Rest for the wicked
Momentum is growing to ban congress members from sleeping in their DC offices -- after hours, that is.
Members as prominent as former Speaker Paul Ryan have slept on cots and showered in the House gym rather than take a (sometimes expensive) D.C. apartment. It can be a source of pride (“The congressman does not live in Washington,” etc.).
But in the #MeToo era some see it as a recipe for awkwardness, at the least. According to a BuzzFeed report, the tradition will be publicly studied by the Committee on House Administration, and leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have joined members of the Congressional Black Caucus in calling for it to end.
Long Island’s congressional delegation wouldn’t be much affected. Reps. Peter King and Tom Suozzi said they don’t sleep in their offices. Rep. Kathleen Rice rooms with Stephanie Murphy of Florida (previous roommates were Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Carolyn Maloney).
A spokesman for Rep. Gregory Meeks told this pre-afternoon nap newsletter that Meeks “occasionally sleeps in his office depending how late he’s worked, the weather outside, etc. But he’s lucky to have friends and family in the area, and he empathizes for other members who don’t have that luxury.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin, however, is more solidly among the members of Congress who sleeps where he works (more than 100 others join him, according to a high estimate).
The Point toured his office-bedroom in the Longworth House Office Building in 2016.
“At first glance, the space is unremarkable,” we wrote then. “It has a desk, a small couch and is lined with wooden bookcases featuring memorabilia from Long Island and Zeldin’s career. In a narrow closet adjoining the office, Zeldin has a cot, clothes rack, bathroom and refrigerator.”
A Zeldin spokeswoman said he “doesn’t live in Washington. When he’s there, literally from the very moment he wakes up to the very moment he falls asleep, his focus during those long hours is working and being a stalwart advocate of his constituents.”
You can watch a video of our tour here.
Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory visited the editorial board Thursday. Much of the conversation focused on how action in Albany is affecting Suffolk, but in that context it’s hard to miss how much the political schism among county Democrats is dictating the state of play.
Consider the county legislature’s unusual hiring of its own lobbyist, a firm called Long Island Government Relations, to do battle in the state capitol. County lobbying is traditionally left to the executive branch, but with County Executive Steve Bellone and County Democratic Party Chairman Richie Schaffer at odds, and the legislature firmly allied with Schaffer, Gregory et al. have hired their own mouthpiece.
Long Island Government Relations, run by Democrat Luis Montes and Republican Steve Moll, was hired for just less than the $25,000 that would demand a full bid process. Montes, also the Islip Democratic chair, worked for Bellone at the county from 2012 until 2017, when he left his $144,594 post as the county’s lobbying voice in Albany. He is now firmly in the Schaffer camp, insiders say.
Moll was the chief of staff for Nissequogue GOP Assemb. Robert Wertz for a decade before getting into lobbying in 2003.
State issues vying for Gregory’s attention during a recent trip to Albany where the lobbyist set up some interviews for him included:
- Marijuana: Can Suffolk ban its sale, and will that mean no money in Suffolk to deal with the effects of legalization? How should taxes be structured? Does decriminalizing without creating a legal market just encourage a dangerous and criminal black market?
- Air BnB: Gregory says Suffolk, doing the second-most business of any county in the state with the company, and about $1.2 million in taxes are going uncollected.
- Internet sales tax , which could add an estimated $20 million to $30 million a year to the county’s coffers.
- Fashion Institute of Technology tuition reimbursement: Of the $15 million Suffolk pays to other county’s community colleges in the state for its local students attending, almost $10 million goes to FIT, which many argue, with its four-year diplomas and master programs, is not really a community college.
- Giving County Comptroller John Kennedy the power to audit county businesses to capture sales tax that is going unpaid.
This last might be the most interesting play of all for Gregory, because Kennedy is widely expected to run a against Bellone in November’s county executive election. While Schaffer says the county party will back Bellone, neither he nor Gregory show the hostility toward Kennedy that would be expected if there were no hostility between Schaffer and Bellone.
A new prediction
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The anti-brain drain campaign
The Middle Market Alliance of Long Island brought out the heavy weights at a meeting on Thursday to reverse the talent drain in the region. The discussion aimed to understand the flight of young people from Long Island, why they’re leaving and how to keep them here. Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri was there so was TRITECo-founder Robert Coughlan, East West Industries President Teresa Ferraro and state Assemb. Steve Stern. Former congressman Steve Israel moderated the discussions while SUNY Old Westbury President Dr. Calvin Butts III delivered the keynote.
Butts said the focus shouldn’t only be on the young people who are leaving Long Island but also on understanding what is required to keep the ones who are here. The consensus on how to achieve that wasn’t all that new: replicate Patchogue’ s downtown revitalization model and prepare students for the good-paying jobs that already exist on the island. They discussed the growing tech industry and possibly turning Long Island into a national leader in cyber security.
While he agreed, Stern says Long Island lacks the infrastructure, adding that 70 percent of Suffolk County is unsewered. He went on to suggest that developing a plan for sewer expansion and following on that plan would help create better incentives for private industry.
Coughlan, whose company created New Village, a mixed-use residential development in Patchogue said changing local attitudes to support the growth of downtowns is necessary before anything can be done. He added that “some of the elements that are required in order to create these communities, the NIMBYISM is a huge factor. A lot of the people here today, I assume, are in favor of supporting the growth of these downtowns. You guys are the silent majority, a loud minority as it comes out, so we need everybody’s support, whether it's talking to your local congressman, talking to your local legislators, let them know you’re in support of that.”
During his keynote, Butts said personal biases and narrow mindedness toward people who are coming from other places is keeping Long Island from developing. He pointed to the lack of cheaper housing and the challenges to build new ones because of NIMBY. He asked everyone to put aside self-interest and think about the region’s interest and stability.