Spin Cycle

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For years, Suffolk legislators, legislative aides and other detractors accused Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy of conducting government-by-press release. Today, a Levy attempt at drawing media coverage managed to omit one key element:  An expected Q&A.

Yesterday, Levy's office announced a 1 p.m. meeting of Levy and top aides to address the possibility of oil from BP's Gulf spill reaching Suffolk County shores. Never mind that Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) last week announced a plan to do the same thing. Levy's  release heralded, in bolded red type: "Please note: Reporters are invited to interview County Executive Levy and Legislator Cilmi prior to (and after) the meeting."

Shortly after 1 p.m., Levy spoke for four minutes to the three cameras and two print reporters in attendance. He answered exactly one question -- before ducking into a conference room with a dozen aides and Cilmi. Cameras were invited in to catch b-roll of Levy interacting, but all media were ushered out before anything substantive occurred.

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Levy spokesman Dan Aug then said reporters were welcome to wait for an hour for the meeting to break up, after which they could interview the participants. But Aug said there would be no press conference. "It's not a press conference, it's a press availability," he said.

Levy returned to the press conference room five minutes later to give his statement to a late-arriving News 12 camera crew, presumably while his aides continued to discuss oil spill prevention.

At 2:10 p.m., Cilmi departed Levy's office. He said the meeting was over. There was still no sign of Levy.

At 2:30 p.m., Levy aide Mark Smith emerged. Levy, he said, was not coming out. "He has a very busy schedule," Smith said.

Carrie Meek Gallagher, Levy's commissioner of the Department of Environment and Energy, emerged to say that the county's goal will be to prevent oil from entering county estuaries and wetlands. She and Planning Director Tom Isles presented the county's existing oil-spill planning guide, which was last updated in 1981