Hey everyone, a few things to go over, and the post frequency is going way up through the referendum date (as you'll see).
EDIT 7/20/11 1:30 PM: Apparently we misunderstood yesterday. The Office of Legislative and Budget Review released its report, but it's different from the Maragos report, which will supposedly come out tomorrow. Correction made.
Retraction and Sincere Apology
After re-reading the referendum language, I need to retract the part about the lockbox, because it is apparently not created under the referendum. I apologize deeply for this misunderstanding, and in the meantime I want to re-iterate my call that there should be a lockbox. Assuming the referendum passes, there will probably need to be some changes in the agreement to get it through, and I hope this is one of those changes.
Somewhere, Al Gore is crying..and continuing his fruitless quest for Manbearpig. I'm super, duper serial.
(Blogger's Note: If you didn't get that, I promise I'm just referencing something. I haven't gone insane....at least not in that way)
Dave, known as DP'sknee(andhipandflubugandotherknee) on Lighthouse Hockey, is joining as another writer. He has a ton of great insight and viscerally gets all the factors going into this. He'll probably post something tomorrow, but until then you should follow him on Twitter for his fantastic tweets.
2 Anti-Areener Reports
Recently, 2 different groups have publicly released their reports questioning the areener plan, making Wet Hot Areener Summer a little wetter and hotter in the process.
First, NIFA, which is ratcheting up its criticism of the referendum (despite not reviewing all details so far), released a report available online detailing its concerns with the process. They will continue to be a tough nut to crack moving forward.
Second, the Association for a Better Long Island continues to embarrass itself and prove what a misnomer its name is. An independent consultant released a barely-intelligible report criticizing the referendum, but that didn't stop News 12 from breathlessly reporting it as proof that the areener deal is a bad one for taxpayers. Seriously, stop reading this post and go read that report....It would be funny if someone wasn't paid hundreds of dollars an hour to write it.
Met a No Voter Yesterday
Yesterday, at the post office, I encountered my first No voter. He was one of the postal workers, and I happened to walk in there to mail a package while they were arguing. The one postal worker couldn't believe it, and kept saying there was nothing not to like about the project. The other one parroted the same lines we've heard for decades, so much that we could practically record them in advance.
"Let Wang pay for it!" (Yea, he wanted to....Kate Murray murdered that plan. It's either that or this; can't have it both ways)
"There will be cost overruns!" (Wang is contractually obligated to pay those)
"TRAFFIC!" (Can someone please explain to me how replacing an arena with another arena creates gobs of new traffic? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?)
I had an interesting back and forth with the guy, and I hope he didn't send my package to Timbuktu as punishment, but this is what we're up against. No voters are out there, and they refuse to let logic or facts interfere with things they know to be true, dammit! As I've said from day 1, it's dangerous to take this for granted.
What's Truly At Stake
While NIFER was registering its objections to the areener (stick tap to Dave on that one - BRILLIANT), and Desmond Ryan was making himself look like a fool (though the medier is trying desperately to make him sound like a dispassionate and concerned citizen - don't fall for it), 2 other reports have come out showing what's truly at stake here.
First, Camoin Associates completed its assessment of the Coliseum referendum for the county (not Charles Wang, or some guy named Wong that the ABLI report cites) on the economic impact of the Islanders potentially leaving Nassau County. According to this report, $243.4 MILLION A YEAR and 2,660 JOBS would disappear from the local economy.
Second, Nassau County's Office of Legislative and Budget Review completed its report (which News 12 immediately distorted and Newsday has so far ignored). This report claims that 74% of borrowing costs will be covered by projected revenues, leading to a maximum tax exposure (if nothing else is done) of $13.80 per household per year.
These numbers illustrate the danger in not truly understanding what's at stake and not having goals aligned. For instance, ABLI, NIFER, and the media have breathlessly claimed the borrowing is $800 million, not $400 million, but this isn't true. As I've pointed out in previous posts, there is a concept in finance called Time Value of Money, because money does not intrinsically hold the same value in perpetuity. If I offered you $100 now or $100 in a year, you'd take it now, because $100 in a year has a present value of less than $100.
In the same vein, yes, the debt service is scheduled at $26 million a year, for 30 years, which in pure numbers totals $780 million. However, due to interest rates and the time period, that cost in current dollars is lower....actually, around $400 million, the initial cost of the borrowing. Let's not allow voters to be scared about this.
In addition, the recent saber-rattling from NIFER makes me concerned that their interests are not necessarily in line with the county as a whole. As we know, NIFER is meant to guard the county's finances, so it must take those into consideration rather than pure economics. It's possible that NIFER could be doing its job too narrowly and simply considering the costs of borrowing without considering the cost of losing the arena and the team to the economy at large. This tension might become a flash point if the referendum passes, and I genuinely hope we can do something to stop it.
We have to fight the misinformation, including NIFER's scare-tactics over "Arenaco LLC" (a company set up by Charles Wang to manage the areener). We can't get caught in nonsense like the fact that Charles Wang would be free to sell the Islanders after 2 years in the new building - the man is pushing 70, and as the owner he has the right to sell his asset when he decides he wants to sell!
At the end of the day, people are faced with a choice:
Do I want to provide a catalyst for restoring the can-do mentality to Long Island and hopefully leading to more good decisions?
Would I rather have that 26 cents a week?
Honestly, abuse of the take-a-penny/leave-a-penny tray could cover that! Our future is worth an investment.
The areener process had its worst week since the roll-out back in May, and I wouldn't blame you for wondering if the media was suddenly out to kill the referendum. However, as I've said from day 1, we have the power to fix this.
We can educate our neighbors (those willing to hear it, of course).
We can get out and vote.
We can get all our neighbors and friends who are yes votes to join us.
That's all we can do - we have to keep pushing back.
We're 13 days out now, let's leave it all on the ice.