Levy will find plenty to do in Suffolk

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy presents his 2007

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy presents his 2007 proposed budget. (Sept. 15, 2006) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has

Welcome back, Steve Levy.

Back to Suffolk County, where you've got the money and popular support to launch another campaign for governor next time around.

But for now, it's time to focus your attention on some issues back in Suffolk. Solve these problems while keeping a firm handle on the budget, economic development, housing and other county functions - and you might just become a stronger contender for the state's top office.

While you were running:

Horton Avenue in Riverhead flooded. And, like residents and business owners throughout towns in eastern Suffolk County, the community is still reeling from the devastation of the second of two storms that slammed down in March. These people need help. Levy-loud help. Go back to Horton Avenue for another visit. See and smell the slow-motion destruction of a decades-old community. Understand the desperation of residents who likely will never be able to return to their own homes, and don't know where to turn. Show support. Buy and wear a Horton Avenue fundraising T-shirt. Work with town officials for a solution. Is there a way to relocate these homes? Is there a way for the county to step in and provide some emergency relief? And let the federal government know, in no uncertain terms, that no community in Suffolk will be ignored.


Gang-fueled violence flared in parts of Brentwood, Huntington Station, Wyandanch, Bay Shore and Central Islip. What affects one community, and especially its children, affects us all. The residents of those communities know that, which is why hundreds of people gathered two weeks ago to call for peace, to take back their streets. You've set up an anti-gang advisory board. But there's more to be done. Set a goal of eradicating the violence. Cleaning it up, and keeping it cleaned up. The county has a map of heroin arrests. Create one for gang-related arrests as well. Take a lead in a coordinated approach to keep Suffolk kids away from gangs. Go to the schools and speak as their leader.

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Jeffrey Conroy was handed the maximum sentence in the slaying of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero. And the U.S. Justice Department investigation of allegations of discriminatory policing against Hispanics continues. Here are the facts, Mr. Levy: The treatment of Hispanics - legal or not - in Suffolk began to change only after the shock of Lucero's brutal death. The county initiated common-sense policies, such as teaching police officers simple Spanish, only after its police department came under federal scrutiny. There is time for Suffolk to take a leadership role in its own affairs, again. Do it. Not because you have to - but because it's the right thing to do.

Three people died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning on a houseboat - while an unmanned police boat was moored a few hundred feet away in Huntington Harbor. The deaths sparked more than the usual controversy over police staffing. It's time to put an end to the bickering among Mr. Levy, the county legislature and the county's police unions over whether Suffolk has enough police officers to get the job done. This shouldn't be an argument, or a debate. If Suffolk needs more cops, get them. And if Suffolk can't afford to hire them at the current cost of police compensation, negotiate a way to some agreement. So far the fighting's done nothing. And the inability to sit down with police unions left the last police contract to an arbitrator, who went along with so-called "past practices" that did little more than keep escalating police salaries.

Fighting isn't working, Mr. Levy. And public safety is an essential function of county government. As the leader of Suffolk County, step in and find another way.

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