Cuomo again says he won’t approve budget without ethics reform

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo Posted 26 March 2015

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued this statement today in an update on the state budget.

 

“There’s been much discussion on the subject of including policy in the state budget. It is a red herring.

 

“The truth is that every budget boils down to two essential issues: How much money are we spending and how are we spending it? There is no financial judgment that can be made without a corresponding policy judgment. Indeed many of the Legislature's proposals in their one house budgets have related policy proposals.

 

“There are two fundamental issues in this budget. The first is ethics reform. It’s an issue that speaks directly to the integrity of the process that determines and manages the $141 billion budget. Nothing could be more relevant to the budget process than the ethics of the people responsible for the budget itself. I reject the idea that ethics reform should only be considered outside the budget process – it is at the heart of the budget process. Saying ethics reforms should be done outside the budget is another way of saying one doesn't want to do ethics reform.

 

“The second major issue in the budget is education. Education is the largest single expenditure in the state budget. The relevant budget decision is not just how much we spend, but how we spend it. What are we doing about failing schools, how do we pay teachers and what we are paying for are questions that are implicitly raised in every budget. This year, we are for the first time asking how we can successfully address and fix a broken education bureaucracy that has relegated tens of thousands of New York’s children to failing schools every year and how to improve the overall performance of our education system.

 

“These two issues remain my highest priorities in this budget. They are transformative changes.

 

“Tackling substantial lapses in our ethics laws is an issue government has grappled with for more than 50 years. The question of client disclosure has plagued Albany since the 1960's. Addressing inequities, inefficiencies and substandard performance in our education system has eluded us for decades.

 

“A successful budget means enacting these policies that will rebuild trust in state government and transform our public schools in a way that will impact future generations of New York’s children.

 

“To repeat, I will not sign a budget without real ethics reform or agree to a dramatic increase in education aid without education reform that provides accountability, performance and standards.”

 

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County will pursue $1.9 million grant for emergency radio system

Project would make Orleans system interoperable with neighboring counties

Photo by Tom Rivers
Dale Banker, Orleans County emergency management coordinator, talks on his radio during a fire on Monday at a garage on Fancher Road in Clarendon.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 March 2015
ALBION – Orleans County has completed a $7.1 million upgrade to its emergency radio system, it’s first big overhaul in about two decades.


The county wants to continue to improve the system and will seek a $1.9 million state grant to make the system interoperable with emergency communication systems in Monroe, Niagara and Genesee counties.


The funding would also add vehicle repeaters for deputy patrol cars, giving them a stronger radio signal. In addition, the project would include bidirectional antennas and equipment for stronger signals inside school buildings at the five local districts as well as the BOCES site in Shelby.


“This would definitely enhance public safety,” Dale Banker, the county’s emergency management director, told county legislators during a conference about the grant on Wednesday.


The state has $50 million available through the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. Counties are welcome to submit applications by April 15.


The four counties – Orleans, Genesee, Monroe and Niagara – could coordinate their applications, and that effort would increase their chances for funding from the state, said Dan Sullivan, a salesman with Harris RF Communications.


The state has capped the grants to counties at $3.5 million. Orleans will seek $1.9 million.


The county’s new system provides at least 95 percent coverage in the county. The additional upgrades could take that to 99 percent.


“It’s an enhancement of an already state-of-the-art system,” Sullivan said.

 

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Chief deputy thanks county for investing in vests, rifles for deputies

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 March 2015
ALBION – A bulletproof vest likely saved the life of Deputy James DeFilipps during a shootout on Saturday at about 3 a.m. with James Ellis.


DeFilipps was shot twice in the abdomen, but the vest prevented the bullet from seriously injuring the deputy. DeFilipps only suffered minor injuries. He is at home and in good spirits, Chief Deputy Tom Drennan said today.


Drennan attended today’s Orleans County Legislature meeting and he thanked the county for providing the resources to purchase the vests for deputies. Each patrol car also has rifle and deputies are trained to use it in active shooter situations.


The vests and rifles “were huge factors in the incident,” Drennan told legislators today.


DeFilipps, after being shot twice, fatally shot Ellis, a Wyoming County resident who pulled a handgun on an ex-girlfriend in Shelby. Ellis was then chased by law enforcement before crashing his vehicle into a telephone pole on Route 31A in Clarendon.


Drennan said Ellis open fired on responding officers, including deputies Josh Narburgh, Kevin Colonna and Brian Larkin. Ellis also fired at state troopers Scott Gregson and Kevin Bentley and Holley police officer Guy Burke.


Drennan said the officers and dispatchers involved in the situation should be recognized by county officials for performing their jobs in a very stressful situation. Legislators agreed commendations are in order.

 

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County hires lobbyist for $60K to fight for money from Albany

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 March 2015
ALBION – Orleans County legislators voted today to hire lobbyist for $60,000 a year to advocate for county interests in the state capitol.


The decision to hire an outside public affairs firm was a first for the county, which wants to be more aggressive in pursuing grant funding and state resources.


“For quite some time, the Legislature has been concerned that the county’s legislative and budgetary priorities have often been overlooked in Albany,” said Legislature Chairman David Callard. “This has been particularly true as it relates to getting our priorities funded through the Regional Economic Development Council process.”


The county has retained Park Strategies, LCC, an Albany-based lobbying firm founded and chaired by Al D’Amato, the former U.S. senator who represented New York.


Orleans wants to push for more state funding for roads, bridges and infrastructure. Park Associates is well connected to leading state legislators and policy makers in Albany, said Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer.


The firm, he said, will push for infrastructure funds, Broadband funding, a grant for additional upgrades to the county emergency radio system to make it interoperable with neighboring counties, and other projects.

The county is a member of the New York State Association of Counties, but that group advocates for the overall good of all counties. NYSAC doesn’t push for projects and specific needs for member counties, Nesbitt said.


The county also is represented by State Assemblyman Steve Hawley and State Sen. Sen. Robert Ortt, whose districts include more than Orleans.


Nesbitt said the county has tried to advocate on its own behalf in recent years, and hasn’t secured the full grant amounts and other state assistance it has requested.


“We felt it was time to bring in some professional support,” Nesbitt said.


Orleans County has fared poorly per capita in the Regional Council awards. While nearby counties typically land several grants in excess of $100,000, Orleans and its municipalities see little of those funds.


In 2013, Holley received the only grant in the county: $65,776 for a canal park improvement project. Last year the county was expecting a $160,000 state grant for projects at the Marine Park. The final award was only $81,500.


“We need to align the needs of the county with available state programs and funding streams, and then make the case to both – the Regional Economic Development folks and decision-makers in Albany – that Orleans County deserves its fair share,” Nesbitt said.


The agreement with Park Strategies runs from March 26, 2015 to March 25, 2016. Nesbitt said county officials would evaluate the agreement in about a year to see if it was fruitful for the county.


“Working in concert with Park Strategies, I’m confident we will be well served, and more importantly, we will go a long way to ensuring that county residents get a return on the tax dollars they send to Albany every year.”

 

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Brush burning banned until May 15

Press Release, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Posted 25 March 2015
With the start of spring and warmer temperatures expected, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reminds New Yorkers that residential brush burning in towns with less than 20,000 residents is prohibited in the state through May 14.


“Along with the milder temperatures that come with spring, the risk for wildfires also increases,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “New York prohibits residential burning during the high-risk fire season to reduce the number of wildfires and protect people, property and natural resources. Since being enacted in 2009, the ban has been very effective in reducing the number of wildfires, and we want people to be aware that they need to put safety first.”


Open burning of debris is the largest single cause of spring wildfires in the state. When temperatures are warmer and grasses and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily and be further fueled by winds and the lack of green vegetation.
New York has had strict restrictions on open burning since 2009 to help prevent wildfires and reduce emissions.

 

The regulations allow residential brush fires in towns during most of the year, but prohibit such burning in spring months – March 16 through May 15 – when most wildfires occur. Campfires using charcoal or untreated wood are allowed, but people should never leave such fires unattended and must extinguish them. Burning garbage or leaves is prohibited year-round.


In the five-year period since the ban was enacted, the average number of spring fires per year decreased by 43.2 percent, from 3,297 in 2009 to 1,425 to 2014.


Violators of the open burning state regulation are subject to both criminal and civil enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense. To report environmental law violations call 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267) or report online. Click here for more information.

 

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Officials say Orleans at disadvantage with poor high-speed Internet

Photos by Tom Rivers
Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson speaks about the disadvantages facing many Orleans County residents and businesses due to unavailable or low-quality Internet access. She addressed David Salway, director of NYS Broadband Program Office, during a roundtable discussion today at the Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension. Tom Biamonte (left), owner of Shelby Crushed Stone, said his company suffers because there isn’t Internet on Blair Road in Shelby.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 March 2015
KNOWLESVILLE – The leader of the state’s effort to extend Broadband or high-speed Internet throughout the state heard this morning how the lack of service in parts of Orleans County puts residents and businesses at a disadvantage.


It also discourages many potential residents and businesses from coming to the county, said Skip Draper, town supervisor for Shelby.


“Commerce is driven by what is there and if it isn’t there, then we just have fields and woods,” Draper said during a Broadband discussion this morning led David Salway, director of NYS Broadband Program Office.


Gov. Cuomo is proposing $500 million in state funds to jumpstart the New NY Broadband Program. Private sectors companies would need to at least match the funding to extend and upgrade service.


That $1 billion-plus investment in public and private funds is far more than the $25 million the state has been setting aside recently to expand the service, Salway said.


Companies that provide the service will be required to offer 100 megabits per second download speeds for the expansion or at least 25 megabits in remote rural areas. That is far greater than the current standard of 6.6 megabits, Salway said.


“It’s a very ambitious goal, but a very achievable goal,” Salway told about 20 local officials and business owners during a roundtable discussion at the Cornell Cooperative Extension.

David Salway, director of NYS Broadband Program Office, speaks during a discussion about Broadband this morning at the Cooperative Extension. He is joined by Angela Liotta, the state's Broadband outreach director, and Vinnie Esposito, director of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.


Salway has been traveling the state to hear how inadequate Internet is a deterrent for businesses and quality-of-life issues. He heard from several officials how low-quality Internet is putting Orleans County at a competitive disadvantage.


“This is about emerging ag businesses and getting people to live here,” said Jim Whipple, CEO of the Orleans Economic Development Agency.


The county is seeing more wineries, hops operations and other small farming operations open, often in rural areas where there isn’t high-speed Internet.


Whipple said he talks with CEOs from bigger companies who are eyeing potential homes if they were to settle in the area. They are surprised when they learn some parts of the county don’t have Broadband.


That means they can’t stream Netflix, they can’t Skype, they can’t work remotely from home, and in some cases can’t complete filings for the government. If they have children, they can’t do on-line research for school projects.


Tom Biamonte, owner of Shelby Crushed Stone, is a mile away from high-speed Internet on Blair Road. He can’t do sales tax reports and regulatory filings from his main office, which is only a mile from Route 31.


He and his employees lack real-time capability for many reports and communication.

 

"We’re falling behind,” Biamonte told Salway during the discussion. “It’s harder for us to provide up-to-date training with our guys.”


He has asked Time Warner many times to run a line with the service down the road, but the company hasn’t moved on it.

Ward Dobbins, owner of H.H. Dobbins Inc. in Lyndonville, said relaible and adequate Internet is critical for his company. County Legislator Ken DeRoller is next to Dobbins.


Salway said the state funds should make running lines down many rural roads more financially doable for companies because they won’t have to bear the full costs. For very sparsely populated roads, Salway said the state may want to consider state funds, dollars from the Internet providers, and perhaps some money from people being served in that area.


Ward Dobbins, owner of H.H. Dobbins Inc. in Lyndonville, said the company is expanding its apple packing and storage business and needs reliable high-speed Internet to communicate with customers around the world. Employees could also monitor the facilities off site through their Smart phones with strong enough Internet.


“Even though we’re rural we’re global in agriculture,” Dobbins said. “Our needs have changed so much in five years.”


Orleans and Niagara counties have been working to together to identify gaps in high-speed coverage and to prepare a request for proposals for companies to provide service to 3,900 “unserved access points” in Orleans and seven towns in Niagara County.


The timing of the effort comes at a good time with the state funding push by the governor, said Evhen Tupis from BPGreene, the firm that worked with the two counties on the study. The counties are evaluating proposals from the Internet providers.


“This shows collaboration among counties and towns,” Tupis said.


Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson said the two counties have done the groundwork in establishing the need for high-speed Internet and reaching out to companies for the service. The state funds could bring the effort to a reality, and make the county a better place to live and work, Johnson said.


“We are competing against other counties and right now our hands are tied in this area,” she said. “We see the need from the local businesses. Hopefully we can leverage one of the first roll-outs in the area.”

 

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Orleans Courthouse hosts mock trial competition

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 24 March 2015
ALBION – Four teams competed in the semi-finals of the GLOW region mock trials on Monday at the Orleans County Courthouse.


In the top photo, Dylan Beckman serves as an attorney for the team from Batavia and questions a witness.


Amanda Conrad, a witness for Attica, responds to questioning from Becca Canale, an attorney for Batavia.


The fictional case centered on the treasurer of a Booster Club who was accused of stealing $45,200 to feed a gambling addiction.


Albion and Medina both have mock trial teams but they did not advance to the semifinals. The competitions are held at courthouses in Batavia, Warsaw and Albion.


Monday was Orleans County’s turn to host the event inside its historic courthouse, built in 1858.


Becca Canale was one of the attorneys for Batavia. She presents her closing argument to Chad Murray, the judge for the competition.


Madhu Vihani, a lawyer for the Attica team, presents documents to the team from Batavia.

The smaller courtroom on the first floor was used for the competition between teams from Avon, on left, and Notre Dame in Batavia.

Nic Culver of Medina, a freshman at Notre Dame, was a witness for his team.

 

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Cuomo insists on ethics and educational reforms in budget

Staff Reports Posted 23 March 2015

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he won’t sign a new state budget without ethics reform in Albany. The governor also is insisting other reforms, including teacher evaluations, be approved as part of the budget.

 

Cuomo’s communications director, Melissa DeRosa, issued this statement on behalf of Cuomo this afternoon:

 

“The governor and the legislative leaders are in the midst of ongoing budget discussions which have intensified as we have gotten closer to the budget deadline. As rumors swirl in the Capitol, several issues should be clarified.

 

“The governor has stated repeatedly and clearly that ethics reform was a top priority and that he wouldn’t sign a budget without ethics reform. Nothing has changed. A budget done with both houses must include ethics reform. The governor believes that the concerns of legislators who have outside employment such as a law practice have been addressed consistent with his program for increased ethics disclosure and transparency. The Assembly obviously has already agreed with the governor’s ethics package and has numerous members with outside employment. The governor said he would not sign off on a budget that doesn’t include the ethics reforms he outlined, and he meant it.

 

“Education reform is another top priority in this budget. The key education reforms are dealing with the epidemic of failing schools, improvement to the teacher evaluation system, tenure reform, teacher performance bonuses and scholarships to attract new teachers. If those reforms are passed, the governor will support a significant funding increase. The governor believes these changes will be transformative to our education system.

 

“The DREAM Act is supported by the Assembly and the Education Tax Credit is supported by the Senate. Last year, neither initiative was passed. The governor believes at this point, that either both will pass or neither. The governor supports passage of both and included them in his budget. If they don’t pass in the budget, they could still pass in regular session.

 

“The governor supports a pay commission and included it in his original budget. The charter cap and mayoral control for New York City are issues that can be addressed in the budget, or more likely in the remainder of the session. Regardless, both should be addressed before the conclusion of the session.

 

“Other top priorities in the budget include raising the minimum wage, a small business tax cut and real property tax relief, the governor’s $1.5 billion Upstate Revitalization Initiative, statewide broadband, a Thruway stabilization fund and a substantial increase in funding for affordable housing.”

 

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GO Art! presents grants tonight for 2015 cultural events

File photo by Tom Rivers
Zach Shaffer, an Albion High School student, waits for his cure to enter the stage when he played a waiter in “Follies,” a musical performed last October by the Lake Plains Players. The community theater group will receive $2,800 in grants from GO Art! this year for two different productions.

 

Staff Reports Posted 13 March 2015
BATAVIA – The Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council will distribute grants for nearly 30 different cultural initiatives in the two counties during a celebration from 6 to 8 p.m. today in Batavia at Seymour Place, 201 E. Main St.


Several awards will be presented to arts efforts in Orleans County. The evening will kick off with a performance by the Genesee Chorale Children’s Chorus, a 2015 Reach Grant recipient.

 

Awards will be presented to all 29 grant recipients who have proposed artistic and cultural projects to occur within Genesee and Orleans counties throughout 2015.


Legislative representatives will be present from both counties to help present the awards. The evening will conclude with a musical performance by 2015 Ripple Grant recipient Bill McDonald and his wife Kay.

 

GO ART! approved $41,600 in state decentralization grants for 26 projects in the two counties. The agency also approved $5,000 in Ripple Grants to support local artists who wish to involve the community in their creative process.

 

GO ART! approved $2,500 in Ripple Grants to Alex Feig of Orleans Radio for a “Remembers Medina” music recording and video, and $2,500 to Bill McDonald of Batavia for the Travelling Towpath Troubadors, a concert series along the Erie Canal.


Albion native Stacey (Kirby) Steward was approved for a $2,000 Spark Grant for an arts project with Holley Central School students. Steward’s project is sponsored by the Orleans County Adult Learning Services.


“Seeing Like an Artist” will encourage students to see the world as an artist sees it – noticing details that many miss. Students will be introduced to observational drawing and encouraged to practice developing skills such as focus, patience and attention. Inspiration will be drawn from nature.


Third graders will have several sessions with Steward, including drawing sessions, scientific observations and sharing sessions. The project will culminate in a mural created by the students and Steward.

 

The decentralization grants for projects in Orleans County include:

 

• Village of Albion, Concerts by the Canal, $2,530;

 

• Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, Finally Fridays concert series, $2,300;

 

• World Life Institute in Waterport, Voice from the Earth, $3,440;


• Bill Lattin, sponsored by Pullman Memorial Universalist Church, for Halloween Pictures and Pranks Show, $1,515;

 

• Lake Plains Players, $2,000 for fall production and $800 for spring production;

 

• The Cobblestone Society Museum for “The Lost Generation,” an exhibit about World War I, $2,300;

 

• Yates Community Library, “More Than Just Books,” $2,800;

 

• Lyndonville Lions Club for Concert Fun for the Summer, $1,500.

 

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Hawley seeks Assembly reforms, including term limits for leadership

Assemblyman also wants cuts in taxes and regulations for small businesses
Staff Reports Posted 5 March 2015
State Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia) is supporting a comprehensive Assembly Rules Reform package aimed at greatly improving openness, transparency and accountability.


Hawley said this legislation cannot be delayed any longer in the wake of major scandals involving top house leadership.


“The people of New York deserve a higher standard of government,” Hawley said. “These reforms will stand in stark contrast to the sea of corruption we have seen over the past few years. The public is sick and tired of lies, backroom deals and the secrecy that has shrouded the Legislature for years. It is long past the time to shed some light on our internal workings.


“I have included my own proposal in this package that would mandate a two-thirds vote in the house to pass a message of necessity. This would prevent future abuses such as the SAFE Act from coming to the floor for a vote before proper debate and discussion has been initiated. I am calling on my Assembly colleagues across the aisle, who called for these very same proposals weeks ago, to stand with us today and bring this legislation to the floor for a vote.”


Hawley’s comments come after a press conference was held in Albany on Wednesday by Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R-Canandaigua) to introduce legislation to overhaul the Assembly’s rules. Highlights of the package include term limits for legislative leaders and committee chairs, and allowing each member of the Assembly to bring one piece of substantial legislation to the floor for a vote.


Hawley also wants to see tax cuts and fewer regulations for small businesses.


“As the owner and operator of a small business for many years, I know the amount of hard work and determination it takes to succeed in New York’s economic climate,” Hawley said. “Small businesses are the backbone of this nation and the driving force behind employment and economic growth, and are oftentimes family owned for generations.


“It is unfortunate that Gov. Cuomo and the Assembly leadership have, year after year, neglected to enact sweeping deregulation and tax cuts for small businesses to help them hire more employees and compete with larger corporations. My district is home to many small businesses and I will be sure to make their voices heard during this year’s budget negotiations.”


Hawley has received 100 percent ratings from the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and Unshackle Upstate for his legislative votes during the 2013-14 year. Hawley also urged other legislators to sponsor and support the Small Business Full Employment Act.


“This legislation provides a comprehensive overhaul of how we regulate and tax small businesses,” Hawley said. “The bill focuses on cornerstones of economic growth such as tax cuts for businesses with fewer than 100 employees, repeal of the 18-A utility tax and tax credits for creating new jobs. I urge my Assembly colleagues to support this bill and help our businesses thrive in a less than ideal economic climate.”

 

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Local SCOPE members attend lobby day in Albany

Provided photo Posted 4 March 2015
A delegation of SCOPE (Shooters Committee On Political Education) attended SCOPE Lobby Day in Albany on Tuesday. SCOPE members from Orleans, Genesee and Niagara counties rode a bus together to Albany and met with members of the Assembly and Senate who represent the area, including Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, pictured in this photo in center (in suit).

 

The SCOPE members boarded a bus in Le Roy at 4 a.m. In Albany, they pushed for full repeal of the SAFE Act, defunding of the SAFE Act and uniform pistol licensing requirements across New York State with no additional restrictions added by the local licensing, said Mattie Zarpentine of Holley, the WNY coordinator for New York Revolution, a group opposed to the SAFE Act.

 

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U.S. ‘must remain united’ with Israel, Collins says

Staff Reports Posted 3 March 2015
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at a joint meeting of Congress today, speaking against a deal the U.S. and its allies are pursuing with Iran over its nuclear program.


Congressman Chris Collins, R-Clarence, issued this statement following Netanyahu’s remarks.


“The importance of America’s relationship with Israel transcends politics,” said Congressman Collins. “Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated how essential a strong partnership is between our two nations. As growing threats emerge from the Middle East, now more than ever, Israel and the United States must remain united. I am honored to have had the opportunity to hear the prime minister speak and will continue to be a strong advocate on behalf of Israel.”

Congressman Collins was accompanied to today’s address by Chris Jacobs, Erie County Clerk.

“I am honored to have heard one of the world’s leaders, Prime Minister Netanyahu, speak today,” said Chris Jacobs, Erie County Clerk. “Israel and the United States have a relationship that goes beyond just allied countries and it was a tremendous opportunity to see that on display at today’s address.”

 

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Gillibrand, Hochul lead effort to combat sexual assaults on college campuses

Press Release, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Posted 2 March 2015
BUFFALO – At a round table meeting at University at Buffalo today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul were joined by students and officials from UB and other Western New York area colleges, as well as survivors, advocates, and law enforcement and discussed bolstering efforts to combat sexual violence on college campuses.


According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, college campuses in New York reported 388 forcible sex offenses and over 5,000 offenses nationwide in 2013.


Last week Gillibrand reintroduced a strengthened version of her bipartisan bill The Campus Accountability and Safety Act (S.590) after receiving input from survivors, students, colleges and universities, law enforcement, and advocates.


Gillibrand’s legislation would flip the current incentives of a broken system to provide real accountability and transparency from higher education institutions. The legislation would professionalize the response to and reporting of sexual assaults that occur on campuses to better protect and empower survivors of campus sexual violence, while also protecting the rights of accused students.


The legislation would secure landmark reforms for how colleges and universities address and report incidents of sexual assault that occur on their campuses. It incorporates feedback from key stakeholders to strengthen how student surveys are conducted and strengthens newly required training standards.

 

The provisions safeguard both survivors and accused students. It extends the amount of time survivors have to file a case with the Department of Education, and sets new notification requirements for both survivors and accused students involved in the campus disciplinary process.


“Right now, some colleges and universities are more inclined to expel a student for cheating on an exam than for committing sexual assault,” Gillibrand said. “We know this problem is pervasive and too often swept under the rug. This bipartisan bill is a new path forward to protect students by flipping the incentives and holding schools accountable. I am grateful to the survivors and advocates whose work inspired this legislation. Our work isn’t done, and now we need to work together to spotlight this problem, raise awareness, and organize around getting this bill passed so we can make our colleges safer and more transparent.”


Key provisions of the legislation include:


• Establishes New Campus Resources and Support Services for Student Survivors: Colleges and universities will be required to designate Confidential Advisors to assist survivors of sexual harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Confidential Advisors will coordinate support services and accommodations for survivors, provide information about options for reporting, and provide guidance or assistance—at the direction of the survivor—in reporting the crime to campus authorities and/or local law enforcement. Schools will no longer be allowed to sanction students who report sexual violence but reveal a non-violent student conduct violation in good faith, like underage drinking.


• Requires Fairness in Campus Disciplinary Process: All schools will now be required to use one uniform process for campus student disciplinary proceedings and may no longer allow athletic departments or other subgroups to handle complaints. Schools must now provide written notification to the accused as well as the victim of any decision to move forward with a campus disciplinary proceeding within 24 hours of that decision. The notice must include details of complaint, a summary of the disciplinary proceeding and the rights and due process protections available to both parties.


• Ensures Minimum Training Standards for On-Campus Personnel: This legislation ensures that everyone from the Confidential Advisors to those responsible for investigating and participating in disciplinary proceedings will receive specialized training so that they have a firm understanding of the nature of these crimes and their effect on survivors.

• Creates New Transparency Requirements: For the first time, students at every university in America will be surveyed about their experience with sexual violence to get an accurate picture of this problem. This new biannual survey will be standardized and anonymous, with the results published online so that parents and high school students can make an informed choice when comparing universities. The Department of Education will also be required to publish the names of all schools with pending investigations, final resolutions, and voluntary resolution agreements related to Title IX with respect to sexual violence.

• Campus Accountability and Coordination with Law Enforcement: This legislation will require colleges and universities to enter into memoranda of understanding with each local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction to report to a campus as a first responder to clearly delineate responsibilities and share information so that when a crime occurs, both campus authorities and local authorities can focus on solving the crime rather than debating jurisdiction.


• Enforceable Title IX Penalties and Stiffer Penalties for Clery Act Violations: Schools that do not comply with certain requirements under the bill may face a penalty of up to 1 percent of the institution’s operating budget. Previously, the only allowable penalty was the loss of all federal student aid which is not practical and has never been done.

 

The bill increases penalties for Clery Act violations to up to $150,000 per violation from the current penalty of $35,000. Financial penalties collected from universities in violation will be distributed back to campuses through a new competitive grant program, administrated by the Secretary of Education, for which colleges and universities can apply for the purpose of researching best practices for preventing and responding to sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking on college campuses and sharing such research with peer institutions and the Department of Education.


“Sexual assault is all too prevalent on college campuses, which is why here in New York we've said "Enough is Enough" and we are committed to doing something about it,” said Lieutenant Governor Hochul. “Now is our defining moment to ensure that every college and university -- both public and private -- abides by the same set of standards so that victims have confidence to come forward without fear of retribution. Along with Senator Gillibrand’s leadership in Washington and Governor Cuomo’s actions at home, we are ready to bring fundamental change to a system in dire need of reform."


Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, colleges and universities have a legal obligation to provide an environment that is free from discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs and activities. Sexual harassment, which includes sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited under Title IX.

Gillibrand introduced the bipartisan legislation Thursday along with Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Gary Peters (D-MI.).


“We all have a responsibility to help combat the culture of sexual assault and rape on college campuses,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Sen. Gillibrand has been a leader in this fight in Washington, and I commend her for the important work she has done and continues to do on this critically important issue. In New York, we’re fighting to enact the toughest and most comprehensive law in the nation to combat sexual assault on college campuses. Enough is Enough, and this year I urge all New Yorker’s to join our fight in combatting sexual assault on college campuses.”

 

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Orleans EDA looks to build on strong 2014

Companies invested $30M-plus, added 108 jobs

File photos by Tom Rivers
A 48,000-square-foot addition takes shape at Brunner International in this photo from September.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 February 2015
ALBION – Last year was a big year for the Orleans Economic Development Agency with three companies collectively investing $32 million in expansion projects and committing to 108 new jobs.


This year looks even more promising, said Jim Whipple, Orleans EDA chief executive officer. Whipple told county legislators this week that the job creation numbers could top 2014’s “by six or seven times.”


He expects state officials to soon make announcements about two big job creation efforts in the county.


He outlined the highlights from 2014 with legislators on Wednesday. Those EDA projects include a $14.5 million expansion at Brunner International in Medina. Brunner produces components for heavy-duty trucks and trailers. It constructed a 48,000-square-foot addition with new equipment.


Brunner is keeping 363 existing jobs in the community and adding 33 more as part of the expansion at the corner of Bates Road and Route 31.

Intergrow Greenhouses started another big expansion last year at 2428 Oak Orchard Rd. in Gaines.


Intergrow Greenhouses built 7.5 acres more of greenhouses in a $14.5 million company investment that added 15 jobs.


The company has grown to 55.5 acres of greenhouses since its first 15-acre greenhouse in the Town of Gaines in 2003. Intergrow now has 100 employees at the site.


Claims Recovery Financial Services in Albion also increased its workforce by 60 people last year as part of a continued expansion at the former Chase building on East Avenue. CRFS now has about 600 workers at the Albion location.


It spent $2,660,000 as part of the expansion in 2014, according to the Orleans EDA.


Several projects are expected in 2015, Whipple said, including a new hotel in Medina at a $4 million company investment that will add four new jobs.


Helena Chemical also is expected to invest about $2 million in a new complex in Ridgeway, moving from a site in the Village of Albion.


Whipple didn’t detail two large projects that could be announced very soon. He said Precision Packaging Products in Holley also is working on a vertical integration project, while Snappy/Acme is looking at a project in Medina.


In addition, Apex Clean Energy would like to build 60 to 68 wind turbines Yates and Somerset, structures that could tower nearly 600 feet in the two rural lakeshore towns.


The Orleans EDA has stepped up its marketing efforts by hiring Mindful Media Group to develop a new website, push social media and also send news releases to American and Canadian markets.


The economic development agency also secured a $34,000 document storage grant to scan in documents from the past four decades. The EDA also is seeking a $200,000 EPA brownfield assessments grant to identify sites in the county that may be contaminated and need remediation.

 

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Hawley says governor needs to release school aid numbers

Assemblyman also responds to DREAM Act and business competition
Staff Reports Posted 26 February 2015
State Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia) called on Gov. Cuomo to release school aid runs across the state. Hawley said that school districts are up against the clock to present a workable budget plan to their faculty and residents.


The aid numbers are typically part of the governor’s budget proposal in January. This time Cuomo did not detail numbers for individual districts. He said they would see a state-wide increase of 1.7 percent in educational aid if the State Legislature doesn’t approve his educational reforms, and 4.8 percent more if the reforms are passed.


“The release of school aid runs is supposed to be a routine part of the budget process each year,” Hawley said. “The governor’s tactics rob students, faculty and parents of the ability to plan things such as availability of classes, extracurricular programs, faculty size and school tax burden. Without this information, school districts are forced to build contingency budgets that could likely include many layoffs and program eliminations. I am calling on Gov. Cuomo to do what is right for our school districts and release the required funding information.”


Hawley’s comments come after a press conference was held this morning by Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R-Canandaigua) urging Gov. Cuomo to release school aid runs. Superintendent Christopher J. Dailey of the Batavia City School District also commented on the lack of information.


“The governor holding back state aid runs has hindered the process of formulating our budget for the 2015-16 school year,” said Dailey. “To plan for flat state aid is the only choice we currently have. Playing games with the school system helps no one.”


Passage of Dream Act should not be a priority


The State Assembly passed a bill that would give college financial aid to immigrants living in the country illegally. The legislation still needs to get through the State Senate.


The Democrat majority in the Assembly approved the bill that would allow immigrants to participate in programs that distribute state-funded tuition breaks, including the Tuition Assistance Program and the Educational Opportunity Program.


“The Assembly’s passage of the DREAM Act demonstrates that we are still not putting the needs of New York citizens first,” Hawley said. “At a time when school districts are still struggling with the Gap Elimination Adjustment cuts and cannot properly formulate budgets because school aid runs have not been released, we chose to focus on funding for illegal aliens.


“The Assembly leadership and the governor are sending the message that legal New York taxpayers are less important than illegal aliens. Our priorities should be to fully fund and protect New York parents, teachers and students who are here legally before we give money to those who are not.”


Promotes the NY business plan competition


Hawley also encouraged college students to participate in New York’s annual business plan competition. Hawley praised the competition for allowing bright students across the state to present new ideas consistent with New York’s focus on nanotechnology, entrepreneurship and advanced technology. More than 600 students are expected to participate and compete for a top cash prize of $100,000.


“As the owner and operator of a small business, I know the hard work and ingenuity it takes to succeed as a business owner in New York,” Hawley said. “This competition highlights principles that make our state great – determined and visionary entrepreneurs and businesspeople. I am thrilled that we are allowing the next generation of business- and technology-minded students to fulfill their passions right here in New York State and generate ideas that will allow our economy to grow and thrive. I encourage all college students interested in this competition to participate.”


The competition’s regional semifinals, held at St. John Fisher College in Rochester for students from Hawley’s district, will be held in March and early April with the finals being held on April 24 at SUNY Polytechnic Institute. Since the first competition in 2010, more than 1,130 students have competed with cash prizes being awarded in excess of $1,300,000. Click here for more information about the competition.

 

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Collins says FCC saddling Internet with ‘Big Government’ regulations

Press release, Congressman Chris Collins Posted 26 February 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Chris Collins (R-Clarence) today issued the following statement after the Federal Communications Commission voted to reclassify the Internet as a Title II utility.

“FCC actions to reclassify the Internet under Title II pose a direct threat to Internet freedom,” said Congressman Collins. “Today’s vote threatens the innovative culture that makes the Internet one of the world’s greatest technologies. I am disturbed by the lack of transparency involved in this decision process, and am afraid it is a foreshadowing of the big government overregulation that will stem from Title II classification. These actions will add further uncertainty to the net neutrality debate chilling vital private sector investment.

“Here in Congress, under Chairmen Thune and Walden, we have proposed draft legislation that would achieve the goal of protecting Internet consumers through the bright-line rules that net neutrality proponents are calling for in a way that limits burdensome regulations from crushing innovation. This fight is far from over and I will be steadfast in my commitment to keeping the Internet free from debilitating government intervention.”

 

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County, Albion village pass resolutions seeking fair AIM funding from state

File photo by Tom Rivers
The Albion Village Hall is a historic building at the corner of Platt and East Bank streets. The Village Board on Wednesday approved a formal resolution, asking the State Legislature and Gov. Cuomo to direct more state aid to villages.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 February 2015
ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature and Albion Village Board both passed formal resolutions on Wednesday, calling on state government leaders to update a formula for sharing aid to villages, towns and cities.


Right now, 90 percent of the $714 million in Aid and Incentives to Municipalities goes to upstate cities, about $277 per capita for city residents compared to only $7 for residents in towns and villages.


The resolution approved by the Village Board says the current AIM formula is a form of “state-sponsored economic discrimination” for villages, because those residents pay for a myriad of services with little state aid, resulting in high property taxes for villagers.


Albion passed the same resolution as the Medina Village Board on Monday. The issue is gaining momentum in Orleans County with several municipalities passing resolutions that are forwarded to the governor and local state legislators. The Albion Village Board also is sending its resolution to Carl Heastie, the new speaker of the State Assembly and a Bronx resident.


The village is challenged with a shrinking tax base and many needs, from dilapidated housing and decaying infrastructure, while trying to meet the public needs for police, parks, water, sewer and other services.


The County Legislature joined the push for state aid with its own resolution. Legislators said the revenue-sharing formula – intended to ease property taxes – has not been updated in at least 30 years.


The state should boost the AIM funded by 50 percent and share more with towns and villages, the Legislature said. That state aid would be an effective way to knock down the local property taxes, according to the resolution.


The formula should factor population, population density, poverty and public safety services, and should also consider tax-exempt property within a municipality’s borders, legislators said.


The current formula is not targeted to communities based on economic and demographic factors, and “fails to accurately reflect the fiscal need and capacity of recipient cities, villages and towns,” according to the county resolution.


County officials raised the issue with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul last week when she visited Albion. David Callard, Legislature chairman, said he is optimistic Hochul can push for a change in AIM funding with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.


“She can bring it closer to the governor than maybe anyone,” Callard said.


The Legislature chairman said an increase in state aid is critical for the local governments, especially during a time of 2 percent tax caps.


“The time has come when we need to help our villages and towns,” Callard said.

 

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County legislators praised for again opposing SAFE Act

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 February 2015
ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature again gave a unanimous vote for the repeal of the SAFE Act on Wednesday. The Legislature opposed the gun control measure soon after it was passed by the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January 2013.


County legislators say the legislation makes criminals out of law-abiding gun owners, and also has imposed financial burdens on counties and gun owners. The SAFE also “does not increase the safety of the public,” according to the resolution approved on Wednesday.


Copies of the resolution will be forwarded to local state legislators, Gov. Cuomo, local towns and villages, and InterCounty of Western New York.


The Legislature was praised by Mattie Zarpentine of Holley, regional director for New York Revolution, a group that formed after the SAFE Act was passed.


Zarpentine said 52 out of 62 counties have gone on the record to oppose the SAFE Act, which she said is unconstitutional and an infringement on Second Amendment rights. Orleans County is the only county to have the Legislature and all of the town and village boards formally oppose the SAFE Act.


“Orleans County residents should be extremely proud of our strong stance in support of our Constitutional rights,” Zarpentine said during Wednesday’s Legislature meeting. “Those resolutions sent a very clear message.”


She was joined by about a dozen New York Revolution supporters at the Legislature meeting.


“Here we are, nearly two years after the passage of that resolution, unwavering in our resolve to fight tyranny,” Zarpentine said in an address to the Legislature. “What we understood about the SAFE Act back then has proven true: It has done nothing to make us any safer. It has only managed to infringe upon the freedom of the law-abiding citizens of New York.”


County Legislator Don Allport, R-Gaines, echoed those comments, saying the state government has been “overbearing” in the SAFE Act, limiting residents’ right to bear arms.

 

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