Sunday, May 31, 2009

Movement Week: Dealing With Low-Information Voters

Hi everyone. Sorry for being relatively MIA the last few days; I needed a break on Friday and got roped into gardening/home improvement work all weekend. The house looks great, but my muscles are very angry with me.

As a result, Movement Week is going to progress over the next few days, since there are a few more things we should discuss as we get the movement going. First, we have a few more things to talk about:

McElroy's Lighthouse Stance

When I covered the Nassau County Democratic convention on Thursday, Kristen McElroy and Tom Suozzi both attested to the candidate's support for the Lighthouse. Now, some readers are calling that into question based on their own reported experiences at the same event. I will work on getting an interview with the candidate so we can understand the situation once and for all.

Just to clarify - I reported my personal experience at the convention, and a reader asked about an encounter that, if it happened, happened after I left. I can't speak to that, since I didn't see it, but I can find out the true story.

Tomorrow's Garden City Meeting

REMINDER - This, more than anything else, is a fact-finding mission. I am interested to see what Kate Murray says about the Lighthouse in such a setting. Silent support for our cause is imperative, and if we are able to speak with her we must keep it on a respectful level.

Tomorrow, Kate Murray will be addressing the Eastern Property Owners Association Annual Meeting in Garden City. She is scheduled to go on at 8, and it is unknown what she will be discussing.

For an event like this, let's know our audience and surroundings. This event is at a public library in Garden City, so booing her and wearing Islanders jerseys will do us far more harm than good. We need to show, in a quiet, dignified manner, that this is an important issue to a large part of Kate Murray's electorate, and she should do more than pay lip service to it.

It is also important to realize that this meeting is in a community that is inclined to oppose the Lighthouse, and this is an election year. I for one am very interested to hear the Supervisor's comments and whether she will attempt to court controversy.

I realize it's hard to put the brakes on or control a movement once it's started, but let's remember what we're aiming to do here. We're aiming to be more present and raise the profile of our issue.

Tuesday's LI Regional Planning Council Meeting

UPDATE - I will also say this in tonight's piece, but the public is allowed to ask questions and make comments about the Lighthouse at tomorrow's meeting. All you who have so eloquently advocated for the Lighthouse in this space and on other sites have a chance to do it in public.

Tuesday morning's meeting is another huge opportunity to make our numbers known. Kate Murray is confirmed in attendance for a public meeting of the Long Island Regional Planning Council (Blogger's Note: I'm sure this has a lot to do with the upcoming election, but I'll take Kate Murray's presence at a meeting about the Lighthouse any way I can get it). The Lighthouse will be discussed, starting around 11 AM. Basically, this meeting will declare the Lighthouse a regionally-significant development, opening up new avenues for assistance and support. The point of this meeting is to discuss the Lighthouse and its importance to the regional economy. As I said, jerseys should stay at home for this one, but signs should be OK, and making our support clear is imperative.

Also - I've seen some people criticize Kate Murray's stance on public meetings, even after this revelation. I believe Kate Murray deserves criticism for many of her actions, but we can't have it both ways. We rightly criticized her for refusing to attend public meetings, and now she is attending one. Let's reserve judgment until we see what happens.

Dualing LI Business News Interviews

David Reich-Hale, a writer for the Long Island Business News, has been one of the most fair and honest people in the media when discussing the Lighthouse. In case you have not seen, Mr. Reich-Hale has two interviews up on his Polit Bureau blog, one with Kate Murray and one with Chris Botta. The Supervisor again shows her tendency to put her foot in her mouth, criticizing "Islanders fans" for being ill-informed on the process, and Chris Botta does a great job shooting down some of the key Murray talking points that she seems to regurgitate to any and all media outlets.

I appreciate everything both Chris Botta and David Reich-Hale have done. That having been said, I do take exception to the statement that Chris Botta is the one who's most closely followed the Lighthouse issue, and I first reported Kate Murray's appearance on Tuesday, hours before that interview ran (check the Twitter feed).

To the Movement...

I have mentioned this concept, and used the term, many times here, but let's actually discuss the people. I fear low-information voters, people who do not understand all the facts and who can be easily led into believing certain things because of that limited information. This group has always been a known (and large) quantity in American political life. A famous story, possibly apocryphal, centers around Adlai Stevenson, who ran unsuccessfully for President many times in the 20th Century. During one of Stevenson's presidential campaigns, a supporter supposedly told him that he was sure to "get the vote of every thinking man" in the United States, to which Stevenson is said to have replied, "Thank you, but I need a majority to win."

We saw it last summer during the presidential campaign season. Sens. McCain and Clinton both proposed a "gas tax holiday," and it won Mrs. Clinton in particular a few primaries over Barack Obama. Nobody who studied the issue thought this was credible, because a) the holiday wouldn't take effect last summer, when gas prices were out of control, b) the federal gas tax pays for infrastructure improvements, and there was no way to recoup that loss, and c) if gas prices are lower, consumption will rise, and due to supply-and-demand prices will go back to the original point. It did not work in the real world, but low-information voters simply saw relief at the gas pump and ran with it.

We have also seen this with the Lighthouse. There are still people clinging to the belief that Charles Wang and Scott Rechler are bullies because they are trying to force all this development when Kate Murray has already said they could renovate the Coliseum immediately. The belief has taken root in some circles, even though a) Kate Murray does not have the authority to authorize it, b) the Coliseum on its own doesn't work economically, and c) it looks like an attempt to get a new arena without the rest of the Lighthouse. We see it with those who insist that Islanders fans are the only people who cared about this when I've met hundreds of people who want this project and wouldn't know Mike Bossy if he passed them on the street.

We are also seeing this in the misleading mailers the Town of Hempstead has been sending (at taxpayer expense) to residents. We saw the (taxpayer-funded) questionnaire from Councilman Gary Hudes that framed the debate in terms of what is "wrong" with the Lighthouse. We saw the condescending form letter that tells people how Kate Murray's conduct is all Tom Suozzi's fault, and we saw it in the phony petition drive seeking unavailable stimulus money.

In an ideal world, this problem could be easily solved through education, either on this site or others. However, this is not an ideal world (though, as Candide would say, it is the best of all possible worlds). Many low-information voters get all their information from Newsday and base their opinion of elected officials on their (taxpayer-funded) mailers touting their own greatness.

We need a new tactic to win these people over. It is especially important because in the term, low-information voter, the key word is voter.

Question to Ponder

Moving into the comments section, let's think about this: How can we best communicate with low-information voters who do not currently read this site and are apt to believe the misinformation about the Lighthouse that is still floating around?

Please share your thoughts in comments. Petition. Email Me. Follow me on Twitter.


  1. The word needs to be spread where people live through their local news media and in multiple languages. No matter what the ToH may think, theirs is a multi-cultural region. If ALL voters are not informed, than only Garden City will be represented.

  2. I have to admit, when I read that quote about Botta being the first and best place for LHP info, I thought to myself he is forgetting, Nick Giglias, Let There Be Light(house)blog...

    This is the place to go for in depth insight into the LHP and the politics of it...Bottas blog is awesome also, in fact I heard of this blog thru Bottas but I can appreciate what Nicks is doing here...In fact thats a great way to get Isles fans to this site but we need to get LHP apposers onto this site, some how...

    I will do everything I can to show up at the meeting tomorrow evening...

  3. We need to spread the word. Unfortunately not enough people know enough about this. How about start a paypal account looking for donations from readers and fans. Use the money to buy some ad space in Newsday. If there can be a joint effort from the other Isles blogs, there might be enough support to do this.