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From The Desk Of NY State Senator Jack Martins: November 26, 2012

The Truth About LIPA

LIPA failed us miserably – from pre-storm preparations right through communicating when power would be restored after the storm.  No arguments.  

Naturally, as public servants, our job is to take public authorities like LIPA to task and take a good, hard look at why it failed us after Superstorm Sandy.  But I participated in this dog and pony show last year after Hurricane Irene and frankly, it accomplished very little except some convenient transfer of blame and lots of finger-pointing. One positive:  it’s given me a few months to better see the bigger picture and zero in on where the real problems lie. 

Of course, pick up any paper and the theories are endless: LIPA hasn’t had a permanent chief executive in two years; five spots on their board are still vacant; the trustees discussed the hurricane for only 39 seconds; they didn’t trim enough trees prior to the storm; their service maps are outdated; their wiring is antiquated; they never installed a monitoring system; their communication with customers stinks.  All real issues that need to be addressed, but they’ve existed for years and remain unresolved.   

So now heads will supposedly roll and an overhaul is in the works. It’s déjà-vu.  LIPA was created in the 1980s by former Governor Mario Cuomo in response to the Long Island Lighting Company’s inability to handle outages after Hurricane Gloria and the aftermath of the shuttered Shoreham Plant.  

Let me be the first to tell you the ugly truth: you can swap out every executive at LIPA and name it whatever you want and when the dust settles, nothing will have been achieved if we don’t address the underlying structural issues at LIPA. Of course, some cursory procedural progress is possible but the real problem is LIPA’s ailing infrastructure and more importantly, that, given our already highest in the nation utility costs, we can’t afford to fix it.  The legacy costs LIPA has carried have merely kicked the can down the road – the billions borrowed still have to be paid and that has to be factored into any future LIPA reincarnation.  

Central to any fix is the fact that LIPA is in debt for an incredible $7 billion dollars and has been for more than 14 years because of losses absorbed when the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant was closed.  Consequently, there is virtually no money to invest in much-needed infrastructure upgrades as much of it goes to debt service.  For those following national politics, this is a perfect example of what happens when debt gets out of control.  We all wish the Shoreham debacle had never happened, but we must live with its consequences, unintended as they are.  For you and me, that means the aftermath of a storm that decimates an overly fragile electric system.

Any legitimate plan to address LIPA’s problems has to start with this reality or else we’re just spinning our wheels.  Thankfully this past year, Governor Cuomo had already floated the idea of an “electricity superhighway” that would deliver cheaper electricity to our region.  With those realized savings, LIPA could then begin investing in infrastructure improvements without disturbing its debt reduction effort. 

This storm and its aftermath taught us that our electric infrastructure is overly fragile.  I know we pay some of the highest electricity rates in the nation and while it would be nice to reduce those, we must invest in hardening our infrastructure against the next Sandy or Irene. 

We also have to take an honest look at alternate sources that may produce cheaper energy.  Long Island is already home to New York’s largest solar farm and there’s been much debate over wind farms off our shores.  As controversial as these issues are, where they’re located and what initial investment might cost, the discussions must be had and decisions have to be made.   

We know what has to be done to better LIPA and the technology is already available.  The question is does Long Island, and New York State, have the wherewithal to hunker down and find a way to pay for it.  No matter who is given the reins at LIPA, their challenge is to convey this predicament to the public, present a feasible plan, and finally to marshal support for the solution. Anything else is just a band-aid.

News

In a typical Long Island community packed with houses and backyards, there are a couple of acres of open land of community gardens where people are growing basil and dahlias and roses and cabbages—people like Terry Dunckey of Westbury and Peg Woerner of Great Neck, tending their small plots and helping to promote sustainable and organic practices.

East Meadow Farm, off Merrick Avenue, is owned by Nassau County and operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Nassau County. Previously it was a family-owned farm that was purchased by the county through the Environment Bond Act Program, a $150 million program that called for, among several mandates, the preservation of 400 acres of open space. In 2009, CCE of Nassau was awarded the lease to the land and in January 2012 took possession of the property. East Meadow Farm is a place where we can get the best advice on how to make our gardens grow without harming the earth. Part of the CCE’s original proposal was the establishment of a farmer’s market and, now, the market is open two days a week, a place to purchase organic vegetables and flowers during the growing season.

Drivers—get ready to slow down. Nassau County is currently in the process of installing school zone speed cameras in an effort to enhance safety by encouraging drivers to travel with caution, as well as support law enforcement efforts to crack down on violators and prevent accidents caused by speeding.

Nassau County officials say they’re still investigating locations in the Mineola School District, while leaning towards installing cameras near the North Side or Willets Road schools in the East Williston School District. Cameras could begin operation in September.


Sports

Nobody wants to make excuses, but sometimes when the injury bug hits, it’s impossible to overcome. Mineola Mustangs football head coach Dan Guido, entering his 28th season at helm, knows the injuries were the cause for their first-round defeat at the hands of the West Hempstead Rams last November.

“There was too many injuries on the offensive line last season,” said Guido. “It was supposed to be our strength and it ended up being a weak link by the end of the season.”

Even with those injuries, the Mustangs went 4-4 during the regular season.

The BU15 Mineola Revolution were crowned champions of the Roar at the Shore Tournament 2014 in West Islip on Aug. 10. After dropping the opener 2-0 against North Valley Stream, Mineola bounced back to beat Freeport Premiere 2-1.

The Revolution’s offense exploded in the third game as they beat West Islip 7-0. Mineola’s final game pitted them against Quickstrike FC, which entered the contest without a loss and within a point of winning the tournament.


Calendar

Zoning Meeting

Thursday, Aug. 28

Mineola Village Meeting

Wednesday, Sept. 3

School Board Meeting

Thursday, Sept. 4



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