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John Cameron, Chairman. LI Regional Plan
May 14, 2010 @ 12:00 am EDT
Today our speaker was John Cameron, President of the Long Island Planning Council. Mr Cameron seems well suited for the position because of his understanding of how things work. He is the founder of Cameron Engineering a formidable engineering firm that was begun 25 years ago.
John began by giving us a little history of the Planning Council. In the past much was planned, but too little was done. "We don’t want another study collecting dust on a shelf". He sees the role of the Planning Council as a facilitator that can bring various groups and governing bodies together. He cited the two most obvious examples of long drawn out struggles, those being "The Lighthouse" and the "Heartland Development" According to Cameron, "these projects have been around so long that the market has changed". With a diminished demand the prospects of moving forward are hampered.
He then took on the "Third Track" on the main line of the LIRR, which has been stalled for a long time. The second track that has been proposed for the Farmingdale line is also stalled, but Cameron believes these will be done. "They need to be done. We just can’t add three more lanes to the Long Island Expressway" These infrastructure needs must be built by local engineering firms because they know best what works best for Long Island.
Taxes and multiple governing bodies are among the impediments to growth on Long Island, according to John. He stated that the level of property taxes is simply not sustainable. 70% of our taxes go to schools and 70% of that money goes to salaries and pensions. As bad as that is it is going to get worse. As far as the schools producing a quality product Mr. Cameron questioned why we have so few students that are prepared for science and engineering.
Getting back to local government, Cameron likes working with Steve Bellone, Supervisor of Babylon, "Bellone gets it". Too many of other elected officials are marking time and not ever challenging the status quo.
The Q&A was lively, which is often the case at LIMBA. This audience is always polite to the speaker, and they were today as well, but the legitimate anger and frustration among the people asking questions was palpable