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Trailblazers PAC endorses Debby McCormick for Auburn City Council

Trailblazers PAC, a non-partisan, pro-transparency group, announced Wednesday the endorsement of Debby McCormick for Auburn City Council. 

“Trailblazers PAC’s endorsement and support are a blessing to me," McCormick said in a statement. "When they say support, they mean it. The requirement to raise small-dollar funds reinforces the benefits of grassroots campaigning and helped my campaign raise much-needed funds.”

The PAC was founded by former New York State Senate candidate Leslie Danks Burke and endorses candidates that are running at the county level or lower, are 100-percent transparent in disclosing their campaign finances,  have received a portion of their contributions from voting households in the district or municipality they want to represent, and are committed to continued transparency in office once elected, according to a press release. 

"Real change begins at the local level and we are excited to support Debby McCormick as a candidate who is committed to clean government, and moving politics out of the back room and onto the front porch," Burke said in a statement.

WWI's neglected monuments getting spruced up

A World War I monument in Rhode Island no longer bears the names of soldiers who died fighting; the bronze plaques were stolen decades ago. A statue of a WWI soldier in New York City has a dented helmet and missing rifle. The wooden rifle stack on top of a monument in Washington state has rotted away. Trees memorializing soldiers from Worcester, Massachusetts, have died.

The 100th anniversary this year of America's involvement in the "Great War" has drawn attention to the state of the monuments to its soldiers and galvanized efforts to fix them.

Many were forgotten about over time, or no one took responsibility for their care. Some were looked after, but they're in need of repairs, too, after being outside for so long.

"There are some cases of vandalism, but in general it has been time and a lack of maintenance and really nobody paying much attention," said Theo Mayer, program manager for the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission's 100 Cities/100 Memorials program . "Somehow the war slipped into our historic unconscious, and so did the memorials."

The centennial commission and the Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago are helping communities that are restoring and rescuing their memorials. Fifty matching grants of up to $2,000 each were awarded in late September. They're accepting applications for another 50 grants, to be awarded in April.

The nation owes it to WWI veterans, "lest we forget," said Kenneth Clarke, president and CEO of the military museum.

"They can't speak for themselves. There's none of them left. It's up to us to carry this legacy forward," said Clarke. "That's a responsibility we have as citizens of this great country."

The first group of grant recipients includes a project to replace the plaques in Newport, Rhode Island; repairs to the World War Memorial in Raymond, Washington, and to the Highbridge Doughboy statue in New York City; and tree plantings and restoration work for Memorial Grove at Green Hill Park in Worcester.

The plaques were stolen from the Miantonomi Memorial Park Tower in Newport nearly 40 years ago.

"Why hasn't anyone replaced them? I don't know. Apathy? I just don't understand," said Bob Cornett, who's working with the city on the project.

The Washington memorial, tucked in the corner of a park, was becoming an eyesore because of the missing top and paint peeling off the pillar, said Army veteran Gordon Aleshire. Now it has been recoated, a bronze rifle stack has been made and it's being moved next to another war memorial.

"We were embarrassed over it," said Aleshire, coordinator of the project. "The VFW thought the city was going to take care of it, and the city thought the VFW was going to take care of it, and no one did. Now we'll have a plan to make sure we won't let it get into such disrepair in the future."

The Highbridge Doughboy was erected in the Bronx in 1923. It was later vandalized and moved into storage in the 1970s. It's currently on display in Central Park. It will be relocated to a park near Yankee Stadium when it is cleaned and fixed. The grant will help the city's parks department replicate the main dedication plaque.

In Worcester, an American Legion post planted maples to honor those who died in WWI, dedicating it in 1928. The post later closed, and about half of the trees have died. The Green Hill Park Coalition is working with the city to restore the grove.

The first 50 memorials selected are in 28 states. The Victory Memorial in Chicago, also known as Victory Monument, commemorates the 370th Infantry Regiment, an all-black unit that served with French soldiers. It has been well cared for. Local residents are going to plant a memorial garden and teach high school students more about the war. A poppy garden is being planted at North Carolina State University's Memorial Bell Tower, as well.

The projects that received grants must be completed by the centennial of the war's end, Nov. 11, 2018. The centennial commission is building the National WWI Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Police: Auburn man sold stolen watch to pawn shop

An Auburn man was arrested Tuesday for selling a stolen wristwatch at a pawn shop, the Auburn Police Department said.

Matthew J. Duby, 32, of 151 Perrine St., was picked up on a warrant and charged with first-degree falsifying business records, a class E felony. Police said Duby sold a Movado brand watch to Pawn King in Auburn Sept. 5. Pawn shops require sellers to sign documents saying that they are the legal owner of the goods they are selling.

One of Duby's family members reported the watch stolen that same day. The watch was located through an online registry, police said.

Police said Duby was released on an appearance ticket.

State police: Port Byron man caught stealing over $1,000 worth of items

A Port Byron man was arrested for trying to take $1,000 worth of goods from a Wayne County Walmart Tuesday, state police said.

Sullivan Greco, 36, was charged with fourth-degree grand larceny. Police said he stuffed a vacuum cleaner, Blu-ray player, a Hoverboard electric scooter, razors, toys and other items into a shopping cart.

Greco manged to get past the cash registers before getting caught by security at the store in the village of Newark, police said. He was arrested at 4:39 p.m.

He was arraigned at the Village of Newark Court Tuesday and remanded to the Wayne County Jail without bail.

Katko shares stories of Auburn, CNY overdose victims to build case for anti-drugs bill

Morgan Axe. Nicholas Campagnola. Jessica Gentile. Christopher Socci. Victor Woolson. 

As U.S. Rep. John Katko testified before a House subcommittee Wednesday, he shared the stories of young central New Yorkers whose lives were cut short due to opioid or synthetic drug overdoses. Another, Katie Socci, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend who was addicted to opioids. 

Katko, R-Camillus, briefly told his colleagues about each of the victims. Axe was five months pregnant and a recovering addict when a drug dealer provided her with fentanyl-laced heroin. She died in November 2015. 

Campagnola, an Auburn native, relapsed and died after injecting what he believed was heroin. It was actually a fatal mix of fentanyl and synthetic acid. 

Gentile, of Auburn, died in May 2013 after overdosing on heroin. Christopher Socci, the brother of Katie Socci, died later that year from a heroin overdose. 

Woolson, an Oswego teen, drowned in Lake Ontario. He had used synthetic marijuana before he went swimming. 

The six people — and others — have motivated Katko to sponsor the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act. The bill focuses mainly on stricter enforcement and the establishment of new provisions to combat the spread of opioids and synthetic drugs. 

"That's the face of this tragedy," Katko said. "That's the face of what's going on here and that's what I'm trying to address with respect to the SITSA Act." 

Katko's bill would establish a new schedule, Schedule A, to the Controlled Substances Act that aims to crack down on chemical compounds used to manufacture synthetic drugs. The measure would add 13 forms of synthetic fentanyl to the new schedule. 

The legislation also would give the federal government a process for temporarily adding a compound to Schedule A. That would initiate a review process to determine whether the chemical should be on the schedule permanently. 

Katko proposed the creation of a new crime, false labeling of controlled substance analogues, and wants streamlined sentencing for federal synthetic drug trafficking offenses. 

In June, Katko testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations to urge the panel to support his bill. The House Judiciary Committee approved the measure in July. 

The bill must clear the House Energy and Commerce Committee before it's considered by the full House. 

Katko acknowledged that the House has already taken action to address two components of the epidemic — prevention and treatment. He believes his bill would focus on the third part, which is law enforcement. 

"This SITSA Act is something that law enforcement needs and quite frankly, it's a game-changer," he said.