By Raymond Janis
At the Shea Theatre, Ammerman Campus of Suffolk County Community College, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) delivered his state of the county address on May 18.
The county executive began his speech with a moment of silence to honor the lives lost in the Buffalo gun tragedy.
“We continue to mourn those who have been lost, for the community of Buffalo and, most importantly, for the families who have been directly affected by this incomprehensible act of hatred,” he said. “We must speak out against hateful rhetoric that is contrary to the American creed and stand up for what we believe. This requires that we continue to celebrate our diversity here and recognize it for what it is: a strength.
The county executive recognized the many challenges of leading the administration through the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. “In March 2020, life as we knew it came to a standstill,” he said. “The world came to a standstill and Suffolk County was at the epicenter of the global COVID-19 pandemic in our state and in our nation.”
Bellone reported the county lost more than 4,400 residents to the virus. As normality slowly returns, he said the pandemic has taught valuable lessons.
“One of the clearest takeaways for me is the importance of public service,” he said. “During this county’s darkest hour, our employees did it all. While much of the rest of the world was in lockdown, county workers ensured critical operations did not come to a halt. He added: ‘It is fitting that this year’s county state is here at the Ammerman campus of Suffolk County Community College, as this was the location of one of our first mass vaccination sites.
One of the points Bellone emphasized during his speech was the need for more human resources in county government. Despite its size, Bellone said the county government still operates without a fully functioning human resources department.
“Human resources, to the extent that they have existed in this government, have been done on a case-by-case basis,” the county executive said. “Commissioners or department heads who are not human resources professionals perform these functions when a problem arises or a crisis arises.
Bellone considers this no way to run an organization, especially one as large and influential in the lives of residents as the Suffolk County government. He compared human resources to military supply units.
“Operational departments without effective human resources is like the army trying to operate without its supply units,” he said, adding, “You can have the best fighting force in the world, but if these support units are ineffective, the mission will be undermined.”
With the addition of the latest HR software and new organizational practices, he suggested the county can save $18 million annually on payroll operating costs alone.
Invest in the future
The county executive called the Long Island Rail Road a critical asset. “Nearly two centuries after its tracks were laid, this initial investment continues to reap extraordinary returns for the region,” he said.
Bellone said the county is taking two big steps forward with the East Side Access and Third Track projects.
The county executive announced a new project called Midway Crossing, which proposes to create two new public facilities that have long been under consideration: the Long Island Convention Center and a north terminal at MacArthur Airport.
“It’s crazy that a region of our size and importance, of almost 3 million people, with incredible innovation and natural assets, adjacent to the largest and most important city in the country, n doesn’t have a convention center,” he said. “A convention center would bring thousands of people and businesses to our region each year from other parts of the country, most importantly bringing new dollars to our local economy.
In a grand plan, Bellona envisions this convention center connecting to both a new, state-of-the-art North Airport Terminal at MacArthur Airport and the LIRR Mainline.
“Convention center attendees could easily and easily get in and out of MacArthur Airport, and if a flight wasn’t available, they would still have the option of taking the train from JFK or LaGuardia,” he said. declared. “Every major area should have a major regional airport and no one can deny that Long Island is one of the great areas in the country.”
Bellona also foresees further opportunities to integrate the regional economy along the Ronkonkoma branch of the LIRR. It proposes to relocate the “entirely underutilized” Yaphank Station to create the Brookhaven National Laboratory Station, “effectively connecting this global institution to MacArthur Airport and the region’s broader innovation ecosystem through transportation.” in common”.
The county executive highlighted some of the environmental initiatives his administration is working on. He indicated that this region is currently at the forefront in the fight against climate change.
“As an island, we know we are on the front lines of climate change,” Bellone said. “By taking action, we are not only helping to protect our region in the future, but we are also creating short-term economic opportunities.
He also spoke about the need for more charging stations as drivers across the county continue to switch to electric vehicles. He announced that two dozen public libraries in each of the county’s 10 cities have partnered with the administration to develop a load-sharing network.
Suffolk County has also become one of the centers for the offshore wind industry in the region, according to Bellone. “This is an industry that will have an economic impact of more than $12 billion on New York City,” he said. “Suffolk County is well positioned to benefit from new supply chains and the creation of approximately 7,000 new jobs.”
The county has also reached out to businesses and worked with local colleges to establish workforce training programs that will prepare residents for these new jobs.
Exacerbated by the pandemic, ending the opioid epidemic remains at the top of Bellone’s priority list. He said opioids had taken their toll on the county, causing horrific harm to users and their families.
“After years of steady progress, the pandemic has created unprecedented circumstances of fear, isolation and anxiety that have led to an increase in overdoses – 374 confirmed [fatal] cases last year alone,” he said.
“If we want to be part of the solution, we have to do what the greatest generation did: put our heads down and build. Let’s build our families first, then do our part to build stronger communities. —Steve Bellon
The The greatest generation
Bellone ended his speech on a positive note. As war raged once again in Europe, the county executive reminded the public of the example of the greatest generation.
“The attack on Ukraine is the kind of naked aggression against a sovereign nation in Europe that we haven’t witnessed since the end of World War II,” he said. “The images and videos we see coming out of Ukraine are absolutely devastating and heartbreaking.” He added: “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that after more than 75 years of peace in Europe, forged by the sacrifices of American veterans, we see this kind of aggression happening just like this larger generation slowly, but inevitably fades into history.
Bellone said it’s important to honor the legacy of the greatest generation because those Americans laid the foundation for a future of peace. “They won the war, then they went home and built a better future for all of us,” he said. “If we want to be part of the solution, we have to do what the greatest generation did: put our heads down and build. Let’s build our families first, then do our part to build stronger communities.