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Opinion

Hanging in the balance

Credit: Newsday/Michael Dobie

Daily Point

Tale of the mail

Political advertising hasn’t gone entirely digital yet. There still is a place in modern campaigning for those big glossy colorful flyers with either warm testimonials or apocalyptic warnings.

Here’s one tally from one Town of Babylon residence from the 2020 campaign season thus far:

0 = number of mailings from President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, combined.

1 = number of mailings from Independence Party presidential candidate Brock Pierce.

3 = number of mailings from the State Senate 4th District race between Republican Phil Boyle and Democrat Christine Pellegrino (1 pro-Boyle, 1 pro-Pellegrino, 1 anti-Pellegrino).

4 = number of mailings from the State Assembly 9th District race between Republican Michael Durso and Democrat Ann Brancato (all pro-Durso).

42 = number of mailings from the CD2 race between Democrat Jackie Gordon and Republican Andrew Garbarino (10 pro-Gordon and 16 anti-Garbarino; 2 pro-Garbarino and 10 anti-Gordon; and 4 attacking one candidate while also supporting the other).

Tempted to conclude that the CD2 race is the most bitterly contested in this area? Let’s put it this way:

The numbers don’t lie.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Talking Point

We’ll turn the lights on . . . next year

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo held a conference call with (mostly) Nassau County members of the State Legislature’s Long Island delegation on Wednesday focused on the state’s utilities, and the timing was on target for six days before the election.

Cuomo announced his support for a bill to be sponsored by Island Democrats that concentrates on New York American Water — but also impacts LIPA, PSEG Long Island and utilities statewide — that would:

  • Increase the size of fines that can be levied on utilities that fail to perform and live up to their promises.
  • Make it easier to revoke the franchise of non-performing utilities by establishing that assets paid for via ratepayer bills belong to ratepayers, not the company, and thus don’t have to be purchased when a franchise is revoked.
  • Cap the pay of utility executives.

"God did not give the franchise, the people did," Cuomo said, "and the people can revoke it."

After explaining the bill, Cuomo asked first Sen. James Gaughran, then Sen. Kevin Thomas, then Assemb. Chuck Lavine to talk about it.

For Gaughran, both LIPA and New York American Water are pivotal issues in his reelection. Thomas, facing a strong GOP effort to unseat him, can use the publicity associated with the issue. New York American Water’s outsized bills are also of huge interest in Lavine’s district, which makes him the right Assembly sponsor.

After they spoke, Cuomo did a roll call, checking off the names of State Sens. Todd Kaminsky, John Brooks and Anna Kaplan, each of whom signaled support for the legislation. Then came Assembly members Michaelle Solages and Judy Griffin, who did as well. Cuomo said that Sen. Monica Martinez was on board but could not join the call, and had a Ferris Bueller moment when his prompt to Assemb. Taylor Darling repeatedly got no response (she later rejoined and gave a firm "yes").

The timing is key in two ways: the only thing that makes this week the right time for such a bill, especially considering the legislature is not actually in session, is next week’s election. And that fact allowed Cuomo to twice mention the bill would be dealt with "next year," highlighting that voters have to elect these Democrats so they can push the legislation.

But the issue is complex and the questions will be, too, particularly when it comes to New York American Water.

Nassau ratepayers would almost certainly cheer the end of the company’s business presence and massive bills. But much of those (PSC regulated) rates go to pay property taxes that would be shifted to local residents’ tax bills if the utility were municipalized.

And the fact that New York American Water has paid those property taxes does imply the company owns the assets: If the people did, those assets would not have been on the rolls.

Inquiries to Cuomo’s office about the legislation and timing of the announcement were not immediately returned.

But as Cuomo pointed out in a different context, there is plenty of time to address such details in a bill that can’t even be officially considered until next year’s legislative session.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

 

Pencil Point

Voter suppression

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/cartoons

Final Point

The MTA and the presidential election

All eyes at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are on next week’s election.

Could the winner make a difference in whether the MTA gets the $12 billion in federal funding the authority says it needs to close its enormous budget gap without draconian cuts?

The MTA is standing on a "steep fiscal cliff," chief executive Pat Foye said during an MTA board Wednesday meeting. And the authority is running out of track before executives must present a budget to the board next month.

As of now, MTA chief financial officer Bob Foran expects to unveil a budget that includes the $12 billion in federal money, but he also would show contingency plans.

"We’ll have a better idea after next week of what the possibilities are," Foran told the MTA board.

While MTA chief executive Pat Foye said at a news conference after the meeting that he wasn’t going to endorse a specific outcome, he did note that former Vice President Joe Biden was "a regular daily commuter on Amtrak to and from Washington and Delaware."

But MTA board member Kevin Law, who heads the Long Island Association, went further.

"If Election Day gives us a new president in Joe Biden and a new Senate majority leader in Chuck Schumer, that should bode well for the MTA, as they’ve historically been supporters of mass transit systems across the country," Law told The Point.

It may not be that simple, as the MTA can’t be assured of getting everything it’s asked even with Democrats in charge. And then there’s another possible track change: A scenario in which next Tuesday’s election results are still being tabulated or litigated by the time the MTA must approve its budget next month.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

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