Protecting Children Must Remain Priority for All

By SENATOR TIM KENNEDY

In September, Western New York was once again rocked by the tragic loss of a young child. Five-year-old Eain Clayton Brooks suffered repeated, brutal beatings allegedly at the hands of his mother’s live-in boyfriend. Eain’s life was taken as a result of this senseless abuse.

As the father of three young children, I was deeply saddened by Eain’s death. Our entire community has mourned his loss, and I cannot imagine the immense pain that Eain’s family has endured. My thoughts and prayers remain with them.

Eain’s death is an intolerable and heartbreaking tragedy, and we must do all we can to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.

Unfortunately, that is an all too common refrain. Clearly, the system is susceptible to improvement. We can do better. We must.

In Western New York alone, over the past several months, 10-year-old Abdifatah Mohamud, three-year-old Gage Seneca, one-year-old Austin Smith and now five-year-old Eain Clayton Brooks were brutally beaten and killed allegedly by individuals entrusted with their care. The circumstances surrounding each of their deaths are different, but together, the loss of these children call into question whether or not our county and state are meeting their obligations to protect the safety and well-being of all children.

That’s why we called in the New York State Office of Children and Family Services and asked them to investigate the practices and procedures of Erie County Child Protective Services.

The state has completed the first part of its investigative review and has issued a critical report outlining areas in urgent need of improvement. OCFS is now working to complete the second-phase of the review. This process is ongoing, and we will keep the community informed as we learn more.

The first part of he state’s review shed light on gaps in the system and presented initial opportunities to reform child protective services. 

We have begun working to draft legislation that will help ensure all children are kept safe from harm. We want accountability, transparency and responsiveness within child protective services locally and throughout the state, and we are committed to pursuing legislative reform to ensure that happens as quickly as possible.

Child abuse has become a nationwide epidemic. It’s a problem that has touched every town, city and village – and not just in Erie County, but across the state and nation as well.

Across the country, about 700,000 children have been the victims of abuse or neglect in each of the last several years. One child abused or neglected is enough to spark outrage, but 700,000 children – that is absolutely unacceptable and utterly appalling. Each year, child abuse and neglect tragically claim far too many young lives. An estimated 1,570 children died from abuse and neglect in 2011, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Child abuse needs to end, and it needs to end now. In Western New York, we have a history of fighting hard to pass stronger laws to protect children and prevent child abuse. And the success we’ve had in reforming state law has been the result of the widespread community support that has fueled our efforts.

As a community, we worked relentlessly to get Jay-J’s Law finally passed into law this year. With the dedication of Jay-J’s family and an outpouring of help from the community, the bill received legislative approval and became law. It toughens penalties for repeat child abuse, and it ensures children, especially those who have become victims of child abuse, have enhanced protections against their violent abusers.

When Governor Cuomo signed this important bill into law, we knew our work was not done. We, as a community, need to remain diligent in our efforts to stop child abuse and neglect. Our state needs even stronger penalties against abusers, a more responsive system of child protective services and new initiatives to prevent child abuse before it happens.

Eain’s family has formed a group called Eain’s Echo, which will help raise awareness of child abuse and aims to ramp up prevention efforts. This past weekend, the family held the first-ever Eain’s Echo Child Abuse Awareness Walk. After suffering an unimaginable tragedy, they are channeling their immense grief into positive action to prevent other families from experiencing what they’ve endured. Amid all of their pain, they are working hard to inspire the community to help them prevent child abuse and neglect.

Let’s remain steadfast and resolute in our ongoing work to end child abuse, once and for all. Children in Western New York and across New York State are depending us.

This column was first published in the Cheektowaga Bee on October 24, 2013.

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Senator Kennedy Praises ‘Buffalo Billion’ Investment to Jumpstart Clean Technology Industry in WNY

After unveiling of Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub @ RiverBend, Kennedy applauds Governor Cuomo’s intelligent public investment that is spurring private investment and creating hundreds of new jobs.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Senator Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat and the ranking member on the Senate Economic Development Committee, praised the newly-announced “Buffalo Billion” investment to build the Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub @ RiverBend. Kennedy says it will spark the development of a thriving clean technology industry in Western New York. Kennedy joined Governor Andrew Cuomo at his announcement today, and commended the Governor for his targeted public investment along the Buffalo River – which will spur substantial private investment and create hundreds of new jobs.

“Buffalo is on an economic winning streak. Teamwork and hard work is leading to new work for Western New Yorkers,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “By investing in the growing industry of clean technology, New York State will help put Buffalo at the cutting edge of new discovery and set this region forward on a path toward sustained economic growth. Governor Cuomo is making a sharply intelligent investment here with the Buffalo billion initiative. The Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub will spur unprecedented private investment and create hundreds of new jobs here in Western New York. 

“For far too long, Albany had ignored Buffalo and Western New York, but over the last few years, under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, that has changed – and in a big way. The economic revival of Buffalo and Western New York is now a priority for the state, and it’s because Governor Cuomo has led the way in directing new investment to our region. On behalf of a grateful Western New York, I say, ‘Thank you Governor Cuomo.’ Thank you for keeping your promise as you continue to deliver on the Buffalo Billion. Thank you for your confidence in the people of Western New York, and thank you for this substantial investment in Buffalo’s bright future.

“Western New York became a leader in clean energy production when we harnessed the power of Niagara Falls so many years ago. This Buffalo billion investment will help our state and region live up to our legacy of innovation, attract new industry and spur job creation.”

Governor Cuomo announced today the state will invest $225 million from the Buffalo billion to construct a new clean-energy campus at the RiverBend industrial site – which will create hundreds of new jobs. Two new companies based in California, Soraa and Silevo, are relocating to the Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub and will create 850 new permanent jobs. The two companies are investing a collective $1.5 billion in this project. The project will also create at least 500 construction jobs. It’s expected the state investment will lead to several hundred additional jobs in the future, as new manufacturing companies are attracted to the state-of-the-art facilities.

The 90-acre RiverBend site is the former home of Republic Steel. New York State’s $225 million investment will build necessary infrastructure such as water, sewer, utility and roads, and it will finance the construction of 275,000 square feet of facilities for Soraa and Silevo. As additional manufacturing firms are attracted to the RiverBend site, new facilities will be built to accommodate their needs. 

Click here for more information from Governor Cuomo's office. 

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Senator Timothy M. Kennedy represents the New York State Senate’s 63rd District, which is comprised of the town of Cheektowaga, the city of Lackawanna and nearly all of the city of Buffalo. More information is available at http://kennedy.nysenate.gov

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Governor Cuomo Announces Ford Motor Company To Invest $150 Million In Its Hamburg Stamping Plant

Scott Adams, director UAW region 9 said, “It's huge for the Stamping plant, for the UAW members, and the community. This investment in new machinery and lines will eventually lead to this plant operating with nearly a thousand employees. That's tremendous growth that really gives present and future workers some long-term viability.”

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Governor Cuomo Announces Ford Motor Company To Invest $150 Million In Its Hamburg Stamping Plant

Scott Adams, director UAW region 9 said, “It's huge for the Stamping plant, for the UAW members, and the community. This investment in new machinery and lines will eventually lead to this plant operating with nearly a thousand employees. That's tremendous growth that really gives present and future workers some long-term viability.”

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STATEMENT FROM SENATOR PATRICK M. GALLIVAN

Former State Trooper, Senator Gallivan Mourns The News Of Trooper Ross Riley's Passing

"From the day a trooper is sworn in and dons the gray uniform and stetson, they, and their loved ones, become life members of the New York State law enforcement family. Today we mourn the tragic news that a member of that family, Trooper Ross Riley, has perished during a training exercise in Letchworth State Park. My heart and my prayers go out to the Riley family, to those who served with Trooper Riley and the entire law enforcement community across the state of New York."

Senator Patrick M. Gallivan – 59th District

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Senator Gallivan served for fifteen years with the New York State Troopers and was twice elected Sheriff of Erie County. He currently represents all or parts of Erie, Monroe Livingston and Wyoming Counties in the New York State Senate.

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Senator Kennedy Urges State Education Commissioner to Schedule Community Forum in Buffalo

State Education Commissioner canceled, then rescheduled a series of town-hall meetings across the state, but NYSED has not yet scheduled forum in Erie County. 

 Kennedy wants Commissioner to hold community forum in Buffalo to ensure area parents have the chance to learn more and ask questions about new Common Core standards. 

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Senator Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, is urging New York State Education Commissioner John King to schedule a community forum in Buffalo to ensure local families have the opportunity to hear more and ask questions about the state’s new Common Core standards. Previously, Commissioner King canceled, then rescheduled a series of town-hall meetings across the state. King was expected to appear in Williamsville for an October 24 forum prior to the cancellations, but NYSED has not yet scheduled a new forum in Erie County.

Currently, the only forum scheduled in Western New York is planned for December 4 in Jamestown, an over hour-and-a-half drive from Buffalo. Also, according to their website, NYSED has not yet finalized a time or specific location for the Jamestown event.

“Western New York parents are disappointed and frustrated that no community forum has been scheduled in Erie County. They are eager to discuss their concerns and ask Commissioner King questions about the state’s implementation of Common Core standards,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “It’s hard to believe that NYSED would expect Buffalo families to drive over an hour and a half away on a school night to participate in a forum with the chief state official tasked with ensuring the quality of our schools. I urge the State Education Department to add a community forum in Buffalo to their schedule and ensure parents, educators and community leaders in Western New York are heard when it comes to the future of schools throughout the state.”

In Buffalo, parents have long expressed an interest in meeting with Commissioner King to share their children’s first-hand accounts of their educational experiences. Kennedy believes the State Education Department needs to follow through on their previously-planned meeting for Erie County to give area parents the chance to raise concerns with senior education officials about local schools.

In a letter sent Friday, Kennedy urged the NYSED Commissioner to reschedule a forum in Erie County, and to hold it inside the City of Buffalo.  He wrote, “It is imperative that you do not ignore the largest school district in Western New York in favor of an event that is about 70 miles – or more than an hour-and-a-half drive – away from Buffalo. Considering the high cost of travel and the large number of Buffalo families who rely on public transit, many parents will be forced to pass up their only opportunity to meet directly with you. I urge you to schedule a meeting in Buffalo and give families here the chance to attend one of your community forums.”

Concern over the impact of high-stakes testing has been growing across the region and state. In October, Kennedy teamed up with Assemblyman Sean Ryan and Senator George Maziarz to host the Summit for Smarter Schools at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo. About 2,500 people turned out to participate in the Summit – which brought together parents, community residents, education professionals and public officials to discuss needed reforms to ensure schools in Western New York and across the state are gearing children with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century global economy. The discussions largely focused on the use and impact of standardized testing in an effort to help de-emphasize the high stakes nature of these tests.

“Every day, I hear from parents and teachers about the damaging effects of high-pressure, high-stakes tests,” Kennedy said. “There’s no question that testing has its place, but we need to it right. Appropriate, reliable testing will help us ensure students are learning the skills they need to achieve academic success without over-testing and over-stressing young children. As a state, we need to pursue real solutions to the challenges our schools face.”

You can read Senator Kennedy's letter to Commissioner King below, or by clicking this link.

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Senator Timothy M. Kennedy represents the New York State Senate’s 63rd District, which is comprised of the town of Cheektowaga, the city of Lackawanna and nearly all of the city of Buffalo. More information is available athttp://kennedy.nysenate.gov.

Full text of Senator Kennedy’s Letter to the NYSED Commissioner:

 

November 15, 2013

 

Dr. John B. King, Jr.Commissioner of EducationNew York State Education Department89 Washington AvenueAlbany, New York 12234

 

Dear Commissioner King:

I write to request that you include an event in the City of Buffalo in your Community Forum Schedule. It has been brought to my attention that, currently, the only event scheduled in Western New York is set to take place in Jamestown on December 4. I certainly appreciate you traveling to as many regions, and holding as many forums, as possible, but it is imperative that you do not ignore the largest school district in Western New York in favor of an event that is about 70 miles – or more than an hour-and-a-half drive – away from Buffalo.

Considering the high cost of travel and the large number of Buffalo families who rely on public transit, many parents will be forced to pass up their only opportunity to meet directly with you. I urge you to schedule a meeting in Buffalo and give families here the chance to attend one of your community forums.

Buffalo Public Schools are in the midst of a crisis, and parents are rightfully concerned about major changes to their children’s education. While I am sure that an event held in Jamestown would inevitably draw a large contingent from the City of Buffalo, parents should not be forced to drive over an hour on a school night to hear from, and address, the senior-most education official in the state about an overhaul to their child’s curriculum. I am sure that Buffalo Public Schools would be happy to host you in any location in the city, and there are plenty of large auditoriums throughout the district.

In the City of Buffalo, 80 percent of schools are rated as “Consistently Low Performing.” This makes it even more important that you to come to Buffalo and explain the changes that we can expect in the coming months and years to our statewide education system. If, as we've been told, these changes are going to improve educational outcomes, then a struggling district like Buffalo ought to have been the first stop on your Community Forum tour. Again, I hope you will find a time and date to come to Buffalo to speak to parents about the Common Core changes coming to New York State. At the very least, you must hold an event closer than 70 miles away from Buffalo.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter, and I hope to see you soon in Buffalo. If you have any questions or if I can be of assistance, please feel free to contact me in my district office at 716.826.2683.

Sincerely,

 

Timothy M. Kennedy
New York State Senator, 63rd District

 

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STAR Re-registration Event in City of Tonawanda

In 2013, New York State initiated a program that all recipients of The Basic STAR Property Tax exemption (Property owners UNDER AGE 65, or those over age 65 whose incomes exceeded $81,900) would have to re-register in order to receive the Basic STAR exemption. This was part of an initiative to protect New Yorkers against fraudulent or inappropriate STAR Exemptions.

The State mailed letters in September to the over 4,500 residents who receive Basic STAR in the City of Tonawanda. Many residents have already registered whether doing it on line or through the State Tax department’s phone system. The deadline for re-registration is December 31st, 2013.

There are still a number of property owners who have not re-registered. Those owners will receive a postcard over the next few weeks from the State. In order to assist those residents who have not re-registered, the City of Tonawanda Assessors office will offer a “STAR RE-REGISTRATION OUTREACH SESSION”. It will take place on Thursday, December at the City of Tonawanda Assessors Office at Tonawanda City Hall, located at 200 Niagara Street in Tonawanda.

The assessor’s office will be open from 8:30am to 7:00 pm that day to assist property owners who have not re-registered. All you need to bring is the Social Security numbers of all owners of the property, including spouses who are not owners and the Assessors staff will assist you in going on-line and doing the re-registration.

PLEASE NOTE- SENIORS OVER AGE 65 WHO RECEIVES ENHANCED STAR AND / OR/LOW INCOME EXEMPTIONS ARE NOT A PART OF THE BASIC STAR RE-REGISTARTION. They are part of the annual RENEWAL Program. They were notified by the City in October about their RENEWAL, or are part of the automatic Income Verification. Renewal program .If you are unsure, please notify the Assessor’s office.

For more information, call 716-695-8639.



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New Senate Report: Keep Cutting Taxes to Create Jobs

Dear Friends,

I have a longstanding record of championing tax cuts — both to provide relief to hardworking New Yorkers, and to create a better business climate for new job creation and economic growth.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce that my Senate Republican colleagues and I have just issued an important new report that calls for New York’s personal income taxes, business taxes, estate taxes and local property taxes to be reformed, simplified and reduced. The report also calls for a permanent two-percent state spending cap and dedicating surplus revenues to tax reductions.

The new report sends a loud and clear message that comprehensive tax relief will be a top priority for our Senate Republican Conference throughout the 2014 Legislative Session.

Overall, the tax-cutting recommendations outlined in the report will helpto ensure a brighter, stronger and more prosperous future for New York State. Taken together, these measures will help make staying in New York not only more attractive — but the preferred option — for young New Yorkers, middle class families, senior citizens, and private sector businesses.

I will be sure to keep you posted on my efforts.

Sincerely,

Senator Mark J. Grisanti

To view the report, click this link: http://www.nysenate.gov/files/pdfs/2013%20Preliminary%20Tax%20Report%20FINAL.pdf 

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New Senate Report: Keep Cutting Taxes to Create Jobs

Dear Friends,

I have a longstanding record of championing tax cuts — both to provide relief to hardworking New Yorkers, and to create a better business climate for new job creation and economic growth.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce that my Senate Republican colleagues and I have just issued an important new report that calls for New York’s personal income taxes, business taxes, estate taxes and local property taxes to be reformed, simplified and reduced. The report also calls for a permanent two-percent state spending cap and dedicating surplus revenues to tax reductions.

The new report sends a loud and clear message that comprehensive tax relief will be a top priority for our Senate Republican Conference throughout the 2014 Legislative Session.

Overall, the tax-cutting recommendations outlined in the report will helpto ensure a brighter, stronger and more prosperous future for New York State. Taken together, these measures will help make staying in New York not only more attractive — but the preferred option — for young New Yorkers, middle class families, senior citizens, and private sector businesses.

I will be sure to keep you posted on my efforts.

Sincerely,

Senator Mark J. Grisanti

To view the report, click this link: http://www.nysenate.gov/files/pdfs/2013%20Preliminary%20Tax%20Report%20FINAL.pdf 

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Senator Kennedy Unveils New Bill to Help Veterans Secure SUNY Credit for Military Training

At Veterans Forum and Services Fair, Kennedy outlined the VETS Credits Act, which will make college more affordable for veterans and help them complete coursework faster. 

Kennedy: By giving credit where credit is due, New York State and its public university system can ease and accelerate veterans’ transition into civilian life.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Senator Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, today unveiled new legislation that will help veterans get academic credit from the State University of New York (SUNY) for their military training. Kennedy announced the bill at his Veterans Forum and Services Fair – which he held Tuesday to help connect local veterans to the services and support they earned while serving our great nation.

Kennedy’s bill – titled the Veterans’ Education Through SUNY Credits Act or VETS Credits Act – requires SUNY to establish a statewide policy that will ensure military veterans receive college credit for relevant coursework from their military training.

“Student veterans often have other obligations while attending school, including full-time jobs and supporting their family. For many, the goal is to complete their degree as quickly as possible in order to expedite the transition from soldier to civilian,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “By giving credit where credit is due, New York State and its public university system can accelerate veterans’ transition into and increase their marketability in our competitive labor force. Once our VETS Credits Act is approved and signed into law, the state will continue its longstanding tradition of honoring our veterans and promoting the State of New York as a welcoming place for our heroes to call home.”

Currently, several local colleges and some SUNY institutions offer college credit for certain training, but there is no universal statewide policy for SUNY schools. Kennedy’s bill would change that.

Under the VETS Credits Act, the SUNY Board of Trustees will develop a policy requiring all schools within the SUNY and City University of New York (CUNY) systems – including colleges and community colleges – to award academic credit to student veterans for courses that were part of their military training or service. To receive academic credit, the military coursework must meet the standards of the American Council on Education or equivalent standards.

The American Council on Education, in collaboration with the Department of Defense, evaluates military transcripts from each branch of service and makes recommendations for appropriate academic credit. Veterans, throughout their military careers, receive valuable and translatable education that should be acknowledged at institutions of higher learning. Kennedy’s VETS Credits Act will ensure SUNY accepts military training and grants appropriate credit.

Western New York is home to multiple colleges that are regularly recognized as being military friendly. In fact, the Military Times recently ranked D’Youville College number one on their list of best colleges for vets. Kennedy says the VETS Credits Act will ensure SUNY’s veterans policies are brought up to meet the standards that have been set here at colleges in Western New York.

Meanwhile, New York State has fallen behind dozens of other states that have already passed legislation to require their university systems to accept military training for academic credit. At least 25 states – Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming – have already approved new laws directing their state university systems or boards of education to develop policies to grant credit for military service, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“The VETS Credits Act will make college more affordable and accessible for veterans,” Kennedy said. “It will make New York State a leader in supporting veterans and position SUNY as the premier public university system for veterans pursuing higher education.”

Senator Kenned speaks to constituents at his Veterans Forum.While outlining his legislative priorities to support veterans Tuesday, Kennedy also announced a new bill he’s proposing that will waive drivers’ license renewal fees for New York State’s veterans and seniors. Kennedy says this bill will provide well-deserved relief to New Yorkers who need – and deserve – it most and serve as an acknowledgment of our appreciation for veterans’ invaluable sacrifices and service.

At Senator Kennedy’s Veterans Forum and Services Fair, more than 200 local veterans gathered to meet with various service providers and connect with available resources on site. Over 20 agencies and organizations participated in the event, including Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition, Veterans One-Stop Center of WNY, Erie County Veterans Services, SPCA Paws & Patriots, Headway of NY, NYS Division of Veterans Affairs, CASH Coalition, Statler Center-Olmsted Center for Sight, Erie County Mental Health Association, local colleges’ veterans affairs offices and others.

“Western New York’s veterans worked hard and fought bravely to keep our nation and our state strong,” said Senator Kennedy. “We must always ensure they are able to fully access the support and services they earned and deserve. They’ve served us; now it’s our turn to serve them.”

Senator Kennedy with (from left) Tom Bennett of WNY Veterans Housing Coalition, Dan Frontera from ECC's Office of Veterans Affairs, and Roger Woodworth of the Veterans One-Stop Center of WNY.

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Senator Timothy M. Kennedy represents the New York State Senate’s 63rd District, which is comprised of the town of Cheektowaga, the city of Lackawanna and nearly all of the city of Buffalo. More information is available at http://kennedy.nysenate.gov.

 

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