Government-owned Utility Fails on Long Island

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, once considered a rising star Democrat, is facing a storm of criticism over the dismal performance of the state-owned electrical utility, Long Island Power Authority, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Even today, over ten thousand Long Islanders remain without power.

The danger signs were obvious well before Sandy hit. The New York Post wrote:

A state-authorized independent analysis undertaken after Hurricane Irene last year found LIPA to be an outdated, barely competent organization.

The agency had ignored a 2006 recommendation that it update its management system, which runs on an obsolete 25-year-old computer language.

During Sandy, LIPA used memo pads and dial-up Internet access - rather than smartphones and tablet computers - to track power outages.

For years, the agency has neglected such critical tasks as maintaining rotting poles and trimming trees around power lines.

In the wake of Irene, what did Cuomo do? Bill Hammond of the New York Daily News writes:

At this point in his governorship, Cuomo could have appointed seven members of LIPA's 15-member board, including its chairman. So far, he has filled only one seat.

He could have demanded a management shakeup. Instead, the authority has been operating under an interim CEO since before Cuomo took office.

Cuomo could have pushed through an overhaul of what his aides call a "bloated" patronage dump that serves no useful purpose. He hasn't even submitted a bill.

LIPA was created when Cuomo's father, Governor Mario Cuomo, took over the former Long Island Lighting Company and scrapped its Shoreham nuclear power station. It contracts out actual operations to a private company, National Grid, but sets policy - including such matters as updating computer systems, maintaining the wires and utility poles, and staffing for emergencies.

Cuomo has appointed a commission to investigate the fiasco. The New York Post writes:

Will Gov. Andrew Cuomo be the first witness to testify under oath in front of his newly appointed Moreland Commission?

And if so, will he be asked: "Governor, why didn't you live up to your responsibility to fill long-vacant board seats on the Long Island Power Authority immediately after Hurricane Irene demonstrated its incompetence?"

As if. But it sure would be interesting to hear Cuomo thread his way through an answer under pain of perjury.

Sandy is the Democrats'' Katrina, but the national media are cooperating in not pointing fingers at the Democrat politicians who bear responsibility for the miserable performance of FEMA and LIPA. But angry New Yorkers are a force of nature unto themselves, so perhaps the usual cover ops will not be as effective as usual. At least one can hope. At a minimum, Cuomo's once-rising star is tarnished.

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