What are our elected officials thinking? Public
Over the past several weeks, the Boston Phoenix has written more
editorials on Fenway Park than on any other subject. That's because we feel so
deeply about the issue. Yes, the Red Sox' proposal to build a new baseball park
in the Fenway affects our business: our offices at 126 Brookline Avenue are
among the properties that would be displaced under the plan. On a larger scale,
the proposal affects the Fenway neighborhood -- which we're an integral part
of, given that we've been headquartered here for the past 16 years. But most
important, this scheme to build a new ballpark in the heart of the city affects
the whole of Boston, which we've covered for more than three decades.
money should not be
spent on the Red Sox.
Mayor Tom Menino's decision to fully fund the Sox' request -- $140 million
in city money to pay for the needed land-takings and site preparation -- is
truly outrageous. It's time to move beyond reasoned, calculated arguments and
register our indignation.
It is outrageous that any branch of government would violate the Constitution
and use the powers of eminent domain to take private property from private
owners for the benefit of a private enterprise. Especially an enterprise like a
professional baseball team -- which is in the business of providing big-profit
entertainment to the masses by paying a small number of entertainers megabucks
to perform about seven months a year. Is that really worth dislocating
thousands of other people? Is that really worth the probable millions of
dollars in losses and expenses that dislocated business owners will sustain? Is
it really worth destroying family businesses that have been built up over many
years of hard work?
It is outrageous that in the 11th hour of this process, a narrow elite of
elected officials would even consider cobbling together and approving a scheme
to use taxpayer funds to finance an ill-thought-out, unconscionably expensive
private project. Especially one that will fatten the pockets of a few already
enriched private owners and athletes. Opinion polls show that the public
opposes public financing, period. Why won't the politicians listen?
It is outrageous that government would tax citizens further through parking
surcharges (even if they're levied only on game days). It's outrageous that
elected officials would approve additional hotel and meals taxes. Not everyone
who comes to the Fenway goes to Red Sox games. Who knows? Perhaps they're going
to the new Landmark Center to shop, see a movie, or work out at their health
club. Why should these people bear more than their share of the burden of
paying for a new ballpark? And why are elected officials supporting new parking
garages that will encourage even more people to drive their cars into an
already congested neighborhood?
It is outrageous for the government to use its credit capacity to finance a
facility for a private big-bucks profit-making enterprise when other, far more
critical social needs must still be funded. We are facing nearly
$1 billion in cost overruns for the Big Dig. The new convention center in
South Boston is sure to come in over budget -- some landowners are threatening
to sue to get a fair price for their property, steel prices have risen, and a
private hotel developer is balking at paying for a $40 million heating
system. We are in the middle of a brutal housing crisis. Six hundred thousand
citizens in the Commonwealth live without health insurance. And the mayor of
Boston thinks it's okay to spend $140 million of the city's money -- money
whose return cannot be guaranteed -- on a new baseball park? Where are his
priorities? Government is not in the business of spending its money on
high-risk private enterprises.
It is outrageous that every alternative site has simply been dismissed because,
for more than a year, public officials refused to deliberate the facts of this
one proposal. The reason the Sox' plan is so expensive
-- $627 million, soon to be $1 billion -- is that it's
being built in a bustling, urban residential and retail district.
It is outrageous that for more than a year the Red Sox have stonewalled the
public on the real costs of their proposal -- and that they continue to do so.
It is outrageous that our elected officials, put in office to mind the
public's business, have let themselves be seduced into approving this
Apart from narrowly defined and clearly planned-out infrastructure assistance
from the government, the Red Sox should be required to fund their new ballpark
through whatever financial resources they have or can obtain -- including
additional equity investment. It is, quite simply, an outrage that they are not
being made to do so.
What do you think? Send an e-mail to email@example.com.