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— Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli
Golfing for dollars
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone didn’t hold his usual golf invitational outing in 2020 due to COVID-19, but this year’s extravaganza is set for the end of June in Bethpage State Park.
It’s not only the pandemic that has changed — it’s also the politics. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is in the midst of multiple scandals which may give a boost to Bellone’s never-entirely-secret interest in the governor’s mansion.
That context gives new meaning to the big sums being requested for the golf day in June. "Event Chair" sponsorships go for $25,000 including a dinner table and golf for four. Golf for one plus dinner and cocktails alone would set a donor back $1,000, according to the invitation, with checks payable to "Bellone for Suffolk."
Don’t get too caught up in that Suffolk designation. The nature of the campaign account is important, because as a state-regulated committee there are no limits on moving funds between it and some other state committee for (and authorized by) the same candidate: say, a more gubernatorial-sounding Bellone for New York. That means the money the term-limited county executive is raising now could someday go smoothly to a higher-office state run.
The Bellone for Suffolk account had a closing balance of $121,873.57 in its January periodic filing. While that filing shows some 2021 checks coming in, this is the first big fundraising event the West Babylon Democrat is doing this year, according to his campaign.
Tee-off time for the June 28 event is 1 p.m.
—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
What’s in a name?
Andrew Giuliani, the 35-year-old son of ex-mayor Rudy Giuliani, said Thursday that he’s closer to "yes" on a GOP bid for New York governor. His remarks came a day after his father’s Manhattan apartment was raided by the FBI. "Yesterday actually only gave me more confidence that running is the right path..." he said.
How his father being a target in a federal criminal probe would help anyone, including the younger Giuliani, is anyone’s guess.
Political reality intrudes: The statewide Republican focus Friday is on Rep. Lee Zeldin. In the weeks since he announced his intention to run for the nomination, the Eastern Suffolk Republican congressman has racked up party support, starting with party organizations in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and adding upstate and western New York counties.
After snapping up Erie County on Friday, Zeldin looks like he has enough of a weighted vote at a state convention to be designated for the nomination. That assures him a place on a primary ballot while rivals would face the onerous and expensive task of gathering signatures and filing petitions.
But it’s far from "game over." Remember, for example, that Buffalo’s Carl Paladino came out on top of the 2010 primary after the county leaders gave their designation to former Long Island Rep. Rick Lazio. Paladino was later crushed in the general election by Andrew M. Cuomo, who’s still governor.
There are still a few maybe-candidates other than Zeldin, including former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and current Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro, both of whom have won the nomination before. All that makes any rationale for a gubernatorial run for Andrew Giuliani, whose only known public role has been as a minor functionary at Donald Trump’s White House, even more elusive.
Taking on a role like that of Donald Trump Jr., the younger Giuliani has begun belting out his own defensive family spin, which is to project fault on the Bidens for his father’s legal troubles.
Playing offense alone with pre-scripted phrases doesn’t help the younger Giuliani establish credibility. When asked on CNN whether his dad might flip on Trump if need be to protect himself, he said: "No! I mean, he has … there is… I don’t really know how to respond to this, because it’s a theoretical."
Efforts to cash in on the Giuliani name might well draw a hearty guffaw from the state party’s elders. Many on Long Island and upstate still remember how in 1994, New York City’s brash new Republican mayor trashed his party’s candidate, George Pataki, the eventual winner — in favor of an incumbent Democrat named Mario Cuomo.
—Dan Janison @Danjanison
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The rising tide of NY American Water bills
At midnight Saturday, the rates charged to New York American Water customers in Nassau County, already scandalously high, are set to increase another 26%.
On Monday, unless significant legislative progress pops up, monthly bills reflecting those rates go out.
And Friday afternoon, a new bill to blunt those increases was introduced in the State Senate with strong support from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Public Service Commission. The Senate bill could pass on Monday, but the outlook in the Assembly is dire.
About 125,000 Nassau households are supplied by American Water, and as much as half their bill payments go to cover property taxes, including a nearly $30 million special franchise tax.
LI State Sens. Todd Kaminsky, James Gaughran and John Brooks have been fighting for a two-part fix: Get the special franchise tax removed and create a Nassau County Water Authority. That public entity could acquire the American Water assets currently set to be sold to Liberty Water for $607 million in a deal the PSC has frozen while this plays out.
Last week, the Senate passed a bill that would create the new authority and immediately spread the $30 million franchise fee among all Long Island utilities, landing mostly on gas bills. But on Friday afternoon, those senators went in a different direction, with a bill that would spread the tax shift only among Nassau residents and be phased in over three years. The average gas bill would go up $1 a month in the first year, $2 a month in the second and $3 a month thereafter.
But with the workday drawing to a close, the Assembly was getting nowhere.
Assembly members in Suffolk County and those in Nassau whose constituents are not American Water customers blanched at the tax shift.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and her staff, deep into election-year mode, have balked at both the increased costs to most county households and the complications of moving toward consolidated municipal water.
And some environmentalists are opposing the plan, too. "This isn’t what the affected customers asked for," New York Institute of Technology professor Sarah Meyland told The Point. "They wanted a local municipal authority to provide service in their area, not this countywide structure."
Meyland, who lives in Huntington, teaches in the department of environmental technology and sustainability and is also an attorney, said there is no evidence consolidation would serve customers better than smaller local providers. And she said the SCWA, which was created in 1951 because there were few municipal providers in Suffolk, is a terrible model to address this problem.
"Using the SCWA as a model, and setting up a Nassau authority as a shell for the SCWA to come in and run it not only makes no sense, it’s an insult," Meyland said.
Several late-game efforts to postpone the rate increase fell on deaf ears Friday when a letter from Assembly members Michaelle Solages, Taylor Darling and Judy Griffin to the PSC was met with rejection. (That increase approved by the Public Service Commission is so large partly because a 2020 hike was postponed due to COVID-19.)
"Absent any reduction in the company’s expenses to offset this deferred increase, it is of the Department of Public Service’s opinion that any further delay would not be in the interest of New York American Water ratepayers," the PSC said in its response Friday.
The letter went on to say there was reason for optimism that the Legislature would get to a fix in time to avoid the increase.
But no one else, in Albany or on Long Island, was expressing any such optimism.
—Lane Filler @lanefiller
In case you missed it ...
For our new subscribers, some of The Point’s more widely viewed items this week can be read by clicking on the links below:
Cuomo fans sending high-flying messages
Over the past few weeks, New Yorkers looking skyward may have seen messages like "WE SUPPORT CUOMO" and "QUEENS IS 100% FOR OUR ANDREW" flying over unsuspecting swaths of the Empire State, including Albany and Buffalo and, last weekend, beachfront sections of Queens. Click here to read more.
Pandemic-fueled home sales are changing the "seasonal" nature of the East End
The East End real estate market is still sizzling with more people, more garbage and more $$$ for preservation. Click here to read more.