Guest Column: What are these councilpeople thinking?

06/01/2012 5:00 PM |

Some ideas are just bad. New Coke, the Edsel, Anthony Weiner’s text messages, Elaine Benes’ suggestion that New Yorkers wear name tags, all leap to mind. Last week, in Riverhead, we were treated to another bit of bad reasoning that ranks right up there with the Betamax in the annals of ditsy deduction, as Jodi Giglio and James Wooten try their level best to kill a job-creating, clean environment, tax base-enhancing proposal that is also good for our farmers.

Both council members are burning the midnight oil in their attempt to block the creation of a produce supply depot in Riverhead and you sort of have to ask, “What are they thinking?”

John King of J. Kings Food Service Professionals Inc., the food purveyor, wants to open a distribution center on Sound Avenue in the old Blackman plumbing building. J. Kings will purchase the property and fully utilize that deteriorating eyesore on Sound. J. Kings will spruce up the building and in doing so create about 30 new jobs for area residents; good paying jobs in the agricultural business — and, last I heard, Ag was kind of big here in Riverhead.

The new warehouse would be a place where Riverhead farmers could more efficiently bring their goods to market. The depot would be a site that would bring healthy, locally grown produce to area residents. The depot would increase local business activity, which in turn, would bring in tax revenue and, no doubt, new businesses would spring up to feed off this supply hub.

Sounds like the proverbial win, win, win, right? Yet, Jodi and Jim are still against this private sector, job-creating infusion of life. Why?

Near as I can tell, Jodi’s main argument is the site could increase truck traffic on Sound Avenue. Apparently, Jodi was out sick the day of the class trip. When I was a kid we all hopped onto rickety buses and rode out to tour the Treat potato chip factory. Treat used to operate at the same property as Blackman. I was just a kid, but I do recall there was much coming and going all day long at that plant. This was also in the days before FedEx, so I am guessing those chips came to market by truck and weren’t mailed to stores. Therefore, there probably were many trucks on Sound Avenue oh those many years ago. In fact, I distinctly remember seeing trucks on Sound just the other day.

Councilman Wooten muttered last week that he is against this dynamic project because “he was not informed about it before it went public.” That seems a bit self-indulgent. You want to kill a good idea because no one checked with you first? God didn’t call me last week to tell me it was going to rain but the rain did seem to help the crops. So I’m for the rain. This isn’t about personal pique, Jim, it’s about generating revenue and tax base. Perhaps that’s why leaders like Joe Gergela and Frank Beyrodt so vocally support this job-creating proposal.

Politicians amaze me; at election time they love to pose in front of flags and talk a good game about being “pro business” and “job creators.” Believe me, I know. I’ve written enough of those campaign pieces over the years; but roaring rhetoric is one thing, real results another. A few times a year, your council members are called upon to cast key votes and that’s how you measure results. Politics is one thing, governing another. Sometimes politicians count on you forgetting that.

Come fall of 2013, when the air turns crisp and the politicians once again show up in front of your favorite supermarket, think back to this first week of a humid June 2012 and remember that farmers and taxpayers want to see jobs and opportunity, an increasing marketplace and the ability to rapidly get goods to consumers.

Farmers already know about fertilizer.

Anthony Coates is a downtown resident and adviser to Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter. He is also a member of the downtown Riverhead Business Improvement District.

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