Activist submits box of ziti to state to fight natural gas infrastructure

Pramilla Malick hold up a box of ziti toa crowd at Paramount Theatre in Middletown

Pasta has became the prop of choice in an ongoing fight by activists to try to stop a natural gas power plant and associated infrastructure from going online in Orange County.

Last week Pramilla Malick, an environmental activist with the group Protect Orange County, submitted a box of ziti pasta to the state Department of Environmental Conservation during a public hearing for a proposed natural gas pipeline that Millennium Pipeline Company wants to build.

The DEC held the public hearing last week at the Paramount Theatre in Middletown.  The 7.8-mile, $57.3 million pipeline would supply natural gas to a $900 million natural gas-fired power plant being built in Wawayanda by Competitive Power Ventures.

The DEC has yet to award Millennium a key water quality permit that would allow it to begin construction. The power plant is due to go online next year and would lack a permanent power supply without Millennium’s pipeline.

Speaking last week at a press conference that saw heavy turnout by environmental activists and concerned residents, Malick said the ziti represents what she called the “corrupt” process to approve the power plant.

“This ziti represents that we know that the approval process was corrupted,” Malick said last week. “One person has already plead guilty to bribery, we don’t need to know more about this.”

Malick then submitted the box of ziti to the DEC.

Federal protectors have said that “ziti” was a code word used during a corruption scheme involving a former CPV executive. Prosecutors said beginning in 2010 Peter Galbraith Kelly Jr., who oversaw external affairs for CPV, worked to ingratiate himself Joe Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Todd Howe, a former Albany consultant who pleaded guilty in September 2016 and is cooperating with federal prosecutors.

Prosecutors said Howe looked to Percoco to influence the former state operations director to bolster the proposed CPV power plant. In emails between Howe and Percoco, they refer to bribe payments as “ziti,” an apparent homage to the television show “The Sopranos,” prosecutors said. Kelly is accused of providing $287,000 in bribes.

Kelly and Percoco have pleaded not guilty and neither CPV nor Millennium have been implicated in the federal corruptions charges. But activists have seized on the criminal case as a reason to stop the power plant and the infrastructure needed to allow it to go online.

CPV has said the federal case centers on activities that are unrelated to its plant’s permitting process and that charges don’t call that process or plant permits into question.

Activists also went up to Albany on Thursday to host a rally and call on Cuomo to stop the process for the pipeline and the power plant. Activists were asked to bring boxes of ziti as a rallying cry. Malick word a ziti necklace around her neck.

“Our message to Cuomo,” the invitation said. “Take back the ziti and give our children their air, water, and future back.”

Posted in Down in D.C., Orange, Up in Albany | Leave a comment

Faso plans veterans event in Sullivan next week

Rep. John Faso plans to be at the SUNY Sullivan campus with staff members and various experts for four hours next Thursday to help veterans find health care, jobs and other services.

The Veterans Assistance Fair will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the community college’s student union, at 112 College Road in Loch Sheldrake. Faso is a Columbia County Republican whose district includes Sullivan and Ulster counties.

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Maloney plans three-day fundraising “retreat”

For big-dollar campaign donors, this has got to sound better than a rubber-chicken dinner in D.C.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is inviting supporters to what amounts to a destination wedding for the congressional fundraising world: a three-day “retreat” in his Hudson Valley district in October, in the midst of leaf-peeping season.

An early announcement for the Cold Spring Democrat’s “Inaugural Hudson Valley Retreat” gives only the dates and the name of the boutique hotel, restaurant and banquet hall in Beacon that apparently will serve as the home base from which guests will take regional excursions. Tickets to the Oct. 14-16 sojourn at the Roundhouse Beacon cost $2,500 a person, just under the $2,700 individual contribution limit for congressional races.

Maloney, who’s serving his third term in Congress, had $2.6 million in his campaign account as of June 30 and has no announced challengers yet for 2018. He represents New York’s 18th Congressional District, which includes all of Orange and Putnam counties and parts of Dutchess and Westchester.

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Sutz and Palermo will vie in Dem primary for Woodbury supervisor

Woodbury Supervisor David Sutz and town Councilman Frank Palermo will square off in a Democratic primary for a two-year supervisor term on Sept. 12, a contest that probably will decide the race since no Republican candidate is running.

Sutz, a former Woodbury village trustee, was elected supervisor in 2015, ousting Republican Ralph Caruso after his one year in office. Palermo had served as acting supervisor for several months in 2014 after John Burke, the Democrat who had long held that office, died unexpectedly.

The town Democratic Committee announced this week it had endorsed Palermo and two Town Board running mates, Amidee Haviland lll and Jacqueline Hernandez. Haviland, a former councilman, and Hernandez are competing with Councilman Robert Hunter and village Planning Board member Sandra Capriglione for two, four-year councilman seats on the Town Board.

Palermo and Hernandez also are running for office on the Independence Party line, so both will be on the Nov. 7 general election ballot regardless of the Democratic primary outcome. None of the other Town Board contenders have third-party lines as a fallback, although candidates have until Aug. 22 to submit independent petitions for the general election.

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DCCC launches Google ad campaign against Faso

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting freshman Republican Rep. John Faso and 24 other Republicans in a digital campaign that aims to drive Google searches to a website that demands Faso hold a town hall-style meeting.

The Google search advertisements will be targeted to people’s locations and attached to a wide array of search terms relating to the lawmaker, district, health care and town halls, according to the DCCC.

The advertisements for Faso will take people to Fasotownhallwatch.com. The website says at the top “404 no town halls found” and has a countdown clock to when the DCCC says the last town hall-style public meeting was held. It also has links to news articles or opinion pieces about Faso, an invitation to email Faso’s campaign to demand a town hall meeting, and links to tweet or post on Facebook.

The ads will run from Aug. 8 to Sept. 5.

“If House Republicans are heartless enough to take away healthcare from their constituents but too scared to face them at public town halls, they don’t deserve to be in Congress,” said DCCC Spokesman Evan Lukaske. “This digital ad campaign exposes Representative Faso while he’s home on recess and empowers people to hold him accountable.”

On July 31, Faso’s campaign spokesman, John Lange, said they expected to make an announcement shortly about August events.

“In the meantime, Congressman Faso continues to meet with constituents, with over 400 one-on-one and group meetings in which constituents successfully advocated for their positions taken since January,” Lange said.

Though no public town hall-style events have been announced from Faso’s office yet, on Monday Faso’s office announced that the congressman was leaving that day for a seven-day trip to Israel to “join a bipartisan delegation of Congress to learn firsthand the complex challenges facing the region.”

Faso has also participated in editorial boards with newspapers, is due to appear at a Dutchess County Chamber of Commerce event next Wednesday, has appeared on the local WAMC radio call-in show and appeared in smaller invite-only events.

The DCCC campaign comes as the 19th Congressional District, which includes Ulster and Sullivan counties,  has become a prime national target for Democrats to win back Congress and for Republicans to defend. So far, eight Democrats have said they want to take on Faso next year and two of those candidates outraised Faso from May to June. Nearly $2.5 million has poured into campaign coffers so far this year.

The DCCC isn’t the only group targeting Faso online. As we reported yesterday, a progressive group called Save My Care announced it would launch a separate digital advertisements in 10 states against Republicans who voted for the GOP’s health care repeal plan, including Faso.

Posted in Down in D.C., Sullivan, Ulster | Leave a comment

Left-leaning NY-19 political action committee raises nearly $32,000

A Kingston-based political action committee called “NY19Votes” has raised nearly $32,000 in its push to turn the 19th Congressional District blue.

According to its website, NY19Votes is a grassroots group that “grew from the #Resistance and Indivisible movement after the November election.” They said they’ve already brought together nearly 400 volunteers at 12 launch sites across the 19th Congressional District and organized more than 1,000 volunteers to knock on doors.

The district, represented by freshman Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook, includes part or all of 11 counties, including all of Ulster and Sullivan.

“NY19Votes is uniting #Resistance, Indivisible, SwingLeft and long standing activist groups, Democratic and Working Families Party members and concerned citizens across the district. We know if we are going to turn back Trump, defeat Faso in 2018 and win our country back we have to get out and talk to voters now through election day 2018. NY19Votes (is) coordinating, training and deploying volunteers to do just that,” the PAC said in a release.

In its mid-year campaign report filed with the Federal Election Commission, the group said it raised $31,712.62, spent $6,149.90 and had $25,562.72 on hand. The group registered with the FEC in April. The group said it had 164 donors in all.

FEC records show that about 63 percent of the money raised, $20,000, came from just two sources in Manhattan. Eric Marcus, an author, gave $10,000 and Barney Karpfinger, a founder of a literary agency, also gave $10,000. Karpfinger has also contributed this year to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and the campaigns of Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rob Quist, House candidates who lost tight races in Republican stronghold districts.

The PAC also received $1,000 from Brian Flynn, one of eight Democratic contenders looking to take on Faso in the election next year.

Dustin Reidy, campaign director for NY19Votes,  said funding will go towards staff, logistics for putting together canvassing and maintaining its website and social media presence.

“If we’re able to fundraise well, we’re hoping to build our staff out after November and help maintain pressure on Faso as the Democratic primary heats up,” Reidy said.

Reidy said NY19Votes won’t support or endorse any primary candidate, but the infrastructure they’re building will go into the campaign of whoever does win.

The fundraising comes as the 19th Congressional District has become a prime national target for Democrats to win back Congress, and for Republicans to defend. Two of the eight Democratic candidates outraised Faso from May to June and nearly $2.5 million has poured into campaign coffers so far this year.

But Faso’s fundraising is expected to pick up as the November 2018 general election approaches, and other outside groups have already jumped into the race.

On Tuesday, a progressive group called Save My Care announced it was launching digital advertisements in 10 states against Republicans who voted for the GOP’s health care repeal plan, including Faso. You can find their digital ad here.

Chris Martin, spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee, defended Faso’s vote.

“Only in Washington is it considered a bad thing to actually keep your promises. Congressman Faso took action because the Obamacare death spiral continues to dramatically increase premiums and restrict healthcare choices for millions of Americans,” Martin said.

The  five-figure advertisement buy will also target senators Jeff Flake of Arizona, Dean Heller of Nevada, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and House members Dave Brat of Virginia, Darrell Issa of California, Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, Peter Roskam of Illinois, Pete Sessions of Texas and David Valadao of California.

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EPA will hold public session on Hudson River PCB cleanup

Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand last week cheered an upcoming public meeting on the status of removal of toxic PCBs from the upper Hudson River as another opportunity to hear and question officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, which is in charge of the cleanup.

The two-hour session will take place at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, beginning at 6 p.m. It will be held in room L63 of the New Building, at 524 W. 59th St.

“New York City residents deserve to know about the status of the cleanup efforts at the Hudson River Superfund Site and be able to offer their views,” Schumer said in a hearing announcement. “I’m pleased that the EPA heeded our call and scheduled a public meeting in New York City so that communities along the Lower Hudson River can hear directly from the EPA on this proposed report.”

Gillbrand, a fellow Democrat, said: “It is vital that local residents, community and environmental organizations, business leaders, state, and federal agencies and all other stakeholders have the opportunity to fully review and evaluate the results, and make their voices heard. It is essential that those who are most directly impacted have a sufficient opportunity to review and respond to the EPA report.”

The EPA has already held information sessions in Poughkeepsie and Saratoga Springs about its latest status report. Democrats and environmental groups have harshly criticized its determination that no further cleanup was needed after an epic dredging project to remove PCBs that General Electric and other manufacturers dumped in the river decades ago. “This decision is awful news for the Capital Region, the Hudson Valley, and all of the families who live near the Hudson River,” Gillibrand said in June.

The report is available online at www.epa.gov/hudson. The cleanup took place from 2009 to 2015 and entailed dredging PCB-contaminated sediment for 40 miles of the Upper Hudson, from Fort Edward to Troy. About 310,000 pounds of PCBs were removed. The next phase of work is to test the soil in adjacent floodplains for PCBs. Critics contend significant PCB contamination remains and threatens public health and the environment.

 

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Faso backs bipartisan House proposal to mend Obamacare

Rep. John Faso was among 43 House members from both parties supporting a set of ideas this week to improve the Affordable Care Act and stabilize the individual market for health insurance under the terms of that 2010 law, which Republicans in Congress struggled and failed to repeal and replace this year.

Faso, a Republican freshman whose district includes Ulster and Sullivan counties, voiced support for the repair plan as a member of the so-called Problem Solvers Caucus, led by Republican Rep. Tom Reed of New York and Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey. Their proposals included preserving the federal payments that help lower-income people pay their deductibles and co-pays – funding that President Trump has threatened to squelch – and including that funding in the spending bills that Congress approves each year.

The bipartisan plan would also repeal a 2.3 percent sales tax on medical devices and raise the threshold for requiring businesses to give their full-time workers health insurance, applying that mandate to companies with more than 500 employees instead of 50.

“The insurance coverage crisis is a looming healthcare disaster for millions of Americans, and I am proud to join my colleagues in supporting bipartisan solutions to bring down costs and keep coverage options accessible,” Faso said in a press release about the bipartisan agreement on Monday. He had supported the repeal-and-replace bill that the House narrowly approved by a 217-213 vote in May.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and other Democrats have long advocated repairing flaws in the Affordable Care Act, describing it as complex legislation that was bound to need adjustments in the same way that Medicare and Medicaid did after being created in the 1960s. That approach may now gain traction with the collapse of the GOP repeal-and-replace legislation in the Senate and the approaching deadline for insurers to set premiums for 2018. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee announced this week he will hold bipartisan hearings on bolstering the individual insurance markets.

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Group that backs vet candidates endorses Davis for county executive

A four-year-old organization that supports veterans and national service alumni who run for office announced Monday its endorsement of Patrick Davis, an Iraq War veteran and 2004 West Point graduate who’s running for Orange County executive.

“Pat Davis comes from a background of service and sacrifice, and our political system needs more leaders like him, who have dedicated their lives in service to their country and community,” Emily Cherniack, founder and executive director of New Politics, said in a press release. “At a time when the public’s trust in government is at an all-time low, servant leaders like Davis will help restore faith in our institutions by putting citizens first and holding government accountable.”

Davis, a 35-year-old Monroe resident who served two tours of duty totaling 27 months in Iraq, works in the financial industry in Manhattan and hasn’t run for office before. Previously registered as an independent voter, Davis announced in late May that he would run as a Democrat to challenge Republican County Executive Steve Neuhaus, who took office in 2014 and is seeking a second, four-year term.

“It’s an honor to have New Politics’ support,” Davis said in the endorsement announcement. “We need more leaders who will focus on governing and put people before politics, and that’s what this campaign is all about. If we’re going to pursue sustainable economic growth, improve the condition of our cities, support our agricultural industry, and tackle the opioid crisis, we have to set aside divisive politics.”

New Politics endorses both Democrats and Republicans running for elected office at all levels, from school boards to congressional seats. Last year, it supported 23 candidates. Its latest crop of candidates includes Pat Ryan, another West Point graduate and Iraq War vet who grew up in Kingston and is one of eight Democrats vying to challenge Republican Rep. John Faso in 2018. (The two Pats – Davis and Ryan – graduated in the same class at West Point).

Davis was an early participant in “Answering the Call,” a political leadership program run by the New Politics Leadership Academy.

 

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Faso calls for “incremental” health care reforms

Rep. John Faso repeated his call for “incremental, bipartisan reforms” to the health care system on Friday, following the latest and what appears to be final failure of congressional Republicans to achieve their seven-year quest to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Faso, a Republican freshman whose district includes Ulster and Sullivan counties, sided with his party in May to help the House version of repeal-and-replace legislation squeak through in a 217-213 vote. He also has championed an amendment that would have forced New York to absorb $2.3 billion in annual Medicaid costs now paid by its 57 counties outside New York City – the cause of a bitter feud with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other New York Democrats.

In his statement Friday afternoon, Faso said: “The recent failure of the Senate to advance its healthcare bill underscores the need for incremental, bipartisan reforms that will lower the costs of healthcare for families and individuals and put our nation’s healthcare system on a path to fiscal sustainability. I am working as part of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus to initiate reforms which can fix problems with the individual insurance market.”

Democrats, who have pounded Faso for supporting the bill, warned on Friday that the die is already cast for the 2018 elections. “Representative Faso can’t turn back time and undo the damaging vote he cast to kick 23 million Americans off their health insurance and jack up premiums for millions more,” Evan Lukaske, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement on Friday. ”Faso owns the Republican health care disaster, and it will haunt him in 2018.”

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    Chris McKenna

    Chris McKenna covers Orange County government and politics for the Times Herald-Record. He has been a reporter at the newspaper since 1999. Read Full
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