Monday, November 2, 2015

November, 2015

Monday, November 30 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Scott Schere.)

In the news tonight:  Security is reviewed at New York & Connecticut Planned Parenthood sites; no Gathering of the Vibes next year; more police to combat  Southampton crime wave; and, Melinda Tuhus reports from a rally in Harford to welcome Syrian refugees.

As reported by USA Today, New York is increasing security at more than 60 Planned Parenthood locations across the state, after Friday’s shooting at a clinic in Colorado that left three people dead.
Governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday said State Police started to tighten security on Friday at Planned Parenthood sites in New York after the shooting in Colorado Springs. 

State Police were to continue patrols Monday.
The Governor said State Police will assist the New York clinics with security and emergency planning. 

In a statement Cuomo said: “Friday’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic was a senseless act of violence that has left us shocked and heartbroken.” 
Cuomo said State Police and his aides would work with Planned Parenthood staff to ensure the safety of workers and patients.

The organization's Connecticut branch said Friday night it would continue to ensure patient safety, according to the Hartford Courant.  

In a statement a spokesman said Planned Parenthood has security measures in place and works with local law enforcement in both Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Normally, this is the time of year when Ken Hays would book talent for the next Gathering of the Vibes summer music festival. 

Instead, according to the Connecticut Post, Hays announced last Friday on that there will be no Vibes in 2016. 

And while the online statement promised a “triumphant return” in 2017, Hays said in a later interview that a comeback might not mean going back to Seaside Park in Bridgeport. 

The Vibes’ current, five-year contract with the city would conclude after 2017’s festival. Hays said: “The venue for 2017 is definitely in question.”

 In 1996, Hays, a Grateful Dead fan and businessman, and local promoter Bob Kennedy launched the festival to celebrate the music of the iconic band following the death in 1995 of front man Jerry Garcia. 

Mayor Finch spokesman Brett Broesder said last Friday: “It’s been a strong run, and their team has successfully worked closely with Mayor Finch and his team to hold one of the nation’s premier concerts annually. It’s brought entertainment, positive attention and an economic boost to the city for years.”

Southampton Town officials say a new shift schedule will free more officers to combat a crime wave that has alarmed residents of the town’s northwestern neighborhoods.

According to Newsday, Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst announced the agreement Tuesday, as residents of Flanders, Riverside and Northampton packed a town board meeting to demand more patrols. Throne-Holst said the new schedule would result in "boots on the ground" to address the "crime spree."

A new schedule will assign most police officers to 12-hour day or night shifts beginning in mid-January, instead of cycling every four days between day, afternoon and night shifts, as they do now.

More than 70 vehicle break-ins, a fatal shooting and a home invasion have occurred in the area over the past three months, prompting residents to organize nighttime patrols and lobby for more police attention.

Some residents said they were frustrated it would take weeks to deploy the officers. 

Throne-Holst said town police have already devoted another squad car to patrol Flanders, Riverside and Northampton at night. She said police are coordinating with county police, county sheriffs and State Police to "step up the presence in the neighborhood.”

Hundreds of people from around Connecticut attended a rally at the Capitol on Saturday to say they would welcome Syrian refugees to the U.S. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus was there:
Mongi Douady with the Connecticut chapter of CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, directly addressed the Islamophobia of those who insist that members of the Islamic State could enter the U.S. alongside legitimate Syrian refugees. While saying there's cause for concerns around security, he said there are much easier ways to enter the country.

“Those who want to come here as tourists, it is easier to get a visa. Those who wanna come here to go to school, it is easier for them to get a visa. Those who come here through contracts through other countries to work, it's easier for them to get a visa. The refugee status is the toughest. So do not buy into this hype that we are afraid that they're gonna infiltrate this country and cause harm through the refugee system. It is not true!” (applause)

The head of a refugee resettlement agency in New Haven said they have already welcomed eight Syrian families to Connecticut and plan to accept more. 

Earlier this month, Governor Dannel Malloy welcomed a Syrian family here after the governor of Indiana, where the family was originally headed, said they would not be welcome there. Even though federal, not state, law governs the refugee issue, a majority of governors have said they don't want them.”

Friday, November 27 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Melinda Tuhus, Neil Tolhurst and Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news: New Haven residents bring their concerns over wage theft to Mayor Toni Harp;  Connecticut auditors’ report raises pension questions;  airport workers in New York fast over a living wage and union rights; and, Huntington maintains its AAA rating.

More than 50 New Haveners crowded into Mayor Toni Harp's outer office late Wednesday afternoon to ask her for an emergency meeting to discuss their concerns about wage theft and what they say is an attack on their civil liberties for loudly opposing wage theft. A stand-off ensued. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more:
Members of Unidad Latina en Accion/the New Haven Workers Association have been picketing outside Goodfellas restaurant for the past several months, after several former workers filed a lawsuit seeking payment of back wages. The restaurant has been cited for similar wage theft many times in the past, and has been picketed by the group before. 

Organizer Joe Foran told the mayor's staff that last year the New Haven Police Chief vowed to follow up on complaints of wage theft. 

“Why then, did Chief Esserman two weeks ago arrive for an important meeting to the Goodfellas restaurant, sit down and eat at Goodfellas restaurant, pass right through our picket line and say he didn't have time to speak to us?  And then, two weeks later, just by coincidence, one of our members was arrested for peacefully assembling the same way we always have. We need an explanation from the mayor because ultimately, Chief Esserman is a city employee.”

A police spokesman defended the arrest as appropriate. After a mayoral aide insisted for an hour that Mayor Toni Harp was in a meeting and could not be disturbed, the group decided to wait for her. Eventually her aide announced that they had found a time in her schedule for a meeting next week. Declaring victory, most of the group then left to picket outside Goodfellas.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

A Connecticut auditors' report raised concerns Tuesday about how state workers’ pension payments are calculated and interest costs from backlogs in processing those payments. 

Their report covers 2009 through 2011, found interest payments totaling over $2 million, and makes 17 recommendations. 

“The process of finalizing pension calculations is so complex and labor intensive that it is difficult for the results to be duplicated,” the audit states. “This could result in improper payments. Consequently, retirees are not receiving their finalized benefit in a timely manner.”

The state comptroller’s office told auditors that it has been making an effort to reduce the backlog of retirement applications and is in the process of working with Oracle to design a module to automatically calculate retirement benefits.

“As always, we appreciate the auditors’ recommendations,” State Comptroller Kevin Lembo said in a statement Wednesday. “Our goal is to continually re-evaluate practices and make improvements where appropriate. There has been a state retirement backlog for decades — and I hope to be the first state comptroller in decades to eliminate it entirely, a process that begins this spring when our pension system will officially become automated and allow for more rapid finalizations.”

For some airport workers, Thanksgiving was more than the usual family feast - it marked the end of a fast for a living wage and union rights. 

Workers for contractors at Kennedy airport and airports in 15 major cities began their 24-hour fast on Tuesday. 

Carlos Vega, an airplane cleaner at Kennedy, was among the workers wearing buttons inviting travelers to "Ask me why I'm fasting."

The airport workers want $15 an hour, health care and sick days as well as the right to form a union.

Vega says years ago airport workers were paid a living wage. But when outside contractors took over supplying services, they hired non-union workers and wages fell.

Last week, some 2,000 workers at seven airports, including LaGuardia and Kennedy, staged a brief strike. 

The job action didn't disrupt travel, but workers say they'll be stepping up their efforts in the coming weeks.

Newsday reports:
The three major credit rating agencies have maintained the Town of Huntington's AAA rating, although two gave the town a negative outlook because of deficits posted in 2013 and 2014.

While Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings declared the town's ratings outlook as negative, both Manhattan-based agencies also projected improved financial performance based on 2015 and 2016 budgets. Manhattan-based Standard & Poor's said the town's outlook was stable. 

Huntington officials passed budgets in 2013 and 2014 that drew down reserves in the general fund. The strategy held the tax levy down while maintaining programs, but it also took Huntington's reserves below the town's target of maintaining at least 10 percent of spending. 

Town officials are expecting to end 2015 with a surplus, and Moody's noted that Huntington's five-year forecast indicates a reduction in annual reserve appropriations. Fitch projections were also optimistic that Huntington was on track to restoring its reserve balance.

 The AAA rating affects Huntington's $95 million in outstanding bonds and a $12.9 million bond sale planned for next week. 

Wednesday, November 25  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut legislators will hold a special budget session; a new study says bad roads cost drivers billions; a Southampton councilman pleads guilty to drug charges; and, the county executive picks a new police commissioner.

After bipartisan budget talks, legislators said Tuesday that they expect a special session of the General Assembly in the second week of December to address budget cuts and tax changes, according to the Connecticut Post.

Lawmakers said that a controversial proposed retirement incentive plan might reap only half of the $80 million per year estimated previously.

Governor Malloy said he expects a controversial business tax, which resulted in harsh criticism from companies including Fairfield-based General Electric, will likely be amended.

House and Senate leaders will get together again next week, with a special session of the House and Senate in the week of December 7. 

Leaders said they are still planning on a $350 million reduction in the current budget of $20 billion, which runs through June 30 next year. 

Negotiators said they are looking at both years of the biennial, $40-billion budget. 

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano said new budget projections presented Monday by the Office of Fiscal Analysis sharply reduced the expected savings of a retirement incentive to take effect next February.

Connecticut’s poor pavement conditions and lack of highway safety features cost motorists $5.1 billion annually in additional operating costs and lost time, according to a national transportation organization. 

TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based group, released a report Tuesday that found 33 percent of the major local and state roads in urban areas are in poor condition and more than one-third of Connecticut’s bridges are structurally deficient or obsolete.

This cost each Hartford area driver $2,236 per year in extra vehicle operating costs, and the cost for New Haven area drivers is $2,050 per year.

Gov. Dannel Malloy has proposed using a half percent of the sales tax to help begin to fund what he hopes will be a $100 billion investment in Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure over the next 30 years.

Malloy wants to spend $2 billion over the next five years for the necessary improvements and has created a panel that is looking at how to finance the rest.

Newsday reports that a Southampton Town councilman resigned Tuesday before pleading guilty to a charge of conspiracy to illegally distribute oxycodone pills.

Bradley Bender, 54, said he obtained the pills from a Riverhead physician assistant and resold some for cash and steroids to an unnamed co-conspirator.
The scheme ran for three years from July 2012 to June 2015, according to court papers filed by Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen Bode. 

Bender acknowledged in court Tuesday he had an oxycodone habit and identified his supplier as Michael Troyan, arrested on November 4 by federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents on charges of conspiracy and illegally distributing oxycodone. 

The investigation into Troyan led to Bender, sources said.

Bender, who was released on $100,000 bond, could face up to 20 years in prison.

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said a special election will be held within 60 to 90 days to fill Bender's seat.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's pick for police commissioner is a former federal prosecutor who says the department needs a top-to-bottom assessment to identify where improvements can be made.

Timothy Sini, a deputy county executive, was nominated Tuesday to replace retiring Police Commissioner Edward Webber.

Sini's former boss, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, said Sini served with integrity.

Sini, 35, the current deputy commissioner of public safety, will transition to the job by working with Webber for the next two months, county spokesman Justin Meyers said.

But county lawmakers must still approve the appointment.

The announcement came a day after Webber said he would retire and as federal prosecutors mount a case against former Chief of Department James Burke, who resigned as chief of department amid a reopened federal investigation into police conduct following the theft of Burke's duffel bag.

Legislator Robert Trotta, a former police officer, said he was very concerned about Sini’s lack of experience and that Bellone picked someone so quickly without interviewing other people.

Tuesday, November 24  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Chris Cadra.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut senators press Obama to tighten gun sale background checks; Trumbull Town Council member resigns after manslaughter indictment; New York MTA unveils new counterterrorism app; Governor Cuomo to order large increase in renewable energy by 2030.

Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, with 22 of their Democratic colleagues, have asked President Obama to close what they call loopholes in the FBI background checks of gun buyers.

Unable to sway Congress to tighten the background-check process, the senators want Obama to use his executive powers to clarify the term “engaged in business” and broaden it to cover anyone who sells guns “at high volume.”

Current federal law requires those “engaged in the business” of dealing firearms to obtain a federal license and conduct background checks. But the law has some exemptions: gun show and Internet sales, for instance. Those sellers don’t have to verify with the FBI that a prospective buyer isn’t barred from owning a gun.

The senators said that updating the definition “would not impact a father giving a gun to his son, or an individual selling his gun on the Internet.”

National Rifle Association spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said there's no need to reinterpret the law. She said: “Federal law is clear.”

The Connecticut Post reports: Recently elected Trumbull Town Councilman Robert McGowan resigned Monday after news surfaced of his arrest on vehicular homicide charges.

The charges of second-degree vehicular homicide and two counts of fourth-degree assault by auto stemming from a New Jersey car crash four years ago that killed one man and injured two others. 

McGowan is due in court December 16 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He was indicted last week, and it wasn’t immediately known why it took four years for the indictment to be handed down.

First Selectman Tim Herbst said he asked McGowan to step down when he learned of the charges, and received the resignation within in an hour of requesting it. McGowan would have taken office December 7.

Herbst said no one in the Republican Town Committee knew about the charges. “Obviously, we do perform background checks, but because this situation happened out of state and four years ago, it didn’t come up,” he said. 

The Patch reports: New York Governor Cuomo announced Monday two new efforts to enhance the state’s fight against terrorism. 

The “See Something, Send Something” app for smartphones allows New Yorkers to capture suspicious activity as a photo or written note and send the information to the New York State Intelligence Center. 

The tip will be reviewed and if relevant, sent to the appropriate law enforcement agency. The app does not replace 911 and should not be used to report an emergency or when immediate police action is required. 

Additionally, the MTA will hire 46 police officers to increase security at Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station and throughout the Metro-North, Long Island and Staten Island rail systems. 

MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast said the new officers will bolster the MTA’s regular counterterrorism patrols at high-visibility terminals. 

The New York Times reports: Governor Cuomo plans to order state regulators to mandate that, by 2030, half of all power consumed by New Yorkers be generated from renewable sources.

The mandate would be another step toward the governor’s goal of a 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions from plants supplying the state’s electricity.

By pushing utilities to obtain more of the power they distribute from less-polluting sources, state officials hope to delay the planned shutdown of two nuclear power plants on the shore of Lake Ontario.

Cuomo administration officials want the upstate nuclear power plants to continue operating until 2030, when they hope that there will be enough sources of renewable energy to supply half of the state’s needs.

But Cuomo has taken an opposite stance on Entergy’s Indian Point nuclear plant. The governor has repeatedly called for Indian Point in Westchester County to be shut down, saying it is too dangerous to have a nuclear plant so close to New York City.

Monday, November 23  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Scott Schere and Rick Henrietta.) 

In the news tonight: With a new mayor, Bridgeport’s energy plans in doubt; a rally for renewable energy in Hartford; deer hunting in Suffolk County; and, funding public universities and curbing tuition increases in New York.

[When] Mayor Bill Finch leaves office next month he leaves behind a city transforming itself into a nationally-recognized environmental showpiece.

Despite fiscal constraints in a town with a low-income population more concerned with getting food on the table than how to recycle its scraps, Finch managed to create a broad, long-range energy and environmental sustainability vision called BGreen 2020.

What’s more, since BGreen was introduced in 2010, he managed to implement many of its dozens of projects, from simple community gardens to state-of-the-art clean energy, including North America’s largest fuel cell.  

But many more of BGreen’s projects are not fully implemented. They include the so-called thermal loop, a $30 million heat recapture project that takes waste heat from a fuel cell system and the waste-to-energy plant and converts it into heat and hot water for a large downtown district. 

Some projects, like a far-reaching reinvention of Bridgeport as a climate change-resilient city, are barely beyond concepts.

There is concern that Mayor-elect Joseph Ganim, who campaigned on cutting taxes, could choose to pull the plug on some of the projects – especially those that may involve city money. During the campaign, he did not address energy-related issues or climate change. 

Ganim did not respond to CT Mirror’s request for an interview. 

A rally calling for 100 percent renewable energy for all the people of Connecticut drew about 150 activists to the Capitol building in Hartford on a sunny Saturday afternoon, including a 12-foot tall Mother Earth. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:
Between rousing chants and sing-alongs, speakers addressed the issues of Connecticut's last remaining coal plant, several companies' plans to crisscross the state with fracked gas pipelines, health impacts from burning fossil fuels and environmental racism -- that is, locating polluting facilities disproportionately in communities of color.

Desmond Batts with the Sierra Club said it's a myth that African Americans don't care about climate change, but it's true that for many it's not at the top of their agenda because they're dealing with economic survival issues:

“When we look at communities of color, climate change is a very small fish, but when the effects of climate change come back around, that fish becomes a ravenous beast. It is a shark that will devour not only our neighborhoods, but yours as well.”

The main focus of the rally was to call on Governor Dannel Malloy to drop his plan to convert hundreds of thousands of homes from oil to gas heat, claiming gas is more climate-friendly. Organizers said recent studies show that's not true.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News

The special shotgun season for deer hunting in Suffolk County will begin on January 3, 2016 according to New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

Hunters must enter a drawing for DEC permitted hunting by November 30. Those selected will be eligible to hunt with shotguns any day from January 3 to January 31 at state-managed sites.

These include areas in Westhampton, Hampton Bays, Sag Harbor, and Calverton. Areas in East Hampton and Noyac will be open for firearms deer hunting from January 4 through 31, weekdays only.

The Suffolk County Bow hunting season started in October and runs through January 31.

Over the past several years, existing laws and regulations have expanded the opportunity for hunters to help increase recreational deer harvests to better manage increasing deer populations. 

Last year, Governor Cuomo signed legislation expanding the use of archery and firearms deer hunting seasons in Suffolk County. 

More information is available online at

A group of SUNY and CUNY students as well as the New York Public Interest Research Group members and unions offered support last Friday for a bill which would help the state and city college/university systems keep up with educational inflation through a Maintenance of Effort plan.

That plan would stabilize state funding for SUNY and CUNY by supporting annual projected increases to operating costs such as supplies and equipment, utilities and rent. 

Without state support for these normal operating expenses, cash-strapped campuses have been forced to use increased tuition to maintain current programming. 

SUNY students are in the last year of what has been five years of $300 annual tuition hikes. Tuition at the regular SUNY campuses is $6,470 this year. 

In 2011, the NYSUNY2020 law enacted $1,500 in tuition hikes over five years with the stated purpose of enhancing education at CUNY and SUNY, not to cover unfunded operating costs. 

Now, with the law set to expire in 2016, CUNY and SUNY are calling for more tuition hikes.

Friday, November 20  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer, Neil Tolhurst, and Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news: unemployment drops in Connecticut, but so do jobs; Connecticut legislators withdraw their proposals to suspend public financing in 2016; Suffolk County begins to tax short term rental owners; and Sag Harbor village board will discuss drone regulations.

On Thursday, the State of Connecticut posted a contradictory jobs report for the second consecutive month: Despite the loss of 2,200 jobs, the unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a point to a post-recession low of 5.1 percent in October.

Unemployment in the state has not been this low since March 2008, the start of the Great Recession that eventually claimed 119,000 jobs. In addition, the state made a net gain of 24,100 non-farm jobs in the past 12 months.

However, preliminary non-farm employment estimates for October indicate a loss of 2,200 jobs. It was the fourth month this year in which a survey of businesses found a net loss of jobs.

The contradictory report stems from a reliance on estimates derived from separate surveys: unemployment is calculated from a residential survey, while job losses and gains come from businesses.  Labor statisticians warn that both metrics are most useful when viewed over time, not month to month.

Since the jobs recovery began in February 2010, Connecticut has gained an average of 1,472 per month, with 46 months of gains, 21 months of losses and one month with no change.

By the end of Thursday, both House and Senate Democrats who proposed suspending Connecticut’s landmark public campaign finance system in 2016, had withdrawn their proposals.

Senate President Martin Looney (D-New Haven) made the announcement early Thursday afternoon, followed by remarks from other leaders later in the day, agreeing to find the money elsewhere.

The Democratic caucus was under pressure from its own members and prominent Republicans like former Governor M. Jodi Rell, who signed the landmark legislation into law.

The Citizens Election Program was implemented following the resignation of former Governor John G. Rowland, who went to jail for taking gifts from state contractors.

Suffolk County is now cracking down on short term rental owners who list their properties online. The county is requiring them to collect and remit a hotel-motel tax from their guests.

Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy said that since July, his office has collected nearly $140,000 from property owners who have enrolled to collect and pay the tax, with some monies coming from current rentals and some coming as back taxes that haven't been collected and paid in the past.  

The County uses a state database to identify owners who have not paid the taxes, with many owners saying they were unaware that they needed to collect and pay the rental taxes.

On Tuesday, the County Legislature discussed extending the tax, in place since 2009, through 2017.  North Fork legislator Al Krupski said he would support the continuation, adding that he hasn't received any complaints about the rental tax from East End town leaders, or property owners.

Last month a drone crashed in downtown Sag Harbor. Now, a proposed local law would restrict use of drones according to

The proposal prohibits flying unmanned aircraft without obtaining permission from the photo or video’s subject, or a property’s owner or manager. It also prohibits flying over village property without the permission of the Village Board.

Additionally, unmanned aircraft would be banned from flying over “sensitive infrastructure or property,” including power stations and sewage facilities. 

Drones would have to be flown at a minimum of 25 feet high near people and cars, and not be flown higher than 400 feet from the ground. Their use would also be limited in certain weather conditions.

Village Attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. said the proposed law applies only to unmanned aircraft systems that weigh less than 55 pounds and that are used for recreational purposes only. The Federal Aviation Administration has yet to regulate these types of aircraft.

“We are not prohibiting them—these are reasonable regulations,” he said. “...the federal government hasn’t regulated them yet; the local governments are stepping in. There could be a point in the future where the FAA preempts the village.”

Thursday, November 19 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Nadine Dumser.)

In the news tonight: New Haven welcomes Syrian refugee family denied by Indiana; Connecticut Senator helps Congress leave No Child Left Behind; Labor leader says raising New York’s minimum wage would not cause job loss; and, Long Island students suffer seizures caused by synthetic marijuana.

After Indiana’s governor refused to take in a family of Syrian refugees, New Haven’s Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services immediately agreed to help.

The resettlement agency’s executive director Chris George said he didn’t hesitate before agreeing to accept the family of three. Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, or IRIS, has settled 22 Syrian families since the start of the Syrian war.

George said: “We welcome all refugees regardless of religion, race, nationality.”

The family – a married couple with a five-year-old son – had waited three years in Jordan to come to the U.S. after being exiled from Homs, Syria. 

The family had intended to head to Indianapolis Wednesday, but Governor Mike Pence said he would not allow them.

Legally, governors cannot bar refugees from settling in their states; however they can ask the State Department not to send them refugees and withhold state funds for those who do arrive.

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy is part of a bipartisan team of House and Senate lawmakers working to finish a bill that would overhaul federal education policy and eliminate the No Child Left Behind law.

Called the Every Child Succeeds Act, the bill would make significant changes to the No Child Left Behind law signed by President Bush in 2002, which critics said placed too much emphasis on judging and punishing schools based on student test scores.

While giving considerable authority over education issues back to the states, the Every Child Succeeds Act would still require students to take standardized tests but the federal government could no longer use those test scores to punish “failing” schools by redirecting funding elsewhere. The new bill also includes accountability measures, such as requiring that states turn around the bottom five percent of their schools. 

The lawmakers hope to finish work on the bill today and hold votes on it in the House and Senate after Congress’s Thanksgiving break.

Newsday reports: 
A study released Tuesday by the Long Island Association showed nearly 23,400 local jobs would be lost if the state minimum wage was increased to $15 per hour.

However, Long Island Federation of Labor President John Durso said numerous other studies disproved the LIA study. According to Durso, 600 economists stated in a letter to the President that minimum wage increases had little to no negative effect on the employment of minimum wage workers.

The LIA analysis also found that local governments would need to raise an additional $54 million from property taxes to cover higher labor costs. 

The Federation of Labor’s Durso claims that higher salaries would reduce government spending on food stamps and other public assistance, and that the amount gained in payroll and income taxes would produce savings in state and municipal budgets. He said the Federation “fully supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.”

The Patch reports: 
Synthetic cannabinoids, or synthetic marijuana, were behind the severe seizures multiple students of Sachem School District had this week, according to Superintendent James Nolan.

These synthetics, such as “K2” or “Spice,” affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana. Their effects can be unpredictable and, in some cases, severe or life-threatening.

Nolan did not specify how many students suffered seizures, but he called them “very frightening situations.”

Synthetic cannabinoids refer to a growing number of manmade mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material so they can be smoked, or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

New York State has seen a more than an eightfold increase this year in emergency department visits related to synthetic drug use, including psychiatric emergencies, rapid heart rate and death.

New York City recently banned the sale of synthetic cannabinoids and Governor Cuomo has called for stronger Health Department regulations to fight the spread of synthetic drugs across the state.

Wednesday, November 18 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.)

In the news tonight: General Electric’s CEO confirms the search for new headquarters continues; UConn’s West Hartford campus is for sale; the Southold Deer Management Alliance hopes to warn residents about the effects of deer overpopulation; and, Brookhaven Town reserves prime parking for military veterans.

General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt said Tuesday that GE will “always have a big presence in Connecticut,” but confirmed the search for a new headquarters site is ongoing, according to the Connecticut Post.

Immelt spoke at a dinner in Stamford at which he received the Walter H. Wheeler Jr. Business Leadership Award from the Business Council of Fairfield County.

“I know what’s on everyone’s mind,” Immelt said, adding that while GE “doesn’t look for special deals,” it needs “an ecosystem that’s forward-looking…that’s willing to fight hard to be competitive and enduring for the future.”

GE’s said in June that it was searching for new headquarters after Governor Dannell Malloy signed off on a budget that will allow the state to tax corporate income that companies have avoided reporting in the past.

Besides its Fairfield headquarters, GE has work sites in Stamford and Norwalk where it is divesting the vast bulk of GE Capital: Plainville, Windsor and Bloomfield.

Immelt did not rule out staying in Connecticut but confirmed GE continues to look elsewhere, adding: “That’s why we’re looking not just here but other places for where the eventual headquarters of the company will be.”

The University of Connecticut is offering the town of West Hartford the opportunity to purchase its 58-acre branch campus as the public university moves toward relocating in downtown Hartford.

The relocation — initially expected to cost the state $115 million —is now expected to cost $140 million and involves new construction and renovating the former Hartford Times building for UConn's business, social work and public administration schools.

West Hartford officials have until January 15 to decide if they are interested in purchasing the property.

UConn officials were unable to say how much they are asking for the five-building campus.

The current lease for the business school in downtown Hartford will expire just as the new downtown campus opens.

With the anticipated costs having already increased by 22 percent, members of UConn's Board of Trustees Wednesday asked for and received assurances from university leaders that there would be no more cost overruns.

The project is funded by the state through a $2.1 billion omnibus construction initiative for UConn dubbed Next Generation.

The Suffolk Times reports that the North Fork Deer Management Alliance is hoping to spread the message that Southold Town has serious problems resulting from too many deer.

In a brochure it hopes to send to every home, the group says deer overpopulation has led to too many tick-borne diseases; auto accidents; destruction of forests; much contamination of local waters; and economic devastation.

The rest of the eight-fold brochure includes excerpts from a series of six op-eds the citizen action group published last year.

The group hopes to raise funds to have the brochures produced and mailed to every home in Southold town.

William Sertl of Nassau Point, who helped design the brochure, hopes it accomplishes two goals: motivate individual property owners to allow hunters on their land and change people’s attitudes about the deer crisis.

“We’re animal lovers too but this is a health crisis,” he said. “It has to be dealt with and can’t be ignored.”

Newsday reports that Brookhaven is set to become the second Long Island municipality to reserve prime parking spaces for military veterans.

Parking stalls at Town Hall in Farmingville and other town facilities will be marked by purple stripes and signs designating the spots for vets wounded in combat.

The town board will vote on the plan Thursday night.

Brookhaven will join the Village of Islandia, which this summer established a veterans-only parking spot at its Village Hall.

Brookhaven will not have to pay for the signs, which will be provided free of charge by the Omaha, Nebraska-based nonprofit Wounded Warriors Family Support. 

Tuesday, November 17  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Chris Cadra and Rick Henrietta) 

In the news tonight: Democrats would cut funding for campaign finance to balance Connecticut’s budget; Governor and Connecticut’s senators back admitting Syrian refugees; Governor Cuomo tells NRC: Shut down Indian Point nuclear plant ; and, NY State regulators put ‘hold’ on processing Health Republic claims

The legislature’s Democratic majority released a proposal Monday to close a $350 million budget shortfall by, among other things, suspending Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance system for the 2016 election cycle.

But Michael Brandi, the head of the State Elections Enforcement Commission, said the one cycle suspension would start the “death spiral” for the program, which allows candidates to raise small amounts of money in order to qualify for a larger state grant to conduct their campaign. 

Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Every Voice Center, said: “This decision would make politicians more accountable to big donors and less to ordinary citizens.”

The Democratic budget proposal also uses $35 million of the rainy day fund to close the budget gap.  It would also cut funds for the Judicial Branch, public safety, the prison system, and culture and tourism programs.

The Republicans released their proposal last week. It relies mostly on taking funds from the Municipal Revenue Sharing Account and a retirement incentive program for state employees.
A growing number of GOP governors are citing the Paris attacks as a reason not to accept Syrian refugees.

Connecticut politicians are rejecting that notion, but they are in favor of rigorous vetting of the newcomers.

Devon Puglia, spokesman for Governor Malloy, said: “The governor’s office is awaiting guidance from federal agencies on screening measures that will be taken … If refugees — many of whom are children fleeing a horrific, war-torn country — seek and are granted asylum after a rigorous security process, we should and will welcome them in Connecticut.” 

At least 27 GOP governors have said they would not allow Syrian refugees into their states. But they may not be in a position to keep Syrian refugees out of their states.

The Refugee Act of 1980 gives the president authority to admit refugees who face persecution.
The Obama administration says it intends to allow about 10,000 refugees from Syria into the country.

Senator Richard Blumenthal and 5th Congressional District Representative Elizabeth Esty support that policy. Senator Chris Murphy said the U S should take in many more refugees, at least 50,000.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Director of State Operations Jim Malatras on Monday penned a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calling for it to deny Entergy a new license to operate the Indian Point nuclear plant.

Malatras wrote: “To be blunt, Entergy’s aging management plan is woefully inadequate, pointing to aging infrastructure and recent ‘unplanned shutdowns.’” 

Cuomo has long opposed the relicensing of the plant, due to its age as well as the unique security risks associated with its proximity to New York City and its northern suburbs.

Malatras writes: “Allowing Entergy to operate these facilities for another 20 years puts the lives of too many New Yorkers at risk and cannot be justified by Entergy’s present plan to address these defects.” 

The NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board will hold an evidentiary hearing this week on Entergy’s application.

Entergy is expected to make the case that Indian Point is both safe and a necessary component of New York’s power supply system.

The New York state Department of Financial Services has put a “hold” on processing Health Republic claims.  

That move left health care providers across the state with hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid claims and prompted some providers to tell patients they would no longer participate in the insolvent health insurance company’s network.

Health Republic subscribers in need of medical care and services who have paid premiums for health insurance coverage through the end of November, found themselves caught up in a contract dispute between their providers and their insurance companies. 

In September, New York’s Department of Financial Services ordered Health Republic, which it deemed insolvent, to cease writing new policies as of December 31 and begin an orderly wind-down of its business affairs. 

A month later the shutdown was moved up to November 30 because the insurance company’s financial condition was worse than originally thought. 

Health Republic, established in 2013 under the Affordable Care Act, insures 215,000 New Yorkers, 44,000 in Suffolk County.

New York’s hospitals stand to lose more than $100 million.   

Monday, November 16  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Scott Schere.)

In the news tonight: New Haven police are testing body cameras intended to protect the public and officers; residents again take to Montauk beach to protest government erosion project; Governor Cuomo vetoes a natural gas terminal; Fairfield Selectmen want to know more about a solar plan; and, Brookhaven acquires a 65-acre tract for preservation in the pine barrens.

New Haven police officer Jeremy Cordero has for three months been wearing a series of three different styles of body cameras and he said he’s seen a difference in the way that people react to him with camera in plain sight.

According to the New Haven Register, Cordero is one of 27 volunteers enrolled in a 90-day pilot program that will end November 30. The New Haven Police are testing three different cameras with the hopes of choosing one eventually to outfit much of the department with a device.

The 27 volunteers, which include one sergeant, were split into three groups of nine. Each group used a different camera for the month of September, then switched in October and now is wearing a third type this month. 

Officers must turn their cameras on just prior to making contact with people in response to a call for service or help. 

Police Chief Dean Esserman noted body cameras benefit police officers as well as members of the community because they provide “neutral truth” of how an incident unfolded.

Cordero added, “In today’s day and age, people have cameras accessible. Every phone is a camera. So, I think people understand that it’s got to go both ways.” 

Newsday reports that opponents of an artificial dune beach project in Montauk protested on the beach Sunday in an attempt to halt work that critics fear will erode the public shoreline.

An Army Corps contractor has begun burying 14,000 large sandbags along 3,100 feet of Montauk beach, a project designed to protect downtown Montauk and authorized after Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

But critics say the sand bags would artificially fortify the shoreline in a way that would lead to more erosion. Protesters called for a project that only used sand, which they say helps naturally deflect wave energy and preserves the beach.

Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who moved this year from Montauk to Southampton and will take over in January as town supervisor, said Sunday he supports the project. He said the bags are a temporary measure until a sand-only project can start in 2018.

The project's initial cost of almost $9 million is being paid for by the federal government. The town of East Hampton and Suffolk County have agreed to fund maintenance of the artificial dune, estimated at between $80,000 and $150,000 a year.

Last Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a controversial liquefied natural gas terminal called Port Ambrose, 19 miles off shore from Long Island's famed Jones Beach.

Cuomo said 'The risk is not worth the reward,'' as reported by the Albany Times-Union. 

Applause came from environmentalists and lawmakers concerned about greenhouse gases and threats to the fragile coastal ecosystem, as well as from a number who did not want to put at risk those superb beaches that are the signatures of the region.

According to the Connecticut Post, the town of Fairfield Board of Selectmen has approved a slew of solar panel installations around town, but one in particular has sparked controversy.

Last week the board put off a vote on a proposal for a solar panel carport at the downtown train station parking lot. 

First Selectman Mike Tereau said: “I’m uncomfortable with the communication process” for that project, adding that when solar panels were proposed for the lot at the teen center, meetings were held with neighbors to reach an acceptable compromise.

Selectwoman Shelia Marmion said there are aspects of the train station project that need further vetting. Questions include whether any parking spaces will be lost because of the 65,000-square-foot carport, what it will look like and where commuters would park while the construction was ongoing.

The installations do not cost the town any money, and in exchange for a 20-year lease, the town purchases its electricity from the company at a discounted rate. 

The installation would be on the north side of the station and would provide electricity for Tomlinson Middle School next door, saving the town about $69,000 a year.

A real-estate development firm has dropped plans to build 136 homes on a 65-acre wooded property in Yaphank and donated the land to the Town of Brookhaven, which will preserve it as open space, officials told Newsday.

Before recent state and town laws were enacted, Enchanted Forest II LLC had planned to build as many as 136 single-family homes on the site. The company agreed to drop that plan and give the land to Brookhaven in exchange for credits that may be used to develop property elsewhere.

According to the Central Pine Barrens Commission, the site is key to preserving the Carmans River.

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine said: "By removing the development rights from this property, we are seeing the benefit of that action. . . . We've taken a big step in our efforts to protect the river and our groundwater for generations to come."

The property will be opened to the public for hiking, and visitors will see wildlife such as owls, deer, woodpeckers, rabbits and box turtles, and oak and pitch pine trees. 
Friday, November 13  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer, Neil Tolhurst, and Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news: advocates gather in Hartford to continue the campaign for $15 an hour; a Connecticut health insurance company thrives where others have not; opioid crisis continues in Suffolk County; and, East End veterans can now access health care at the Peconic Bay Medical Center.

Low wage workers and labor advocates gathered Tuesday at the Legislative Office Building [in Hartford] to tell their stories and celebrate their progress, including successful negotiations with two nursing home chains.

A certified nursing assistant announced that workers represented by the Service Employees International Union were recently able to negotiate a raise to $15 an hour.

The negotiations cover 2,600 nursing home workers at 20 nursing home facilities across the state owned by iCare and Genesis.

In April, thousands of nursing home workers at 20 nursing home facilities across the state voted to strike for a $15 minimum wage, but Governor Malloy urged them to wait to see what happened with the state budget.

Even though negotiations were successful, it remains to be seen if workers will actually get the raise.
The Malloy administration is still parsing budget language, which allocated $9 million to 60 union nursing homes and $4 million to 170 non-union nursing homes.

In addition to nursing home workers, the fight for $15 includes fast food workers and other low wage workers.

Half of the nearly two dozen Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans created by the Affordable Care Act will not be offering health insurance in 2016. However, the nonprofit insurer created by the Connecticut State Medical Society is still in business.

The nonprofit insurer, HealthyCT, opened to Connecticut consumers for the first time in 2014 and will be offering plans for 2016.

The company was largely funded by the federal government and was created to compete with established health insurance companies, such as Anthem and UnitedHealthcare.

In its first year of operation, HealthyCT did not attract the market share that its organizers had hoped it would, and only had about three percent of the market when enrollment closed in 2014.

However, HealthyCT CEO Kenneth Lalime believes the low market share worked to their advantage. By building its membership slowly, they were able to avoid some of the risks other companies were faced with.

HealthyCT was able to build a network of doctors and hospitals in a short amount of time. Lalime said they would not have had the small and large group customers they have without an adequate network of healthcare providers: he estimated that they have about 98 percent of all the providers in the state.

In the ongoing opioid crisis, Suffolk County is disproportionately affected.  2011's rate in Suffolk was roughly 11 people per 100,000 — more than double the national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 2002 and 2012, arrests for driving while intoxicated on a prescribed substance in Suffolk increased 413 percent, according to the County District Attorney’s 2012 report. 

DA Thomas Spota noted the county had almost twice the state average in cash prescriptions for oxycodone, which themselves are not illegal but are a red flag that the pills are being abused or resold. 

That report called for various changes, including felony charges for doctors who overprescribe. Since then, “dramatic increases in arrests and overdose deaths related to painkillers were noted,” wrote Robert Clifford, spokesman for the DA’s office.

A state law, "I-STOP", requires medical experts use a digital system when writing controlled substances prescriptions. That prevents patients from procuring multiple scripts from multiple doctors and then reselling the pills.

Steve Chassman, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence said:  “We have seen more responsible prescribing patterns thanks to the legislation, but apparently there are doctors still finding loopholes in the system.”

The Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead has been approved as a member of the Veterans Choice Program. 

Representative Lee Zeldin made the announcement on Wednesday, explaining that the Choice Program allows veterans access to health care from non-VA facilities and doctors.  

Veterans are eligible for the Choice Program if they face travel burdens getting to the nearest VA facility , if they have to wait more than 30 days for VA care, or if they live more than 40 miles from a VA hospital. Staff at the local VA facility will assist veterans to determine if they are eligible for any of these reasons.

Accessing health care at a non-VA facility will not affect a veteran's ability to obtain or continue care at a VA hospital. 

More information is available at the Veterans Choice Program website, or by calling 866 - 606 - 8198.  The Peconic Bay Medical Center may be reached directly at 631 - 548 - 6827.

Thursday, November 12 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser and Melinda Tuhus.)

In the news tonight: GMO labeling and Roundup; Veterans Day protest in New Haven; environmental groups call for Governor Cuomo to veto offshore gas terminal; and, New York’s emergency medical marijuana program.

More than two years after the nation’s first law requiring labels on most foods containing genetically engineered components was passed, there are still no labels for GMOs in the U S.

The food and biotech industries are fighting Connecticut's law and two others in Vermont and Maine with federal legislation that would nullify all three, as well as any future GMO labeling laws. 

But GMO-labeling advocates now have some new ammunition for a counter-offensive. One of the key reasons for developing GMO crops in the U.S. has been to make them resistant to weed killers --primarily Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup -- which are used to kill weeds and other undesirable plants in and around food crops.

In March, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, a “probable carcinogen.” 

Its use is being reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency, and in September California announced it would label products with glyphosate as carcinogenic.

Monsanto is seeking to convene a panel to review IARC’s findings.

GMO-labeling advocates believe the glyphosate designation adds to ongoing safety concerns and has chilling implications for the food supply in the age of climate change.

A group of peace activists vigiled in downtown New Haven on Veterans Day to warn about the increasing danger of even more widespread war in the Middle East, since many countries are now militarily involved in Syria. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:

Members of the Greater New Haven Peace Council passed out flyers saying that 15 countries -- including several nuclear nations -- are now bombing Syria.  One of those protesting was Navy veteran Jim Panderu. Asked what he thinks can be done to dismantle the Islamic State, he said the U.S. shouldn't have created it in the first place by its belligerent actions. 

When we do drone attacks, when we bomb indiscriminately with our planes and create no-fly zones and go in for a pre-emptive strike, aren't we almost ... just as bad as terrorists? Some people can call us terrorists.

The flyer said: "When the U.S. military bombs a hospital, as it did in Afghanistan, we should not be blind to even worse."

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

More than twenty environmental and civic groups have delivered a letter to Governor Cuomo asking him to veto the Port Ambrose project off the Long Island shore. 

Andrea Sears reports for the New York News Connection:

Following four days of public hearings last week, the governor has until December 21 to stop the offshore liquefied natural gas facility proposed for 20 miles from Long Island's Jones Beach. 

Jessica Roff, programs manager for the advocacy group Catskill Mountainkeeper, says the port is unnecessary and hazardous.

"It's incredibly dangerous," she states. "It's destructive to the ocean, to the ocean floor, to the water, to the air and then anything that relies on the ocean for its livelihood."

Liberty Natural Gas, the developer of the project, says the port would stabilize the natural gas supply and lower the price in a region that has some of the highest gas prices in the country. 

The public comment period on Port Ambrose ends November 30. 

Either Cuomo or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie can veto the project.

Scientist say the gas, when it escapes into the atmosphere, is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. 

And Roff points out that the Port Ambrose project is in conflict with another proposal - an offshore wind farm.

"This one project is a small, really important step to take, but all of the ocean to the south of Long Island is this amazing field that could be used to start developing renewable energy like wind," she states.

Roff maintains the Port Ambrose project represents an important fork in the road for New York.

"There's really no choice which fork to take and it really feels like this is the moment, this is the deciding factor, this is the deciding moment in time for where do we go with New York's energy future," she stresses.

Andrea Sears reporting for New York News Connection.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation that establishes an emergency access program for medical marijuana.

Cuomo directed the state Department of Health to establish the emergency program to be compliant with U.S. Department of Justice guidelines on marijuana enforcement. 

He also directed DOH to assess state and county-level population and medical data to ensure that the five licensed marijuana growers’ dispensaries are appropriately located.

The state’s full medical marijuana program is supposed to be up and running in January.

Wednesday, November 11 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Rick Henrietta.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut Senators decry Ted Cruz ads on gun control;  Veterans in new prison unit get special services; New York State workers to get a raise;and, Town reviews Montauk beach project after protests.

Governor Dannel Malloy was applauded Monday by the 110 inmates in the newly established veterans’ unit at the Cybulski Reintegration Center. 

The center was created as part of Malloy’s Second Chance Society. 

There are 693 veterans in Connecticut’s prison system and the 110 are the first class to experience the program, which offers camaraderie, skills training and substance abuse treatment. 

Robert Smith, an inmate who was in the Army, said the program allowed him to be “optimistic” for the first time in the seven months he’s been there. 

The unit has a military theme and the seals of each military branch are painted on the wall of the housing unit. There is also access to peer counseling from other vets who have been to prison. 

Veterans accepted to the program are primarily offenders with two years or less on their sentence, but others are considered. 

Services provided offer a continuity of care from incarceration through the transition to society. 

Senator Chris Murphy said a super-PAC ad, casting Senator Ted Cruz as the strongest anti-gun control law voice “makes me want to throw up.” 

The-60 second spot designed for the Iowa Republican primary lauds Cruz’s conservative activity over rival Florida Senator Marc Rubio’s.

The ad says: “After Sandy Hook, Ted Cruz stopped Obama’s push for new gun control laws.” 

Murphy said: “If Ted Cruz wants to brandish his pro-gun credentials to Republican primary voters, that's his right. But it’s sick that he thinks he’ll win votes by specifically pointing out, that in the wake of 20 dead first graders, he was the face of the fight to ensure no action was taken to stop more deranged killers…”

Following the Sandy Hook shootings, new background check legislation introduced was rejected by the majority of House Republicans, including Cruz and Rubio.

Senator Richard Blumenthal also took issue with the super PAC ad's message, tweeting: "I'm astonished & appalled. Blocking gun violence prevention legislation right after the Newtown tragedy is no basis to brag."  

But Super PAC spokesman Rick Shaftan said: “The real tragedy is gun control and the gun-free zones (Murphy) supports led to this tragedy. There was nothing and nobody to stop Adam Lanza.”

The Albany Times-Union reports that low-wage state workers — from lifeguards to groundskeepers, cleaning staff to office assistants -- are getting a raise. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he plans to use his executive authority to increase the minimum wage for roughly 10,000 state workers to $15 per hour over the next three to six years. 

The increase will place the pay of New York’s state employees far ahead of the current minimum wage in other states. 

Several hundred people attended an East Hampton Town Board meeting in Montauk on Tuesday morning to ask for a halt, at least temporarily, to the construction of a sandbag seawall by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The East Hampton Star reports that the $8.9 million federal project calls for sandbags to be piled to make a 15-foot high wall stretching for 3,100 feet along the shore.

Opponents argue that beach erosion will accelerate with the wall, and that tourists who are lifeblood of the community will not return.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell told the audience that he had called both the Army Corps and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, a partner in the project, to inquire about the legalities of the town asking those agencies to suspend the work.

The meeting came after ongoing protests and civil disobedience that have drawn attention to opposition to the project.

Tuesday, November 10   (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, Chris Cadra and Tony Ernst.)

In the news tonight: Yale student rally calls for inclusiveness on New Haven campus; the FBI investigates possible corruption in Milford; New York Common Core opponents predict huge test opt-outs; and, New York extends enrollment deadline for now-defunct Health Republic customers.

The New Haven Register reports: 
A thousand or more Yale University students marched downtown Monday. At the “March of Resiliency,” students chanted “We out here! We been here! We ain’t leaving! We are loved!” Students say they want to bring the university forward to respect people of every color, ethnicity and gender identity.

While an alleged racist comment made at a Sigma Alpha Epsilon Halloween party has made national news, the rally appeared to be focused largely on comments made by the master and associate master of Silliman College, Nicholas and Erika Christakis.

Sophomore Ivetty Estepan told the crowd: “We do not do it for the university at large. We do it for ourselves and we will continue to do it for the students that come after us.”

Senior Eshe Sherley said of the rally: “I think it’s just been a really important show of solidarity among students of color, but also our allies. We’re ready to move forward.”

The FBI Public Corruption Task Force is investigating how Milford spent Federal Emergency Management Agency money after Superstorm Sandy, according to the Connecticut Post.

In recent days, federal investigators have interviewed City Hall employees and seized documents.

Milford may be only the first of many waterfront communities to be scrutinized. It was the hardest-hit municipality in Connecticut, with the October 2012 storm badly damaging about 500 homes. Millions were awarded to city residents under the federal Community Development Block Grant program to repair damaged or destroyed homes, and millions more came as loans under the Small Business Administration.

State Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection spokesman Scott DeVico said the city received $1.56 million in FEMA infrastructure grants administered by the state after Superstorm Sandy.

Newsday reports: 
At a forum held last Friday at Stony Brook University, opponents of Common Core standardized testing predicted that 500,000 students in grades three through eight would boycott the spring exams, unless changes are made. Opponents object to new exams and teacher evaluations tied to student scores. 

The forum was organized by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office and was one of five simultaneous “listening sessions” held across New York State. In attendance were members of the governor’s appointed Common Core Task Force.

The governor appointed the panel to review Common Core academic standards, curriculum and exams and submit their recommendations. Cuomo could then choose to include those recommendations in his 2016 legislative agenda.

Over the past three years, implementation of curriculums and tests aligned with Common Core standards has spurred a growing test-boycott movement with parents pulling children out of standardized tests.

Last spring, the revolt in New York was the largest in the country when more than 200,000 students opted out of state tests in English language arts and math. About 70,000 of the students were in Long Island school districts. 

New York State is extending the deadline for Health Republic customers to sign up for a new insurance plan following the health insurance co-op's collapse and ordered shutdown by state and federal regulators.

At the same time, the state Department of Financial Services announced it is investigating Health Republic's financial reports to the agency, according to the Albany Times-Union.

The news comes days after Governor Cuomo said DFS was working with the federal government to help customers and unpack Health Republic's problems. Some elected officials have been calling for an investigation into the co-op's struggles.

Health Republic customers now have until November 30 to pick a new plan through the New York State of Health marketplace, which was established under the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act.

After the end of the month, the state will auto-enroll Health Republic customers in a new plan. 

Details regarding auto-enrollment will be announced in the days to come.

Monday, November 9  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut’s Governor proposes raising the age for the juvenile justice system to 20; Montauk surfers join the protest over beach plans; Connecticut Indian Tribes accept five casino proposals from four towns, including Hartford; and, the Suffolk Planning Commission says the site plan is incomplete for a new senior citizen housing project in Cutchogue.

Gov. Dannel Malloy said that he proposes diverting thousands of people aged 18 to 20 from the adult corrections system to the juvenile justice system instead. 

During Malloy’s speech Friday to judges, prosecutors, and corrections staff about bail reform and juvenile justice, he indicated that he also wants to consider alternative ways to handle those under 25 who commit less serious offenses.

Last year, 11,000 people aged 18, 19 or 20 were arrested in Connecticut. In nearly three-quarters of those cases a misdemeanor was the most serious offense, according to the Connecticut Judicial Branch. Another 19,800 people aged 21 to 24 were arrested.

Malloy said such a change would "wipe the slate clean" for low-risk offenders that have not matured entirely.

Malloy asked: "Is it right that that 17 year-old can have a second chance but a 22 year-old cannot? This is the question that we should collectively answer.”

He intends to propose a package of reforms to the General Assembly for its 2016 session, which convenes in February.

The changes Malloy proposed would make Connecticut the first state in the nation to raise the age for its juvenile justice system past 18.

The East Hampton Star reports:
Surfers in Montauk took to the water Sunday morning to protest the Army Corps’s construction of a sandbag wall on the downtown Montauk beach. 

Opponents of the project say it could result in complete loss of the beach and change the natural character of the ocean shore and the Montauk community.

Last week, as excavators began digging into dunes, a core of opponents grew exponentially, as photographs, videos, and messages were circulated on social media and by word of mouth.

On Friday, three people were arrested as they attempted to block work on the project.

At a town board meeting last Thursday night, with opponents on hand, East Hampton Supervisor Larry Cantwell said that the project is the best short-term option to protect the hamlet from flooding.

Long-term plans, the Army Corps has said, are to replenish the sand on the beach and extend it, a “soft” solution that environmentalists favor. 
Opponents plan to be present again on Tuesday, when the board meets at the Montauk Firehouse at 10 a.m.

The deadline for towns or other entities to submit their casino proposals to the state’s two federally recognized Indian tribes has come and gone. 

On Friday afternoon, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, which have teamed up to open a casino in the Hartford region, said they have received a total of five proposals.

The proposals came from East Hartford, East Windsor, Hartford, and Windsor Locks. A spokesman for the joint tribal entity said two proposals were submitted from Windsor Locks. 

But the City of Hartford is the newest entrant in the casino sweepstakes.

Outgoing Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said the city is always looking for opportunities for significant capital investments.

Segarra said: “It is our understanding that gaming is a probability for the greater Hartford region and, regardless of the location, the capital city will feel its impact. We have responded with our own proposal to keep that door open so that the next administration and the residents of Hartford will have the opportunity to weigh in on the process.” 

The tribes expect to make a selection by December 15. 
The delays in getting zoning approvals for a senior-citizen housing project in Southold continue to beset the project.

Plans for the 46-acre “Heritage at Southold” subdivision have again been deemed incomplete, this time by the Suffolk County Planning Commission.

Meanwhile the Town of Southold Planning Board is awaiting an environmental study for the project which will add 124 housing units to the town's population base.  

The commission has jurisdiction over the proposed site plan because the property is within 500 feet of an agricultural district and state lands. The 124-unit development has been proposed for a lot on Schoolhouse Road off Main Road in Cutchogue. The plan includes a community center, outdoor swimming pool and tennis court.

Prior to the commission’s vote Wednesday night, Kevin McAllister, former longtime Peconic Baykeeper and founder of Sag Harbor-based advocacy group Defend H2O, addressed the commission and stressed the need for the county to more strictly regulate nitrogen discharge from the property.

Friday, November 6  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Neil Tolhurst and Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: Connecticut transportation advocates press for a constitutional lock box; China OK’s Sikorsky transfer - but Congress may have its say; a faith-based Climate Summit in West Hartford; Suffolk Executive Bellone stresses development plans for his next term; and, New York educators say don’t throw out the Common Core – fix it. 

On Thursday, the co-chairman of Connecticut's Transportation Bonding Subcommittee, Senator Steve Cassano, said he expects legislative leaders and Governor Malloy to include the creation of a constitutional lock box for transportation funds in the call for a special legislative session to address the budget shortfall. 

The special session will likely be held in December, and a constitutional lock box would have to be approved by a three-quarters majority in order to move forward to a statewide vote in 2016.

Earlier this year the legislature approved a statutory lock box for transportation funds, but there are ways to get around it. 

If the legislature supports it, and then, if voters approve a constitutional lock box at the voting booth in 2016, there’s no way lawmakers can raid money dedicated to funding transportation.

“A lock box has to be approved,” Cassano said. “It makes it a lot easier to put the money aside.” Cassano said that implementing tolls or raising taxes are likely part of the discussion between legislative leaders and Malloy, who are in closed-door budget negotiations in preparation for a special session.

Lockheed Martin said on Tuesday that it has received a final regulatory approval from China, allowing it to close on its $9 billion acquisition of Sikorsky Aircraft from United Technologies.

The companies needed approval of their merger from all countries where either of them did business.
They may also require congressional action according to Pentagon acquisitions chief  Frank Kendall.

Kendall said: "This acquisition moves a high percentage of the market share for an entire line of products — military helicopters — into the largest defense prime contractor” 

A faith-based climate summit was held in West Hartford Thursday, featuring workshops, a religious service, and nationally known speakers. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus was there:
This was the third annual summit sponsored by the Inter-Religious Eco-Justice Network. Sessions included a focus on environmental racism, the science and public policy of climate change, and strategy sessions on closing the Bridgeport coal plant and stopping the spread of fracked gas pipelines.

Activist Tim DeChristopher gave the closing plenary. He served almost two years in prison for a non-violent act of civil disobedience opposing leases for gas and oil development back in 2008. He said withholding bad climate news from people for fear they'll be immobilized by it, is dishonest.

DeChristopher:  “If we're optimistic because we think people can't handle the truth, that's just optimism as a veil for a deeper kind of hopelessness. But real hope is always on the side of truth.”

Mellinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Wednesday his second term will let him start implementing his blueprint for rebuilding Suffolk's downtowns and creating new rapid bus lanes to ease transit, and sewer lines to protect water resources.

Bellone told Newsday: "The first term was all about getting the county out of crisis. The second term is all about creating a better future and economic development is crucial for that."

Bellone, a Democrat, made his comments a day after winning a 25,000 vote victory Tuesday over Republican James O'Connor. 

The Albany Times-Union reports that several dozen educators from across New York have written an open letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Common Core task force. 

They are urging the 15-member panel to improve the learning standards, not dismantle them.

High Achievement New York, a pro-Common Core group of parents, teachers, business and community leaders, released the letter Thursday. 

The educators wrote: “Dismantling Common Core in New York would be disastrous for educators, and for kids.  Not only would it mean immediately introducing an entirely new approach, again, it would send a terrible message to students. We would be telling them that if something worthwhile is hard to get right, it should be abandoned rather than doing the hard work of improvement.”

The letter came a day before the task force hosted simultaneous public hearings on the standards at five different locations across the state.

The hearings held today at Stony Brook University and other locations were announced on short notice earlier this week. 

Thursday, November 5  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer, Nadine Dumser, and Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news: Yale researchers look at the effects of electronic cigarette bans; Governor Malloy and Connecticut lawmakers agree to close the budget shortfall; a new coalition pushes for ride-sharing in New York; and, East End towns and villages come together to save the water quality in the Peconic Estuary.

According to Yale researchers, states that have made it illegal for minors to buy electronic cigarettes, like Connecticut, have seen an uptick in the number of adolescents smoking electronic cigarettes.

The researchers, from Yale School of Public Health, analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and found that state bans on e-cigarettes to minors resulted in a 0.9 percentage point increase in the rate of conventional cigarette use among young people ages 12 to 17.

E-cigarettes don’t burn tobacco or produce smoke, instead delivering nicotine by producing a vapor.
More than 40 states have banned the use of e-cigarettes to minors under 18, including Connecticut where such a ban took effect October 2014. 

Additionally, earlier this year, state lawmakers moved to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in all public places where tobacco cigarettes are banned.

After a second round of negotiations, legislative leaders and Governor Dannel P. Malloy agreed Wednesday to close a $350 to $370 million mid-year budget shortfall. 

The shortfall includes $103 million that Malloy had cut previously. However, legislative leaders from both parties believe the $103 million needs to be back on the table because of the impact those cuts had on hospitals and social services.

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said there’s overwhelming support to find other places to cut the budget and restore those funds.

“After five years of cuts and taxes totaling more than $1.3 billion to hospitals in Connecticut, we . . . have no choice but to fight back against the Governor’s dangerous and deeply damaging actions,” Jennifer Jackson, CEO of the Connecticut Hospital Association, said. “Governor Malloy’s cuts have already cost healthcare jobs and forced hospitals to cut back critical services.”

Malloy said he is willing to discuss restoring some of those funds: He suggested eliminating 500 positions in state government through attrition and has already deferred scheduled wage increases for 1,600 non-union managers until January to save about $1 million.

At the same time, Malloy put some changes to the business tax structure back on the table that will cost the state about $25 million.

To fund those changes, Malloy needs to find an additional $5 million in the 2016 budget and $20 million in the 2017 budget.

Newsday reports:
Yesterday, actress Lorraine Bracco and members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving announced a “New York Needs Uber” coalition to support ride sharing and push for statewide regulation of the popular app-based taxi-hailing service.

Uber pulled out of East Hampton Town in June after its New York City-based drivers were unable to meet local licensing requirements that call for cabdrivers to have an East Hampton address. 

Last week, Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang said the service might be able to return if Governor Cuomo enacted a law that would supersede local measures.
Last month at an unrelated event, Governor Cuomo spoke about creating a statewide system for regulating ride companies.

Other members of the “New York Needs Uber” coalition include Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Rep. Chris Collins (R-Clarence), the New York Restaurant Association and Heather C. Briccetti, president and chief executive of the Business Council of New York State.

The East End Supervisors and Mayors Association met in Southampton last week and have now announced the creation of the Peconic Estuary Protection Committee.  

The Protection Committee is an affiliation of East End municipalities and agencies dedicated to restoration and maintenance of water quality in the Peconic Estuary.  They will also coordinate with the conservation and management plans of the federally recognized Peconic Estuary Program.

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski said: "We're all in this together."  

Supervisors of the five East End Towns and local villages agreed with Krupski that cooperation and coordination is key to protecting the Estuary.  Water quality maintenance, waste disposal, zoning and land use laws are areas of common concern for municipalities around the Peconic Estuary.  

Greenport Mayor George Hubbard added: "Now all the five towns are working together to save the waterways and come up with solutions that work for the whole area."

Wednesday, November 4  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.)

In the news tonight: Bridgeport elects Ganim; Wethersfield is rated the best small city in the state; incumbents sweep the Suffolk elections; and, the scallop season opens.

Twelve years after he left office for federal prison convicted of a racketeering conspiracy, voters in Bridgeport voted Tuesday to return Joseph P. Ganim as mayor.

His mentor, the city’s long-time Democratic boss, Mario Testa, defiantly claimed victory for Ganim last night and said Ganim will bring the city out of its misery.

Ganim, 56, divorced and disbarred, completed his unlikely comeback 24 years after winning his first term in city hall in 1991 and five years after ending a seven-year stay in federal prison in 2010.

His opponent, Mary-Jane Foster, a University of Bridgeport vice president and co-founder of the city’s minor-league baseball team, the Bluefish, conceded when returns showed Ganim won easily.

Ganim said his election was “about the next four years of improving the quality of life,” and said he looked forward to working with the governor.

Details of all the Connecticut election results are available at

The Hartford Courant reports that the best small city in Connecticut, based on an analysis of affordability, economic health, education, health and overall quality of life, is Wethersfield.

That’s the conclusion of, which ranked more than 1,200 small cities in the United States with a population between 25,000 and 100,000 residents according to a variety of criteria.

Manchester ranked third among Connecticut’s small cities, Newington ranked fourth and West Hartford was sixth.

Rounding out Connecticut’s top 10 were Westport, Shelton, Milford, Middletown, Trumbull and East Haven. Danbury and Torrington were also ranked in the top half of small cities in the nation.

Ten Connecticut cities were ranked below the median: Stratford, Norwalk, Naugatuck, Meriden, East Hartford, Bristol, New London, Norwich, West Haven and New Britain.

The analysis gave each city up to 25 points in each of four categories: affordability, economic health, education and health, and quality of life.

Wethersfield ranked very high in the “education and health” category, coming in 40th of all small cities.

It was a night for incumbents in races across the East End as the county executive and all town supervisors were re-elected.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, took home 57.16 percent of the vote, while his opponent, Republican James P. O’Connor, took home 42.79 percent.

Democrat Al Krupski will continue on as the North Fork’s Suffolk County Legislature, while Democrat Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming was elected to serve as the South Fork’s County Legislator.

In Riverhead embattled incumbent Town Supervisor Sean Walter, who did not receive Republican Party backing, won 40.79 percent of the vote with only Conservative backing against Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who took 34.6 percent of the vote and Democratic challenger Anthony Coates who had 24.4 percent.

Democrat Jay Schneiderman won the Southampton Town Supervisor seat with 56.31 percent of the vote against his Republican opponent, Southampton Village Deputy Mayor Richard Yastrzemski who received 43.63 percent.

Incumbent Republican Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell was re-elected with 64.66 percent of the vote, defeating Democratic challenger, Damon Rallis, who took home 35.28 percent.

Democratic East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell won his second term 67.70 percent of the vote, while Republican challenger Thomas Knobel took home 32.15 percent.

On Shelter Island, incumbent Democratic Town Supervisor James Dougherty, was again re-elected with 60.52 percent, over Republican challenger, Arthur Williams, with 39.09 percent of the vote.

Scallop season kicked off Monday in Southampton Town waters and preliminary reports indicate that while many baymen are hitting their daily limits, it is taking longer than expected, according to

Danny Coronesi, of Cor-J Seafood in Hampton Bays, said harvesting is taking longer and he predicts the season will slow down because people are maxing out on their take.

The bay scallop season opens the first Monday of November and runs until March 31, 2016 under state Department of Environmental Conservation rules.

Recreational scallopers can collect up to one bushel each day and commercial fishermen can harvest up to five bushels in town waters or 10 bushels in state waters.

Limits were enacted after a brown tide in the mid-1980s nearly wiped out the entire East End’s scalloping industry.

Tuesday,  November 3  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, Chris Cadra and Tony Ernst.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut’s Governor urges the state to monitor Bridgeport polls; New Haven teams with Obama administration on prisoner reentry programs; Suffolk County legislators struggle to balance the budget; Riverhead Town election races get influx of money from super PACs; and, a reminder that New York and Connecticut polls are still open.

The Connecticut Post reports: 
Before today’s polls opened, Governor Dannel Malloy urged Secretary of State Denise Merrill to monitor Bridgeport’s mayoral election. A source close to the governor said it’s important that the secretary have staff present to respond to any problems or potential fraud.

Pressure has been mounting on the secretary since Friday when she refused a request by independent Democrat Mary-Jane Foster’s mayoral campaign to monitor the polls. The secretary argued that her authority is limited and complaints would be investigated by the state Elections Enforcement Commission. 

Under state law, Foster’s campaign is at a competitive disadvantage. Major-party candidates can have unofficial watchers at the polls to look for problems. 

Bridgeport has previously been involved in high profile voting controversies, from running short on ballots in 2010’s close gubernatorial election, to numerous cases of absentee ballot fraud.

News 8 WTNH reports: 
The White House is teaming up with New Haven and four other cities around the country to help prisoners after they are released from jail. President Obama said he’s using his executive authority to help them with life after prison. 

Connecticut is one of the first states to implement measures aimed at helping ex-offenders return to the workforce. Governor Malloy introduced his Second Chance Society, and New Haven is the only city in the state with a department dedicated to helping those just released land a job.

On Monday, re-entry programs in Connecticut received White House recognition. President Obama announced grant money for New Haven that will go to information technology training for ex-offenders.

Newsday reports: 
Suffolk lawmakers want to use a $14.4 million windfall in state tobacco settlement money and increase fees for mortgage filings by $10 million compared with County Executive Bellone’s 2016 budget proposal to help balance the budget.

With the budget up for a final vote Wednesday, lawmakers also plan to delay $1 million in new vehicle purchases, make $10 million in controversial bus service cuts, and reduce Bellone's $1 million cut to nonprofits by $200,000.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, a Democrat of Amityville, said the county had "very limited options" given the state property tax cap and union contracts that preclude layoffs.

Bellone and lawmakers have been trying to balance the budget to make up for depressed sales tax revenue, and increased salary costs due largely to three police union contracts. 

Bellone’s budget did not pierce the state's 2 percent tax cap, but increased police district property taxes by 2.9 percent.

Nine of the 18 county lawmakers worked behind closed doors in meetings since late September to come up with budget changes that were released publicly at 5 p.m. Friday.

Election 2015 is shaping up as the most expensive campaign in Riverhead Town history.

As of October 19, the Republican and Democratic party committees, together with the supervisor and town board candidates’ committees, reported receiving more than $305,000 in this election cycle.

For the first time, town elections have seen the influx of money from so-called super PACs, which can spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of — or against — a candidate.

Super PACs must file a schedule of expenditures showing which campaigns they spent money on.

The controversial involvement of a super PAC funded by the Suffolk County police union continues. The L.I. Law Enforcement Foundation reported spending $54,000 on the Riverhead supervisor’s race as of the last regular disclosure report. That was the largest sum the PAC reported spending on any single race during that reporting period. The most previously spent on any other race was $19,870, on County Executive Steve Bellone’s re-election campaign.

It’s not too late to vote. Polls in Connecticut are open until 8 p.m., and until 9 p.m. in New York. Registered voters must bring a valid photo ID or other acceptable form of identification, such as a utility bill, paycheck, or official document that includes name and address.

Monday, November 2 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Scott Schere.)

In the news tonight:
We preview some of tomorrow’s local elections; Riverhead's new solar project might balance their budget;  cops to grab unlocked stuff from cars in East Rock area of New Haven; and, Francesca Rheannon reports on East Hampton's Climate Action Plan.

On Tuesday, voters will head to polls to decide who leads their towns and cities. Here is a  look at some key races in Connecticut.

In Bridgeport, ex-mayor Joe Ganim will go against independent Democrat Mary-Jane Foster and Republican Enrique Torres and a host of other candidates to decide who succeeds Mayor Bill Finch. 

In Fairfield, incumbent Democrat Michael Tetreau is seeking election for a second term against Republican challenger Chris Tymniak. Both candidates are offering promises on reasonable taxes and increased town services.

In Trumbull, Republican First Selectman Tim Herbst is going up against Democratic Challenger Vicki Tesoro, a longtime Town Council member. Issues in Trumbull include maintaining the attractiveness of the town’s tax rates and schools.

In Milford,  Democratic Mayor Ben Blake is looking for his third term in office and facing GOP candidate Paula Smith, a former alderman. Issues of interest to Milford voters include a drainage project and lingering problems from Superstorm Sandy, as well as budget concerns.

Visit the for details about your local polling place and times.

Suffolk County voters go to the polls Tuesday to elect Village, Town and County officials.

Incumbent Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is challenged by James O’Connor.

Bellone, a Democrat, is also running on the Independence, Working Families and Women’s Equality party lines.  O’Connor is running on the Republican, Conservative and Reform party lines.

Voters will also choose 18 county legislators.

How to balance the County budget and protect the water supply are issues.  Voters will also choose Village and Town Board members and Town Trustees.

Details of all contests are available at

The polls are open from 6am to 9PM on Tuesday.

Solar energy is coming to Riverhead, but when?  
Riverhead Town’s contract with Hecate Energy will result in $700,000 of revenue for the town in its first year, officials said at Thursday’s Town Board work session, but it may not come this year. 

The town still needs Hecate to sign the contract and it needs LIPA, which had selected Hecate through a request for proposals in 2014, to finalize the deal.

A contract with the Town of Riverhead calls for approximately $750,000 to be paid to the Town in 2015, and that payment is figured into the Town budget.

Now it’s unclear whether the town will even collect the money before the year’s end. If it doesn’t, the town will finish 2015 with a $750,000 budget gap.

Over the 25-year contract, the town would make an estimated $13.2 million including the cost of living increases.

If your computer is missing from your unlocked car in New Haven, it may not be an opportunistic thief who snatched it.

The New Haven Register reports that important electronic device, prescription medicines, or other valuables could be in the New Haven police property room, retrieved by your local walking beat officer.

New Haven Police Lt. Herbert Sharp recently told East Rock residents: “When it comes to a car, if there is something in plain view that is of value and the car is unlocked, law enforcement can go into the car and retrieve that item and take it into the property (room) and place it where it is safe.”

Sharp said they will run the plate number of the car to try to reach the owner. If they can’t, the police will take the property, lock the car door and leave a receipt informing them who has the item and what time to come and pick it up.

When the Town of East Hampton, New York was named a “climate smart community” by New York state, it meant the town committed to being a  leader in climate change resilience.  Now that goal is one step closer to being realized.  

WPKN’s Francesca Rheannon reports:
The "climate smart communities" designation is given to towns that that have comprehensive plans to identify and address a community's strengths and weaknesses in the face of threats from climate change. Such a plan was submitted to the East Hampton town board last week for passage. 

John Botos is the town’s climate smart coordinator, responsible for developing the plan: “This is really a conversation starter, is what we are hoping it to be, and to begin the dialog of discussing climate change and how it impacts us from a government side and a municipal side but also from a community side.” 

One thing the plan does is look at what can government do to lessen its carbon footprint and adapt to climate impacts: things like making town buildings and vehicles greener. Another is assessing the area’s natural systems to protect waterways, soil and habitats for animals and fish.

The climate action plan also has help for residents and businesses in lessening their impacts and becoming more resilient. With flood insurance rates set to skyrocket because of increased threats from storm surge and sea level rise, the plan calls for new construction to be built four feet above base flood levels, instead of the current two feet. That and other parts of the climate action plan will improve the community rating used by government to set federal flood insurance rates. 

John Botos explains: “So what the town is trying to do is take steps to reduce any potential costs that may occur when things happen at a federal level and what that does is save money in people’s wallets.”

Botos says, by lessening the risks of flooding and making the town’s beaches and other natural systems more resilient, the climate action plan will also save lives. 

For WPKN, I’m Francesca Rheannon.