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Posts Tagged ‘Long Island Association

The New Long Island Association

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Kevin Law, the outgoing president and chief executive of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), has been chosen to lead the Long Island Association (LIA) in the wake of Matt Crosson’s departure. The lackluster performance of the LIA in recent years presents a challenge to the talented Law, but he is uniquely qualified to run the Island’s largest representative organization. Talent alone, however, won’t revive this body.

The LIA lacks a sense of purpose. While its board is comprised of an impressive array of successful business leaders, it has failed to coalesce in a decisive manner and make inroads on any specific issue. The most noticeable handicap in this respect is an unwieldy board size—there are 57 members. The Island’s biggest organization is top-heavy. This has created a problem of perception in that no one really knows what the LIA stands for. It’s time to hunker down and get tight on a handful of specific items instead of attempting to plug every hole in the dam.

Kevin Law, outgoing president and CEO of LIPA, is the new head of the LIA. But will he take the organization in the direction it needs to go?

Evidence of the LIA’s inability to marshal its resources in support of, or opposition to, a particular issue is in its governance structure. There are 16 separate committees ranging from small business to world trade, insurance to homeland defense and everywhere in between. No one organization can adequately micromanage this many priorities. Because Long Island is, by design, a sprawling set of disparate communities—each with its own gravitational center and culture—it’s nearly impossible to manage any one-size-fits-all plan.

Therefore the most immediate and effective declaration Kevin Law can make when officially taking the helm is to plant his flag squarely on the subject of economic development. Workforce housing hard to find? Brain drain getting you down? Tired of high taxes? There’s only one answer to all the issues the LIA has been dancing around: Money. The only way to get more of it into the economy is to attract more high-paying job opportunities into the region and create an environment where companies aren’t punished when they grow.

The art of messaging is critical when running an organization with the breadth and scope of the LIA. If Law can stay on message and focus on spreading the gospel of economic development, he will conquer the first difficult task of establishing a singular perception of the LIA. It’s a lot easier to negotiate with those who control the purse strings when they know why you’re there and what you’re asking for. This raises the next obvious question: What are we asking for?

I’ll keep it simple.

The LIA has been so focused on raising funds by hosting rubber-chicken dinners with generals and ex-presidents to cover for its own financial issues, it can’t focus on ours. Have one gala and a golf tournament if you need to get it out of your system then spread the wealth by getting more companies to pay dues. If you need extra funds, get them from the Regional Planning Commission—they’re not doing anything anyway.

Once the LIA’s bills are paid, Law can develop a comprehensive plan to deal with the two things we cannot escape: taxes and utilities.

Regarding the former: The only way to reduce, or at the very least hold, taxes on the Island is to woo more companies to do business here. This means coordinating the efforts of every agency with the ability to offer economic incentives and developing a press kit for Long Island. The Canon deal provided the blueprint. With Long Island’s press kit in hand, Kevin Law should be on the road six months out of the year visiting every burgeoning technology company in America with an iota of potential. I’m confident he can out-sell the guy from Bergen County, NJ or Lancaster, PA and convince some cool companies to come here. (Kev, call me. I know a great relocation specialist.)

On utilities: It’s payback time. The government rammed Shoreham down our throats then figured out we didn’t want it. Worse yet, they stuck us with the tab. Our utility bills will never go down with a $6 billion debt load we can’t shake. Therefore, I propose that every elected official on the Island sit down with Chuck Schumer and demand that the federal government commit $600 million per year for the next 10 years to principal debt reduction. In turn, we will agree to hold LIPA rates flat for the same period. The resulting positive spread will be reserved for retrofitting commercial and residential properties with renewable technology through LIPA’s existing rebate program. By 2020 the debt will be eradicated, our utility costs will be dramatically lower and then we can fold LIPA and get rid of a couple of power plants.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Now, on to that peace in the Middle East issue. It’s been on my to-do list for ages.

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Written by jmorey

June 24, 2010 at 2:10 am

Long Island Association

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The Wrong Island Association

The Long Island Association’s (LIA) resident economic guru, Pearl Kamer, announced recently (to great fanfare) that the recession on Long Island is officially over! What a relief, right?

Boy, did that recession suck.

And it couldn’t end quickly enough, but now that it has, we should busy ourselves at once by throwing a tickertape parade down Route 110. 

Of course, if by “over” she means continuing job losses, brain drain, high taxes, mandated MTA bailouts, imploding local and state government budgets, zero growth and development, empty malls, a declining manufacturing base, mounting foreclosures, increasing energy costs and a retail implosion, then I’m all in. Perhaps her exuberance sets the stage for the departure of LIA head Matt Crosson. After all, we wouldn’t want him to leave on a down note. Matt’s from Connecticut and you know how sensitive they can be.

Kamer’s assessment keeps in line with the out-of-touch, do-nothing-and-complain philosophy of the LIA, the largest business organization in the region, which counts some of LI’s key executives as members. The group is supposed to advocate for LI locally and upstate, but the LIA hasn’t inspired one piece of legislation or brought together key interests for the purpose of promoting growth on this island in years. “No Records” is emblazoned in red under the heading of Legislative Action on its own website. Even the letter under the “Innovate Long Island” heading was written in 2006. Because, you know, the world hasn’t changed at all since then.

Instead, the LIA’s largest initiative of the past two years was to fly local business leaders to China. One can only assume that it was to visit the people to whom these captains of industry doled out our jobs.

The LIA’s general inertia and habit of paying outrageous sums to bring former U.S. presidents, retired generals and cable television pundits to speak to throngs of businesspeople too busy thumbing the trackballs on their BlackBerries to care about what is transpiring on the large screens at the Crest Hollow are hardly motivating factors that lend credence to their in-house economist.

The public doesn’t need delusional prognostications blown over it like pixie dust; it needs to be stirred at its core. The few who legislate us into oblivion need to hear us speak loudly and clearly that the taxpayers will no longer subsidize incompetence. While it’s an easy target, the LIA is merely a surface indicator of the largely inefficient mosaic of public authorities that conspire to restrain our economy and prohibit growth and free enterprise. Even if Kamer is correct and the recession is over, or close to it, this is hardly the time to rest on our laurels and breathe a sigh of relief.

The LIA calls itself the “voice of Long Island.” Its stated mission is “to make Long Island an even better place to live, work, raise a family, and do business.” A truly representative organization of businesses and families would be railing against incumbents in Albany. It would organize against the county unions and let them know that raises are not a guaranteed right. It would tell the MTA to keep its damn hands off our money. It would excoriate political leaders for stacking public authorities with patronage jobs. But it doesn’t, hasn’t and won’t.

We are used to the images of protests on the steps of city hall and streets jammed with angry demonstrators in metropolitan settings. Yet, in suburban life our cries are heard but once a year behind the muted curtains of the voting booth. Tom Suozzi prophetically stated that the only way to fix the tax problem on Long Island was through an uprising. Prophetic indeed, as he fell victim to the crushing wave of emotion that swelled in every taxpayer’s home in Nassau County. The residents of Nassau voted with their wallets and condemned the Democratic incumbents who rode a similar wave into office just a few short years ago and squandered the opportunity to make lasting changes in the way the county does business.

This kind of silent revolution cannot begin and end at the polls, however. Nor can we expect a membership organization such as the LIA to advocate for real change. We, as individuals, business owners and civic leaders must be the alchemists of change and transmute the elements of our discontent into the golden solidarity of reform.

In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau writes “All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to and to resist the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.” The governing bodies that bleed New York and Long Island dry are not tyrannical but they are unendurable in their inefficiency. If we are to believe that civil disobedience is a uniquely human right in a free society, we must, therefore, resoundingly reject any further encroachments on our freedom and ability to prosper. Or as Thoreau suggests, “Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”

Written by jmorey

November 25, 2009 at 7:27 pm