If the referendum fails to pass, the Republicans will theoretically defy the will of the people by continuing negotiations and presenting a final plan to NIFA. On the other hand, should the referendum pass, NIFA must then decide whether or not the will of the people outweighs a project they may consider financially irresponsible. All told, the referendum might be the least important legal aspect of this battle, but the most important political tool for either side. Regardless, it is certainly the biggest gamble of Ed Mangano’s tenure as county executive.
Mangano has cautioned that the cost of doing nothing on the Coliseum property is the worst possible option and will cost the taxpayers, besides 2,100 jobs, $232 million—or $16 per household, annually. Not so, says Laureen Harris, partner and tax assessment specialist at Cronin, Cronin and Harris.
“If we were to do nothing but sell to someone privately, we would add $13 to $14 million dollars annually to the tax rolls as it is assessed now.” She characterizes the vote as a “one option referendum” and asks: “You open your top drawer and find a diamond; do you pay off your debt or go buy something else?”
In the end, the vote is less about hockey, parking garages, development rights or even taxes and more about the building itself. Because so much information is lacking in this referendum, it is a purely emotional decision being made by the voters. Behind the ongoing drama is the Nassau Coliseum, the silent, black and white film star in a Technicolor world. Silent, stoic and aging.
The nostalgic will see the cost as $13 per month initially and money-maker down the road; the jaded will see it as a tax increase for a billion-dollar bailout and boondoggle, Nassau County’s Shoreham.
Some will vote yes hoping that doing something is better than doing nothing. Most will stay home, throw their hands up and believe that the system is fixed and that North Carolina is sounding better and better. One thing is for sure, Ed Mangano is taking the political gamble of his career putting his faith in the immortal words of the King—“a little less conversation, a little more action.”