All sides have started to wonder where the Town and the Lighthouse stand on the issue, and many media outlets are giving voice to citizens on both sides of this debate. However, I believe some people are losing perspective, and I think it's a good time to bring that perspective back.
The Court of Public Opinion
I was deeply disappointed while watching Long Island Talks on News 12 a ew weeks ago, where the major topic of conversation was the Lighthouse Project. A pro-Lighthouse speaker was repeatedly challenged by the host, who did not seem to grasp some facts related to the project, while a citizen who stood against the project spoke against everything from the height of the buildings to....the 5-acre park (currently called Celebration Plaza) currently included in the plans. Let's forget for a second any discussion of how far we've fallen when a park is now a target of NIMBYism and stick with the main point here. At the end of the show, there were people, including myself, still waiting on the call-in queue, so the host decided to read out those people's names and their position on the project. Once that was over, the host closed with this gem:
"As you can tell, just like everywhere else when talking about this project, it's split about 50-50."
I nearly split my evening cup of tea across the room in utter disbelief of what I'd just heard. The callers were evenly split for that particular show, but the host failed to mention a key point:
The previous week, in advance of the re-zoning hearing, News 12 (aka, the network at which this host works) conducted an online poll on the Lighthouse. 71% of respondents were in favor.
Tracking the Support
I realize that the News 12 poll is not scientific, so let's get that out of the way before we continue our discussion. Instead, let's look at what we know from all the hearings:
- Environmental Scoping Hearings (May-June 2008) - 90-95% Support
- Environmental Scope Adoption Hearing (February 24, 2009) - 90% Support
- Public Hearing (August 4, 2009) - 80% Support
- Public Comments (Closed August 17, 2009) - 60% In Favor
- Re-Zoning Hearing (September 22, 2009) - As High as 80% in favor, never lower than 60%
Don't get me wrong; this doesn't mean that the project should be rammed through without any mind toward environmental issues or anything else, but this should not be discounted, either. The majority of residents clearly want a deal done, and I think all sides would be better served by trying to answer the bell rather than returning to the tit-for-tat discussions that have taken place as recently as last week.
Nassau County. The main issue is that the Lighthouse Project is the most widely-supported project in Long Island history, and ultimate political power (in theory) rests with the people. We need to be the ones who stand up and assert ourselves into this debate, and we must also share our views at the voting booth next month.
Question to Ponder
I'm hoping to do a little group brainstorming here, so I hope everyone who comments will (in addition to sharing whatever is on your mind) think about this question:
How can we, the people, best ensure that we are always at the center of the debate?
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