There’s nothing new about Cuomo’s ‘new’ LIPA – By George J. Marlin

Posted August 27, 2015 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed

The following appears in the August 21-27, 2015 issue of the Long Island Business News:

In March 2013, I wrote a feature essay for LIBN titled “L.I. Power: The Political Hot Potato” describing decades of awful policy decisions made by cowardly state officials concerning the generation distribution and maintenance of our electrical power.

Claims by two governors, Mario Cuomo and George Pataki, that state control—AKA LIPA—would lead to better accountability and transparency proved to be false. LIPA became a dumping ground for the relatives of the politically connected seeking high paying jobs and, by 2013, LIPA customers were paying $460 more for electrical power each year than they did 10 years earlier.

The effects of years of neglect that became evident in the aftermaths of Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy forced Gov. Andrew Cuomo to find scapegoats and to make major changes.

True to form, the governor appointed a Moreland Commission to confirm his pre-determined position. In a hastily prepared 16-page preliminary report released in January 2013, the Commission concluded that LIPA was dysfunctional and the best option was to convert to an investor-owned utility. In other words, he wanted it structured like the old Long Island Lighting Company that gave us the disastrous Shoreham nuclear plant.

This proposal may have been the governor’s way of tossing the “hot potato” to a third party, but financially it made no sense. A private entity would have to issue taxable debt which would cost ratepayers more in interest payments and it would not be eligible for FEMA reimbursements enjoyed by the state agency.

Discarding the privatization plan Cuomo signed into law LIPA legislation in June 2013 that he insisted would dramatically revamped the electric utility. The new entity would “focus on improving customer service including stabilizing rates and enhancing emerging response and preparation, reduce the cost of LIPA debt, and implement tough state oversight for the new utility company.” The governor also boasted that his reform would “achieve savings to allow the new utility to seek a rate freeze for 2013, 2014 and 2015.”

However, a report issued in July by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Long Island Power Authority by the Numbers,” disputes Cuomo’s 2013 claims.

The DiNapoli study concluded that, “so far the long-overdue improvements promised to LIPA ratepayers have yet to be achieved…. Ratepayers are not benefitting from regulatory oversight, access to information and control mechanisms [and] LIPA ratepayers face higher bills, bear a debt burden that is projected to increase, and, in some ways, have less transparency and accountability regarding their electric service provider than before.”

The governor’s pledge to freeze rates for three years was a rouse to get through the 2014 election cycle. Days after he signed the LIPA legislation the agency announced a 4 percent hike in monthly customer bills. When asked about it, a Cuomo spokesman gave an Orwellian newspeak answer.

The promised freeze was redefined as a goal and “LIPA rates constitute the electricity delivery charge only, and do not include the power supply charge.”

That distinction was not made at the bill signing party. And readers should know that there were up to that time only two “rate” increases since LIPA took over in 1997. The countless other increases were all fuel related.

As for LIPA’s bonded debt: the 2013 legislation authorizing the one-time restructuring of $2 billion of LIPA’s $7.5 billion of debt via the newly created Utility Debt Securitization Authority was expanded this year to grow to $4.5 billion. And this new debt is to be paid off by the monthly service charge on residential ratepayers’ bills that was originally fixed at $10 and is now to be increased to $20.

The governor’s pronouncement that the 2013 legislation that authorized “LIPA to refinance a significant portion of its debt in a manner that would provide much needed relief to taxpayers in the service area” was delusional. The proof: PSEG and LIPA have proposed annual rate increases—not fuel-related increases—between 3-3.4 percent over the next three years.

NIFA must stop Nassau’s fiscal meltdown – By George J. Marlin

Posted August 21, 2015 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed

This Op-ed piece I wrote appears in Newsday on August 21, 2015.

Catholic Presidential Candidates and the Death Penalty – By George J. Marlin

Posted August 16, 2015 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed, Newsmax

The following appeared on Newsmax.com:

During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in June, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a practicing Catholic, was grilled on the death penalty.

Moderator Chuck Todd began by pointing out that the state of Nebraska “decided to stop the death penalty altogether” and that a Kasich predecessor, former Gov. Robert Taft, raised the “question whether the death penalty in Ohio is a dead walking man.”

Todd then asked, “Do you agree with [Taft’s] assessment that the death penalty is done in Ohio?”

Kasich replied: “No I don’t agree. In this debate sometimes we forget the victim. I’ve had these grieving families come to see me Chuck, people who have had their mothers who have been gunned down. It’s about justice, it isn’t about revenge. And I support the death penalty.”

Todd followed up with this question: “And I know you’re a deeply religious man; your Catholic faith. Do you struggle with where you are on this and where the church is?”

Kasich replied: “No I don’t, Chuck, because — look, I just said it as clearly as I can. I think it is about justice. I think it’s consistent with my faith.”

Kasich is correct.

Pope Francis as well as St. Pope John Paul II appealed for compassion and clemency towards condemned murderers, and American Catholic bishops have stated that the death penalty should not be imposed in the United States.

Nevertheless, no Pope has ever used his office to condemn capital punishment per se, and the bishops, whether taken singularly or collectively, have no authority under civil or canon law to urge the imposition of or attempt to block the application of the death penalty.

That authority is vested solely in the civil power, and is consigned to the state by virtue of the natural law.

Representatives of the Catholic Church are free at all times to express their personal opinions that other forms of punishment are sufficient to ensure proper order or to defend the innocent, both of which are crucial to the well being of the community at large.

But the determination that the imposition of the death penalty is necessary belongs exclusively to the state. The church recognizes this power and understands that its source is divine.

What the church does not confer, the church cannot take away. Even the American bishops’ statement opposing the use of the death penalty clearly admits that “the state has the right to take the life of a person guilty of a serious crime.”

The late John Cardinal O’Connor of New York, who was personally opposed to the death penalty, stated from the pulpit in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1994, that “formal official church teaching does not deny the right of the state to exercise the death penalty under certain, narrowly defined conditions. It is a matter of judgment.”

Here is what The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Preserving the common good of society requires rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm. For this reason the traditional teaching of the church has acknowledged as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty.”

In reaffirming its traditional teaching on capital punishment, the church in no way requires the state to exercise the death penalty, which is simply a prudential option.

The Catechism urges mercy, but again recognizes that leniency is granted at the discretion of the state.

The church also dismisses the “seamless garment” proposition which argues that if one is opposed to abortion, one must be against the taking of any life for any reason. This argument has been widely used by those who wish to blur the obvious distinction between abortion and capital punishment in order to strengthen opposition to the latter.

Abortion, according to the church, is wrong because it destroys innocent human life.

Capital punishment is permissible because the first duty of the state is to maintain order for the common good. To meet this end, it is permissible for the state to kill those who are found guilty of grievous offenses in times of peace and war.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, then-Cardinal Ratzinger in the instruction “Worthiness to receive Holy Communion — General Principles,” also pulled the rug out from under the proponents of the “seamless garment” argument by making it perfectly clear that not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia.

“There may be,” he declared, “a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not, however, with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

When it comes to abortion, death penalty, or the war in Iraq, only abortion is intrinsically wrong because it destroys innocent human life. On the death penalty and the war, Ratzinger confirmed that the church does not have a univocal view.

Catholic presidential candidates who support the death penalty should not get defensive when it is pointed out that the Pope or their local bishop oppose capital punishment.

They should calmly point out that their first duty as public officials is to maintain order for the common good and that the death penalty remains an essential part of the state’s criminal code to preserve the common good and the dignity of its citizenry.

Democrats Shamelessly Denounce Jefferson, Jackson – By George J. Marlin

Posted August 12, 2015 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed

This article I wrote appeared on the Newsmax.com web site on August 12, 2015.

After Obergefell: What Is to Be Done? – By George J. Marlin

Posted August 8, 2015 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: The Catholic Thing

This article I wrote appeared on The Catholic Thing web site on August 8, 2015.

Nassau’s contracting process breeds corruption – By George J. Marlin

Posted July 28, 2015 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed, Long Island Business News

The following appears in the July 24-30, 2015 issue of the Long Island Business News:

Nassau County’s finances are a disaster. Budget deficits are projected to hit $210 million in 2015, $259 million in 2016, $295 million in 2017 and, in 2018, $325 million.

The revelation this month that total sales tax revenues at the end of June were below budget expectations only exasperates the crisis.

Nassau’s mess is the direct result of years of mismanagement, cowardice and cronyism — particularly when it comes to vendor contracts. Hence, I was not surprised that Nassau’s contracting process was described in a report released by County District Attorney Madeline Singas as a “recipe for corruption” because it is not insulated “from improper influence, manipulation, collusion and fraud.”

The report points out that Nassau has a porous contracting process “due to years of neglect, ineffective surface level reforms and a regrettable failure to learn from past failings.”

County Executive Edward Mangano has not only failed to reform the contract process, he scaled back two key oversight positions created by his predecessor, Tom Suozzi. The post for deputy county executive for compliance was eliminated and the office of the commissioner of investigations for budget was slashed.

These so-called cost-saving measures, the D.A. observed, open the doors to corruption because the “antiquated, slow, and inefficient contract approval process … is heavy on bureaucratic file passing, and light on substantive scrutiny and fact checking.”

Unlike New York City’s process, critical information needed to determine if a vendor is credible or viable is not required when applying to Nassau County for a contract. Vendors do not have to reveal if they have criminal convictions, pending criminal actions, debarment history, tax liens, pending litigation, judgments, bankruptcies, or if they are related to public officers or have made political contributions.

The D.A. focused on unsolicited proposals like the Ab-Tech deal that is at the root of the indictments of Dean and Adam Skelos. Such a scandal, the D.A. concluded, “illustrates a systemic failure of Nassau County’s procurement and contract management process to ward off corruption.”

I do hope that the D.A. is investigating the Veolia bus public-private partnership deal.

When the bus deal came before the Nassau Interim Finance Authority Board in December 2011, as a director I voted reluctantly to approve it because NIFA received the contracts at the last minute and did not wish public bus transportation to come to a halt on January 1, 2012.

However, when I cast my “yes” vote I warned that the County presented too rosy a picture of the contract’s merits and that it would prove to be a disaster for taxpayers and bus riders. Sadly, my prediction came to pass.

The $106 million estimated cost for the private company to run the system in 2012 was off by $14 million. Hence, bus routes had to be eliminated and services cut to save $7 million. The other $7 million came from an unexpected one-shot of federal and state aid that the county turned over to Veolia.

Since then, Nassau has had to allocate more money to Veolia and the county comptroller has reported a significant decline in fixed route service levels and certain critical performance measures that were not maintained.

On this contract and others, the D.A. should follow the political contribution trail and the roles lobbyists/consultants played in the process.

Concluding that Nassau’s “procurement and contracting process remains prone to manipulation, corruption and fraud,” the D.A. made a number of excellent recommendations that mirror the New York City procurement process. If implemented, it would result in a comprehensive overhaul of Nassau’s contracting process.

Taxpayers, however, shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for Nassau’s pols to implement reforms. The special interests have too much to lose and will use their clout and checkbooks to keep the status quo.

Curriculums Favor Groupthink Over Accomplishment – By George J. Marlin

Posted July 28, 2015 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed, Newsmax

This article I wrote appeared on the Newsmax.com web site on July 13, 2015.


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