Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December 2015

Thursday, December 31  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser, Neil Tolhurst and Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news:  Bridgeport fire leaves over 100 homeless; debate over higher education funding continues in Connecticut; new Connecticut state laws will take effect tomorrow; Suffolk County inmates help build home for brain injury survivors; and, Amityville extends downtown development deadline.

More than 100 people are homeless after a fire ripped through a condominium complex, forcing residents into the street early Thursday morning according to the Connecticut Post.

All the residents escaped safely.    

The fire started in the garage area of the condo at 215 Charles St. and spread to a portion of the first floor. 

Residents escaped the three-story, 36-unit building with only the clothes they were wearing. 

Bridgeport officials and the American Red Cross are working to provide shelter to the approximately 115 residents now homeless. A shelter has been set up on Lexington Avenue.

Mayor Joe Gamin who arrived on the scene later took some of the homeless kids shopping for clothes and shoes.

A recent paper written by New Haven-based think tank, the Connecticut Policy Institute, calls for sweeping changes to how the state funds higher education.

Written by Yale graduate student and CPI research fellow Larry Zeveloff, the policy paper claims that “state spending could be significantly better organized and more outcomes-focused” while recommending the state split its current block grant system into a “core funding payment” and a “performance payment.”

In the report, Zeveloff observes problems with the current funding system, which gives “block grants” to the state’s public post-secondary institutions to spend any way the school wants. According to Zeveloff, this “creates unnecessary divides between public schools, tolerates middling graduation rates and rising debt-loads for students, and ignores data.”

In his plan, Zeveloff proposes allocating 80% of the funds based upon a “weighted student credit hour.” 

Under the plan, a junior or senior level course would be weighted more than a freshman or sophomore course, but not as much as a graduate-level course.
Meanwhile, more expensive programs like engineering or nursing would be weighted more than an introductory writing program.

The remaining 20% would come as “performance funding” and incentivize student progress, which would be measured by the number of degrees or certificates achieved by the students.

A number of new Connecticut state laws will go into effect tomorrow, Friday, January 1. 

There are a number of changes being made to the state’s medical system. One law codifies specific services that certain health insurance policies must cover for mental and nervous conditions.

Another new law requires drugs sold only as generics to include the manufacturer’s name and the website and toll-free number for MedWatch, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s drug safety and reporting program.

Stemming from the problems that arose in Hartford and beyond in the 2014 election, a number of changes are being made to the way local Registrars of Voters operate.

One law will require registrars and deputy registrars complete a training certification course developed by a six-member committee. Registrars will be required to complete at least eight hours of training per year to maintain the certification.

An additional new law increases the threshold of funds a person must receive from a client in order to be considered a lobbyist. The threshold was increased from $2,000 to $3,000 for 2016. 

Another new law requires the state Department of Safety to issue regulations for the use of body cameras and authorizes the Office of Policy and Management to start distributing grants to local police departments to purchase the equipment.

Opening Long Island’s first home for survivors of traumatic brain injury, Brendan House, has been easier with help from Suffolk County Correctional Facility inmates.

“If it weren’t for these guys, we wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are today,” says Allyson Scerri, of New Beginnings: “It’s basically finished.”
Almost every week for two and a half years, inmates from the sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program have worked tirelessly to restore the old farmhouse – laying down floors, spackling and painting walls, even tiling the bathrooms.

“We’re just trying to give back,” says Eric, an inmate who is installing molding. “It’s just so satisfying. I don’t know the people who I’m going to be helping, but I know that they’re going to be very grateful for years to come.”

The inmates have been responsible for “a bulk of” the completed work, Scerri says. “It’s really the reason the house is getting done,” she said.

New Beginnings is still seeking donations through GoFundMe - Brendan House or 631-286-6166, and donated lunches from local restaurants and delis to feed the workers.

Newsday reports that Amityville Village officials have extended the deadline until January 20 for developers to submit qualifications for downtown redevelopment.
Village Trustee Nick LaLota said that the Trustees and the two co-chairs of the Downtown Revitalization Committee hope to select a partner by early March.

Officials have described the project as critical for the Village, which is trying to transform a sleepy downtown with chronic storefront vacancies and little pedestrian traffic, into a destination for shoppers and commuters who use the nearby bus and Long Island Railroad lines.

The downtown redevelopment effort would affect about 60 parcels of publicly and privately owned land on the Route 110 corridor from Sunrise Highway on the north to Avon Place on the south.  Much of the downtown would likely be rezoned to encourage a mix of retail and residential uses, easing density, parking, and height requirements.

Wednesday, December 30 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.)

In the news tonight: a Connecticut priest is cleared of child sexual abuse allegations; a Westport lifeguard faces child pornography charges; environmentalists call for the removal of dams in the Carmans River; and, the disgraced Senate Majority leader seeks a New York State pension.
The New Haven Register reports that a Catholic priest who was accused of child sexual abuse as director of the St. Francis Home for Children in New Haven in the 1990s has been cleared of the charge by the Archdiocese of Hartford.

The Reverend Jeremiah N. Murasso has returned to his parishes of Blessed Sacrament Church and the Shrine of St. Anne in Waterbury. He directed the St. Francis orphanage, also known as Highland Heights, from 1992 to 1995.

A statement by the Archdiocese posted this month said it had conducted an extensive investigation of the child sexual abuse allegation and determined that it was not substantiated.

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, questioned how extensive the investigation was and called on Archbishop Leonard Blair to explain the process. A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese could not be reached for comment.

A Westport man faces child pornography charges after police say he set up hidden cameras in a lifeguard shack at a local beach while employed by the town as a lifeguard, according to the Hartford Courant.

Police began an investigation in August when the parks and recreation department reported finding two cameras hidden inside the lifeguard shack at Burying Hill Beach.

The investigation determined that Michael Collins, 29, a lifeguard at the time of the incident, had placed the cameras there, police said.

A search of Collins' residence found sunglasses with a camera in them, a laptop, DVD and thumb drives that contained videos and photos as well as child pornography, police said.

Collins turned himself in to police on Monday and was released after posting $75,000 bail and is due to appear in Norwalk Superior Court on the charges January 7. He was charged with possession of child pornography, 431 counts of voyeurism and 431 counts of eavesdropping.

Newsday reports that environmental advocates say that Colonial-era dams in Yaphank are causing higher water temperatures in parts of the Carmans River and should be removed or opened.

The groups Defend H2O and Sea-Run Brook Trout Coalition say the dams create thermal pollution by artificially spreading out the water and slowing it down, allowing it to collect heat.

The two dams, built in the 1700s, were home to successful sawmills.

Government agencies would have to sign off on removing or breaching the dams because the Carmans River is within the central Pine Barrens.

The environmental groups put sensors in both lakes between May and September, and found that water in Lower Lake was above 80 degrees at times. Because the Carmans is a certified trout spawning river, state law prohibits thermal discharges above 70 degrees into the water body, said Defend H2O founder and president Kevin McAllister.

Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Jomo A. Miller said the regulation does not apply to “water flowing over an existing dam,” but to discharges from human activity.

Disgraced former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos filed for retirement and is in line for a taxpayer-funded annual pension of around $90,000, according to an estimate by the Albany Times Union.

Skelos and his son, Adam, were convicted December 11 on eight federal charges related to his efforts to secure income and benefits for Adam from corporations seeking political favors.

Skelos filed for retirement on December 22. Using the comptroller's office's pension calculator tool Skelos appears to be eligible for a $90,750 annual pension.

Lawmakers who joined the retirement system after August 15, 2011, who are convicted of a crime related to their office can have their pensions taken away, but an amendment to make that change retroactive was scuttled in the legislative session.

However, Skelos' pension could be the subject of punitive action by the man who prosecuted him: U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara. Bharara said his office will use federal forfeiture law to claw back a dollar amount commensurate with the pension where appropriate.

Tuesday, December 29 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Chris Cadra and Trace Alford.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut’s minimum wage will increase on January 1; Feds say too few Connecticut students took tests; proposals for new power generation for Long Island’s East End include both fossil fuel and renewable technology.

Under legislation signed in 2014, some Connecticut workers will see a bump in their pay when the state’s minimum wage jumps from $9.15 an hour to $9.60 an hour on January 1.

The wage increase for 2016 represents an increase of 45 cents. A third increase of 50 cents per hour scheduled for 2017 will raise the rate to $10.10.  

Governor Dannel Malloy said in a statement on Monday that “hardworking men and women, many of whom support families, deserve fair wages. ….The modest increase will give working families a boost while having stimulative effects on the economy.”

It is estimated that currently there are 70,000 to 90,000 workers in Connecticut’s workforce of 1.7 million earning the minimum wage. 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a July survey by the Small Business Majority found that 60% of small businesses nationwide support raising the federal minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020, with annual adjustments to keep pace with the cost of living.

After thousands of Connecticut students failed to take required statewide achievement tests last spring, federal officials want to know what Connecticut education leaders are doing to ensure it doesn't happen again.

The federal government's letter to Connecticut Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell emphasizes that the state could lose millions in funding if too many students sit out again.

The state was required to send its plans to improve compliance to the U.S. education department earlier this month, but spokesmen for both the federal and state education departments were unable to provide any details about those plans Monday.

About 11,200 students did not take the state exams last school year.

Earlier this year, Connecticut lawmakers voted to replace the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school students with the SAT.

When releasing the results of this year’s exams, Wentzell was vague about how the state plans to address low participation rates and whether funding would be in jeopardy.

Changes to education policy signed into law earlier this month by President Barack Obama did not alter the requirement that 95% of students participate in testing.

The department has informed officials in 13 states so far that too many students missed the exam last spring and the states must come up with plans to ensure every student is tested.

Demand has increased dramatically for electricity on Long Island's South Fork, and weekend and summer demand has far outpaced the rest of Long Island. The East Hampton Star reports that residential air conditioning is the primary culprit. 

Over the last decade, the number of residential accounts has grown by 4 percent, while peak use has risen 44%.  Commercial accounts have grown by 12.3 % over the same period. 

The figures were supplied by PSEG Long Island which manages the island’s electrical grid on behalf of the Long Island Power Authority. 

Around 22,000 residential customers on the South Fork have central air conditioning, and some 18,300 have swimming pool pumps. They are largely responsible for residential customers’ average annual energy use of approximately 11,500 kilowatt hours, 20% higher than the Island-wide average of 9,700. 

Responding to a request for solutions from PSEG, 16 companies offered to construct facilities to provide 63 megawatts of new electric sources. 

In its request, PSEG did not stipulate specific technologies but responses included wind-power from an offshore installation, solar panels, battery storage, and biofuel powered turbines.  Other technologies proposed include conventional fossil fuel-based generation and solar power. 

The proposals received mark the first time renewable energy developers compete head to head with fossil fuel technology.

PSEG will choose from among the proposals in May. 

Monday, January 27  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Scott Schere.)

In the news tonight: Internet shopping is affecting taxpayers by increasing waste removal costs in Connecticut towns; Port Jefferson bans bow and arrow hunting; life slowly returns to a poisoned Long Island Sound seafloor; and, New York State and local tax breaks for Long Island solar projects raise[s] issues.

Connecticut State Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr., said last week he will introduce legislation next session to address a dramatic increase in consumer packaging, including big boxes for small gifts, the result of a surge in online shopping that is costing Connecticut  millions of dollars in waste removal.

Those big brown boxes coming to your door this holiday season are often filled with a small gift and lots of secondary and tertiary packaging material, 90% of which wind up at the transfer station, costing towns and cities vast amounts of money. 

According to the Branford Eagle, Kennedy said: “The largest single component of our municipal solid waste stream, about one third of our municipal solid waste, is consumer packaging.”

Kennedy said a way has to be found to help towns and cities. He wants to work with the industry, companies like UPS, FedEx, Walmart, Amazon, and other major shippers “to see what we can do to reduce the size of the boxes, especially in the holiday season.” 

Kennedy said consumers need to know which companies are doing a good job recycling their packaging material and which ones are not.

Port Jefferson officials have banned the shooting of arrows, effectively barring archery as a way to hunt deer, according to Newsday.

Village Mayor Margot Garant said: “The bow and arrow can be a very deadly weapon. We just don’t want to condone that in the Village.”

Garant said some residents have reported seeing deer apparently wounded by arrows wandering the community.  

State law bans bow hunting within 150 feet of homes, schools and other structures. That effectively bars bow hunting in densely populated areas.

Garant said residents concerned about deer entering their properties are allowed to erect fences.

The village’s action was applauded by wildlife biologist D.J. Schubert of the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C. The Institute opposes bow hunting and advocates nonlethal means of controlling deer herds, such as contraceptives and sterilization.
Schubert said: “From a cruelty perspective, bow hunting is kind of an archaic hunting method.”

Dr. John Rasweiler, of the North Fork Deer Management Alliance and the Southold Town Deer Management Task Force, disagrees.  

Rasweiller told WPKN news: “Contraceptives and sterilization are not New York State-approved, stand-alone techniques for deer management. Anyone familiar with those approaches knows they are simply unworkable and unaffordable.“

According to the Connecticut Post, the sticky silt from Black Rock Harbor in Bridgeport contains a toxic slurry of compounds including dangerous heavy metals such as chromium and copper.

The 73,000 cubic yards of material was deposited there by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1983 to test what would happen to the surrounding ecosystem if highly noxious polluted material was introduced.

The point of the experiment, Army Corps officials said, was to “field-verify existing test methods for predicting the environmental consequences of dredged material disposal under aquatic, wetland and upland conditions” at an unconfined open-water disposal site.

Marine life initially did not thrive at the site but it did not entirely stay away from the toxic mound, according to Army Corps and scientists who have studied the mound for more than 30 years.
Drew Carey, a Rhode Island marine scientist who often works for the Army Corps said of the underwater region: “It’s less recovered than others. It’s not devastating to the bottom of Long Island Sound.”

The Corps said testing of the site determined the material caused no lasting harm to the Sound.

According to Newsday, large commercial solar projects sprouting up around Long Island are relying on generous state and local tax breaks and locally-arranged financing to help cut development costs, but the expected return to municipalities is comparatively small. 

For example, American Capital Energy, the developer of one big project on Brookhaven Town land, will receive nearly $500,000 in tax breaks.  The town will get an annual lease payment of $34,000 for 20 years. 

Two other privately developed solar projects on Brookhaven Town property show similar benefits for the developer, but relatively smaller payback to the town. 

Supporters of the solar projects — most of which are in eastern Suffolk County — tout the benefits they provide to the environment and the electric grid. Municipalities also defend the tax breaks as important for job creation.

Lisa Mulligan, chief executive of the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency, notes that the projects are important because of jobs, the revenue stream and generating environmentally-friendly green energy.

But critics say the projects are lucrative without the additional tax breaks, which taxpayers and electric ratepayers ultimately bear. And there is concern that many of the developers are from out of state.

Wednesday, December 24  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.)

In the news tonight: Governor Malloy announces a new inmate job training program; the Libertarian party sues Connecticut; economists predict slight growth in the Long Island economy next year; and, a new study shows more people are leaving New York State.

Four inmates who are close to their release dates got an employment lesson on Wednesday from someone whose job includes meeting people every day: Governor Dannel Malloy.

Malloy visited the 780-bed New Haven Correctional Center, where he announced a new job-training program as part of the state’s “Second Chance Society” initiatives. “Society is tough on people,” Malloy said. “We have to develop a society that’s a little more forgiving and you’ve got to fly right.”

The inmates will be assessed for skills and learn interview techniques and how to prepare a resume, among other skills.

The nonprofit Workforce Alliance was awarded a $1 million contract for the jail program, which will open in February and serve about 175 inmates who are within six months of finishing their terms. 

Since 2003, the Workforce Alliance, which has done job training for ex-offenders throughout the state, has placed 1,567 with jobs, as of October. The group will create individual plans for each participating inmate.

The Libertarian Party of Connecticut wants the state to stop enforcing its law that says only state residents can collect signatures for candidates seeking to petition their way onto the ballot. 

The law says only Connecticut residents can gather those signatures, but a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Libertarian Party in federal court alleges the provision is “unconstitutional” and violates its First Amendment rights. 

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in anticipation of the start of the 2016 election cycle. Candidates wishing to get on the 2016 ballot can start collecting signatures starting on January 1, 2016, but the residency requirement is a hindrance, according to the complaint.  

If a candidate uses an out-of-state firm to circulate a petition, each of those professional circulators has to be accompanied by a Connecticut resident.

The complaint argues that this creates a monopoly for Connecticut professional circulators and decreases the party’s ability to negotiate favorable contract terms.

Former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman used an out-of-state firm to help petition his way onto the 2006 ballot as an independent. 

Newsday reports that Long Island’s pharmaceutical and healthcare industries should continue to boom next year, but the broader job market still faces challenges, according to local economists.

They predict the Island’s economy will grow 2-2.5 % in 2016, slightly faster than it did in 2015, when it was held back by severe winter storms, a strong U.S. dollar that reduced exports, and shaken consumer confidence after August’s stock market plunge.

In 2016 “we will see continuing growth but it will be a little bit on the anemic side,” said Richard Vogel, dean of Farmingdale State College’s business school. 

With the Island’s unemployment rate down to 4.1%, wages should rise more in 2016 than in recent years, said John A. Rizzo, chief economist at the Long Island Association trade group. Wage increases may in turn lead to an increase in consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of economic activity on Long Island.

The Albany Times-Union reports that once again more people are leaving New York State than arriving here, at least when it comes to people moving from one state to another.

The Empire Center is out with findings, based on periodic Census updates, that show during the 12 months ending last July 1, 153,921 more residents moved out of New York than moved into it.

This trend has been going on for years as people leave New York and other Northeastern states like New Jersey for the lower taxes and warmer weather in Sun Belt locations like Florida, or the Carolinas.

The study also noted that 653,071 people have moved out of New York since the 2010 Census -- the largest such decrease of any state.

Despite that, the state’s overall population of more than 19 million people is growing slightly because of the continued arrival of immigrants who come to New York, which is exceeded only by California.

Wednesday, December 23  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Neil Tolhurst and Rick Henrietta.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut firearms manufacturer shut down over violation of federal regulations; Sandy Hook Victims win settlement against Lanza estate; Customers sign up for health insurance through Connecticut exchange; and, Brookhaven Town Board opposes LIPA rate hike.

New Britain-based Stag Arms LLC pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony count of possession of un-registered machine guns in Federal Court Hartford. 

As part of a plea agreement, president and owner Mark Malkowski agreed to sell the company and have no further ownership or management role in a gun manufacturer. He will pay a $100,000 fine. 

The company will pay a fine of $500,000. Stag's federal license to manufacture firearms will also be revoked.

About 200 firearms could not be accounted for at a Stag facility.  Some had obliterated serial numbers.

Connecticut U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly said: "This company did not just manufacture small firearms. They manufactured semi-automatic weapons, machine guns, and assault weapons. This is not an industry where sloppiness will be tolerated."

Daly said: "We don't know where they are, whether they were stolen, whether they're on the streets, or whether they're just in the wrong hand"

Sixteen victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, or their family members, will receive part of a $1.5 million settlement from the estate of Nancy Lanza, the gunman’s mother. 

$1.5 million is the total amount of homeowners insurance coverage on the home Nancy Lanza shared with her son Adam. 

Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother before heading to the school and killing 20 first-graders and six educators in 2012.

Attorney Josh Koskoff, who represented the victims for free, said the estate had no assets and the house was underwater so the maximum amount they could have received was $1.5 million.

Koskoff said: “It was more about principle than it was about money. Homeowners need to be scrupulous about securing their weapons.”

He said they are also proceeding with a separate lawsuit on behalf of the victims, against Bushmaster, the company that manufactured the firearm used in the shooting.

That complaint alleges wrongful death and negligence on the part of Bushmaster as well as the weapons’ distributor and seller.

Over 34,000 new customers signed up for health coverage through Access Health Connecticut during the most recent open enrollment period, but officials for the insurance exchange said some risk losing insurance or tax credits if they don’t act soon, according to the Connecticut Post.

Some 8,200 members didn’t give permission to auto-renew their coverage and will lose coverage starting January 1, if they don’t provide that permission by today, December 23. 

Additionally, consumers receiving premium tax credits are required to a file a federal income tax return with the IRS to reconcile their eligibility.  About 1,100 of those insured through the exchange who did not file their 2014 tax returns will lose their tax credits in 2016. 

Also, as experienced nationwide, there were delays in filing applications on line and some people could not complete the process by the December 15 deadline. But officials said anyone who at least began their application before the deadline and follows through will still have coverage by January 1, 2016

Brookhaven Town Board members have asked the Long Island Power Authority Board of Trustees to reconsider a $3.37 billion budget that would hike power rates for three years.

As reported by Newsday: In a letter to LIPA trustees, the town board said the utility continues to overcharge customers for fuel, comparing LIPA rates with prices for crude oil and natural gas.

The LIPA board voted 5-2 last week with one abstention to approve the budget, which includes the first of three annual rate hikes. 

LIPA officials have said the rate increase is needed for system improvements and should be offset by expected natural gas cost reductions.

The Brookhaven Town’s letter also said LIPA fails to pay sufficient property taxes on their plants, referring to tax disputes between the utility and taxing districts such as the Village of Port Jefferson. 

Tuesday, December 22  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Chris Cadra.)

In the news tonight: corrective action brings Connecticut’s budget into the black; 18 Connecticut hospitals are penalized for high infection rates; Long Island civic groups propose boycotts at proposed development sites; and, Nature Conservancy and Suffolk County’s man-made wetland may reduce harmful nitrogen levels.

After taking action earlier this month to reduce this year’s deficit, Governor Malloy’s budget office estimates Connecticut will end 2015 with a $200,000 surplus.

In a monthly letter to the state comptroller, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes said legislation passed December 8 made $214.3 million in spending changes and $135.8 million in revenue changes. The letter assumes Malloy will sign the legislation and adopt the bill’s changes. 

The revenue changes will lead to sales and use taxes going up $109.2 million, mainly by delaying sales tax revenue earmarked for the state’s Transportation Fund and the Municipal Revenue Sharing Account by a few months.

Spending is now projected at $81.1 million below what’s budgeted. However, Barnes said the state will need to make some transfers to cover deficiencies in specific accounts.

New revenue numbers will be released January 15.

Eighteen Connecticut hospitals will lose 1% of their Medicare payments in 2016 as a penalty for comparatively high rates of avoidable infections and other complications between 2012 and 2014, according to new Federal data.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently announced that 758 of the nation’s hospitals would be penalized for patient safety lapses. This is the second year of the Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program penalties, a federal health care reform mandate. 

Yale-New Haven, Bridgeport, Norwalk, and Stamford hospitals are among the 18 penalized hospitals in the state, as well as ones penalized for a second year. Greenwich Hospital is among the six penalized for the first time. 

Connecticut Hospital Association vice president and chief quality officer Dr. Mary Cooper said they’ve seen a fairly significant reduction in preventable infections, blood clots and pressure ulcers in the last few years. She said: “Everyone is improving, everyone is working hard, but we have to do better…One preventable complication is one too many.”

A coalition of civic organizations has started a petition in which residents vow to boycott new commercial projects proposed for the Jamesport and Aquebogue areas unless the developers agree to abide by a pledge to keep the area rural.

Currently, the hamlet of Jamesport is the site of a potential 28,379-square foot addition to the existing 16,394-square foot Jamesport Center on the south side of Main Road. A proposed 10-building, 42,000-square foot commercial development on 10 acres on the north side of Main Road is also in the works.

The applicant of this Jamesport Commons plan is also seeking permits from the Riverhead Town Board for a bistro and professional offices.

South Jamesport resident Larry Simms, a founder of Save Main Road, said his organization, the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association, and the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition created the petition. 

They want developers and landlords to follow four “simple rules”: “Observe the letter and spirit of the master plan; adapt and reuse when possible and build only when necessary; stick to homegrown brands, not national franchises, and always consider development and leasing impact on existing businesses.”

Newsday reports: 
Suffolk County and The Nature Conservancy of Long Island are joining together to create a mini man-made wetland in Cold Spring Harbor to treat wastewater.

The wetlands will replace four cesspools currently treating wastewater at the Conservancy’s Upland Farm Sanctuary. 

Underground sewage treatment tanks will be installed and topped by native grasses and shrubs. The root systems will serve as a host for certain bacteria that eat or filter out contaminants such as nitrogen, coliform and pharmaceutical byproducts.

The cost for the project will be about $520,000. The Conservancy received a grant from Suffolk County for $220,000 and will fund the remaining cost. The Conservancy will test for contaminants and the results will help the county evaluate new ways to remove nitrogen. 

Following the release of a water resources management plan in May, county officials declared nitrogen “public enemy number one.” Much of the blame was placed on outdated septic systems. Almost three-quarters of the county’s homes are not connected to sewage treatment plants. Excessive levels of nitrogen can damage wetlands, hurt clam stocks and harm water quality. 

Monday, December 21 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Jim Young.)

In the news tonight: The US Environmental Protection Agency chief visits Connecticut to talk about the Paris agreement on climate change; Suffolk County farmland protection plan updated; a new North Haven train station presents a unique opportunity for the region; and, four Long Island businesses get low-cost power in exchange for investments.

Gina McCarthy, the current administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who served as the head of Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection from 2004 through 2009, returned Friday to the parking lot outside the renamed Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in Hartford to talk about the Paris agreement, under which 195 countries have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

McCarthy said climate change is one of the biggest “economic and national security challenges of our time,” and, because of the leadership of President Barack Obama, “we were able to get an agreement in Paris that everyone should be proud of.”

McCarthy said it was the first time they were able to attend the conference and prove they could turn climate change into “economic opportunity.”

The plan the United States is moving forward with to combat emissions is similar to one McCarthy implemented when she was in Connecticut.

McCarthy said the only reason they were able to push forward with a plan to reduce emissions here in the United States and a plan to lower the temperature of the climate globally is because states like Connecticut are paving the way.

The Suffolk county legislature unanimously adopted an updated Suffolk County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan last week.

It is the first update to the plan in 20 years.
The plan aims to support public policy to protect, encourage and sustain agriculture as an industry for future generations in Suffolk County, according to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

Al Krupski, a North Fork Legislator and a farmer, said the plan will help the county preserve its deep, fertile soils and build on its past success as a leader in farmland preservation.

The number of farms and farm acreage in Suffolk has remained fairly steady for the past 20 years, stemming a decades-long decline. Suffolk County today has 39,000 acres of farmland; just under half of that acreage is protected.

Nearly two-thirds of the county’s farmland lies in Riverhead and Southold towns. More than half of the farmland in those towns remains unprotected, and the plan identifies farmland preservation in those towns as its “highest priority.”

The county has created a master list of more than 19,000 parcels of unprotected farmland to be prioritized for preservation and suggests the continued purchase of development rights to un-protected farms.

North Haven First Selectman Michael Freda and other town officials are working with the state on a new train station. Freda said as with all government projects, its outcome depends on its ability to get the necessary funding.

According to the New Haven Register, the station is planned on the site of a former factory just east of the intersection of State and Devine streets, where Route 40 crosses the Hartford rail line, thus benefiting Cheshire and Hamden as well as North Haven. 

A New York City engineering design firm Parsons Brinckerhoff said in a newly-released report: “A new rail station in this location presents a unique opportunity for North Haven to re-envision the station area, promote new mixed-use development and enhance pedestrian and vehicular activity.” 

The report also states the new station will “provide a convenient mode of transportation for commuters who currently drive alone to work to cities such as New Haven or Hartford.”

Governor Dannel Malloy on December 4 announced an agreement with Amtrak to complete the Hartford line and stated “the program is now in construction and work is progressing rapidly.” 

The commuter rail service will increase the number of round trip trains between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield.

According to Newsday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Certified Laboratories is among four businesses on Long Island to receive discounted electricity from the state Power Authority in its latest allocations under the ReCharge NY program. 

Together, the four companies said they would hire 42 people, retain 623 more and invest $27 million in their operations.

Plainview-based Certified will do the most hiring — 32 jobs — and invest the most — $12 million. It now employs 115 and plans to triple the size of its local operation.

The largest power allocation will go to Thomson Reuters, the global news and information provider, with a data center in Hauppauge. In return for the power, the company has promised to maintain its work force of 125 and to invest $5 million.

The other businesses are Arma Container Corp in Deer Park which will invest $5 million and preserve 83 jobs and Long Island Fireproof Door in Port Washington plans add 10 people to its workforce of 300 and to invest $5 million.

Cuomo said: “Providing businesses with low-cost power helps ensure that they are able to stay and grow in New York State, which creates jobs and helps revitalize communities.” 

Friday, December 18  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Neil Tolhurst.

In tonight’s news: Connecticut hits milestone in jobs recovery; Florida Professor fired over harassment of Sandy Hook parents; Suffolk Police Commissioner pledges help to protect Muslim community; and, New York Comptroller finds lapses in monitoring of paroled sex offenders.

Connecticut’s job recovery hit a significant benchmark in November as the state added 5,100 jobs, giving the private sector a full recovery from the job losses of the 2008-2010 recession. The unemployment rate remained at 5.1%.

The monthly jobs report released Wednesday by the state Department of Labor gave the state non-agricultural growth of 26,800 jobs in 2015.
According to the Labor department’s Andy Condon, job growth in November was broad-based and noteworthy after two months of declines.  

The private sector now has entered an expansionary phase, with 113,400 new jobs compared to the 111,600 jobs lost in the recession. The state's jobs recovery has averaged 1,532 new jobs per month since February 2010. 

Wages have outpaced inflation over the past year. Average hourly earnings were $29.82, up 4% from the November 2014 estimate. The Consumer Price Index rose 0.5%.

Unemployment claims for first-time Connecticut filers declined by 4.6% in November to 3,528.

A Florida college professor, who has been accused of harassing a Sandy Hook family and claiming the elementary school shooting never happened, faces termination, as reported by the Connecticut Post.

Florida Atlantic University professor James Tracy was served termination documents on Wednesday. 
University officials declined to comment why Tracy faces termination, but the move comes a week after an opinion piece written by the parents of a Sandy Hook student ran in the Sun Sentinel newspaper. 

Lenny and Veronique Pozner blamed Tracy for “a wave of harassment, intimidation and criminal activity against our family and others” connected with a Sandy Hook hoax movement.

The Pozners’ son, Noah, was killed in the San
dy Hook shootings on December 14, 2012.

Tracy is an associate professor in the Florida college’s School of Communication and Multimedia Studies. He claimed on his personal blog the Sandy Hook shooting was staged to push President Barack Obama’s gun control agenda. He has also used the blog to question the accounts of other mass slayings.

Suffolk County’s new police commissioner Tim Sini met Thursday with area Muslim leaders concerned about rising anti-Islam sentiment nationwide and told them his department will protect their communities. 

Sini said the department will step up patrols around mosques and Muslim schools, according to Newsday.
In addition, Sini said, a liaison will be added to the department’s hate crimes unit to give the Muslim community a direct point of contact. 

Mohamed Sameen, a physician from Mt. Sinai, said his 7-year-old daughter goes to school wearing a hijab — a traditional headscarf worn by Muslim women and girls — and is called a terrorist by other students because they may feel threatened by her.

Hafiz Rehman, a member of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission who also attended the meeting, said anti-Muslim rhetoric on Long Island and nationwide is at “much higher levels than 9/11.” 

The Albany Times-Union reports:
An audit by New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found lapses in the monitoring of paroled sex offenders including those under the Strict and Intensive Supervision and Treatment (SIST) program.

Guidelines for supervision of these individuals are strict: they are proscribed from visiting certain locations and often must wear ankle bracelets to keep track of their whereabouts. Internet access is often forbidden as well for some of these parolees. 

DiNapoli found lapses in the mandated face-to-face visits that parole officers are supposed to make each month, as well as home visits.

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision didn’t dispute the overall findings but acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci pointed out that they are restoring a system that provides computerized monthly reports of activities by officers and are about to deploy a 24/7 GPS based bracelet system, among other things.

Thursday, December 17  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser and Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news: New England Governors urge action on opioids; home energy costs in Connecticut remain unaffordable for many; New York State’s Access Health exchange extends their deadline; the state of New York settles with illegal toy gun retailers; and, deadline extended for fishermen to apply for Sandy grants

Governor Dannel Malloy and the governors of five New England states urged Congressional leaders Tuesday to allow medical professionals to prescribe medication for opiate addiction, which has reached epidemic proportions in the Northeast.

Nurse practitioners can prescribe addictive narcotics for pain but are barred from prescribing drugs designed to break addiction to narcotics and heroin.

The governors encouraged Congress to support the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act, which would allow certain nurse practitioners and physician assistants to treat up to 100 patients per year with buprenorphine, a drug that helps break the cycle of addiction.

Malloy said the fastest growing percentage of heroin abusers are aged 50 to 65 because that demographic has major tooth surgery or knee replacements. They are then prescribed pain medication and find themselves addicted.

Malloy said the addicted turn to heroin because it offers a similar high and is “dirt cheap” However, the heroin being purchased on the street is not “dosed” and when people jump from the pill to heroin they’re putting their lives in danger. 

There are more than 313,000 Connecticut households that can’t afford to pay their energy bills. 

That’s according to the annual Home Energy Affordability report authored by Roger Colton of the firm Fisher, Sheehan and Colton.

The report found that despite a drop in the price of home heating oil and natural gas, there continues to be a significant gap between what lower-income households pay for energy and what they can afford to pay.

The good news is that between 2014 and 2015, the home energy affordability gap dropped from $784 million to $471 million.

According to Colton, the price of natural gas dropped nearly 20% and the price of fuel oil was down almost 50% in February 2015, compared to where it was just a year ago.

On average, the 313,000 households who struggle to pay their energy bills owe about $1,506 more in annual energy bills than they can afford.

The federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program covered only about 14% of the latest energy affordability gap. 

Colton said Connecticut’s share of the federal funds dropped $5 million this year.

The Albany Times-Union reports: 
Citing high volume on its website, New York state's Obamacare exchange has extended the deadline to Saturday to sign up for health plans whose coverage starts January 1.

NY State of Health's customer service center answered more than 170,000 calls last week, with an average of 34,000 calls a day, according to the state Health Department.  

A new option for 2016 is the Essential Plan for individuals and families who earn just above the eligibility level for Medicaid, at 138 and 200% federal poverty level[s]. The Essential Plan lowers premiums to $20 or less a month.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office has reached settlements with 30 online retailers nationwide that sold illegal toy guns to New York consumers.

According to The Albany Times-Union, the Tuesday announcement follows August settlements with five retailers — including Amazon.com, Walmart, Sears and Kmart — for selling toy guns that looked too much like the real thing. Those retailers paid roughly $309,000 to settle the matter.

Schneiderman said in a statement: "When toy guns are mistaken for real guns, there can be tragic consequences... I will continue to enforce this law so that we can avoid putting both children and law enforcement officials at risk."

Under the latest agreement, the retailers have agreed to only sell toy guns colored entirely white, bright red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink or purple, or a combination of those colors.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has extended the deadline for fishermen and fishing industry businesses looking to apply for grants to help cover their losses during Superstorm Sandy. 

The deadline had originally been this Monday, December 15, but has been moved to January 29, 2016.  

Wednesday, December 16  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.)

In the news tonight: Trustees set to raise tuition at UConn; Malloy will seek a transportation lockbox vote next year; Suffolk County warns residents to avoid the Peconic River due to a sewerage discharge; and, Republican legislators call for a federal review of Suffolk police operations.

Tuition at the state’s flagship university will rise by at least $3,275 over the next four years under a plan to be put into motion today by the Board of Trustees, according to the Connecticut Post.

Under the plan, the tuition for full-time, in-state undergrads attending UConn in the fall of 2016 would be $11,224. Out-of-state students would pay nearly three times as much, at $33,016.

By the fall of 2019, tuition for in-state undergraduates would be $13,799, and for non-state residents, $36,466.

Scott Jordan, UConn’s chief financial officer, said the increases will help protect the academic quality of UConn and partially mitigate a $40.2 million deficit forecast for 2016-17.

He said state support has not kept pace with the increase in mandatory contractual and fringe-benefit costs, and both are beyond the university’s control.
The hike is part of a broader effort that will include cutting costs and generating revenue elsewhere. The cost cutting could include a workforce reduction, and some program consolidation or closures.

The Hartford Courant reports that Gov. Dannel Malloy will seek a second legislative vote on a lockbox ballot to protect transportation funds early next year.
In a speech to the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday, Malloy said a constitutional amendment is needed to prevent future legislatures or governors from diverting transportation funds to other projects.

The House of Representatives and the Senate on December 8 approved forwarding a lockbox ballot question to voters, but the approval in the House was short of the 114 votes needed to place the question on the 2016 ballot.

The Senate passed the resolution unanimously.
Under the state constitution, 75% of both chambers of the legislature must approve a resolution before a matter can be placed on the ballot.

Malloy said he will seek another vote in the legislature's 2016 session, which begins in February.
Malloy said the lockbox is necessary to planning for major projects to widen I-84 and I-95, fix bridges and highways in Hartford, Waterbury and Groton and enhance rail and bus service.

Suffolk County health officials warned residents Tuesday to avoid contact with the Peconic River in downtown Riverhead due to a potentially unsafe discharge of sewage wastewater.

A sample of the water last week contained unusually high coliform levels according to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

In one sample, coliform levels were four times the plant’s permit discharge limit, said Riverhead Sewer District Superintendent, Michael Reichel.

The high bacteria levels were caused by a discharge of “inadequately treated wastewater” from the Riverhead sewage treatment plant, according to the health department.

The advisory warned residents to avoid contact with the tidal portion of the Peconic River, which is the portion of the river east of Grangebel Park.

High bacteria levels are a result of the ongoing sewage treatment plant upgrade, which requires a shutdown of part of the plant’s equipment, according to Reichel.

The Riverhead Sewage plant is currently undergoing a $22 million upgrade that will reduce nitrogen discharge into the Peconic River.

Newsday reports that Republican legislators in Suffolk called on the federal government Tuesday to review county police operations after the arrest and denial of bail to former Chief of Department James Burke.

Legislator Kevin McCaffrey, head of the GOP, said Suffolk County has come under the “deep cloud of suspicion and that is unacceptable.”

The GOP lawmakers said federal intervention is needed to provide additional resources and an element of objectivity to a review of police operations. 

But Justin Meyers, spokesman for Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone, dismissed the GOP move as partisan.

Burke was arrested last week on charges of beating a Smithtown man and orchestrating a massive cover-up of the alleged assault.

U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler denied bail for Burke, agreeing with prosecutors who argued that the former chief was a danger to the community.
Tuesday, December 15 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Chris Cadra.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut Representative expects partial victory in ending healthcare plan Cadillac tax; politics and environment delay housing project updates; crime-ridden Riverside demands the return of state police barracks desk officer; East End legislators create new law allowing certain tax dollars to go to water quality projects.

Connecticut Representative Joe Courtney expects at least a partial victory in his effort to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health plans.

Congress is expected to approve legislation this week that would push back implementing that tax for two years, until January 1, 2020. 

Beginning January 1, 2018, the Cadillac tax would impose a 40% excise tax on health plans valued more than $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage. Only money spent in excess of the caps would be taxed.

The tax is aimed at curbing high-cost, high-benefit plans that labor unions fight for and many businesses offer employees. But many companies hire older workers or employees in high-risk occupations who push up the cost of health care. 

Courtney says many middle-income Americans would be hurt by the tax because companies would scale back benefits. While he prefers to end the tax, Courtney says the two–year delay “gives people some breathing room.”

The Connecticut Post reports: Environmental issues and politics have delayed Bridgeport’s efforts to update its public housing.

Plans for several sites have stalled since last year: Mayor Bill Finch’s administration, private investors, and Park City Communities (formerly the Bridgeport Housing Authority) had major development plans for scattered South End lots, the demolished Father Panik Village, and 375 Main Street. These were the start of a new approach to public housing, including mixed-income tenants and privately managed.

Water problems delayed plans for South End and Main Street locations because of expensive state requirements, such as dry evacuation routes in case of flood. That would require pricey solutions like raised infrastructure and overhauling roads and sidewalks.

Then political issues stalled the Father Panik site. The City Council granted JHM Financial of Stamford a tax break for building the first 93 of the development’s 177 units. But a similar, 35-year subsidy for the second half of construction became a debate over whether the Finch administration was giving away too much to out-of-town developers.

Ultimately the City Council tabled it over the summer.

Park City Communities Executive Director George Lee Byers said he hopes to sit down with the new mayor Joseph Ganim soon. 

A decision by the New York State Police to close its Riverside police barracks this fall is meeting opposition.

At a press conference held outside the barracks Monday, residents and local officials cited drug use and a recent wave of vehicle break-ins as reasons to keep the barracks open.

The state police will no longer keep a round-the-clock officer at the barracks, instead deploying the previously assigned desk troopers onto the road. The barracks will remain locked and Farmingdale Troop Headquarters will handle dispatch.

State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico stated that keeping the barracks open is an “ineffective use of personnel.” 

At the press conference, State Senator Ken Lavalle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele urged Governor Andrew Cuomo and Superintendent D’Amico to keep a desk officer at the barracks and pledged to fight for adequate state police funding in next year’s budget. 

A bill to extend and expand the Community Preservation Fund has been signed into law. 

The new law, introduced by State Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele, would extend the Fund from 2030 to 2050 and authorize the five East End towns to use up to 20% of their annual community preservation fund revenues for water quality protection.

The revenues are derived from a 2 per cent tax on real estate transfers over $500 thousand.

Thiele and LaValle said in a joint press release: “The original assumption inherent in land protection was that if the land was protected, the water would remain clean.”  However, that has not been the case.

Under the new state law, eligible water quality improvement projects would include: wastewater treatment improvement; non-point source abatement and control program; aquatic habitat restoration; pollution prevention, and operating the Peconic Bay National Estuary Program.

The lawmakers estimated that the extended re-authorization would generate approximately $1.5 billion in Community Preservation Fund revenues by 2050.


Monday, December 14  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Jim Young.)

In the news tonight: three years after the Sandy Hook shootings, families of victims and members of Congress are still demanding action on gun violence; Governor Malloy stands his ground on gun permits; former New York State Senator and son convicted on influence peddling charges. 

The Newtown Foundation and Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence held a third annual vigil for all victims of gun violence in Washington, D.C. last Wednesday at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. 

More than 60 family members of victims and survivors of gun violence attended from across the nation. 

They were joined by members of Congress, including Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and House Members Elisabeth Esty and Nancy Pelosi, who pledged that the House would not pass an appropriation bill with a ban on research into gun violence:

Here are some of their voices: 

My name is Shey Russo, father of Loren Russo,

a teacher shot and killed on December 14, 2012 in Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I am Joyce Russo, I am Loren’s step mother. We are here to honor with action.

My name is Matthew Soto and my sister Vicky was killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting on December 14 2012.

On this day and every day we remember the 26 victims of Sandy Hook:

Charlotte Bacon, Daniele Bardon, Rachel DeVino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay,

Anna Marquez-Green, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hochsprung,  Madeleine Huss,

Kathryn Hubbard, Chase Kowalsky,  Jesse Lewis, James Madioli,

Grace McDdonald, Ann Marie Murphy, Emily Parker,

Jack Pinto, Noah Posner, Jessica Ricos, Avielle Richman, Loren Russo, Mary Sherlock

Benjamin Wheeler, Alison Wyatt and Vicky Soto.  

Sen. Chris Murphy:

The one option that we can’t take is to do absolutely nothing and that’s what we’ve done.
 In the wake of the slaughter of 20 little first graders in Newtown Connecticut, and the slaughter of 80 more every single day, Congress has done absolutely nothing.
And that’s maybe what’s most offensive to me, because behind me are dozens of grieving families.
But by this time tomorrow there will be 80 other families who could joint them in this room, and 80 more the day after.

How cold-hearted is this place to look these families in the eye and do absolutely nothing.


Governor Dannel Malloy stood his ground Friday in defending his position on the issuance of gun permits to individuals on federal terrorism watch lists. 

Last week the U.S. Senate failed to pass legislation that would have banned individuals on watch lists from purchasing firearms.

Malloy said he thinks they will succeed in getting the federal government to agree to share the watch lists.  Malloy said: “When we do a background check in Connecticut, we should be able to deny somebody the ability to purchase a gun, subject to an appeal.”

Republican Senator. L. Scott Frantz, of Greenwich, said he doesn’t want to see someone on a federal watch list get access to firearms, but the move presents some constitutional issues. 

Frantz said. “Do you give people due process because they’re on that list by mistake?” He said he would rather see legislation than an executive order. 

Some of his Republican colleagues have taken a hard line against the proposal.  Representative Doug Dubitsky, of Chaplin, said Congress refused to pass a similar proposal because “it was clearly unconstitutional.”

Malloy is still waiting on word from federal officials about whether Connecticut could gain access to these lists or whether federal officials would add the information to its background check of Connecticut purchasers.

The Albany Times-Union reports:
Former New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, were each found guilty of federal charges stemming from the lawmaker’s efforts to secure income for  Adam from politically connected businesses. 

U.S.Attorney Preet Bharara brought the charges which concerned payments and benefits paid to the son over a seven-year period. 

The jury deliberated for just over one day before reaching a decision on Friday.

Skelos was replaced as Majority Leader by fellow Long Island Republican John Flanagan after his arrest in May.

The verdict comes less than two weeks after the conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat.

Friday, December 11  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Melinda Tuhus, Nadine Dumser, Neil Tolhurst and Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news: Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy seeks to deny gun permits to individuals on the federal watch list; a Jewish group spreads an anti-bigotry message in New Haven; 86 projects from around Suffolk County get state funding; and, a campaign finance report indicates controversial spending by the Suffolk police union super-PAC.

On Thursday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he would sign an executive order blocking anyone on federal government terrorism watch lists from obtaining a gun permit. 

Assault weapons already are outlawed in Connecticut, so Malloy’s executive order would also prevent an individual on the list from purchasing a handgun, ammunition, a shotgun or a rifle. 

Malloy said: “If you cannot fly due to being on a government watch list, you should not be able to purchase a firearm while on that watch list as well.”

Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said: “Governor Malloy is planning to take what is in our view unconstitutional executive action that would prohibit firearms purchases and seize firearms of individuals who have not been indicted or convicted [of] any crime.” 

However, members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation who were frustrated last week when the U.S. Senate was unable to find enough support to debate the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015 applauded Malloy’s move.

Malloy plans to sign the executive order once the U.S. Department of Justice gives him the go-ahead. 

A local New Haven chapter of a national Jewish group joined other chapters around the country in holding signs at rush hour downtown representing candles from the eight days of Hanukah to spread an anti-bigotry message. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:


Each sign bore a message such as “We will not be silent about anti-Muslim and racist hate speech and hate crimes,” and “We welcome Syrian refugees and stand strong for immigrants' rights and refugee rights.”

Here's Shelly Altman, co-chair of the local chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace: “We basically are saying that as Jews we will not stand for racism, for Islamophobia, for anti-Semitism, for racial profiling, for collective punishment and for scapegoating of any people because of their race, religion, ethnicity.”

He said the paper candles stood for rekindling their commitment to justice and dignity.

The group will be back on Sunday evening, the last night of Hannukah, also known as the Festival of Lights.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

According to County Executive Steve Bellone, 86 projects across Suffolk County secured $30 million in the latest round of Regional Economic Development Council Awards announced yesterday by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

These awards include:
$1.8 million to Brookhaven Science Associates for the Brookhaven National Lab Discovery Park. The funds will be used for a public-private research campus and a regional hub for scientific innovation, economic development and STEM education;

$1 million to the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning, for a decentralized wastewater treatment facility to treat waste from five mobile home parks in the Peconic Estuary region;

$3 million to Islip Town for renovations of a building to accommodate a federal inspection station, which will allow international flights from Europe and the Western Hemisphere to fly directly into MacArthur airport;

and $650,000 to Southampton Town to construct a permeable reactive barrier, 200 to 400 feet in length, at Iron Point Park in Flanders, to intercept and treat nitrogen impaired groundwater prior to entering the Peconic Estuary.

Governor Cuomo created New York State’s regional councils in 2011 in an effort to jumpstart the economy and create jobs.

The recent Riverhead supervisor's campaign included controversial campaign spending from a police union's political action committee.

The Suffolk police union’s super-PAC pumped $165,680 into its losing campaign to defeat incumbent Supervisor Sean Walter and elect Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, according to the super-PAC’s state campaign finance reports.

Their amount spent on the supervisor’s race was nearly three times what it spent on any other race in this election year. 

Walter pointed to the campaign waged by the group as evidence of the police union’s effort to expand the county police district into Riverhead.

The Suffolk PBA and super-PAC president, Noel DiGerolamo, vehemently denied that, insisting the union was involved in the Riverhead campaign only because it considered the incumbent supervisor “incompetent.”

Walter argued that Giglio promised the police union she’d put a referendum before voters on the question of Riverhead becoming part of the county police district, an option rejected by the voters of Riverhead and the other four East End towns when the county police department was established in 1960. 

Giglio, running with two retired Riverhead cops for town board, denied that she made any such promise and pledged to keep the town police department.

Thursday, December 10  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Melinda Tuhus and Jim Young.)

In the news tonight: GE weighs headquarters move to Boston, New York or Providence; an Environmental Summit in Hartford; Southampton police ruled death a suicide, but family want investigation; Long Island college to close two campuses.

A Boston Globe story this morning suggests that Fairfield's General Electric has narrowed its search for a new home down to New York, Providence and Boston.

General Electric Co. is looking at sites in Boston’s Seaport District for a new global headquarters. 
GE, based in Fairfield, would initially move roughly 500 jobs to the new location; it is unclear how many of those jobs would be filled by current employees who move with the company.

A spokesman for Governor Dannel Malloy declined to comment early Thursday.

Legislators and environmental activists packed the boat house on the Connecticut River in Hartford on Wednesday for the League of Conservation Voters 15th annual Environmental Summit. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:
Rob Klee, commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, spoke about the energy challenges facing the state, and said that Governor Dannel Malloy's administration has an "all of the above" energy strategy, with a big focus on expanding use of fracked natural gas, while also pursuing renewables. 

Leticia Colon de Mejias, a Hartford educator and energy efficiency entrepreneur, spoke about her successful efforts to get members of minority communities engaged around climate change. 

She pointed out that gas is a fossil fuel and added in an interview later: “I think that any time people in a position of power deny the scientific facts that are right in front of all of us and easily attainable, like gas is not necessarily more clean than oil or coal, for example, and has other serious issues that have not yet really been explored in depth, like the process of fracking, the extraction of the gas, the implications on our water tables that that brings, which are extremely important to all people, that you're really not looking at the problem as a whole.”

Two panels at the summit explored efforts to protect water quality and preserve open space.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

Two weeks after Esperanza Aucapina’s body was found hanging in the woods near her Sagaponack, Long Island home, her family is asking how the police could be treating her death as a suicide.

Tuesday morning, nearly 100 family supporters gathered for a vigil in front of Southampton Town Hall holding banners begging for justice.

Ms. Aucapina, 40, born in Ecuador, was a mother of two and a housekeeper, who volunteered in her spare time. 

She was reported missing in early October. An extensive search culminated on November 21, when a hunter found her body hanging from a tree in the woods not far from her house. 

Police are now treating the case as a suicide. 

Attorney Foster Maer of LatinoJustice is representing Ms. Aucapina’s family. 

He also represented the family of Gabriela Armijos, a 21-year-old immigrant from Ecuador who was also found hanged from a tree near East Hampton Village last year. 

Maer said in both instances, police prematurely deemed it a suicide and both women had been victims of domestic violence. 

He said the area where Ms. Aucapina’s body was found hanging was not thickly wooded, and K-9 search teams had been unable to find a scent when they searched that area on several occasions. 

Maer said: “We believe the body was hung there after the search in a staged suicide.”

He said this and other cases involving deaths deemed suicides of Latinos and blacks in Southampton and East Hampton should be reopened.

Briarcliffe College has filed notice with New York State to close its campuses in Bethpage and Patchogue on Long Island by 2018. 

The decision comes after the college’s Illinois-based owner, Career Education Corp., put the school up for sale about seven months ago but could not finalize a deal.

Attempts have been made to morph the curriculum toward current standards of community colleges and their lower tuition. 

Online classes and concentration on healthcare opportunities have failed to right the ship, resulting in a projected lay-off of nearly 300 jobs by 2018. 


Wednesday, December 9  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut lawmakers approve a budget bill; Audubon warns the state is losing birds due to development; Suffolk County’s former top cop is indicted on assault; and, conspiracy charges and an offshore wind farm is proposed off Montauk.

The Hartford Courant reports that Democratic lawmakers – with no Republican votes —passed a bill Tuesday that cuts corporate taxes and slices $350 million in spending to balance the state's $20 billion budget in the current fiscal year.

Democrats and Governor Dannel Malloy praised the package but Republican Representative Laura Devlin called it "a big disappointment."

Malloy said the budget is flawed but it sets the stage for more sweeping changes in the 2016 legislative session.

The Senate voted 20-15 on a mostly party-line vote for the changes and the 75-65 vote in the House was also along party lines.

The bill now goes to Malloy, who negotiated the deal with legislative leaders.

The package includes $72 million in cuts in various state agencies and $93 million in executive branch cuts, while $30 million will be cut in each of the next two years from hospitals.

It also includes $10 million in corporate tax cuts in the current fiscal year and $19 million next year.

A report by the Connecticut Audubon Society warns the state is losing many of its forest song birds and the reasons why should worry anyone concerned about climate change and the environment, reports the Hartford Courant.

The "Connecticut State of the Birds" report released Tuesday calls for a permanent increase in state funding for forest and open space preservation to save habitat for woodland birds and help combat global warming.

It cites the decline in migratory forest birds such as the Hooded Warbler, Eastern Wood Pewee and Hermit Thrust because of the fragmentation of Connecticut's woodlands.

An average of 2,400 acres of Connecticut forest is being consumed by development every year, and that means the loss of tens of thousands of trees able to store carbon, help ease the flooding from major storms, and protect our drinking water.

The report warns without a tenfold increase in woodland protection, the state will fail to reach its goal of preserving 21% of Connecticut's land areas as open space by 2023.

Newsday reports that James Burke, the former Suffolk County chief of the police department, was arrested Wednesday morning on charges of assaulting a handcuffed suspect and conspiring to cover up an FBI and grand jury investigation by agreeing to provide “false testimony under oath,” according to court documents.

The arrest came a day after a grand jury indicted Burke on one count of deprivation of civil rights and one count of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, according to the indictment unsealed in federal court in Central Islip.

Burke, the highest-ranking uniformed officer until he resigned in October, was to be arraigned in the afternoon. His attorney, Joseph Conway, of Mineola, declined to comment.

The grand jury was investigating allegations that Burke and other officers beat and then covered up the December 14, 2012, assault on Christopher Loeb, who stole a duffel bag from the chief’s department SUV.

Deepwater Wind announced a new proposal for an offshore wind farm and two battery-operated storage systems in East Hampton Monday as part of a request for proposals by PSEG Long Island, according to 27East.com.

The 90-megawatt, 15-turbine wind farm would be located 30 miles southeast of Montauk while the energy storage systems would be built on Industrial Road in Montauk and at the Wainscott Commercial Center, said company Vice President of Development Clint Plummer.

Deepwater, a Rhode Island developer, previously submitted a proposal for an offshore wind farm to t
he Long Island Power Authority in 2014.
The plan was rejected last December.

In the meantime, Deepwater has been actively constructing the first offshore wind energy program in the United States, off Block Island.

Frank Dalene, former chairman and current member of the East Hampton Sustainability Committee said if PSEG approves Deepwater’s plan, East Hampton would fulfill its commitment to replace 100 percent of the community’s electricity consumption by 2020.

Tuesday, December 8   (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, Chris Cadra, and Tony Ernst.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut House Democrats demand the GOP strike Syrian refugee policy from budget bill; Connecticut’s courtship of GE goes beyond taxes; House bill to change fisheries law debated in Riverhead; Town issues stop-work order to Riverhead Raceway. 

Connecticut Representatives Joe Courtney and Jim Himes are demanding language that would suspend Syrian and Iraqi refugee admissions be left out of a massive budget bill.

The federal government will shut down on December 11 unless Congress approves new legislation.

Courtney and Himes were among 47 Democrats who last month gave Republicans a veto-proof majority on the bill. They are now warning the GOP against attaching policy riders like the Syrian refugee bill to the must-pass legislation.

Senate Democrats would probably block the Syrian refugee bill, and President Obama has threatened to veto it if it does get through the Senate.

That's why House Republicans want the legislation attached to the massive omnibus spending bill – a move that could result in a government shutdown.

Connecticut Representative John Larson, a Democrat, said, “Barring innocent people — many of whom are women and children — from entering the country does not help us defeat ISIL.”

General Electric’s threat to leave Connecticut has morphed from a complaint over taxes to a larger conversation about the state’s economic stability.

The company’s well-publicized evaluation of whether to keep its corporate headquarters in Fairfield is expected to yield a business tax cut during the General Assembly’s special session today.

Malloy and others say they believe GE is trying to gauge the state’s commitment to fiscal reform and economic stability. 

House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey noted GE is monitoring the work of the new Commission on Economic Competitiveness. The Hamden Democrat said: “It reflects that GE has legitimate concerns about the state’s long-term [fiscal] health, which I believe we have and are addressing.”

Newsday reports: 
The debate over whether to ease measures in federal fisheries law came to Riverhead Monday as proponents argued that restrictions on fishing have had a devastating impact on the fishing community, while opponents said any easing could decimate already stressed fish populations.

The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources met at Suffolk Community College’s Riverhead campus to get local feedback on fisheries issues.

Freshman Representative, Republican Lee Zeldin of Shirley, a committee member, said his chief aims were to improve the science on which major fisheries quotas are set and to work to increase New York’s relatively small share of those quotas, particularly for vital local species such as fluke.

The Republican-controlled House has already passed HR 1335, the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Reform Act,” but a companion bill is stalled in the Senate.

The bill is aimed at making changes in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which was set up to manage fisheries.

While most agreed that there’s a need for improved science upon which to base quotas, some said easing conservation law would have tragic consequences on fish populations.

Bonnie Brady, director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, a Montauk commercial fishing group, said that 90 percent of fishing stocks are not considered overfished, yet regulators are recommending reductions in fluke and striped bass fisheries in excess of 25 percent.

Riverhead Town has issued a stop-work order for Riverhead Raceway, stating the raceway needs proper permits before continuing with plans to “improve aesthetics” on the property.

The town investigated a complaint that construction had started without site plan approval or permits and found that raceway owner Ed Partridge had taken down a fence and demolished two trailers without permits.

Partridge said: “The trailers have been there since 1960. The roofs were caving in. The existing fence had fallen down on the east side.” His plan to spruce up the property included demolishing the two dilapidated trailers, installing a new 10-foot fence and creating a picnic area.

But after demolishing the trailers and taking down the already-existing fence, Partridge was stopped by an investigating officer from the town, who posted the stop-work order and advised Partridge to attend a planning board work session before continuing.

Partridge said, “I didn’t know you needed a permit to take down a fence.”

He has a meeting with the town today.

Monday, December 7  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Scott Schere.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut gets $3.5 billion from the Federal government for roads and rails; Brookhaven officials expect to soon receive Medford casino plans; Democrats’ deficit plan is going to the Connecticut legislature Tuesday; and, a ban of 24-hour businesses is considered for parts of Riverhead.

According to the Connecticut Post, The FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act), a federal transportation bill passed by Congress, will provide $3.5 billion for Connecticut’s roads and rails over the next five years. 

U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, called the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act “a big win” for the state that will dramatically increase the amount of American-made products and materials required for mass transportation projects, especially rail.

Murphy said at a news conference in New Haven last Friday: “It just makes sense that if we’re going to spend $300 billion over the next five years, that the money goes to American-made products.”

Among the projects included in the state’s five-year transportation plan are the expansion of the I-95 and I-84 corridors, expansion of travel lanes on those interstates and track and infrastructure improve-ments on the Metro-North and Shore Line East rail lines.

Murphy, who serves on a Senate Appropriations subcommittee overseeing transportation, said FAST is the first multi-year transportation-funding bill in a decade, and will provide more jobs in the state.

Newsday reports:
Suffolk OTB officials say they hope to submit plans soon for a proposed Medford video lottery casino following a federal court order directing county and Brookhaven Town officials to review the project.

The controversial 90,000-square-foot betting parlor would have up to 1,000 video lottery terminals at the former Brookhaven Multiplex site on a Long Island Expressway service road east of Route 112.

Town officials are expected to forward the proposal to the Suffolk County Planning Commission. After receiving planning commission comments, the town Planning Board will review a site plan.

OTB vice president Anthony Pancella said an environmental review, ordered by the court, may be submitted Monday. He said the plan meets all codes and he expected swift approval of the project.

But casino opponents say gambling facilities are not allowed under town zoning at the site. They filed suit in State Supreme Court to try to stop the project. A hearing in that case is scheduled for Wednesday in Riverhead.

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine and Councilman Neil Foley pledged on Thursday to continue the town board’s opposition to the casino.

Leaders of the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives affirmed Friday they expect to vote Tuesday on a bill to mitigate state budget deficits, restore some cuts to hospitals and social services and offer modest tax relief to businesses.

The administration, Democratic leaders and top GOP lawmakers had been meeting for the past month on a deficit-mitigation plan. That ended late Thursday when Republican leaders left the talks, saying they couldn’t reach agreement with Democrats on structural reforms to control state spending in the long-term.

Multiple sources told The Connecticut Mirror that the battle was over implementing the constitutional spending cap — which recently has fallen into legal limbo.

Full details of the Democrat-sponsored budget bill are not available yet, but House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey said it would address the deficit this fiscal year and “make a down payment” on the projected shortfall for 2016-17.

It was unclear whether the Democratic plan would eliminate this year’s estimated deficit of $254 million.
Sharkey said the bill would restore about half of the $62 million the governor cut from hospitals back in September and also would provide some of the corporation tax changes Malloy proposed last month.

Some businesses and gas stations outside the Route 58 corridor in Riverhead may soon no longer be allowed to operate between midnight and 5 a.m.

The ban is supported by the town board, in response to the possibility of a 7-Eleven setting up shop in an Aquebogue shopping center.

Riverhead Town rejected the 7-Eleven’s building permit application last year, but a State Supreme Court justice ruled in October that the national convenience store franchise should be permitted to open.

Although Riverhead is appealing the court’s decision, town board members say they want to make sure the store won’t remain open through the late-night hours, which was one of the major concerns voiced by Aquebogue residents who oppose the 7-Eleven.

Town Supervisor Sean Walter told residents at Tuesday’s town board meeting: “Even if we lose the appeal, this will not be a 24-hour operation.” 

The ban would affect retail businesses within two zoning districts that include Polish Town and much of the Main Road in Aquebogue, Jamesport and Calverton. The limitation would not apply to restaurants, bars or nightclubs.

The board plans to schedule a public hearing on this subject in the near future.

Friday, December 4  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer, Neil Tolhurst and Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news: Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy responds to mass shooting in California; Suffolk County lawmakers approve fee hikes for recreational activities; General Electric to pay millions in penalties for air pollution in New York; and, Nassau and Suffolk Counties increase weapons and training in response to the latest mass shooting.

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy called California Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday to express condolences following a mass shooting in San Bernardino that reportedly claimed the lives of at least 14 people.

A little more than a week away from the anniversary of the 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Malloy said he offered Brown whatever assistance Connecticut could provide. 

Malloy said: “We’ve been called upon to share that with state and local governments that have had similar problems.”

In addition, Malloy has increased police presence around the state’s Department of Developmental Services locations. 

The shooting in California took place at the Inland Regional Center, which provides services to the developmentally disabled.

It’s going to cost you more to golf, camp, launch your boat and park — among other things — at Suffolk County parks in 2016.

On Tuesday, Suffolk County's Legislators approved fee hikes for golfing, camping, hunting, beach and park entry, fishing, parking, launching a boat, and the Green Key pass. It’s the first increase in user fees since 2011.

The new fee schedule was part of County Executive Steve Bellone’s budget, which was already passed by the legislature and signed by Bellone. The fee increases, which take effect January 1, will bring in more than three-quarters of a million dollars in new revenues.

One example of the increases is the county parks department Green Key pass, which entitles holders to reduced admission to county parks and beaches. 

It will increase from $24 to $26. The price of the three-year pass has risen 30% since 2010. The Green Key discount rate — for senior citizens 60 and over, handicapped, volunteer firefighters and EMS workers — will go up from $11 to $13.

General Electric Co. will pay a $2.25 million civil penalty for potentially releasing unsafe levels of air pollution, including cancer-causing chemicals, from a hazardous waste incinerator at its former silicone plant in Waterford, New York.

According to the Albany Times Union, a federal complaint revealed that GE plant workers falsified pollution control records for the incinerator nearly 1,900 times between September 2006 and February 2007 — and the problem apparently went back years before that.

According to a news release from the U.S. Justice Department: "GE used a computer program to override the incinerator's automatic waste feed cutoff system, allowing GE to continue to burn hazardous waste in the incinerator in violation of its (air pollution) permits.

Newsday reports:
On Long Island both Nassau and Suffolk County police say they are increasing training to protect citizens in active shooter and terror situations after the shooting rampage in San Bernardino, California.

In Nassau County, the training includes teaching and empowering patrol officers to respond effectively at shooting scenes. Officers learn how to initially assist in mass casualty situations and work with detectives to track down and learn key information about active shooters.

The first group of about 200 officers were to begin training today with new 150 semiautomatic Sig Sauer M400 SWAT rifles. The weapons have a longer range and allow police to match the firepower of shooters wielding assault weapons.

The SWAT rifles, which cost $1,100 apiece, arrived Monday in a shipment that officials expedited after the recent terror attacks in Paris.

More than 100 patrol officers and officers in special units will receive the weapons. Officers will carry them in squad cars, along with recently issued heavy body armor and tactical helmets.

Suffolk County police said they will enhance their active shooter training, which the department started shortly after the Columbine shooting that left 13 dead. 

Thursday, December 3 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.)

In the news tonight: a new study shows Connecticut needs affordable rental housing; the New Haven Mayor meets with a pro-workers group; a heavy truck plan for the North Fork is eliminated; and, Suffolk County approves a renewable energy loan program for businesses.

An annual assessment of housing affordability in Connecticut finds market forces blunting the impact of the more than 7,000 affordable apartments developed with state aid since Gov. Dannel Malloy took office.

Downsizing Baby Boomers contributed to a soft market for single-family homes and increased demand for rental apartments, according to Housing In Connecticut 2015, a study published Wednesday by the Partnership for Strong Communities.

The study showed the market is being driven by demographics and the education debt and lifestyle of millennials doesn’t lead to a four-bedroom Colonial on a two-acre lot.

In addition, Connecticut is one of the nation’s most expensive places to live, ranking sixth in median monthly housing costs.

The state’s “housing wage” – the hourly pay necessary to afford a two-bedroom apartment – rose from $23.02 in 2014 to $24.29, the eighth highest in the U.S.

The survey showed only 11.3 percent of all homes in the state are affordable.

Following an hour-long sit-in at her office last week, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp held a closed-door meeting with about 20 members of a pro-workers' organization to discuss their concerns about stolen wages and violation of their free speech rights and what they called police misconduct. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus sent this report:
Mayor Harp and Police Chief Dean Esserman met with members of Unidad Latina en Accion/New Haven Workers Association. 

They asked for a meeting because a few weeks ago one of their leaders was arrested while picketing outside Goodfellas restaurant, even though he wasn't doing anything different than the group has done for the past ten years. Goodfellas has settled many wage theft cases and is currently being sued again by former workers.

After the meeting, the Mayor said: “We're going to be looking into some of the allegations around the way our police handled the situation. And we will meet again. I've offered that two of their members can sit on our Police and Community Task Force, because they have some specific issues relative to the police, so their point of view should certainly be reflected in the task force recommendations and reports."

Several members of ULA said they felt progress had been made, but they want to see if the mayor's promises bear fruit.

The Suffolk Times reports that a proposal to allow heavy freight trucks traveling from I-95 in Connecticut to the North Fork via Cross Sound Ferry has been eliminated.

After months of back and forth, the Cross Sound Enhancement Project has been dropped.

The project was proposed to improve three ferryboats so there could be a 25 percent increase in trucks coming from New London to Orient and through the North Fork to the Long Island Expressway.

The plan hit its first roadblock in April, and less than six weeks after residents raised objections it was dropped from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council’s Regional Freight Plan, but it was still contained in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s freight plan.

Congressman Lee Zeldin worked with the USDOT to outline the issues on the North Fork and on November 17 the plan was removed from the federal program.

The Suffolk County Legislature has made it easier for businesses in the county to apply for loans for renewable energy projects.

On November 17, the legislature voted unanimously to authorize the county to become a municipal member of the Energize NY program, a measure spearheaded by South Fork Legislator Jay Schneiderman.

The Energy Improvement Corporation, a not-for-profit local development corporation, will provide loans to commercial and non-profit property owners for renewable energy systems with interest rates that range from 4 to 6 percent.

The loan is repaid through an annual charge on the county portion of the property tax bill.
Most existing commercial and not-for-profit buildings are eligible for this program.

Wednesday, December 2  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser and Tony Ernst.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut community colleges security staff to get weapons; judge rules on Oklahoma tribe’s high interest lending companies; the campaign for GMO labeling in New York; and, a Federal plan proposed to protect a North Shore Long Island beach.

In the wake of mass shootings around the country, security staff at Connecticut's community colleges are expected to get approval Thursday to carry weapons on campus.

The publicly funded community colleges in Connecticut, which enroll 53,000 students, are currently weapons free. This prohibition extends to security personnel at every college except Naugatuck Valley.

The state's four-year state universities already allow certain security staff to carry guns. Nationwide, three-quarters of campuses have armed security, according to a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The regents, the governing board for the state's community colleges and four regional universities, are set to vote Thursday on a policy that would allow those certified through the Police Officers Standards Training to carry a gun during their shift. 

A Connecticut judge found that Oklahoma’s Otoe-Missouria Tribal Nation, which owns two payday lending companies, is immune from an enforcement action by the Banking Department. 

The Department had imposed fines of from $100,000 to $700,000 on the tribe-owned lending companies for violating the state’s small-loan law.

The lenders charged Connecticut borrowers annual interest rates ranging from about 200 to 450 percent on loans of less than $15,000. 

Connecticut law caps loans for less than $15,000 at 12 percent.

The tribe declined to comply with a Banking Department’s cease and desist order last October and filed an administrative appeal in Connecticut Superior Court against the Banking Department, claiming sovereign immunity.

Superior Court Judge Carl Schuman agreed that a hearing on the case could offend the tribe’s sovereign immunity.

Bruce Adams, general counsel to the Banking Department, said that the case will likely take many twists and turns before all the issues are resolved because they are complex and do not involve settled law.

Legislators, consumer advocates and environmentalists are pledging to step up their campaign for a New York State law to require labels identifying foods with genetically modified ingredients. 

Andrea Sears reports for the New York News Connection:
Legislators, consumer advocates and environmentalists are pledging to step up their campaign for a state law to require labels identifying foods with genetically modified ingredients.

Gathering today at City Hall in New York City, they're vowing to make the bipartisan GMO labeling bill a top priority in the 2016 legislative session. 

Alex Beauchamp, northeast region director for Food and Water Watch, said GMO labeling has broad popular support.

"Consumers overwhelmingly want this information  and (there's) a New York Times poll, over 93 percent of Americans saying, 'We want GMO labeling.' This bill would give us that, and it's time for Albany to listen to the people."

About 80 percent of processed foods already contain GMOs, and regulators and manufacturers say they are safe. According to Beauchamp, however, the system for approving GMOs as safe for consumers is broken.

"The only safety testing done is done by the companies that are seeking approval," he said, "but obviously those companies have a vested interest in the crops being approved."

The impact of GMOs on human health is not the only issue. There are serious concerns about genetically modified seeds being introduced into the environment.

Beauchamp said the Food and Drug Administration recently gave a green light to a brand of GMO salmon.

"This is the first genetically engineered animal approved for human consumption," he said, "and there's obviously huge risks of those salmon escaping and breeding with wild fish, which then has implications for wild salmon stock."

The GMO labeling bill, which didn't reach the floor of either house for a vote in the last legislative session, now has 70 co-sponsors in the Assembly and 27 in the Senate.

For New York News Connection, Andrea Sears reporting.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released its long-awaited feasibility study to restore the dunes of the north shore Long Island village of Asharoken.

Asharoken is an isthmus linking Eatons Neck to Northport and the rest of Long Island. 

Asharoken Avenue, which runs through the village and along the 2.4-mile stretch where the project would take place, is a critical evacuation route in emergencies.

The tentative $23.7 million proposal would initially add 600,000 cubic yards of sand but also require public access to the much of the village’s privately owned beachfront property.

That legal requirement is causing many property owners to oppose the plan despite the risk of property destruction from another big storm. 

The Corps report included warnings against not addressing the beach erosion. 

Maintaining the beach would require adding 80,000 cubic yards of sand to the shoreline about every five years, with total costs projected to reach $57.8 million

Public comment is open until January 8. The Corps then is to develop a final recommended plan, likely by the latter half of 2016. 

 Tuesday, December 1 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, Chris Cadra, and Tony Ernst.)

In the news tonight: outgoing Bridgeport mayor issues retroactive raises; Connecticut Senator Blumenthal calls for end of companies censoring bad reviews; former New York Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver is found guilty in corruption trial; Greenport Village considers North Ferry charge for road repairs.

The Connecticut Post reports: 
Outgoing Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch gave himself, his supervisors and political appointments hundreds of thousands of dollars in retroactive raises on Monday. 

Incoming Mayor Joe Ganim, who takes office today, said the raises “may impact the tax rate and could cause layoffs.”

Finch said, “This was a contract that was bargained in good faith and I’m doing my job as chief executive. It’s all within the budget.”

Last month the City Council tabled the five-year contract for the 150-member supervisors’ union. They’ve been without a contract for two years because approval would also mean raises for 60 non-union political positions, including Finch, his chief of staff, his communications director and various department heads.

City supervisors’ union lawyer Edward Gavin said the union and city reached a tentative contract agreement in October. The council had 30 days to either accept or reject it. If the council fails to vote within that time frame, then the mayor has to approve the agreement.

Under the new contract, all the employees retroactively got 3 percent raises as of July 1, 2013, 3 percent as of July 1, 2014, and 2.5 percent as of July 1, 2015.

On Cyber Monday, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal touted legislation aimed at ending companies from censoring bad online reviews by customers. 

Blumenthal said a number of companies seek to “censor, scrub and sanitize” bad online reviews by suing consumers who post them. Consumers generally don’t read the fine print when signing non-disparagement clauses. 

Under the legislation, the Federal Trade Commission would be the lead enforcement agency. A provision, insisted by Blumenthal, provides state attorneys-general to play a role in enforcement.

The U.S. Senate Committee On Commerce, Science and Transportation passed the bill on November 18. The full Senate could vote on the bill before the end of the year. A similar version of the legislation was introduced in the House.

Former New York Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver has been found guilty of all seven counts against him by a jury following a month-long criminal trial in Manhattan, according to the Albany Times Union.

In January U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office released a 35-page complaint alleging the lawmaker used his position to collect $4 million in bogus legal fees from two law firms — one that represents asbestos exposure victims, the other specializing in helping real estate developers lower their property taxes. 

Federal prosecutors alleged Silver was paid in return for bending state policy to benefit developers, and directed state funds to a New York City doctor who referred mesothelioma patients to the personal-injury law firm where Silver is of counsel. 

A grand jury later formally indicted him, and the government added an additional charge.

Silver’s conviction means he automatically vacates the Assembly seat he has held since he was first elected in 1976. He was speaker from 1994 until earlier this year, when he agreed to step down from the leadership post following his arrest.

Greenport Village wants to charge drivers traveling to the North Ferry to help pay for road repairs.

At Monday’s meeting, the Village Board unanimously agreed to have village attorney Joe Prokop research the legality of the idea.

Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said charging a fee – a dollar per car – may be necessary since ferry traffic has put a strain on village roads.

The Suffolk County Legislature must approve fares charged by North Ferry and South Ferry, both docked at Shelter Island.

North Ferry currently charges $11 one-way and $16 for a same day return trip. Each passenger is charged an additional $2, up to a max of three passengers.

In 2009, a U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a Connecticut court ruling that the Bridgeport Port Authority was unconstitutionally collecting taxes from the ferry company and passengers on the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company. However, it ruled that the fee was excessive.