Government Funding For Millionaires
Seattle is undergoing the same dilemma right now that’s already taken place (or will soon be taking place) in most large American cities. These cities all have at least one large stadium for their home team(s).
The owners of this athletic franchise are incredibly wealthy. “Not that there's anything wrong with that.” But in spite of their wealth, their business ventures were probably financed with taxpayers’ money. A millionaire was able to siphon off millions of tax dollars to pay for his latest business venture — the stadium — which in turn made him even more wealthy.
Then at some point, more often than not, these team owners will decide that their taxpayer-financed stadium isn't big enough. Or it’s not flashy enough. Or the location is too windy, too cold, too rainy; or it’s in a bad neighborhood.
The owner wants a newer/bigger/better stadium. The taxpayers are expected to cough up even more money for the proper care and feeding of their spoiled club owner. If they don’t, the owner will take his ball (the home team) and go someplace else.
And on top of that, other cities are clamoring and groveling for this team to come to their city. “We’ll build you a stadium! How much do you want? Pleeease??”
Is this right?
Here's Seattle’s version of the story: the Seattle Sonics are leaving Seattle because Key Arena is “inadequate.” Nearby Renton is begging the Sonics to relocate there. They're scrambling to arrange taxpayer funding for a new arena for the Sonics. Right now it’s uncertain whether government funding will go through or not. If Renton doesn’t build a new arena, the Sonics’ owners are threatening to take their team out of state. (The Sonics’ owners are based in Oklahoma City.)
A state senator said “This is so insane. I cannot see how we in the Legislature can subsidize (star player) Ray Allen for $16 million a year when we cannot pay a starting wage for a teacher of $34,000. ... We talk about state-of-the-art facilities, but when it comes to education, we have 2,000 portables in this state. We have schools where you can't drink the water.”
It’s true that these stadiums and arenas are beneficial. Ball games, concerts and other events bring in thousands of customers and pump lots of money back into the community. But the financial benefits might be exaggerated; there are conflicting reports. Some people think the benefits are outweighed by the expenses and the strain on the infrastructure — traffic jams, huge overtime for the police and fire departments, etc.
But any way you look at it, should a wealthy businessperson be able to force taxpayers to underwrite his/her latest venture? I think this issue cuts across party lines. Some liberals are probably anxious to pay for these stadiums just because they bring money into the community. And some conservatives — if they're consistent with their endless slogans against “government giveaways” — might oppose public funding for stadiums.
What do you think?