TIMELINES 6/27/13

Cycling fundraiser to be held for severely-injured toddler
A bike shop-owner’s wife recently kick-started a driveto raising money for a Georgia toddler with a severe brain injury with a multi-state marathon bike ride. After finding a Facebook page providing updates on Tripp Halstead, who was struck and severely brain damaged by a fallen tree branch while at preschool, New York resident Kaete Nazaroff came up with the idea for an almost 900 mile bike ride Georgia in support of Tripp. After contacting Tripp’s family, a date of June 26 was set. Kaete’s husband Dave, a former Ironman cyclist and the owner of three New York bike shops, to make the five-day journey. The trip, which was billed the Toga Multisport RIDE to GIVE Benefitting Tripp Halstead, will begin in Nyack. It has already garnered significant attention online, with an CNN iReport receiving 600,000 views and the campaign itself collecting $105,000 for Tripp’s recovery.

Nine Pearl River residents arrested for graduation party at Palisades
Palisade Interstate Parkway Police arrested nine Pearl River residents, including five adults and four juveniles, on June 20 for holding a graduation celebration past the Rockefeller Lookout barriers. The nine were discovered when police discovered a car with marijuana in plain view parked at the Englewood Cliffs lookout. Police later found the group at the cliff’s edge drinking and smoking and the partygoers each admitted partial ownership of the illegal substance and explained they were celebrating graduation. After being brought into custody, the five adults were charged with underage possession of alcohol, possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia and creating a hazardous road condition. The four juveniles were given juvenile complaints.

Suffern man receives 21 citations for police chase
William Carey, 26 of Suffern, was cited 21 times for eluding police in a car chase which began in New Jersey before ending in Pearl River. Police initially attempted to pull Carey over on River Vale Road in River Vale, New Jersey for driving 53 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone. Instead of pulling to the side of the road, Carey led police on a chase from there to Orangetown Road. Rockland police joined in pursuit on Blue Hill Road. Carey was finally brought to a stop after getting onto Veteran’s Memorial Highway, where he was clocked at going up to 80 miles per hour. He was cited for multiple traffic offenses including speeding, reckless driving and driving without a valid license.

Man walks across Grand Canyon in tightrope stunt
Tightrope walking “aerialist” Nik Wallenda gave a much-anticipated performance on Sunday by walking across a steel cable strung over the Grand Canyon’s Little Colorado River Gorge. Using a set of leather shoes with elk-skin soles, the seventh-generation tightrope walker slowly made his way across a quarter mile of the gorge on a two-inch wide cable, braving unpredictable winds and dust which often clouded his contact lenses. The stunt was broadcast live on the Discovery Channel, with Wallenda outfitted with a microphone and two cameras during the stunt. Nik’s “Flying Wallenda” family is known for tightrope-walking and has lost members due to the inherent danger of the performance style. Wallenda explained that unless his family ever asked him to retire, he would continue performing. Wallenda is already planning a second high-risk performance, a tightrope walk between the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building in New York City.

Final Moreland Commission report released on utility failures in LIPA
The final report by the Moreland Commission on Utility and Storm Preparation and Response was released on June 23, shedding light on failures of utility preparedness and responses to recent extreme weather events such as Hurricanes Irene and Sandy while also exposing possible improprieties in the relationship between utilities and consultants. The commission, which was created by Governor Andrew Cuomo in November 2012, investigated inefficiencies, planning defects and lacks of coordination in response plans, especially with Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). In the final report, LIPA was revealed to have spent inordinate amounts of money on consultants from Navigant Consulting, Inc. with signs of a revolving door between the two companies in possible violation of state ethics law. Also included in the report were financial irregularities in LIPA’s reporting of delivery charge increases, debt retirements and overcharges, a failure to track travel reimbursements for Navigant consultants and other billing issues which seemingly obfuscated LIPA’s true consultant expenses. The Commission also recommended a series of measures to prevent similar situations with energy efficiency and utility infrastructure investments and the strengthening of the Public Service Commission to protect ratepayer interests, which the Commission explained were not adequately served by current policies which did not give adequate oversight to LIPA.

Office of People with Developmental Disabilities gets its funding back
State lawmakers recently agreed to reinstate funding for the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) on June 18, reversing an earlier decision in March which stripped the office of much of its funding. The resolution will appropriate up to $90 million to protect providers from funding restrictions in case of a shortfall in savings. If savings are inadequate, the state will transfer money from elsewhere to support the program. The move, which reverses a highly-controversial decision which stirred legislative and public debate, was approved in a rare, unanimous show of support from both the Assembly and Senate. For the first time in history, every member of the Assembly signed on as a co-sponsor, signaling the broad support for the OPWDD continued function. Governor Andrew Cuomo had previously stated he was supportive of alternatives to the cut, opening the way for his likely support and signature of the bill.

Carlucci proposes bill to ban smoking on public playgrounds
State Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Ossining) recently re-proposed legislation in the Senate banning smoking on public playgrounds, reinvigorating a bill which had previously fallen by the wayside. The bill prohibits smoking at public playgrounds from sunrise to sunset when there are children under the age of 12 present. It is somewhat restrictive in its definition of a playground, excluding athletic fields, play areas on private property and playgrounds in NYC. Several municipalities already have anti-smoking regulations, but nothing exists on a state level to curb the practice at playgrounds. Previously, the bill had passed through the Assembly, but never made it to the Senate. The current bill passed through the Assembly in June.

Supreme Court eliminates key part of Voting Rights Act
The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the Federal Government did not have the authority to enforce key aspects of the Voting Rights Act, one of the hallmark pieces of legislation dating back to the Civil Rights Era which sought to prevent discrimination at the voting booths. The Court held in a 5-4 split that in Section 5 of the Act, the standard used to evaluate which states must receive preclearance to change voting laws is based on outdated data which unfairly impacts affected states which were first targeted with Federal oversight. The Federal Government once had the ability to preemptively reject changes to new voting laws, such as a slew of recent regulations in thirty states tightening voter ID requirements and poll hours, but now the future of that authority is uncertain. The Justice Department has used Section 5 to challenge state laws and has shown staunch opposition to changes in voting laws which it deems to undermine equality at the polls, but the new ruling is likely to remove some of its authority by eliminating the standard it uses. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder stated in response to the ruling that they were “deeply disappointed” at the ruling. The Court, however, did leave open the possibility of a Congressional update of the Act to address current voting conditions is a possibility if Congress approves such a law, but given the deeply-divided nature of both the House and the Senate, passage of a new set of standards would be uncertain at best.

Rockland Transit Sues Brega
The Rockland Transit Corporation, based in Valley Cottage, NY, has filed a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in Westchester County against the County of Rockland. The lawsuit hopes to reverse the county’s contract with Brega Transportation Corporation, which allows them to operate the “Transport of Rockland” and “Tappan Zee” public bus systems, and re-open bidding for these services on a fair and equal basis. According to Rockland Transit, the awarding of the contract to Brega goes against New York laws and is inconsistent with the county’s solicitation. Brega failed to meet the requirements for minimum experience operating a transit system the size of Rockland County’s, according to both Rockland Transit and the county’s procurement officials. They also did not commit to the “Transit Employee Protective Agreements,” which are put in place to protect the salaries and benefits of public transportation workers in the county. Rockland Transit and its sister company Hudson Transit have spent decades providing public bus services in Rockland and are hoping for a chance to re-enter a bid that may allow them to continue to provide those services.

Toll Booth Not to be Placed in South Nyack
The term “toll plaza” was misleading to residents of South Nyack, who feared a line of traffic at Interchange 10, caused by cars stopping to pay their toll for the Tappan Zee Bridge. Rather than an actual booth, an All-Electronic Toll Gantry will be temporarily placed at exit 10 during construction and, once the new bridge is complete, the toll’s permanent place in Tarrytown will be put into action and the Toll Gantry removed from South Nyack. The gantry will appear similarly to highway sign structures and will electronically read drivers’ E-ZPass devices. If a driver does not have E-ZPass, a photo of their license will be taken and a bill for the toll fee mailed to their home address.

Potential Privacy Concerns Raised by the “Hub”
Concerns are being expressed over the security of the Federal Services Data Hub, which is a critical part of ObamaCare and will be going into use in just a few months. The Health and Human Services Department revealed earlier this year that the hub will be used to transport personal and sensitive information on millions of Americans between seven other federal agencies. Its purpose is to determine eligibility for benefits, exemptions from federal mandates, and how much should be granted in federal insurance subsidies. Agencies the Hub will be interacting with include: the Social Security Administration, the IRS, the Department of Homeland Security, the Veterans Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Defense, and the Peace Corps. These agencies will have access to data passed through the Hub, which include social security number, income, family size, citizenship and immigration status, incarceration status, and enrollment in other health plans. The Hub will also be plugging in to state Medicaid databases. The Obama administration claims data will not be stored in the Hub, but merely transmitted through it between state and federal agencies to verify consumer’s applications. However, according to a regulatory notice issued in February, the Hub will serve as a storage device and the federal government may distribute the information stored there to other parties, without consent from the individual, to aid the running of ObamaCare and to investigate potential fraud.

Islamic Terrorism’s Potential Roots in the Soviet-bloc
A new book titled Disinformation claims that a secret 1970s KGB plot to hurt the United States and Israel may be the reason behind today’s threats of Islamic terrorism. According to former Romanian Lt. Gen. Ion Mihail Pacepa, the highest-ranking Soviet-bloc intelligence officer to defect to the West, and co-author Ronald Rychlak, a University of Mississippi law professor, the KGB distributed thousands of copies of anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli literature to Muslim countries. KGB chief and later Soviet premier Yuri Andropov ordered the first translation into Arabic of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This is a propaganda book from 1905, created by the Russians, that claimed the Jews were trying to take over Europe and the United States was assisting them. This book, according to Pacepa, fueled much of Hitler’s anti-Semitic feelings, and thousands of copies were sent by Romania into Muslim countries during the 1970s. Pacepa claims that his Hungarian and Bulgarian counterparts were doing the same. These clandestine Soviet operations, according to Pacepa and Rychlak, are the reason for all of the anti-American sentiment present today in Islamic countries.

Monsey Residents Fight Developers Plan to Alter Zoning
Controversy has arisen in the town of Monsey, between residents along Route 59 who wish to keep their neighborhood residential and a developer who wants to turn a 6.5-acre plot of land into a space for apartments and retail centers. Connectivity System LLC has plans for 56 apartments and 60,000 square feet of retail and office space, but residents have raised concern over the increased traffic and noise such developments would ultimately lead to. The area is currently residentially zoned and one resident presented the board with a petition containing signatures of approximately 200 people who are against a zoning change. Ramapo’s planning board has given a negative recommendation for the project, but the ultimate fate of the project rests in the hands of the five-member Ramapo town board. Wednesday’s town board meeting, scheduled for 8 p.m., is the expected end of the public hearing. The board will then either make a decision or put it off until a later meeting.