Saturday, December 2, 2017

December 2017

Thursday December 21, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Melinda Tuhus, Ramzi Babouder and Mike Merli)


In the news tonight: 15 year-old Jayson Negron, killed by Bridgeport police on May 9th, honored and remembered at holiday gathering; Connecticut braces for federal health care cuts; states settle with pharmaceutical company over deceptive marketing; and, Suffolk County’s plastic bag law will take effect on January 1st
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More than 50 supporters of a family whose son was shot and killed in May by a Bridgeport police officer gathered Wednesday night to honor the teenager’s life. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus was there:
Unarmed Jayson Negron, 15, was killed by Officer James Boulay after a traffic stop. Video taken disputes the police version of events and supporters of Negron are calling for Boulay’s firing. He is currently on paid administrative leave.

Jayson’s older sister, Jazmarie Melendez, welcomed everyone who came and thanked them as they decorated a Christmas tree and wrote notes on cards for her mother. She said they’re still fighting for justice for Jayson: “But today’s event is a little bit more about family, and more about love. And it kinda is a moment when you can stop and think about the beautiful times instead of the tragedy that happened here at this spot.”

Activists are calling on State’s Attorney Maureen Platt to indict Boulay for murder. The investigation is ongoing.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
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Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Though it doesn’t seem likely, Connecticut’s congressional delegation is taking every opportunity to remind their Republican colleagues, who control Congress, that they should fund the community health centers and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The two programs expired at the end of September and Congress has failed to take action.
In 2016, the sixteen federally qualified community health centers in Connecticut received $41 million from the Community Health Center Fund and they served more than 375,000 patients.
The Connecticut Department of Social Services sent out notices last week to parents and caregivers for 17,000 children and teens in low-income households who received what’s called Husky B. 
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The Albany Times-Union reports:
States have reached a settlement with the maker of drugs to treat stroke, blood pressure, and other ailments over the alleged deceptive marketing of those products, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Schneiderman and the attorneys general from 49 other states and the District of Columbia announced yesterday a $13.5 million agreement with Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc., resolving alleged deceptive and misleading marketing of usage beyond what is indicated on the labels of four of its prescription drugs: Micardis, Aggrenox, Atrovent, and Combivent.
The allegations involve similar conduct to that alleged in a 2012 settlement between BIPI and the federal government and a select group of states bringing Medicaid claims, according to company spokeswoman Erin Crew. She said the period during which the alleged conduct occurred ended in 2008. 
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The Suffolk Times Reports:
On Jan. 1, a 2016 bill that imposes a small fee on plastic bag use in Suffolk County will take effect. Shoppers will pay a nickel for every non-reusable paper or plastic shopping bag provided by a store. Shoppers can avoid the fee by bringing their own reusable bags. Fees go to the retailers. 
The bill was proposed shortly after another 2016 bill, which sought an outright ban, failed to gain enough support in the county Legislature.
Exceptions to the law will be plastic bags without handles that are used to hold “produce, meats, poultry, fish, dairy, dry goods or other non-prepackaged food items.” Bags carrying prescription drugs and garment bags are also exempt.
Environmentalist John Turner of the Seatuck Environmental Association commented: “Given the fact that a five cent fee will likely reduce plastic bag use by anywhere from 60 percent to two-thirds, we’ll take two-thirds of a loaf over nothing anytime.” 

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December 20, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Danniella Tompos)

In the news tonight: State’s highest court decides Bridgeport can be sued in fatal fire; substantial grant awarded to local after school program in the Park City;  emergency meetings in NY regarding re-certifying handgun licenses;  and, Cuomo vetoes Legislature’s pine barrens designation
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CT Post Reports: 
The Connecticut Supreme Court has overturned a lower court’s decision, clearing the way for Bridgeport to be sued for failing to conduct annual inspections on a public housing unit that caught fire in 2009. That fire killed Tiana Black and her three young children. 
Then-Fire Chief Brian Rooney admitted the marshal’s office did not have the resources to inspect the city’s public housing units. 

Lawyers representing the family of Tiana Black are prepared to begin trial. In their appeal, Bridgeport attorneys said they are exploring other options, adding: we think the Supreme Court’s decision “expands municipal liability beyond what the legislature intended.”

A fire marshal's report declared the fire started shortly after midnight on November 13, 2009, when a gas stove burner that had been left on, ignited the kitchen cabinets. The report stated Black had been intoxicated at the time, which "would likely have impaired her ability to respond appropriately to the initial alarm.”

The deceased all succumbed to smoke inhalation.
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The City of Bridgeport has announced the “Lighthouse Program” has won a substantial two-year, state-funded after school grant worth nearly 500,000 dollars.  The Lighthouse Program is nationally recognized for facilitating after-school activities to benefit young people and their families, both after school and during the summer.

The program brings together community sponsorship in 24 Bridgeport public schools to provide over 2800 students daily with a safe and supportive environment. 

Lighthouse applied for three state grants to support after school activities in nine locations.  All three grants were awarded the maximum amount available for each, $161,960.  Director of Youth Services Tammy Papa said: “We thank the state for having confidence in our ability to serve children and families in a safe and supportive environment.”                              
                                       
In total, Lighthouse will be receiving $485,880.00 for each of two years barring any state decrease in funding during the second year of the biennial budget. 
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Times Union Reports:  
County clerks across the state need an emergency meeting with Gov. Cuomo about a Jan. 31 deadline for re-certifying handgun licenses under the 2013 SAFE Act gun control law. The law requires recertification of handgun licenses every five years. So far, they’ve received 204,080 re-certifications, which is a fraction of the 1.25 million permits across the state.

Many of the pre-2013 licenses are in file folders or index cards in clerk’s offices so checking them could turn into an overwhelming task for County clerks. While the law calls for automatic revocation if a handgun isn’t recertified, that task, as well as issuing the licenses, has always fallen to local judges.

The law also called for creation of a statewide ammunition registry, but the data base has never been built. The Cuomo Administration struck an agreement to put the registry on hold until the Senate released funds for it. 
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Newsday reports: 
Gov. Cuomo has vetoed a bill approved by the New York State Legislature in June, that would have expanded the core pine barrens designation to more than 1,000 acres in Shoreham and Mastic in Suffolk County, shielding those lands from development.

Cuomo said the potential to block a solar-energy proposal in Suffolk County was a primary reason for the action. The governor maintained he is dedicated to preserving the Long Island pine barrens and other open space on Long Island. However, this bill is not the appropriate avenue to accomplish that “worthy goal.”

According to Newsday, the Town of Brookhaven had offered to swap 75 acres so that Middle Island Solar, the company looking to build an array of solar panels in Suffolk County, could build on a new site while allowing the pine barrens expansion.

The New York League of Conservation Voters supported the veto, saying “preservation and renewable energy should not be pitted against each other.”
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Tuesday December 19, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, Alyssa Katz, and Gretchen Swanson)

In the news tonight: Fairfield considers fund to boost affordable housing; Lyme disease scientists develop faster, more accurate tests; Cuomo considers New York's tipped wage; Southold Town awarded grant to replace old pipes
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Fairfield Citizen reports: 
Fairfield’s legislative body is considering an ordinance to establish a housing fund dedicated to increasing the town’s affordable housing opportunities.

Representative Town Meeting member Heather Dean, one of the ordinance’s five sponsors, says Fairfield is “woefully in need of quality, safe, aesthetically pleasing affordable housing.”  

According to Dean, the ordinance would create a fund to collect grant monies available for such purposes as building affordable housing and allowing Fairfield to navigate where and how building takes place.  Money would also come from building department fees, inclusionary zoning fees, monetary gifts, loans, and state and federal agencies.

Fund money would be available for transfer to any other town account. Any proposed expenditures must first receive approval from the Affordable Housing Committee and the Community and Economic Development director before going to the Board of Selectmen for final approval. 
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Newsday reports: 
In the current issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, scientists are recommending for nationwide use two new technologies—that could dramatically shorten the time it takes to diagnose Lyme disease.  Neither has a marquee name. They are called: next-generation enzyme immunoassays; and single multiplex assays—and can help provide positive results in less time with greater accuracy.

Current Lyme disease testing protocols, in use since 1994, may take as many as three weeks. Patients run the risk of getting sicker while waiting. Lyme disease can affect major organs, the heart, brain and nervous system.  

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 300,000 people in the United States develop Lyme disease annually, with 95 percent of infections in 14 states including New York. 

Recommendations come from leading experts who met last year at Banbury Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The two new diagnostic technologies are already on the market. 
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The Albany Times-Union reports: 
Governor Andrew Cuomo says New York state will hold a series of hearings on the minimum wage for tipped workers. The tipped minimum wage is lower than regular minimum wage, because those workers also receive tips.  

Cuomo says the difference in wages hurts immigrants and women who make up the majority of tipped workers. In 2014, a wage board recommendation led to boosting their wage.

An upstate waiter who made $8.10 per hour would be due $1.60 extra an hour if they don’t make that amount in tips, bringing them up to the upstate $9.70 minimum wage.
The tipped wage increase preceded a phased-in increase of the regular minimum wage to $15 downstate and $12.50 upstate.

Some restaurant owners have abolished tipping in response to wage increases, and servers in some places have opposed tipped wage increases, fearing customers would end up tipping less.
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The Suffolk Times Reports:
The Town of Southold received a grant of more than $600,000 from the State of New York under the Lead Service Line Replacement Program, which is a key component of New York’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017. 

The funding is part of a $20 million statewide grant from the state Department of Health to improve the quality of residential drinking water by replacing older pipes that may contain lead. 

Governor Cuomo stated: “These critical improvements to New York’s drinking water infrastructure are vital to protecting public health and to laying the foundation for future growth and economic prosperity in these communities.”  Eligible homeowners can have their water tested once it is verified that they are not on a well system.

Since this is still in the beginning phases, there is no set start time for work to begin.
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Monday December 18, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson, Neil Tolhurst and Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: Connecticut minority students disciplined at higher rate; flu activity in Connecticut widespread; sex workers rally in New Haven and; Cuomo proposes plan to steer LI youths from gangs
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The Connecticut Post reports:
December data from Connecticut's Department of Education shows students of color are expelled and suspended at disproportionately high rates compared to their white peers. A student is expelled when he or she is excluded from school for more than 10 consecutive days in a school year. 

Four out of five students expelled were high school students and less than 2 percent were elementary students. One-fifth of the expulsions occurred in the state’s neediest school districts, mostly in large cities: Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Norwalk and Stamford. Expelled students have a greater risk of academic failure, dropping out and ending up in the juvenile justice system.

Forty-six percent of expelled students get homework assignments, 14 percent get tutoring and 23 percent are put into an alternative education setting. Nearly one in 10 gets nothing.

A new state law requires the state Board of Education to address this by developing guidelines for educating expelled students, including the kind of instruction and number of hours to be provided. 
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The Connecticut Department of Public Health has classified flu activity in the state as widespread.  Outbreaks of influenza occurred in at least half the regions of the state. 

254 people tested positive for the flu as of Dec. 9, up from 197 the previous week. There also have been 98 patients hospitalized with the flu, and one flu-associated death.
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A few dozen people braved the cold late Sunday afternoon to rally in New Haven's Fair Haven neighborhood to remember sex workers who have died or disappeared. They called for the city to do more to support the workers. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports: 
One woman came whose daughter disappeared on the streets of New Haven 14 years ago. Another read, her voice breaking, the names of sex workers around the country and beyond who have been murdered.

The event was organized by SWAN – Sex Workers and Allies Network. Members use their own money to hand out warm hats and gloves, personal care products and coffee cards to women working the streets. They want the city to get involved in helping.

One woman said she was a former sex worker: “So I completely understand the difficulties of living on the streets, the violence and all that. I think it’s just important to stress that people out here are people – they are not sex workers, they are not addicts, they are not junkies – they are people who are working to survive.”

SWAN and the Connecticut Bail Fund are working to bail out some of the women who’ve been arrested.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
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Governor Cuomo has proposed spending $11.5 million on Long Island to thwart gang recruitment. His plan would expand after-school programs, vocational training and education efforts to give vulnerable youths the tools they need to resist the lure of street gangs like MS-13.

The proposal approaches gang violence from a community-engagement angle instead of being strictly focused on law enforcement. The plan would build on previous efforts to beef up policing in gang-plagued communities with prevention-based initiatives.

Cuomo’s office said MS-13 is responsible for an uptick in violent crime in Suffolk County. Authorities previously said they have linked 11 killings in Brentwood and Central Islip in the past 15 months to MS-13.

The plan would: expand after-school programs on Long Island; boost job and vocational assistance for youths; provide: locally run anti-gang education programs for middle and high school students and social services for at-risk youth including: medical and mental health support, addiction treatment, counseling and language skills training; and,create a Community Assistance Team of State law enforcement personnel. The funding plan must be approved by lawmakers and included in the budget. 
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Friday December 15, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and John Iannuzzi)

In the news tonight: Poor Connecticut Neighborhoods Exposed to Chemical Danger;
Regents OK Connecticut community college consolidation; Suffolk County Water Authority files complaint against chemical manufacturers; nonprofit raises 8 million to purchase Sag Harbor Cinema
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The Center for Effective Government, or CEG, released a report titled “Living in the Shadow of Danger: Poverty, Race and Unequal Chemical Facility Hazards” and in it Connecticut, and 25 other states, earned a “D” for inequities. States were judged based on “disparities faced” by people living near these facilities.

The Connecticut Post reports Bridgeport, Norwalk and Danbury manufacturing plants currently use such large quantities of hazardous chemicals that they must submit disaster response plans to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The CEG says children of color under age 12 living in Connecticut were 2.2 times more likely than white children to live within a mile of one of these facilities. However, little can be done because many of the facilities were built under old zoning laws and are protected.

The EPA estimates in 2015 that 150 “catastrophic” accidents occurred nationwide at regulated facilities.
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CT NewsJunkie reports:
Connecticut’s Board of Regents approved a plan to combine the state’s 12 community colleges into one college with 12 separate campuses in three regions.

The consolidation will shed 190 positions and save the Connecticut State University System about $28 million annually over the next four years. An additional $13 million will be saved by finding efficiencies across the whole system, including the combined community colleges, the four regional colleges, and the Charter Oak online college.

Faculty and staff, largely opposed to the consolidation, are concerned that the consolidation would cost them their identity and services.

Connecticut State University System President Mark Ojakian says the state is facing an $8 billion deficit over the next four years, so the University System cannot continue to expect funding increases. He says if changes are not made to the community college system, they will have to decide which colleges stay open and which ones close.
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East End Beacon reports:
Suffolk County Water Authority has filed civil complaints against manufacturers of chemicals contaminating the county’s water supply. This comes after the U.S. Department of Defense refused to pay for work the county’s water authority and health department did to protect the public from contaminants in private wells surrounding Gabreski Airport.

SCWA Chairman James Gaughran says: “The ratepayers…should not have to pay for the reckless behavior of companies who knew or should have known about these dangers.”

One complaint charges that the 3M Company; Buckeye Fire Equipment Company; Chemguard Inc.; Tyco Fire Products LP; and National Foam, Inc. knew or should have known the firefighting foam they made, distributed, or sold is dangerous to human health and the environment. The second complaint includes the same claims against Dow Chemical Company, Ferro Corporation, Vulcan Materials Corporation, Proctor & Gamble and Shell Oil Company for their products—primarily industrial degreasers, laundry detergents and other household products.

SCWA is currently testing a treatment system, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
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A nonprofit dedicated to restoring the Sag Harbor Cinema has raised the money needed to buy the historic theater destroyed in a fire last December.

According to Newsday, the Sag Harbor Partnership was awarded a $1.4 million Empire State Economic Development grant. An anonymous $500,000 donation was also received, bringing the total raised to more than $8 million.

The fa├žade of the theater was demolished shortly after the blaze, though its iconic neon sign was saved and the badly damaged theater still stands.

The Partnership bought the property in April for $8 million from its owner. It will need to raise an additional $5 to $6 million to rebuild the structure.
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Thursday December 14, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: five years ago, the Sandy Hook massacre sparked a new political movement; Bridgeport Mayor echoes activists’ calls for release of Jayson Negron video; deadline tomorrow for New York residents hoping to have health insurance starting by the first of the year; and, MTA approves building Long Island Rail Road Third Track.
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The Connecticut Mirror reports:
The massacre in Newtown five years ago today did more than give new momentum to the gun control movement – it also created a unique, new political movement.

About 400 members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense In America, a group that formed the day after the massacre, say they are interested in running for office and many may do so next year.

Thirteen volunteers for the group ran for office this year, and nine of them won seats, including Heather Haley, who in February was asked to fill a vacancy on the Redding Board of Education and in November was elected to the seat. Other political winners from Moms Demand Action included a New Hampshire state representative and a city council member in a small town in Texas.

This year, some of the Moms Demand Action volunteers have expressed interest in running for Congress as well.
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Connecticut Post reports:
More than seven months after Bridgeport Connecticut police officer James Boulay shot and killed 15 year-old Jayson Negron, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim has requested the State’s Attorney’s Office release “any video and other information” related to an investigation of the incident. Ganim’s letter is addressed to Waterbury State’s Attorney Maureen Platt, who is overseeing the state’s investigation into the case.

David McGuire, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, remains skeptical about Ganim’s effort. In his letter, Ganim cites the Freedom of Information Act.  McGuire noted that under the Freedom of Information Act, law enforcement agencies are not required to release information related to an open investigation.

By citing the Freedom of Information Act, McGuire said, Ganim has offered the State’s Attorney “an escape hatch.” McGuire added: “That line (in Ganim’s letter) is everything. It’s essentially a community management stunt.” He credited the coalition of community members and activist groups that have been fighting for justice for Jayson, for keeping the pressure on Ganim and Bridgeport Police Chief Armando “AJ” Perez. 
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Southold Local reports:
Tomorrow, Friday December 15, 2017, is the final day to sign up for a health insurance plan through the New York State marketplace for coverage starting January 1. 

New York state residents can create an account and sign up for a plan at nystateofhealth.ny.gov, or by calling the state’s marketplace customer service center at 1-855-355-5777.

The customer service center phone hours of operation are: Monday through Friday from 8 am to 8 pm, and Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm.

Though the Trump administration cut the open enrollment period in half this year – from 90 days to 45 days – New York has extended the enrollment period for its own marketplace to January 31 to take effect March 1 for 2018 coverage.
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Newsday reports:
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has approved a $1.9 billion contract for the design and construction of a third track on the Long Island Rail Road’s Main Line from Floral Park to Hicksville. The vote Wednesday, marked the culmination of decades of efforts by the railroad to boost capacity through its Main Line, through which, about half of its customers travel. 

On the Main Line, there are two tracks. In the morning both tracks carry riders to the city.  In the evening the same tracks carry riders out of the city. The project will allow more trains going in the reverse direction. It will also eliminate seven grade crossings, renovate several stations and add six parking garages. 

Construction is expected to begin next year and take up to four years. 

Before the vote several MTA board members expressed concern about taking on another multibillion-dollar project while dealing with the ballooning costs for the $10.2 billion plan to link the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal. 
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Wednesday December 13, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN Volunteers Danniella Tompos and Liz Becker)

In the news tonight:  Connecticut Supreme Court agrees to hear appeal in Bridgeport Primary Case; Another Massive Affordable Housing Project to be Built in Milford; a call for more state school aid as New York budget deficit looms; and, time running out for New Yorkers to choose a health insurance policy 
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CT Post Reports: 
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments next  week, in the case for a new primary in the city’s North End council district number 133. 

This is just the latest in a saga that began when Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, found fraud by the head of the Bridgeport Democratic Party, Mario Testa, in the November 14th primary. That election was the second, following the initial primary in which candidate Robert Keeley lost to DTC endorsed candidate, Jeannette Herron by one absentee ballot vote that showed up during a recount. 

The City DTC’s manipulation of absentee ballots has long been scrutinized. In this latest case, Town Committee Chairman Testa’s personal use of a police officer to run absentee ballots is being called into question. Officer Paul Nikola testified he was ordered to drive around in his police car picking up absentee ballots at addresses provided by Testa, including from a mailbox. Allegedly all of this occurred with Chief of Police AJ Perez blessing. 
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The Milford Planning and Zoning Board voted this month to approve Grillo Services LLC proposal to construct a 342-unit apartment complex at 553 West Avenue.  

According to the Milford Mirror, the Planning and Zoning Board wanted the developer to designate 40 percent of these units as affordable. The developer said the city could not legally make that request, since state law only mandates that 30 percent of units be considered affordable.  

Unless 10 percent of a community's housing stock is considered affordable under state statutes, the developer has the leverage against the municipality. With more affordable units the city could move closer to obtaining a four-year moratorium on affordable housing projects.  

The developer agreed to designate 108 units as affordable, which is slightly higher than the 30 percent required by the state. Milford could reject the project but in the end it would lose on appeal and taxpayers would pay the legal fees. 
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The New York Regents, the state’s education policymakers, are asking for an extra $1.6 billion in state school aid next year. As reported by the Albany Times-Union, the request amounts to a 6.3 percent increase over last year's funding. 

Supporters say it's justified, taking into account the rising needs of students and the growth in fixed costs for heath care, pensions and salaries. State education officials said the request helps fulfill a longstanding promise to fully fund schools and emphasizes high-return initiatives, like early childhood education, that would help save the state money in the long run.

The Regents last year requested a $2.1 billion increase in school aid, and got $1.1 billion. But this year New York is facing a projected budget deficit of more than $4 billion. Experts say the proposed federal tax plan and potential for more than $1 billion in lost federal health care subsidies could have a devastating impact on the state. 
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NewsHealth Reports:  
New Yorkers who want to choose a health insurance policy with coverage starting Jan. 1 have until Friday to sign up on the state insurance marketplace. The marketplace, nystateofhealth.ny.gov, enrolls individuals and small businesses in both subsidized and unsubsidized health plans, and is the only place for eligible people to get subsidized coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  

People who already have a health plan through the marketplace can be automatically re-enrolled in their existing plan, and have till Friday to switch plans. Households earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for Medicaid, and up to 200 percent for the Essential Plan. 

On Wednesday and Thursday representatives of the state marketplace will hold informational events across the state to help people enroll. The Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council, South Nassau Community Hospital and the Baldwin Public Library will host additional events Wednesday and Thursday. Call the Council at 631-656-9783 for more information. 
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Tuesday December 12, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, Alyssa Katz, and Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: Yale union, students petition university to divest from fossil fuel; New Haven’s LEAP receives grant to continue programs; civil rights group sues Suffolk sheriff over ICE detentions; Cuomo vetoes Montaukett recognition
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 Yale graduate teachers’ union Local 33 teamed with an undergraduate group to deliver more than 1,000 petitions calling for Yale to divest from fossil fuels. 
WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:
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Three students spoke about what they called the Yale administration’s hypocrisy in promoting itself as a leader in the fight against climate change while investing at least $678 million in oil, gas and coal companies.

Zach Montas is a first-year student at Yale and a member of Fossil Free Yale. He said the university focuses on sustainability while profiting off climate-destroying investments, putting profits over people and the planet.

“Yale would rather have its students believe that individual steps like recycling, carpooling or taking shorter showers will solve the emissions that have led to CO2 concentrations of over 400 parts per million. It is past the time of accepting this as widespread social doctrine.”
The petitions they delivered called on Yale to disclose all its fossil fuel investments, then divest from them, and to invest in projects that are socially just and environmentally sustainable. [They also called on the administration to join dozens of other schools that have pledged to uphold the Paris climate accord despite Donald Trump's rejection of it.] 

Yale does not comment on specific investments.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
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Connecticut Post reports:
The non-profit Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership, or LEAP, received a $150,000 grant from The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. Director of Development Rachel Kline Brown says the grant is “a very big vote of confidence.”

LEAP provides free programs for children 7 to 12 years old, including a free summer camp and after-school enrichment programs. The organization also provides jobs and job training for young people. This summer, LEAP programs served 1,100 kids. 

About 20 percent of LEAP’s budget comes from the state. According to Brown, the grant is a “significant chunk” of their budget. 
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Southold Local reports: 
The New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit against Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office Monday, arguing that the sheriff lacks authority to honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests.

According to a NYCLU press release, the lawsuit seeks the release of Susai Francis who is currently being held for ICE in Suffolk County jail following his guilty plea to disorderly conduct. He otherwise would have been released after making his plea.

The Sheriff’s Office had stopped enforcing ICE detainer requests in 2014. But after President Trump’s election, the sheriff reversed that policy. According to the NYCLU, that has led to a wave of detentions. 

NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman called on local law enforcement to “reject the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda.” 
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The East Hampton Star reports: 
For the second time in four years, Governor Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have led to state recognition of the Montaukett Indian Nation. 

The bill, sponsored by State Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Senator Kenneth LaValle, passed the Assembly and Senate easily during the summer. A judge had declared the Montauketts extinct in 1910, citing dilution of the tribe’s bloodlines through intermarriage. 

The decision represented the culmination of a years-long effort to remove the Montauketts by Arthur Benson, who had purchased much of Montauk from the East Hampton Town Trustees, and Austin Corbin, president of the Long Island Rail Road, who planned to extend the tracks from Bridgehampton to Montauk.

The legislation states: “The Montauketts seek to restore their acknowledgement and recognition by the State of New York which was improperly removed.” 
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Monday December 11, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Phil Hall and Lee Yuen Lew)

On the news tonight: help for financially distressed Connecticut towns; MGM and Connecticut tribes battle over Bridgeport casino; Long Island Congressman allies with Bannon after Ryan quits fund-raiser; and more offshore wind sites identified
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 CT News Junkie reports:
The newly formed Municipal Accountability Review Board met for the first time Friday. The Board will be in charge of helping extremely distressed municipalities like West Haven and Hartford get their finances under control. 

As part of the recently approved budget, the Board has $20 million in contract assistance and $28 million in restructuring funds that can be used to help extremely distressed municipalities. 

The Board has informed West Haven officials that their city qualifies for assistance under Tier III.  It expects the town will apply or assistance. The City of Hartford has yet to seek its assistance, but would also qualify as a Tier III community. The Board under a Tier III arrangement has the ability to reject two collective bargaining agreements if it felt they would have a negative impact on city finances.

The Hartford City Council was to vote today whether to apply for assistance from the Board. 
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MGM Resorts International is putting new pressure on Governor Malloy and legislative leaders to open the bidding process on future Connecticut casinos beyond the state’s Indian tribes. 

The Fairfield County Business Journal reports that MGM Resorts International executive Uri Clinton sent a letter to the governor acknowledging that the respective tribal owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun expressed interest in a Bridgeport casino. Clinton noted that his company has already submitted a proposal to open a $675 million casino resort in the Steel Point section of Bridgeport and has gained support for this project.

Clinton pointed to the state ban on non-tribal gaming and said his company “would welcome the opportunity to compete for a Connecticut commercial gaming license, along with the tribes and any other interested parties.” 

According to the Connecticut Post, a tribes’ spokesman said the MGM project “comes with a $1 billion price tag for Connecticut - and ours does not.”  He was referring to money the state could lose in gaming payments, under a compact that gives it 25 percent of the tribes’ slot machine revenue in exchange for the right to operate without other competitors.
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27east.com reports:
Stephen Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and current Breitbart News executive chairman, will headline a fundraising event for U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin in Manhattan on Thursday. This follows the decision by Paul Ryan to cancel plans for attending the rally after Zeldin opposed the G.O.P.’s tax plan.

Zeldin and the event’s other two featured guests, Republican businessmen Wayne Berman and Arthur Schwartz are strongly pro-Israel. But a number of prominent pro-Israel organizations — including the Anti-Defamation League, and J Street — advocated for Mr. Bannon’s removal from the White House until he left in August.

But Mr. Zeldin defended Mr. Bannon in an email on Wednesday. Zeldin praised Bannon for combatting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel on college campuses and his support for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and decertifying the Iran nuclear deal.
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Newsday reports:
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management or BOEM, has identified a swath of the South Shore 17 miles off the coast of the South Fork as a potential area for new offshore wind farms. If selected, the site would encompass over 200 thousand acres of ocean waters 15 nautical miles from land, from Center Moriches to Montauk.

This is in addition to the LIPA approved a 90-megawatt project off Montauk and  the New York State plan for 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind, including a project 15 miles from Long Beach.

The federal sites differ from those proposed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority in October. Since the sites all are in federal waters, a federal plan would trump any state guideline.

BOEM says it will accept information and site nominations before a 45-day public comment period about the sites. The process of identifying those sites will begin early next year. 
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Friday December 8, 2017  (Thanks to news volunteers Trace Alford and John Iannuzzi)

In the news this evening: Connecticut schools in violation of safety laws; Malloy says state transportation fund at a crossroads; East Hampton fights pine beetle infestation; Suffolk judge texted prosecutors from bench, could face sanctions
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In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shootings five years ago, Connecticut legislators earmarked millions to address safety concerns raised by the grieving community.

A Hartford Courant investigative report suggests that half of Connecticut schools are in violation of some aspect of the law requiring them to submit a School Security & Safety Plan.

The 30-page document developed by the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection should be submitted each September, but state records show that nearly 100 districts haven’t submitted a plan this year. Schools are also supposed to submit records of all crisis management, or “lock down” drills. However last school year, only 52 districts did.

State Representative Andrew Fleischmann told the Courant the legislature is considering inflicting penalties on districts that don’t follow the law. 
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CT NewsJunkie reports: 
Governor Malloy says the state is at a crossroads with funding transportation projects. The state will have to decide what projects to fund, what fares to raise and what services to provide. 

Malloy says: “The state’s Special Transportation Fund can no longer support normal operation or planned levels of capital investment.”  The fund was expected to be insolvent by 2021, but the latest estimates have it running a $38.1 million deficit in 2019.

If the state does nothing to resolve the situation, it would have to reduce highway, rail and bus services, and reduce the capital program by more than $4 billion over the next five years.  As part of the budget, $37.5 million was diverted from the Special Transportation Fund. 

Voters won’t have a chance to weigh in on whether to establish a lockbox on that money until 2018.
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Newsday reports: 
With the infestation of the southern pine beetle in East Hampton Town growing nearly tenfold, town officials said Tuesday they have cut down more than 5,000 trees and are confident they are getting ahead of the problem.

Andrew Drake, a town environmental analyst, said the pine beetle has spread to 7,720 trees, a substantial increase from the 800 infested trees that were discovered in early October.

There are only about 2,500 trees left to cut down and expose to the cold as part of the state-approved method for killing the beetles and preventing further spread. Four subcontracting crews are expected to finish the job within three weeks.

The quick spread prompted Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell to declare a state of emergency in late October. Officials have already spent $160,000 to inspect public and private properties, and cut down infested trees with property owners’ permission. The town board approved doubling that amount in a vote Tuesday.  
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Thursday December 7, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: Connecticut Republican gubernatorial candidates square off in first debate; Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes seek to be included in Bridgeport casino talks; New York State bill would let DACA recipients keep driver’s licenses after program ends; and farmers defeat new Southold winery law.
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Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Seven of the Republican candidates running for Governor of Connecticut squared off in their first debate of the 2018 election cycle, and largely agreed they don’t like “career politicians.” They offered mixed opinions on how they would handle the state’s budget and grow the economy.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, Bob Stefanowski, and David Stemerman were qualified under the threshold set by the Republican Party to join the debate, but did not attend. Those on the debate stage included Stamford Chief Financial Officer Mike Handler, State Representative Prasad Srinivasan of Glastonbury, David Walker, Peter Lumaj, Steve Obsitnik, Senator Toni Boucher of Wilton, and Tim Herbst, a four-term former Trumbull first-selectman.

There are currently 22 candidates vying for the Republican nomination for Governor of Connecticut, and at least six on the Democratic side. The race for Governor is currently being considered a “toss up” by the Cook Political Report, which changed its outlook on the race in June.
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Connecticut News Junkie reports:
The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes are asking Connecticut leaders to include them in any conversations about a potential Bridgeport casino. 

A letter from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Chairman Rodney Butler and Mohegan Tribal Chairman Kevin Brown was sent to House and Senate leaders yesterday.Governor Dannel P. Malloy was copied on the letter, as well as Attorney General George Jepsen.

The letter sought to remind the state about the relationship it has with the tribes and the mutual financial benefit derived from the slot revenue sharing agreements, which “steered more than $7 billion in direct payment to the state’s General Fund and created billions more in other economic activity.”

The letter comes a day after MGM Resorts International’s top executive, Jim Murren, spoke to a Bridgeport business group to promote the company’s proposal for a $675 million resort casino in Bridgeport.
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The Albany Times-Union reports:
Legislation proposed by a Bronx assemblyman would allow undocumented immigrants protected under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) program to keep their driver’s licenses after the program ends in March. Democratic Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda is also proposing a bill to make DACA recipients eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship free state college tuition program. Neither bill has been printed yet. 

According to Sepulveda’s office, the driver’s license bill would bar the state Department of Motor Vehicles from canceling, suspending, or rescinding driver’s licenses issued to DACA recipients.

His office added that the Excelsior Scholarship bill would make recipients eligible for that program without needing to apply and qualify for the state Tuition Assistance or Education Opportunities programs. 
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Newsday reports:
Farmers and winemakers defeated a Southold Town proposal that would have placed tough new requirements on North Fork wineries.

Under the proposed law wineries would have been required to farm a minimum of 10 acres of planted grapes. And wine sold by the facilities would have been required to be made from grapes 80 percent of which were grown on site. Wineries now can have additional crops on 10-acre farms, and wine is required to be made “primarily” from on-premises grapes.

The board voted unanimously to withdraw the proposal to change the law.

Farmers argued the law would have dealt the biggest blow to new wineries that must wait years for newly planted vines to produce usable grapes, as well as those that make wine from locally purchased grapes or lease vineyards. 
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Wednesday December 6, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Liz Becker and Danniella Tompos)

In the news this evening: Connecticut legislators to rethink Medicare Savings Program cuts; Progressive non-profit will support female candidates; Suffolk updates home wastewater law; and Southampton Board votes No on luxury homes and golf course 
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On January first, roughly 86,000 Medicare Savings Program enrollees in Connecticut will no longer be eligible for the program because the income eligibility limits were lowered with passage of the state budget in October.  

As reported by CT Mirror, for some, the program pays for Medicare Part A and B premiums and out-of-pocket costs. As of January 1, that drops by more than half. For others, the program only covers the cost of their premiums. Officials say they are developing projections for total enrollees affected, and warned the forecast could grow. 

State legislators have been inundated with calls about the rollback and were scheduled to meet today with Governor Malloy to discuss it — along with what to do about the $208 million deficit already projected for the new two-year budget.

According to the Office of Fiscal Analysis, the changes will save about $20 million this fiscal year and $61 million in fiscal year 2019. 
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CT News Junkie Reports:
The shock of the 2016 election inspired a progressive women’s advocacy group to get organized. 

Politica CT, the nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)4 organization was co-founded by Jamie Mills, an attorney, and State Senator Beth Bye of West Hartford. It will do issue advocacy work and recruit progressive women to run in targeted elections. Mills said the group is going to be actively seeking women leaders to run for state House and Senate seats next year.

New Haven Representative Robyn Porter said that when women get involved in politics they get to have conversations about things that typically aren’t addressed when the process is dominated by men.

Celinda Lake, of the Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners, said almost 148,000 unmarried women who showed up in the 2016 election are not planning to show up in the 2018 election. But the right issues and the right candidates will be able to bring those voters out.
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Newsday reports:
Suffolk lawmakers approved a bill on Tuesday requiring permits for new septic systems and mandating the installation of septic tanks by those looking to replace cesspools. These are first steps toward updating how the county handles wastewater from un-sewered homes.

The amendments to Suffolk’s sanitary code passed 12-5 with all Democrats and Republican Legislator Thomas Barraga of West Islip voting in favor of it. Other Republicans expressed concern about the fee the county would charge for a permit, and said the law didn’t do enough to improve water quality.

Requiring a septic tank when a cesspool fails will cost an estimated additional $2,000 to $2,500 for a homeowner.There are an estimated 360,000 un-sewered homes in Suffolk County, with about 252,000 using cesspools. As required by the bill, homeowners who replace aging cesspools starting in July 2019 would have to add a septic tank. 

Deputy County Executive Peter Scully said bills requiring advanced septic treatment systems in some cases will be brought before the legislature in 2018.
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27 East reports:
On Tuesday, the Southampton Town Board voted down zoning that would have allowed for luxury housing and a golf course to be developed in East Quogue in western Southampton Town. The Board voted 3 to 2 in favor, but four votes were required to approve a special zoning district for the project to proceed.

The two dissenting board members John Bouvier and Julie Lofstad said they had concerns about the development’s environmental impact. They cited possible contamination of the aquifer, the sole source of the area’s drinking water, due to recycling of contaminated water on the golf course, and a yet to be approved wastewater treatment system.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, and board members Stan Glinka and Christine Scalera, voted in favor of the project. They said the development would have been the best option for the economy, school district and environment.  

Without the special zoning, the developer plans to build a 137-unit subdivision—including 13 affordable housing units. School administrators were concerned about possible jump in school enrollment.
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Tuesday December 5, 2017  (Thanks to news volunteers Trace Alford, Phil Hall, and Alyssa Katz)

In the news this evening: Norwalk Land Trust buys wooded property for $5 million; protest for fired Branford bike shop mechanic; Toulon wins sheriff’s race - is first Black Suffolk Sheriff; New York ups fines for illegal deer hunting
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The Norwalk Land Trust has agreed to buy the 15.4-acre White Barn property in the Cranbury area of Norwalk for $5 million.

As reported by Fairfield County Business Journal, the wooded property is one of the last large privately owned spaces in Norwalk. It includes a 1-acre pond fed by the Stony Brook, part of the Saugatuck River Watershed drainage basin that feeds into Long Island Sound.

A developer that has permits to build 15 luxury homes on the property agreed to work with the Land Trust on an arrangement that will permanently preserve the property as undeveloped open space. The nonprofit land trust needs to raise the $5 million purchase price by April 1 in order to complete the transaction.
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A bike mechanic who was fired after 15 years at a well-known bike shop in Branford has garnered community support in demanding justice.  
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WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports:

Alfonso Santiago worked at Zane’s Cycles without incident until he was told in mid-October that the owner, Chris Zane, “doesn’t want you anymore.” Santiago believes his dismissal was related to his efforts to organize fellow mechanics into a union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, which Zane has vigorously opposed.

Supporters protested outside the bike shop last Friday and are demanding severance pay for each of the 15 years Santiago worked there. He supports a family of four, including two young daughters, and the loss of income has been traumatic.
  
Chris Zane did not return a call seeking comment.\

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News. 
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Newsday reports: 
Democrat Errol Toulon Jr. will be Suffolk County’s new sheriff after Republican candidate Larry Zacarese conceded the close race Monday. Toulon, a former New York City deputy corrections commissioner, becomes Long Island’s first African American nonjudicial countywide elected official.

Toulon and Zacarese vied to replace Sheriff Vincent DeMarco in the November 7 election that was too close to call on election night and required counting more than 14,000 absentee ballots. Zacarese, an assistant police chief at Stony Brook University, conceded the election in a news release issued Monday and congratulated Toulon.

Toulon said Monday he looks forward to combating gang violence and the opioid epidemic in Suffolk, and introduce a “strong re-entry program” for those leaving county jails.
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The Albany Times-Union reports:
A new law signed by Governor Cuomo last week increases fines for killing deer, bear, moose, and/or elk out of season to a $500-minimum a $3,000-maximum.

The penalties apply for “deer jacking” — the practice of shining a spotlight on a deer at night to cause the animal to freeze, making it easier to shoot. 

In-season illegal killing of deer comes with a potential penalty of up to one year in jail or a fine of $250 to $2,000. The law also increases penalties for repeat offenders. Any person found guilty of illegal hunting within the last five years could be fined between $750 and $2,000.
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Newsday reports: 
New York State was awarded $1.05 million in grants for projects aimed at improving the health and water quality of Long Island Sound. Nine of the 15 project areas are on Long Island and will receive more than $600,000.

The grants will help pay for programs such as reusing treated wastewater for irrigation, monitoring water quality, building a fish passage, and promoting the importance of upgrading septic systems.  

Last month, Connecticut received $1.29 million in grants for 20 projects.
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Monday, December 4, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Phil Hall, Lee Yuen Lew and Neil Tolhurst)

In the news tonight: Bridgeport to use 1.8 million dollars to hire more cops; judge nixes public financing for Mayor Ganim’s campaign for Governor; more lay-offs at Brookhaven National Lab; and education groups call for $2 billion increase in New York budget
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Mayor Ganim’s administration intends to use a $1.8 million federal grant to hire new police officers. The U.S. Department of Justice grant covers up to 75 percent of entry level salaries and benefits for newly hired officers for three years.
The grant was welcome news for City Hall, but not for some immigrant advocates. To obtain the grant, Ganim and Police Chief Perez signed a “Certification of Illegal Immigration Cooperation.” 
"Make the Road CT" organized a rally last week outside of Ganim’s offices after the grant was announced. The organization charged that the Ganim administration has sold out to Republican President Donald Trump. Earlier in the year Ganim pledged to make Bridgeport a “welcoming city” for all immigrants and has issued municipal IDs to documented and undocumented residents. Exact details for using the grant money are still being worked out in City Hall. 

Since his election, Ganim has hired about 80 new officers of his pledged 100 to fill out the ranks depleted by retirements and other departures. 
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CT Mirror reports:
A federal judge upheld a state law barring Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, as a felon convicted of public corruption, from obtaining public campaign financing. Ganim was convicted in 2003 after a dozen years as mayor, left prison in 2010 and successfully ran for mayor in 2015. 

He is uncertain about appealing the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals. He said he expected to decide in January if he would end his exploratory efforts for seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018 without access to public financing.  Ganim said “money.. is a huge factor, but it won’t be the one that determines this campaign.”

Public financing provides qualifying candidates with $1.5 million for a primary campaign and $6.5 million for a general campaign for governor.
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As reported by Riverhead Local, fifty-three Brookhaven National Lab employees got pink slips last week. The layoffs are the second phase of a larger workforce- restructuring plan according to a Lab statement. 

BNL recently completed a voluntary workforce reduction of 63 staffers, according to the statement. But the statement says the voluntary reduction in force alone did not generate the savings needed for planned strategic reinvestment, Those affected are primarily in support areas.

The laid-off employees, like the 63 earlier approved for buyouts, will also receive a severance package and “career transition assistance.”

The lab employs almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff, according to its website. 
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The Albany Times-Union reports:
New York State is facing a multi-billion-dollar budget deficit for next year, but top state education groups are not tempering their funding request. 

The Educational Conference Board — which counts as members the state teachers union, state School Boards Association and state Association of School Business Officials, among others — is asking for a $2 billion increase in education aid in the 2018-19 budget. That would put total state education funding at more than $27 billion.

Lawmakers and the governor agreed to boost education aid in the current budget by $1.1 billion. Current school aid is about $25 billion. The Board contends that the budget needs to increase education aid by $1.5 billion just to continue current services. The board suggests the other $500 million go to “pressing student needs and strengthening student achievement and opportunity.”

According to the New York State United Teachers union, school districts are spending an estimated $67 billion in the 2017-18 school year, with 55 percent of that coming from local property tax revenues. The 2018-19 budget is due April 1.

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Friday December 1, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, John Iannuzzi, and Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: immigrant takes sanctuary at New Haven church; report shows rentals up, homelessness down in Connecticut; New York disability rights group sues state; report outlines protections for Long Island aquifers 

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An immigrant who was supposed to be deported back to Ecuador on Thursday instead took sanctuary in the same New Haven church that had welcomed another immigrant for more than three months. 
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WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:
Nelson Pinos has been in the U.S. for 25 years, and has a wife and three U.S.-born children. He is an active member of Unidad Latina en Accion, the immigrant rights group that has spearheaded the sanctuary movement in Connecticut.

(CHANTING) At a Thursday morning rally outside immigration court in Hartford, activist Jesus Morales Sanchez made their demand of federal immigration enforcement officials: “We want them to allow Nelson to stay home. They have the discretionary authority to grant him a stay any time.”


Pinos’s 15-year-old daughter Kelly spoke for the family: “I’m happy he went to sanctuary, because we can still fight. We can still fight till the very end. But I’m also anxious because he still not going to be with us. He won’t be in our household.


Pinos entered sanctuary at First & Summerfield Methodist Church on the New Haven Green. The family lives in New Haven and plans to visit Pinos every day.


Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

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Albany Times-Union reports: 
Disability Rights New York is suing the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities for its failure to discharge 97 adults who are 21 and older from residential schools. The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities’ failure to discharge these adults violates two federal laws, the American with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

Disability Rights New York says the lack of timely discharge blocks parents of younger disabled children from being placed in the special residential schools.


According to the lawsuit, OPWDD is required to develop a plan and secure appropriate placement once students reach 21. But the office’s discharge planning doesn’t begin until a student is 19, which is not enough time.


The disability rights group wants the court to require OPWDD take immediate steps and begin discharge planning for students at age 16.
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Newsday reports: 
A draft report released Thursday recommends 143 safeguards for Long Island’s groundwater.The Long Island Commission for Aquifer Protection’s most urgent proposals include obliging the state and Nassau and Suffolk counties to empower local planning boards to impose requirements on new developments.

Brookhaven supervisor Ed Romaine called for improving the removal of contaminants, noting 20 percent of Suffolk’s 190 sewage treatment plants not only fail to meet county standards but a number cannot afford upgrades. The Peconic Land Trust chairman Stephen Jones said education for home gardeners and lawn owners is one way the nonprofit hopes to stop the cycle of adding pollutants to water that then must be removed.


Public comments on the report are due December 8. The commission hopes to approve the final report December 13.