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Matt Cohen

Photo by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

By Brian Monahan

At the Three Village Civic Association meeting on April 1, residents listened to a presentation regarding the legislative effort in Albany to take actionable steps at implementing the recommendation of the report of the Legislative Commission on the Future of the Long Island Power Authority to make LIPA a “true publicly owned” power authority. This would allow LIPA to run its own electric grid with considerable savings, according to the report.

Yet, the plan’s prospects appear dim in the backdrop of Albany as a late state budget muddies the waters of progress. The commission’s co-chair, Assemblyman Fred Thiele (D-Sag Harbor), has legislation in the Assembly, but no such bill exists in the Senate. 

Thiele was not available for comment prior to press time. 

“This is something that will be discussed outside and after the budget during the remainder of the legislative session,” said the deputy communications director for state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) when asked if the majority leader would support putting forward a corresponding bill in the Senate. 

PSEG Long Island has reportedly been lobbying heavily in favor of retaining the current “service provider” model, which is uncommon in the United States. Additionally, PSEGLI points to metrics such as reliability, customer satisfaction, “most improved large utility since taking over the grid 10 years ago” and having the “lowest Department of Public Service complaint rate in New York state” as reasons the current model should stay. 

“The public-private partnership has worked for our customers on Long Island and in the Rockaways,” said Katy Tatzel, director of communications for PSEGLI. “Continuous improvement is one of PSEG Long Island’s core tenants. We have made significant improvement to the customer communications system and hardening of the system both before and after [Tropical Storm] Isaias [in 2020] and will continue to make improvements in the future.”

If LIPA were to be a fully public utility, it would have access to tax-exempt bonds and government grants, which it is argued would help lower prices paid by ratepayers. The utility does not have current access to these potential benefits. 

The financial analysis of the LIPA commission identifies between $48 million and $78 million in annual cost savings through “LIPA directly managing the operation of its electric system,” primarily by eliminating the PSEGLI management fee.

Opponents to this municipalization plan include the Long Island Association and the Empire Center. “The Long Island Association opposes a fully-municipal electric utility for our region as recommended by the Legislative Commission on the Future of LIPA, as it would adversely impact ratepayers and Long Island’s energy future,” LIA President & CEO Matt Cohen said in a statement. 

The Empire Center, a free-market-oriented think tank in Albany, notes that the unique situation of a public-private utility makes it an easy target when service goes awry but believes the commission “failed” to make its case for municipalization.

Where does this web lead ratepayers? “I’ve heard a number of different perspectives, but the one that always resonates is how unhappy people are with the current situation,” said Herb Mones of Stony Brook, expressing how few people have time to understand the present system.

Others see municipalization, which would reconfigure the governing body of LIPA, as a key way to getting local political bodies and organized labor represented on LIPA’s board. 

Questions of which model of governance may be adopted or any other plans for the future of municipalization are secondary to whether the legislation will pass. In the interim, ratepayers remain united in seeking the best service for the best rates possible, whatever arrangement this means. 

Matt Cohen

The Three Village Chamber of Commerce will welcome Matt Cohen, President and CEO of Long Island Association (LIA) as the speaker of the upcoming luncheon at the Three Village Inn, 150 Main St., Stony Brook on Nov. 17 at noon. Registration for this event is required — $35 prepaid, $40 at the door.

This is the first time Cohen will be speaking before a Chamber of Commerce and their members in his role as President & CEO. The Three Village Chamber has invited the following surrounding chambers—St. James, Miller Place, Smithtown, Port Jefferson, Terryville—and their members to attend the event as he discusses the current economic view for small businesses.

Cohen will discuss how the LIA supports small businesses as they continue to navigate impacts from the pandemic, including sharing resources like grants and loans, holding workshops, providing information on New York State and Federal policies, and holding joint webinars with experts. Cohen will also talk about the LIA’s vision as we head into 2022 and take questions from small business owners to learn more about their current challenges and successes.

“We are pleased that Matt Cohen has chosen us as the first chamber to discuss their expanding programs,” said Charles Lefkowitz, President of Three Village Chamber. To register for the luncheon, visit the events section of the Three Village Chamber website, www.3vchamber.com.

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By Jim Ferchland

Going into the fourth quarter up 14-13, the Smithtown East football team could not contain Bay Shore’s defensive prowess.

The Marauders scored 20 unanswered points off turnovers during the 12-minute span to pick up a 33-14 win on the road at the Bulls’ Oct. 7 homecoming game.

Smithtown East quarterback Kevin Melore threw three interceptions with two of them landing in the hands of Bay Shore’s Josh Barker-Ortiz, who made his fifth and sixth interception of the season. He also had a fumble recovery. The Bay Shore defensive back is tied for first with Walt Whitman’s Jordan Lyons among Suffolk County’s interception leaders.

Smithtown East’s Kevin Melore passes the ball. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Smithtown East ended the game turning the ball over four times. Despite this, Smithtown East head coach Jonathan Woods was not disappointed by his quarterback’s performance.

“Kevin [Melore’s] got talent and he’s getting the chance to get a lot of experience,” Woods said of the sophomore. “He threw a couple of great balls on screens, but I think as an offense you can’t turn the ball over four times. We had a couple [turnovers] through the air and a couple on the ground but as an offense we just need to protect the ball.”

The first score of the game didn’t come until the second quarter, where the Bulls started just outside their own end zone. Melore’s pass was intercepted by Barker-Ortiz, who returned it back for a 10-yard touchdown. The extra point was missed, making the score 6-0 Marauders.

East retaliated on its next possession, when senior running back Lauden Hendricks found an opening on the left side and took the ball in for a 20-yard score. The extra point was good and East went into halftime leading 7-6.

During halftime, Woods encouraged his team play better offensively.

“We just need to be consistent,” Woods said. “We are not stringing together when 11 players do the correct thing. We are just trying to hammer the basics and the details.”

To start the third quarter, Bay Shore quarterback Casey Roan threw the ball to his 6-foot, 5-inch wide receiver Kevin Sammis for a 51-yard touchdown to give Bay Shore a 13-7 lead.

“Every week I really have a cornerback who’s not my size,” he said. “I think we should throw it all the time, but when we do throw it, I just do my best to get the ball.”

Woods though did not see Sammis as a difference-maker.

Smithtown East’s Lauden Hendricks carries the ball up the field. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“He is a good player,” Woods said. “We thought if we played good team defense that [Sammis] might catch a few deep balls. I don’t think he beat us when we had four turnovers. We had poor execution on offense.”

In the closing minutes of the third, East relied heavily on its running attack, and senior quarterback Austin Nasworthy punched it in the end zone from four yards out to put East back on top 14-13.

Even with the momentum in their hands, the Bulls were held scoreless in the fourth. Bay Shore’s comeback started with the Bulls’ defense allowing a 30-yard rushing touchdown to Nolan Epps on a sweep to the right side. Bay Shore went for a two-point conversion, but was unsuccessful, so the score was brought to 19-14 with the Marauders now holding the lead.

With 6:29 remaining in the game, Melore was looking for senior wide receiver Andrew Durland, but found Bay Shore defensive back Jalen Thompson instead. He made a diving catch and set up Casey Roan, who completed the drive with his legs, scoring a 3-yard rushing touchdown to expand the lead to 12 with 2:12 left.

Barker-Ortiz continued to excite at the expense of East’s homecoming celebration, and with 1:48 remaining in the game he recovered a Matt Cohen fumble and took the ball the other way until he was pushed out of bounds at East’s 7-yard line. On the very next play, Josh Parris took it in for a 7-yard rushing touchdown to give the game its final score.

The Bulls fall to 1-4 on the season and suffer their fourth consecutive loss after winning the first game of the season against Copaigue Sep 9.

“We are not meeting our capabilities, so there’s some frustration there,” Woods said.

Smithtown East’s next game is Oct.14 at at home against crosstown rival Smithtown West at 2 p.m.

Suffolk County Legislator William "Doc" Spencer. File photo

Government officials and community organizations alike are concerned with possible tax reforms they say could cost Long Island residents millions.

While President Donald Trump (R) has not released any formal proposal yet for tax reform, organizations like the Long Island Association, a nonprofit group focused on business and civic affairs, are reacting to both Trump’s and his administration’s rhetoric during and since the 2016 election.

The LIA sent Trump a letter in December outlining some of their fears with possible tax reform in the coming year, specifically the possibility of eliminating deductions for real property taxes, mortgage interest, state income tax and reducing charitable donation deductions.

“We are concerned about some of the comments your Secretary of Treasury nominee Steven Mnuchin made about limiting the ability to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes on federal tax returns,” the letter from the organization said. “Speaker Paul Ryan has also expressed support for scaling back or eliminating the deduction for state and local income and property taxes.”

Matt Cohen, vice president of government affairs and communications for the LIA, said eliminating deductions could be a “disaster,” for Long Island. He referenced various news articles including one in The Hill, which reported the administration is taking a “serious look,” at capping deductions including ones for charitable donations.

“If these proposals are given more structure and momentum it would be devastating for Long Island.”
—Matt Cohen.

“If these proposals are given more structure and momentum it would be devastating for Long Island,” he said in a phone interview.

The LIA Research Institute did a study on the effects eliminating the deductions might have and said it could cost Long Islander’s $4.4 billion. In a 2013 report, they found Long Island sends the federal government $23.1 billion more than it receives back in programs and services from the government, so taxpayers in all brackets would be impacted by these cuts to deductions. The study said the middle class would be hit especially hard with tax increases, anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 annually, and $3 billion would be taken away from the regional economy.

“No matter who you are, if you’re deducting mortgage interest on your returns you’re going to get hurt by this,” Cohen said. “In an area with high costs and high taxes, this could even drag down the real estate market.”

Cohen is not the only one who is concerned.

Suffolk County legislators and Executive Steve Bellone (D) echoed the sentiments.

“For Suffolk County residents, who already pay a steep price in property taxes, this type of tax reform will be a blow to homeowners and will have a negative ripple effect on our economy as a whole,” Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said at an event earlier this month. “With potential increases as high as $4,000, this reform will cut off many Suffolk County residents from the American dream by discouraging home ownership, and will cripple current homeowners’ ability to make ends meet.”

Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) stressed the importance of residents understanding this debate as it reaches the national stage.

“Whether you are a local business owner or a middle class Suffolk County resident looking forward to a reduction in your taxes as it was promised along the campaign trail, it’s important for all of us to understand what the impact to each of us will actually be if you have a proposal such as this one that would be implemented,” he said.

Bellone said the elimination of these deductions is not welcome to Suffolk County.

“Any attempt by Washington to eviscerate these critical financial incentives under the guise of tax reform is a nonstarter and should be dead on arrival,” he said.  “Instead of making it more costly to own a home on Long Island, the federal government should do more to lower taxes for hardworking homeowners and not the other way around.”

Elected officials were not the only voices speaking up.

Robert J. Ansell, board member of the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce also spoke at the April 5 press event.

“Two-thirds of the country’s gross domestic product is consumer spending,” Ansell said. “The elimination of the mortgage interest, state income tax, and real property tax deductions not only puts a significant damper on incentivizing home ownership, but will also mean that families will have less disposable income to spend in their communities on local businesses.”

Cohen said it’s important to get out early with this issue, even though no formal or concrete decisions have been made yet.

“It’s a new administration, a new theme with new policies — we just want to get out ahead of this and show where we stand,” he said