Monday, April 2, 2018

April 2018

Friday April 20, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Trace Alford, Thomas Byrne, and Danniella Tompos)

In the news tonight: Connecticut Senator working to resolve tribes’ joint casino snag;
Connecticut considers homeowner tax to help crumbling foundation crisis; the largest opioid bust in Suffolk County history; New York Governor grants parolees right to vote
Brian Hallenbeck reports for The Day:
Connecticut State Senator Cathy Osten remains confident the East Windsor casino the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes plan to build will come to fruition despite a snag in receiving federal approval.

The U.S. Department of the Interior failed to act on gaming-agreement amendments signed by the state and the tribes, and Osten is working to resolve that. Approval from the Interior is a condition of a 2017 law authorizing the new casino.

It's been suggested that the tribes could eliminate the need for federal approval of their gaming amendments by guaranteeing that they continue sharing with the state slot-machine revenues generated by Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun.

State Attorney General George Jepsen told legislative leaders that since the Interior Department has not approved the gaming amendments, "authorization to conduct casino gaming in East Windsor is not yet effective." 
Jack Kramer and Christine Stuart report for CT NewsJunkie:
Connecticut House leaders revisited the crumbling foundation issue when they pledged to schedule a vote on a $10 fee for all Connecticut homeowners. House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said if the bill passed, it would help as many as 30,000 homes. A mineral used in the concrete aggregate is now causing the foundations to crumble.

The state is setting up a captive insurance company to handle claims from homeowners staring at six-figure bills to replace their foundations.

Insurance Association of Connecticut president Eric George wrote to legislative leaders, “Traditional homeowners’ insurance covers sudden accidental losses. It is neither designed nor intended to cover slow deterioration or to serve as a warranty for construction materials and workmanship.” He said that’s why it’s unfair to increase costs for insurers to pay for the crumbling foundation problem. 
Robert Brodsky for Newsday reports:
Federal agents seized more than 90 pounds of fentanyl and heroin from a Wyandanch  home Wednesday, the largest opioid bust in Suffolk history, and charged a major supplier to Long Island drug dealers.

Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini said Drug Enforcement Agency agents executed a search warrant and recovered 33 bags of heroin and fentanyl, a $10 million street value.

Thirty-eight-year-old William Velasquez faces charges of operating as a major drug trafficker and criminal possession of a controlled substance. If convicted of all charges, he faces 25 years to life in prison. 

Sini said the amount seized equates to more than 1 million doses of fentanyl, the leading cause of fatal overdoses in the county. He said, “The number of lives that were potentially saved by this operation is tremendous. 
Rachel Silberstein of the Albany Times-Union reports:
Convicted felons on parole in New York had their voting rights restored effective immediately per an executive order signed by Governor Cuomo Wednesday. The order directs the state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to automatically pardon the electoral rights of about 35,000 convicted felons on parole.

The governor said: “It is unconscionable to deny voting rights to New Yorkers who have paid their debt and have re-entered society.” Republicans objected to the order, saying it bypassed the legislative process. Others supported the measure, stating that it is similar to voting rights for paroles in other states.

Cynthia Nixon, who is running against Cuomo in his re-election bid, criticized him saying: “Voter suppression in New York should have ended eight years ago.” 

The order is not permanent and only lasts as long as the Cuomo is in office. 
Thursday April 19, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Mike Merli and John Iannuzzi)

In the news tonight: Connecticut state Senate passes minimum wage increase; Dick’s Sporting Goods will be destroying all assault rifles it has pulled from the shelves; and immigrants’ Advocates Push for Passage of Driver License Bill
Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
On Tuesday, the Connecticut state Senate forwarded a minimum wage increase to the House.The increase passed the Appropriations Committee 27-24.

The committee was largely divided along party lines, with Democrats supporting, and Republicans opposing.

The bill would raise the state minimum hourly wage from $10.10 to $12 on January 1, 2019; from $12 to $13.50 on January 1, 2020; and from $13.50 to $15 on January 1, 2021.
Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
A bipartisan agreement to give about 3,800 undocumented students in Connecticut the option to apply for financial aid sailed through the Senate yesterday and is headed to the House. SB4 passed 30-5. Senators Len Suzio, Joe Markley, Eric Berthel, Tony Guglielmo, and Scott Frantz, all Republicans, voted against the measure.

The bill is modeled in part on DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was created in 2012 to give temporary legal status to immigrants brought illegally into the United States by their parents or other relatives when they were children.

For years, since gaining the right to in-state tuition rates, youth leaders with Connecticut Students for a Dream have been coming to the state Capitol in their caps and gowns lobbying for access to financial aid.

They don’t have access to federal financial aid because of their immigration status, so the institutional financial aid is the only pot of money they may be able to access outside of private scholarships .As recently as last week, the students came to the Capitol to lobby during their spring break. 
William Axford writing for Houston Chronicle reports:
Dick’s Sporting Goods says it will be destroying all of its assault rifles after the company’s pledge to remove them from its Field and Stream stores. 

A company spokesperson said in an email: “We are in the process of destroying all firearms and accessories that are no longer for sale as a result of our February 28th policy change. We are destroying the firearms in accordance with federal guidelines and regulations.”

Dick’s Sporting Goods removed “assault-style rifles” from its main stores after the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.

According to a press statement from the chain, the rifles will also be removed from all of its 35 Field and Stream stores. The company has not said how many firearms it is destroying.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the rifles will be destroyed at the company’s distribution center and the parts will be recycled. 
Andrea Sears reports for the Public News Service:
Immigrants and their supporters are calling on the state to pass a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for New York State driver licenses.The bill would authorize the DMV to issue standard drivers’ licenses without requiring a Social Security number and with restrictions on what information can be retained or shared.

Currently, people are driving unlicensed, unregistered and uninsured, with high risk of detention and potential deportation.  This is especially true in rural areas where, in the absence of public transportation, undocumented immigrants have few options for getting to work, shopping or transporting their children.

Emma Kreyche, organizer with Worker Justice Center of New York, points out that a more mobile immigrant community will improve the economy for everyone else. "This will generate fees and income for the state," she said. "We expect that our auto sales will increase, there'll be revenue from taxes, there'll be increased economic activity." Supporters also says that Empire State drivers would save on car insurance as more drivers buy policies.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia currently allow residents to apply for licenses regardless of their immigration status.
Wednesday April 18, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Michael Zweig, Tony Ernst, Thomas Byrne and John Iannuzzi)
 In the news tonight: assistance for Bridgeport’s Minority Police Recruitment Efforts; Students Plan Another Walkout Friday; environmentalists in Southampton celebrate victory in battle to protect drinking water; and NYCLU Targets Long Island’s ‘School-to-Deportation’ Pipeline
An on again off again ally of Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim is back in the fold, this time to assist in the Park City’s efforts to recruit minority candidates for an upcoming Bridgeport police test. 

Only In reports State Representative Charlie Stallworth has returned as a consultant to the Civil Service Office, to attract more Bridgeport residents to the police exam. Stallworth, a city minister, will be paid $2,500 for the next month. 

According to the Mayor’s office the scope of consulting includes grassroots outreach to local community groups and organizations to help reach and identify possible qualified candidates.  Stallworth will share information about eligibility, qualifications and requirements for Candidates through community forums, meetings, events, as well as provide one-on-one information sessions.

The exam will be announced on April 23. 
Matthew Ormseth reports for the Hartford Courant:
One month after students in Connecticut and across the country poured out of classrooms to protest mounting gun violence in schools, those same young activists are hoping to sustain the momentum with another national walkout Friday.

The April 20 walkout was organized by Connecticut native Lane Murdock, a sophomore at Ridgefield High School. Murdock planned the walkout to coincide with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school massacre.Murdock’s plan calls for students to wear orange Friday, the color hunters wear, which means, ‘Don’t shoot’ 

At Ridgefield High, students plan to walk out of class and make for the football field where they can register to vote and speak to their classmates on an open-mic basis.

In Connecticut, some other walkouts are scheduled for Newtown, Darien, Fairfield,  Staples, and New Haven High Schools, and on Long Island at Hampton Bays, the Ross School, Mattituck, Center Moriches, Shoreham - Wading River, Ward Melville and Centereach High Schools. The events are all planned for 10am on Friday. 
Joan Gralla of Newsday reports:
A New York Appellate Court ruled recently that the Town of Southampton can regulate mining activities occurring within the town that may be polluting an aquifer. The appellate court overturned a town justice ruling and rejected the mining company’s argument that only the State could govern these activities.  

Said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment: “After 5 years of battling this, the Town now has the tools to fix the problem.” 

As a result of the ruling, the Town Justice must now rule on four violations issued to the quarry, Wainscott Sand and Gravel. The Suffolk County Department of Health is awaiting testing results of water samples which private testing has shown high contamination levels of heavy metals and other contaminants.

Other legal issues awaiting resolution include a State Supreme Court review of the Town’s request for an injunction to stop the quarry from crushing debris and a Department of Environmental Conservation determination on whether the quarry can expand its operations.  Representatives from the gravel company had no comment. 
Jano Tantongco reports in that the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) filed suit against the Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD) after it failed to respond to Freedom of Information Law requests for details about its role in the identification, arrest, and detention by federal authorities of immigrant students accused of gang involvement. 

The NYCLU reports collaboration between the SCPD, the South Country Central School District in Brookhaven, and federal immigration authorities has resulted in a “school-to-deportation pipeline,” through which children are being separated from families, detained, and ordered to be deported on dubious claims of gang involvement. 

“Eight months after filing our records requests, New Yorkers still have no answers from the Suffolk police about its role in the Trump administration’s immigration dragnet,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “During that time, ICE rounded up dozens of Long Island teens only to later concede they pose no threat.“ 
Tuesday April 17, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Trace Alford and Michael Zweig)

 In the news tonight: Connecticut General Assembly examines its harassment policies;  Esty to refund certain campaign contributions; developer sues Southampton for $100 million over plan’s defeat; Governor Cuomo to announce artificial reef expansion off Long Island
Mark Pazniokas reports for The Connecticut Mirror:  
The Connecticut General Assembly examined its policies on sexual conduct during a hearing Monday hosted by the Legislative Management Committee. House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, a Derby Republican, says the goal was to “learn what we’re doing well and what we can improve on.”  

The subject has touched Connecticut politics. 

U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty recently ended a campaign for re-election over her handling of a harassment complaint against her former chief of staff, Tony Baker.   Formal complaints of harassment at the General Assembly are rare. Senator Paul Doyle, a Wethersfield Democrat, says he assumes that is due to concerns over job security and whether the complaint process is welcoming to employees who feel victimized.  

Jonathan Griffin of the National Conference of State Legislatures says the policy should have a clear definition of sexual harassment and provide confidentiality to the greatest possible extent. 
Rob Ryser reports in Connecticut Post that U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty is giving money back. The embattled three-term Democrat, who dropped her re-election bid after news broke that she covered up an office abuse scandal, had nearly $1.6 million in campaign cash on hand at the end of March, according to the latest filing with the Federal Elections Commission.  

How many refunds Esty winds up making will come down to how many supporters request their money back. Federal election law does not require candidates to refund contributions designated for the primary election, which accounts for as much as 85 percent of her campaign money, her office estimated.  The only contributions that must be refunded if a candidate drops out of the race are those designated for the general election, the FEC says. 

Tim Daly, her chief of staff, noted that Esty is returning primary contributions to voters who request them. 
Vera Chinese reports for Newsday: 
The developers behind a proposed seasonal East Quogue golf community filed a $100 million lawsuit against Southampton Town, seeking damages for the town board’s denial of the project.  

The lawsuit challenges the town’s denial of developer Discovery Land Co.’s proposed 118 seasonal units and golf course. The lawsuit names the town, the town board, Councilman John Bouvier and Councilwoman Julie Lofstad who voted against the plan.  

With the 3-2 vote, the board did not have the supermajority needed to approve a mandatory zoning change.  Two weeks after the project’s rejection, Discovery filed a pre-application for a similar plan that included an 18-hole golf course, which developers said as a “residential recreational accessory” would not need a zoning change or town board approval.
Mark Harrington for Newsday reports:  
Governor Cuomo will announce today on Long Island the largest expansion of the state’s artificial reef program. Material from the demolished Tappan Zee Bridge and decommissioned vessels will be submerged in waters around Long Island.  

Nearly 50,000 cubic yards of cleaned bridge material, jetty rock and 29 former canal vessels will be added to six existing underwater reefs. Five reefs are in the Atlantic Ocean and one is in Long Island Sound.  Work will start in May and continue through the summer.   

Not everyone approves of the plan. New York Fish director Daniel Rodgers says: “They’re just trying to hide their garbage for free, and patronize New York fishing interests while doing it.” His group is pushing the governor to more aggressively fight the state’s low share of the fluke fishery and to reform its permitting system.
 Monday April 16, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Neil Tolhurst, Gretchen Swanson and Lee Yuen Lew and WPKN reporter Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: dueling groups protest Syrian bombing on New Haven Green; first African-American woman to brew beer in Connecticut; Riverhead hospital, police and EMS stage massive active shooter drill; vaping on the rise in Riverhead
Two groups with different views regarding Syria faced off on the New Haven Green Friday evening, just before President Trump announced a “limited” bombing campaign against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:
The ANSWER Coalition staged a small rally that focused on criticizing the U.S .role in Syria. Chris Garaffa said Assad’s army had rid the country of ISIS and an al Qaeda affiliate.

"This really isn’t as much about Assad as it is about U.S. imperialism. Assad is the democratically elected leader of Syria. Even the Syrian Communist Party itself has said that in this time of crisis we need to stand with Assad against the foreign invaders. And we’ll take up the further struggle after we’ve gotten rid of the foreign invaders."

Down the block, a handful of people who identify with the loose-knit CT Syria Group, said they do not support U.S. intervention, but they are opposed to Assad, whose election they argue did not represent the Syrian people. 

Sina Moravej, an Iranian-American, opposes Iran’s and Russia’s support for Assad:  
“A lot of people who talk about Syria fall into this narrative that we either have to support U.S. intervention or we need to support anti-imperialists. But the true anti-imperialist position isn’t represented, because I’m trying to give a voice to a very vibrant revolution that existed in the country, that rose up as part of the Arab Spring to oppose totalitarianism, authoritarianism.”

His group walked to the site of the ANSWER rally and handed out leaflets stating their opposition to U.S. military action and supporting seven non-military options, including air-dropping food and getting the International Criminal Court to charge the Assad regime with crimes against humanity. Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
Claire Dignan reports for ctpost:
Alisa Bowens-Mercado is the first African-American woman in Connecticut to brew beer and one of only a handful brewing craft beer across the country. She got into the craft beer scene to pay homage to her grandmothers, who she remembers drinking beer as they sat talking together. 

Bowens-Mercado owns Rhythm Brewing Co. which produces an unfiltered lager, Rhythm, at Overshores Brewery in East Haven. 

Unfiltered beer means “keeping the good stuff in,” Bowens-Mercado said. Rhythm sold out 100 cases in only two weeks, the mark of a very well-selling beer. Filtration removes the yeast, while the pasteurization “cooks” the beer, killing any microorganisms that escaped the filtration. 

Excessive filtration can strip away “the natural goodness of beer,” according to Beer Magazine, and “take out color, hop bitterness and proteins that add body and help form the beer’s head.” 
Denise Civiletti Reports for Riverhead Local:
In Riverhead on Saturday, more than two police and emergency services agencies held a massive training exercise at Peconic Bay Medical Center. While the hospital and emergency department remained open and fully operational, they staged a mass shooting drill in an administrative wing.

A handgun shooter enters the simulated emergency room. Within three minutes, 25 people — patients and staff — are shot and injured. Police respond in under a minute, locate the shooter and shoot him dead. Victim-actors, mostly student volunteers, are transported by ambulance to Brookhaven, Southampton and Eastern Long Island hospitals.

The drill tested the ability to bring a number of resources into Riverhead in a short period of time. Hospital, law enforcement and emergency officials all said they were very pleased with the result. 

Hospital CEO Andrew Mitchell said: “We conduct other, smaller-scale drills throughout the year. We learn from these drills, assess our response and improve procedures.” 
Denise Civiletti reports in Riverhead Local:
At a community event by the CAP Community Coalition in Riverhead, CAP executive director Felicia Scocozza said that parents of teens and other older adults are often unfamiliar with vaping.

Vaping is the increasingly popular practice of inhaling aerosol produced by an electronic device known as an e-cigarette or vape pen. Vaping materials are manufactured and marketed by big tobacco companies with names and flavors attractive to kids.  Student presenters reported there are more than 500 brands of e-liquids.

Besides nicotine addiction, the long-term effects of vaping are still unknown although Scocozza said “…preliminary research shows damage to lungs, brain and heart.” CAP surveys indicate roughly half of Riverhead HS seniors have tried vaping and 20% said they did not consider e-cigarettes harmful.

New vape stores in Riverhead are causing great concern although CAP community prevention specialist Kelly Miloski said “… compliance checks around town…found 100 percent compliance.” Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said the town will investigate how other municipalities have dealt with these issues.

Please note: Posts for the week of April 9 and April 16 are not currently available.  We hope to update them shortly.

Monday April 2, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Neil Tolhurst, Gretchen Swanson and Lee Yuen Lew)

In the news tonight:  

Breaking news: Representative Esty has just announced she will not run for re-election;

Democrats Join Calls For  U.S. Rep. Esty To Step Down; Trumbull electrifies as more drivers go green; New York passes $168 billion budget; school threat reports surge in Suffolk and Nassau

Russell Blair and Neil Vigdor report for the Hartford Courant:
The top Democrat in the state Senate, Martin Looney, joined other Democrats calling for U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty to resign over her handling of acts of domestic violence by a since-fired chief of staff against a former aide.

Tony Baker remained on Esty's payroll for three months after Esty learned of the allegations of abuse involving aide Anna Kain before firing Baker. Kain was granted a restraining order against Baker, whom she once dated, after she signed a sworn affidavit that he punched and threatened to kill her.

Baker received a $5,000 severance payment and a favorable recommendation from Esty that led to his hiring by the Sandy Hook Promise group.

Esty said she will not quit over the scandal. 
Sophia Kunthara reports in Connecticut Post: 
Trumbull is rolling out its first two publicly accessible electric vehicle charging stations at Westfield Trumbull Mall.

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, DEEP, supports electric vehicle infrastructure for air quality, health and climate reasons. DEEP spent $1.1 million between 2013 and 2017 to help ensure electric vehicle drivers can easily access chargers while driving. 

By 2050, DEEP plans to reduce emissions by 80 percent from 2001 levels. Electric vehicles are part of that plan, but still a small fraction of cars on the road. DEEP offers up to $5,000 in cash incentives for purchasing one.Connecticut has more than 300 publicly accessible charging stations. But most in Fairfield County are clustered around the I-95 corridor. Trumbull, Monroe and Newtown lack publicly accessible chargers. 

The two new electric vehicle chargers, located near Lord and Taylor, are the result of a partnership between Westfield Trumbull Mall and CT Green Bank.

Rachel Silberstein of Times Union reports:
Lawmakers finalized New York's $168 billion 2018-19 spending plan less than 24 hours before the April 1 deadline. The final document includes measures to protect New Yorkers from federal tax changes, sweeping sexual harassment legislation, $26.7 billion in education aid, and $12 million for the city of Albany to plug its 2018-19 budget gap.

Calling this spending plan his most difficult, Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted the $4.4 billion budget deficit facing the state and that the recent federal tax overhaul has capped state and local tax deductions known as SALT.

Stripped from the spending plan were controversial policy items from Cuomo's 2018-19 agenda including the Child Victims Act, the DREAM Act, early voting and the bump stock ban.

Provisions in the budget include the creation of a $100 million opioid stewardship fund and a voluntary retirement plan for employees of private employers. More than $13 million were added for agriculture programs along with support for environmental, veteran and health issues.

Joie Tyrrell reports for Newsday:
Officials say the number of threats against Long Island schools reported to police have surged this year, most notably since the Parkland mass shooting. Police have investigated each threat. Most have not resulted in charges, and some have proved to be unfounded.

Describing people as “hypervigilant,” Suffolk County acting Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron said: “I absolutely encourage people to report it to the police…we thoroughly investigate every one of them.”

Suffolk police reported 189 threats so far this year, 74 reported since the Florida shooting. In comparison, a total of 104 threats were reported last year.

Law enforcement and schools also report threats originating outside the region that directly or indirectly reference Long Island schools and that spread rapidly through social media.