THE ARENA REFERENDUM PLUS/MINUSPredictions, final words about Monday's vote

11:00 am: The day has almost arrived. Victory on Monday means the process continues to keep the Islanders in Nassau and develop a new arena. If there is defeat, how could the Islanders get off the mat after the community tells the team that not enough people care to keep it here?

Here is our Plus/Minus look back at the weeks leading up to the Aug. 1 referendum on a new arena for Nassau County and on the future of the New York Islanders, followed by a prediction and some final thoughts.

Plus: Charles Wang has made it fairly clear that, “There is no Plan B” and the Islanders “will need somewhere to play” if Monday’s referendum fails or the deal is not later approved by NIFA and Nassau Legislature. His appearances on WFAN and local television stations were effective. Wang was well-prepared and he came off as a good person sincerely dedicated to Long Island.

Minus: To guarantee a big victory on Monday, Wang should have been even bolder and tougher about the Islanders playing somewhere else besides Nassau as soon as possible if NO wins. As crazy as this may sound to some who have followed this saga daily, there are still plenty of people who do not grasp how important Monday is.

Plus: Wang and Ed Mangano are hosting an election night-type reception at the Coliseum on Monday night starting at 8:30. It’s not over-confidence, but a way to thank supporters, volunteers and employees. For the media, the event will also serve as an ideal backdrop – win or lose.

Minus: Point Blank has learned that Billy Joel, who cashed in at the Coliseum for more than a generation, has so far decided to not be involved in the new arena issue because he was concerned about the “controversy.” In the last twenty years – unlike contemporaries such as Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, John Mellencamp, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Jackson Browne, Joel has not produced any new rock music. He has not taken a stand on anything except repackaging his greatest hits and making a fortune playing nostalgia concerts. Hey Piano Man, grow a pair.

Plus: The support from Madison Square Garden, the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils was well-done.

Minus: Ed Westfall, Denis Potvin, Bryan Trottier, Pat LaFontaine, Patrick Flatley, Kenny Jonsson, Bill Torrey, Al Arbour, Michael Peca, John Tavares…by the looks of it, the Islanders chose to not invite them to get involved. But Ty Wishart, in town for the week, spoke at the rally. You don’t think gentlemen like Torrey and Arbour would not make an impact with older, possibly lapsed Islanders fans? Should the Edmonton Oilers need support, can you envision them not enlisting Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Taylor Hall?

Plus: Newsday‘s lead editorial giving a very big thumbs up to voting YES was well-written, balanced, informed and perfectly timed.

Minus: The paper’s fair account of the likelihood of commercial taxes rising with a new arena awoke some deal critics who probably weren’t inspired enough to vote NO on Monday, but are now motivated. (Again, with Newsday, do not shoot the messenger).

Plus: Giving voters a taste of what the proposed arena would look like – see Sunday’s Newsday – was a good idea.

Minus: Desmond Ryan of the developers’ group Association For A Better Long Island surprisingly never effectively proved any points. He came off like an annoying hockey blogger constantly jabbing at a general manager about a minor trade. Ryan’s not a bad guy, but he did not serve his partners well. I guess we’ll see on Monday if he had any impact.

Minus: Jay Jacobs. Wow.

Minus: Kate Murray, puppet.

Plus: You can disagree with their views, but Nassau Legislature members such as Wayne Wink and Kevan Abrahams have been respectful in their criticism of the arena deal.

Minus: You can agree with his views, but Republican Majority presiding officer Peter Schmitt managed to come across as an ignoramous on the Wangano deal this month after playing a role in blowing up the Lighthouse Project a few years ago. Quite a feat, sir.

Plus: Islanders fans – including the fiercest critics of Wang and non-believers in the team’s slow and steady rebuilding program – put aside the hockey talk to get behind this arena deal. The Islanders are lucky to have them. Understand this: more than any other group, including the unions, the organization is counting on Islanders fans to be at the polls on Monday.

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Prediction: YES will win. The decision to hold the referendum on Aug. 1 continues to be key. YES will win because Islanders fans will not only show up to vote in the affirmative, but the majority of them will convince friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers to join them.

I do not share the high level of faith in union members that the Islanders and Mangano’s staff appear to have. Many care, but from the half-hearted “passion” I saw at the rally on Wednesday and what I have witnessed over the last several years of this process, I would not count on a massive display of support at the polls.

As much as the insecure members of Islanders Country wanted to make this about more than the team and also about concerts, family shows, trade shows, exhibitions and…sorry, I fell asleep there for a bit…in the end this vote is about the future of the New York Islanders. The Islanders are the primary tenant and most important occupant by far. Wang is in this position because he owns the Islanders. Lou Lamoriello, Glen Sather and Gary Bettman have released statements of support because they are partners in the National Hockey League. Have Jay-Z, Joel or even one popular musician? Disney on Ice? Ringling Brothers?

Of course not.

I will estimate that less than 10% of the Nassau residents who vote YES on Monday will be a) not Islanders fans or b) not encouraged to vote by an Islanders fan or – to a far lesser extent – by a member of the supporting unions.

YES will win, but will it be enough for smooth approvals by NIFA and in the legislature? Of course not.

On Monday, it will be about the final results. Tuesday will be about turnout.

The successful referendum will be a cause for celebration at the Wang and Mangano party on Monday night, but I believe the opposition – led by the Democrats – will sink their teeth into the voter turnout numbers by the following morning.

There are approximately 900,000 registered voters in Nassau County. For all of the front-page stories in Newsday, are enough residents engaged in this issue to take a few minutes between 6:00 am and 9:00 pm on Monday to vote? It certainly doesn’t feel like enough are.

If voter turnout is weak, NIFA will view the results as meaningless. The Democrats will say they learned little about what their constituents truly want. Negotiations on the arena deal will re-start, and then it will be up to whether Wang has any more patience, whether Wang wants to bend some more. If you really want to make a difference on Monday, just voting YES is probably not good enough. Bring 100 or so of your registered friends.

Because, consider this. There is a lot of tough talk here and elsewhere by Islanders fans and union leaders about voting politicians out of office. If there isn’t enough support to win a vote, purposefully set for a Monday in August to give the referendum the best chance to win, how can anyone possibly think they have enough influence to impact a November election?

Comments welcomed. Good luck on Monday, everyone.




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  1. […] Botta puts together a plus/minus tally for the referendum, including this rather amusing takedown of Billy Joel. Minus: Point Blank has learned that Billy […]

  2. […] Botta puts together a plus/minus tally for the referendum, including this rather amusing takedown of Billy Joel. Minus: Point Blank has learned that Billy […]