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TIMELINES 6/6/13
Posted June 6th, 2013

Garnerville Residents Might See Tax Increase
The proposed 2013-2014 budget proposal for the King’s Daughters Public Library District includes a tax-levy increase of 3.1 percent, breaking the state’s two percent tax cap and possibly hitting Haverstraw taxpayers’ wallets harder. The board attempted to minimize the increase by cutting library systems, operations and maintenance, but could not fully control burgeoning employee benefit payments. Consequently, Library Director Claudia Depkin explained the increase was necessary. Library employees are also set to receive a one percent salary increase, with Depkin’s salary being bumped up from $96,222 to $99,135. In addition to the tax increase, the budget includes a $13,000 use of fund balance increase. According to Depkin, this increase is necessary to cover the absence of tax revenue for the first four months of the year, considering funds first go to the school district before being given to the Library.

New City Fire Kills Two Pets, Injures Firefighter
A fire destroyed a home at 290 Phillips Hill Road in New City on Monday morning, killing two dogs and injuring a firefighter. The blaze began in the morning and took eighty firefighters two hours to control. Fire personnel explained the fire was particularly difficult to fight due to a broken gas line and a lack of access to a hydrant. As a result, firefighters had to stretch hoses out more than 1,800 feet up a curving driveway to get within range of the burning building. By 12:15, the fire was out, but the home had been completely destroyed, displacing one adult, two children and possibly another family. One of the families had two dogs which perished in the blaze. According to a neighbor, the owner of the home is an African diplomat who was away at the time. In addition, one volunteer firefighter was taken to Nyack Hospital for heat exhaustion before being released after his injuries were deemed to be non-life threatening.

Recall Election for Colorado State Sen. who Championed Gun Control
Gun rights activist s displayed early success in a campaign to oust Colorado Senate President John Morse, turning up more than twice the number of signatures needed to force a recall election. Morse, a top Democratic lawmaker, was instrumental in the passage of recent gun control measures in his home state, provoking anger among gun rights advocates. In response, activists put out a petition for a recall election, gathering over 16,000 signatures. This is significantly more than the 7,178 signatures required for a recall. Morse explained that he would fight without resigning his seat to avoid the election and appears to have support from America Votes, a nonprofit with progressive leanings which has received backing from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The campaign to recall Morse has received financial support from a number of national non-profits, though supporters argue it is fundamentally a grassroots effort.

DWI Arrest in Ramapo
Ramapo police arrested Tara Schnell, 40-years-old from New City, for Driving While Intoxicated after a motor vehicle accident in the town of Ramapo on June 4. According to Ramapo police, officers were called to the scene of an accident on Route 45, where Schnell had attempted to turn onto Route 45 northbound from the west side of the roadway. During the turn, she collided with a southbound vehicle. Police reported no injuries as a result of the incident. Schnell was arrested and processed at the Ramapo Police Department, where her arraignment was scheduled for June 29, 2013 at the Ramapo Justice Court.

Ted Cruz Strikes Wins Praise for Appearance at GOP Fundraiser
During a 35-minute speech at a New York Republican Party dinner on May 29, rising political star and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) demanded a move away from polarizing rhetoric Republicans have taken up as of late and embracing a more inclusive, cooperative tone. In particular, Cruz took aim at Mitt Romney’s performance during the 2012 election as evidence of the party’s recent tendency to distance itself from voters rather than embrace them. He singled out Romney’s infamous “47 percent” to make the point and argued instead that “…Republicans are and should be a party of the 47 percent.” The Republican senator has joined other personalities including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, all of whom he praised in his speech, as a rising star in the party. He is particularly noteworthy for straying from the party line on issues such as immigration and gun control, taking a more centrist position.

Asteroid Set to Pass Earth Has Its Own Moon
NASA received an unexpected surprise on May 29 when they discovered an asteroid set for a close pass by earth has its own moon. Asteroid 1998 QE2, which is being monitored with NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna, is 1.7 miles in diameter with a moon measuring 600 meters in diameter. Radar images were taken at a distance of 3.75 million miles from earth, confirming previous size estimates for the asteroid while turning up the surprising new find of two bodies instead of one. The asteroid and its moon passed harmlessly on Friday, with a distance of 3.6 million miles at its closest point to earth. Though there were public fears of impact, spokesmen with both NASA and the White House assured the public that there was never a threat to earth. However, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, did take the opportunity to educate the anxious public on research into asteroid detection and deflection via its “We the Geeks” webcast, discussing new telescope technology and a quintupled budget for NASA to detect possible threats.

Stony Point physician Named as Rockland’s New Health Commissioner
Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, who is currently serving as President of Medical Staff at Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw, has been tapped to replace retiring County Health Commissioner Joan Facelle in June 2013. Ruppert, 54, is a family physician and Stony Point resident who previously held a public health rotation with the Rockland Department of Health. She currently serves a variety of roles at Helen Hayes including overseeing orthopedic care, rehabilitation in the cardiopulmonary unit and service as the employee health physician. In order to qualify for the position, Ruppert must obtain a master’s degree in public health. Her annual salary for the two-year term will be $157,349.

“All in the Family” Co-Star Jean Stapleton Dies at 90
Jean Stapleton, who played Edith Bunker on the popular sitcom “All in the Family,” died on May 31 at the age of 90, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most well-known and recognizable women in TV comedy. Stapleton is best known for playing Edith Bunker, the spouse of Carroll O’Connor’s character Archie Bunker, a temperamental, bigoted but ultimately good-natured blue-collar family man who frequently ran into conflict with his liberal daughter and son-in-law. In her role, Stapleton’s portrayal of Edith as doting but inspiringly just wife and mother made her a fan favorite and an early role model for women on television. After leaving “All in the Family” in 1979, Stapleton tried to distance herself from her Edith character, taking a number of minor roles in television including roles in “Mr. Kildare,” “My Three Sons,” and “Car 54 Where Are You?” She also had a celebrated career as an Off Broadway performer in productions such as “The Carpetbagger’s Children” and “The Entertainer.” Stapleton is survived by two children and their grandchildren.

Illinois House of Representatives Delays Vote on Gay Marriage Bill
The Illinois House of Representatives did not hold a vote on a bill which would have legalized gay marriage in the state on Friday, meaning another vote will not occur until the November veto session at the earliest. In a tearful statement, State Rep. Greg Harris, who had sponsored the bill, stated that he had “never been sadder.” The ACLU of Illinois tweeted that the reason behind the vote was that Harris was asked for more time by several of his House colleagues to give the bill additional consideration. Opposition to the bill came from a loose coalition of religious groups including the Illinois Family Institute, the African American Pastors Association, the Illinois Catholic Conference and other regional church groups. Though some have blamed members of the Congressional Black Caucus, both Caucus members Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) and Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) disputed the claim. The vote is an uncommon defeat in a string of victories for same-sex marriage proponents, who had previously pushed gay marriage bills through in the states of Rhode Island, Minnesota and Delaware.

Saratoga County Sheriff Warns of Taxpayer Burden for Pistol Permit Rush
Saratoga County Sheriff James Bowen announced on June 1 that he had requested his county supervisors’ approval of two new employees to manage a backlog of pistol permit requests deluging the Sheriffs’ Department since the passage of the NY SAFE Act. Bowen called the situation a “nightmare,” explaining that in the aftermath of the SAFE Act, permit requests had skyrocketed. According to him, his office, which is responsible for processing the requests and conducting background searches on applicants, received the deluge due to a surge in gun purchases by gun owners fearful of access to firearms after the law’s passage. The law also requires recertification of pistols and assault rifles by the department every five years. His request would entail the hiring of two new employees with annual salaries of $34,808 each, plus benefits. According to Bowen, the new hires would function as more county spending for state programs and would function as an unfunded mandate. Bowen is one of several County Sheriffs who is against provisions in the SAFE Act. Before him, the New York Sheriff’s Association released a critique of the new law which includes criticism of the magazine capacity limit of seven rounds and broad definition of assault weapons.

County Sheriffs say Plastic Bags likely Killed Dolphin
The Risso dolphin that was first spotted in the Hudson River near Clark Park on Memorial Day died on Thursday, likely from having swallowed four plastic bags. The dolphin had appeared sick when it was first spotted in the morning on Memorial Day, but appeared to be healthy when it swam away that night. A boater called the police Thursday night to report the dolphin floating in the river. Plastic bags disrupt the digestive system of dolphins; they feed on squid and typically throw up the beaks, but this Risso dolphin had over 100 beaks still in its stomach. One of the program directors for the Long Island-based Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation commented that this is a reminder of the impact humans have on the marine environment and those that inhabit it.

NYPD believes Self-Help Couple Committed Double Suicide
A couple who hosted a self-help radio talk show and encouraged others to fight depression with a positive attitude were found dead in their home on Monday – it was ruled a double suicide. Psychotherapist Lynn Rosen, 46, and her husband of 20 years, John Littig, 48, were from Park Slope, Brooklyn and suffocated themselves with plastic bags. Their radio program, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” aired on WBAI-FM and was a monthly show. The couple often used inspirational quotes and guided others on how to live happier lives. Littig was also a drummer under the stage name “Jadex.” Neighbors were shocked to hear the news of their suicide.

Lalor and Others Want to Investigate JCOPE Decision on Silver/Lopez Report
The news that the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) Vito Lopez report removed information potentially embarrassing to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has caused 12 members of the Assembly – including mid-Hudson Valley Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor – to call for an investigation by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York. The letter sent to the U.S. Attorney was made available online by Lalor, and he issued a statement revealing that he and his colleagues want to investigate the possibility of mail or wire fraud during the cover-up, as well as other possible crimes. In the initial JCOPE report on the matter of Vito Lopez, it was determined that the settlement payment was purposely mislabeled as “Legal-Attorney” expenses. The director of finance under Silver filed the false voucher with the state comptroller and subsequently received an increase in pay.

Update on County Smoking Policy
County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef and the Rockland County Department of Health recently announced that on April 3, 2013 an amendment to the Smoke-Free Air Act of Rockland County was passed. The amendment prohibits the possession of a lit cigar, cigarette, pipe, or any other device used for smoking within 25 feet of the entrances and exits of all County owned and operated buildings. The only exceptions to this are existing areas that have been designated for employee or patient smoking. POW’R Against Tobacco, a New York State funded community partnership program, donated signs to the County that read, “no smoking within 25 feet of all building entrances.”

Third-graders Dislike New Testing Policy
Third-graders in Maria Eliakostas’ class at Thiells Elementary School in the North Rockland Central School District wrote letters to the state voicing complaints about the state’s new testing policies. More than 20 letters were written by these eight and 9-year-old children, thanks to their teacher and the school’s principal, Peter DiBernardi. Changes in state policy made this year’s April tests much harder than those in the past. The chief complaints amongst the children were reading passages that were too long and above their reading level, not having enough time to complete the questions, and having the tests in April rather than June, when they would have had more time to learn new material. The state tests are based on the Common Core curriculum and raised the standards by more than a grade level. DiBernardi feels testing takes up too much time in the school year and that there are other ways to test the children, but a spokesman for the state education department said the tests are evaluated and analyzed each year to see how they can be improved.

With Islamists Out of Power, Mali Slaves Taste Freedom
For 10 months, the Islamists ruled Mali. Now that their reign is over, the Tuaregs and Arab Moors who supported their reign have fled the area, fearing repercussions for their part in the Islamist takeover. With their departure comes freedom for the thousands of slaves they held captive for generations. War still continues in Mali, but its northern cities were freed of the Islamists, some native to Mali and some from the West and North Africa branch of al-Qaeda, by a military intervention that began in January, led by the French. Though the Islamists are gone, there is still a divide in the community between those with Arabian blood and their black neighbors.

Accused of Refusing a Breath Test

Cheryl Vespry, 45, of 721 N. Liberty Dr. in Tomkins Cove is accused by the Stony Point Police Department of refusing a breath test, DWI and several traffic violations. On May 25, 2013 the Stony Point Police Department arrested the above individual on the above listed charges. Stony Point Police arrested the defendant after investigation into an auto accident on North Liberty Dr. involving injuries.

The defendant is due in court July 16.

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