Timelines 9/26/13

Jasmin and Desmaret to lose pension benefits
If federal prosecutors have their way, Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and former Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret may be stripped of their government pensions. Prosecutors moved to take the benefits if they are convicted on corruption charges. Jasmin and Desmaret were targeted for taking bribes from Moses “Mark” Stern, a local developer and FBI informant, in exchange for a contract to build a kosher catering hall on village-owned property. The state’s Moreland Commission recently took up the issue of corruption in New York and may push harsher penalties for public officials who break the law. In addition to Jasmin and Desmaret, state Sen. Malcom Smith (D-Queens) and New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran (R-Queens) are also at risk of losing their pensions.

“Texting Zones” announced for New York motorists
As part of Governor Cuomo’s drive to reduce texting on New York roads, special “texting zones” which allow drivers to park before sending texts were recently unveiled. New zones will be set up along thruways and highways. Existing Park-N-Ride facilities, rest stops and parking areas highways will also serve as dual purpose locations. 91 spots were announced, as well as 298 signs which will tell drivers where they can text without risk of an accident. Under Cuomo, New York has been cracking down on texting drivers, with 21,580 tickets issued during the summer of 2013 alone. This represents a 365 percent increase over the 5,208 tickets issued during the summer of 2012.

Large solar array planned for Orangeburg
Plans have been set in motion to install an 855 kilowatt solar array on the roof of Nice-Pak Products’ Orangeburg Headquarters in an effort to supplement their operations with sustainable energy. The ballast-mounted system is expected to generate about one million kilowatts of solar power per year and provide 15 percent of the building’s total energy load. Installation of the array by Lighthouse Solar of New Paltz, New York began in August and is expected to take about six weeks to complete. The project was funded partly by state grants from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and received tax credits through the Federal Business Investment Tax Credit.

University professor suspended for calling for violence against children of NRA members
The University of Kansas received scrutiny over their decision to fire journalism professor David Guth for comments he made on Twitter which seemed to call for violence against children of NRA members. In response to the recent Navy Yard shooting in Washington D.C., Guth Tweeted: “The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.” In response, Guth was removed from his post, prompting a heated debate on First Amendment protections. Questions have been raised on whether schools have the right to fire employees based on social media posts and the extent of First Amendment protections, though there seems to be universal agreement that Guth’s statement was inappropriate. Guth, who said he had been receiving death threats since the tweet, said the school acted rationally and explained he planned to use his indefinite leave to begin a sabbatical and allow tensions to cool down.

$8 million company expansion and 66 new jobs planned for Orangeburg
The Rockland Industrial Development Agency (IDA) recently secured an $8 million deal with Cerovene, Inc. to purchase a 40,000 square foot site at 10 Corporate Drive in Orangeburg, where the company plans to expand from nine to 75 employees. In order to reach an agreement, the IDA secured a $2 million mortgage recording tax exemption and a $3.5 million sales tax exemption for Cerovene. The IDA also secured a PILOT agreement with the Town of Orangetown and Pearl River School District, a perk which will require formal resolution approval. The Cerovene deal is similar to the one which encouraged Bloomberg to establish a data center in the town in that it enticed a prospective buyer with valuable tax credits. Orangeburg has seen significant business growth over the past few years, particularly with large pharmaceutical and biotech companies from outside the area which chose Rockland for large-scale industrial and research facilities.

Zebrowski presents anti-corruption plan to state legislature
Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (D-New City) is expected to present a three-point plan to the state assembly designed to strengthen anti-corruption laws by stiffening penalties for offenders and streamlining cases. The bill is expected to be introduced during the next legislative session. The plan would require the salary of an indicted elected official to be withheld pending an acquittal or dismissal of charges, expedite trials by appointing assigned judges and disqualifying officials convicted of felonies related to their offices from returning to their posts. If passed, the provision withholding pay from indicted officials would be the first law of its kind in the nation. The proposal has also been sent to the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption, formed specifically to address issues which emerged with the recent statewide corruption scandal, for review.

Nanuet voters approve bond for new firehouse
A vote to approve a bond for Nanuet Fire Engine Company’s new firehouse came out in favor of the Fire Company, granting them the funding to proceed with the move. Out of 504 voters who cast ballots, 314 voted in favor of the bond, beating out 190 who voted against it. The bond will be valued at $16.1 million and will cost Nanuet homeowners an average of $170.76 annually. The new, 23,296 square foot building on Old Middletown Road will replace the older structure on Prospect Street, which the Fire Company explained had serious structural and safety issues and lacked the room needed to effectively work and store equipment.

Tappan Zee construction barge breaks free in Hudson
A 50-foot barge broke free from its mooring on Sunday before drifting almost a mile downstream in the second incident related to a new Tappan Zee Bridge construction vessel. After the Piermont Fire Department were notified of the break, the vessel was brought under control just south of the Piermont Pier. The barge was returned to its position at around 7:10 p.m. Police explained they did not believe foul play was involved and that strong winds likely caused the barge to break loose. Though nobody was injured and no damage was sustained to other vessels, Piermont Fire Chief Bill Cavanaugh explained it was a serious hazard due to its low visibility and fast movement. Tappan Zee Constructors announced it is also performing its own investigation. The incident brought renewed attention to the safety of the river construction since a fatal crash killed bride-to-be Lindsey Stewart and best man Mark Lennon when their speedboat crashed into another barge.

Smith presents plan to make receiver of taxes a part-time position
Receiver of taxes candidate Chris Smith recently introduced his plan to make the position for which he is running part-time. The candidate stated that he would institute part-time staffing for the office and take a fifty percent pay cut when he takes office. The only time the office would be full-time was for the heavy workload of tax season. Smith has shown support for a voter referendum to abolish the receiver of taxes position altogether, assigning the responsibilities to other departments. Smith’s opponent, incumbent Robert Simon, has also campaigned on eliminating the position.

Tom DeLay conviction overturned in Texas court
The Texas Third Court of Appeals overturned a jury decision against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) in a lower court on September 19, reversing a money laundering conviction by arguing the evidence was insufficient to convict the embattled former congressman. DeLay was charged and found guilty of using his Texas-based political action committee as an intermediary to move $190,000 in corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002, a violation of state law. Though he was sentenced to three years in prison in January 2011, his sentence was placed on hold until the appeals process had run its course. Prosecutors still have the option of pursuing a conviction in Texas’ Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state. DeLay’s legal counsel stated they expect the acquittal to stand on appeal.

“Black Tim Tebow” acknowledges nickname, discusses religious practice
New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara is unique among NFL players in that he admits that he is still a virgin and does not drink alcohol, religious practices which have led to comparisons with another famed player. Amukamara explained his lifestyle was the product of a Catholic upbringing and a health-conscious attitude and acknowledged he had been nicknamed the “black Tim Tebow” after the famously religious Heisman Trophy winner. Not only does the player not drink or have sex, but he goes further by abstaining from soda, bacon, and other unhealthy foods. Amukamara, a Massachusetts native of Nigerian descent, played in 22 Giants games and was ranked 19th overall out of Nebraska in the NFL Draft.