Letter: Voters Deserve Legislators Who Do Their Homework

The notion that Suffolk County Republicans “don’t care” about the environment is of
course absurd. We live, work, and raise our children on Long Island just as much as
Democrats do.

Creating a false sense of urgency, some have suggested that all opportunities to improve our water quality will be lost if we do not act today. Hardly.

Suffolk County’s Subwatershed Wastewater Plan’s goal of restoring and protecting the waters of Suffolk from the impacts of nutrient enrichment-related water quality degradation is a 50-year plan, with grant opportunities beyond 2024.

I am very proud of our pro-environmental record to date, which speaks for itself; the Republican majority and Democratic minority, in a bi-partisan fashion, have approved more than 200 resolutions, resulting in the appropriation of more than $155 million for sewers and other infrastructure projects, clean water initiatives, and open space preservation.

So to be clear, at the June 22 General Meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature, we did
not “vote down” two important pieces of legislation that came before us; one that sought
to increase the County’s sales tax by a quarter of a penny, and one to create a County
Wide Sewer District, both in accordance with the Suffolk County Subwatershed Plan’s
goal of reducing the nitrogen level in our ground- and surface waters.

We simply voted to recess the public hearing, as this will give us a chance to work with
our state partners to address some concerns that we have with the proposed legislation,
one being that it allows for 10% to cover administrative costs and 75% for
Innovative/Alternative Wastewater Systems, or I/A systems.

Let’s do the math. Once 10% of the money raised has been deducted for administrative costs, we are left with 67.5% for I/A systems, not 75%. But more importantly than anything, there is no
specific amount set aside for sewer infrastructure. The way the legislation is written, zero dollars could be used for sewers.

It is our full intention to ultimately allow the voters to decide, via a referendum vote,
whether this legislation should be adapted or not. However, it would be irresponsible to
rush through this important work as it is our responsibility to put forward financially
viable and sensible legislation, and more importantly, fully transparent legislation.
Should we miss the “deadline” for a referendum vote in November, there is always the
option of putting forth the proposal and let the voters decide later in the spring, when
primary elections take place, at no additional cost to the taxpayers.

I do not need to “score political points.” What I need to do is serve the residents of
Suffolk County with integrity, responsibility, and transparency. And yes, once the voters
have all the facts, it will be up to them to decide – of course!

Stephanie Bontempi
Mother of three children/Former teacher
Suffolk County Legislator, 18th District

Letter: Legislature Must Allow Water-Quality Vote


3 Replies to “Letter: Voters Deserve Legislators Who Do Their Homework”

  1. All I know as an open water swimmer for the past 11 years who swims 3-5 days per week is that our beaches are closed a lot due to bacteria and fecal matter. The numbers are outrageous. If Bontempi doesn’t think this is an urgent matter, she doesn’t spend much time in our water, or trying to get in. Then again, as our cities flood and burn, the GOP also don’t think climate measures are urgent either. In fact, they don’t believe in climate change for the most part. Our poor kids. Here and elsewhere.

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