Last week when I sat down to talk with Dan Yorke, one point he brought up was that stadium opponents have their hands tied until Speaker Mattiello releases the terms of the new deal he is working with the PawSox ownership. I agree with that, but with one caveat: there is always the paper trail to indicate what direction things are going in. Larry Lucchino is a veteran player in the baseball stadium construction game, so the idea he might deviate from a long line of tricks and tropes is highly dubious.
The current word from Speaker Mattiello’s office is that this will be a ‘revenue-neutral’ or ‘revenue-positive’ deal, a very slippery set of words. But Arlene Violet hammers it home in a piece for The Valley Breeze:
[T]he taxpayer is now being serenaded by the House Speaker with a sweet tune that any proposal would have to be “revenue neutral.” It’s a great soundbite but devoid of reality. In their book “The Field of Schemes,” authors Neil de Mause and Joanna Cagan expose this ploy and the steps taken as the project unfolds to shift costs and risks to the public while the rich welfare recipients turn the public money into private profit.
That does not bode well for Messrs Lucchino and Mattiello. But if one looks into Petco Park, one of the highly-touted ‘success’ stories on Lucchino’s resume, a site that Dr. Steinberg consistently cited in his Listening Tour presentations, the prognosis is dire. While affiliated with the San Diego Padres in the late 1990’s, Lucchino was able to push through a deal that was funded by publicly-approved bonds, Proposition C, called a ‘public-private partnership’ back then also. However, due to both a budget crunch and fiscal restructuring under California state law, the taxpayers were left on the hook facing a debt of up to $271 million. And it appears that Lucchino has not changed his tune over the past two decades. If one visits another story from the San Diego Reader titled CHARGERS: LOOK AT PETCO PARK FAILURE (how encouraging!), the comments section is illuminating.
Oh, the lies that were told in that 1998 election! The ballpark was to be revenue neutral; hotel tax receipts would service the bonds. Bureaucrats later admitted to a grand jury that they had been pressured to jiggle those numbers to make it look like TOT revenues would service the bonds. [Emphasis added]
In fact, as this slideshow presentation for the book PARADISE PLUNDERED: FISCAL CRISIS AND GOVERNANCE FAILURES IN SAN DIEGO (sounds cheery!), Petco Park not only failed to be ‘revenue-neutral’, it contributed in no small fashion to a major fiscal emergency for the city, resulting in austerity measures and cuts to pensions and public services. And considering Rhode Island has already done those things, one is left with only morbid fantasies to explain what might be offered up next. Will we put state heirlooms on the auction block or perhaps cut to the chase and sell the children into debt bondage?