I arrived to the Legislature office at around 8:20am this morning, and after searching for a spot for a few minutes, I walked up to the rally. To my surprise there was very few Islander fans in attendance. I'd say that there was maybe a dozen Islander fans present at most, while there was between 200 and 300 labor people present.
The rally ended at about 20 minutes to ten and then people proceeded to go inside. I got in a little late because I ran to my car to make sure I didn't have a ticket, and when I saw I didn't, I moved my car and then made my way back in. When I entered the room in which this was being held, Kevan Abrahams (who is the legislature of the first district) and Peter Schmitt (the preceding officer) were in an argument over what topic to begin the meeting with. Mr Abrahams felt they should start with the Coliseum issue because that was first on their agenda and was what the room full of about 251 people wanted to hear about. However, Peter Schmitt wanted to discuss the redistricting of lines in Nassau County, and Schmitt won. So from approx. 10:15 until 1:45, they discussed the redistricting. During that time, Peter Schmitt came off as a real rude arrogant person, and any time the crowd would get testy he would tell them to, "stop having a hissy fit."
Seeing this, really opened my eyes to see how things work in the County. It gave me understanding as to why so many young people are leaving this area in droves-because we have politicians like them who sit up and just talk in circles with each other without getting anything done. I told a labor member who I became kind of friendly with while we were sitting there, that I thought that the graduating high school class this year had more sense then the people in the legislature did.
It wasn't until a quarter to two, that the legislature began to discuss the arena. After a brief recess awaiting the arrival of deputy County Executive Rob Walker, they got started with some questions and stuff until the County Executive made his second appearance of the day and gave a powerpoint presentation to the legislature. His first appearance was at the am rally. After this, Peter Schmitt opened the floor to the little remaining public that had stuck around for the three hours and forty five minutes. At approx. 10 o'clock I'd say there was around 275 people present. However, by the time they started discussing this matter I'd say the crowd was down to maybe 100-150 people. This time period was totally different from that of the redistricting that had been discussed because everyone (mostly republicans) were dead on with what they were saying. The democrats while being in favor of it had some reservations. The biggest one which was mentioned by multiple legislatures was the proposed date of the special election for the referendum. Wayne H. Wink JR, the legislature for the 11th district, suggested moving the election date to election day in November, while legislator Dave Denenberg of the 19th district suggested moving the election to primary day in September. Judy Jacobs, who is the legislature of the 16th district, thought the vote should be moved to election day because back in 2004 and 2006, environmental referendums were put to vote that day and both passed with flying colors. She also thought that doing it would then maximize voter participation. All the suggestions were made to save the county the costs it would take to have the special election but the suggestions were shot down by the republican majority of the board who stressed the need to do this as soon as possible and stressed that this should be a stand a lone issue and not part of a ballot with other items because its the future of our county.
One of the two biggest news items to come out of this was that next Tuesday the Nassau County Legislature will once again meet and this time, there will be a vote after discussion, as to whether or not this item will go on the ballot on August 1st. After being there all day today, I am confident the election will pass. This meeting is open to the public so if you aren't busy that day, go down to the legislature and see them vote. I intend on going down that day for the vote.
The second big news item of the day occurred with about 10 minutes left when during his questioning by the board, deputy County Executive Rob Walker, said that the Islanders or more specifically owner Charles B. Wang, will pick up the cost for any construction overruns should the cost of constructing the new Coliseum exceed the estimated 350 million dollar figure that has been presented to the public. This is big because normally that would've been paid for by taxes but the fact that Wang was willing to front thye costs himself, brings relief to the base.
The only major hurdle left is NIFA who outside of outspoken president George Marlin (who bashed the plan again in a newsday op-ed piece today), has been pretty mum on things since the press conference a few weeks back. However, should the voters give this a thumbs up, I have a hard time seeing NIFA stand in the way because they are politicians too and not pleasing the people you represent, is political suicide.
Overall, todays hearing was very poorly handled by Nassau County. How do you have 300 or so people in attendance and not start with the matter they are all there to talk about? Mind boggling to me!!!
Today was a good day for us in Islander land but the bigger day will be next Tuesday when hopefully the Legislature vote to put this on the ballot for 8/1 passes, and that will complete step two of the process in my mind at least. Step three to me will be the submitting of the contracts between Wang and the County to the legislature and the approval of those contracts and the referendum itself. Step four will be the approval of bonding by the Legislature which will take place in the time after the election should the yes be the majority and this time we need a super majority in this which means that two democratic legislatures will have to cross party lines for the bonding to be approved, and lets not forget we also need to get the green light from NIFA. Assuming all that happens step five in my mind is shovels in the ground in what will be a historic day in this county. Its going to be a wild summer in Islander land, you can bet on that!!!