We have a lot to talk about today, so let's get right to it...
That Stupefying Press Release
I wished Kate Murray's press release was just an early April Fool's joke, but sadly there is nothing funny about this. Newsday discusses the fallout from what others have dubbed Petition-Gate, and Chris Botta has the full text of the press release on his site.
As mentioned before, Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray has sent a mailer to all 240,000 households in the Town of Hempstead asking them to sign on to a petition sponsored by her and Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby (D - Hempstead) calling on Tom Suozzi to seek federal stimulus funds for the new Coliseum.
The press release is shockingly insular and riddled with factual inaccuracies. Couldn't they have at least proofread it and remembered the Islanders didn't win the Stanley Cup in 1984? It smacks of political posturing and as far as I'm concerned is an egregious breach of Kate Murray's public responsibility. It's almost like she is trying to kill the Lighthouse while making it look like she is still in favor of putting people to work.
As I have discussed before in many, different, pieces, arenas do not stimulate the economy, they are recipients of taxpayer welfare. The Obama administration is taking smart spending of stimulus funds very seriously, and a feature in the Washington Post discusses the President's desire to carefully monitor stimulus spending. If Mr. Obama is serious about only spending stimulus funds on investments that stimulate the economy, and he will be keeping a close eye on expenditures, there is no way stimulus funds for the Coliseum would be approved. The Supervisor is making an offer that she does not have the authority to make and she cannot back up with results.
(Blogger's Note: There is a piece in the New York Times specifically saying that New York is on the watch list for President Obama and his budget director, Peter Orszag. I can't find it right now, and if anybody has the link - email@example.com).
I don't know why it is so difficult for the Town of Hempstead to understand this, so let's talk about it again. Nassau County voted 16-2 to name the Lighthouse the developer of the Coliseum site in 2006. They are now attempting to finish the last leg of the process by approving the re-zoning application sent to the Town of Hempstead. This has nothing to do with Charles Wang holding our Island hostage.
In addition, any change to the Lighthouse such as a de-coupling of the Coliseum from the overall development would acquire the approval of the County Executive and the County Legislature, so this is not Kate Murray's offer to make. I can talk until I'm blue in the face about what a generous offer I made, but I still can't sign a deal with a contractor to renovate my neighbor's house.
And sadly, yet again, the media does not ask these follow-up questions or point out the severe holes in the Supervisor's logic. We only see a quote from Tom Suozzi calling this whole thing "silly and amateurish."
It is simply not true that the Lighthouse is seeking an end-around on the Environmental Review process. We discussed very clearly in our series on SEQR (Part I and Part II, as well as the state handbook) that there is no set time to complete an environmental review, only a requirement that everything that could be done must be done. This statement is incredibly disingenuous and seems to be an attempt to sow fear and distrust among low-information voters.
I have heard from readers who contacted the Town of Hempstead over this petition. They were told things like "You are asking Kate Murray to break the law by expediting the process" (FALSE - it just has to be done right) (Blogger's Note: and by the way, how is it breaking the law to attend a public meeting on the Lighthouse when the Supervisor will have to vote on it, but it's not breaking the law to suggest a unilateral overhaul of the same project?) and "Wang is holding Long Island hostage because he wants to make more money" (FALSE - making money to begin with might be nice, and if this was Nassau County's idea how is WANG the one holding people hostage?). The Town of Hempstead should be ashamed of itself. This is no way to treat honest citizens who are concerned about the future of Long Island; it's more fitting inside some sort of junta.
Scale it Back?
Some Lighthouse opponents are once again saying the project is too ambitious and must be scaled back. I believe the time is now for bold action and not watered-down compromise, but I am also not naive enough to believe that the Lighthouse will look exactly like the renderings. The whole point of a negotiation is to ask for the most you possibly can, and the elimination of the 60-story building already shows the Lighthouse group's willingness to scale back the project when necessary.
This is why the Lead Agency (TOH) and the Lighthouse are supposed to work through final scoping. If there are issues, or something needs to be changed, the Town needs to communicate these to the Lighthouse rather than sending grandstanding and empty statements to the media.
More troubling to me is the Supervisor's decision to send 240,000 pieces of what amounts to campaign literature using the Town of Hempstead's (read: our) money. This is a serious breach of her public responsibility, and if Ms. Murray declares to run for County Executive this issue should be re-visited (Blogger's Note: The County political parties should hold their conventions in May - will relay more info when I have it in a full post).
More confusing to me is the political calculus here. Other Republicans at different levels of government have been very supportive of the Lighthouse Project, so this is not a simple Democrats vs. Republicans issue. In addition, it's looking less likely that Kate Murray will run for County Executive, although she still might. If this is not a partisan issue, from where is the Supervisor receiving her marching orders? Is she holding out for 2 more goats so they'll have the full cadre of 7 dwarves instead of 5?
If you follow the writings of Seth Godin, you would know that we have now entered The Dip. The Dip is a period of time where, after the excitement of starting things anew, commitment starts to waver and results are not commensurate with the level of effort. This is clearly a Dip for Lighthouse supporters - we have done our best to educate the public and open up a positive dialogue with a Town government that seems to be, in its best toddler impression, putting its hands over its ears and chanting "lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala."
From my perspective, the gloves are off. I have gone out of my way to be fair toward Kate Murray, practically begging her to give me a reason to call off the wild dogs all around us, but no more. I will not be insulted or dismissed by a leader who serves at the whim of the people, and we should not stand for this kind of treatment. We need to be more forceful in our message while still keeping this on the benefits rather than blind demonization or unhelpful comments wishing for unfortunate things to happen to the Supervisor. We need to band together and rally around this, for ourselves and for our Island.
Seth Godin makes another point, however, and it underscores what Kate Murray owes us as voters. We need to know if this is a Dip (a brief down period that continued effort will erase - look at the curve above) or a Cul-de-sac (a dead-end not worth more effort -how fitting that it comes up in the context of suburbia).
The New York Islanders need to become serious about pursuing other options, for no other reason than to make it clear that Kate Murray does not hold all the cards. This is clearly a politician who does not fear retribution, and we must make it clear that it will come if she does not work the will of the people. Also, as silly as this may seem, we can't forget that the proposed West Side Stadium died at the hands of one politician (Sheldon Silver) when all other politicians from Albany to Congress all the way to President Bush wanted to see it get done. We cannot dismiss the potential impact.
It is right that Long Islanders and hockey fans should not be held hostage, but we should not be held hostage by a grandstanding politician who seems to be more interested in scoring political points than working to address the problems we face. It is unprecedented that a politician would thumb her nose at billions of dollars in private investment and instead push for the federal government to come in and hold the reins. This looks like a ploy in which the Supervisor can deny she is against jobs and attempt to blame the subsequent failure of the Lighthouse on anyone but herself.
Supervisor, is this a Dip, or a Cul-de-sac? Are we wasting our time while you play politics with our future? We, as voters, deserve an answer.
Please share your thoughts in comments. Petition. Email Me.