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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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The Dust Settles

The county’s voters rejected on Aug. 1 a proposal to have Nassau County’s property taxpayers borrow $400 million to construct a new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and a minor-league baseball stadium. And while I thought it was a good idea, and said so in this space, I knew about a week before the referendum that the measure would have trouble passing.

A friend stopped me in the street to complain politely about my advocacy for the taxpayer-funded construction of two sports and entertainment facilities during an economic downturn. This individual’s viewpoint carried the day, and the 57 percent ‘no’ vote provided a major boost to the most vocal public opponents of revitalizing the Nassau Hub in this way: Jay Jacobs, the chairman of Nassau County’s Democratic Party, and Desmond Ryan, executive director of the Association for a Better of Long Island (ABLI). Since they’re riding high these days, I’ve given myself permission to kick them while they’re up.

Chairman Jacobs’ job description, you would think, is recruiting candidates, raising money for their campaigns, and then trying to help them win elections. There are eight Democrats in the county Legislature, and they are the ones, in my view, who should have been out front on such a major public policy matter, not the fellow who helps nominate them to carry the Democratic Party’s banner every two years for a seat in the county Legislature.

On the other hand, perhaps Chairman Jacobs, like me, may just have gotten tired of the Democratic legislators’ endless hand-wringing over the referendum’s timing and how much it would cost to wake the county’s Board of Elections from its summertime slumber. Somebody had to take a stand, and Chairman Jacobs did: he was against it, and he wasn’t shy about saying so. The borrowing would result, he said, in a slight property tax increase that Nassau’s property owners could ill-afford. Fair enough, although I think it is worth noting that the increase would have closely approximated the one imposed by the county’s Democrats in 2009 (3.9 percent).

The ABLI’s Ryan was also an outspoken foe of the referendum’s passage, and had reason to celebrate as the returns rolled in on Monday night, Aug. 1. Perhaps forgetting the ABLI had extended an olive branch to the Mangano administration on Wednesday, Aug. 3, praising in a news release the county executive’s plan to pursue private-sector proposals for the Hub site, Ryan was quoted in Newsday on Sunday, Aug. 7 saying the referendum had “energized Democrats.” The ABLI’s Ryan added that it “showed they [the Democrats] could energize their base and get their vote out on a hot summer’s day.” That’s an odd interpretation of events. If nearly three in five Nassau voters reject something, it had bipartisan disapproval.

Nonetheless, the ABLI’s Ryan got his payback the next day. Governor Cuomo, like Robert DeNiro’s character in Meet the Parents, decided to bring Ryan into his Circle of Trust on Monday, Aug. 8, appointing him to a high-profile MTA Search Advisory Committee. Ryan and 19 others will assist the governor in recommending and evaluating candidates to be the next chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

A correction: Hall of Famer Stan Musial hit 475 home runs in his career, not 455, as I incorrectly wrote in a recent column.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: