Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Questions Emerge Regarding Coliseum Deal: Rainbows, Sunshine and Cupcakes Not Guaranteed

I really hate to bitch about media coverage of the arena issue. I really do. It's generally not very constructive and not good for the heart. But yes, I am going to bitch about media coverage of the arena issue. But I will do so as a call to action for Islander fans and arena supporters.

A bit of background: over the past several weeks, I've been burying myself in economic reports, leases and news articles in an attempt to summarize and explain the key terms of the arena deal and to debunk some of the common misconceptions held by skeptics of the deal (see here, here, here and here). What I was hoping for was some independent group to analyze the arena deal that could push the media to transcend to he said/she said pattern of the coverage. Finally, on Monday it happened. The Nassau County Legislature's Office of Legislative Budget Review (OBLR), a non-partisan agency whose estimates of the tax impact have been cited by the press and arena opponents, released a report that concluded that revenues associated with the arena deal would "at a minimum" offset enough debt service to result in a net cost of only $13.80/year (or $.26/week) per homeowner -- only a quarter of the $58/year number issued by the OBLR previously. The report's analysis was straightforward: it added the minimum payments called for under the lease ($14M) to the tax revenues associated with estimated economic activity at a new arena. While the report recognized Mangano's more aggressive projections (that the deal would actually result in a small county profit) as plausible, it conservatively estimated that the revenues estimated by Mangano may not materialize.

Islander Country was elated. The team splashed "26 CENTS A WEEK" on its website. Fans on Twitter (okay, I, mainly) tried to come up with clever ways to express the idea that 26 cents is very, very little money.

Yet Newsday -- while continuing to cite OBLR's $58/year number -- ignored the report completely. And News 12 covered the report as anti-arena. It ran an article headlined "New Questions Surface About Coliseum Plan" (which seems to be their stock headline on all matters relating to the arena plan) ominously noting that according to the OBLR report revenues would cover "only" 74% bond costs. Not only is this not true -- the report stated that 74% was what the County could expect to receive "at a minimum" -- News 12's earlier reporting assumed that taxpayers would be paying all of the bond costs. News12 and Newsday have also both reported as "news" the fact that total borrowing costs associated with the bond would equal around $800 million, as if Nassau residents had assumed that the county would be borrowing that money for free. This wasn't "news" at all as the fact sheet issued by Mangano when the deal was first announced acknowledged the obvious fact that the County would have to pay principal and interest on the bond.

For whatever reason (and I'm still not buying the conspiracy theories), the local media has framed the arena deal as something suspect, generally framing developments in a negative light and dutifully parroting criticisms voiced by anyone with little or no scrutiny of the criticism or the interests of the critics.

But, again, nothing is gained by wallowing in pity or feeling indignant. The lesson here is that the local media cannot be counted on to report the facts straight. Instead, supporters just need to understand that they all need to put their collective nose to the grindstone and do everything possible to achieve a Yes vote on August 1. Nothing can be taken for granted.

One final note -- thanks to Nick, whose years of work on this beat has been second to none, for inviting me to pitch in during these final days before August 1. I will be "cross-posting" the same material at LHH.


  1. For whatever reason (and I'm still not buying the conspiracy theories), the local media has framed the arena deal as something suspect, generally framing developments in a negative light and dutifully parroting criticisms voiced by anyone with little or no scrutiny of the criticism or the interests of the critics.<-

    MY opinion: The reason is that SOMEone has an agenda against this deal, as they did the Lighthouse Project, and has used Newsday and News 12 to get "their" point across. That point being that they don't want this in any which way, shape or form by stating the "negatives" in addition to the ALL AROUND painting of it in a bad light.

    Is it too soon for an "editorial" from the owner of said media outlets decrying this proposal even further? It's not like there isn't precedence for these sort of underhanded practices by the Dolans. (oops, said his name) Do we all remember the West Side Stadium?

    Best way to return fire? VOTE YES on August 1st and get as many people to come with you as possible.

    -Big Van Vader

  2. DP/Nick,

    Call me optomistic, but I feel that the referendum vote will pass fairly easily, with a low, but better than expected turnout. My concern, however, is that this will still come down to a vote, after Aug. 1, amongst the Representatives and with NIFER having some form of vote. How can we let our Reps know, before the Aug 1st vote, that we expect them to uphold the will of the constituents and that their votes should mirror the public vote. It would be very upsetting if the public votes in favor, but the POLs vote this down because of party politics.

    As to NIFA, not much that can really be done outside of a big PR campaign.

  3. One Yes vote in the bank. Sent in my absentee ballot today.

  4. If you take your head out of the sand you will smell something fishy going on...News 12 and Newsday has been doing this referendum a disservice...Its not a conspiracy, its the truth...It makes me irate!

  5. What do News12 and Newsday have in common?

    Also, no cupcakes? I'm voting NO! It's all a conspiracy man. A big conspiracy. I'm sure it has something to do with the JFK assassination, or Bush/Cheney. Definitely... ;)

  6. Nick will not use the name Dolan, he will not question daily what he gains by the Islanders leaving or how he manages Newsday like Rupert Murdoch does in the Post.

    If this were Wang not giving information, he would be all over it. It's Dolan and he will only dance around the edges.

    Sorry, but until he puts the focus on Dolan and leaves it on him and selective reporting, there is nothing of value here.

    Same as Botta, terrified of Dolan, while article after article about Wang.

    New York Islander Fan Central.

  7. NYIFC - please take your conspiracy crap to someone who cares while we go about supporting the referendum.

    If you really believe what you're saying, you're delusional and not paying attention. I'm done dignifying your nonsense.

  8. Nick, I dont know why you dismiss the points that NYIFC brings up about "Dolansday"...It is obvious that this reporting has been mostly negative...The most recent study done, which proved that taxes might only go up $13.80, was only reported a few days after we have been talking about it on the internet...7th women smells the fish here:

    I know you haven't been shy to call out reporters such as Eden Laiken so that leads me to believe that NYIFC's claims that you are afraid to critique Newsday are misguided...But I wouldn't dismiss the possibility that Dolan is manipulating the news...It looks like he is...
    Lets stop acting like ostriches and face the facts...If you want to put pressure on Newsday we shouldn't be afraid to call it like it is...Lets spread the word that Newsday isn't a fair newspaper...Lets make sure people understand that Newsday hasn't been fair and reasonable...Put pressure on Dolan to report the NEWS and not what will further his agenda...It would help the cause...

  9. IP: the point I was making is that Dave and I have done that through Twitter and have actually affected coverage. It's delusional for him to think we aren't doing things we've done. If after all this you think I'm not doing enough I don't know what to say.

    Either way I'm done with this issue. I'm concerned with the vote.

  10. By the way, I jumped on Dee Karl and Michael Picker with this and did my own standing article for all to read before the referendum.

    I'm not singling out anyone, I'm calling out everyone to make sure everything out of Dolan's paper is properly vetted.

  11. Nick, I never thought for a 2nd that you were afraid to say it like it is, ex: Eden Laiken. Im on your side, bro...

  12. The vote will lose

  13. IP - was talking the general you, not you in particular. Don't know how anybody could look at the record and claim I'm pro-Newsday (hell, I'm bashing them again as we speak....).

    Anon: thank you for the intellectual discourse.