New York's governor and three top lawmakers have begun the annual series of closed-door budget negotiations. Governor Andrew Cuomo met Wednesday afternoon with Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Republican Senate Leader Dean Skelos... as well as Senator Jeff Klein, the leader of a small breakaway faction of Senate Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Conference. The meeting was the first of what's likely to be several such gatherings, traditionally known as the ``three men in a room'' who negotiate the details of the state budget. Cuomo said Klein was included because his faction's support may prove critical for passing the spending plan. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who leads the Senate's Democratic minority, was not invited. She criticized the process and says the leaders of all legislative factions should be included.
Members of the Chautauqua County Legislature generally reacted positively to Vince Horrigan's second State of the County message. However... some say they want to know more about Horrigan's proposal to raise the sales tax by a half-a-percent first. One is Cassadaga-area Republican John Runkle... who says he wants to look at possible cost-cutting measures in addition to raising the tax. At the same time... Legislature Chairman Jay Gould of Ashville says he believes the county has cut about all it can -- within the framework of state mandates -- and, adds they need the added half-a-percent sales tax to help reduce the property tax. He says the county's property taxes shouldn't be in the area of Westchester County's rate. He adds that if the revenue can't be found... the county may be "bankrupt" by the end of next year. Legislature Minority Leader Keith Ahlstrom says he can "support" an increase in the sales tax if it produces "true property tax relief." He says it's a relatively painless way to raise the revenues they need to "cover their expenses."
There were several challenges in 2014... but, Chautauqua County goverment was "one the move" ove the past year. That from County Executive Vince Horrigan... who celebrated several in his State of the County Address. Two of the biggest occured in the north county, with the approval of the NRG Repowering Project... and, privatizing the Chautauqua County Home. Horrigan says the 16-million dollar sale of the home last December 31st culminated a "difficult" three-year process. Horrigan says the county also took "numerous steps" toward addressing significant challenges with it's lakes and streams. With the help of State Senator Cathy Young... Assemblyman Andy Goodell... and, Congressman Tom Reed... he says Barcelona Harbor was successfully dredged. The Ellery Republican adds dredging is planned for Dunkirk and Hanover this year. He adds there is a new Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance... which will pursue state and federal funding to maintain the lake. Horrigan also welcomed Erin Brickley... who will be the Watershed Alliance's first executive director. He also touted the Department of Social Services efforts to ensure that people entitled to public assistance get it... and, those who don't -- don't.
Three people from New York City living in the Jamestown-area have been arrested for committing a form of shop-lifting called "under-ringing." It's where they use a self-checkout area to scan their merchandise... but, intentionally scan lower price tag items... and, put different items in their bag. Lakewood-Busti police say a second method used is scanning half the products in a shopping cart... and, not the other half. Officers say they arrested Bryonna Vickers of the Bronx... Achaia (Ah-kay-uh) Buckhanon of New York City... and, Trevor Patterson of Harlem -- all 19 -- on multiple counts of petty larceny. Police officials say they have investigated numerous complaints of "under-ringing" over the past several months. Lakewood-Busti officers say the three had allegedly committed the crime at the same store... but, this time were caught in the act. The trio was arraigned... and, posted bail.
State lawmakers have begun debating grand jury reforms meant to restore trust when police are investigated. The issue is getting attention following last year's death of an unarmed Staten Island man in a videotaped confrontation with city police where no officers were later indicted. Eric Garner's death in an apparent chokehold led to major protests. At a hearing on the state's criminal justice budget... several legislators are questioning reform proposals by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who would establish oversight by a special prosecutor or judge, respectively, when police are accused. Individual legislators are also raising other options. One would require prosecutors to disclose publicly what charges they have grand juries consider. Another proposal, from a former police officer, would leave the current closed-door system intact.
There have been no names announced... but the first new Jamestown businesses under Start Up New York could be opening soon. The guest speaker for the Chamber 'Salute to the Finest' awards Wednesday was John Sayegh, Vice President for External Partnerships at Jamestown Community College. He says the college and its advisory council have put their applications before the state. The first will be sponsored by the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation. As for the second application, Sayegh said he could not divulge the name... or nature... of the business, but did say "it is very excting". Those firms approved for Start Up New York will enjoy a variety of significant tax exemptions for ten years.
Two men who have 'painted the town' were honored as the 'Pride of Jamestown' at the Jamestown Community Chamber of Commerce Awards Wednesday night. Gary Peters, Senior, and Gary Peters, Junior, are responsible for the Lucy-Desi murals found throughout the downtown area. Gary, Junior said he and his father were not the only artists at the ceremony. The 'business of the year' award went to Digitell. Jim Parker started the business 30 years ago, selling cassettes of Chautauqua lectures. He now employs over 50 people... streaming video conferences all over the United States. He calls it a tough business... but, adds they're small operation in Jamestown is doing well. Other 'Salute to the Finest' awards went to Titan X, the Jamestown Cycle Shop, Line-X of Jamestown, Shawbucks, and the Lynn Development Group. Individual awards were presented to Peter Lombardi of the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, and Jamestown Skate Supply Owner Pete Scheira (sheer-uh). Tim Shults of Shults Auto Group was given the 'Community Service Award'.
The New York Farm show is returning to the State Fairgrounds. The 30th edition of the show began yesterday and runs through Saturday. Last year... more than 25,000 people attended the Farm Show, which occupies more than 220,000 square feet of space in six buildings and includes over 400 exhibitors. The show will be held in the Exhibit Center, Center of Progress Building, Horticulture Building, Science & Industry Building, International Building, and Art & Home Center. It's co-sponsored by the Northeast Equipment Dealers Association and American Agriculturalist and features the latest innovations in agricultural equipment, as well as services and products targeted specifically for farm operators in the Northeast. A Robotic Milking Seminar is being offered daily, and presentations also will be made in forest management and agricultural safety.
For the second time in two years, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is sending a bill to the Senate to privatize the operations of much of the state-controlled wine and liquor store system. However, the Republican-backed proposal that passed 114-to-87 yesterday faces an uphill road, like the previous one that died in the Senate. Democratic lawmakers oppose it, as does Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.