Meeting Recap – Martin Cantor Sep 25 2020

On September 25, economist Dr. Martin Cantor spoke to members of LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) about the future of Long Island’s economy. He said that the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the nation’s economy, especially on Long Island, where downtowns were “decimated” by the closures of small businesses in these areas.
With 70% of the nation’s economy being consumer-driven, Dr. Cantor said, fewer people were shopping out of “fear” of the pandemic. When people don’t spend money, retail establishments suffer. Even online sales cannot save them.
Dr. Cantor also noted that a lot of the businesses that closed down did not have enough cash reserves to cover their losses. As a rule of thumb, he recommends to his business clients that they keep at least six months of cash reserves.
According to Dr. Cantor, 152,000 jobs were lost on Long Island due to the pandemic. Most of those jobs were in the restaurant industry. With the fall season coming and limited indoor dining, he said, many restaurants are closing their doors. Another 50,000 jobs were lost in the tourism, hotel and small retail industries, which, Dr. Cantor said, will not be returning to Long Island.
“There are a lot of businesses I see that pay 100% of the rent, 100% of the utilities, yet they are only operating at 25-50%,” Dr. Cantor said.
Airlines have been impacted as well, with 40,000-60,000 jobs lost, said Dr. Cantor. These losses also affect the surrounding communities. Each job loss in that industry equals 1.5 jobs lost in the local economy.
The pandemic has also impacted county governments. Dr. Cantor said that the Nassau and Suffolk County governments have combined deficits of over $1.5 billion. He credited the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) for overseeing Nassau’s finances and ensuring that spending would be kept in check. If it weren’t for the COVID-19 pandemic, “Nassau would’ve had a balanced budget,” he said. Suffolk, however, has “made no concerted effort” to rein in spending. County government expenditures should only be used for public health and public safety and not for redundant services provided by the state.
Dr. Cantor talked about plans by elected officials to raise taxes on the top 1% to plug the budget holes, but he said that wouldn’t work because millionaires “can’t pay for everything.” He also opposes “congestion pricing,” which imposes surcharges on fares for taxis and ride-shares for driving into certain parts of New York City. He said that “people can’t afford it.”
New York State leads all other states in the number of residents moving to other parts of the country, according to Dr. Cantor. Most of those who leave the state are the upwardly mobile, including the wealthy and the upper-middle class. Last year, 50,000 Long Islanders left the state. The exodus could be attributed to rising home prices and the lack of houses on the market. Some of these homes that aren’t being sold are occupied by seniors who wouldn’t be able to afford a new house f they were to sell their current one.
With more people working remotely, Dr. Cantor foresees a decline in commercial real estate and construction because of less demand for office space. He also noted that New York City residents are able to work out of their second homes on the East End without having to check into the office.
Dr. Cantor said it would take between six and 12 months for the economy to return to normal. Further, it would take the “bold leadership” of elected officials to lead their localities through the economic morass; doing do would allow these municipalities to be economically sustainable with federal funding by 2021.

Labor Day Essay Sep 2020

Labor Day 2020- Ernie Fazio

As I was typing these words I looked down at my hands pecking away at the keyboard it occurred to me, that these hands are capable of creating wealth. The skills of these hands and the brains of all who work are the source of all of our wealth. The portent of that realization is profound.

It begs major questions about the way that society values our work.
But these days the person on the scaffold , the person operating the drill press, the scribe who is writing the book, the grocery store clerk, and the hospital employee is undervalued and that is a threat to a democratic society. Anyone who works a 40 hour week and has a steady employment should be able to afford a place to live, feed his family, educate his children and take a vacation.

Under the administration of Franklin Roosevelt laws were put on the books to protect the workers. FDR saw the effects of runaway power of the corporations. Then as now, the financial power was in the hands of too few. He was also convinced that the concentration of financial wealth was responsible for “The Great Depression” The theory being that when there is a financial contraction there is no distributed pool of wealth in the hands of the ordinary citizen to keep the economy going.

The Wagner Act was the major legislation that gave legitimacy to the labor movement and it included the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) It became a powerful tool to right some of the inequities that existed in 1929. That legislation gave rise to the robust economy that emerged for many years after its passage.

Unfortunately, ever since then, and especially since the 1980’s administration after administration has weakened the power of labor. This administration installed an anti-labor lobbyist as Secretary of Labor. As labor grew weaker, income inequality grew more pronounced. The result of having weak labor put us in a situation now that was similar to 1929. Union membership today is lower than it has been in the last 50 years, and the people are poorer.

When the Covid 19 pandemic paralyzed the economy it took no time at all to trash it because the population had so little reserves to fall back on. When a large portion of the citizens have no savings it does not take much to cause economic calamity

The lesson we should have learned is that without the power to negotiate we cannot look forward to equity in the distribution of wealth. Unions provide that avenue. We cannot, and should not rely on government to distribute the benefits of a capitalist society. A minimum wage law is useful, but it is not the answer.

What is the Wagner Act?
The Wagner Act, also known as the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, prohibits employers in the private sector from engaging in unfair labor practices and gives employees the right to establish labor unions, conduct strikes and negotiate benefits, working conditions and compensation. 

Meeting Recap – Sol Wachtler Sep 4 2020

On September 4, former New York State Chief Justice Sol Wachtler was the guest speaker at LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action). Mr. Wachtler shared his views on the current judicial system and the political landscape that he believes has compromised the judicial system.

During the Korean War, Mr. Wachtler was stationed as a military officer in Georgia. At that time, all branches of the armed forces were integrated. His first case involved a Black soldier who was arrested for disorderly conduct, destruction of property and resisting arrest. He received a phone call from the local police department asking if they should hold him; Mr. Wachtler said that the MPs will pick him up and return him to the base. (Soldiers who are arrested by local law enforcement are then turned over to the military to stand trial.)

While living in the rural South, Mr. Wachtler said, he witnessed “bigotry beyond comprehension.” He saw how Blacks were not allowed in restaurants and made to use separate facilities from white people. When he spoke to the police officer, Mr. Wachtler said, he used a racial epithet in reference to the soldier. He also said he experienced prejudice firsthand; as a child, he would be beaten up in school because he was Jewish. The evangelical churches in the area also exhibited an animosity towards Catholics.

In talking about how government functions, Mr. Wachtler said he is glad to see a system of checks and balances in place — that is, no branch of government can have power over the other. When he was appointed chief state justice by then-Governor Mario Cuomo, he said the governor could not influence him to make certain decisions. When President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, once they joined the Court, the president could not force them on rule on a case in a certain way. 

When he ran for Nassau County Executive in 1967, Mr. Wachtler’s campaign hired a pollster to determine what his message should be. This was the time of the “Long Hot Summer,” when race riots broke out throughout the country. The pollster urged Mr. Wachtler to run on a law-and-order platform (similar to what President Trump is doing during his reelection campaign), saying the nation is very divided. He told the pollster that he didn’t want to mention anything about the riots, but rather focus on coming up with solutions to fix the county’s problems.

One of the attendees asked why there are so many unqualified state judges sitting on the bench. Mr. Wachtler said that, in New York State, the judges are elected, not appointed, which he calls “a travesty.” He added that people vote for these judges without knowing who they are or what they stand for. Further, the candidates are appointed by the political parties. Mr. Wachtler said that only “the best and brightest minds” should be worthy of judgeship.

Meeting Recap – Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci Aug 21 2020

On August 21, Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci was the guest speaker at LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action). The main topics included the town’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the proposed settlement with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA).

Mr. Lupinacci said Huntington Station was a “hotspot” at the time of the pandemic and so he had to make sure the town continued to provide essential services. He was in constant communication with Huntington Hospital for guidance and kept in touch with county officials and the village mayors within the town.

Town Hall closed down after a couple of employees tested positive for the virus. After a few months, after consulting with medical officials, it reopened, but Mr. Lupinacci emphasized it was a slow reopening.

Mr. Lupinacci talked about the precipitous drop in coronavirus cases in the state and on Long Island. However, he said, people should be ready for a second wave of the virus and urged everyone to continue wearing a mask.

He acknowledged that the virus impacted the government’s revenue collection efforts. Because construction projects were put on hold, there was a drop in revenue from building permits. The town also suspended paid parking to boost the local economy, but the town never received any money from the parking meters. The biggest hit, he said, was the sales tax collections. To make up the shortfall, he is implementing a hiring freeze within the town.

Two months ago, in an effort to revitalize the town’s economy, Mr. Lupinacci formed a Small Business Task Force. He worked with local Chambers of Commerce to help restaurants plan for outdoor dining. Indoor dining is also allowed, he said, but only at 50% capacity.

Another effect from the coronavirus was food insecurity. Mr. Lupinacci noted how people have lost their jobs and are unable to buy groceries. He has worked with local nonprofits, churches and religious institutions to get grant money to help those in need. Seniors receive five frozen meals a week. In addition, HART, the town’s bus system, assists in delivering meals to those financially affected by the virus.

Mr. Lupinacci addressed the controversy with LIPA. According to the supervisor, LIPA sued the town claiming the property where the utility’s Northport power plant is located was overassessed. As part of the lawsuit, LIPA sought a 90% reduction of its property taxes. He said a public forum was held on the proposed settlement and another one will take place on September 3.

He also discussed some of the latest developments in Huntington. This include an 80-unit apartment building north of the LIRR station in Huntington Station which, he said, is in the final stages. There is also work on a sewage line south of the train station that runs along the Route 110 corridor and ends at Bergen Point in Babylon Town. Mr. Lupinacci added that he is working to attract local businesses on Route 110, where there is available office space.

During Tropical Storm Isaias, Mr. Lupinacci said, more than 1,200 trees came down and, of the 80,000 residents and businesses who were PSEG customers, half of them lost power. For those people, it took them seven to nine days to get their electricity back. He urged residents and businesses to contact the Public Service Commission and their local state Senator if they had a bad experience with PSEG in getting their power back. If a tree falls on their property, they should call the town, and the town will reach out to the proper agency.

Meeting Recap – LIRR President Phillip Eng, June 5, 2020

On June 5, LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) hosted a virtual meeting with Phillip Eng, president of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). This was the first time LIMBA has hosted a meeting remotely.

As president of the LIRR, Mr. Eng said, his top priorities are service, reliability and safety, which are part of the LIRR’s Forward initiative. The East Side Access, Main Line Expansion, Double Track and ADA accessibility programs, are currently being performed on schedule. The agency is also continuing to work on the platforms on the west side of the Mineola station, repairing elevators at the Floral Park station and making upgrades along the Carle Place, Merillon Avenue, Garden City and New Hyde Park stations.

Mr. Eng said the employees took a proactive approach during the slowdown by working on safety improvements. They recently installed concrete ties to replace the older wooden ties. Because they are made of concrete, he said, they are sturdier, more reliable and provide a smoother ride. In addition, LIRR personnel inspected the rails for breakage; any rails that were broken or about to break were immediately replaced. The LIRR exceeds federal inspection guidelines, inspecting the rails two to four times a year; federal requirements call for inspections only once a year.

After reaching record ridership at the beginning of the year, Mr. Eng said, the number of riders dropped off significantly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Since March 27, the LIRR has run an “essential service plan” with only 3% of ridership taking the trains. He pointed out that those riders are “heroes” — healthcare workers, food delivery workers, utility workers and transit workers.

In an effort to protect workers and riders, Mr. Eng has encouraged them to practice social distancing and, if that is not possible, to wear protective face coverings when on the trains, waiting on the platforms or taking the stairs to and from the station. He has said that LIRR employees are working hard to keep riders safe by spraying down the cars with an EPA-approved disinfectant. In addition, all LIRR employees undergo a temperature scan to make sure they do not have the virus.

The good news is that, during the pandemic, on-time performance was at 98%, according to Mr. Eng. As of now, ridership has increased to 10%. Mr. Eng said that, once New York City starts to reopen under the state’s Phase 1 on Monday, there will be more riders taking the train.

Mr. Eng has been LIRR’s president since April 2018. He first joined the Metropolitan Transit Authority in 2017 as chief operating officer. In his role, he spearheaded initiatives focused on modernizing transportation systems through innovative technologies. These include the development of new fare payment applications and testing new signaling systems. Mr. Eng also served as the acting president for New York City Transit, leading the early efforts of the Subway Action Plan.

Download the presentation PDF here.

From the USMA Alumni Glee Club

The link below is to the Vietnam Medley, a musical compilation performed by the West Point Alumni Glee Club at the Johnny Vet: Freedom Isn’t Free concert first performed in November 2017 and again last November in conjunction with Rick Ridge High School.  The sound track is from the November 2017 performance and the visuals were used to accompany the live performance.  The Glee Club is sharing this with all West Point Graduates in honor of Vietnam Veterans Day, Sunday, March 29th.  We hope your classmates enjoy this tribute to our Vietnam Veterans.

Professional Ethics- Briefly Noted

Al Vitters, PhD

Not too many years ago, a prominent business leader in New York City noted that “educating and training people on the subject of ethics was not worth the effort because it couldn’t be done”. Indeed, in business and other professional schools across the country in the 20th Century it would have been hard to find a core course in ethics or the topic even addressed in academic curriculum. More recently, ethics and corporate social responsibility have become “hot topics” in academia and in professional training and education. But evidence abounds of ethical “melt-downs” and misconduct in all types of organizations- banks (Royal Bank of Scotland), corporations (ENRON), government (George Washington bridge scandal), public school systems (changing student test scores)…This brief essay will address ethics, what causes people to act unethically, and what should be done to prevent it.

Briefly defined, ethics relates to principles, standards, and values that guide honorable behavior. It is being able to distinguish “right from wrong” and then doing the right thing. Scholars have viewed ethics from many perspectives. Absolute ethics calls for people to adhere to strict codes or commandments. Situational ethics notes that one should consider the influence of external factors in determining “right from wrong”. In his “stages of moral development”, Robert Kohlberg offers even more insight into the nature of moral and ethical decision-making. He has written elegantly about the moral stages that individual’s progress through from infancy to adulthood.

What causes people to act unethically in group settings? It is a complex, multi-faceted issue, but some of the usual culprits are: greed, dishonesty, lack of time or resources, conflicting guidance, ambition, excessive “bottom-line” emphasis, and the organizational paradigm of “producing more with less” (no matter what the collateral damage). In my experience, some of the worst ethical lapses have occurred when great pressure is put on young supervisors who are often overworked and under resourced to just “make it happen” and get results.

What can organizations do about this? Fortunately, there are many programs and strategies that can be pursued. Among these are the following: personal example of senior leaders (never underestimate this), developing an internal code of ethics, training supervisors and employees in topics related to fraud, waste, and abuse, rewarding people who report ethical lapses, instituting negative consequences for potential “bad actors”, unannounced audits, and involving fiduciaries more in oversight. Many of these steps only require emphasis, and can be instituted without great cost to the organization. Failing to proactively act, however, or hoping that issues will just go away or might never surface can be very costly. It can also greatly damage the organizations hard earned reputation.

One of the most effective strategies to use in promoting an ethical culture can be TRAINING.
Workshops can be designed to give senior leaders the opportunity to address ethics. Short cases can be developed using scenarios and examples from the business and then allowing time for group analysis and discussion. The value is in learning from different perspectives and exploring diverse views. In this manner, organizations can proactively diffuse potential issues before they occur.

Organizations are run by people, and people are capable of lapses in moral judgment and acting out of unethical self-interest. It behooves all organizations in the 21st Century to attend to the issue of ethics through policy, example, and training, just as they would other “bottom-line” challenges. Research suggests that ethical awareness and sensitivity can indeed be taught. Moral courage may then be called for to do the right thing and pursue the harder right over the easier wrong.

his essay was submitted by Al Vitters, PhD. He is a LIMBA member, Colonel (US Army-ret) and a Professor at St. Joseph’s College. He teaches “Ethics & Social Responsibility” in management courses.

Waste to Energy as an Environmental Approach

Long Island communities have two choices when deciding how their garbage should be processed. They can send these materials to a landfill or take a stand against climate change and do something sustainable with their waste by converting it into renewable energy through the Waste-to-Energy process. Seems like a no-brainer, but did you know this process has been serving many Long Island neighborhoods for three decades?

A leader in sustainable waste management, Covanta operates four Waste-to-Energy facilities on Long Island that take non-hazardous waste which remains after recycling – otherwise destined for landfill – and combusts it in specially-designed boilers. The heat from the combustion process generates steam and drives turbine generators to make energy, providing electricity to area homes and businesses. Ash is processed to recover metal for recycling while all gases are collected, filtered and cleaned before being released safely into the atmosphere. For every ton of municipal solid waste processed at a Waste-to-Energy facility, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by an average of one ton. This is due to the avoidance of methane from landfills, the offset of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel electrical production and the recovery of metals for recycling.

About 140 million tons of waste still go to landfills each year in the United States. This is a startling number, especially since so many Americans are striving to protect our environment for future generations. Simply put, landfills are detrimental to our planet’s health. In fact, waste in a landfill can degrade there for 100 years or more. Additionally, during a landfill’s lifetime it can emit 170 different air pollutants into the air we breathe, yet landfills are minimally regulated. Don’t just take our word for it: according to both the U.S. EPA and the European Union waste hierarchy, the preferred method to deal with waste after recycling is Waste-to-Energy.

A cornerstone of the community, Covanta Hempstead demonstrates the foresight the town’s leaders had 30 years ago in implementing a different kind of waste management system. Over three decades of operation, the Waste-to-Energy facility has generated 15 million megawatt hours of clean electricity, enough to power 1.5 million homes for one year. It has also reduced greenhouse gases by over 18 million tons, saved more than 200 acres of land that would’ve otherwise been used for landfills, and prevented nearly 3 million truck trips on Long Island highways – something all Long Islanders can rejoice over.

This is but a piece of the many great benefits Waste-to-Energy facilities bring to the communities where they operate. Covanta is proud to serve Long Island and is committed to building a sustainable future through the choices we make today.


Submitted by LIMBA members:

Ed Sandkuhl/Facility Manager
&
Maureen Early/Community Affairs Specialist

Legacy of MLK Jr – 2020

When thinking about Martin Luther King Jr. I have often referred back to the great example of his “mentor” Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. We commonly know him as Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma means sage, revered person, spiritual leader. I put mentor in quotation marks because the two men never actually met. But Gandhi was the model that King used to shape his mission in civil rights.
There were others examples of that model as well. Nelson Mandela of South Africa was another example. But the model is more ancient than that. One could put Jesus Christ in the same category.
The model of which I speak is one that must win out in the end. The problem is how do we get to peace and harmony by allowing ourselves to be clubbed to death, or nearly so, as in the case of Elijah Cummings when he was a young man?
Most of us will never be asked to endure what, Gandhi, Mandela, Cummings and King were willing to subject themselves. We only need to have the courage to speak out against injustice because we still live in a free society. We will not be dragged off in the dead of night never to be heard from again. We may be ridiculed and if you run a business you may lose sales or be boycotted. Those things are hard to take, but I ask. “What price are you willing to pay for your freedom?”
The Old Testament speaks of an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. Gandhi said that would only lead is to a country that is blind and toothless.
We celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. not because he won military battles. His army owned none of the instruments of war. His armaments were imbedded in the ideals that make life among us possible and rewarding.
I also find it interesting that the founding fathers of this great country put the right words on paper as embodied in the “Declaration of Independence” “The Constitution” and the “Bill of Rights” even if they were not initially able to live up to those same words. But it is those words that MLK used to make his points on equality and civil rights. 
Those words were not accidental. They were there for us to grow into.

2020 Refocus

LIMBA Goals in the Past and Outlook for 2020

What We have Been Doing

The future is truly unknowable, but our planning is what we control. We move forward and try to make a difference. At LIMBA we begin by keeping informed. We produce programs that contain useful information on relevant topics

Here is what we are thinking about as we embark on the next 12 months

The environment

This is a very big topic. We had Dr. Tanecredi speak on the protection of the vital animal life, specifically the horseshoe crab and we were informed about its medical uses. We also had a discussion on the water quality of the surrounding bays
On another occasion we Had Suffolk County Water Authority Chairman Pat Halpin give us an overview of the drinking water and what we are constantly learning about maintaining the high quality water we demand

Recreations & Facilities

We are blessed with many great beaches and parks last year we had the superintendent of the Fire Island National Seashore Alexy Romero tell us more about this wonderful resource and what we need to do to protect it. From the State Parks of Long Island we had Director George Hoffman speak on the availability of parks and the state of repair

Transportation

Rails LIMBA has been a supporter of improvements on the Long Island Rail Road and in fact we were instrument in the electrification of the Ronkonkoma line. We are now supporting the electrification of the Port Jefferson line

Airport at MacArthur

This regional airport has been recognized by LIMBA as being essential to the economic health of this Long Island area- Years ago we created a plan under the leadership of Paul Townsend of Long Island Business News and Dick Dunne of Grumman called “USE IT OR LOSE IT” It worked and we have to revisit that old strategy

Maglev Train System

We have been promoting the MAGLEV and we have been inquiring about the viability of a demonstration project that would run a single car on a single track from Ronkokoma to Greenport every 40 minutes making 4 stops and maintain an average speed of 160 miles per hour

We will be asking members who would like to volunteer on any project to let us know. It will be interesting!

Ernie Fazio , Bill Miller, Marguerite Moore, and Ken Nevor