It's tempting to say Suffolk stands at a crossroads, but in fact the county stands at several. On Nov. 5, all 18 seats in the county legislature are up for grabs, and the moves County Executive Steve Bellone and the next legislature make will have a resounding effect.
The budget is the first concern. Suffolk County is bedeviled by high labor, pension and health care costs, with little ability to raise taxes to meet those spiraling expenses. The result is projected deficits for the foreseeable future. Most of the candidates say we have to increase tax revenue by expanding the economy. But any discussion of that leads directly to all the thorny problems impeding growth in Suffolk County.
The lack of sewers in many places is at least a triple-whammy. It stymies both residential and commercial development, and our aging septic systems are polluting our oceans and aquifer. Agriculture and the tourism that accompany it have huge potential, but bring with them traffic and fertilizer/pesticide problems. And many Suffolk residents prefer things just as they are, except, of course, for taxes.
Legislators must contend with the closed Foley nursing home, siting 1,000 new slot machines in the county, and state demands for a new jail. There's little chance Democrats will lose their working majority in the legislature. They could, however, lose the bulletproof supermajority that makes borrowing easier. Regardless, what's needed are strong, creative voices from all parties to support Bellone when he's on the right track, and direct him when he isn't.