Dave knocked it out of the park with a fantastic review of the lease between Nassau County and Charles Wang's Arenaco LLC, but right now we have a few other things to get to.
First - What We Can Do
The areener referendum is vastly different from the Lighthouse process because the special election affords us knowledge of exactly what we can do and how to do it.
Letters to the Editor are a great way to get our opinions out into a more general audience (everyone remembers my very famous letter to the editor from 2 years ago....), and the Islanders have taken the liberty of putting together an easy primer to help you get your letter to the right person. As always, feel free to shoot an email if you'd like a proofread of your letter.
In addition, I've talked to a few people, and I want to get your opinion on this. Would you be willing to phone bank and make calls to people in Nassau who've purchased tickets at Nassau Coliseum to drive up yes votes? I mentioned it to some people but want to gauge interest.
Don't Fear the Areener
This coming Wednesday, July 27, at 4 PM, there is a big outdoor rally at Nassau Coliseum to support the areener. Blue Oyster Cult will be playing a free concert, though it's unclear who will be playing cowbell (I'd like to volunteer).
In fact, I had a Twitter discussion on Friday...we should bring a sea of cowbells to support the referendum. Cowbell up!
A Tale of Two Headlines
On Thursday, County Comptroller George Maragos released his report (separate from the OLBR report, which had another interesting tidbit in there that I'll get to later) on the areener situation.
Maragos' report is overall positive, and he makes common-sense requests that, if done, would make it "a good deal" in his estimation.
First, Maragos wants Charles Wang to be responsible for any cost overruns, as he fears the areener will cost more than the allotted $350 million (as Dave pointed out, this is already written into the lease, and people I've spoken to who are close to Charles Wang see no issue with doing this).
Second, George Maragos expressed concerns that "Arenaco LLC," which Charles Wang recently incorporated to manage the new areener, is a shell corporation with no assets of its own. Maragos believes it is important for Wang and the Islanders to guarantee the payments for which Arenaco is responsible, in order to provide the highest level of protection for taxpayers.
Third, Maragos noted that the current lease deal gives Charles Wang development rights on the property and suggests an RFP (again).
In addition, Maragos mentioned the Camoin report and the OLBR report, both of which were highly positive on the areener, saying the numbers were optimistic but not unrealistic at all. That's an important step as it once again validates the studies we've seen. In fact, the OLBR report, which suggested that the areener could cost taxpayers $13.80 a year, also suggested the maximum exposure (if there is no lockbox and revenues are not used to offset new taxes) is $51.50, not the originally-calculated $58.
It's important to realize 2 major things about the Maragos report: He is not asking for anything unreasonable, and many of the changes he suggests are actively being negotiated. For the first time since the Democrats launched their anti-areener campaign (and don't kid yourselves - Jay Jacobs penned the "Vote No" op-ed in the Herald this week), I see a path to this being built (assuming passage).
2 more very fascinating numbers came out of the Camoin Associates report that was prepared for Nassau County. The report was more optimistic than the OLBR report, stating that if the revenue projections, which Maragos has called "optimistic but not unreasonable," pan out, residents could see a tax SAVINGS of $26.81 per household per year.
In addition, we finally have a quantification on the cost of doing nothing: $16 per household per year.
It's important to note that this report only looks at tax revenue, and not the overall impact on jobs and the economy (which was already pegged at 2,660 jobs lost and $243 million lost from the economy every year). Residents are faced with a truly stark decision:
$13.80 (assuming a lockbox), or tax savings....for something.
$16 for nothing.
Let's get the word out and make sure Long Island makes the right choice.
Fun With Headlines
Now, here's where the fun starts. Newsday originally posted an article about the Maragos report with this headline:
Both Dave and I had been ratcheting up criticism on Twitter, and we were heartened to see the $13.80 was finally covered. This seemed like an even better step forward in terms of framing of the issue.
Then, later in the night, the headline was changed:
And to make matters more interesting, the article itself was re-written to sound more negative, including quotes from Desmond Ryan (who finally exposed himself as wanting the development rights for his cronies, which I've been saying all along was the source of his vicious opposition to this project that he didn't have the guts to declare to Chris Botta back in May).
I and many others were naturally outraged, and we started hammering with more criticism of the framing of this issue. That's where this gets interesting...
They changed it back.
Either way, we have had a good few days for the areener, including major endorsements from unions. I don't blame the County workers' union for endorsing but not explicitly instructing members to vote yes because the County recently cut jobs and he's in a tough position between management and the rank and file workers. I'm fine to give that a pass.
Let this be a lesson: pressure does work if it's coordinated and based on fact.
Expect a formal endorsement of a voting position on Sunday morning, and an announcement of my plans for Election Day on Monday. I'm also planning a look at 3 huge logical fallacies underpinning reports that the Islanders leaving and Nassau Coliseum shutting its doors will not have that bad an effect on the economy. Dave will continue his amazing series of deep dives into the documents and reports, and we hope to have some great information for you.
The vote is 9 days away.
Last stand at the OK Corral.
As Chris Botta reported, the "concerned citizens" of the Association for a Better Long Island are sharpening their knives, ready to release a media barrage blasting this plan to high heaven (Ironically - go look at their web site....there's still a Lighthouse Project rendering in the flash montage at the beginning of the site). Polls are due to come out over the next several days (also according to Botta), and despite my previous insistence that polls are untrustworthy, they will show the vote to be close. I wouldn't at all be surprised if one poll said the No votes were in the lead. We've seen vandalism of Vote Yes signs (reader Scott says signs he put up in Levittown were vandalized, and I had a Vote Yes sign stolen off my lawn), so please do not kid yourselves. The opposition exists.
However, there's a bigger truth, like my friends at The Community Alliance love to say: The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day.
As I've said before, let's leave it all on the ice and let everyone know that we will fight to the end. We can't take this or anything for granted in terms of the vote.