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Is Bellone’s Bid for a Drinking Water Tax Proposal a Ploy to Promote Development?

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York From the crowded podium at an outdoor press conference in Yaphank last month, backed by a supportive chorus of environmentalists, bureaucrats, civic leaders and elected officials, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced his method of corralling his public water enemy No. one: nitrogen.The answer? A small, modest fee on water usage, which according to Newsday, would require “state legislation to allow voters to decide whether they want to create a water quality protection fee of $1 per 1,000 gallons of water used.”With an estimated annual revenue of nearly $75 million, the new money stream would funnel into a “Water Quality Improvement Fund” with the sole purpose of paying for wastewater improvements, including hooking residences and other assorted areas to sewer plants as well as giving homeowners the opportunity to get septic system upgrades.Creating new taxes for the sake of water protection is a sound idea, and it has ample policy precedent, for such a model has been used before to help fund open space acquisitions for decades. Further, according to Bellone’s statement, it has been employed in Spokane, Wash., which similarly relies on a sole source aquifer for drinking water.Despite these positive factors, the motives of the administration behind these actions aren’t sincere. In the end, the proposed new water fee isn’t as much about protecting the environment as it is to create more development opportunities for the real estate industry. The solutions offered by the county’s water protection plan aren’t substantive enough. Essentially, the document’s main approach to water protection focuses on sewers, and their relative effectiveness in achieving nitrogen reduction—a faulty foundation on which to build environmental policy thanks to the limited effectiveness these facilities have had on Long Island.Regardless of the intentions behind imposing the fee, the call for a referendum on the issue is a brilliant political move. At the ballot box, time and time again Long Islanders have overwhelmingly supported environmental issues related to water protection, so the measure is likely to pass easily. What is most concerning, though, is that many voters who may give their approval won’t realize the ramifications.Newsday’s Editorial Board, typically gung-ho for such environmental actions, wrote a cautious April 29 editorial that called for additional analysis of the proposal, saying that “the plan lacks details.” They advocated for slowing down what they saw as a rushed process. The editorial board was right, but they didn’t go far enough. The reason why the process is being sped up is because the county executive is eager to put shovels in the ground. The paper should have dug deeper into the linkage between the supposed environmental actions of the administration, and Bellone’s strong desire to build, build, build.The true ideological roots of this new fee can be traced back to the latest iteration of Suffolk County’s Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan. Buried within that document in Section 8, the plan tellingly calls for ways to “stimulate development in order to promote economic growth and stability.”This bureaucratic code translates into the creation of sewers, which, in turn, allows for more developmental density. Advocates for downtown Smithtown and Kings Park are already chomping at the bit for wastewater treatment, having wanted sewer linkages for decades to jumpstart their lagging economic development efforts.Curbing the nitrogen issue is one thing, but looking to ramp up developmental efforts at the same time is disingenuous. Simply put, jumpstarting LI’s anemic economy shouldn’t be the burden of environmental policy. They should be mutually exclusive efforts with interconnected goals. Economic development can be achieved without adversely impacting the environment, but the Island’s elected officials just haven’t achieved the right balance to achieve it yet.The bigger issue, however, is can we trust the county with this additional $75 million flowing into its coffers every year? The notion of taxing the water we drink is like taxing the air we breathe in the view of veteran policymakers like Paul Sabatino, a former deputy county executive who previously sued the county over misappropriation of the existing quarter-cent sales tax that already funds Suffolks’s Drinking Water Protection Program. Given recent legal happenings with the county’s clean water fund, residents have the right to be suspicious about Suffolk using the fee for the purpose it is intended. For all intents and purposes, Bellone has not earned that trust back just yet.Karl Grossman, a veteran award-winning investigative reporter, is also concerned about how much of the water fee is tied to the county’s push for sewers.“Bellone has been promoting sewering in Suffolk County largely for economic development reasons,” Grossman recently told me. “He feels sewers would be a huge incentive in encouraging development and financial stimulation that he sees coming as a result. Thus, questions have been raised over how much of the sewer push is being made under the guise of environmental protection and also about the impacts of widespread new sewering.”Grossman argued that existing limitations on growth will likely disappear with additional sewering, much to the delight of the development community. As Grossman put it to me, this is “something the bulldozer boys who have ravaged and paved over so much of western Long Island and now have their eyes on its east and areas of moderate growth in western Suffolk would love to see.”In fairness to the Bellone administration, LI does have a serious nitrogen problem in its ground and surface waters. As evidenced by the almost annual algae blooms and fish kills, it has gotten worse. At least the county executive is trying to take tangible action to reverse the decline. Run-off from Suffolk’s mostly outdated 360,000 cesspools and septic systems does pollute our water quality, but connecting these properties to sewage treatment should be separate from efforts to develop unsewered downtowns and parcels.“The good element about the plan,” observed Grossman, “is that it, in part, pays attention to advanced wastewater treatment systems—systems for single homes and communities that utilize new technology now used in areas all over the US in removing nitrogen from wastewater. With nitrogen being the key cause of brown tides, red tides and the deterioration of our waters, these new systems would be ideal for Suffolk County.”In the press release announcing the proposal, development-friendly groups offered their support alongside local environmental groups. In the developer cohort, Desmond Ryan of the Association for a Better Long Island, a pro-business lobbying group, said the fee is all about reconciling growth and water quality, saying that  “striking that balance between environmental protection and comprehensive economic development will only assist in making Suffolk County a great place to do business.”To Grossman, this sewer talk is déjà vu all over again.“As a reporter, I covered the Southwest Sewer District project of the 1970s—pushed by construction, engineering and development interests—and it also was claimed to be needed for environmental reasons,” he said. “It became a $1 billion scandal.”And, he pointed out, that staggering sum represented the value of the dollar back then. Tellingly, the federal government paid 80 percent of the cost, a totally unlikely prospect today.Bellone’s proposal would be a decent solution if his administration had pure intentions—and if the public could trust that the funding would be spent as promised. If the referendum is eventually approved, the fee would take effect in 2018.Ideally, the $75 million in annual revenue should only be allocated to help homeowners in decidedly residential, single-family subdivisions convert their existing systems to sewers. But if the water fee doesn’t win the public’s affection, perhaps with the cheap debt available in today’s market, the county should consider just bonding the expected $9 billion it would take to construct the needed sewers.But the current proposal is purposely vague about what limitations it might impose on the fee’s uses. What’s to prevent it from quickly becoming a slush fund for the politically connected, and in the long run, help contribute to the further decline of Long Island’s drinking and surface waters by overdevelopment? Nobody wants that, at least officially. But in Suffolk these days, it seems that the desire to conduct business is trumping doing what’s needed to protect our threatened aquifer.Rich Murdocco writes about Long Island’s land use and real estate development issues. He received his Master’s in Public Policy at Stony Brook University, where he studied regional planning under Dr. Lee Koppelman, Long Island’s veteran master planner. Murdocco is a regular contributor to the Long Island Press. More of his views can be found on TheFoggiestIdea.org or follow him on Twitter @TheFoggiestIdea.last_img read more

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Protesting Youths Cripple Activities at Akpabio Stadium

first_imgTHISDAY learnt that the protest was staged four days to the decisive World Cup match between Nigeria Zambia to draw attention to the unfulfilled promise of the state government.The youths insisted that the beautiful edifice in their community has added no financial value to uplift their lives and wellbeing.Some of the placard placed at strategic location round the stadium reads in part,” the Stadium is Beautiful but the People in the Communities here are Suffering”.The Youth Leader of Obio Etoi village, Mr Sunday Peters, who led the demonstration told newsmen that one of their grievances was that since 2011 when Julius Berger commenced work at the stadium, the villagers have nothing to show in term of employment or remodeling of their communities.Due to the neglect of the communities, he said the activities of the construction giant has made the community to become water logged anytime it rains.Mr Peter lamented that flood from the artificially created lake in the stadium now makes it possible for the community to become flooded anytime it is full.“Since 2011, when this company commenced work here; this stadium has not brought anything good for us here. The company took all diversion ways to the community with their heavy equipment and machines, at a point we have to sell our land to maintain the road. That is why we are crying to the state government and we will continue to cry until something is done”.On his part, the village head of the Obio Etoi, Eteidung Ezekiel Inyang Ekott, said the protest by the youth was a peaceful one as it was not marred by violent.The youths, he said only demonstrated at the stadium gate just to draw the state government attention to the plights of the host communities.“We want to let the state government to know that the Memorandum Of Understanding (MoU), entered between the host communities, Julius Berger and the state government has been breached”.Top government officials including the state Commissioner for Works, Ephraim Inyang, and his Information and Strategy counterpart, Mr Charles Udoh, pleaded with the youth to remain calm and not embarrass visitors to the stadium.To pacifying the youths of the communities, the work commissioner hinted that the road being the subject of complaint has been earmarked for construction stressing that work will commence in a week’s time.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram  Complaint of non-implementation of MoU with Akwa Ibom State governmentThe two host communities of the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Obio Etoi and Obio Ofot in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State yesterday staged peaceful protest at the complex to press home their complaints of unfulfilled promises by the state government since taking over their land for the project.The protest which commenced in the morning lasted for several hours as the youths barricaded the main gate leading to the stadium tagged the “Nest of Champion”, thus frustrating early day activities at the complex.last_img read more

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Travel-weary Yemenis dream big

first_imgMOST READ View comments OSG plea to revoke ABS-CBN franchise ‘a duplicitous move’ – Lacson National Historical team rescues Amorsolos, artifacts from Taal Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Search on for 5 Indonesians snatched anew in Lahad Datu Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to give up royal titles Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to give up royal titles Police seize P68-M worth of ‘shabu’ in Pasay Hotdog’s Dennis Garcia diescenter_img Potts out to fulfill promise to grandfather by joining PBA Draft “We had to face all these problems, but we will do our best to win tomorrow’s match,” he said. “We’re very thankful to be here. We want to make history (by qualifying for the Asian Cup) because it the people of Yemen love football.”Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Marcosian mode: Duterte threatens to arrest water execs ‘one night’ Bishop Baylon encourages faithful in Albay to help Taal evacuees Filipinos turn Taal Volcano ash, plastic trash into bricks PLAY LIST 01:40Filipinos turn Taal Volcano ash, plastic trash into bricks01:32Taal Volcano watch: Island fissures steaming, lake water receding02:14Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard02:56NCRPO pledges to donate P3.5 million to victims of Taal eruption00:56Heavy rain brings some relief in Australia02:37Calm moments allow Taal folks some respite LATEST STORIES To reach Bacolod, the team traveled for almost 30 hours by bus to Muscat, Oman, where it took a two-hour flight to Doha, Qatar. The next leg of the journey was a nine-hour flight from Doha to Manila, before they jumped on another short flight to this bustling city. “We are struggling from all the traveling,” admitted Yemen’s Ethiopian coach Abraham Mebrato Gebreselassie. “Even from the capital Sana’a to Oman was a very tough journey for us because that was by bus. Its because Sana’a airport is closed that’s why we traveled such a long way.”FEATURED STORIESSPORTSEnd of his agony? SC rules in favor of Espinosa, orders promoter heirs to pay boxing legendSPORTSRedemption is sweet for Ginebra, Scottie ThompsonSPORTSMayweather beats Pacquiao, Canelo for ‘Fighter of the Decade’Except for a few players who ply their trade in Oman, Gebreselassie’s squad doesn’t have the benefit of playing in a local league since it has been stopped two years ago because of security concerns brought by the civil war in the country.  But Gebreselassie said these challenges serve as a motivation as they clash with the Azkals in a crucial Group F clash in Asian Cup Qualifying. Having been based in Sana’a for the past eight years, handling the country’s Under-22 and Olympic teams, the Ethiopian knows the importance of qualifying for the Asian Cup as a means to unite the country. Cedelf Tupas/INQUIRERBACOLOD CITY – Yemen harbors dreams of reaching the AFC Asian Cup for the first time in 2019 in the United Arab Emirates, but playing matches in the qualifying stage should already count as a victory in itself considering the trouble its team has to go through just to represent the strife-torn Arab nation in the competition. The Yemenis arrived in this sugar-producing province last Saturday night for their clash with the Philippines on Tuesday at Panaad Stadium, after traveling for almost three days from the capital Sana’a, whose international airport has been closed since 2015 due to security reasons.ADVERTISEMENTlast_img read more

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