Written by Senator Jack Martins Friday, 30 November 2012 00:00
LIPA failed us miserably – from pre-storm preparations right through communicating when power would be restored after the storm. No arguments.
Naturally, as public servants, our job is to take public authorities like LIPA to task and take a good, hard look at why it failed us after Superstorm Sandy. But I participated in this dog and pony show last year after Hurricane Irene and frankly, it accomplished very little except some convenient transfer of blame and lots of finger-pointing. One positive: it’s given me a few months to better see the bigger picture and zero in on where the real problems lie.
Of course, pick up any paper and the theories are endless: LIPA hasn’t had a permanent chief executive in two years; five spots on their board are still vacant; the trustees discussed the hurricane for only 39 seconds; they didn’t trim enough trees prior to the storm; their service maps are outdated; their wiring is antiquated; they never installed a monitoring system; their communication with customers stinks. All real issues that need to be addressed, but they’ve existed for years and remain unresolved.
So now heads will supposedly roll and an overhaul is in the works. It’s déjà-vu. LIPA was created in the 1980s by former Governor Mario Cuomo in response to the Long Island Lighting Company’s inability to handle outages after Hurricane Gloria and the aftermath of the shuttered Shoreham Plant.
Let me be the first to tell you the ugly truth: you can swap out every executive at LIPA and name it whatever you want and when the dust settles, nothing will have been achieved if we don’t address the underlying structural issues at LIPA. Of course, some cursory procedural progress is possible but the real problem is LIPA’s ailing infrastructure and more importantly, that, given our already highest in the nation utility costs, we can’t afford to fix it. The legacy costs LIPA has carried have merely kicked the can down the road – the billions borrowed still have to be paid and that has to be factored into any future LIPA reincarnation.
Central to any fix is the fact that LIPA is in debt for an incredible $7 billion dollars and has been for more than 14 years because of losses absorbed when the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant was closed. Consequently, there is virtually no money to invest in much-needed infrastructure upgrades as much of it goes to debt service. For those following national politics, this is a perfect example of what happens when debt gets out of control. We all wish the Shoreham debacle had never happened, but we must live with its consequences, unintended as they are. For you and me, that means the aftermath of a storm that decimates an overly fragile electric system.
Any legitimate plan to address LIPA’s problems has to start with this reality or else we’re just spinning our wheels. Thankfully this past year, Governor Cuomo had already floated the idea of an “electricity superhighway” that would deliver cheaper electricity to our region. With those realized savings, LIPA could then begin investing in infrastructure improvements without disturbing its debt reduction effort.
This storm and its aftermath taught us that our electric infrastructure is overly fragile. I know we pay some of the highest electricity rates in the nation and while it would be nice to reduce those, we must invest in hardening our infrastructure against the next Sandy or Irene.
We also have to take an honest look at alternate sources that may produce cheaper energy. Long Island is already home to New York’s largest solar farm and there’s been much debate over wind farms off our shores. As controversial as these issues are, where they’re located and what initial investment might cost, the discussions must be had and decisions have to be made.
We know what has to be done to better LIPA and the technology is already available. The question is does Long Island, and New York State, have the wherewithal to hunker down and find a way to pay for it. No matter who is given the reins at LIPA, their challenge is to convey this predicament to the public, present a feasible plan, and finally to marshal support for the solution. Anything else is just a band-aid.
Saturday, 22 November 2014 00:00
Winthrop University Hospital employee Jeffrey Brenner, a hyperbaric technician with the Life Support Technologies group in Mineola, recently received the American Heart Association’s prestigious Louis J. Acampora Heart Saver Award at a dinner at the Crest Hollow Country Club. The award is named for a Long Island teenager who succumbed to a sporting injury that is understood to have been preventable if a cardiac medical device had been immediately on-scene and applied.
“I hope that I have made a real difference in my town and the world around me to help prevent death and improve the quality of people’s lives” said Brenner.
Friday, 21 November 2014 00:00
The Wheatley School recently hosted an Item Writing Workshop for more than 100 language teachers representing districts across New York State. The workshop was sponsored by the Foreign Language Association of Chairpersons and Supervisors (FLACS), the professional organization that has assumed responsibility for the creation and administration of the FLACS
Checkpoint A and B Exams (formerly the NYS Second Language Proficiency and Regents Exams).
Thursday, 20 November 2014 00:00
After consecutive seasons of finishing runner-up in the men’s golf Player of the Year for the Skyline Conference, Christian Bleck of St. Joseph’s took home first place in a rather unlikely turn of events.
After a herniated disc caused the Chaminade High School alum to miss every event after the first week of the season until the conference tournament, Bleck returned—without even having the luxury of practicing a full 18 holes—and competed with the best players the conference has to offer.
Thursday, 06 November 2014 00:00
The Mineola Mustang boys cross-country team won the division 4A championship recently at Bethpage State Park. This is the first championship for the program since 1974, ending a 40-year championship drought.
Mineola defeated Seaford, who also entered the undefeated in division competition, 38-20. Overcoming rain and high winds throughout the race, many Mustangs ran personal records for the 5K in route to the victory.