The following was written for Long Island Business News’ Young Island.
There is an unofficial motto that hangs over Nassau and Suffolk Counties… You see it many editorial and opinion columns, non-profit whitepapers and reports, and other fun policy reads. I myself have used it before, because to be quite honest, it almost always rings true. Often, government suggests a policy solution to a longstanding problem that many feel…Isn’t good enough.
The sad thing is, most times the solutions presented by government aren’t good enough. They are often weak and have no political teeth to get the job done. They do not represent the ideal solution, and to many that makes them unacceptable.
For example, look at the restructuring of the Long Island Power Authority. LIPA’s political patronage was corrosive to a decent effort at correcting many of LILCO’s wrongs. Now, thanks to a broken tax assessment system and a myriad of other issues, high rates and debt hang around the necks of Long Islanders like an albatross. Governor Cuomo is looking to fix the LIPA mess, but many feel that his policy solution…isn’t good enough.
Shifting gears, let’s look at the MTA’s plan to expand the capacity of the LIRR via the use of package tracks at high volume stations in anticipation of the eventual completion of East Side Access. A laudable goal for sure, but residents and transit advocates feel that the MTA’s solution…isn’t good enough.
One more example- the NYS State DOT is improving the Route 347 corridor in Nesconset, Smithtown and eventually to Route 112. What once was projected to be a limited access highway over the decades has become a “boulevard” with slower traffic and a more pedestrian feel. In 2010 I wrote that the project didn’t live up to the potential. To me, NYS DOT’s solution…wasn’t good enough.
In 2013, I changed my mind. The 347 project is good enough. In fact, we’re lucky to even have a Route 347 project considering the hurdles and constraints of over-development along the corridor. In the LIPA example, we do deserve a better LIPA plan, because after the third effort at reform should be final. Sometimes …isn’t good enough truly “isn’t good enough”, and it’s important to make the distinction between legitimately weak policy solutions and smaller ones. If everything isn’t good enough, then it’s all just noise in the end. With the MTA example, the ideal policy solution, expansion of the transit network, is being blasted by NIMBY, and too expensive for the transit agency. Given their situation, pocket tracks may just be the way to go. Is it the ideal solution? No- but it’s far better than doing nothing at this point.
At Stony Brook, we were taught that real policymaking is incremental. The only way to accomplish anything is to get your foot in the door, and work your way from there. Many of the policy solutions to Long Island’s many woes are to get our foot in the door, allowing for future expansion.
These examples are plans that aren’t the best case scenario…but many times the best plans aren’t always the most workable. It’s fine balancing act to move towards the ideal solution while keeping it realistic. In policymaking, implementation is the most important step. I can write out a textbook step-by-step guide to protecting the aquifers, but it will mean squat if it sits on a shelf. This is where policymaking becomes less of a science and more of an art. You see, many who tout the ideal scenario don’t factor in realistic implementation. This is why we need some plans that aren’t good enough, because there is room to grow. They serve as a launching point.
Should we accept subpar solutions? Of course not. What we should accept is the fact that some solutions, while they seem to be limited in scope, can be small pieces to a larger puzzle. What it all comes down to is this: If every solution isn’t good enough…we will never get anything done. Long Island has too many serious problems for inaction.
Richard Murdocco is a digital marketing analyst for Teachers Federal Credit Union, although the views expressed in this post are Murdocco’s alone and not shared by TFCU. Follow him on Twitter @TheFoggiestIdea, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.