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September 2017

Tuesday September 19, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Thomas Byrne.)

In the news tonight:  MGM Bridgeport plan stokes casino expansion debate; Altice rolls out “Economy Internet” in Connecticut, nation; New York governor issues new credit reporting regulation; and, Riverhead Republican chair steps down citing health reasons
Connecticut Post reports: Bridgeport and New Haven mayors joined officials from entertainment company MGM on Monday in a groundbreaking ceremony for a $675-million casino on Bridgeport’s waterfront.

The proposed casino would occupy 100,000 square feet with 2,000 slot machines and 160 gaming tables. Officials anticipate the casino would generate up to $316 million in annual taxes to the state and provide up to 2000 jobs. However, several legal and political issues need to be resolved before construction begins.

Mohegan and Mashantucket Native American tribes, which operate the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos, respectively, have exclusive casino operating agreements with the state and dismissed the groundbreaking ceremony as a “pipe dream.”

Governor Malloy said the new casino is “highly speculative and would violate our agreement with the tribal nations,” but said he would review MGM’s proposal. Other state officials have brought up concerns about increased traffic on I-95 and the “human costs” associated with gambling.
Connecticut Post reports: 
After testing in Norwalk, $15-a-month broadband service Altice will expand across its Optimum territories in Connecticut and nationally. 

This “Economy Internet” is available for new subscribers who also qualify for the National School Lunch Program for students or Supplemental Security Income for seniors.

The service includes a free home WiFi router, email service, and no caps on data. Download speeds are up to 30 megabits per second.
Albany Times-Union reports: 
Governor Cuomo's administration on Monday proposed a new rule requiring credit reporting agencies to register with the state. This comes in the wake of the recent Equifax data breach that compromised personal information of roughly 143 million American consumers.

The regulation from state Department of Financial Services would mandate consumer credit reporting agencies register with the state and re-register annually. The DFS superintendent would have the authority to deny a registration renewal if the applicant, its members or top executives are “not trustworthy and competent to act as or in connection with a consumer credit reporting agency.” 

Cybersecurity regulations, which cover banks, insurance companies and other financial services institutions, already mandate that any DFS-regulated institution have a cybersecurity program designed to protect consumers' private data, a chief information security officer and other safety controls.
Riverhead Local reports: 
For the third local election cycle in a row, Riverhead Republicans will be under new leadership. Party chairman Remy Bell announced late last week that he will step aside, citing health reasons for his decision not to seek another term.

The town Republican committee will elect new leadership at is biennial re-organizational meeting Wednesday night. Committee treasurer Tammy Robinkoff is running for the post unopposed. 

This will mark the sixth time in 10 years the Republican committee elects a new leader.  Bell took over in the midst of a contentious local election season in 2015.

Monday September 18, 2017  

Friday September 15, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Trace Alford)

In the news tonight: Committee adopts budget, Connecticut legislature doesn’t pass it; Fairfield County commuters have longer ride; Huntington, Longwood districts balk at troopers in schools; group wants East End second-home owners to vote local
CT NewsJunkie reports:
After months of missed deadlines, Connecticut’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee adopted a two-year revenue package Thursday. It establishes a cellphone tax, reduces a popular middle-class tax credit, creates a statewide property tax on seasonal homes and increases taxes on hotels and hospitals.

However, the House failed to come to a vote. House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said they were making changes to the budget documents up to 11 p.m. Thursday. The House will reconvene Friday afternoon to pass the budget after the Senate, which is expected to debate a budget at noon.

A successful vote on Friday would avoid the spending cuts pending on October 1 when Governor Malloy’s executive order goes into effect. Malloy released a statement Thursday in support of the revenue package adopted by the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.
Connecticut Post reports:
According to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 15 percent of commuters in Fairfield County spend an hour or more getting to work, and at least another hour going home. This could be changing: urban planners and others who track trends say younger workers are choosing lifestyles that don’t include cars.

Stratford town planner Jay Habansky says: “The car is not nearly an important a possession as it was for older generations.” The city is pushing forward with Transit-Oriented Developments, which are high-density apartment or condominium projects built within easy walking and biking distance to railroad stations.

Early this year, Governor Malloy said he was an advocate of adding another lane in each direction to I-95. The state Bond Commission in February allocated $1 million to develop a strategy for adding lanes.
Newsday reports:
Longwood and Huntington school officials told residents Thursday that they hadn’t been consulted in advance about a state program to send state troopers into their schools. Governor Cuomo announced Wednesday he was dispatching state troopers to 10 Suffolk County schools with “the highest incidents of gang-related activity.”

Officials in some districts said they welcomed the move. But in letters to parents and residents, Longwood and Huntington officials disputed Cuomo’s assessment and sought to reassure parents about the safety of their schools. Cuomo administration officials said law enforcement agencies had recommended the schools, and would not elaborate on the selection process.

According to the governor’s office, the state would be working with Suffolk Police, superintendents and principals on implementing the program.
The Suffolk Times reports:
Political activists have started a grassroots effort to persuade second-home owners across the North Fork to register to vote there rather than at their primary residences.

Organizers say the goal is to shift a predominantly Republican area toward the Democratic side, increase public engagement in elections, and educate second-home owners about their right to vote in local elections.

New York State permits people to vote in a district where they own a second home, although voting can’t be split between two locations.

Thursday September 14, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Ramzi Babouder-Matta and Mike Merli)

In the news tonight:
Connecticut Democratic lawmakers hope cellphone tax ideas will stick; Connecticut posts back-to-back job losses two months in a row; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sends Gang Prevention Troopers to Suffolk Schools;
and, New York State just made it easier for teachers to get certified.
Connecticut News Junkie reports:
In lieu of a broad based increase in the sales tax, Connecticut Democratic legislative leaders were working on finalizing a budget yesterday that will include a monthly tax on cellphone bills and certain real estate transactions. The situation regarding what revenues will be included in the package was so fluid that the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee postponed a vote on the revenue package until 11 this morning.

The cellphone tax was first raised late Tuesday as a way to make up for the revenue lost through the elimination of a sales tax increase. And lobbyists for the wireless phone industry were working hard to kill it.

The amount of revenue the tax could generate at $1 per line, per month is around $43.2 million.

Democrats need 76 votes in the House and 18 votes in the Senate to pass what’s expected to be one large budget package that includes all the implementation language. 
Connecticut News Junkie reports:
For the second month in a row, Connecticut lost payroll jobs, according to preliminary numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor. 

In August, the state lost 3,900 jobs, which follows a revised job loss of 1,100 jobs in July. Private sector employment in August dropped by 3,700 jobs and the government lost 200 jobs last month. That means Connecticut’s private sector, which had finally recovered 102 percent of the jobs lost in the Great Recession, has dropped back down to 96.7 percent.

Overall, Connecticut has recovered 78.1 percent of the jobs it lost in the recession. It means Connecticut is 26,100 jobs away from attaining full job recovery. The government supersector has lost a total of 22,400 positions since the recession began in March 2008.
Newsday reports:
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that 10 state troopers will immediately be deployed to 10 of the “highest-risk” schools in Suffolk County to stop gangs from recruiting students.

Cuomo said the Gang Prevention Unit would educate teachers on how to identify early signs of gang activity and serve as a resource for students and parents seeking help. The Governor said: “I want MS-13 to know the pressure is not going to ease. ”  Police have attributed 17 slayings to the gang in Suffolk since Jan. 1, 2016.

Immigration and civil liberty advocates condemned Cuomo’s announcement. The advocacy group, Make the Road New York called it “Cuomo’s new deportation force .... that will ultimately make all youth and communities less safe.”

Irma Solis, of the New York Civil Liberties Union in Suffolk County said: “Flimsy allegations of gang involvement by Suffolk County schools and police have led to kids being detained and placed at risk of deportation without investigation.”
The Albany Times-Union reports:
The New York state Board of Regents approved measures on Tuesday to ease the certification process for prospective teachers. The Regents made several changes to the state’s teacher certification process as educators and advocates statewide debate how to get more people into the teaching field while still ensuring candidates are well-trained and effective in the craft. 

Among the changes approved is a lower pass score for the edTPA, an exam developed by Stanford University that measures a candidate’s planning, instruction and testing abilities in specific subjects. The Regents also expanded safety net options for candidates who don’t pass the edTPA exam. 

Following a 45-day public comment period, the Regents are expected to formally adopt the changes at their December meeting. 
Wednesday September 13, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Liz Becker and Keith Galgot)

In the news tonight: New Haven’s Alexion will move headquarters to Boston; Connecticut DMV looks offsite for driver’s license renewals; algae blooms hit Long Island bays; and, newcomer wins GOP primary for Suffolk sheriff
Connecticut Post reports: 
On Tuesday, Alexion Pharmaceuticals announced it will relocate its headquarters from New Haven to Boston by the middle of next year and cut 20 percent of its global workforce. The company will maintain a research and development center in New Haven with about 450 employees. 

The cuts amount to about 600 positions and the closure of a Smithfield, Rhode Island manufacturing facility. Alexion expects to save about $270 million annually and reinvest $100 million a year into research and development.

The move comes despite $26 million in economic development aid from Connecticut meant to jump-start the state's biotechnology sector. The company will refund that money, with interest and penalties. 

Alexion is the latest of several major companies to leave Connecticut, including insurer Aetna Inc., which will move to New York City next year, and General Electric, which moved to Boston last year.
Hartford Courant reports: 
Earlier this week, the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles issued a public solicitation for a business, or businesses, to enter a state contract to renew licenses in Fairfield and New Haven counties.

This comes after a contract dispute last January with AAA Northeast that ended driver’s license renewal services at eight AAA locations in those two counties. Now, more than 150,000 customers a year would have to go to a DMV branch. Some DMV branches, particularly Bridgeport and Hamden, have had two- or three-hour waits. AAA Allied continues its services in Hartford, Middlesex, and New London counties.

To qualify for the new contract, a business must have at least two existing locations in New Haven and/or Fairfield counties where it would conduct DMV transactions for at least 24 hours a week. 

Deadline for submissions is October 16. The DMV expects to complete contract negotiations by January.
Newsday reports: 
Different forms of harmful algae bloom has struck every major bay or estuary in Nassau and Suffolk counties in the past four months, according to Long Island Clean Water Partnership’s recent water-quality assessment.

Stony Brook School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences professor Chris Gobler said the main culprit is nitrogen pollution fed by antiquated wastewater systems. Temperature changes can also affect the blooms. Depending on their type, the blooms can harm shellfish, finfish, eelgrass, small animals and humans. 

Group for the East End president Bob DeLuca said the key to reversing the trend of nitrogen-polluted waters include state investment in clean-water programs and Suffolk County’s drive to expand use of advanced septic systems.
Newsday reports: 
In his first run for office, Stony Brook University assistant police chief Larry Zacarese pulled off a resounding upset victory over veteran state Senator Phil Boyle in the Republican primary for Suffolk County sheriff Tuesday.

Boyle, a three-term senator and the Republicans’ designated candidate, still has the Conservative and Independence Party lines. He conceded the Republican line shortly after 10 p.m.

Zacarese, a former NYPD officer and sergeant, had hammered Boyle for his lack of direct law enforcement experience.

The sheriff runs the county jails in Riverhead and Yaphank with about 900 correction officers, and oversees 250 sheriff’s deputies.
Tuesday September 12, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, John Iannuzzi, and Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight:  Sales Tax Out of Connecticut Budget Negotiations; Senator Blumenthal holds Immigration Issues Hearing in New Haven; use of anti-overdose drug increasing on Long Island; and, Sewers Proposed for Westhampton Beach
Connecticut Democratic legislative leaders made a decision Sunday to negotiate a final two-year budget deal with Governor Malloy. Republican legislative leaders said they were not invited to the meeting and only learned about it through the news media. A meeting with Republican legislative leaders scheduled for today was essentially canceled when it became clear Democrats were headed for a partisan budget.

Democratic leaders accuse Republicans of “walking away” and ending bipartisan budget negotiations.In a joint statement, Senate President Martin Looney of New Haven, and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff of Norwalk, both Democrats said: “We have always suspected that Republicans would find some excuse to walk out on bipartisan budget talks.”

Senate President, Republican Len Fasano, of North Haven, said Democrats never wanted a bipartisan budget deal and that Democrats wanted to make it seem like bipartisanship was happening so they could “maybe steal some of our ideas.”

Republicans were expected to release their latest budget proposal earlier today. A final product is expected to be called for a vote on September 14.
A New Haven church was packed on Monday for a hearing on immigration issues called by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. Immigrants from many countries -- including South Korea, Albania and Brazil – told heartbreaking stories of their fears of being separated from their families. 
WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more.

Speakers addressed many issues, but Blumenthal said his main purpose in  calling the hearing was to build support for passing the DREAM Act allowing undocumented young people brought to this country by their parents to get on a path to citizenship.

One of the speakers was Eric Cruz Lopez, who said he speaks of "coming  to the U.S." not "being brought here through no fault of [his] own."

“Because I will not stand here and let my families be blamed, and let my parent and my mother be blamed for the decision to come to this country. If they go down, I'll go down with them. (Applause) I don't believe I will rise above my own conditions if my parents do not come up with me, if the rest of my community does not come up with me.”

He fits the mold of a high-achieving student, but he asked that supporters also fight for those who are school drop-outs, those who have  made mistakes, for parents, and for workers who all deserve a pathway to  citizenship.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News 
Newsday reports:
Use of Naloxone, the lifesaving drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses, spiked in 2016 on Long Island. Narcan, the brand name version of the drug was given at least 769 times in Suffolk County last year by emergency responders. According to a quarterly report on opioids compiled by New York State, that number in 2015 was 598. 

These numbers come as more statistics prove the drug epidemic is still a major problem for Long Island. Revised numbers in Suffolk have pushed the 2016 death toll on Long Island to 524. 329 of those fatalities occurred in Suffolk County.

As the drug problem has escalated, so has the popularity of the antidote (which is administered through a shot or nasal spray). Local leaders are pushing for increased availability of the drug. 

Narcan is now available in libraries, schools, and first responders also carry it when present at entertainment venues. 
Newsday reports:
Westhampton Beach is considering creating the village’s first sewer district, which they say could provide economic and environmental benefits for the village. The Village Board held public informational presentations on the proposal at its regular meeting on Sept. 5.

Village officials say the sewers would allow businesses to expand, new ones to open and for apartments above existing stores to be rented. The sewer system would connect to county-owned facilities at Francis Gabreski Airport.

A report commissioned by the Village concluded that high levels of nitrogen in the ground water under the village are flowing into coastal waters and contributing to brown tides and poor conditions for fish populations and eelgrass. The report says a sewer system would help mitigate these conditions.

The board will hold a public hearing on the proposal next month at Village Hall.
Monday September 11, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson, Neil Tolhurst and Danniella Tompos)

In the news tonight: Malloy's “last, best budget offer”; environmentalists say Connecticut energy plan falls short; Long Island fishermen frustrated by state shutdown on fluke; and, New York unions fight proposed reduction in workers compensation  
CT News Junkie reports: 
Governor Malloy made his “last, best budget offer” to legislative leaders Friday. The two-year, $41 billion proposal increases general sales tax from 6.35 percent to 6.5 percent; and for restaurants and bars, increases sales tax to 7 percent. 

These changes would increase revenue by $87 million in 2018 and $133 million in 2019.  The proposal also affects the hospital tax; and the distribution of municipal and education aid. 

Malloy’s largest concession was instead of asking cities and towns to fund pensions for retired educators, asking them to pay only the employer share for current employees. The governor said he will sign this budget, his sixth proposal since February, if the General Assembly can pass it. 
Assembly members are against significant cuts to municipal aid, and criticized the deal as just another tax hike. Malloy said: “The standoff...has inflicted more harm than should be tolerated.” 
According to the Connecticut Post:
Twenty-four environmental groups are objecting to the state’s latest energy strategy, saying a draft plan fails to encourage solar power, continues support for costly gas pipelines and will not meet long-term carbon reduction goals. The opposition to Connecticut's proposed Comprehensive Energy Strategy is a blow to Gov. Malloy and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, or DEEP.

A DEEP spokesman said the agency believes its emerging energy strategy will benefit consumers, businesses, and the environment. The environmentalists had eight specific objections, ranging from too much reliance on natural gas to hindering solar development. One point of contention is shared solar, which involves building arrays large enough to power an entire community.  

A state pilot program begun this year has been widely criticized because it generates only a fraction of the power states such as Massachusetts are already producing.
DEEP will issue a final energy plan after a 60-day comment period ends Sept. 25.
The Riverhead News-Review reports:
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (or DEC) temporarily closed down commercial fluke fishing last Wednesday, as fishermen have reached their quota limits. The closure is frustrating news for local commercial fishermen and vendors, who said the DEC told them early in the season that fluke fishing would be open from April to November. 

The fluke closure follows a month-long shutdown of black sea bass fishing. It does not apply to recreational fishing.
Commercial fluke fishing is set at a daily limit of 50 pounds per day, compared with higher quotas in the last few years — from 140 pounds, then 70 pounds, according to local fishermen.

They met with Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of Shirley  Friday morning in Mattituck “to discuss the dire need for reforms to improve Long Island’s fishing economy” according to the Congressman's press release. 
The New York Daily News reports: 
Union officials claim proposed Workers Compensation Board rules would drastically reduce payments to workers who’ve suffered diminished use of an arm or leg.  They would also place increased requirements on injured workers to show their future earning capacity would be diminished and make it harder for workers to contest their awards.

The proposed regulations are the result of legislation approved in April that required the Workers Compensation Board to modernize its guidelines to reflect advances in medical technologies that get workers back on the job faster than in prior years. Opponents say the regulations would make it harder for workers to obtain independent medical examinations to bolster their claims and make it possible for the board to deny claims if an injured worker refused to cooperate with an insurance company’s request for an independent examination.
Friday September 8, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, John Iannuzzi, and Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: climate activists rally in New Haven; renewed efforts to lessen Fairfield schools’ racial divide; New York education leaders want charter school teacher proposal scrapped; Suffolk County’s Route 25 among highest in pedestrian, bike crashes
Climate activists attended a rally in New Haven just before the final public hearing on the state’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy, which many present say is flawed.,

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:
The rally was held outside the auditorium on the grounds of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Anne Hulick is Connecticut director of Clean Water Action, and also a nurse. “Climate change is the number one public health threat of our time. We are experiencing extreme heat days; we are experiencing more poor air quality days; we are experiencing extreme weather events. All of these are affecting our health.”

Inside the auditorium, many of the first speakers represented family-run oil heating businesses who testified against a proposed tax on heating oil and propane. They criticized the state’s energy strategy for favoring natural gas over oil. Many of the other speakers also opposed fracked gas, saying expanding its use would lock Connecticut in to dirty fuel for the next 30 years, when what’s needed is an immediate conversion to renewable energy.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
Connecticut Post reports: 
The racial gap between Fairfield’s McKinley School and the district’s 10 other elementary schools is widening, despite efforts to reduce the divide. Putting a preschool in Greenfield Hill or offering empty seats to students in neighboring Bridgeport thus far has failed.

This week the State Board of Education approved a multiyear plan that relies on school expansions, turning McKinley into a magnet school, and ultimately redistricting nearly 800 students.

In Connecticut, no school can have a minority population 25 percent points greater than the district as a whole. The gap now hovers around the 30-point mark — McKinley with a 53.2 percent minority population and the district at 23.2 percent.
The Albany Times-Union reports:
The state's top education officials issued a letter Thursday strongly urging the State University of New York to withdraw a proposal they argue would negatively impact students and reduce the number of effective teachers.

In July, SUNY's charter schools committee introduced the proposal that would allow SUNY-authorized charter schools to bypass the state's teacher certification requirements and develop their own.

Prospective teachers would not have to pass the state's teacher certification exams nor complete any student teaching. They would, however, need at least 30 hours of classroom experience. Eighty-one semester hours currently are required.

Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa say: “Not only would this be detrimental to students, it would be in direct conflict with state education law.”
Newsday reports:
A Tri-State Transportation Campaign study found Suffolk County’s State Route 25 is among roads on Long Island with the most vehicular accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists.

Route 25, also known as Middle Country Road, Jericho Turnpike or Front Street, had 224 crashes from 2014 to 2016, resulting in nine fatalities and 206 injuries to pedestrians or bicyclists.

Route 25 is classified as an arterial roadway with a high volume of traffic and includes residential and commercial stretches.

The study also calculated crashes per mile of road to account for road length. Among roads on Long Island with the most crashes, Route 110 had 9.7 crashes per mile.
Thursday September 7, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser, Liz Becker, and Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: Connecticut joins lawsuit to block Trump from ending DACA; Hartford Mayor warns Governor Malloy of bankruptcy; New York school funding advocates appeal earlier decision; and, water contaminated at Hampton Bays Fire House.
The Connecticut Mirror reports:
Yesterday, Connecticut joined 14 other states and the District of Columbia in a lawsuit that would invalidate President Trump’s move to end protections from deportation for immigrant youths. The lawsuit also seeks to keep federal agencies from using personal information about applicants for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (or DACA) program to deport the youths, who call themselves “dreamers.”

On Tuesday, Trump announced a phase-out of the program, which has protected from deportation and provided work permits to about 800,000 youths brought to this country as children by their undocumented parents or came with families who overstayed visas.The president said no new applications would be accepted for the program, which provided eligible youths with two-year renewable, provisional legal status.

All existing DACA recipients would be protected until their two-year provisional legal status expires, and those whose permits are facing “near-term expiration” would be allowed to re-apply for renewal until October 5.
Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin has told legislative leaders and Governor Malloy that the city will file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection if there is no state budget in 60 days.

In the letter to lawmakers and Malloy, Bronin said: “If the State fails to enact a budget and continues to operate under the Governor’s current executive order, the City of Hartford will be unable to meet its financial obligations in approximately sixty days.” He said the “extraordinary measures” other towns are contemplating in response to the state budget stalemate – such as dipping into reserves or laying off employees – are measures Hartford has already taken.

Hartford has already hired an international law firm, Greenberg Traurig, that specializes in restructuring debt. As such, and within the same time frame, Wall Street has downgraded the city’s bonds to “junk” status.

Bronin and the city of Hartford would need Governor Malloy’s permission to file for bankruptcy. The last Connecticut city to seek bankruptcy protection was Bridgeport in 1991. A federal judge denied the city’s petition.
The Albany Times Union reports:
Even though it’s been a decade since the state legislature changed school aid formulas for New York’s urban districts, funding advocates have continued their legal battles to get more money for needy schools.

On Tuesday, lawyers for a group of small, impoverished upstate city school districts appealed the dismissal of their case a year ago in a lower court. Plaintiff lawyers contend that the changes instituted by the 2007 settlement of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity suit haven’t done enough to help student achievement, and these districts are still suffering from reductions made in the wake of the 2008 financial crash.

The districts pursuing the lawsuit are Utica, Jamestown, Niagara Falls, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Port Jervis, and Mount Vernon.

Although New York spends more than any other state on education, representatives of small city districts argue that they need more support to reach the academic standards that are achieved in wealthier suburban areas.
A Hampton Bays Fire District parcel on Montauk Highway may be added to the state Superfund list after contamination from perfluorinated compounds was discovered in May. The local water district took two drinking water wells out of service.

It is the third firefighting or training site on Long Island in the past 14 months to come under state Department of Environmental Conservation scrutiny.
The DEC notified the fire department in July that it was listing the 2-acre property, where the firehouse is located, as a potential hazardous waste site. The fire department said it had used or stored fire suppression foam.

Martin Brand, DEC’s deputy commissioner of remediation and materials management, said:  “We hope it’s not a source, but obviously there is something out there that is contributing PFOS/PFOA to the local wells and we need to find out where it is coming from.”
Wednesday September 6, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Liz Becker, Danniella Campos and Keith Golgot)

In the news tonight: Malloy offers big compromise to end budget gridlock; proven crime reduction program goes unfunded; Poll Says Majority of NY-voters-support-keeping Confederate statues; and, New York job statistics show gains downstate, losses upstate
The CT Mirror reports:
 Governor Dannel Malloy has offered a major compromise to end the state budget standoff, scaling back his proposed shift of teacher pension costs to cities and towns by half.

Malloy told The Mirror on Tuesday he would accept their contributing only the costs tied to present-day teachers. The massive-and-rapidly growing unfunded liability would remain the state’s responsibility.The governor said Tuesday he would accept communities paying the “normal cost,” an actuarial term referring to the full amount that must be set aside annually to cover the future pensions of present-day teachers.

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found that the benefits provided to retired teachers are not more generous than those in most states.

How much the state can address this issue in a single year, in one budget, is the question.
As reported by CT News Junkie:
Project Longevity is a program that’s been reducing violent crime in Connecticut’s urban areas for five years, but without a two-year budget in place there’s no state funding for five people working on the program. But they continue to work “without pay or assurance they will receive retroactive remuneration.” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office which participates in the program.

In New Haven, Bridgeport, and Hartford — the cities where Project Longevity is active — gun-related homicides fell more than 50 percent from 2011 to 2016.

The cost to run the program is around $850,000 a year. Based on the results of a Yale University evaluation, economic savings from reduced medical, law enforcement, and criminal justice costs in New Haven alone amount to approximately $7 million annually.
The Albany Times-Union reports:
Many New York voters believe Confederate memorials should stay up, according to a Siena College poll. Fifty-nine percent of voters statewide say Confederate monuments should be kept, while thirty-five percent say they should be removed.

Voters that support maintaining such statues agree that, as Siena phrased it: "…for some, they are a source of pride and a celebration of our culture." While Republicans endorse keeping the statues, Democrats want removal because — as Siena phrased it: "…for some, they represent slavery and segregation." Majorities of voters in every region of the state support maintaining such statues.

Almost half of voters statewide say self-identified white nationalists and neo-Nazis should not be given permits to hold rallies in the United States. The majority of voters statewide say President Donald Trump failed at handling the Charlottesville protests and at making race relations better.  Overall, 66 percent of all New York voters polled have an unfavorable view of the president.
A report from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the workforce is at its highest since before the Great Recession. DiNapoli’s report says 9.1 million people were employed in 2016, the highest number since 2008.

But the growth is only happening in New York City and Long Island. New York City saw an increase of about 4 percent and Long Island an increase of 1 per cent in the labor force between 2011 and 2016.  Employment in upstate areas was either level or in decline.

The state’s unemployment rate last year was also slightly lower than the rest of the nation at 4.8 percent.  While unemployment is an indication of the number of people who are actively looking for a job, an overall decline in the labor force signifies people either moving within or out of New York; those who have aged out of the workforce, or people who stopped working entirely.
Tuesday September 5, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, Thomas Byrne, John Iannuzzi, and Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight:  rally in Hartford on raising minimum wage; Connecticut communities join opioid lawsuit; weather, lack of flowers hurt North Fork’s honey yield; and, Peconic Bay to build, expand in Riverhead

About 200 low-wage workers and supporters rallied at a McDonald’s early Labor Day morning, then marched two miles to raise their demands outside a church downtown.

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus was there:
Hartford resident Angel Candelario was making 10.10 an hour – the state minimum wage – for 20 hours a week at Burger King. He said when management learned he was supporting the movement, his hours were cut to 10 a week.  But it’s not just about winning a 50 percent increase in pay to 15 dollars an hour, he says.

“Our movement is called Fight for 15 and a Union. If they say, okay, Connecticut, here’s 15 dollars, but still we don’t have a union, the management still has the right to take the hours from you. So we want that union because the union’s gonna guarantee us safety. The union’s gonna treat us like a family, the union’s gonna pay attention to our hours; the union’s gonna make sure that once we sign that dotted line to get a job, we gonna get 30 hours, nothing less but better.”

One of the speakers at the rally was a member of 32 BJ, an affiliate of SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, which has provided major support to the Fight for 15. She said she now makes more than 15 dollars an hour, along with health care and other benefits. According to federal statistics, 17.5 percent of Connecticut's workers are in unions, which is about 60 percent higher than the national average of 10.7 percent.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
CT News Junkie reports:
Dozens of Connecticut municipalities are taking 11 pharmaceutical companies and three doctors to court. Leaders from Waterbury, Bridgeport, Bristol, and Milford all agree the pharmaceutical companies knew with prolonged use, opioids posed a severe risk of significant side effects and addiction.

More than 20 communities are considering joining the lawsuit, which was filed in Waterbury Superior Court.

The suit states that Waterbury has incurred annual costs in the millions for opioid prescriptions, which are manufactured by the defendants, as well as payment for the treatment of addiction to these drugs.
The Suffolk Times reports:
A lack of forage, combined with the wet, cold spring, has led to less honey this season on the North Fork.

According to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County entomologist Daniel Gilrein, Long Island doesn’t have many large flowering areas that provide consistent supplies of nectar and pollen. Long Island is increasingly losing flowery areas to residential development and deer. Green lawns are like food deserts to bees because they do not have enough flowers.

While honeybees are important, all native bees need help. Beekeepers and entomologists recommend planting a variety of flowers. And maybe let some weeds grow as well—like dandelions and clovers.
 Newsday reports:
A Long Island-based medical provider is expanding in Riverhead. In addition to constructing a $60-million critical care tower, Peconic Bay Medical Center will expand into the former offices of Suffolk County National Bank.

According to hospital president and CEO Andrew Mitchell, the additional 60,000 square feet will be for ambulatory services, such as thoracic surgery and neurosurgery. He did not give details as to costs or projected job figures. 

The construction and expansion will take about two years to complete.
Monday September 4, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson and Neil Tolhurst)

In the news tonight: unions tell Ganim “Include us in Bridgeport theater project”; New Haven's water quality questioned;  energy service company duped New York customers, will pay $800,000 in refunds; and, Can Fishing and Wind FarmsC-exist off Long Island?
In 2005, Joe Ganim asked organized labor for help returning him to Bridgeport City Hall. Now the construction trades Ganim to ensure they are not left out of a large downtown construction project.

Tuesday the City Council plans to hold a 7 p.m. public hearing at Geraldine Johnson School on an $410 million proposed agreement with New York-based Exact Capital. The Ganim administration chose Exact to renovate Majestic and Poli Palace theaters on Main Street, the Savoy Hotel next door, and envisions residential towers with 844 units of housing.

The deal with City Hall does not currently include a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) to guarantee hiring union members at prevailing wages and benefits and provide the same for any non- union workers also employed. Regional labor leaders want city officials to require Exact Capital comply with a PLA. Without a PLA, a developer could turn to the underground economy — people exploiting undocumented workers and paying people off the books.
New Haven Independent reports:
Environmentalists are criticizing New Haven’s water utility for leaving two classes of carcinogenic chemicals in public drinking water. Regional Water Authority or RWA responded that advocates are misconstruing the science, wrongly scaring readers into thinking that trace amounts, far below legal limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency, are likely to cause harm. 

The exchange occurred when Environmental Working Group or EWG published its national water-safety database, listing chemicals found in public drinking water supplies. EWG warned New Haven about hexavalent chromium, which enters water by erosion from rock deposits and dispersal by industrial activity; and also about disinfectant by-products known as trihalomethanes that come from adding chlorine to the water.

EWG’s senior scientist said: “We often see utilities saying because it’s legal, it’s safe. We’re really calling that into question.”

Connecticut’s chapter of Clean Water Action is ramping up its advocacy around these chemicals.
Newsday reports:
More than a dozen Montauk fishermen have met with state officials to mark off vital fishing areas on a map that will help determine the best places for the hundreds of offshore wind turbines anticipated for the waters off Long Island.
Led by the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, the group are determined to preserve their fishing grounds in areas planned for wind-energy farms. The fishermen say that windmill construction and operation will make fishing difficult.

Chuck Mallinson, a lobsterman and trap fisherman from Montauk, said: “I think once the windmills are in, we can fish around them. but they’re going to put us out of business for at least a year while they build them.”

New York State’s offshore wind plan foresees some 240 wind turbines in New York and surrounding waters. A Norwegian energy company has won a federal lease and begun planning for around 100 turbines in the New York Bight, around 15 miles south of Long Beach. More sites will be proposed.
As reported by the Albany Times-Union:
An energy service company that duped New York customers with false promises of savings will pay $800,000 in refunds under a settlement with the state attorney general's office. The company, Energy Plus is licensed to sell electric service in eight states, including New York and Connecticut.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the agreement announced Wednesday with Energy Plus is part of a wider investigation into energy service companies that purchase electric and gas energy on an open market and sell it to New York consumers.

A notice on the company's website Wednesday said it is "temporarily not enrolling new customers in Connecticut or New York."

The attorney general's office said Energy Plus lured customers by promising them savings on their utility costs and then "fleeced them with much higher bills; failed to disclose material terms such as conditions for receiving cash back; and implied that cancellations could be processed immediately."
Friday September 1, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight:  Rally for Meriden couple facing deportation; Access Health CT plans face huge rate hike without subsidies; report shows opinion affects climate change teaching in New York; and, Suffolk County Legislature to vote on salary freezes
About three dozen supporters of another family facing deportation gathered Thursday morning outside the federal building in Hartford. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:
Franklin and Giaconda Ramos came to Meriden 24 years ago. They have two sons, 17 and 24, both U.S. citizens. They had to appear at the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, Thursday morning with the plane tickets they are supposed to use to fly back to Ecuador in 30 days.

Their elder son, Jason, had applied to sponsor his parents for green cards in 2013, and won preliminary approval, but the second phase of the process was not completed before they got deportation orders. They have no criminal record and have paid taxes since 1995.

Jason Ramos explained what their home means to his family: “Home is not just a house. A home is where you gather people, where you gather memories, where you gather the good and bad times. It’s some place where you should feel safe, somewhere you should feel welcome. And Connecticut – United States – has been that home for my parents.”

The family’s attorney said he hopes ICE will sign onto a motion to reopen the green card process, which would allow them to stay.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
The CT Mirror reports: Access Health CT’s two insurers say they would need to increase premiums if the Trump administration stops out-of-pocket subsidy program. 

ConnectiCare would raise its popular “silver” plan premiums by nearly 48 percent, and Anthem would up its by about 39 percent. Both also requested increases on their “gold” and “bronze” plans.

The Connecticut Insurance Department recently asked insurers to re-file rates based on the possible cancelation of Affordable Care Act cost-sharing reduction payments. 

The department is reviewing the rate hike requests, and will make a decision before September 15, which is also the insurers’ deadline to decide whether they will offer plans on the exchange.
The Albany Times-Union reports: 
Seventy percent of school board members statewide support teaching the subject of climate change in public schools, according to a new survey.  But the state School Boards Association warned that the current teaching on the subject might be too dependent on a teacher's own views.

Results of a NYSSBA survey released Thursday show that 16 percent of school board members oppose climate change being taught in public schools, while 14 percent were unsure. Of those in support or unsure, 86 percent were in favor of teaching about human contributions to climate change, and 5 percent opposed. 

The survey results were baked into the association’s report detailing how climate change teaching can be shaped and best practices. 
The Suffolk Times reports: 
Legislation to freeze automatic raises for Suffolk County elected officials passed committee Wednesday. The Legislature will vote on the bill September 6. If approved, the pay freeze would be in effect for four years.

In a press release, North Fork Legislator Al Krupski said the Legislature has received automatic pay increases of four percent, or the percent of increase in the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less, since 1986.

Krupski, the bill’s co-sponsor, said county legislators can decline the raise, and several have the past few years.

The county faces a $160-million budget deficit.