Over the past week or so, there has been an accumulation of events and random thoughts popping into my head which, for the first time, sketches out a path forward for the Mangano's plan for a new arena becoming reality. Any number of things can go wrong, obviously, but I think there is now a reasonable basis to expect that the key obstacles -- the August 1 vote, county Democrats and NIFA -- could be overcome.
1. Democratic County Legislators. As you may know, the financing for the arena plan will require 13 votes in the Nassau County Legislature. This means that the Republicans, who have an 11-8 majority in the Legislature, need two Democrats to vote with them to approve the plan (assuming the Republicans will unanimously vote to approve). I previously identified the publicly stated positions of the Democratic legislators; however, both B.D. Gallof and Nick Giglia have both tweeted that the Democratic caucus have decided not to "actively" oppose the referendum. Does that mean they will vote "yes" when the bond issue goes before the legislature? We may see some clues shortly when, as per Newsday, the legislature voters yet again on the plan, this time to formally approve the transfer of the necessary funds for the referendum to the Board of Elections. My guess is that at the end of the day a strong result in favor of the plan on August 1 will push them towards a "yes" vote. Which brings me to...
2. The August 1 Referendum. I always thought that while the referendum was a near lock to pass on August 1, support could be near evenly matched with Tea Party-type anti-tax activists. My concern was that the referendum would not pass by a convincing enough margin to demonstrate to "on the fence" legislators and other decision makers that passage was truly the result of strong grassroots support of county residents. However, the news reports of the first couple of informational session were heartening. Although Newsday focused on the skepticism of the attendees, I focused on their number -- if there were an groundswell of opposition to the plan, I would have expected large numbers to show up to these sessions, perhaps with signs and tea party hats. I could be overreading, but the fact that the attendance has been sparse tells that active opposition has not crystallized -- as least not yet (I wouldn't expect supporters to show as they plan on voting "yes" and don't need further information). However, I think a strong PR push by the team is vital. While the public may not be paying attention, the media is simply not doing a fair job of presenting the deal to the public. When and if the public tunes in, they are unlikely to support the deal if they read pieces like this one. There have been rumors of a big PR plan by the team to start today, but I haven't seen anything yet.
3. NIFA. Approval by NIFA always seemed to be the largest obstacle to approval of the plan, thanks to the very critical public statements of NIFA member George Marlin. However, Marlin is something of a character, a Conservative Party activist with very outspoken views. There is no reason to believe that other NIFA members agree with him. But more substantively, I have a hard time understanding the basis for NIFA rejecting the deal: NIFA's job is not to determine County policy. It is financial oversight. If the county decides to develop its property and the costs of the development are paid for (whether through a tax levy on residents or revenue sharing/rent payments) and the development is therefore revenue neutral from a budget perspective, how can NIFA object? That's not to say NIFA will roll over, but I don't think approval will require NIFA to "drink the Kool-Aid" by buying into the optimistic projections presented by the County.
Of course, the next few weeks will be critical. The team will have to both mobilize its fan base and make a strong case for the plan to a skeptical, if as of yet unengaged, public. If they do, and and voters come out for the plan on August 1, then the other pieces should fall into place.