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Opinion

A legislative juggling act

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on March 24.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on March 24. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Daily Point

Let's ban red tape

One of the many local Earth Day observances was a Monday news conference held by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to announce that he would sign a bill sponsored by Legis. Kara Hahn that bans plastic straws and polystyrene foam containers.

It was a classic Earth Day event but with a twist: Bellone didn’t actually sign the legislation. He couldn’t. Blame it on the county charter.

“There’s actually a provision in the charter that requires the county executive to hold his own public hearing on every local law the legislature passes,” assistant deputy county executive for intergovernmental affairs Amy Keyes told The Point.

Keyes called it a procedural hearing, and said typically no one comes to testify.

“If we do 30 a year, probably we’ll have one or two where a person shows up,” Keyes said. “The legislature hearing is the real hearing.”

The legislature passed Hahn’s bill on April 9, and the county then was required to publish a notice of the additional hearing before holding it. That meant any announcement made on Earth Day would be purely ceremonial.

If you’re thinking that this provision should go the way of the plastic straws, you’re probably not alone.

- Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Talking Point

A new pipeline booster

The Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, a controversial proposed natural gas pipeline that would cut across New York harbor waters, now has a surprising new supporter: New York City Housing Authority tenant leader Danny Barber.

Barber, chairman of the public housing authority's Citywide Council of Presidents, is supporting the pipeline as a way to bring what he calls “a more solid and sustainable” heating system to NYCHA, which has endured years of malfunctioning boilers.

NYCHA did not immediately respond to questions about whether the pipeline would improve the heating situation and those bad boilers.  But the recruitment of supporters like Barber indicates the all-out push by the pipeline’s boosters seeking governmental approvals. Opponents say the pipeline would continue carbon use and isn’t the right direction for a climate-friendly future. Supporters say it would add gas capacity and is better than heating new buildings with more harmful oil.

Barber’s interview is being promoted in Facebook ads paid for by New York State Laborers' LECET, an organization established by the construction-focused New York State Laborers' Union, according to the union’s website. That group has paid for dozens of ads via an Energy Justice For All Facebook page created last March. Between May 2018 and April 20, the group spent almost $200,000 on political or issue ads, according to Facebook’s archive.

A NYCHA-related heating video from “Energy Justice For All” also ran as an advertisement in the City & State Tuesday morning newsletter. All of a sudden it seems NYCHA leaders have found themselves at the center of tense if not-particularly-housing-related political issues, such as the Amazon deal.

The Energy Justice For All campaign seems eager to tap into the rhetorical power and outrage that comes with most things NYCHA. The campaign website quotes officials like Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and city Comptroller Scott Stringer about how bad NYCHA is, unrelated to the pipeline.

Barber tells The Point he’s behind the pipeline as part of his advocacy for residents. “The residents are suffering,” he said.

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

The full report

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Data Point

Making the grade

As a whole, Long Islanders are well-educated: 41 percent of them ages 25 and older have bachelor’s degrees or higher, according to a 2017 study. But which county has a higher percentage of degree holders? Click here to find out.

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