Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has offered a plan to end the war over his attempt to bundle bonds that require legislative approval. Good. Because the heaving and harrumphing between his Democratic administration and the Republican legislative minority have been stimulating only if you’re a fan of faux outrage.
The background: For some 40 years, Suffolk executives have submitted bond resolutions to fund capital projects for individual votes by the legislature. Last month, Bellone’s administration began bundling bonds for one vote — without consulting Republicans beforehand. The GOP, which won enough seats in November to deprive Democrats of the supermajority needed for bonding, voted down the bundled bonds on principle, citing the importance of project-by-project oversight and their long-standing worries about county debt.
Democrats quickly attacked Republicans as saying no to safe roads and safe schools, and for rejecting bonding for projects they had already approved. They said bundling is more efficient, is used by most of the state, and was a response to Republicans blocking previous bond measures just because they now had the power to do so. They also said GOP concerns about Suffolk’s debt are overblown. Republicans said Democrats bundled the bonds, many for uncontroversial projects, to force them to also approve proposals to which they objected, and noted that before Bellone’s bundling they had approved 35 of 42 bond measures.
The devolution to partisan politics was disturbing, but not surprising.
Bellone’s proposal — to return to individual votes but, in the future, to require lawmakers to approve both the project itself and the bond to pay for it in the same measure — would solve the GOP’s oversight issue, assuming Bellone unbundles all of the current bonds. Other ideas also are being offered. The important thing is that Bellone this time is seeking Republican participation in finding a solution and that GOP leader Tom Cilmi says his caucus is open to discussing ideas.
In the meantime, both sides now can move forward on vital projects, like a new police department K-9 facility, a program to let schools quickly notify law enforcement of an active shooter, and sidewalk and roadwork around the county.
In other words, they can get back to doing what they’re supposed to be doing — the people’s business.