President’s Day Musings

President’s Day Is a consolidation of Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthday. Recently it has become a recognition of the services of all presidents. That was a a noble thought but a misguided one.

Washington and Lincoln made major contributions to the creation and later to the continued existence of this magnificent experiment.

When we break free of this present pandemic and subsequent economic setback we have suffered, we will be back on this ever-imperfect quest of creating a “more perfect union.”

Having the privilege of living in this great country, I have memories oh the administrations of Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, GW Bush, Barak Obama, and Donald J. Trump.

Among that group there were a few giants but none of them came close to the legacy of Washington and Lincoln Here’s why these two extraordinary presidents deserve our devotion.

Washington was in a unique position. He had the option to serve as king with no such notion of terms. Instead, he chose to serve two elected terms as president and then he retired to his farm. Powerful people rarely walk away from a position of power, but those choices set the example for other presidents that followed him. The two-term legacy lasted until Franklin Roosevelt made the case for not “changing horses in midstream.” Truman corrected that unwise change.

Lincoln was great for a different set of reasons and a change of opinion that led to the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln did not start out with a passion for the freeing of the slaves, but he was a man that was on a constant growth pattern. That growth brought him the friendship of Frederick Douglas and other intellectuals. When the Civil War was over, he declared “malice toward none and charity to all”. His determination saved the union and his attitude to the South was generous and forgiving. Had he lived to administer the “reconstruction” that followed that era would have been considerably different, but he did save the union.

Recently we have re-learned that democracy is incredibly fragile. We will last as a democratic nation only if we are careful as to who we elect to that powerful office. Never fail to vote.

Observations on the “Green New Deal”

The President has embarked on what is being called “The Green New Deal”. Here are some of the pluses and minuses that I see.
In my opinion that these changes were happening anyway because “green technologies” are getting less expensive and fossil fuels which are already losing the grip that they once had. Add to that fact, there are $20 billion in subsidies for coal, oil, and gas and we can see where this is going. Remove those subsidies and green power wins.

On the negative side of this equation is that there will be a major disruption in the employment of a relatively large number of workers if we move fast, but on the other hand moving slowly will not cut it. We are drowning in our air pollution.

We will need to allocate a lot of financial resources to training young people and retraining older people. Years ago, we had a furniture company in Northern Vermont called Ethan Allen. Ethan Allen picked up stakes and moved to China. We did have a retraining program, but it clearly was not enough. This time we need a plan that addresses our new needs specifically. We need a plan that foresees the disruption and precludes most of the fear of loss associated with the changes.

President Biden stated that we have an enormous fleet of vehicles. If we make all those replacement vehicles electric, as he has promised, we will employ one million people in that transition. Most of these vehicles are automobiles and postal delivery wagons. These vehicles usually travel less than 40 miles per day. Recharging these batteries overnight will enhance electric utilities plant use, making them more profitable. That in turn may create demand for modern power plants which will create even more jobs.

Then there is the rebirth of rail travel which will certainly employ electric trains, but unlike the European models America will not be using overhead feeders. These overhead feed systems are called catenaries. Catenaries are vulnerable to wear and pose hazards of their own. Our systems will have electric coils embedded in concrete guideways and will not be vulnerable to wind and weather. That technology is known as MAGLEV. If we commit to rebuilding our rail system with Maglev, the dream that was championed by Senator Moynihan will become a reality.

In addition, this high-speed rail system will preclude much of the use of airplanes for distances less than 1000 miles. Presently airplanes are responsible for 4% of carbon emissions in the atmosphere. That does not seem to be a lot, but high-altitude carbon pollution tends to remain in the stratosphere a long time.

It is not as if the President is dreaming of a “Brave New World’, we are there. We are at the precipice. There is nothing in this essay for which the technology does not exist.
There is nothing left to the story but just to do it.

–Ernie Fazio

MLK Birthday Remembrance

The long vision is what eventually prevails. We celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. for what he achieved in his lifetime, and more importantly what he saw as the future.
 “But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop … I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land”
The road has been rocky and there have been numerous setbacks along the way but there has been progress and there will be more progress in the future and more setbacks. The human condition is fragile, but in many ways resilient.
As a nation we suffered the pain and death of more than 600,000 of our people in the civil war. We then saw the assassination of a beloved president. Then there were the many sins of the reconstruction period, and a litany of other travesties directed toward the individual and the state. We survived all that. We will again.
Now we are suffering under the weight of an insurrectionist. A man who has lied to the American people constantly. A man who would rather see this nation torn asunder than to relinquish the trappings of power. But giving up the power that he holds will certainly happen.
Will the journey back to being the country we all love be short? I don’t think so, but I liken it to the wounded soldier when he comes back to a new normal. I’m thinking of Senator John McCain when he said he would never volunteer to go through the pain that he had suffered as a prisoner of war, but I know that, that experience made me a better man than I might otherwise have been. (not an exact quote).
Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who knew the danger that he faced every day. One of Doctor King’s brave disciples was John Lewis. Mr. Lewis was called the conscience of the Congress. These are the real heroes of this world and because they exist in every generation, our country will survive. “The road gets rougher, it’s lonelier and it’s tougher” (a line from an old Frank Sinatra song)
Because of the bravery of Reverend King and the many good examples of humanity we have, celebrate this day with gratitude.

Ernie Fazio

NY Senator James Gaughran Recap & Video

On January 8, New York State Senator James Gaughran spoke for LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in his district and the financial struggles that the state is facing in the wake of the coronavirus.

Senator Gaughran is one of 43 Democrats elected to the state Senate. Although the Democrats have a 2-to-1 advantage over Republicans, he said he looks forward to working across the aisle with GOP state senators if it means resolving outstanding issues and bringing necessary funding back to his district.

This recent budget had a $15 billion shortfall. With the pandemic closing down businesses and putting people put of work, the budget contained no tax increases; however, there were no middle-class tax cuts, either. The senator said that this budget, more or less, mirrored the one from the previous fiscal year.

“We can’t tax our way out of this problem,” Senator Gaughran said. “If we do, we’ll make the economy even worse that it is right now.”

He discussed the possibility of the governor’s proposal to legalize online sports gambling, which is expected to bring in the state an estimates $300-$400 million a year. “It will keep the money out of New Jersey and the offshore companies,” he said. The state currently holds three casino licenses in downstate New York; Senator Gaughran said that, if the state decides to sell two of them, that would bring in $1 billion in revenue right away. His only concern is that there may be an increase in residents facing gambling problems.

Senator Gaughran also talked about the proposed expansion of Jake’s 58 to add more video lottery terminals. He has proposed legislation to allow for that, but he said he is waiting for what Suffolk OTB decides, whether to allow expansion of Jake’s 58 or build a new casino in Medford. He added that they are looking to form a Gambling Commission to decide what should happen. 

Another one of the governor’s proposals is to legalize recreational marijuana. Senator Gaughran said the two problems with this are that the state won’t see positive cash flow for two years and there might be people who will drive under the influence.

When discussing the vaccine distribution, Senator Gaughran said he was “very frustrated with the rollout” because there was no guidance from the federal government on how the vaccines were to be distributed. There was also uncertainty at the state level as to when and how much of the vaccines will be distributed here on Long Island.

It wasn’t until soon thereafter that the guidelines for the rollout began in phases. Phase 1A included nursing home residents and patients in hospitals. For Phase 1B, the vaccine went to first responders, EMTs, public safety officers, public transit workers, teachers and people ages 75 and older. Phase 1C consisted of the rest of the essential workers who were not listed in the other phases, people ages 65 and older and people younger than 65 who have chronic illnesses.

Another topic was how the pandemic affected the commercial real estate market. He has seen the storefronts and office buildings empty and retail establishments and restaurants closing down. He said the state needs to look at mixed use for these empty buildings. “There’s been a slew of tax certiorari cases filed because these places are half-empty,” he said.

The topic then turned to the safety of Long Island’s drinking water. Some LIMBA members were concerned about levels of 1,4 dioxane in the water. “There’s no other place for our drinking water to come from, other than our aquifers,” Senator Gaughran said. As for the high water rates, the senator said there are too many governmental and private entities overseeing the Island’s water; he would rather see one single agency be in charge.

When the LIPA settlement was brought up, Senator Gaughran said one of the outcomes is determining how the Town of Huntington and the Northport School District — both of whom were litigants in the case — and its residents will be able to pay the amount. The senator said he will be working on obtaining resources for the school district, but that may be difficult because of the $15 billion shortfall in the state budget.

Senator Gaughran also spoke about proposed infrastructure projects, including the electrification of the Port Jefferson LIRR line and adding another station on the line. He said he will push the LIRR to expand the electrification of trains out to Port Jefferson line electrified, “even if it’s done in phases.” He also said there are talks to bring a train station into the Brookhaven National Lab.

Holiday Hope and Renewal -2020

Ernie Fazio

Each year I produce a holiday message of hope and renewal.

This year our reason to rejoice is the creation of a vaccine that will conquer the Corona virus. This is the best Holiday gift we could have dreamed. The scientists deserve our applause and gratitude, and that goes to the caretakers as well, but this recent achievement brings me back to a heart-warming story that took place years ago.

The Steve Allen Variety Show was a late-night TV show and was the forerunner of shows like Johnny Carson, David Letterman and Jay Leno. Allen was a high intellect performer in the field of comedy and other talents.

The Polio virus was running rampant in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It was a dreaded crippling disease that was the cause of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s health affliction. Polio attacked the muscular system and often resulted in the afflicted person needing an “iron lung”. The iron lung was a totally encompassing device that covered the entire body with only the head exposed. The rhythm of the air pressure inside the device replaced the function of the diaphragm and allowed the patient to process oxygen. Other victims of the disease lost the use of limbs and some just died.

Polio was finally brought to a halt through the efforts of Dr. Jonas Salk, who created a vaccine that was very effective. There were subsequent vaccines that also were effective. These vaccines brought the epidemic to a close

Years later Mr. Allen was asked to be the featured speaker at a dinner to honor Dr. Jonas Salk. While at home and getting dressed the night of the dinner. Allen’s teenaged daughter asked her father what was the occasion? Mr. Allen said with some pride in his voice “I will be honoring the accomplishments of Dr. Jonas Salk.”

“Who is Jonas Salk?”
“Dr. Salk created the Polio vaccine.”
“What’s Polio?

Allen was stunned that she did not know what polio was. He thought about that for a moment and promptly discarded his prepared speech. When he got up to speak that evening, he told of the story of that discussion with his daughter. He told the audience the greatest tribute to this remarkable doctor was that a person her age had no idea what polio was. The best tribute to Dr. Salk is that our children never have to think about it. It is gone forever.
I hope this adds a little cheer to these Holidays
Merry Christmas-Happy Chanukah

Keith Rooney Recap

On December 4, Keith Rooney of National Grid spoke to the members of LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) on December 4 to discuss the latest developments in energy production.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Rooney said, 800 employees worked from home. Some of these control center workers were sequestered up to eight weeks, where they lived on the property. They slept in trucks and on cots, working around the clock. Field operators kept working constantly “since Day One.”

In support of the local community, National Grid collected over $1 million to help their most vulnerable customers. The company funded over 30 food banks on Long Island and provided PPE and medical supplies to local police and fire departments. They also provided food for the frontline workers. Other organizations they helped included Island harvest, Hope House Ministries, United Way and SCCC, among others.

National Grid also froze shutoffs for their customers as part of its “Operation National Grid Cares.” The company, seeing that businesses and residents were suffering financially as a result of the lockdowns, continued to provide service to those customers, regardless of their ability to pay. The company also gave out turkeys to more than 150 customers in need in Riverhead. “I’ve been here 32 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

The Williams Project is “dead.” Mr. Rooney explained the project would have served National Grid’s service territory and been connected to a line in Flatbush, Brooklyn, bringing natural gas to Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. The project took three years and, after the necessary environmental permits couldn’t be obtained, the states of New York and New Jersey stepped in. Now that the project has been denied, National Grid has demand response programs in place, incentivizing larger natural gas consumers to reduce their peak loads during the coldest parts of the day.

National Grid is working with the lab at SUNY-Stony Brook on creating a hydroblending transmission system that supplies renewable energy to the facility. “That’s exciting stuff because that’s going to reduce gas usage,” Mr. Rooney said.

The future of energy is clean technology, Mr. Rooney said, adding that National Grid is doing its part. Over the past 10 years, the company has invested money into wind, solar, battery storage and electricity. In addition, it has incentivized its employees to “go green” by providing them with $5,000 toward the purchase of an electric vehicle. “You have to adapt and overcome right now,” he said. “We have to change to become a clean energy company.”

Mr. Rooney said the company has a policy team in place at Metrotech in Brooklyn; its members look how to be compliant with the state’s environmental policies. “We are driving the change and doing what we can,” he said. The company has also invested in Geronimo, a solar energy company. Mr. Rooney said National Grid wants to develop wind and solar farms on Long Island, but, because of the lack of available land, it will have to look to upstate New York.

One of the LIMBA members suggested switching to geothermal energy since it puts out fewer emissions than natural gas and fossil fuels. While Mr. Rooney agreed, he said the issue is making it scalable and affordable.

When asked if National Grid has software programs in place to distribute natural gas, Mr. Rooney said the company uses its software systems for crisis management. It used software to create a robocall system; if there is an outage of 25 houses or more in the same area, customers will receive a call that there is a gas outage and an estimated amount of time until service resumes. From its control centers, employees can use remote shutoff valves on the southern coast of Long Island in the event of a major storm or natural disaster.

Another project that Mr. Rooney mentioned was the one at the Newtown Transfer Station. He said National Grid has been working with the city on this project and is expected to go live soon. The project entails taking human waste and converting it into renewable gas to power 80 homes locally. National Grid is also putting renewable gas out to transmission in Staten Island and is currently working on another renewable gas project on eastern Long Island.

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