Having read with keen interest the reporting here on the Suffolk PBA’s crude injection into our town’s elections, I hope to shed further light.

Blass_Greg_head_badgeThe collective bargaining agreement recently “negotiated” between Suffolk County and the Suffolk police unions starts out with mild increases, but will balloon into a costly behemoth for the existing county police district taxpayers. To illustrate, a detective’s average, annual pay will exceed $225,000.

County pols who made this contract possible now sweat, and are pleading with the Suffolk PBA mucky-mucks to avoid the shock soon to be laid at the doorsteps of the county executive and county legislators.

Taking the Long Island political lay of the land into account, the Suffolk County PBA is a long-time major player. They have solidly locked into the election campaigns of most L.I. pols on the local, county, state and even federal levels, though their cunning jump into races in towns outside the SC police district, as here in Riverhead, is a new game for them.

They once came close to a takeover of the county’s Conservative party (many contend they succeeded), and have worked especially closely with other law enforcement unions in the campaigns for district attorney, county executive, county legislators and most judges.

It has become so interconnected that when their contracts come up for legislative approval, rare is the vote that is not unanimous. They even make clear whom a county executive will appoint to be police commissioner, and their recommendation always, always and always gets appointed, and also approved unanimously (needless to say) by the legislature. And most hearings on police issues in legislative committees are, shall we say, a thing to see.

In brief, the Suffolk PBA is very good at what they do, with a membership that benefits immeasurably. The police deserve strong union representation, though sometimes, as now, the pendulum may swing too far.

So a reenergized momentum underlies the PBA’s effort to expand the county police district, with a greedy gaze on naive Riverhead. I say naive because we seem to let it happen right in front of us. As we sleep, they spoon-feed us on whom to elect for town supervisor — they flood us with ads, they call our homes, they rove about town in the form of colossal, mobile posters blocking out the sun, spending money well beyond any local candidate’s campaign treasury. It’s all about “Today Riverhead, tomorrow the East End.”

Yes, it will require a referendum down the road. But now is their time to lay the groundwork. And if they get their way, the new district taxes will envelope us property owners like poison gas.


horizontal-rule red 500pxGreg Blass has spent his life in public service since he enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a teenager. He has worked in the private sector as an attorney and served six terms representing the the East End in the Suffolk County Legislature, where he was also presiding officer. Greg has worked as an adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College, as Greenport village attorney, as N.Y. State family court judge and as Suffolk County social services commissioner. Now retired, Greg is active in volunteer work and is a member of the board of directors of several charities. A resident of Jamesport, he and his wife Barbara have two grown children.

Send Greg an email.

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