Brian Molongoski is a staff writer at the Watertown Daily Times covering Jefferson County government and local, state and national politics.
U.S Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willisboro and Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, held a listening session at Fort Drum Tuesday to hear servicemember and their families’ thoughts on proposed changes to the retirement and healthcare benefits in the FY16 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Mr. Gibson, with support from Ms. Stefanik, helped delay these changes so they could garner input from the soldier and families they would affect.
“Today’s session was very helpful,” Mr. Gibson said. “Congresswoman Stefanik and I will continue our efforts to see that reforms to the military retirement system are carried out in the most thoughtful way possible, following ample opportunities for elected officials and the Department of Defense to talk with service members and build consensus across the Armed Forces.”
The Cape Vincent Republican Committee is hosting a fundraiser at the Roxy Hotel, 111 W Broadway, Cape Vincent from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 30. The event will include food, a raffle and auction.
A $20 donation is required for admission to the event.
Watertown City Council candidate Ryan Henry-Wilkinson released a second campaign video Thursday that highlights his goals for Watertown, including municipal transportation improvements, securing state and federal funding for infrastructure projects and defending police and fire personnel.
Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham will be hosting a re-election reception and fundraiser Aug. 27 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Pete’s Trattoria, 111 Breen Avenue, Watertown. Checks are payable to Graham for Mayor, Box 6332, Watertown, NY 13601
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik appeared in Elle Magazine Tuesday as part of its “This is 30!” feature, which showcases many 30-year-old women from a variety of professions. Ms. Stefanik posed with painter and illustrator Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, CNBC’s “Closing Bell” co-anchor Kelly Evans and author Meghan McCain.
“So many people thought it was really a crazy idea for a 29-year-old to run for Congress,” she said in the article. “It made me look within myself to ask, ‘What is driving you? What is your mission?’”
Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, said this year’s Common Core assessment results are reason enough for New York to reconsider the standards in standardized testing.
The English language arts and mathematics test results revealed not-so-stellar scores across the state. Twenty percent of students statewide opted out of the test all together. In the English exam, 31.3 percent of test takers in grades three through eight met the proficiency level or scored above it. In mathematics, 38.1 percent scored at or above proficiency.
Ms. Russell called the test standards “problematic.”
“Although I’m in favor of higher standards, the Common Core implementation was so rushed that using it as a measure of our students’ achievement or our teachers’ ability is inappropriate,” Ms. Russell said in a statement. “With such poorly crafted tests and high opt-out rates I’m not confident these results are giving us any reliable or usable data.”
Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush, R-Black River, expressed similar concerns, noting a lack of state support for parents, teachers and students.
“It is no wonder why English and math test results were low,” Mr. Blankenbush said. “To say that the schools in the North Country are underperforming dismisses the bigger issue of continuous lack of funding in state aid to our local schools and the minimal support from the State Education Department.”
State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said she has listened to educators, parents and students throughout the state who felt the tests were not age appropriate and that a higher number of opt-outs would skew results. She said she will help ensure schools do not lose funding because of the low scores and participation.
Ms. Russell noted the hiring of Beverly L. Ouderkirk to the state Board of Regents, who, Russell says, will play a vital voice in fixing Common Core standards. Additionally, Ms. Russell said she expects the state’s new contract with Questar Assessment, Inc., a Minnesota-based education service, will improve learning.
State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, could not be reached for comment.
U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik will be in Watertown for two events Tuesday, Aug. 25. The first event is an Industry and International Business Roundtable from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn at 1290 Arsenal St. in Watertown. Those interested in attending must RSVP at email@example.com or call 315-661-3200. Attendees can pay $20 for a lunch option. Ms. Stefanik will also be holding a fundraiser from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Pete’s Trattoria Restaurant, 111 Breen Ave., Watertown. Attendance for the general reception between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. costs $100 and the sponsor dinner from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. costs $500. The fundraiser is closed to the press.
WATERTOWN — The public will get a chance to hear from candidates running for mayor and the six City Council hopefuls at forums hosted by All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, 1330 Gotham St.
The six council candidates have been invited to a forum at 6 p.m., Friday, Aug. 28. Ryan Henry-Wilkinson, Cody J. Horbacz, Mark C. Walczyk, Todd R. DeMar, Clifford G. Olney III and Douglas E. Osborne Jr. are running in the Sept. 10 primary.
A second forum has been slated for 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 1 for mayoral candidates Jeffrey E. Graham, Stephen A. Jennings and Joseph M. Butler Jr.
After the primary, the church will hold a forum at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 for the Jefferson County District Attorney’s race between Republican Kristyna S. Mills and Democrat Anthony M. Neddo.
For each of the forums, the public will be given a numbered ticket. When their number is called, they can ask a question, Each candidate will have a minute to answer.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law Friday the statewide ban on the sale and distribution of powdered, or crystalline, alcohol, which is commercially known as “Palcohol.”
The law was sponsored by State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, who noted the devastating impact the substance could have on the community’s youth.
“We are all well aware of the unfortunate price that is paid when our children and our communities are gripped by substance abuse and addiction – promising lives are shattered, stable homes are turned upside down, and neighborhoods are left searching for solutions,” Mr. Griffo said in a statement. “So with that risk, there is absolutely no need whatsoever to introduce another form of alcohol that could only make it easier for minors to abuse.”
When mixed with six ounces of liquid, powdered alcohol becomes equal to that of a mixed drink.
The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved the legal sale of Palcohol in the United States earlier this year, and the Food and Drug Administration concluded that palcohol’s ingredients do not violate regulations, meaning there were no grounds to block its sale.
Mr. Griffo said using multiple packets of powdered alcohol could create lethal alcoholic drinks, as well as increase the risks of underage drinking and substance abuse.
The bill was co-sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz, D-Brooklyn, who said powdered alcohol has no genuine purpose.
“Powdered alcohol is a product with no legitimate reason for being,” he said. “I’m pleased that New York has joined the growing number of states to ban the sale of this potentially dangerous product.”
U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer was also behind the ban, noting that powdered alcohol could become the new Kool-Aid for underage drinkers.
“It is great that New York is leading on this issue, but this ban should be national, so I will continue to push legislation to do just that,” Sen. Schumer said.
State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, met Col. Bryan Laske, the new Fort Drum garrison commander, Wednesday at the groundbreaking ceremony for the 10th Mountain Division monument in Watertown’s Thompson Park.
Col. Laske served at the U.S Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., prior to moving to Fort Drum.