Evacuations, shutdowns on East Coast before storm

(Reuters) – Tens of millions of East Coast residents scrambled on Sunday to prepare for Hurricane Sandy, which could make landfall as the largest storm to hit the United States, bringing battering winds, flooding and even heavy snow.

The massive storm, which has already killed 66 people in the Caribbean, was headed toward a densely populated region that includes Washington, New York and Boston and its effects could be felt for hundreds of miles, officials warned.

It could be the largest storm to hit the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

New York and other big cities closed their transit systems and schools and ordered residents of low-lying areas to evacuate before a storm surge that could reach as 11 feet.

They warned that power outages could last for days.

“We’re expecting the worst, hoping for the best. We’re getting everything off the basement floor. We’ve got two sump pumps but during Hurricane Floyd, we were down there for 17 hours straight sweeping water into the sump pumps,” said Maria Ogorek, a Maplewood, New Jersey, lawyer and mother of three.

The U.S. government said it had granted administrative leave to non-emergency federal workers in the Washington D.C area.

The New York Stock Exchange said it would close its trading floor on Monday for the first time since Hurricane Gloria in 1985. All?stocks?listed on the exchange will trade electronically, NYSE Euronext said.

President?Barack Obama?asked residents to heed the orders of state and local authorities to protect themselves from Sandy.

“This is a serious and big storm,” Obama said after a briefing at the federal government’s storm response center in Washington. “We don’t yet know where it’s going to hit, where we’re going to see the biggest impacts.

Officials ordered many school closures, New Jersey?casinos?and Broadway theaters prepared to close, airlines got ready to halt flight activity in the New York area, and residents cleared store shelves of vital supplies and food.


New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the evacuation of low-lying areas of New York City, from upscale parts of lower Manhattan to waterfront housing projects in the outer boroughs, that are home to some 375,000 people.

“If you refuse to evacuate you’re not only putting yourself at risk but also the first responders who will have put themselves at risk in an emergency,” Bloomberg told a news conference.

In Bridgeport, Connecticut, Fire Department Captain Frank Rivera was ordering residents of 300 waterfront homes to evacuate.

“A lot of them are on their way out but some of them are thinking about (Hurricane) Irene and how they didn’t get damage and I tell them it’s two different animals,” Rivera said, referring to the August 2011 hurricane that brought severe flooding to parts of New Jersey and Vermont.

Officials warned that flooding could be particularly severe since the storm’s arrival coincides with a full moon, which normally means higher-than-usual high tides.

“The most worrisome aspect of Sandy is the high tides,” said Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee. “With the full moon occurring Monday, with Sandy coming up the Bay, we’re very concerned about flooding in our low-lying coastal areas.”

New York City, New Jersey and Philadelphia transit authorities said they would begin shutting down service on Sunday afternoon. Maryland’s transit system, serving some suburbs of Washington, said it would not open on Monday.

Amtrak, the passenger rail service, canceled nearly all service on the Eastern seaboard on Monday and would halt its service north of New York along the Northeast corridor.

Transit systems in Washington and Boston said they planned to operate as usual on Monday as long as it was safe to do so.

Airlines flying into and out of New York’s three major airports were all expected to cease flight activity on Sunday night, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Forecasters said Sandy was a rare, hybrid “super storm” created by an?Arctic?jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm, possibly causing up to 12 inches of rain in some areas, as well as up to 3 feet of snowfall in the Appalachian Mountains from West Virginia to Kentucky.

Nasdaq?planned to open on Monday despite the transit shutdown and evacuation orders, with bigbanks?putting up key personnel in?hotels?overnight so that they would be able to make it in to work on Monday morning.

The?Chicago Mercantile Exchange?said it would suspend floor trading on the NYMEX oil market on Monday, as it is located in the New York City evacuation zone near the Hudson River. It said electronic trading would go on as usual.


Bus drivers do care about people who refuse to pay

I drive bus in Surrey. I work nights. I have no less than 15 obvious fare evaders a night. To those who asked when we stopped refusing people a ride when they wouldn’t pay, it happened after the union got concerned about drivers being hurt by passengers who got violent when denied a ride. We are constantly under pressure about sick time. Sometimes it’s because

we’ve been hurt by a passenger. The hurt is not usually physical. The stress of dealing with fare evaders is tiring, demoralizing and time consuming.

I leave Surrey Central with an over-full bus heading to White Rock at 11 p.m. At 96th a woman boards and says “I don’t have any money. Can I get a ride to Newton?” OK, she rides. Three stops later a guy boards and drops 21 cents into the box, saying “this is all I’ve got” and sits down. Two stops before Newton a male boards, informs me he’s riding to 68th before adding, “just push your f——button and drive the bus, bitch,” as he takes his seat.

Picture yourself on that bus. You’ve paid and you’re angry people are getting free rides. But are you mad enough to be delayed on your way home? I can call for assistance, but they usually ask me to stay put until they send help. I have a hard time delaying fare-paying, tired folks who just want to get home.

The reason people feel free to treat me badly is because I have no authority on my bus. If I refuse a passenger a ride because of fare, they walk past me and sit down. Some people think we don’t care. I do care but I’ve been trained to appear that I don’t.

Now, when someone asks for a free ride I say “no.” Very seldom do they get off the bus. Once on, I can’t get them off. When I refuse someone a free ride, they argue with me or call me “rude’.” Grown men with children have called me the c-word.

When I get depressed about being called a bitch or worse too many times, I turn on the “I don’t care.” My mental health is worth more than that $2.50 apparently is to Coast Mountain.

Area bus driver invents product for safety

Students need to be careful when crossing the street when being let off a school bus.

Dunkirk, NY

A new product invented locally is helping to make students more aware of crossing the street and teaching them to watch bus drivers for when to cross.

Victoria DeCarlo, a bus driver for Lake Shore Central School for 19 years, invented the Steffi Crosser in 2011. The Steffi Crosser is similar to a glove that bus drivers can wear on their hand.

Submitted photo
The Steffi Crosser, invented by a local bus driver of 19 years, helps students see the universal cross signal bus drivers use.

?It is made of the same material as reflective vests. DeCarlo got the idea after having troubles with students crossing the street.

“It was a new (bus) run and there was a road I would stop at, Steffi Drive. The teenagers had to walk to the end of the road (to be picked up) since it was a dead end,” DeCarlo said.

Those students would have a hard time seeing DeCarlo’s hand signal due to the angle of the road and headlight reflections, she said.

The Steffi Crosser is outlined in orange with a silver arrow on a yellow background and is worn on the back side of the bus driver’s palm.

Since the Steffi Crosser reflects light, students can see it more easily than a bare hand. When designing the crosser, DeCarlo did not want a full glove to wear in summer time and she recalled wearing archery gloves.

“I use to put on my father’s archery glove and go out in the field,” she said. “It reminded me of that.”

DeCarlo started making the crosser by hand. She used a seam ripper to tear apart old safety vests. It took the majority of last winter for DeCarlo to make 150 gloves. The Steffi Crosser was named after Steffi Drive, the road which she first noticed a problem. DeCarlo said the product helps with students knowing when to cross but the most important part is education. DeCarlo said many motorists go through the stopping red lights of school buses.

“When I trained my students to look for the Steffi Crosser through the windshield I told them ‘If you don’t see this, you don’t Cross,'” DeCarlo said. “(Students) remember to look for the Steffi Crosser. It’s so simple and effective what a few instructions and a symbol can do towards the safety of our students’ lives.”

The Steffi Crosser was invented last November. DeCarlo was the only driver using it at the time but it slowly caught on with the other drivers in the district. In June, DeCarlo made a presentation to the Lake Shore Board of Education.

“After the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Dan Pacos came up to me and said, ‘We’re buying these and we’re going to implement these in September,'” she said.

Locally, Cassadaga Valley, Frontier and Iroquois districts are using the Steffi Crosser. It has also sold in Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, Oregon, Illinois, New Hampshire and Louisiana, and Massena and New Paltz in New York state.

On hand kits can also be purchased for the Steffi Crosser. These kits contain each size – small, medium and large – of the Steffi Crosser and are available to be placed above a driver’s head, in case a driver were to forget or there is a substitute driver. These kits will now be made locally at the Resource Center in Dunkirk.

DeCarlo said the Steffi Crosser has been successful and credits it to saving a middle school student’s life. A male student and his sister lived on Old Lake Shore Road in Angola, and he would cross before DeCarlo gave him the signal. When she started using the Steffi Crosser she told the boy, “If you don’t see this, you don’t cross.”

The male student was a new student to the district and was not used to crossing for a bus driver. He would start to cross but would remember what DeCarlo said and stop. He was crossing “beautifully” with the Steffi Crosser for almost two weeks, she said.

“The one morning, first time there’s a car coming at us, my red (lights) are on. … (The student) had his lacrosse stick and his driveway meets the road. He’s looking at me and I’m looking at the oncoming vehicle and it’s slowing down almost to a stop.

“I went to (cross him) but everything inside of me was screaming ‘Don’t cross him.’ (The student) was getting closer to the road. I still went (no). That car stepped on it … went right at the kid … and the kid didn’t (see the car). The mirrors hit the lacrosse stick, spun the kid around. It kept him on his feet. I asked him “Why didn’t you go into the street like you always do?’ It was because he was trying to see the Steffi (Crosser),” she said.

The product has also helped children with special needs. During a training session at a local school, DeCarlo was told about an autistic student who used a handmade book by his teacher to teach school bus safety. The cover of the book was a picture of the Steffi Crosser.

“(The bus monitor) said, ‘We had to cross (the student) on a daily basis holding up the book with the picture of your hand with the Steffi Crosser,” she said. “It was the only way he would cross.”

DeCarlo has seen much improvement by using the Steffi Crosser with her students; even with younger students she has seen a difference. She said many students would cross whenever they saw a hand movement – whether it was the signal to cross or to stop.

“It’s a revolutionary way of crossing. There’s nothing out there in the industry,” DeCarlo said. “Parents think that the red lights and the stop arms (their) kid is safe but they’re not.”

Not only are school bus drivers utilizing the product, but construction workers are as well. According to DeCarlo, students had told her they have seen construction workers using the Steffi Crosser. Fire Police are also looking into using the product for their work, DeCarlo said.

The Steffi Crosser can be bought online through its website. Hundreds have already sold throughout the state and country. For more information on the product, including instructional videos, visit?www.steffiproducts.com.

Transit crime drops as force focuses on thefts, assaults (YVR)

?Transit crime drops as force focuses on thefts, assaults

Transit police are planning to focus on reducing sexual assaults, ?i-crimes?, and violence against bus drivers as part of an aggressive push to make the transit system safer for passengers. Transit Police Chief Neil Dubord said Tuesday that theft, assaults and other transit crime is already down 17 per cent during the first half of this year, building on top of a 14-per-cent drop last year.

Vancouver Sun

METRO VANCOUVER — Transit police are planning to focus on reducing sexual assaults, ?i-crimes?, and violence against bus drivers as part of an aggressive push to make the transit system safer for passengers.

Transit Police Chief Neil Dubord said Tuesday that theft, assaults and other transit crime is already down 17 per cent during the first half of this year, building on top of a 14-per-cent drop last year.

Crimes against property, including vandalism, were down four per cent from 2011.

?My vision is to ensure we?re accountable and responsible around crime management,? said Dubord, who became chief of the transit police force in February. ?We?re certainly having an impact.?

During the first six months of this year, transit police arrested 530 people wanted on outstanding warrants or breaching bail conditions, Dubord said, compared with 750 arrests in all of last year.

Another 500 people were arrested for other crimes and their cases referred to prosecutors for charges.

Dubord noted that one of the big arrests this year was of an alleged sex offender, who was charged with an incident involving a 12-year-old girl on transit. Two other girls have since come forward in connection with the case.

Another high-profile case involved an iPad theft from a person with cerebral palsy.

Such cases, as well as assaults on bus drivers, will be a main focus of the transit police in coming months and years, Dubord said, adding that more officers are being deployed on bus routes that are prone to violence. He noted 53 bus drivers were attacked during the first six months of this year; last year, there were 145 similar assaults.

?We believe no front-line worker should have to come to any work environment and fear being assaulted,? he said.

Dubord said transit police will also work with the RCMP and Vancouver and New Westminster police forces to identify and monitor chronic sexual predators who may frequent the transit system, while reaching out to women?s groups to determine how they can make the transit system safer. At the same time, the transit police force will also target chronic offenders involved in personal robberies, or ?i-crimes,? in or around the system.

Dubord noted transit police have expertise in certain types of crime, including fraud and fare thefts, and will continue to work with neighbouring police forces on those types of incidents. Transit police supported TransLink?s focus on reducing fare evasion by conducting 1.4 million passenger fare inspections during the first nine months of this year, but Dubord noted fewer tickets were handed out in the month since the province granted legislation to collect the fare evasion fines through ICBC.

He said that crime levels were reduced this year even though policing overtime costs were cut by 50 per cent and overall expenditures were down 1.4 per cent compared to the same period in 2011. Dubord said better scheduling around vacations and days off has reduced the overtime bills, and should save between $300,000 and $400,000 this year.


Bus drivers counted 2.5 million unpaid fares in 2011

Bus drivers counted 2.5 million unpaid fares in 2011, union says

The union representing bus drivers estimates drivers hit the button on the fare console 2.5 million times last year as cheats boarded Coast Mountain buses ? with the majority boarding in Vancouver, where there?s the largest transit-using population.

Vancouver Sun

Bus drivers are punching the ?unpaid button? on their fare boxes more often, partly to avoid taking a punch themselves.

The union representing bus drivers estimates drivers hit the button on the fare console 2.5 million times last year as cheats boarded Coast Mountain buses ? with the majority boarding in Vancouver, where there?s the largest transit-using population. Neighbouring suburbs recorded between 200,000 and 400,000 fare cheats in 2011.

?We know fare evasion is a problem out there,? said Don MacLeod, president of the Canadian Auto Workers? Union, which represents bus drivers. ?We also know drivers don?t have the tools or the authority to enforce fares … it?s not my job as a bus driver to get money out of your pocket, it might escalate to a conflict.

?I?m not going to get into a fight with you for refusing to pay.?

MacLeod estimates that based on a $2.50 fare, fare evasion on buses cost TransLink more than $5.2 million last year. But TransLink believes that figure was closer to $7.6 million, while SkyTrain cheats cost the transit authority another $7.4 million in lost revenue.

TransLink spokesman Derek Zabel estimates fare cheats make up four to six per cent of the 1.2 million passengers who use the transit system daily ? with about 700,000 of those on buses. The number of bus fare cheats has been rising steadily since 2008, when TransLink lost $2.4 million in revenue. That rose to $3.1 million in 2009 and an estimated $5.3 million in 2010. Transit ridership increased significantly in the same period.

The transportation authority hopes its new fare gate system on SkyTrain and SeaBus ? and ticketing powers to collect $173 fines from fare cheats through ICBC ? will help crack down on those passengers who try to ride without paying, Zabel said. In September, 230,000 fare checks were done, with 2,900 tickets issued, compared with the same time last year when 164,000 checks were done, and 5,000 infractions were handed out.

Zabel noted the unpaid fare button is used to help TransLink figure out its most problematic routes, and where to deploy Transit police and security officers. Drivers hit the button only when someone gets on without paying at the front of the bus. They do not try to keep track of fare cheats who board through the back doors.

?It?s difficult to try to put a number on it because it can be complex given the zone structure,? Zabel said of calculating the cost of cheating. Adults are charged $2.50 or more, depending on the number of zones they?re travelling; the price is lower for children and seniors.

Some people may also drop a toonie into the fare box but not the remaining 50 cents, he said, which complicates the calculations.

MacLeod said bus drivers are looking forward to seeing more enforcement on buses, as drivers don?t want to engage in conflict because they are often subject to abuse.

?When a rider knows there will be enforcement it?s going to make the non-payer think twice,? MacLeod said.?It sends the message out that you have to be paying your fare.?


Provincial schools recognize bus drivers

??cole Vickers School teacher, co-chair and bus organizer Sandra Williams (left) hands a gift tin of chocolates to bus driver Cheryl Delgadillo on Monday to help celebrate Saskatchewan?s second annual School Bus Driver Appreciation Day.

?cole Vickers School teacher, co-chair and bus organizer Sandra Williams (left) hands a gift tin of chocolates to bus driver Cheryl Delgadillo on Monday to help celebrate Saskatchewan?s second annual School Bus Driver Appreciation Day.

Perhaps the unsung heroes of public education are the bus drivers who ensure children can make it to class in the first place.
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On Monday, Saskatchewan celebrated those workers with its second annual School Bus Driver Appreciation Day. Schools across the province presented their bus drivers with special gifts in recognition of their service.

?We have nine buses, I believe, that come to our school,? ?cole Vickers School teacher, co-chair and bus organizer Sandra Williams said. ?From a teacher/co-ordinator?s point of view, we wouldn?t be able to do our job in our building if it weren?t for our bus drivers transporting the students to our schools. So we?re extremely grateful for that.?

Each bus driver receives a pin from their respective school division. Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division No. 119 transportation supervisor Ryan Bruce encourages schools to recognize their drivers in whatever way they choose.

Last year, Williams gave Vickers drivers coffee mugs and cards. This time around, she presented them with large tins of Cr?me de Pirouline chocolate hazelnut rolled wafers.

Driver Cheryl Delgadillo, who drives Bus 31 to and from Vickers every school day, maintained that her school makes her feel appreciated all-year-round.

?I?ve always been very lucky ? Vickers has been very good to the drivers,? she said. ?When the teachers and the drivers and our supervisors at the bus garage all work together, it makes the job really come together ? great. So it?s not just one day, it?s all year ? We have a really good bus co-ordinator at the school, and that makes the job a lot easier too, and the teachers come out to supervise the kids to get on the bus, so that?s really great.?

We wouldn?t be able to do our job in our building if it weren?t for our bus drivers transporting the students to our schools. So we?re extremely grateful for that.– Sandra Williams

Delgadillo drives a 55-minute route twice each day in the morning and afternoon. She started driving a school bus three years ago after switching from a career in retail management. As a Spark leader and former commanding officer of an Air Cadets squadron, the idea of working with children held appeal.

For Delgadillo, the main challenge of her job is good student management while still watching the road and getting everyone where they need to go safely.

?My bus is pretty mellow,? she said. ?I?ve had most of these kids for three years already. It?s just I?ve got a few new ones this year, and right on the first week of school, we kind of established what you can and can?t do on the bus, and then if there?s problems beyond that, Sandra helps us deal with it and the problems go away, usually.?

School bus drivers come from all different walks of life. Many are retirees. Some have a military or police background, while others worked in education.

The job can attract single parents because of schedule flexibility. One is able to drive a school bus in the morning and afternoon, with the option in-between of doing field trips for other schools. Many drivers work second jobs during the day.

?This is a secondary job or a primary job, depending upon which job you look at,? Williams said. ?But it affords our bus drivers the opportunity to be engaged with something they?re excited about doing, yet still have time during the day to do what they want to do.?

BC Transit and bus drivers back to bargaining table

BC Transit and the union representing bus drivers are back at the bargaining table.

BC Transit reached out to the Canadian Auto Workers 333 local union to resume negotiations under the province?s co-operative gains mandate.

The negotiating mandate requires unions to offset any wage increases with cost savings and productivity gains in other areas.

?We hope and believe we can conclude an agreement without any further job action and with no disruption to bus riders,? said?Ben Williams,?CAW 333 local president.

BC Transit said in a statement it was encouraged when union representatives agreed to meet with the intention of achieving a fair and reasonable deal.

The union?s limited job action of not wearing BC Transit uniforms will continue, Williams said.

Williams also reiterated the union?s pledge to provide riders with at least 24-hours notice of job action that could disrupt bus services, should talks break down.

The two sides will resume talks on Monday.

Bill to force union disclosure of spending is hypocritical

The Conservatives have refused the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s request to disclose what effect $5 billion in spending cuts will have on public services but they want every labour union in the country to publicly disclose their photocopy contracts.

Sponsored by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (Labour Organizations) is set for a third and final reading in the House of Commons this fall. Bill C-377 would require every trade union and labour trust (pension plan, training fund as well as health and welfare funds) to file a public information return with the Canada Revenue Agency on all expenditures over $5,000. Incredibly, under the proposed legislation, labour-associated pension and benefit plans will be required to publicly disclose “the name and address” and a “description” of benefits paid to individuals greater than $5,000. This could include personal medical information.

While the opposition parties have opposed the bill, almost all Conservative MPs have supported the private member’s bill, which they claim will improve union transparency.

The Conservative Party’s hypocrisy knows no bounds. By all accounts the Conservatives have the most extreme message control of any recent Canadian government. The Prime Minister’s Office maintains a tight grip over statements by ministers, MPs and bureaucrats. It’s difficult for journalists to interview government officials (or scientists) without the PMO’s clearance.

Since the Conservatives generally refuse to relinquish it voluntarily, those searching for government information have been forced to file Access to Information requests, which has overwhelmed the system. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression reports that it takes longer than ever to access information and the information released is less complete. Similarly, in January 2011 the international journal Government Information Quarterly ranked Canada lowest in a study of freedom-of-information laws in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

At times, the Conservatives’ secrecy has been extreme. After the second highest ranked Canadian diplomat in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2007, Richard Colvin, told a parliamentary committee that individuals Canadian troops handed over to Afghan security forces were regularly tortured, the opposition parties, which were then in the majority, passed a motion requiring the government to release all un-redacted documents concerning Afghan detainees to the committee hearing the issue. The Conservative minority government refused, which may have violated the Constitution and put it in contempt of Parliament.

In 2012, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page asked 82 federal departments and agencies to explain how they planned to achieve $5.2 billion in cost savings as part of the 2012 budget. He sent a letter asking the various departments how services and federal employment would be affected by the budget reductions. Just eight departments replied. The PBO tried again a month later and a handful more came forward. Still, 64 departments refused and Privy Council Clerk Wayne Wouters, who heads the prime minister’s department, wrote to say that government departments should not comply with the Page’s request. In response, Page published a legal opinion stating the Harper government broke its own law by withholding these budget details.

If the Conservatives want to improve transparency they should begin by following the established rules. But C-377 has little to do with transparency as most provincial labour codes already require unions to provide standard financial reporting to their members. Rather the bill is designed to divert union resources to make work, give anti-union employers further lever-age over workers’ organizations and weaken a political opponent.

Now if the Conservatives were only open about C-377’s real intent.

Dave Coles is president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada

Read more:?http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Bill+force+union+disclosure+spending+hypocritical/7329691/story.html#ixzz2967UAB00