Good afternoon and welcome to The Point!
Tensions simmer in Suffolk
On Wednesday, the Suffolk legislature blocked a resolution from County Executive Steve Bellone to save $1.2 million by freezing step pay increases for nonunion employees. Bellone responded diplomatically, saying he would continue to work with lawmakers to find savings for the cash-strapped county.
Also on Wednesday, former County Executive Steve Levy announced a lawsuit to stop Suffolk from paying salaries to union workers on leave to conduct union business, which the suit says would save $3 million a year.
The Levy proposal had the expected critics, but none was harsher than Bellone spokesman Jason Elan. He blasted Levy, arguing that Levy cannot return to public policy and public service without explaining why he made a deal to not seek re-election in 2011 and turn over his $4 million war chest in response to District Attorney Thomas Spota’s probe of his fundraising.
Why the different reactions to cost-saving measures?
Could it be the influence of powerful unions, especially the police union that backs Bellone?
Could it be the still-lingering hostilities between Bellone and his predecessor?
Or does it have something to do with Bellone’s still-simmering battle with Spota?
We have a visitor today
Fresh off a meeting of the state Board of Regents earlier this week, in which she presented new curriculum standards to replace the Common Core and a plan to comply with the federal government’s latest education bill, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is on Long Island Thursday, ground zero of the state’s opt-out movement.
Elia will meet with the Newsday editorial board at 3 p.m. to talk about the new plans and new direction for a department she has increasingly cast as collaborative and responsive. She also wants to get more students taking the tests.
With a topic that’s so hot with our readers, we can’t help but be curious: What would you tell Elia if you had her ear?
Pass the remote
Complaining commuters are just part of a typical weekday on Long Island. But the rest of the country got a taste of our frustration Wednesday night.
That’s when signal problems caused massive Long Island Rail Road delays, causing Penn Station to be closed and 80 trains to be canceled. An army of cellphone-battery-draining riders took to Twitter with their troubles, using the hashtag #LIRR. By 7 p.m., the hashtag rose to national attention on the platform’s U.S. feed.
@LIRRStats, a Twitter account that calls itself an independent group of analysts and data fanatics using statistics and technology to advocate for change on the LIRR, said this was the big leagues, tweeting, “#LIRR is now the 8th most tweeted phrase in the entire United States in the past 2 hours.”
For a subject to trend on Twitter, an algorithm identifies topics that are popular at any given moment among 350,000 tweets sent per minute worldwide. A user can filter trends by location to identify popular topics in specific geographic areas, so it’s no surprise when LIRR trends in New York. But it’s rare when there’s enough volume of tweets to break into the top trends nationally.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was not among those using the #LIRR hashtag, but as he searches for a new head for the MTA, he might want to know that the country now knows we have a big problem on the rails.
A moment at the tail end of an interview with The Economist magazine published Thursday provides an intriguing glimpse into President Donald Trump’s thinking about the future.
In response to a question about his economic philosophy on topics such as deregulation, Trump said in his usual discursive fashion that, “When I leave office what happens is slowly they’ll nip away at it, nip away, nip away, and then in 40, 50 years somebody else will come along and bring it back.”
That’s “on the assumption [Mike Pence] doesn’t follow me, but he will,” Trump said.
The moment might be indicative of Trump’s reputed habit of fixating on the last person in the room. The vice president had joined him in the interview just before Trump’s comment.
But could Trump, who has a reputation for telegraphing what is really going on in his mind, already be thinking about a Trump-less White House, with Pence as a front-running successor?
Democrats might ask, just how soon will Pence be following?