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Opinion

Playing the long game

If you're a census slacker and have not

If you're a census slacker and have not filled out the form for the 2020 head count, the federal government is trying another way to get in touch with you. Starting Wednesday, the U.S. Census Bureau is mailing out millions of paper forms to homes whose residents have yet to answer.  Credit: AP/Paul Sancya

Daily Point

Evening the odds

The number of New York seats in the House of Representatives has been declining for seven decades, and the fear is the state may lose as many as three congressional seats after the 2020 Census — probably one on Long Island. The delegation is 27 seats, down two after the 2010 census.

And that was before President Donald Trump’s memorandum Tuesday, saying that people living here without legal status should not be counted.

While Trump’s order is likely to be struck down in federal court, Albany lawmakers have their own plans about whom to count with the likely result being increased city population and political clout over the suburbs and upstate.

—Rita Ciolli @RitaCiolli

Talking Point

Power plays on Northport plant

The race to find a resolution to the property-tax battle between LIPA and the Town of Huntington is seemingly running out the clock, and the town is trying to put the game into overtime. But in doing so, Supervisor Chad Lupinacci is signaling to the power provider that he knows this try at a buzzer-beater will be his last chance, and hoping they’ll let him take his shot.

Monday night, the Northport-East Northport school board voted 6-1 to accept an offer from LIPA that would settle LIPA’s decade-old tax case, in which it asserted the Northport Power Plant is overassessed by 90%. The deal, which was negotiated with the involvement of Lupinacci, reduces the taxes on the plant from $86 million to $46 million over seven years. It also maintains that $46 million rate for another five years if the plant is part of a new power-supply agreement, pays the school district an additional $14.5 million over seven years, and relieves the town of a potential overpayment liability of as much as $850 million that property owners would owe on their next tax bill.

But the school board vote, while heartening, has little impact. It’s the town, as the assessing body, that gets to say. And Tuesday night, it said it was not saying until at least Sept. 29, more than a month after the Aug. 11 deadline upon which the LIPA offer will expire.

So now what? That depends.

Lupinacci supports the deal and one other member of the five-seat town board, Eugene Cook, opposes it. The other three members are at various stages of noncommittal. At Tuesday’s meeting, Cook pushed for a public hearing on Sept. 16 to address the deal, after LIPA said the offer would expire. Lupinacci then pushed for two additions to the agenda, a public hearing on Aug. 11 and a special board meeting where the deal could be voted on Sept. 29.

And he told The Point that the additions were meant to specifically communicate to LIPA that the town was committed to both informing residents on the deal and seeing that it’s put up for a vote fairly quickly.

And LIPA heard the message, sort of. In a statement, LIPA said it “has no choice but to ask the Court to move forward on behalf of our customers,” and pointed out that New York just called for another 2,500 megawatts of wind power to be procured for the grid, “further displacing the aging, high-cost facilities like the Northport Power Plant.”

But the statement also said, and LIPA Chairman Tom Falcone confirmed to The Point, that if a decision has not been handed down by Sept. 29 and the town accepts the deal, “we won’t hang up the phone.”

So for the agreement to happen, the judge must hear all these signals and decide to wait on handing down a decision expected to deal the town and district a serious blow, and the town and town board have to be convinced to go for the agreement.

That’s increasingly looking like a Hail Mary pass, as the clock runs out, again.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Trump's about-face

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Final Point

Garbarino goes law and order

Fundraising emails and social media updates from CD 2 Republican candidate Andrew Garbarino have been focused on a common theme of late: disrespect for the police. 

The subject has been a national GOP talking point in the wake of protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody. Garbarino has recently sounded the alarm about anti-police graffiti in Levittown, promoted a #BackTheBlue rally, and sometimes tied his Democratic opponent Jackie Gordon to “defund the police” elements, as in this Tuesday fundraising email: “Without your support this election, Long Island is at serious risk of falling into the hands of Jackie Gordon, who would allow socialist politicians to defund our police.”

Garbarino was not quite as vocal on policing issues as his primary opponent and fellow Assemb. Mike LiPetri, who pushed to make throwing water on an on-duty police officer a felony. 

In some ways the policing focus isn’t such an easy general-election hit for Garbarino given Gordon’s background in military police as a member of the Army Reserve. That background has allowed Gordon to cross party lines in the past: she has served for years on a committee for Rep. Pete King’s  nominations to West Point and other service academies. 

Garbarino argues that some of Gordon’s stances are insufficiently pro-police, citing the Democrat’s comments on state bail laws in a February Politico interview. There, Gordon said she believed there was room for changes to the law and cited the importance of “public safety.” 

But mostly, the Garbarino campaign’s argument is that she’s guilty by association — she’s running on the Working Families Party line, for example, and the WFP account tweeted “Defund the police” in May.

And she “supports a presidential candidate who believes police ‘have become the enemy,’” a campaign statement sent by Garbarino said. 

That would be former Vice President Joe Biden, and the quote is a slight misquote from an interview with activist Ady Barkan in which Biden was talking about police not needing military equipment: “Surplus military equipment for law enforcement — they don't need that. The last thing you need is an up-armored Humvee coming into a neighborhood; it's like the military invading. They don't know anybody; they become the enemy, they’re supposed to be protecting these people."

Multiple news organizations have run fact checks about Republicans misusing or taking this quote out of context.

Biden has said he does not support defunding the police. 

Asked about this discrepancy, Garbarino said that while Biden didn’t directly call police the enemy, “you never want to make that connection for constituents,” that police could be the enemy. 

“It’s not the best word to use, I don’t think,” he said, out of concern that “then they’ll be treated as the enemy.”

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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