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Weekend in review

Jun 20, 2016 12:02 am
Some of the stories that made the news Fri., Jun. 17 through Sun., Jun. 19:

Emilia Teasdale reported in the Columbia Paper that for two years the Kinderhook Lake Corporation has tried to put a gate to control access to Kinderhook Lake, so that unwashed boats do not launch invasive species into the water. Many residents, though, want access, and have fought the gate at the end of the Rose Street Extension. The state Department of Environmental Conservation first gave a permit for the barrier, then said last year it would revoke the permit. The Kinderhook Lake Corporation wrote a letter to the DEC saying, “People with smaller boats, such as rowboats, kayaks, canoes, sailboats and those who wanted to swim, wade, fish, etc., could still enter the lake at the Rose Street Extension location by going in the water around the gate.” The corporation claimed only large boat users would need to purchase a key for the gate. "The DEC has not issued a deadline for its decision in the matter," according to Teasdale.

Casey Seiler reported at Capitol Confidential that just before 7 p.m., Fri., Jun. 17, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced a framework agreement on ethics reform. The pact included independent expenditure reforms, pension forfeiture, first-time disclosure for political consultants, lobbying disclosure reforms and issue advocacy reforms. Under the deal, the state constitution will be amended to make it possible to strip the public pension from any law- or policymaker convicted of a crime related to their office. The agreement refines the definition of what constitutes improper coordination between an independent expenditure campaign and a candidate. It is also intended to curb, what Cuomo calls, the damage done by the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision. And less than an hour after the ethics deal was announced, officials announced this session's “big ugly” deal. The agreement includes a one-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools, and a one-year extension of state control of the New York Racing Association. The agreement also requires schools to periodically test drinking water, and report those test results to parents and local and state entities. The bill language also gave schools an extension to implement a teacher evaluation system from September 1 to Dec. 31. If a school district blows that deadline, the state could withhold funding.

Scott Fallon reported in The Record the Hudson River may still become a major corridor for the shipment of thick, tar sands oil from Canada. This despite moves by New York officials that many thought stopped those efforts. An air permit application by Massachusetts-based Global Partners to build crude oil-heating boilers at the Albany port could allow Albany, and potentially the full length of the Hudson River, to become a major transportation route for tar sands crude from western Canada. Many believed the Global Partners proposal was defeated last year when the New York Department of Environmental Conservation reversed its original approval of the plan after the agency received considerable backlash. But the permit issue is now slowly wending its way through New York courts. “A lot of people thought it was the end of the story, but it’s really just in a state of limbo,” said Kate Hudson, a lawyer with Hudson Riverkeeper. “It’s still a real threat.” Environmentalists say heavy crude represents a significant threat to the river because it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to fully clean up. Under the Cuomo administration, New York has quietly turned the Hudson into a major transportation route for oil by allowing Global and Buckeye Partners of Houston to greatly increase the amount of crude they are permitted to handle in Albany. That amount has more than doubled to almost 3 billion gallons a year. The DEC decision last year was never finalized and it allowed Global to challenge the agency in court. A judge ordered the agency to make a final ruling this month, but the DEC is now appealing. A DEC spokesman would only say that the agency is waiting on the courts to hear its appeal.

Victoria Addison reported in the Register-Star a program in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was held at the Hudson Area Library, Fri., Jun. 17. Attendees learned about scams that target the elderly and the new George's Justice hotline. The event was organized by Kathryn Salensky, the supervising court attorney for the Bronx Criminal Court. Salensky was born and raised in Valatie. She worked to create the hotline for senior citizens to reach out for help when they believe they are being swindled. Her efforts are in response to her father, a third-generation farmer from Columbia County, being cheated out of $50,000 in the early 2000s. One in seven people over the age of 75 may become victims of elder abuse, Salensky said. The George's Justice hotline is the first of its kind in New York, dedicated solely to reporting elder abuse. The service becomes active Mon., Jun. 20, and is intended for use by residents of both Greene and Columbia counties. People who suspect they are being scammed can call and receive live help. The hotline number is (518) 751-0207.

Greg Hudson reported in The Daily Mail hundreds gathered at the Church of St. Patrick in Catskill, Sat., Jun. 18, to celebrate Mass with the bishop of the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese, Edward Scharfenberger. Hudson writes that dozens of the parishioners in attendance asked Scharfenberger to reverse the decision made one month ago to close the historic parish church. During the service, Scharfenberger called the gathering the beginning of a new future for the parish. "Today is a great day for the church," he said. "Today we are opening a new church and beginning a new, beautiful chapter in the history of St. Patrick's." The 19th century building was closed for repairs by the diocese in 2007. A group of parishioners claim that more than $250,000 was raised for the renovation project, but after a period of nearly a decade the repairs were never done. Members of the Friends of St. Pat's group made their case to the bishop on Saturday. They said the rosary on the steps of the old church, and then presented Sharfenberger with a petition carrying more than 250 signatures. Friends of St. Pat's member Nick Petriani said, "We gathered everything we had and we're presenting it to the bishop in the hope that he changes his mind and allows the parish to work with the diocese to re-open our church."

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