Showing posts with label abli. Show all posts
Showing posts with label abli. Show all posts

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Jacobs to Nassau: Drop Dead

Hi everyone, let's leave the robots aside and move on to more important things.

Contest is Off

Our Rock the Referendum contest needs to be cancelled because of some persistent complaints that it violates New York State election law.  I maintain it doesn't, but rather than risk very serious repercussions (or a BS lawsuit, perhaps), we've decided to shut it down.  I am at least as upset, if not more, than anyone else, but this should not distract from our very real need to get people out there to the polls.

We're in the home stretch, and the persistent smear-mongering and misinformation campaign led by the 2 Stooges, Jay Jacobs and Desmond Ryan, has helped put us in a precarious spot.  Please remember, every vote counts.

Radio Appearance

I was a guest with Chris Muldoon on 90.3 FM Thursday evening, and you can listen here if you didn't have a chance to that night.  We talk for almost an hour about many issues related to the referendum.  Really enjoyed it and Chris, and I hope you enjoy our chat.

Fun With Facebook

Today's episode of Fun With Facebook: "Shockingly Out Of Touch," with 2 very special guest stars....

I RSVP'ed to Ed Mangano's Facebook invitation to Vote Yes on Monday, and I saw something that legitimately shocked me....a message to "VOTE NO1" - from none other than Town of Hempstead Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby.

That's right, the woman who stood idly by while Kate Murray hemmed, hawed, and stalled for 6 years before murdering the Lighthouse, who is as responsible as anyone that we're now in the position of this referendum, now wants you to vote no.  How about we tell her how we feel?

Then, just when I thought it couldn't get any more shocking, it did.  The Association for a Better Long Island, better described as the Association for a Better Association for a Better Long Island, truly shocked me.  This organization has been the biggest source of vitriol and misinformation not named Jay Jacobs in this campaign, and their comment is truly a sight to behold.

That's right, the group already whining to NIFA and anyone else who will listen now accuses the Yes side of planning to intimidate voters on Monday.  It would be funny if it wasn't so sad and shocking.

I'd say hold these people accountable, and we should, but the best way to do that is at the ballot box.

Jay Jacobs Continues to Dig the Hole

Jay Jacobs, he of the embarrassing performance on Mike Francesa, sent out another letter on Thursday night to registered Democrats in Nassau County.  Here is a link to the unedited letter that B.D. Gallof was helpful enough to post on TweetDeck, and I've decided to perform a line by line rebuttal.

We now join the Nassau County and New York State Democratic Party chairman, already in progress....

By Jay JacobsNassau County Democratic Chairman

Wow, are we living in Backwards Land?  Vote No and the thing we want to happen happens?

We all want a new Coliseum. We all want to keep the Islanders. We all want to see more jobs and ensure that Nassau County grows and prospers. Charles Wang’s latest Coliseum plan – shifting the cost, debt and guarantees to Nassau taxpayers is just, in simple terms, a bad deal. 
There have been a host of studies, statistics and numbers thrown about, revised and then re-revised. The bottom line is simple: If the deal is as good as Charles Wang and County Executive Ed Mangano are telling us in their sales pitch, then why isn’t Charles Wang borrowing the money himself?
I see what Mr. Jacobs did here - he's deliberately trying to perform some misdirection because the "host of studies, statistics, and numbers," including Martin Cantor's report, which analyzed 3 scenarios and claimed the County would make money even under the most conservative scenario, don't say what Mr. Jacobs wants to hear.  In fact, Mr. Cantor's report says that every dollar spent on the areener project will generate $1.46 in economic activity for Nassau County!  

Which one, then?  Is it the Camoin Associates report?  The Comptroller's Report? The non-partisan OLBR? Oh wait, they all say it's a good deal (albeit with some suggested changes that I support)

Therefore, Mr. Jacobs has now decided to turn this around on former ally Charles Wang (only when the Democrats were in power) and ask why he doesn't build a building he doesn't own with no collateral by himself.  Nice sleight of hand...Nassau County owns this building, and he is now asking for the tenant to bail out the landlord's decades of mismanagement and political gridlock that have led us to this place.  

But oh wait, Jacobs doubles down.....

And that’s the simple answer to the whole problem. Nassau County should sell the Coliseum property to Charles Wang. The County should retain the remainder of the 77-acre site for future development. Until the development is finalized and approved, the Coliseum would have use of the land for parking. A part of any development deal would require the expenditure of $135 million to build the 6800 space multi-story parking lot, freeing up the remaining land. 
With Wang as the owner of the site, he is then free to build the Coliseum he wants. He would own the asset and could sell it if he chooses – with or without the team. So, how would he pay for it? The way everyone else who buys a home or a business does. He would put down 25% of the total price and go to a bank for the rest – preferably Long Island-based banks.
Wow, what a sweetheart deal for Nassau County, especially the person who will get over $100 million to build a parking garage.  The arena that has been neglected for 40 years will be sold.  Therefore, Charles Wang has to pay for the cost of purchasing the building, the cost of demolishing the building, and the cost of a new building, all while Nassau County gets to keep the surrounding land to do whatever it sees fit.

This might actually sound reasonable on the surface, but again, Mr. Wang is a TENANT.  His solution to Nassau County abdicating its responsibilities as a landlord is a further abdication that puts the man who might benefit least from it in the position of paying for all of it.

(Remember, the revenue sharing deal says the County gets 11.5%, but, for all you New York Post and Daily News editorial writers, that's 11.5% of total revenue, regardless of the profit Wang does or does not make).

Assuming the construction costs of $350 million, the costs of borrowing and some payment to the County for the value of the land (as a requirement of the purchase the existing building would be demolished so it should have no value in the transaction), the total package would be $400 million. Wang would have to come up with $100 million in cash.

Mr. Jacobs can do math.  Bravo.

Without a billionaire’s money, Wang could fund it himself, put together an investment group or combine those ideas with the use of PSLs for ticket-holders similar to what the Jets and the Giants did to help construct their stadium. Now, PSLs are unpopular because no ticket holder wants to pay them. I’m a Giants season ticket holder and I didn’t like it either. I also recognize that the NHL is not the NFL. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have a PSL program. It means you can’t charge anywhere near what the Jets or the Giants charged for their season ticket holder seats.
As an example: where the low-end PSL for Giants seats was $5000, if the Islanders charged $5000 a seat for their BEST seats and just $1500 for their least desirable seats, they could bring in between $25 and $50 million for the 17,500 seats and 51 luxury boxes. The PSLs could be paid in installments over 3 years and PSL holders could be offered discounts on non-Islander events held at the new Coliseum. Paid over 3 years, with 41 games, an Islander ticket-holder would pay about $12 more per seat per game for just 3 years – and they would have the PSL asset to sell once they give up their seats – hopefully at a profit depending upon the team’s performance.

I can't believe I'm reading this.  I'm not even going to go into his factual inaccuracies about the pricing structure of these PSLs; I'll instead go right into how nonsensical these numbers are:

First, Mr. Jacobs is failing basic economics here.  He proposes something that will cost $12 more per game to pay part of construction as a viable alternative to $13.80 a year per household (at worst) to pay for the whole thing!  

PSLs are, as Mike Francesa put it, the biggest scourge on the landscape of 21st Century Sports.  Not only that, they only work in situations like football teams or the Toronto Maple Leafs, where there are waiting lists years-long to get season tickets.  In other words, this scam only works when demand exceeds supply.  Mr. Jacobs now assumes that the Islanders' current season ticket base of between 8-10,000 will magically rise up and purchase PSLs for all 17,500 planned seats in the new arena?

If you actually believe that, just remember this:  The Jets had trouble selling all their PSLs during the end-stages of construction at the New Meadowlands Stadium.....And those PSLs did NOT pay for construction, no matter how desperately Mr. Jacobs wants you to believe they did.

While Islander ticket-holders will howl about paying anything, my question to them is: if you won’t chip in to help pay for your seat at a new Coliseum, why should Nassau taxpayers who don’t even sit in the seat do so?

I'm a taxpayer in Nassau County who lives in a home that was taxed over $15,000 last season.  I buy tickets to Islanders games and would gladly pay what I needed for this arena if the $13.80 number (or even $58) comes true.  That isn't enough, Mr. Jacobs?  I'm "howling" that you want me to pay a disproportionate share for something all the people of Nassau County will own and all the people of Nassau County are free to enjoy equally?

I'm sure the governor's office would love to know that his state party chairman is accusing us of not wanting to do our part.

And my question to Charles Wang is: If your projections are on target and you are so confident of the revenue, why don’t you back the investment with your money and get private banks to lend you the rest?

Mr. Wang will not and does not own the building, yet Mr. Jacobs believes it's reasonable to ask him to pay the freight.  Under the revenue-sharing and lease deal, Mr. Wang is responsible for every dime of cost overrun over $350 million and will pay 61.5% of total costs as a worst-case scenario, and he's still the bad guy?

It's funny, as a quick aside....the Newsday endorsement from yesterday made a fascinating point.  Critics have called this a boondoggle that will soak Nassau taxpayers and at the same time called it a bonanza that will make Charles Wang hundreds of millions of dollars.  Since the deal is based on revenue sharing, it can't possibly be both.  But hey, why let facts get in the way of partisanship, ideology, and a good story?

Under this plan, the Nassau taxpayer is off the hook, we don’t get encumbered by another $400 million in debt AND we keep the remainder of the 77-acre site open and available for future development around a brand new Coliseum. There are “many ways to skin a cat.” Let’s find the right one and VOTE NO on this Referendum

Mr. Jacobs and his cronies in the Democratic Party ran and hid once Tom Suozzi lost the election to Ed Mangano.  They stood idly by while Kate Murray was allowed to murder the vision of the Lighthouse Project, they have offered NO alternative, but they now believe they have the moral high ground by screaming NO and proposing these ridiculous "solutions" that won't benefit anyone.

Mr. Jacobs, you and your party have had 2 years to propose something for the Coliseum.  You have not.

You had a viable private proposal that you allowed to die, and you are now claiming it was "too big."

You have no ideas, no vision, and nothing except partisanship.  Until you have something to add to the conversation, you deserve to be ignored.

Bottom Line

I'll be honest, I'm getting very nervous about the outcome on Monday, but all we can control is the turnout.  Let's get out there and vote, and spend the weekend educating our friends, neighbors, strangers, and enemies on why this is the right way forward for Nassau County.

This is our time.

2 days out.

Leave it on the ice and bring back a win!


Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Tale of 2 Headlines (Plus, More Reports and What We Can Do)

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).

Quick Aside

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.

Moving Forward

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.

Bottom Line

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.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Updated Numbers, Criticisms, and a Big Retraction (Al Gore Weeps)

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 least not in that way)

Introducing Dave

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.

Bottom Line

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.