Mark Lesko, Supv Town of Brookhaven
November 19, 2010 @ 12:00 am EST
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Supervisor Mark Lesko of Brookhaven Town was our speaker this morning. He began by citing the shortsightedness of stopping the Avalon proposal in Huntington. He believes good projects must be built, but did not go into why it was stopped. Nor did he assign any blame. What was clear is that he didn’t want to see that kind of resistance in Brookhaven.
Brookhaven had its’ budget debate last night. He tells us it was not a pretty sight, but in the end a budget was passed. With a great deal of push-back on the unions, the unions finally agreed that they too should share the pain and concessions were made. According to the supervisor the negotiations allowed them to move forward.
The infrastructure needs sewers were discussed, and while new sewers are not possible because of serious budget restraints, there are creative ways of better using those sewers that presently exist. These assets are essential to support beneficial growth.
Lesko pointed out that advances have been made in his "Blight to Light" program where otherwise run down and degraded properties are used to create new, and useable redevelopment.
He asked us to reframe the whole notion of development. We must adopt a wealth development mentality. Instead of an economy based on defense and healthcare, (both of which are supported by tax dollars). We need to explore our ability to mine the research assets that we have. We have these assets in more abundance than most places, and now we have to keep the fruits of that research here and create the next CA, the next google, the next whatever. Mark stated that other sections of the country are doing it and sometimes they are snatching technology from under our noses. (My words not his). We have the good stuff, but we are not capitalizing.
The supervisor pointed out to us that the state controller has to invest huge sums of money to support the state pensions. Only 2% of that money is invested in ideas emanation from the Long Island Region. We must work on our entrepreneurial pace. If we do not, we will create technology that will lured to other places.
The ripple effect has broad implications in every other economic sphere, but real estate in particular. Homebuilders are another important economic segment. Historically entrepreneurial efforts create a lot of losers and a few winners, but those few winners far outweigh all of the losers and often create unimaginable success. When the transistor was invented even the inventors were not sure of the applications. They certainly did not imagine the level of electronic sophistication that we have today, the myriad of products, and the enormous wealth that followed.
Lesko indicated to us that Long Island is not business friendly and that has got to change. Taxes and utility rates are a substantial part of our discouragement of business. Taxes are exacerbated by municipal pensions on every local level because of a pensions system that is called a define benefit plan. When we have a poorly performing stock market, pension funds shrink. The shortfall must be made up in the only way it can be made up, you guessed it, raise the taxes. Atlas is about to shrug and enlightened leaders like Lesko know it.
During the Q&A the questions were pointed and filled with concern. A few ideas were proffered and the supervisor was listening. One idea from Marie Zere was a business incubator that would embrace any viable sounding business rather than the technology specific model that we are used to. Mr. Lesko liked the idea.