Timelines 11/7/13

House fire in Spring Valley results in minor injury to resident
A fire in Spring Valley led to minor damage to a home and injuries to one individual which were treated at the scene, but did not require hospitalization. The fire occurred just past 1 p.m. on November 3. Police responded to the fire report at 105 Ewing Avenue and immediately observed smoke emanating from the two-family residence. Volunteers with the Hillcrest and Spring Valley Fire Departments also responded to the scene. Though the fire was contained in the kitchen and did not seriously damage the house, two individuals were inside at the time. One was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation by Spring Hill Ambulance Corps, but did not go to the hospital. Additionally, minor damage was sustained due to fire, smoke and water. The incident is now under investigation.

Record TIFIA loan approved for Tappan Zee Project
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced on October 31 that a record-setting federal loan had been approved for the new Tappan Zee Bridge project, granting up to $1.6 billion for the large-scale construction project. The loan, which was approved by DoT Secretary Anthony Foxx, is the largest in the history of the Department’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, which finances infrastructure improvements.

$1.6 billion in art stolen by the Nazis found in German apartment
A horde of art pieces seized by the Nazis during World War II and thought to have been destroyed during the war were discovered in the apartment of a noted art collector. The collection was obtained by Hildebrandt Gurlitt, who had received them from Nazi officials after their confiscation and display in a “degenerate art” exhibit. Gurlitt was tasked with selling them off by Joseph Goebbels, but he saved the paintings for himself and covered by reporting their destruction during the bombing of Dresden. The paintings, made by artists which included Picasso, Renoir, Matisse and Chagall, were discovered by German police in 2010 when customs agents found 9,000 euros in cash on Gurlitt’s sole surviving son Cornelius. Upon searching the art dealer’s apartment, they discovered the paintings behind piles of trash. Gurlitt faces charges of tax fraud and money laundering for his part in the gradual sale of the paintings, an enterprise which netted him half a million Euros. However, if the original owners of the paintings do not come forward, Gurlitt might be able to keep them.

Arrest highlights controversial SAFE Act provisions
Lockport, NY resident Paul Wojdan was arrested three weeks ago for carrying too many rounds in his gun’s magazine, an act under the New York SAFE Act which one commentator suggested could hamper Governor Andrew Cuomo’s re-election chances. Wojdan was pulled over by police and asked if he had any weapons. Upon telling them that he had a licensed handgun, police inspected the weapon and found ten bullets in the gun’s magazine, three more than the seven round limit stipulated by the SAFE Act. According to Rod Watson of the Buffalo News, the arrest might actually work against Cuomo, who has been attempting to make inroads in Western New York, particularly in Buffalo where he has thrown his support behind several multimillion dollar projects. “The last thing he needs now is the SAFE Act back in the news, with Wojdan’s arrest, the suspension of his pistol permit and the court order to turn in all of his guns,” Watson said. Lockport police have already faced criticism for the arrest on social media, but defended the arrest as being in line with a state law they were obligated to enforce.

More than a quarter of New York land is off tax rolls
Recent record compilations revealed that more than a quarter of New York lands are off state tax rolls, a situation the State Comptroller considered financially burdensome. Overall, $680 billion in property value has not been subject to collections, with some municipalities such as Syracuse reporting more than half of its properties as being absent from tax rolls. Most of the properties are hospitals, universities, nonprofits and other small holdings which get tax break incentives. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli worked with Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner to strike deals with some of the property-holders in the city, securing agreements with Syracuse University and Crouse Hospital. However, other hospitals and universities remain reluctant to go on state tax rolls.

Colorado votes on secession
Residents of 11 counties in northeast Colorado voted on a referendum to decide whether they should break away from the state and form their own, more conservative state. The measure was rejected by all counties, but did garner support from a significant number of voters in some regions, with 42 percent of voters voting for the breakaway in Weld County. The ballot item, while widely acknowledged to be unrealistic, brought attention to the small, rural counties in an otherwise obscure region of the Western United States. The counties have been at increasing odds with more liberal urban areas such as Denver and Aspen, where the Democratic-led government has angered rural conservatives with its positions on green energy, gay marriage and gun control. Much of the current discussion of forming a new state grew from new gun control laws passed in the wake of the Newtown shooting. Suggestions of secession have made the rounds many times before, but have never gained any significant traction.

Day calls for 10 percent pay cut for county officials
Shortly after his victory, Legislator and County Executive-elect Ed Day announced that he would bring legislation to the table cutting all county elected officials’ salaries by ten percent. The initiative was announced as one of the first measures Day would push after the election. Day also announced he would be pursuing a number of other promised cost-cutting proposals in the lead up to January 1. “We need to take action now or, legally, the pay cut cannot go into effect for another four years for the County Executive and County Clerk positions,” Day said. Candidate David Fried, whom Day beat at the ballot box, proposed a similar cut to elected officials’ salaries.

Union representing TSA employees suggests armed guards at all checkpoints
Following the fatal shooting of TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez at LAX by Paul Ciancia, the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents TSA employees, suggested posting armed guards at checkpoints as a safety measure against similar incidents. Union officials suggested that not only should TSA agents be granted the power to carry handcuffs and arrest suspects, but should be armed at checkpoints, with UFGE President J. David Cox calling armed agents a “positive step” in securing airport terminals. “The development of a new class of TSA officers with law enforcement status would be a logical approach to accomplishing this goal,” Cox said. TSA officers have elicited confusion because they wear badges but are not considered law enforcement employees and are not given firearms training. A 2011 bill sought to tighten control of the controversial agency by prohibiting the TSA from using the term “officer” or uniforms resembling law enforcement attire for non-law enforcement employees, but it died on the floor.

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