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Major warm-up leads to more ice jam concerns

Record-breaking warm temperatures and a miles-long section of the upper Hudson River that has been choked with ice for more than a month are not a good combination.

Adding several rainy days to the picture over the next week only makes for more concern that the stretch of the Hudson north of the Route 418 bridge will spill over its banks again, as it did in mid-January.

Temperatures are expected to rise to near 60 on Tuesday and 70 on Wednesday, with rain expected Monday night and Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.

“That’s the kind of scenario you worry about, a rapid warm-up with rain,” said Brian LaFlure, Warren County’s emergency services director.

A flood watch has been issued from Tuesday morning until 7 a.m. Thursday for northern Warren, Hamilton and Herkimer counties by the National Weather Service in Albany and through 7 p.m. Wednesday for Essex and Clinton counties by the National Weather Service in Burlington, Vermont.

The National Weather Service in Albany is monitoring ice-choked sections of the upper Hudson, Hoosic and Mohawk rivers in our region for possible flooding.

LaFlure said that periodic ground and aerial checks of the Hudson from the Route 418 bridge have shown little movement in the ice that clogged the river, in a section that is 5 to 6 miles long. The river channel has worked a way through or under it, but a change in the level from rain and snowmelt could cause flooding problems quickly.

“We’ve seen very little movement,” he said. “It did seem to shrink a little bit. It’s not as high as it was.”

LaFlure said his office has worked with the state Office of Emergency Management to bring equipment to the county that could help in the event of more flooding, with items such as pumps and a machine to fill sandbags staged in Queensbury for the time being.

Firefighters in Thurman, Warrensburg and elsewhere along the Hudson have mutual aid plans in the event of more flooding.

“We are trying to stay ahead of it,” he said.

LaFlure said his office has been periodically working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to have a drone fly over the section of river that has been jammed with ice to check for movement and problem spots.

The Route 418 bridge was closed for nearly two weeks by flooding, and part of River Road in Thurman remains closed after flooding washed it out.

Christina Speciale, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, said warmer-than-usual weather will linger through the week, with rain coming as well.

She said rainfall amounts aren’t expected to be high, but any river flooding that may occur will stem from a combination of rain, melting snow and ice jams.

“Right now we’re keeping a close eye on where the ice will move and lodge,” she said. “It’s a ‘wait-and-see’ game.”

Photos: Flooding cleanup

Bruce Squires, Special to The Post-Star 

Members of the Cossayuna Fire Department spent Saturday training and practicing ice and cold-weather rescue techniques on Cossayuna Pond. The rescue team trains to rescue animals and humans. Lifting his arm, instructor Jason Fedler signals John Solsan, partially visible in foreground, to pull a rope. John Friday, prone at right, assists as 'victim' John Stewart is pulled from the water. Local residents are being urged to beware of walking out on lakes and ponds as the weather warms this week.

NY-21 challengers talk gun control, other issues at forum

PLATTSBURGH — With another mass shooting fresh in the public mind, candidates for Congress passionately pledged at a public forum that gun control will be at the top of their lists.

“The policies that are going on in Washington, D.C., are morally bankrupt. We need to call them accountable,” Ronald Kim of Queensbury said. “Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We need action on this. Our kids are dying.”

Kim, a lawyer, was one of 10 candidates — nine Democrats and one Republican — who participated in a forum Saturday for those seeking to unseat incumbent Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik in the 21st Congressional District.

The forum, hosted by the Plattsburgh-based community group Change Through Action, was attended by about 200 people at E. Glenn Giltz Auditorium on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus.

Audience members asked questions that were answered by candidates chosen at random by event organizers. Other candidates could choose to also answer the question by playing a “wild card.”

Stefanik was invited but did not attend.


Gun control came up several times as audience members referenced the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people, most of them teenagers, were killed by a gunman who entered a high school.

Democrat Tedra Cobb of St. Lawrence County said universal background checks with no loopholes are needed for those wishing to buy firearms.

She chastised Stefanik for her record on gun issues.

“Elise Stefanik voted to allow this young man (Florida shooter) who had a history of mental illness to purchase a weapon,” Cobb said. “We need to undo that law.”

Democrat Tonya Boone of Granville said Congress needs to study what works in preventing gun violence.

“I’m the mother of a 9-year-old, and it is horrific to think of our kids not being safe,” Boone said.

Mental health funding

Democrat Patrick Nelson of Stillwater said Republicans have not done anything to address gun violence.

“I’m really tired that whenever one of these things happens (mass shooting), people try to scapegoat people that have treatment for mental health. If you have a mental health problem you are no more likely to be violent than anybody else, and in fact, you are more likely to be a victim of crime,” Nelson said.

“I’m sick and tired of this being used as an excuse by Republicans to not do anything. They can’t be serious about mental health and then cut Medicaid. They can’t be serious about mental health and not support Medicare for all, which fully funds mental health treatment.”

Pressure on families

Democrat Sara Idleman of Greenwich, who is a retired teacher, said the last thing she wants to see is more guns in schools, and the focus should be on improving support services.

“Teachers don’t want them,” she said of guns. “They don’t belong there. Kids don’t want them.

“Teachers are not trained to be police officers.”

Democrat Katie Wilson of Keene said intense pressure to survive in life is often a cause of violence and that people need better conditions in which to live.

“I see the source of this as what everything else is coming back down to when you look at economic inequality — this wealth gap,” she said.

“We have people out there, like my own family, struggling to survive under so much stress. The pressure that puts on home life, the pressure that puts on children. We need a paradigm shift.”

NRA influence

Democrat Don Boyajian of Cambridge said the National Rifle Association is often the culprit when it comes to Congress’s inability to enact gun-control laws.

“You know what the source of all of this is? The NRA,” Boyajian said. “They have their hands with a chokehold on Congress. You know what NRA really stands for? Not Relevant Anymore. We need their influence out of Congress right now.”

FBI faulted

Republican Russ Finley of St. Lawrence County said gun laws like New York’s SAFE Act only make criminals out of law-abiding citizens.

“We’ve got a societal problem, and making law-abiding gun owners criminals is not the thing,” he said.

“This shooting in Florida was a systemic failure by the FBI.”

Opioid crisis

The candidates also touched on health care, the economy and the opioid crisis during the two-hour forum.

Democrat Emily Martz of Saranac Lake said more resources should be put toward battling the opioid epidemic.

“One of the biggest things we need to do as a community is to take the stigma off the addiction, whether we are talking about opioids or any other kind of substance-abuse addiction,” she said.

“We need to put the spotlight squarely on recovery to bring people out of the shadows and get them into recovery,” she said. “And we also need to commit resources, especially family services, because too many children are winding up in the foster care system.”

Expand Medicare

Democrat David Mastrianni, an oncologist from Schroon Lake, said Medicare works and needs to be expanded.

“Patients like it, doctors like it, hospitals like it. We should simply expand it across,” he said.

“But we should also do one other thing — we should allow Medicare to use the free market, because Medicare right now does not have the option of using the free market.

“When a drug is discovered, the manufacturer sets the price, and Medicare pays. No other business works like that.”

GOP response

Republican Party chairs in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties reacted to the forum by issuing a joint statement.

“Representative Stefanik is a proven leader and strident advocate for the North Country’s 21st Congressional District,” read the statement from Clark Currier of Clinton County, Shaun Gilliland of Essex County and Ray Scollin of Franklin County.

“Her voting record and positions are open and transparent. Our congresswoman does what she says she is going to do. There are no empty campaign promises.

“She is, and always has been, doing what we elected her to do in Washington or out in the 21st District.

“With Elise Stefanik, you know where she stands.”


The eventual Democratic candidate will be chosen in a primary on June 26.

To get on that ballot, a candidate must collect at least 1,250 signatures from registered voters across the 12-county district between March 6 and April 12.

Finley must do the same to challenge Stefanik in a Republican primary.

The trio of Republican Party leaders said they will be watching the Democratic field and listening to their answers.

“As the Democratic primary process continues, it is time for those candidates to answer some hard questions that many North Country residents want to know,” their statement said.

“Do they support single-payer healthcare, Nancy Pelosi as House speaker, and the obstruction of the Trump Administration through government shutdowns?”

Doctors blast Trump's mental illness focus to fight violence

Frustration is mounting in the medical community as the Trump administration again points to mental illness in response to yet another mass shooting.

“The concept that mental illness is a precursor to violent behavior is nonsense,” said Dr. Louis Kraus, forensic psychiatry chief at Chicago’s Rush University Medical College. “The vast majority of gun violence is not attributable to mental illness.”

Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old charged with killing 17 people on Valentine’s Day at his former high school in Parkland, Florida has been described by students as a loner with troubling behavior who had been kicked out of school. His mother recently died and Cruz had been staying with family friends.

Since the shooting, his mental health has been the focus of President Donald Trump’s comments. And on a Thursday call with reporters, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the administration is committed to addressing serious mental illness and that his agency “will be laser-focused on this issue in the days, weeks, and months to come.”

Mental health professionals welcome more resources and attention, but they say the administration is ignoring the real problem — easy access to guns, particularly the kind of high-powered highly lethal assault weapons used in many of the most recent mass shootings.

“Even for those who manage to survive gun violence involving these weapons, the severity and lasting impact of their wounds, disabilities and treatment leads to devastating consequences,” American Medical Association President David Barbe wrote in an online column after the shooting.

“We are not talking about Second Amendment rights or restricting your ability to own a firearm. We are talking about a public health crisis that our Congress has failed to address. This must end,” Barbe wrote.

Better access to mental health care, including for those who might be prone to violence, is important, but “to blame this all just on mental illness is not sufficient,” he said in an interview Friday.

The AMA has supported efforts to boost gun violence research, ban assault weapons and to restrict access to automatic weapons. Barbe wrote in his column that federally funded research is crucial to address an “urgent health crisis.”

Under gun industry pressure, U.S. government research on firearm violence has been limited for decades.

The American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and four other medical associations issued a joint statement Friday urging comprehensive action by Trump and Congress, including labeling gun violence a national public health epidemic.

The groups’ recommendations include limits on high-powered, rapid-fire weapons designed to kill and funding gun violence research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC, there were about 38,000 U.S. gun deaths in 2016, slightly more than the number of people who died in car crashes.

“The families of the victims in Parkland and all those whose lives have been impacted by daily acts of gun violence deserve more than our thoughts and prayers. They need action from the highest levels of our government to stop this epidemic of gun violence now,” the groups said in a statement.

The American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Osteopathic Association contributed to the statement.

The president views gun owners as a key constituency that helped deliver him to the White House.

Before he was a candidate, Trump at one point favored some tighter gun regulations. But he embraced gun rights as a candidate, and the NRA spent $30 million in support of his campaign.

His latest budget request would slash Medicaid, the major source of federal funding for treating mental health problems, and cut school safety programs by more than a third. Last year, he signed a resolution blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Sunday that Trump is working with senators on a bill designed to improve criminal background checks. “While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system,” she said.

Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, a Trump ally, said he had discussed with Trump and GOP leaders how to restrict gun access to the mentally ill.

Federal and state laws already attempt to do this, in many cases with a ban on gun ownership for people who have been treated in mental institutions.

“There’s a great naivete to what the president and the governor are proposing,” Kraus said. A history of violent behavior, alcohol and substance use, and previous criminal behavior are all more pertinent factors to consider.

Dr. Garen Wintemute, director of a violence prevention research program at the University of California, Davis, said gun violence restraining order laws in California and Washington are “a much more focused approach.” The laws allow courts to keep guns out of the hands of people who pose threats to themselves or others.

“Florida has no such mechanism. Could have prevented this one; there was plenty of advance notice,” Wintemute said.

Schumer promotes cybersecurity programs at SUNY Adirondack

QUEENSBURY — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer plans to seek federal funding so other community colleges can replicate SUNY Adirondack’s cybersecurity program.

“This kind of program could be a model for some of the other community colleges throughout the state — even the country,” he said Monday during a visit to the campus.

Schumer, D-N.Y., visited SUNY Adirondack to hear about its computer security-related programs, including cybersecurity and information technology security.

He will seek “a very significant amount” of funding in the federal budget to increase training to combat cyber threats, Schumer said.

The recently approved two-year budget deal boosted nonmilitary discretionary spending by $60 billion, and Schumer said he hopes some of that money can be used to expand such programs at SUNY Adirondack and elsewhere.

Schumer got to hear from faculty and students about the cybersecurity courses and from business owners benefiting from the training.

Marc Guise, assistant professor of computer science, said cybersecurity is a growing field. He cited information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that the median pay for students with a four-year degree in a cybersecurity field is $92,000 and the number of jobs in that industry is expected to increase by 28 percent, to over 28,000 by 2026.

Nick Paigo, associate professor of graphic arts, said students are learning about real-world applications, including a recent lesson on cyber threats and how to combat them. One such attack they studied was used in the recent cyber attack at the Olympics.

Rolf Ronning of Bolton, a returning adult student, said he wanted to get into this program because he liked the combination of cybersecurity and criminal justice to protect data. He said this program provides a lot of opportunity for small business owners.

Stephen Mann of Glens Falls is planning to complete the Cisco network program in the spring. He hopes to become a network administrator.

He said he first became interested in computers when he was able to hack into his friends’ America Online messaging conversations. While that was harmless fun, however, the threats today are more serious.

“They can take down websites, cause personal and financial damages,” he said.

He mentioned the Equifax hack that resulted in the personal information of more than 145 million people being exposed, and the recent indictment of 13 Russians for meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Small business owners Jared Humiston of Adirondack Technical Solutions and Alan Van Tassel, executive vice president of Stored Technology Solutions, talked about the importance of a skilled workforce.

Humiston said he wants to build a business in his hometown of Argyle and that means building the skills of the local workforce.

“We wanted to create opportunities for people who normally don’t have an opportunity in that community,” he said.

Van Tassel agreed that there is a shortage of labor and the need for cybersecurity is growing.

“We have to go outside the community to find help,” he said.

Schumer said SUNY Adirondack’s program is fulfilling a need in the country.

“Whether it’s the private sector or the public sector, the need for trained people who can protect us from cyberattack and cybertheft is enormous and vital. It’s one of the most important jobs that we can do in this country over the next decade.”

In addition, Schumer said such programs will provide jobs for people in the Adirondack region.

“Our community colleges, when they do their best, are the link between the jobs that are needed to be filled and the people who want to fill those jobs,” he said.

He said he is glad that the program also helps small businesses.

“Our small businesses can’t spend all their time training people. They’re too busy,” he said.

In a brief question-and-answer session with reporters after the event, Schumer said he is worried that Russia will attempt to interfere in the 2018 mid-term elections.

“We have to do everything to stop it. Putin is a very clever man,” he said.

On gun control, Schumer said Trump’s budget proposal slashed funding for the background check database, which prevents felons and people who are determined by a court to be mentally ill from getting guns.

“It makes no sense, so I’m going to fight to get that money restored, and it has broad support from both parties,” he said.

Schumer also said he supports bringing expanded broadband access to rural communities. A total of $2.5 billion has been included for this in the new budget.

“Just as Franklin Roosevelt said in the ‘30s every rural home should get electricity, we are now saying that every rural home should have access to broadband,” he said.

Speaking of Franklin Roosevelt, Schumer said he was one of his three favorite presidents along with fellow New Yorker Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.