Dick Amper, the executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, has fired shots back at Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
Last week, Bellone took aim at Amper, who he claimed was pressuring legislators not to entertain Bellone’s proposal to repurpose money to help plug an $800 million gap in the county budget. According to the county executive, Amper and a small group of “professional advocates” instead suggested the county raise taxes, institute “a COVID-19 tax” or begin layoffs, and are even seeking to pull more money from tax stabilization funds.
Bellone called them “callous and tone deaf to an astonishing degree” when homeowners and businesses are suffering during the worst economic down since the Great Depression.
“You want Suffolk residents to pay a new COVID-19 tax and for the County to lay off employees. We do not. County residents are already paying exorbitant taxes. It is you who have threatened to lay off county employees in order to win support for new taxation,” Amper wrote.
Last month, Bellone floated two measures that would utilize existing tax stabilization funds, one that is part of the quarter-percent sales tax program that is divided up between tax stabilization funds, open space preservation, and water quality programs, in order to provide an additional $50 million in budget mitigation. The Suffolk County Legislature would have to approve the measures and put it out to the voters for a vote.
During a COVID-19 briefing on July 10, which was posted on the county executive’s Facebook and YouTube pages, Bellone said some legislators did not want to get it on the November ballot. “It’s one thing for professional advocates like Dick Amper, to sit up in an ivory tower and say, ‘Don’t touch my program. You can just tax people, you can just lay people off.’ It’s another thing for legislators who have a responsibility to actually address this problem to say that.”
Amper denied the allegations. “Suffolk County residents have already voted to protect land and water by 80 percent support since 1987. They have generated more than two billion dollars for clean water and preserved land. The proposed propositions are obviously intended to provide more money for the politicians and are not advancing the environment as the voters intended.”
The funding set aside by the voters for water protection should never be used for any other purposes, Amper said.
“Stop the name-calling and misrepresentations. You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” he concluded, before signing his name and affiliation at the end “Ivory Tower” inserted before it.
A copy of the letter was sent to Suffolk County legislators.