Thanksgiving Message 2018

I usually reflect on the universal nature of this holiday and that is worth noting, and of course, it is still its greatest asset. But let us appreciate the specific elements of our society. When you pass a hospital on your way to work think about the myriad skills employed within those walls that are helping our neighbors, friends, and sometimes our own families. Are we thankful that they serve?
Down the road you pass a police station and a fire department. They are there to help when the most painful and dire events happen in our lives. Shouldn’t we be thankful for them?
Then we pass a courthouse and a law firm within those walls we resolve injustices that are sometimes in our lives. Such as law firms filing suits against Flint Michigan for causing poison in the water supply or suing the tobacco industry for promoting products that were killing us.
Along the way you pass a school and you know our children are getting educated by dedicated teachers. The teachers that helped you create the self that you are. You remember the coach that helped you find the confidence that still serves you to this very day.
Then there are the commercial and industrial buildings along the way. The places where our parents, our neighbors, our friends, and we ourselves work to carve out a living. Where bright, ambitious business people are creating a future for themselves and the country.
Then there are our government structures that are based on documents that are like roadmaps to un-ending betterment. We began this audacious experiment we call the United States of America still sanctioning slavery, depriving women of the vote, and we limited the right to vote to the propertied class. I think the founders were well aware of the shortcomings. I quote these words from the preamble of the Constitution.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Unionestablish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Have we arrived at our destination? Not yet, but stay tuned we are a “GREAT COUNTRY” and we are always in the state of becoming.
When you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner and Uncle Charlie says something obnoxious, here is what you should say. “Pass the gravy, this is a great meal Happy Thanksgiving Uncle Charlie” (don’t forget to smile.)
Happy Thanksgiving – Ernie Fazio and the LIMBA team

“Don’t Thank Me For My Service” with Colonels Alan Vitters & Michael Canders

dontthankme

At Friday’s program Michael Canders and Alan G. Vitter gave us interesting insights into the military careers of two outstanding leaders. To be sure the experiences of each of them were different.

“Don’t Thank Me For My Service” was the theme of the meeting and they settled on that title for their presentation as a result of an article of that name appeared in the NYT written by Matt Richtel.

According to these now retired senior officers the phrase comes off as trite, and shallow. Perhaps we should be asking questions about the state of their being.

Colonel Vitters experience goes back to Vietnam. As a platoon Leader in the 82nd Airborne Division he saw the nitty gritty of war and experienced the terror of the moment as much as the enlisted personnel that he led. Vitters is the recipient of Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and Combat Infantry Badge.

When he returned to the U.S. he was selected to participate in the prestigious “Honor Guard” and had a significant role in the state funerals of Truman, Johnson and Hoover.

He knew he wanted to be an educator and eventually earned his PhD in management. As an assistant professor at St Joseph’s College he has an emphasis in helping veterans.

Colonel Canders had wartime experience in Iraq. Canders however never saw the close-up battles that have deeply affected others. Canders said that there was always the possibility of IED’s but that was a random chance.

Mike spoke about the sacrifice of the families. According to him he always felt that he was doing exactly what he wanted to do. The families were often in the dark and concerned about the safety of those family members in the military.Colonel Canders is now working as the Director of Aviation Studies at Farmingdale College.

There were in the audience that had some affiliation with veterans and some of them were veterans themselves, so there were many questions and comments.

Col. Vitters introduced the idea of reinstating the draft. Since there is no longer a draft we lose the opportunity to meet people from around the country. That may be contributing our differences. Both agreed that the burden military is borne by too few.

A question was asked about the effect of war on enlisted personnel vs officer. Colonel Vitters suggested that the effects of battle are more profoundly felt by the enlisted soldier that the officer, because the officers are schooled in the whole scope of the risks and resposibilyies of the field, whereas the enlisted soldier is only physical trained to perform and use his weapons

Rosemarie Kluepfel was there and she announced the giving away a house to a qualified veteran by Fairway.

Meeting Recap – District Attorney Tim Sini

sinimeeting

Tim Sini spoke about what he has accomplished and what he is continuing to do as Suffolk County District Attorney. He was elected in November 2017 and took office the beginning of this year with a focus on internal reform. He said that meant getting rid of bad actors who did not serve the office properly. So far, Mr. Sini has made 220 personnel decisions; this included firings, reassignments, demotions and promotions.

In building up the DA’s office’s talent pool, Mr. Sini has hired experienced prosecutors as well as entry-level hires, whom he sends to training programs to prepare for their new roles.

As DA, he has added new units to the office: the Gang Unit, which seeks to investigate and prosecute gangs, including MS-13, and works with the U.S. Attorney General’s office; the Enhanced Prosecution Unit, in which they collect and disseminate evidence in order to prosecute the impact drivers of crime; and the Environmental Crimes Unit. Mr. Sini said the latter unit needed to be formed because the illegal dumping of solid waste and construction materials has gone unchecked for a very long time in Suffolk.

The purpose of the prosecutor, Mr. Sini said, is not to be an advocate, but to administer justice. When putting a case together, the DA’s office is obligated to share any and all evidence with the defense to determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Under the Brady Rule, the prosecution is required to hand over any evidence to the defense that may benefit the defendant. The purpose is to make sure there is less liability to committing violations of discovery and to take away the role of gamesmanship because the goal is to distribute justice, not win the case. When the defendant is free, it is usually not because they are innocent, but because the prosecutor may have withheld evidence that would have benefitted the defense.

The three other areas the DA’s office has focuses on, according to Mr. Sini, are drugs, human trafficking and public integrity. His office is focusing on targeting drug dealers; for nonviolent drug dealers, his office would provide diversion therapy rather than prosecute them. In discussing human trafficking, the victims are either forced into the sex trade or placed into slave labor. He said these trafficking victims are either homeless or suffer from drug addiction and mental illness; those forced into prostitution will receive treatment instead of facing arrest, according to Mr. Sini. Since November 2017, his office has prosecuted 300 cases, compared to zero under the previous DA. Mr. Sini also said he is ridding the county government of corruption, in which taxpayers and business owners pay the price.

National Grid President John Bruckner

brucknermeeting

John Bruckner spoke about what National Grid is doing to provide better service for its customers.
In his presentation, Mr. Bruckner said that National Grid US has 4 million gas and electric customers and has 8,000 employees (4,000 of them work in downstate New York). In addition, New York businesses represent 60% of National Grid’s US presence.

National Grid is investing $3 billion between 2017 and 2019 to modernize and enhance the resiliency, reliability, safety and capacity of its natural gas system, which includes replacing 585 miles of aging gas pipelines. In addition, the utility currently has a new state-of-the-art gas control center on Long Island and two major liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities in Holtsville and Greenpoint to meet the demand on peak winter days.

Mr. Bruckner discussed two major projects: the Rockaway Lateral and Newtown Creek. For the former, National Grid is looking to tap into the lateral off the Rockaways and deliver the gas to Long Island. That project is currently in its permitting stage and is awaiting approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. For Newtown Creek, Mr. Bruckner said he is looking for deliver renewable energy sources, such as biogas, which can be produced at the Newtown Creek’s wastewater facility.

Other new facilities include a best-in-class gas control center located in Melville, a Consumer Advocacy Center in Brentwood and the MetroTech Sustainability Center. These new facilities, Mr. Bruckner said, are focused on safety, customer satisfaction and cost.

In 2016, National Grid launched its Neighborhood Expansion program, in which National Grid customers would get their neighbors to sign up with the utility and convert to gas. It started in East Hills and has since expanded to Dix Hills, Hampton Bays, East Islip and Stony Brook. In East Hills, 1,000 customers were connected, resulting in more than $1 million in energy savings.

Mr. Bruckner added that National Grid is taking part in New York’s 80×50 Challenge, in which the goal is to reduce greenhouse gases by 80% by the year 2050, and REV (Refining Energy Vision), another state initiative to make a “greener” economy by creating more renewable energy sources; the No. 1 issue concerning this initiative, Mr. Bruckner said, is affordability.

National Grid has also been involved in the community and the educational sector, according to Mr. Bruckner. Some of the schools and organizations in which National Grid is involved include Brooklyn Technical High School, Stony Brook University, Girls Inc., Energy Tech and the State University of New York.

Meeting Recap – Perry Gershon, Candidate for 1st Congressional District

PerryGershon_LIMBA

Perry Gershon, who is running as a Democrat for the 1st Congressional District seat against Republican incumbent Lee Zeldin, explained his campaign platform to those in attendance. As a business owner – having owned and operated a sports bar and a commercial real estate lending firm – he said he never thought about running for office, but when Donald Trump was elected president and saw the policies Trump was implementing, he decided to run because Long Islanders needed someone to stand up for American ideals and against Trump.

His No. 1 issue is healthcare. If elected, he said he will work to maintain coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, as mandated by the Affordable Healthcare Act. Under Trump’s healthcare program, Mr. Gershon said, those people with pre-existing conditions lost coverage. He also wants to see a reduction in prescription drug costs and provide Medicare for everyone through a single-payer system. He said large high-tax states such as New York and California would be able to pay for such a system and many people want to see single-payer in place, but Congress refuses to bring it to the floor.

In his support of a single-payer system, Mr. Gershon said administering care through Medicare would cost 17 times less than through a private, for-profit healthcare system. In addition, patients can see doctors sooner and not to have to visit the emergency room, which can be very expensive. If fewer people go to the emergency room, he said, the government would spend less money on healthcare.

He believes that healthcare is not a privilege, but a right. He said everyone needs healthcare coverage and any service, such as healthcare, that benefits the people should not be provided in order to incur a profit.

If elected, Mr. Gershon said, he would call for mandatory background checks prior to purchasing a gun and close loopholes that make it easier to people to obtain guns illegally. He said, since the Marjorie Stoneman High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, the cries for gun safety and gun control have become louder, but Congress refuses to do anything about it because they are too attached to the gun lobby.

In fixing Long Island’s economy, Mr. Gershon said that, if you want to grow workers’ wages, you need to fix the infrastructure. That includes fixing the highways, improving the public transportation system and upgrading cell phone transmissions that will improve business communications. He said this has already been done in California and Boston, Massachusetts, with successful results. If the Democrats take both chambers of Congress, he said, they will force Trump to uphold his campaign promise to fix the nation’s infrastructure.

On the issue of immigration, Mr. Gershon said that DREAMers must be granted citizenship since they came into this country as children, through no fault of their own. He does not want to see children separated from their families and wants border enforcement done by adding more patrol officers instead of building walls. He does not believe in open borders and says ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) plays a major role in immigration enforcement, but does not want the officers terrorizing immigrants and their families. For those who are undocumented, Mr. Gershon said they should pay taxes but should not receive instant citizenship. He wants to see comprehensive immigration reform like the “Gang of Eight” bill that was introduced by the late U.S. Senator John McCain in 2004, only to be killed by Congress.

Lastly, he said that, as Congressman, he will make himself accessible to his constituents by holding weekly face-to-face “town hall” meetings, not from remote locations, and he will reach out to the other side of the aisle to get things done in Washington. He said it can be done, like during the 1980s, when a Republican president (Ronald Reagan) and a Democratic House Speaker (Tip O’Neill) were able to compromise on certain issues so they could get more accomplished.

Mr. Gershon said it is time for change in the Democratic Party. He said those currently in Democratic leadership are too old and called for the removal of Nancy Pelosi as House speaker. He said his party should make room for a new group of people, who will bring with them new ideas on how government should work.

MTA President Janno Lieber

liebermeeting

Janno Lieber talked about the three biggest projects undertaken by the MTA: the recently completed Second Track project, the Third Rail expansion project and the East Side Access Project. He said these projects, once completed, will increase capacity by 50%, meaning more people will be using the railroad, more people will be arriving on time and have a better travel experience.

Mr. Lieber said MTA ridership will undergo a transformation once these projects are done because the MTA will have reverse peak service, meaning more New York City residents will take the LIRR eastward to jobs on Long Island.

Last week, the Main Line Double Track along the Ronkonkoma branch opened up. It comprises of 18 miles of track and allows trains to be routed around other trains that may be moving at slower speeds or are being delayed. In addition, three more trains have been added for reverse peak service. The project was completed more than a year ahead of schedule; Mr. Lieber credited that to the design/build approach, in which the developer and the contractor work together to come up with the most efficient project possible.

Mr. Lieber said he is looking for the newly renovated LIRR Stations as not just a commuter hub but a railroad station with a sense of place. He cited the Wyandanch train station being transformed as part of the Wyandanch Rising development, adding this is being similarly done with Deer Park and Brentwood.

For the Third Rail Expansion Project between Floral Park and Hicksville, Mr. Lieber said the tracks will be redone in order to eliminate bridge and grade crossings, where numerous crashes and fatalities have occurred. As part of its ongoing efforts to reach out to the community, the MTA has made numerous “community commitments” in which they meet with town and village officials and community organizations seeking their input and giving the local communities the opportunity to rate the contractors.

Mr. Lieber also shared details on the East Side Access project. The $10 billion project will consist of 40 miles of new tracks and 11 trains to Grand Central Station. This will save Long Islanders 40 minutes on their travel time and eliminate overcrowding at subway stations. Since it will be underground, he said, the MTA is making updates to the 63rd Street tunnel to prevent flooding.

The MTA is also working on the Harold Interlocking Northeast Corridor Congestion Relief Project, in which work is being done to create bypass routes so LIRR trains and Amtrak trains do not hold each other up while going through other lines along the Northeast corridor. According to Mr. Lieber, work is 75% complete; the problem was that, initially, Amtrak refused to offer help on the project because it was their property; Mr. Lieber urged Amtrak to help, stressing the need to provide high-speed train service. Since then, Amtrak relented and agreed to offer its employees to assist on the project. Completion is scheduled for 2022.

In addition to overseeing the agency’s mega-projects, Mr. Lieber oversees the MTA Real Estate Department, the upgrade of MTA’s project management capacity and the integration of real estate planning and economic development into MTA’s infrastructure projects. He previously spent 15 years working on the World Trade Center project with Silverstein Properties.
Janno Lieber talked about the three biggest projects undertaken by the MTA: the recently completed Second Track project, the Third Rail expansion project and the East Side Access Project. He said these projects, once completed, will increase capacity by 50%, meaning more people will be using the railroad, more people will be arriving on time and have a better travel experience.

Mr. Lieber said MTA ridership will undergo a transformation once these projects are done because the MTA will have reverse peak service, meaning more New York City residents will take the LIRR eastward to jobs on Long Island.

Last week, the Main Line Double Track along the Ronkonkoma branch opened up. It comprises of 18 miles of track and allows trains to be routed around other trains that may be moving at slower speeds or are being delayed. In addition, three more trains have been added for reverse peak service. The project was completed more than a year ahead of schedule; Mr. Lieber credited that to the design/build approach, in which the developer and the contractor work together to come up with the most efficient project possible.

Mr. Lieber said he is looking for the newly renovated LIRR Stations as not just a commuter hub but a railroad station with a sense of place. He cited the Wyandanch train station being transformed as part of the Wyandanch Rising development, adding this is being similarly done with Deer Park and Brentwood.

For the Third Rail Expansion Project between Floral Park and Hicksville, Mr. Lieber said the tracks will be redone in order to eliminate bridge and grade crossings, where numerous crashes and fatalities have occurred. As part of its ongoing efforts to reach out to the community, the MTA has made numerous “community commitments” in which they meet with town and village officials and community organizations seeking their input and giving the local communities the opportunity to rate the contractors.

Mr. Lieber also shared details on the East Side Access project. The $10 billion project will consist of 40 miles of new tracks and 11 trains to Grand Central Station. This will save Long Islanders 40 minutes on their travel time and eliminate overcrowding at subway stations. Since it will be underground, he said, the MTA is making updates to the 63rd Street tunnel to prevent flooding.

The MTA is also working on the Harold Interlocking Northeast Corridor Congestion Relief Project, in which work is being done to create bypass routes so LIRR trains and Amtrak trains do not hold each other up while going through other lines along the Northeast corridor. According to Mr. Lieber, work is 75% complete; the problem was that, initially, Amtrak refused to offer help on the project because it was their property; Mr. Lieber urged Amtrak to help, stressing the need to provide high-speed train service. Since then, Amtrak relented and agreed to offer its employees to assist on the project. Completion is scheduled for 2022.

In addition to overseeing the agency’s mega-projects, Mr. Lieber oversees the MTA Real Estate Department, the upgrade of MTA’s project management capacity and the integration of real estate planning and economic development into MTA’s infrastructure projects. He previously spent 15 years working on the World Trade Center project with Silverstein Properties.

Suffolk County Sherriff Errol Toulon

toulonmeeting

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon discussed his background in law enforcement. His father was a warden at Riker’s Island and he also joined Riker’s as a corrections officer. During the crack epidemic of the 1980s, the jail held 25,000 inmates.

He joined the New York City Department of Corrections in 1982. In 1996, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and, in 2004, left his job to undergo a round of cancer treatments. He later returned to the Corrections Department and stayed there until 2017, when he said he was “forced to resign.”

With just 53 days before Election Day 2017, Sheriff Toulon mounted a campaign for sheriff against Larry Zacarese. What made the election more interesting was that Toulon was not declared the winner until December 4, 2017 – almost one month after Election Day – because of all the absentee ballots that needed to be counted. The previous month, it had been too close to call.

His goal as sheriff is to reach out to as many children in the county as possible. He said he would rather see these children now than later, when they are arrested and facing jail time. He visits local schools to address issues facing today’s students, including drugs, gangs, crime and bullying. He also addressed concerns from school faculty and administrators about school safety since the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14. Sheriff Toulon said school districts operate autonomously so they decide how to handle school security, whether it is armed guards or private patrols.

In August, the sheriff’s office began to work with Sandy Hook Promise, a group formed by parents whose children were killed in the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, to talk to students about reporting anything that can lead to a classmate’s suicide or a school shooting. If they know something, he said, they should tell a trusted adult.

In handling the prison population, Sheriff Toulon emphasized rehabilitation – helping those who are incarcerated in turning their lives around and giving them a positive role model and getting them the treatment they need. According to the sheriff, 80-90% of those in jail may be suffering from substance abuse or mental health issues or never had any positive role models in their lives. To protect the older inmates, those 55 and older have been moved into a new facility so that they are not in the same facility as the younger inmates.

Among some of the changes next year are that, as of April 1, 2019, all incoming prisoners will begin rehabilitation immediately. Also, effective October 2019, no inmates younger than 18 will be incarcerated; this was part of Governor Cuomo’s “Raise The Age” program. However, once those at least 18 years of age enter the prison system, Sheriff Toulon said they will be given instruction and have discipline instilled in them.

Sheriff Toulon said that, if the organization within his office fails, that falls on him. In an effort to improve training and morale, he has all deputies and corrections officers undergo two-day training on how to properly restrain prisoners or suspects and proper usage of firearms. He has also met with the female police officers to see what concerns they may have working in a male-dominated police force. He has also instituted an Employee of the Month program, in which a deputy, civilian employee and corrections officer are each chosen for the honor by their respective supervisors.

Meeting Recap – Dr. Sam Stanley from Stony Brook University

stanleymeeting

Dr. Samuel Stanley came to LIMBA to share his thoughts on what is happening at Stony Brook University and what the future looks like.

Stony Brook University has an annual budget of $2.7 billion. A major part of that is healthcare, which is $1 billion. The university’s extensive medical practice comprises of $500-600 million of that budget.

The university’s economic impact on the region is $5.5 billion. Stony Brook is the largest, single- site employer of Long Island, with 14,000 employees on its main campus alone. It also added 1,500 more employees when it took over Southampton Hospital.

There are currently 27,000 students who attend Stony Brook. Dr. Stanley pointed out that the university is becoming more competitive academically; last year, the university received 38,000 applications for 3,300 slots. Of the student body, 1,500 are transfer students, mostly from Suffolk County Community College. In addition, Stony Brook is accepting more New York State residents than it has in the past, and is accepting more international students as well.

Dr. Stanley said Stony Brook has been able to increase enrollment while maintaining quality of education. In the last five years, the on-time graduation rate increased from 40% to 60%. The retention rate has also remained high.

He also said that Stony Brook is a nationally recognized when it comes to quality and value. Forbes ranked Stony Brook No. 25 among STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) based universities, and 18th among all public universities nationwide. Money magazine ranked Stony Brook No. 22 in value.

Many of the students receive financial aid. According to Dr. Stanley, 46% attend the university tuition-free as the result of Pell Grants, Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the Excelsior program, and one-third of the students are eligible for a Pell Grant. When asked if most of the students are taking advantage of the Excelsior program, Dr. Stanley said that 850 students are in the state-run tuition-free program; he added the number is so small because there are other forms of financial aid that students can qualify for.

With the growing interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) among current and graduating high school students, Stony Brook has seen a 70% increase in enrollment of its engineering program. However, because there is not enough classroom space in its engineering buildings, many qualified applicants are turned away. To expand its program, the university is undertaking a $100 million project to construct a facility that will house more of its engineering department.

Dr. Stanley said the major focus points for the university are research and medicine. In the research department, he said Stony Brook is putting an emphasis on generating knowledge. This, in turn, brings money to Long Island through National Institutes of Health grants. He added the university has attracted top academic talent in its assistance. Eight faculty members have been awarded by major federal agencies.

Stony Brook is looking to modernize its buildings for its medical department. This includes the construction of a medical research and translation building featuring classrooms and a state-of- the-art cancer center, as well as the first stand alone children’s hospital, in which each child gets their own room and beds for the parents to stay with their children overnight.

In looking to expand its medical and scientific research, Dr. Stanley said he is reaching out to form partnerships and collaborations with other Long Island institutions – including Northwell Health, the Feinstein Institute, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Dr. Stanley did not want to finish without mentioning its athletic program. He pointed out that the Seawolves are the only Division I football team on Long Island; last year, the team finished 10-3 and went to the FCS. This past spring, the women’s lacrosse team was ranked No. 1 in the country. Dr. Stanley predicted they will be named champions of the 2019 season.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart

hartmeeting

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart spoke about her career in law enforcement. She spent 21 years with the FBI. She was assigned to the FBI’s Manhattan office, where she worked in the Organized Crime Unit.

Before Tim Sini became Suffolk’s police commissioner – and now its District Attorney – Commissioner Hart said there was no communication between Suffolk police and the FBI. After Sini became police commissioner, he was able to facilitate communications and information sharing between the two agencies on the MS-13 gangs, counterterrorism and the Gilgo Beach murders.

Over the past year, violent crime in Suffolk County has gone down 20%, while property-related crime has decreased by 10%. Despite those encouraging statistics, Commissioner Hart said, more needs to be done.

As police commissioner, her top priorities are cracking down on gang-related crime, dealing with the opioid crisis and school safety. In addressing the first priority, Commissioner Hart said the FBI is working with the Long Island Gang Task Force; she is also encouraging the officers to become involved with the community. She said that community relations should be in the DNA of every officer. Most recently, some police precincts took part in the National Night Out as a way for the officers to interact with the public.

In speaking about the opioid crisis, she said they will prosecute the dealers, while those who are addicted to these painkillers can receive help. The police department is partnering with LICADD (Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), which, in turn, will reach out those who need help. This program, she said, will provide treatment for addicts instead of sending them to jail.

The third priority – school safety – was widely discussed. Those in attendance asked how the police can make schools safer. Commissioner Hart said the schools and the SCPD are working together as part of the SHARE program. She said all transmissions from the schools’ cameras go directly to a centralized location where SCPD personnel can monitor it. From their location, they can get control access to the schools remotely in the event of an active shooter; they can also assess the building to make sure the school is not a soft target.

Commissioner Hart said her agency is staying on top of potential attacks on schools by viewing real-time video, responding to social media posts, establishing a robust intelligence center that is vetting all threats and making sure everyone communicates with one another. She pointed out that, nine times out of 10, an active shooter makes their intentions known before committing the act, so she urged everyone that, if they see or know of a threat against the school, to contact the police immediately.

One of the audience’s concerns was the overtime pay collected by the officers. The commissioner addressed the problem by stating that overtime costs are down by $5 million compared to last year and more officers will join the force after completing academy training. Further, many of the police academy graduates have a four-year college degree or higher.

Steve Levy on Budgets and Deficits

levyevent

Steve Levy talked about how taxes are affecting Long Islanders and why they are so high. He addressed the 2% tax cap, which, he said, is not a permanent cap. It gets renewed every four years because the elected officials in Albany need to stay in power and will make that campaign promise to renew the cap. The last time the cap was renewed was in 2015.

Mr. Levy said there is a struggle in the state Senate between the suburban legislators, who are looking to keep the cap and the urban legislators, who are interested in rent stabilization rather than the cap. He said, if control of the state Senate flips to the urban legislators next year, there is no guarantee that the tax cap will be renewed.

To get around the tax cap, more school districts are bonding, or borrowing, money to pay for special projects. In the end, he said, school district residents will pay more from bonding, He pointed out that the Port Jefferson School District bonded for $29 million for a project, resulting in a 5% tax increase. Mr. Levy added that most bonds are legitimate, but they need more scrutiny; he proposed that bonding for projects should be voted on the same day as the school budget.

Suffolk County recently bundled a series of bonds for infrastructure projects and put them to a single vote. Mr. Levy said bundling of the bonds takes away the opportunity to debate each bond individually and make a decision on each bond.

School districts, meanwhile, have hoarded excess money in their coffers. Many districts have reserves in excess of the 4% allowed in escrow. This extra money is not given back to the taxpayers, thereby keeping taxes artificially high. A solution is to use the MTA Rule, in which any excess money would be taken back by the comptroller.

This morning, it was announced that the GDP grew by 4.1%. Mr. Levy said that tax cuts generate more revenue, not less. As examples, he cited John F. Kennedy’s tax cuts by 20-30%, resulting in 5% growth over the next eight years, and Ronald Reagan cutting taxes by 40-50% from 1983 to 1989, income for the upper class and the middle class rose by 12%. He also disabused the notion that tax cuts lead to budget deficits; he said the budget deficits are caused by overspending. When the budget deficit grew under the Reagan administration, Mr. Levy said that was the result in spending, especially within the military. Chairman Fazio pointed out that when JFK reduced taxes the highest tax rate was 90% and that was the reason the effect was great.

On the topic of renewable energy, Mr. Levy said he supports alternatives to fossil fuel, but at the same time, he does not believe these goals proposed by Governor Cuomo and other elected officials of 50-100% renewable sources within 10 years is not achievable. He also said offshore wind power would not be economically feasible because it would cost seven times more than what New Yorkers are paying now for energy costs. Mr. Levy added that Long Islanders are currently paying $7 billion to bail out a nuclear power plant in upstate New York; he reminded the audience that, when Shoreham closed down, no one else in the state offered a bailout.

Mr. Levy concluded his presentation with councilmatic districts. He mentioned the lawsuit that was filed by a group of Latino residents and activist groups against the Town of Islip, claiming the town’s at-large voting system does not properly represent the Latino population. Mr. Levy said all of the current town board members live on the southern part of Islip Town, with none of them living in Brentwood or Central Islip, which is predominantly Latino. He said the town residents should vote for a councilmatic district and that, if it is good enough for a Republican-controlled town like Islip, it is good for a Democrat-controlled town like Babylon. Chairman Fazio suggested that councilmatic districts in more homogeneous towns probably work better, and that all remedies may not work everywhere.