and a $200 million structural deficit -- the difference between recurring revenue and expenses. 

He criticized O’Connor allies who opposed cutting 1,100 workers, closing the Foley nursing home, and saving $300 million by halting new jail construction.

Bellone holds a 33-point lead in the race according to polls.

Four Riverhead Town Board members announced Thursday they’re against a proposed moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Their decision came at the end of a heated work session discussion on medical marijuana featuring community leaders who supported a moratorium and those who are looking to open a dispensary on East Main Street.

Opponents of the dispensary worried that it would be re-sold for non-medical use.

Proponents included Dr. Louis Avvento of a local cancer treatment center.

Dr. Avvento said: “Medical marijuana offers benefits to patients with certain diseases, especially terminal cancer patients who need relief.  We need to have another drug available in cases where morphine is not available or not tolerated.”

Thursday, October 22 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer and Nadine Dumser.)

In the news tonight: Bradley Airport wants to be considered as site for a new Connecticut casino; Connecticut’s largest college system seeks federal funding to offer inmates higher education; New York Senate leader warns Suffolk against making $10 million in bus cuts; and, Southold sets up trail for horse riders.

The Connecticut Airport Authority pitched the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans to consider Bradley International Airport as a site for a jointly owned casino. The tribes want to open a smaller-scale gaming operation in the Hartford area as a hedge against a new casino slated to open in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts by 2018. 

On Wednesday Governor Dannel Malloy said he had no opinion on the airport’s proposal: “The Connecticut Airport Authority was set up to be responsive to the marketplace. I am neither endorsing nor panning their response to a public [request for proposals].”

The tribes had failed to convince the General Assembly in the last session to authorize the first casino in Connecticut off tribal land. To build what would be the state's third casino would require passage of another law.

Municipalities interested in hosting the proposed casino must respond by November 6. A final decision will be announced by December 15.

Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, the state's largest public college system, has asked the federal government for funding to open degree-granting programs in nine of the state's prisons. If approved, hundreds of Connecticut inmates could take community college courses for free each semester beginning next fall.

This pilot program seeks to test whether getting an education helps decrease one's likelihood of being incarcerated again. The state reports that half of those who leave prison are incarcerated again within two years.

Nearly all of Connecticut’s prisons offered credited college courses in the early 1990s. But that largely stopped in 1994 when Congress voted to exclude inmates from receiving the federal financial funding that helped support those programs, and the state couldn’t afford to pay the expense on its own. This past July, though, the Obama Administration announced it would allow a limited number of institutions to tap federal financial aid for inmates.

More than 200 colleges and universities nationwide have applied for the federal funds, and schools will know this spring whether they have been selected for the experiment, according to a federal education department spokesman.

Newsday reports: 
New York State Senate leader John Flanagan yesterday warned Suffolk County officials that if they proceed with a planned $10 million cut in county bus services, they should not expect the state to make up the difference.

Facing a $51 million sales tax revenue shortfall, the Suffolk County legislature is considering reducing services provided by Suffolk County Transit, which serves 22,000 riders daily. Routes with low ridership would likely be eliminated, while other lines would see bus frequency reduced.

Senate Leader Flanagan says the county's plan is highly inappropriate, adding the state would be more inclined to help if Suffolk made its case without threatening cuts.

Suffolk County bus rider advocate groups say the threat of service reductions as a way to obtain more state funding is too big a gamble. Long Island Jobs With Justice Executive Director Anita Halasz says: “People use the buses to support the local economy. And when those buses are no longer there, our local economy will not be able to thrive as much."

A Southold trail that was left half-finished years ago has been officially set aside for horseback riders.

At its meeting Tuesday evening, the Southold Town Board approved the creation of the trail on 22 acres of land in Hog’s Neck on the Forestbrook property.

The land was purchased 11 years ago as open space and although the town began work on a series of trails in 2007, the plan was later abandoned. Local horse enthusiasts welcomed the Board’s decision.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the town will also consider making hiking trails on the property.

Wednesday, October 21 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray):

In the news tonight, census data shows Connecticut’s population is aging and leaving the state, sales representatives pressured a Derby nurse to prescribe more painkillers, a North Fork parent-child program boosts academic achievement and a Long Island couple says Nazi-era covenants prevented the sale of their home.

Connecticut’s population is getting old, and it’s also leaving the state, according to the Hartford Courant.

New U.S. Census Bureau estimates show although more than 82,000 people moved to Connecticut from other states in 2014, more than 96,000 Connecticut residents moved out.

That’s a net loss of about 13,285 residents, about 0.37 percent of the population, to other states — one of the 10 highest rates in the nation.

Estimates show residents moved mostly to New York, Massachusetts and Florida, followed by California and North Carolina, and more people have moved out of Connecticut than have moved in for at least the last five years.

The data support earlier projections that showed that the state is aging, and retirees move out if they can, while fewer young people are moving in, and having fewer children or are having them later in life.

That presents a problem for Connecticut, since many retirees who leave the state are relatively wealthy.

Data from state Office of Policy and Management showed the state expects $109 million less revenue from personal income taxes than it budgeted for this year.

The Connecticut Post reports that a Derby nurse who admitted taking kickbacks from a drug company to prescribe a painkiller was pressured to increase prescriptions.

Court transcripts show that federal prosecutors charged that Heather Alfonso increased prescriptions of Subsys in exchange for a series of $1,000 kickbacks, totaling $83,000, from drug company Insys Therapeutics.

Subsys, a potent narcotic, is approved only for cancer patients, but some of Alfonso’s patients did not have cancer.

Alfonso worked at the Comprehensive Pain and Headache Treatment Center in Derby and was among the highest prescribers of Subsys in the country.

She pleaded guilty in June to accepting kickbacks in relation to a federal healthcare program.

Medicare and private insurers paid out about $1.6 million from 2013 to 2015 for the prescriptions Alfonso wrote while she was receiving kickbacks from Insys.

Alfonso admitted in court that Insys paid her through a sham speakers program which instead paid her $1,000 per event for going out to dinner with friends or with an Insys sales representative.

Advocates say helping parents in distress help their kids can make a huge difference in the academic performance of their children in school.

Parents who are recent immigrants or find themselves homeless are under a great deal of stress, and often have difficulty focusing on the needs of their young children.

Sarah Benjamin, coordinator of the North Fork Parent-Child Home Program on Long Island, says providing support to parents and their children in times of stress is critical.

The vast majority of a child's brain development happens before age five, making the earliest learning experiences a foundation for later success.

Benjamin said children whose families have participated in the Parent-Child Home Program enter school as ready to learn as their more advantaged peers, and graduate from high school at a higher percentage rate than middle-class families.

In 2014 there were 2.5 million homeless children enrolled in schools in the U.S, and half are younger than five.

Newsday reports a Yaphank couple filed a federal lawsuit claiming that discriminatory covenant restrictions at a community founded by Adolf Hitler supporters in the 1930s have prevented them from selling their home.

Philip Kneer and his wife, Patricia Flynn-Kneer, said in court papers filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Central Islip that the bylaws of the German-American Settlement League, which owns the land once known as Camp Siegfried, restrict home ownership to residents “primarily of German extraction."

The Kneers have tried unsuccessfully to sell their home for six years.

The suit, first reported by The New York Times, asks a federal judge to award unspecified damages to the Kneers and the Long Island Housing Alliance, a nonprofit that joined the suit.

The neighborhood began as a summer camp to support the German Nazi Party before World War II and later became a year-round community. 


Tuesday, October 20 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Mike Merli, Chris Cadra and Trace Alford):

In the news tonight:   

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy is calling for bipartisan budget talks and a special session to cut nearly $120 million from the state’s 2016 budget. Mr. Malloy’s budget office was expected to report that the state is running a $118.4 million deficit, only four months into the new fiscal year. This comes even after $103 million in emergency budget cuts made last month.

A majority of the deficit is attributed to a $109 million drop in personal income taxes.

Mr. Malloy’s suggestions on where to cut the deficit will be made next week. He has ruled out tax increases as a way to close the budget gap. 

Senate President Martin Looney (D-New Haven) applauds the governor’s call for a special session. He added that he is willing to work with Republican lawmakers, as long as they’re serious about the recommendations they make. 

Republican lawmakers have been calling for a special session to help remedy the situation, but their attempts, until Monday, were largely ignored. 

Senate Republican leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) said that before negotiations begin, lawmakers must decide on the budget deficit. Mr. Fasano said the state’s budget deficit is at least $400 million.

A new think tank report released last week says that Connecticut could save $248 million over a five-year span if officials consider eliminating the jobs of some state workers through the use of better technology.

According to the Information Technology and Innovation Fund (ITIF), all states could boost their productivity, and save money, by better harnessing information technology resources.

The think tank advocates changes such as offering fully digitized services, enabling all government forms to be completed and submitted online, and offering more self-service options for consumers.

Further, the group recommends that Connecticut and other states: replace routine government tasks with online, self-service tools; set dates by which they no longer accept non-digital interactions; provide chief information officers with more decision-making authority; and account for external productivity gains when devising IT budgets.

The report, called “Driving the Next Wave of IT-Enabled State Government Productivity,” does not single out Connecticut, other than in a state-by-state list in which ITIF estimates the state could save over $248 million over the next five years by implementing its recommendations.

The East Hampton Star reports:
Work by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, designed to stop erosion on Montauk’s downtown beachfront, may go forward despite a suit launched by a group of local organizations.

Opponents of the project, including Concerned Citizens of Montauk and the environmental group Defend H2O say it amounts to placing hardened structures that have been proven to increase erosion.

Last week a court magistrate Judge Anne Shields recommended the court reject the project's opponents' claims outright and dismiss the case.

Work on the roughly $9 million project was expected to begin this week. It had been delayed after erosion during September narrowed the ocean beach substantially.

While observing that both East Hampton Town and state policies favor so-called soft erosion control, Judge Shields said that an Army Corps determination had concluded that the project "does not run afoul of those restrictions because dune reinforcement geotextile sand containers" was not considered a structural solution.

Kevin McAllister of Defend H2O said "It's a complete fallacy. These are hydraulically filled, these are packed hard….They are 1.7 tons each; 14,000 of these are a wall, these are a structure."

Newsday reports:
The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Monday that Governor Cuomo's SAFE Act gun control law that bans assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, does not violate the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

However, the ruling upheld a lower court's decision striking down the New York seven-bullet limit for ammunition clips. The court's decision ruled on gun control measures enacted in New York and Connecticut after the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court said the Constitution contains "an individual right to possess and carry weapons," but "the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."

The judges also found that the Constitution protects only weapons "in common use ... for law(ful) purposes like self-defense."

Monday, October 19  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Scott Schere and Paul Atkin):

In the news tonight:

A large crowd gathers in New Haven to call for union rights for grad student workers; Suffolk County is facing a huge sales-tax shortfall; the number of Connecticut residents without health insurance has dropped to the lowest rate in state history; a Tuesday hearing is scheduled on a Hamptons sand mine expansion; and, Melinda Tuhus reports from a climate crisis rally in New Haven.

Over a thousand supporters rallied at Beineck Square in New Haven Thursday in support of the Yale Graduate Employee & Students Organization who want the university to let them vote on forming a union.

Among the supporters were Mayor Toni Harp, state Attorney General George Jepsen, and U.S. Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal.

The graduate organization states that their primary concerns are “insecure teaching assignments, inadequate mental health care, lack of access to childcare, and race and gender inequities.”

Senator Murphy said: “What you are asking for is simply to be able to make a choice about whether you want to bargain together without your employer using its power to intimidate you.” 

Thursday marked the fourth time since April 2014 that a rally was held for this same cause, but thus far they haven’t seen any results.


Newsday reports:

Suffolk County faces a  $51.8 million, two-year deficit in sales tax revenues, according to a new report by legislative budget analysts. 

The new estimates from the Office of Budget Review forecast a $48.6 million deficit in the general fund and a $3.2 million shortfall in the county's water protection fund.

The dire forecast comes after third-quarter sales-tax receipts dropped 1.28 percent from the same period last year. It also brought down sales tax totals for the entire year so far to a negative .09 percent.        

Those figures are far below 4.87 percent growth in sales tax the county had budgeted for 2015. 

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said they will hold off on all but essential hiring, purchases, repairs and curtail overtime to make sure the budget is balanced.

Kevin McCaffrey, the Republican caucus leader, said the county can no longer rely so heavily on sales-tax growth: "There's a new reality, and we can't keep spending more. I hope this is the final wake-up call and we'll change the way we do business.”


According to the Connecticut Post, the number of Connecticut residents without health insurance has dropped to the lowest rate in state history. 

As of last week, 3.8 percent of state residents did not have health insurance compared to 8 percent before the federal Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2012.

Governor Dannel Malloy said:  “We are a national model of the Affordable Care Act, and for good reason. These numbers highlight Connecticut’s success in providing quality, affordable care to those who previously didn’t have it. But we cannot stop here.” 


Newsday reports that the owners of a Bridgehampton sand mine are appealing a State Department of Environmental Conservation decision denying a planned expansion of the 50-acre mine. 

The mine owner requested permission to enlarge its operation by five acres and dig 40 feet deeper, allowing the mine to continue operating for an estimated 25 years.

The DEC has scheduled a Tuesday public hearing on the appeal of the denial citing the company's side business of processing waste and debris at the site, which sits within one of Long Island's nine state-designated Special Groundwater Protection Areas.

The hearing follows an October 12 news release by environmental activists saying test results show water contamination at the mine, including the presence of heavy metals, radioactivity and the carcinogenic insecticide chlordane. 

Adrienne Esposito, director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, called the findings "serious and of grave concern" because "if it's in the surface water [tested at the mine], it is seeping down into the groundwater."

The hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Bridgehampton Community House on Montauk Highway.

A rally in New Haven last week (on Wednesday) was part of a nationwide call to action on the climate crisis. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:

Speakers addressed some of the so-called "planetary boundaries" that the earth is on the verge of overshooting, including ocean acidification, air pollution and climate change.

Emma Howard from Yale's fossil fuel divestment campaign echoed the concept of climate justice that Pope Francis highlighted in his recent encyclical, tying climate change to social justice.

Howard:  "It's not a coincidence that climate change is overwhelmingly and disproportionately affecting marginalized communities. For frontline communities that are experiencing the effects of ocean acidification, air pollution and climate change, these issues are very real and they're not abstract future ideas."

Activists said local steps are important as well as global action, and urged New Haveners to eat less meat, drive their cars less, and choose renewable energy for their electricity.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News

Friday, October 16 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news: budget cuts impact mental health care in Connecticut; a new study finds that a $15 minimum wage isn’t enough; judge says suit against Suffolk police can go forward; and, the Town of Huntington approves new drone regulations.


The Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services says that Governor Malloy’s $103 million in budget cuts included a $1.5 million grant to coordinate care for patients with behavioral or mental health issues.

This grant has been delayed to 2017 to help offset other budget cuts.

Mental health grants totaling $3.6 million were cut from the budget.

Last week, Representative Toni Walker, chair of the Appropriations Committee, said lawmakers are still wading through the cuts in hospital funding to determine how much will be paid to hospitals and how much federal reimbursement the state will lose as a result of the reduction.

Meanwhile, hospital officials have been trying to figure out which programs have been cut, and what that means for their patients.

Charles Herrick, chief of Psychiatry for Danbury and New Milford hospitals, said that without a care-coordination team in place to address the needs of this population they’re going to see an increase in emergency room visits.


The progressive advocacy group, Alliance for a Just Society, says a $15 minimum wage is not sufficient in a state where adult employees must make $19 an hour to cover basic needs.

In Its annual report, the group details the living wage for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It found that the hourly wage a single worker must earn in order to live without public assistance, and to be able to deal with emergencies, exceeds $15 in 35 states and Washington, D.C.

At $9.15 an hour, Connecticut’s current minimum wage is matched by Vermont and exceeded only by Oregon and the District of Columbia. But according to the report, the state’s high cost of living means a single, minimum-wage worker must put in 83 hours a week to cover the basics.

The state minimum wage will increase to $9.60 on January 1, 2016, and then to $10.10 on January 1, 2017.


A federal judge has given the go-ahead to proceedings in a lawsuit against the Suffolk County Police Department and its officers

The lawsuit alleges Latino drivers were targeted in traffic stops on the basis of ethnicity.

The order, issued Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt, grants a motion for at least 21 Hispanic men represented by the advocacy group LatinoJustice "to proceed anonymously" with the suit, which claims the department "subjected Latinos to an ongoing policy, pattern and practice of discriminatory policing."

Spatt's order protects the anonymity of the men who came forward alleging they were victims of discriminatory policing.

The case stems from the January 2014 arrest of Scott Greene, then a Suffolk police sergeant, who was charged with taking money from Latino drivers after he was caught in a sting operation by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota's office.

The federal civil lawsuit, branches out from the "stop-and-rob scheme" cited in court papers to include other officers, and the police department as a whole.

In a criminal case, ongoing in state Supreme Court, Greene has pleaded not guilty to charges including grand larceny as a hate crime, and official misconduct. 


The Town of Huntington has approved new legislation regulating recreational use of drones, according to Newsday.

The law says that the devices can't use imaging technology for aerial surveillance, interfere with other aircraft, can't be on someone's property without the consent of the property owner and can't monitor people without their permission.

Under the law, drones can't fly higher than 400 feet, fly in adverse weather conditions, or near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, sewage treatment facilities or heavily traveled roads within the town.

Violators of the law face a $1,000 fine and/or imprisonment of 15 days.

Last week, a film-maker's drone crashed on Main Street in Sag Harbor. striking, but not injuring a child, according to the Sag Harbor Express. 

In August, Senator Charles Schumer urged the Federal Aviation Association and the U.S. Commerce Department to regulate the use of drones for both commercial and hobby purposes. 

Schumer cited multiple instances of drones crashing into trees and apartment terraces and hovering outside windows this summer in New York City.


Thursday, October 15 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser and Kevin Brewer.)

In the news tonight: The great debate in Bridgeport; more medical marijuana dispensaries for Connecticut; Cuomo urged to stop pipeline near nuclear plant; and, Republican First District Congressman outraised his two Democratic rivals.   


Seven candidates packed a radio studio in Bridgeport Tuesday night for a lively mayoral debate.

Among the crowded field were Joe Ganim, ex-con and ex-mayor, and Mary-Jane Foster, the best hope for barring his return to city hall. 

Ganim, the front-runner and winner of the Democratic primary, defeated two-term Mayor Bill Finch. Though he served over seven years in prison on a corruption conviction, Ganim presented himself as an agent of change while offering few specific plans for change. 

Democrat Mary-Jane Foster, a University of Bridgeport vice president, blames Ganim’s corruption for the demise of a development company she shared with her husband.

Foster said she wants to be the honest choice for change.

The other candidates in the studio were Republican Enrique Torres and Independents Charles Coviello, David Daniels, Tony Barr, and Chris Taylor. 

Taylor, a burly retired demolition contractor with a big voice, said: “I’m a man of the people ... I am not perfect. I’ve made mistakes and will continue to make mistakes”.

Realtor Charlie Coviello chimed in: “... I’ve run in every single election since 2003 ... I want to be your mayor, because we need change.”

Activist Tony Barr said: “Bridgeport ... is a joke ... We have the worst school system. No jobs. Worst police department.”

Enrique Torres, who ran for mayor in 2003 and 2011, claimed he fought against the political machine in Bridgeport for over 30 years.


Thomas Shultz, owner of a medical marijuana growing facility in Portland, Connecticut, has applied to the state Department of Consumer Protection for permission to open a dispensary in New Haven or Milford according to the New Haven Register.

The DCP, which administers the state's marijuana program, currently has a list of 11 conditions approved for treatment with marijuana, with six more under consideration through a petition process. 

Shultz says approving his dispensary will allow his firm to research the effectiveness of the drug in treating conditions not yet approved for treatment with marijuana. He adds that while the science of medical marijuana has been well researched, the drug's effectiveness in treating some specific medical conditions is far less extensive.

This claim is somewhat disputed by Dr. Deepak Cyril D'Souza of the DCP Board of Physicians.  

Dr. D'Souza, who has voted against approval for most of the petitioned conditions, says: "We just need good evidence of the positive effects of marijuana that has gone through the peer review process."

A total of 14 other companies have applied for permission to open medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.


A natural gas pipeline set to snake through the southeast corner of New York and squeak past the Indian Point nuclear power plant is already under construction.

But that isn't stopping environmental advocates from trying to get the state to review the safety of the pipeline because they say a federal analysis was flawed, according to the Albany Times-Union.

The advocates submitted more than 30,000 petitions to Governor Andrew Cuomo's office Tuesday in an attempt to force him to call for an independent review of the project's safety. 

The hope is that support from Cuomo would ratchet up public sentiment and ultimately lead the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission to rescind its approval of the project.

But those pushing Cuomo for the review admit there's apparently little the state can do to stop the project on its own, save for possibly rescinding state permits needed to build the 42-inch-in-diameter pipe.

A Cuomo spokesman said the administration is reviewing the request. Yet even if Cuomo were to require such a review, speculation is that the NRC would not reverse its findings.  


First District freshman Republican representative Lee Zeldin outraised each of the two Democrats vying to challenge him in campaign contributions over the past three months, according to Newsday.

Zeldin, 35, an attorney and former state senator from Shirley, has raised over  $585,000 for his re-election campaign since June, giving him $1.2 million in cash on hand. 

Democrat David Calone, a Setauket venture capitalist and chairman of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, raised $430,000 in the last quarter and has $820,000 in cash on hand.

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, an Independent seeking the Democratic nomination to face Zeldin, said she raised $339,000 in the third quarter and has $783,000 in the bank for her campaign.

With a Democratic primary months away, Washington campaign handicappers rate the congressional race as either leaning Republican or as a tossup.


Wednesday, October 14 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.)

In the news tonight: a new study shows Connecticut residents are not taking advantage of health care subsides; Malloy’s approval ratings hit a new low; New York considers selling trees; and, a report shows Long Island families are struggling with high taxes. 

The Connecticut Post reports that a new study shows that more than half of Connecticut residents without health insurance are not taking advantage of the state’s expanded Medicaid program and subsidies available under the Affordable Care Act.

The non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that of the 247,000 Connecticut residents who lack health insurance under the ACA, 28 percent qualify for enlarged Medicaid and 25 percent could get premium subsidies via tax credits.

The remainder — 47 percent — are either illegal immigrants not qualified under the program, have not signed up for employer insurance, or make too much money to receive subsidies.

Rachel Garfield, a senior researcher at Kaiser Family Foundation said she is uncertain why potential enrollees are not taking advantage of health-care coverage to which they are entitled.

The report comes just weeks before the Connecticut marketplace’s third open-enrollment period, which begins November 1.

Democratic Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s poll numbers have never been good, but the latest Quinnipiac University poll shows he has hit a new low. 

The poll found 58 percent of voters disapprove of the job he’s doing, his lowest approval rating to date.
Only 32 percent of voters approved of Malloy’s performance and 33 percent of Democrats disapproved.

In addition, 49 percent believe he’s not honest and trustworthy and 55 percent don’t believe he cares about voters’ problems.

Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz said Malloy’s 32 percent approval rating is close to the historic 24-percent low hit by disgraced former Governor John Rowland in January 2004. 

A total of 75 percent of voters say Connecticut’s economy is “not so good” or “poor and only 10 percent say it is getting better. Another 41 percent say it is getting worse and 48 percent say it is the same.

The poll surveyed 1,735 registered voters and has a 2.4 percent margin of error. 

The state is considering a first-ever tree sale in a Long Island forest to battle the destructive southern pine beetle.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has started marking trees for potential sale in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest, though it's not yet clear whether there will be any takers, Newsday reported.

Officials think the idea is worth trying to cut the cost of cutting down trees to thwart the spread of the beetle, which has attacked forests in the Southeast and has been making its way into the Northeast.

It was first discovered in New York a year ago.

Officials already have cut down thousands of trees on Long Island, but it is pricey: the DEC has gotten estimates as high as $2,000 an acre for a potentially 200-acre project in Rocky Point forest.

In a sale, logging companies would pay to cut the trees.

The cost of transporting trees to mills will be key, said John Bartow, executive director of the Empire State Forest Products Association, who said only two of its 860 members are based on Long Island.

The cost of living on Long Island shows residents at nearly every income level are struggling with some of the nation's highest taxes, according to a new report by an anti-tax think tank.

The report by Reclaim New York says although Long Islanders earn twice the national median income, families struggle because of high income, property, sales and excise taxes, and the cost of food, transportation and housing.

Long Island families have less than five percent of their income left at year's end, according to the report, which used data from the U.S. Census, the Internal Revenue Service and other sources.

According to the pro-business Tax Foundation the median property tax bill was $9,289 in Nassau and $7,768 in Suffolk in 2010. The national average was $2,043. 

The report noted that the cost of public transportation, apartment rentals and gasoline typically are higher in New York than in many other states.

Tuesday,  October 13   (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Chris Cadra.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut House and Senate leaders call for greater gun control; new DOT study backs highway widening in Connecticut; Riverhead officials were unaware of crude oil from Bakken field stored in local terminal; and, Governor Cuomo's climate change initiative would expand regional cap-and-trade program.

While the state passed stricter gun laws after the 2012 mass shooting in Sandy Hook, members of Connecticut’s delegation in Washington still want to see greater gun control nationally. The recent mass shooting at an Oregon community college strengthened those efforts. 

Congressional Representative Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut’s 5th District, along with California Representative Mike Thompson, recently introduced a bill to create a Select Committee of the U.S. House to study gun violence.

Esty said: “We have held 16 moments of silence on the House floor to honor those taken from us by gun violence since the tragedy at Sandy Hook… and then refused to do anything substantial to prevent gun violence.”

The proposed committee would examine and make recommendations on the causes of mass shootings, methods to improve background checks, gun violence rates and effective gun violence prevention laws.

In the Senate, Connecticut Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal backed recently proposed legislation that would make it harder for a gun purchase to go through before a federal background check is completed.

Murphy said they “have become evangelical in our belief that this massacre has to stop.”

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy touted an analysis Thursday that he says explains why he’s moving forward with his 30-year, $100 billion initiative to improve how residents get around the state.

The Department of Transportation released a report that explains the benefit of widening Connecticut’s highways.

According to the report, adding a lane in each direction on I-95 across southern Connecticut will produce $15.5 billion in new business sales, add $9 billion to the state’s gross state product, and add $6.3 billion in new wage income to workers. The I-84 widening project between Danbury and Waterbury will produce $4.4 billion in new business sales, add $2.6 billion to Connecticut’s gross state product and add $1.8 billion in new wage income to workers.

Malloy said widening I-95 will save drivers over 14 million hours of delay by the year 2040. 

Malloy, who has been pitching the plan for more than a year and has already started borrowing to fund it, said the state needs a “first-in-class” transportation system.

The United Riverhead Terminal in Riverhead has accepted and stored an exceptionally volatile new crude oil produced by fracking operations in North Dakota since 2014.

But local officials were unaware of that until asked about it recently by RiverheadLOCAL.

The light crude from the Bakken oil field is transported by rail from North Dakota to the Port of Albany and shipped down the Hudson River by tankers and barges. Some of it is stored at the terminal when it can’t be brought directly to a New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Delaware refinery. 

There is no overland transport of the crude oil on Long Island, according to the terminal operator and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Riverhead Fire Marshal Craig Zitek was unaware of the Bakken storage when first asked about it on October 1. He has since performed an inspection of the site and spoken to the terminal’s management. He said: “They’re well equipped to store it.”

It is not clear how much crude is being stored at the terminal. The facility’s license documents are not posted online and are exempt under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

The Times Union reports: New York Governor Cuomo and former Vice President Al Gore announced several moves by the state to reduce the effects of climate change in the coming years.

Cuomo said he would sign the "Under 2 MOU," an international memo of understanding that pledges to help keep the earth's average temperature from increasing more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, as measured against pre-industrial levels.

The governor said the state would also seek to expand the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, work to put solar power generation into 150,000 more homes by 2020 and expand solar resources at all SUNY campuses.

Cuomo said the failure to address the causes of climate change represent "gross negligence by government" matched by a failure of the public to hold their elected representatives responsible.

Friday, October 9  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser and Kevin Brewer.)

In the news tonight: gas pipe line opponents sound off at West Hartford meeting; Connecticut inks Keno pact with tribes; Candidate says Suffolk should refund Sewer District surplus to taxpayers; and, a drone crashes in Sag Harbor.

Over a hundred people attended a public hearing in West Hartford Wednesday night, focused on concerns for protection of the reservoir serving 12 towns in greater Hartford, where Kinder Morgan wants to run a new pipeline they say is needed.

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports:
"The meeting was convened by the Metropolitan District Commission, which is charged with ensuring water quality for the towns. It was clear that the majority of those attending either oppose Kinder Morgan’s plan to run a 24-inch fracked gas pipeline alongside its existing 16-inch line, or at least have serious concerns about it.

Those include worries about water contamination, gas leaks or explosions, the taking of property through eminent domain, and impacts of construction on other species and on the recreational opportunities afforded by the MDC property.

Local high school student Scott Ritter focused on Kinder Morgan’s safety record: 'I’ll mention a number of incidents. All of them have nothing to do with third parties, and all of them have resulted in spills of some severity.'

A team of five Kinder Morgan staffers responded to audience members’ concerns, but most people seemed unconvinced that the pipeline is a good idea, or even that it’s needed. 

Representatives of Kinder Morgan promised to adhere to all local, state and national laws and regulations if their pipeline is approved.

The public comment period has been extended for another week.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

The State of Connecticut and the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribal nations agreed on Tuesday to a plan that will bring Keno gambling to the state by the end of this year.  

State officials and Nation representatives were swift in their approval and support for the plan which will see 12.5% of gross revenue from the game go to each of the two Tribal Nations, and also allow the game to be played in the casinos.

The amount of revenue that will come to the state from the new game however, seems to be unclear, and has varied greatly over the past few months. 
Keno was approved to close a 2013 budget gap, but plans for the game were withdrawn the following year.  

This year's state budget estimated $13.6 million in Keno revenue for the first year of operation, but updated budget projections released last month, when it was not known the game would be operating this year, estimated no income from the game.  

In April, Connecticut Lottery Corporation President Anne Noble said Keno would generate $5 million in profit in its first operating year.

A considerable amount of the $132.9 million the state provided the lowest-performing districts to pay for improvements like extending the school day or offering free preschool was "inappropriately" used last year to close budget deficits districts were facing according to Connecticut education leaders.

Several districts also have informed the State Department of Education that they did not spend a sizable portion of the money and plan to use it in the coming years. 

New Haven Public Schools did not spend $2.6 million of its grant, Hartford didn't spend $1.4 million and Waterbury $1.9 million.

Statewide, seven percent of the funding provided went unspent. The department was unable to provide how much went to close budget deficits.

Kathy Dempsey, the budget chief for the State Department of Education says: “The funds are not being used in accordance with their plans and spent to ensure the education reform needs are being met. What we are seeing is a shifting to the operating side. They are covering holes in their budgets."

Newsday reports:
Republican County Executive candidate James O'Connor says Suffolk County should return the $150 million surplus in the Southwest sewer district to taxpayers. 

The sewer district serves 340,000 residents in Babylon, Islip and a portion of Huntington.

O’Connor accused the county of keeping taxes high as it paid off construction costs.

The GOP position echoes allegations in a lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court in February that the Southwest sewer district allegedly overcharged customers on their property tax bills. 

The suit seeks refunds of sewer district taxes of about $1,500 per resident. 

Democratic Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said the money is needed for future capital projects.

Construction to replace the outflow pipe from Bergen Point Sewage Treatment Plant in West Babylon is scheduled to start next year. The county has secured about $40 million in low or no-interest loans from the state.
-------------------------------------- reports: 
A drone that was flown by a New York photographer malfunctioned and crashed between two buildings on Main Street in Sag Harbor just before 7 p.m. Tuesday.

It left behind its pieces, flames and a cloud of smoke.  
Sag Harbor Police say the photographer was hired to take photos of the Watchcase condominiums. 

The drone hit between the Sag Harbor Variety store and a vacant building. They were both slightly damaged after the drone's battery caught on fire.

Wednesday, October 7   (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.)

In the news tonight:  a Senate committee wants records from a Norwalk company; the Board of Regents proposes concessions from college teachers; Suffolk County sues painkiller makers; and, a Hamptons native heads to the new water quality research center.

The Connecticut Post reports that a Norwalk data storage company that helped Hillary Clinton back up her email as secretary of state faces questions about the nature of the work it did for the Democratic presidential frontrunner. 

Datto Inc. is now in the crosshairs of the U.S. Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chaired by Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson. 

The committee requested materials from the company by October 19, including contracts, data retention policies and documentation of any cyberattacks that could have compromised Clinton’s emails. 

The company did not respond to a request for comment. 

The FBI and the GOP-controlled Congress are separately investigating whether there were security breaches of Clinton’s e-mail. 

According to Johnson, a Clinton entity purchased a backup storage device from Datto in May 2013, after she left the State Department. The company uses cloud technology to harvest or store data. 

Leaders of the state's largest public college system are asking for major concessions from its unionized teaching staff -- changes the union says are "unprecedented."

The Board of Regents for Higher Education proposes using more part-time teaching staff, increasing faculty office hours, making personnel files subject to public release and using available funding as one criteria for determining class sizes.

Research grants would be eliminated and tenured staff could be transferred without their consent or guarantee of retaining tenure.

Annual bonuses based on years of service would end and free graduate school would be eliminated for the children of unionized staff.

The Connecticut State University branch of the American Association of University Professors told its members in an email the proposals are unprecedented.

The proposals also drew national attention from the American Association of University Professors.
AAUP leader Hank Reichman said the proposals are “in the true spirit of Scott Walker," the Republican Wisconsin governor who has infuriated unions.
A spokesman for the college system declined to comment.

The Suffolk County Legislature voted unanimously Tuesday to sue prescription painkiller manufacturers to recoup health care and police services costs stemming from abuse of the drugs, according to Newsday.

Legis. Rob Calarco, sponsor of the bill, said the companies "misrepresented" to doctors that opiate drugs are nonaddictive and safe to treat chronic pain.

He said the county is battling a heroin epidemic which is rooted in prescription painkillers, leading to increased costs for employee health care and police.

A spokesman for Purdue Pharma LP, the maker of the painkiller OxyContin, called the suit unfortunate.

Legislator William Spencer, a doctor and president of the Suffolk Medical Society, said manufacturers pressed doctors to recommend the drugs and said they were less addictive.

27 reports that Hampton Bays native Jennifer Garvey will be the associate director of the New York State Center for Water Quality Technology, a new research center at Stony Brook University that will develop septic technology and water quality strategies.

Ms. Garvey, who is currently Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s deputy chief of staff, played a major role in the conception, planning and fundraising to create the center.

The center was the brainchild of Throne-Holst and her staff, who pitched the idea two years ago for a technology incubator—and, eventually, a manufacturing hub—based on the East End.

Governor Andrew Cuomo included $2 million in seed money for the center in his 2015 budget and $1 million has been pledged by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The center’s research will focus on identifying and developing new technology to improve the removal of nitrogen from wastewater from residential septic systems and make the systems more affordable.

Two Stony Brook professors, Christopher Gobler, a marine biology professor, and Hal Walker, an engineering professor, will be co-directors of the center.

Research at Stony Brook University has connected the proliferation and spread of harmful algal blooms in Long Island’s bays and ponds to high nitrogen levels from wastewater leaching from residential septic systems.

Tuesday, October 6 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Chris Cadra.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut bans variable rates for electric utilities; a New Britain hospital opens state’s first autism inpatient unit; budget cuts may cut bus services in Suffolk County; and, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation changes its policies on fish seizures.

The Patch reports: Third-party electric utilities can no longer charge variable rates to Connecticut customers, thanks to a decision made last week by the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA). 

On September 30, the Authority issued an Interim Decision prohibiting electric suppliers from entering into a contract for variable rates on or after October 1, as well as prohibiting suppliers from renewing customers into variable rates on or after October 1, according to state Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz.

A supplier must offer new customers a rate that cannot go up for at least four months, and then can offer renewal terms, possibly at a new price, that also cannot go up for at least four months. 

Customers already paying variable rates should note that this doesn’t prohibit or eliminate variable rates in existing contracts. It only prohibits entering into new contracts for variable rates or rolling customers onto variable rates on or after October 1.

New Britain’s Hospital for Special Care plans to open an eight-bed inpatient unit next month for young people with autism spectrum disorders as well as aggression, self-injury, or severely impaired functioning. 

Advocates and hospital officials say this is a much-needed resource. Hospital for Special Care’s president and CEO Lynn Ricci said that because the state has no inpatient beds for children with autism spectrum disorders, some end up going to out-of-state facilities for treatment.

In a statement, Governor Malloy said: "This service will help ensure that children with [autism spectrum disorders] receive the clinical treatment and support services that they need and deserve.”

Expected to open in November, the unit will serve people ages 10 to 21, with an expected average stay of 30 to 45 days. It is intended to serve children and adolescents who need intensive treatment, beyond the hospital’s outpatient autism program, which started in 2012.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s proposed budget includes a $10 million cut to the county’s bus transit system.

Deputy county executive Jon Schneider said no specific lines have been identified as being at-risk. But he added the county’s increasing expenditures for bus services ha[ve] become unmanageable, particularly since the state allocation for transit has not increased at an equal rate as costs.

Schneider said: “Over the past decade, Suffolk County’s subsidy has increased by nearly 560 percent while state transit aid has increased by 22 percent.”

Lawmakers are still in the process of determining exactly how the system will be affected. Legislator Al Krupski said he and other county officials are examining ways to save money without cutting funding.

Krupski said, “They’re looking at a number of underperforming lines, not so much to eliminate the lines but to cut some service on the lines. We haven’t adopted his budget yet, so we’ll see how this all plays out.”

Long Island commercial fishermen with grievances against the state Department of Environmental Conservation may now have some relief.

After an investigation that began more than three years ago, New York State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott released a report last week noting problems within the state DEC such as record mismanagement and failure to reimburse fishermen who had their catches seized but no wrongdoing was found.

Leahy Scott said as a result of the investigation, the DEC adopted new policies in April 2014 to address its shortcomings.

One of the main problems highlighted in the report dealt with restitutions. The investigation found DEC officers frequently seized catches when they suspected wrongdoing, such as a haul above the state limit or a lack of proper permits. However, the department failed to reimburse fishermen who were acquitted of charges or won court cases until the Investigator General’s investigation began.

Greenport’s Sid Smith, who was reimbursed more than $8,000 two years after his catch was seized from his boat, said of the report, “It’s been a long time coming.”

Monday, October 5  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Scott Schere.)

In the news tonight: 
Smartphone apps link Greater New Haven college students to safety; Riverhead town supervisor candidates will answer environmental questions tonight; the commissioner of the Department of Children and Families will visit Bridgeport Tuesday;  an unusual event Sunday at the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant; and, Smithtown’s budget plan calls for $3.5 million in cuts, a tax hike, and no layoffs. 

At a time when college safety and security is again in the news, smartphone apps that directly contact campus security are rising in popularity.  According to the New Haven Register, several universities in the area offer such apps, with names such as LiveSafe at Yale University, Rave Guardian at Quinnipiac University and EmergenSee at the University of New Haven.

Yale University spokeswoman Karen Peart said in an email that there are 1,000 LiveSafe users at Yale, including students, faculty and staff, who have sent in 2,091 tips, 13 percent of them about suspicious activity.  Peart said calling 911 on a cell phone does not give dispatchers a caller’s location, which makes LiveSafe more useful.

LiveSafe and other apps work in similar ways, relying on a smartphone’s GPS to locate a caller. They allow users to designate friends who can watch as they move from place to place.

Police Chief Mark DeLieto at UNH said the EmergenSee app will launch the smartphone user’s microphone and camera, and the image will show up in police headquarters. But he said “it’s not meant to circumvent dialing 911 in an emergency,” because dispatchers can more easily talk to the caller.  
$3.5 million in cuts, a tax hike, and no layoffs. 

Riverhead town supervisor candidates will answer questions from environmental advocates on environmental issues tonight in downtown Riverhead.

The New York League of Conservation Voters and a coalition of local environmental and civic groups are hosting the forum from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight at the Suffolk County Community College. 

Incumbent Supervisor Sean Walter and challengers Jodi Giglio and Anthony Coates will each be asked to answer a set of questions posed by the coalition.  They will then take questions from the audience as time permits.

The NYLCV said in its announcement of the event, “Each candidate will address these questions without the others present, in order to help the audience clearly understand each position on the same issues without interruption or distraction.”

The Connecticut Post reports Joette Katz, the commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Children and Families will visit the Bridgeport office of Boys & Girls Village on Bennett Street tomorrow morning to tour the recently completed renovations. 

The renovations have significantly upgraded BGV’s facilities in Bridgeport, allowing Boys & Girls Village to be more accessible to a crucial population of children and families in the city and beyond. 

Bridgeport is the primary site for BGV's community-based services and more than half of Boys & Girls Village clients live in Bridgeport. 

The New Haven Register reports the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced a leaking relief valve caused an “unusual event” declaration at Millstone Power Station.

The NRC says the incident occurred at about 9:30 a.m. Sunday at the Waterford, Connecticut plant. They state there were no injuries or release of radioactivity into the environment.

A Millstone spokesman says the leak was stopped before 10 a.m. and the unusual event was considered over about an hour later.

The incident met the criteria for the lowest of four levels of emergency classifications because the reactor coolant system leaked at a rate of greater than 25 gallons per minute. 

The NRC says the problem was traced to a relief valve on the shutdown cooling system.
$3.5 million in cuts, a tax hike, and no layoffs. 

According to Newsday, Smithtown's tentative 2016 operating budget cuts spending by about $3.5 million but it still calls for a modest property tax increase of under $20 per home on average. Also, it calls for no mandatory layoffs, but controls labor costs by attrition.

Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said the town also plans to continue a policy started this year of only filling jobs viewed as essential when employees leave or retire. 

Other savings include $200,000 in utility costs with the installation of LED streetlights.

Vecchio said: "We can't tolerate extra expenditures when they're unnecessary. We're not going to waste taxpayer money.”

He said $1.08 million less was spent in the town's general fund, its largest, due to those unfilled job vacancies and curtailing expenses in several departments.

In addition, about $900,000 in health insurance and workers' compensation increases were mitigated by a decrease in required state pension contributions, the supervisor said.

Residents can comment on the budget at an October 29th hearing. The final budget must be adopted by November 20th.

Friday, October 2  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Neil Tollhurst.)

In the news tonight:  Connecticut Medicaid Hospital cuts; Newtown suit against assault weapon maker; Latino advocacy group wants investigation into immigrant's hanging in East Hampton; and, solar project kicks off at Shinnecock Reservation.

Connecticut hospitals are slated to have 192 million dollars in state Medicaid funds cut back and may need to cope with an additional 25 percent funding loss. Stock market volatility and lower tax revenues were cited by the state as the cause.

Hospital officials warned these cuts may cause layoffs and service reductions. 

Earlier this year, Bristol Hospital reduced its workforce by five percent in response to Medicare and Medicaid cuts.

Last month Stamford Hospital announced that it was laying off 20 employees, leaving 113 open positions unfilled, closing its mobile wellness center and consolidating community outreach and education programs. 

Hospital officials said the changes were made to offset an increase in hospital tax payments, but had not taken these recent and potential cuts into account.

In June, Hartford HealthCare announced plans to eliminate 335 positions, affecting 418 workers, and the Yale New Haven Health System announced plans to close two clinics.

The Malloy administration has pointed to hospital financial performance to suggest the industry remains highly profitable, noting that hospital corporate systems, which include parent companies and subsidiaries, took in $916 million more than they spent during the 2014 fiscal year.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed by 10 Newtown families against Bushmaster Firearms has been sent from federal court back to state court where it may have a better chance of succeeding, according to the Connecticut Post.

A U.S. District Judge in Hartford returned the case to state court on Wednesday.

Federal courts have consistently refused to hold gun manufacturers liable or permit lawsuits against gun manufacturers for injuries caused by third parties.

The lawsuit claims the Bushmaster AR-15, the assault rifle used to kill 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, is too dangerous to sell to the general public. 

In addition to Bushmaster, the defendants include Riverview Gun Sales, the East Windsor store where gunman Adam Lanza's mother legally purchased the rifle in 2010.

Disputing the claims, the gun maker's lawyers had the case moved to federal court.

They argued that removing Riverview from the lawsuit would mean none of the defendants are from Connecticut, and therefore, federal court was more appropriate. 

An attorney for the families said the district court’s ruling on Wednesday was an unequivocal rejection of that argument.

Newsday reports:
One year after the hanging death of an Ecuadoran immigrant in East Hampton, an Hispanic advocacy group is calling for a criminal investigation into the death and is requesting an independent inquiry into how East Hampton Town police handled the case.

The group, Latino Justice, says the September 29, 2014 hanging death of 21 year-old Andrea Gabriela Armijos merits another look. They say town police
 "immediately acted as if her death were a suicide" without exploring the possibility of foul play. 

A consultant they hired identified "numerous failings" in policing, including not referring the case to Suffolk homicide detectives, not securing evidence at the scene, and not interviewing people who may have been the last to see Armijos. 

Foster Maer, an attorney for Latino Justice, said: "There is someone hanging in the woods, you call up the homicide unit, of course you do. Because town police did not do that, they made all the basic mistakes, not cordoning off the area, not making imprints of the footprints found there, not taking photos of it."     

The group wants the case investigated by the Suffolk County Police homicide squad and for the town to appoint an independent investigator to look into why East Hampton police "failed to follow well-established practices."

Newsday reports: 
The Shinnecock Indian Nation marked five years of federal recognition Thursday with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

The secretary and tribal leaders used the occasion to kick off a solar-energy program on the Shinnecock reservation.

The program is part of a national $2 million initiative by nonprofit Grid Alternatives to expand renewable energy and job opportunities on Native American lands.

At Shinnecock, the program begins with the installation of rooftop solar at two homes, including that of James and Marion Phillips, whose $170 monthly energy bill is expected to be cut more than half.

But funding for 48 other homes at Shinnecock still needs to be raised, and Grid Alternatives is seeking donations.

The project also will see a battery backup system installed at the tribe's community center to provide a week of energy if power goes out, as it did after Superstorm Sandy.

The program is expected to enlist the help of tribal volunteers who will ultimately bring those skills into the larger green-energy job market.

Thursday, October 1 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer and Nadine Dumser.

In the news tonight:  Pentagon frowns on purchase of Sikorsky; New Haven hears about violence against women and restrictions on reproductive health care in Nicaragua; New York State pension fund investments in the private prison industry questioned; and, more supermarkets closing on Long Island.

The sale of Stratford based Sikorsky Aircraft to Lockheed Martin, while approved by the Justice Department, has been met with disapproval by the Pentagon.  

Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall expressed concerns yesterday that consolidations such as these can lead to unwanted domination by one manufacturer, adding that "with size comes power, and defense contractors are not hesitant to use this power for corporate advantage."  

While the Defense Department won't dispute the sale of Sikorsky, they have asked Congress for help in insuring diversity in the defense industry. 

Representative Rosa DeLauro and Senator Richard Blumenthal support the sale. Blumenthal says he will work to "preserve the strength and diversity of the defense industrial base."

Although Lockheed Martin's acquisition of Sikorsky has received guarded approval from the Defense Department and full approval from the Justice Department, the deal must still win regulatory approval from the European Union, China, and other countries where one or both companies have business interests. 

The issues of violence against women and restrictions on reproductive health care across international boundaries were woven together in a presentation Wednesday night at the Planned Parenthood of Southern New England headquarters in New Haven.  

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus was there:
"Erendira Vanegas heads up a domestic violence prevention program in two rural communities in Nicaragua as part of the New Haven-Leon Sister City Project. 

She says such violence is part of the culture: “It's very big. Even women in these kinds of rural communities didn't know they were suffering from domestic violence against them. They didn't realize it. It is so normal in a country that is very patriarchal and very machista, yeah.”

The program works with 60 women, teaching them strategies to build self-esteem and solidarity with other women and to take action to confront the violence.

Gretchen Raffa with Planned Parenthood discussed efforts to protect a woman's right to abortion and noted that the U.S. Congress has cut funding for abortion internationally.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News."

Newsday reports that supermarket operator Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. now plans to auction 128 stores starting today, an increase of 24 from its prior plans. 

The stores to be auctioned include 30 Waldbaum and Pathmark locations on Long Island. 

A&P operated nearly 300 stores on Long Island when it filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors in July.  

Additional stores to be sold include the Waldbaum's in Albertson, Great Neck, Oceanside, Riverhead and Rocky Point and Pathmark stores in Centereach and Baldwin.

The bankrupt company had already agreed to sell several stores to Stop and Shop, including Waldbaum’s in East Hampton, Southampton, and Huntington.  

According to a filing with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, A&P has notified 319 employees that they will face layoffs by November 23. 

Comedian and activist Randy Credico visited Albany with Chilean guitarist Andres Rieloff on Wednesday to draw attention to the state retirement funds’ second-hand investment in the private prison industry, 
Credico likened the investment to owning a piece of apartheid-era South Africa or the slave trade, according to the Albany Times-Union.

The pair protested at midday outside the state Comptroller’s offices. 

A spokeswoman for Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, the sole trustee of the vast pension fund, said the investments were being examined.

DiNapoli has used his trustee role to press for changes at many of the large corporations in which the pension fund has investments.