The following remarks were delivered to elected officials, policymakers, and members of the Suffolk County Executive-elect’s transition team on November 29th, 2023. Interested in supporting The Foggiest Idea’s award-winning reporting and analysis? Click here.
To County Executive-Elect Ed Romaine and the Suffolk County Transition Team –
My name is Richard Murdocco, and I am writing to submit my feedback to help craft a new and better Suffolk County government as part of the ongoing administrative transition process.
While Suffolk County faces many challenges that County Executive-elect Romaine must tackle, the focus of this correspondence is specifically on the Department of Economic Development and Planning, with the goal of correcting some of the ill-advised changes to both this individual area’s structure and purview that were made during the last administration.
In practice, the art and science of planning should be wholly separate from the drive to promote economic development. While nurturing economic prosperity is an important component of any planning department’s purview, it is not the sole driver and focus of the department’s activities.
Planners, by trade and best practice, highlight and craft policy to preserve the needed balance between the social, environmental, and economic needs of residents and the region where they live.
In Suffolk County, this planning balance has taken the form of innovative measures to protect farmland and the agriculture industry in the 1970s, land use controls and allowances to balance out explosive growth in the county’s vulnerable eastern sections throughout the 1980s, and pushes for targeted transit-oriented investments in housing and sewer infrastructure in the 1990s. Today, the county is grappling with the repurposing of antiquated retail and office centers, protecting water quality, and diversifying housing inventory.
With the decision to blend both planning and economic development into a singular managerial entity, the County’s strong legacy of planning policy and innovative land use methodologies were blunted in effectiveness, and the credibility of the department’s planning efforts was eroded thanks to this supposed singular economic focus.
Further, the past administration chose to deeply politicize county planning work thanks to increased instances of political appointees being employed within the department – further removing the county from the ground-up approach to community-based planning that Suffolk residents were both accustomed to and rightfully deserve.
In local government, civil servants and a strong consistent bureaucracy ensure that an area of targeted expertise is being promoted in the public’s best interest, and that institutional memory concerning policy precedents and approach is preserved from administration to administration.
In the coming months, the transition to County Executive-elect Romaine’s administration presents the opportunity to leverage his vast experience working within Suffolk County government to steer the Department of Economic Development and Planning onto a corrected course that promotes policy actions that are environmentally and financially beneficial to all county residents while maintaining quality-of-life in communities across the region.
I look forward to tracking the good work done by the incoming administration and welcome the opportunity to offer further input as needed.
The Foggiest Idea Inc.