I am a lifelong progressive. I am 55 years old, and was a progressive before it was an official branch of the Democratic Party. I have marched, demonstrated, and protested at more events than most. I have probably made more signs and banners than anyone in our state. I have escorted women into reproductive health care clinics for nearly two decades, was on the board of a pro-choice organization for 10 years, worked in the state’s domestic violence movement for more than 12 years, volunteered for an AIDS helpline for 10 years back when most people didn’t know what HIV was or how it was transmitted, and was a leader in our state’s marriage equality movement… for 12 long years that I would not trade, and will never get back. I have testified on more bills than I can remember, and have volunteered for the campaigns of mostly progressive candidates. I am such a progressive that, most of the time, the Democrats are not progressive enough for my tastes… but I digress.
I am also a lifelong baseball fan, and a PawSox season ticket holder. I have looked at and studied the proposed stadium deal, and believe it is a good deal for Pawtucket, for Rhode Island, and especially for the tourism and hospitality industries. The proposal embodies responsible economic development, which is or should be a progressive value. If we reach the design phase, we can talk about eco-sustainability and hopefully influence the choice of building materials, sustainable energy sources, and the carbon footprint of the new facility. In short, since the stadium will pay for itself and probably generate revenues that can be redirected at other progressive objectives, such as schools, I can’t see the harm in investing in this public-private partnership.
So, with much bigger fish to fry, why are some progressives making this project the focus of their anger and frustration with the powers-that-be?
I have wondered about this for more than a year, and with growing disappointment.
This is not a failed video gaming corporation run by an inexperienced former athlete and foolishly backed by taxpayers’ money. The owners of the PawSox have a proven track record of creating destination ballparks that baseball fans love. Their architect is the best in the nation at this specialty.
The stadium proposal is not about the refusal of government to provide affordable and universal health care to people who otherwise will suffer needlessly, some of whom will die. It’s not about denying women’s reproductive rights, preventing discrimination against people who belong to certain cultural groups, and it’s not about backing corporations that are ruining our futures and our environment by fracking, strip mining, and promoting fossil fuels. No, the stadium deal is an economic development opportunity, and I fail to see why it has become such a progressive concern.
This entire public discussion is about the proposed construction of a ballpark and the creation of retail establishments such as shops, restaurants and bars in the surrounding area. That’s really it. It won’t solve the world’s problems, and it probably won’t make anyone wealthy, but it will bring joy into the hearts and lives of everyone who goes to a game with their kids or grandkids. And it will keep people coming to Pawtucket. Whether you love baseball, like I do, or hate sports in general, this is at its heart an economic development proposal.
To my fellow progressives, I say, please—let’s get our priorities straight here. If we want to lead the charge on equality and equity, I’m all in. If we want to find candidates who will change the world and the culture under our State House dome, let’s go. If we want to think globally and act locally, you have a friend in me. But let’s not impede progress where it comes to what a local community wishes to do in partnership with its beloved baseball team. We have much more important work to attend to.