Tompkins County DA Candidates Debate Online

The candidates were asked a range of questions including what lessons they learned from a case last year which gained public attention and drew protests against the prosecution of two young people of color after an incident with police on the Ithaca Commons.

State Lawmakers Differ On Need For Flavored Vaping Products Ban

ITHACA, NY – New York’s temporary ban on flavored vaping liquids is set to expire Sunday. It was never enforced because vaping industry groups challenged it in court.  

The ban was a response to an increase in vaping related illnesses among New Yorkers. Public health officials are expected to extend the ban but reports not all of the region’s lawmakers agree there should be a state imposed ban. The 90-day ban is an emergency measure put in place by the New York Department of Health. A more permanent ban on flavored vaping liquids would require legislative approval.

Tompkins/Cortland Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton On 2019 Legislative Session

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – The 2019 New York legislative session saw the passage of a raft of legislation that has been blocked in previous years. Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton spoke with WSKG’s Celia Clarke in the Ithaca studio. She represents Tompkins County and part of Cortland County in the state Assembly. Lifton spoke about the new farm labor rights, legalization of electrically-assisted bicycles and scooters, and why she thinks marijuana legalization is inevitable. The conversation begins with Lifton talking what she considers the most important accomplishment of the session.

Ithaca Mayoral Race Now Contested

In his bid for a third term, Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick has an opponent  The Tompkins County Board of Election confirmed that Adam Levine will be on the November ballot.

Firing Of Ithaca Officer Prompts Review Of Police Cases

“We’re starting to get inquiries from former clients regarding their former cases in which they plead or been convicted at trial seeking a review and that’s gonna require a review, in some cases, of what was the officers role in those cases.”

Ithaca Legalizes Backyard Chickens

The ordinance would only allow for hens. No roosters!  Only six per household will be allowed, a property must be at least 2,000 square feet and there are other requirements for the chickens shelter and regular inspections.

Policy Expert Says Legislature, Cuomo Need To Address Poverty In Budget

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) – Religious leaders and fiscal analysts are traveling New York talking to communities about the state budget proposal.  After a recent stop in Ithaca, Ron Deutsch of the Fiscal Policy Institute sat down with WSKG’s Celia Clarke in the WSKG’s Ithaca studio. Here is some of that interview:

 

“I’ll Never Forget”: Cornell Law Students On Border, Heading To Tijuana

A group of Cornell Law Students and their professor have been volunteering on the Texas border this week. They are helping mothers and children in the largest family immigration detention center in the country to file asylum claims.

The center is in Dilley, Texas. A remote town of about 4,000 people located over an hour’s drive south of San Antonio. The students have been interviewing women about the experiences that caused them to flee their homes and seek asylum thousands of miles away. From there they will be interviewed by an asylum officer who will decide if they have a “credible fear”.

Cornell Law Students Go To Border To Help Mothers, Children Seeking Asylum

Six Cornell Law School students and one of their professors have gone to border this week to volunteer at the country’s the largest family immigration center in Dilley, Texas. They are working with the Dilley Pro Bono Project. The Project has been organizing volunteers since the federal facility opened in 2014. Each week a group of volunteer lawyers, law students, paralegals arrived to assist mothers and children file their asylum claims.

Dilley is a remote town of about 4,000 people over an hour’s drive from San Antonio. Jaclyn Kelley-Widmer is an associate professor at Cornell Law School.

In Ithaca, Looking Ahead To 2019

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – 2018 is almost over and 2019 is on its way in. Around Ithaca, people are looking to make some changes. Inside a health club, people are signing up for new memberships to start the new year. Nearby others are pushing and pulling on weight machines. “I’m most looking forward to great self care,” said Christine Cummings.

Brindisi Calls On NYS Public Service Commission To Push Case Against Charter/Spectrum

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – Tuesday, the New York State Attorney General announced a $174 million consumer fraud settlement with Charter/Spectrum, the largest internet and cable provider in New York State. Wednesday, Congressman-Elect Anthony Brindisi called for the state’s Public Service Commission to move forward with their case against Spectrum. That case challenges Spectrum’s right to operate in the state. Brindisi said customers deserve better options than Spectrum provides. “No one’s losing their cable,”  Brindisi said.

Cornell Graduate Students Say Their University Has A Mental Health Crisis

About one hundred Cornell graduate students gathered outside the Cornell Health Center on campus Wednesday afternoon. They were calling for an external review of the mental health services at the University. Students shared their own mental health struggles. They described not being taken seriously by faculty and having to go off campus to find therapists. They say getting appointments is difficult unless they are in crisis, suicidal or in academic trouble.

First-Time Candidate Kirchgessner Faces Incumbent O’Mara for New York State Senate in Southern Tier District

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – When Amanda Kirchgessner won the Democratic primary for New York’s 58th Senate district, she didn’t have a campaign manager, a communications team or even a staff. Just friends and supporters helping her.  She’d campaigned by driving around the district and walking door-to-door to talk to people. She’s a first time candidate running against Republican incumbent Tom O’Mara. The district is one of the biggest in the state senate.

NY23 Candidates Debate Healthcare, Extremism, Values in Corning

Republican Congressman Tom Reed and Democratic challenger Tracy Mitrano met in a debate Tuesday night at Corning Community College. They are running for the 23rd congressional district seat. The district covers the Western Southern Tier and parts of the Finger Lakes including Ithaca, Elmira and Hornell. The debate was televised by WETM-TV. Healthcare was a prominent topic.

Rep. Tom Reed Says He Supports Net Neutrality. Some Constituents Want Action.

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – Some constituents are urging Congressman Tom Reed to take action to support net neutrality. Reed represents New York’s 23rd congressional district, which stretches from Ithaca to Jamestown. Seven people met with a member of his staff in Ithaca on Tuesday morning. Back in December, the Federal Communications Commission repealed 2015 net neutrality rules that required internet providers to allow equal access to all web content. Congressman Reed supported the repeal.

PA Dairy Farmers Face Same Problems, Only Congressional Districts Have Changed

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – The boundaries of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts changed this year after protracted court hearings. The issues facing citizens didn’t change, including for dairy farmers. In the new 12th District, Democrat Marc Friedenberg is running against Republican incumbent Tom Marino. Friedenberg is a first-time candidate. The district includes Bradford, Susquehanna and Tioga counties.

A Tompkins County Food Pantry Re-Opens After Temporary Suspension

ENFIELD, NY (WSKG) – The Enfield Food Pantry has re-opened. It was temporarily suspended by the Food Bank of the Southern Tier for potential rodent problems.

Enfield is about 6 miles from Ithaca. About three weeks ago, Food Bank of the Southern Tier stopped delivering food to the pantry until they did a few things to prevent rodents from getting in. The town owns the building where the pantry’s located. So, the Town Board, Pantry volunteers and the Food Bank came together to resolve the problems.

Now, the food pantry has freshly spackled and painted walls to keep rodents from getting in.

Rural Upstate New York Drug Problems Focus of Binghamton Univ. Conference

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) – Drug use in upstate New York was the focus of a conference at Binghamton University on Friday. The topics ranged from solutions in rural communities to the challenges in local politics. 

The keynote speaker was Shannon Monnat, a Syracuse University researcher. She reminded attendees that upstate communities deal with other drug problems besides opioids. If solutions for the opioid crisis ignore underlying economic and social causes, she says they’ll be useless when the next crisis hits. The audience also heard about solutions.

This Group Says They’re Ready To Run A Supervised Injection Site If New York, Ithaca Say OK

Discussions are continuing in Ithaca about opening a supervised injection site. A place where drug users are able to inject heroin under medical supervision with the goal of reducing the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, infections, and overdose deaths. The Southern Tier AIDS Program believes they could run it. They already operate three syringe exchanges in Ithaca, Norwich and Johnson City.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney Speaks At Cornell

Most of his remarks were about events of the early 2000s. Attendees asked him about some current issues, like how mistakes of the past could inform the current situation with Iran and North Korea.

“Who’s going to teach this administration?” he responded.

Cynthia Nixon: New York Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Supervised Injection Sites To Stop Heroin Overdoses

Democratic candidate for governor of New York Cynthia Nixon says she supports having supervised injection sites in New York state as part of a plan to reduce heroin overdose deaths. 

Supervised injection sites are places where heroin users can inject drugs under medical supervision and get other healthcare. Ithaca is considering opening one. Nixon spoke in Geneva yesterday. “I think it’s very important. She said, “I think it’s a great idea and I think it’s an idea we shouldn’t be afraid of here in New York state. Saving lives is obviously our priority.”

Iraq’s Christian Refugees Fear For Their Ancient Culture

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – On Wednesday evening, in Ithaca, a small group gathered in the Tompkins County Public Library in Ithaca to learn about the plight of Assyrian Christians from Iraq. The gathering was organized by the Ithaca Coalition for Unity and Cooperation in the Middle East.

Finger Lakes Lawmakers Introduce Law to Stop Romulus Incinerator

Opposition is growing against a proposed trash incinerator in the town of Romulus. In recent months several Finger Lakes municipalities have voted resolutions opposing the proposed incinerator in the town of Romulus. Article Ten allows for state review for proposals like this. Now, lawmakers have proposed a law eliminating trash or waste incinerators from the Article Ten process. When the project faces strong local opposition the company withdrew it’s application for local permitting. They said they would bypass local permission and seek a permit from the state under Article Ten instead.

Southern Tier Lawmakers, Restaurant Owners, Employees Oppose Governor’s Proposal To End Tip Wage Credit

CORNING, NY (WSKG) – Southern Tier lawmakers are voicing their opposition to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to eliminate the minimum wage tip credit. Corning Assemblyman Phil Palmesano joined fellow Assemblyman Chris Friend and State Senator Tom O’Mara, both of Big Flats, at a press conference on Wednesday in Corning. The Republicans were joined by restaurant owners and employees. The tip credit is part of the phase-in of the $15 per hour minimum wage. In upstate New York this means employers may pay their tipped workers $7.50 per hour with a $2.90 per hour tip credit for a total equalling the current upstate minimum wage of $10.40 per hour.

Emerald Ash Borers Take Up Residence In Ithaca

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – The emerald ash borer has infested several trees in the City of Ithaca. Just a week after one tree in Cornell’s Arnot forest was found to have ash borers, entomologist Mark Whitmore confirmed them in a tree in downtown Ithaca. Whitmore calls this is big news.

Southern Tier AIDS Program Wants To Operate Ithaca’s Proposed Safe Injection Site

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – STAP said they would be a good fit to run Ithaca’s proposed supervised injection site because they already have the staff and resources in place. The group runs three syringe exchange programs in Ithaca, Johnson City and Norwich. Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, who proposed the injection facility in 2016, said approval for it would need to come from the state.

Protesters, Religious Leaders Support Syracuse Man Detained By Immigration Agents

 

(Batavia, NY) – In January, people in downtown Ithaca witnessed three public daytime immigration arrests. As federal immigration arrests have increased across New York, so has activism against immigration policies. In Syracuse, Hector and Arely Navarro’s three kids worry every day that their mother won’t come home from work. That’s because federal agents picked up their dad one morning after he dropped her off just before Christmas. He’s been held at the federal detention center in Batavia – between Rochester and Buffalo.

Tompkins County Overnight Outreach Seeks To Identify Homeless People

Since 2015, the number of homeless people in New York State has increased. Monday night, local teams of volunteers worked with law enforcement agencies to conduct an annual count of the homeless population across the nation. It is a federal requirement for commu nities receiving funds to help homeless people and reduce homelessness from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The count happens overnight. It has two parts: counting those living in shelters and also, those who are described as “unsheltered.”

Ithaca Photography Project Produces Over 1,200 Portraits

The community portrait project, We Are Ithaca, held its final photo session Thursday. The project was created by two local photographers in collaboration with the Community Arts Partnership. One of them is Robyn Wishna. The project began last fall, she says, to offer the community something positive in a year that had so much negativity. “We came up with this project to celebrate the community through portraits.

Ithaca Celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Focuses On His Poor People’s Campaign

People packed the gym of Beverly J. Martin Elementary School in downtown Ithaca to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They also were there to further his vision of a Poor People’s Campaign. 

It was a movement to “revolutionize” the country’s attitude toward the poor and rally them to advocate for better living conditions. After a buffet lunch and brief presentations, those attending the celebration divided into smaller groups to discuss issues and solutions to current societal problems.

Fabina Colon, Director of the Multicultural Resource Center and one of the organizers of the Ithaca event, said it was important to spend time talking to each other about problems the community faces today. “If we want different solutions we must create different processes. That is, looking at some of the work that the Poor People’s Campaign is doing and being in alignment with that,” said Fabina Benitez Colon, Director of the Multicultural Resource Center and one of the organizers of the Ithaca event. Nationwide, organizers are trying to bring about a revival of the Poor People’s Campaign with an emphasis on systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation.

Romulus Residents Oppose Largest Trash Incinerator Planned For Their Town

 

A new company from Rochester wants to build the largest trash incinerator in the state in the small town of Romulus in the Finger Lakes. Many in the area don’t like the idea. About 4,300 people live in the town of Romulus between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes. People packed the Town Planning Board meeting Monday night to hear from Circular enerG, which wants to build the 200,000 square foot incinerator at the former Seneca Army Depot. Some, like Michael Davis, support the project.  He’s the president of Finger Lakes Building Trades and the Business Manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union 840. 

Davis and several of his fellow union members sat up front.

New State Proposal Targets Toxic Algal Blooms On Cayuga Lake

One of Governor Cuomo’s State of the State proposals would protect Cayuga Lake from toxic algal blooms.

Governor Cuomo’s proposal targets the 12 lakes that have the biggest algal bloom problems in the state. He said, “In the beautiful lakes of upstate New York we now have toxic algal that is spreading it is literally endangering the drinking water. No more procrastination, Let’s resolve these issues and let’s do it this year.” It’s a $65 million plan he wants begun in February, finished in May and enacted this summer.  After years of inaction, Greg Boyer, professor of biochemistry at SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, thinks the “aggressive timeline.”

Tompkins County Fights State Requirement That Homeless Pay For Shelter

New York’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance requires counties to collect fees from homeless people staying in shelters. Some counties are pushing back. The regulation was first enacted in the mid 1990s but in 2015 it was updated. Under the existing regulation, a person who is homeless could be required to pay up to $70.54 per night depending on a state formula based on all of their income, earned and unearned. Tompkins County has not been collecting the fees.

Craft Beverage Manufacturers Booming Across New York State

The Finger Lakes is leading New York state with the most craft beverage manufacturers. Some distillers, farmers and cider makers credit the growth to the passage of a 2014 law. The Craft New York Act lowered some taxes, provided grant funding, and eased some regulations. It had strong bipartisan support, in part, because of its benefits to the upstate agricultural economy. The number of new craft businesses has grown significantly in every region of the state.