Because Poor Cristian Guzman Needs a Home

|

The regular baseball season may be over, but the silly governance season in Washington, D.C. never ends!

The District [of Columbia] will begin using eminent domain to acquire parcels of land at the site of the Washington Nationals' ballpark by the end of this month, after unsuccessful negotiations with nearly half of the landowners.

City officials said they expect to file court documents to take over at least some of the 21-acre site in the coming weeks and have $97 million set aside to buy the properties and help landowners relocate.

The city made offers to all 23 landowners on the site last month but received no response from 10.

"We think there are some that we'll have good-faith negotiations with," said Steve Green, director of development in the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.

Love that "good-faith" bit. Keep in mind that the stadium deal will also cost taxpayers in that famously well-managed city around a half-billion dollars.

Link via Sploid, which had the winning headline: "They Should Rename Them the Washington Kelos."

I celebrated baseball's return to the nation's capital this May by calling the lot of 'em a bunch of liars.

NEXT: Let the Bidding War Begin!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. This is great, because Washington doesn’t have nearly enough institutional land that consumes services without paying property taxes. They need to clear out some more businesses and homes that are paying taxes, so they can create some more.

  2. What kind of properties are there? The entire park site is 21 acres, and 23 landowners are being evicted from some of that 21 acres w/ $97 million to buy them out…

  3. Joe,

    And what better way to make that happen than to use hundreds of millions of tax dollars, eh?

    “Good Faith” negotiations…ha. Yes, Mr. Property Owner, you should have “good faith” that we will forcibly kick you out, no matter what you do…so you’d better accept our “fair market value” offer.

  4. Forced relocation of people? Gee, when has America ever did such a thing?

    And the fucked up thing is, it’s LIBERALS who are doing it this time?!

  5. Matt, are you making fun of my HACKING MASS shortstop?

  6. I ask this while seriously wanting to hear what people thought about it, not to make a point:

    We’re (as libertarians) so skeptical of publically financed stadiums, but why? Aren’t there enormous uncaptured marginal benefits that a city reaps from having a major league team in its town; benefits that are non-excludable and non-rival and thus truly public in the economic sense? If we get a benefit from having a ‘home team’ which clearly (some) people DO, wouldn’t we expect to tax them to pay for part of that? I mean, I grew up in Buffalo, NY. Most residents of that city get large benefits from the presence of the Bills and Sabres that they never pay for, since most people love watching the Bills and Sabres without ever going to a game. Simply having the teams there is really important.

    I realize that not everyone gets these benefits, but as with any public good, it’s kind of hard to figure who does and who doesn’t and to make people pay if they do. . .

    I don’t see how spouting off the profit margins of MLB is even relevant, since the relevant profit here isn’t the accounting profit but the economic profit, and people would gladly pay to have a team in their town. This stikes me as what might be an anti-corporate red herring. DC has alot of problems, but I’m not sure the presence of the Nats is one of them. On the contrary, by the number of Nats t-shirts and hats I’ve seen, it seems like people are quite benefiting from their presence.

    PS: Note, I don’t go with the economic “it brings in jobs” argument, since that’s quite rightly pointed out by the gents here at Reason and elsewhere to be a flawed one. I also think I might be wrong and I want to agree with Welch on this, but I don’t right now.

  7. people would gladly pay to have a team in their town

    Then let them take up a private collection and pay for it with private funds, rather than have the government do it.

  8. Wilson:

    Libertarians tend to be individualists, some more then others. I’m personally on the far end of that spectrum.

    To me, very little is more blatant then professional sports in fostering mindless collectivism. People cheer on que. People participate in “the wave”. People stand up when prompted to do a silly little dance. And that’s just the harmless stuff. People also attack others, both verbally and physically, simply because they are wearing certain colors. There are riots. Somehow, the actions of a few sweaty men on the field makes one city “better” then others. It’s all about “We” and “Them”, and nothing to do with “me”.

  9. heh, at work, nothing better to do I guess then sit here and wait for replies. . .

    But that’s the point of public goods. They’re non-excludable and non-rival; by this I mean simply to say that such a system wouldn’t work and no one would have an incentive to pay into it, since they get the benefits of a home team regardless.

  10. Aren’t there enormous uncaptured marginal benefits that a city reaps from having a major league team in its town; benefits that are non-excludable and non-rival and thus truly public in the economic sense?

    Everything I have read that actually references a scholarly study of the subject says “NO”.

    In every case a taxpayerbuilt facility represents a net drain on the local economy.

  11. But they never seem to, do they? It’s like they don’t think they could make a profitable business without massive subsidy.

    And always keep in mind that the business is watching grown men play a game. Even the broadest definition of “public good” has to exclude the ability to watch people play a game.

  12. Then let them take up a private collection and pay for it with private funds, rather than have the government do it.

    Funny you should mention that. It was tried at this here website though I can’t seem to find the page with the actual pledge list. I remember pledging a couple hundred bucks.

    Guess MLB wasn’t interested in dealing with us. Then again, they haven’t actually sold the team yet… so maybe there’s still time.

  13. “people would gladly pay to have a team in their town”

    And I’d rather not. I can just barely tolerate The increased traffic when Syracuse University has home games.

    But we’re gonna get DestiNY, the world’s largest shopping center and who-boy the happy little developer is asking for massive tax breaks, et cetera. And the traffic would be ridiculous. But it’s just a scam to steal from the public trough so traffic won’t really be a problem.

  14. Eric,

    Public good can mean whatever they say it means in these cases, usually that any any good won’t be going to the public.

  15. Eric,

    Public good can mean whatever they say it means in these cases, usually that any good won’t be going to the public.

  16. “In every case a taxpayerbuilt facility represents a net drain on the local economy.”

    Isaac, minor league baseball can be a good investment for a city. Or the better deals that have been done – such as the $10 million that Massachusetts ponied up for infrastructure work and land acquisition to keep the Patriots from leaving – can be worthwhile.

    But as far as shelling out mid-nine figures with no revenue coming back, like in most stadium deals? Fuhgeddaboutit.

  17. Well I did some quick research myself, there is as far as I can tell not a ton of major work which actually looks at the non-use beneift of pro-sports teams. One study, by Whitehead et all, says:

    “To the extent that teams generate civic pride, subsidies to teams and arenas may be efficient. Using a CVM survey, however, Johnson, Groothuis, and Whitehead [2001] find that, while the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL generate substantial civic pride, the value of those public goods falls far short of the cost of a new arena. Johnson and Whitehead [2000] also used a CVM survey to determine that the public goods generated by a minor league baseball stadium in Lexington, Kentucky, and a new arena for University of Kentucky basketball fail to justify significant public subsidies.”

    Well it doesn’t surprise me that UK basketball falls short, that really doesn’t say a whole lot to me about pro sports in a major city like DC. Also, I’m not surprised by the Penguins, in a football city like Pittsburgh for a terrible team like the Penguins any survey based study is going to fall short there.

    But this doesn’t matter. The point is, even if we’re paying TOO MUCH the point is we should be paying SOMETHING. These studys acknowledge that and I think Reason is missing the point on this one, big time.

  18. “people would gladly pay to have a team in their town”

    And I’d rather not. I can just barely tolerate The increased traffic when Syracuse University has home games.

    But we’re gonna get DestiNY, the world’s largest shopping center and who-boy the happy little developer is asking for massive tax breaks, et cetera. And the traffic would be ridiculous. But it’s just a scam to steal from the public trough so traffic won’t really be a problem.

  19. Matt: It’s “Cristian” — no “h”; and he doesn’t suck entirely. As ESPN points out, Guzman “displays excellent power in batting practice”. What more can you ask for? Now, on to other things…

    Most residents of that city get large benefits from the presence of the Bills and Sabres that they never pay for, since most people love watching the Bills and Sabres without ever going to a game.

    Wilson: I’m going to quibble with your argument. People may enjoy watching the Bills and Sabres (though I seriously doubt this, especially since Hasek and Kelly fled town — though I’m admittedly very high on McGahee). Fine. But I disagree with your contention that many are watching these teams on TV without paying for it. They’re helping fund the team with ad dollars (the NFL TV contract is so big a number I couldn’t fit it on this page if I tried, and print ads in sports sections are also driven by readership), by buying team merchandise (I’ve heard everyone in Buffalo has a Mark Kelso throwback helmet), through cable TV subscriptions (generally, or through NFL Sunday Ticket, which pays rights fees to teams), by going to bars (and paying associated taxes) to watch games, by taking a barrel in from Canada and staying in Buffalo hotels, and probably several dozen other associated actions I can’t think of right now.

    Even those who aren’t somehow paying for it owe the team and its fans nothing. Think about this — say your girlfriend gets breats implants. You may enjoy them — you may even have paid for them — but even though I didn’t pay a cent for them I’d still receive some visual benefits. Do I owe you or your girlfriend anything? No. Her breasts are hers — they’re not a “public good” simply because others may enjoy them. Another example… say you remodel your house and it looks really nice. People may flock to your house to see it. Some of them — neighbors, friends, family — may even be able to go inside and check it out. Other may be resigned to seeing it from the outside, or they may read about it in the newspaper. Seeing your house may make them very happy, but it doesn’t mean in any sense that the city of Buffalo would owe you anything because you’ve made people happy.

    Finally, let’s look at an antithetical argument to your point. If there’s a “public good” (and I don’t believe in such a thing), then there must also be a “public bad”. A “public bad” in a sports sense might be Guzman, or the LA Clippers, Portland Trailblazers, Seattle Seahawks, or Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Those teams are actually draining the life from the communities they play in. Wouldn’t those teams then owe the communities in which they play some sort of monetary compensation for all the grief they’ve caused?

    By your logic, yes. But the flaw in the argument is that sports teams are not owned by the public, they are owned by private individuals and/or corporations, LLCs, etc. And as private entities, they neither owe you and I — nor are owed by you and I — one cent.

  20. Wilson — I’m a baseball fanatic, and somewhat of a Southern Californian nationalist … and I couldn’t be happier, for example, that the NFL has been unsuccessful in convincing L.A. to cough up the usual subsidy-bribes.

    My problems with taxpayer financing:

    1) It’s a hell of a lot money, usually *more* in places like Milwaukee and D.C., which can ill afford it.

    2) There is no essential service being provided, at all. I want tax money to pay for essential non-market goods; I don’t consider a fancy sporting stadium that enriches the already filthy rich to qualify.

    3) It’s not exactly sporting for non-sports fans.

    4) Subsidies & Eminent Domain are a vicious cycle — billionaire liars like Bud Selig *know* they can extract them by the hundreds of millions from gullible insecure city-nationalists, and so they go straight toward that model, rather than seek out creative things like (gasp!) paying for their own damn stadium (as the San Francisco Giants’ Peter Magowan did), or having individual fans in sports-mad second-tier cities pool their resources (as in Green Bay).

    5) It actually *increases* the likelihood that a franchise will pull up stakes and move to a new city. When municipalities become landlords, tenants tend to act like … tenants! Who seek out the most sweetheart deals, rather than protect and enhance the property they own.

    6) It inflates the true market value of professional sports franchises, which in turn trickles down to inflated ticket prices. Remove the subsidies, tax giveaways & eminent domain, and franchise valuations would stop their exponential growth, and then owners would judge the best cities by more market-based stuff like population, size of media-market, overall business climate, etc.

    7) I generally dislike the sight of incredibly powerful financial interests getting special, targeted deals with my money, while small businesses get bupkus.

    8) Welfare creates a pathology of dependency, unseemly Welfare Queens, and all those other things we used to hear when the recipients were poor minorities, instead of rich white guys. (Did I just say that?)

    9) I hate Bud Selig with a special passion, and am instinctively in favor of anything that causes him pain.

  21. Mr. Nice Guy-
    Your distaste for sports is wrongly placed in baseball. Baseball is by far the most libertarian of all the major pro sports. Think about it. It’s all about individual performances being brought together to form a team. It’s like individual companies “working together” in the marketplace. What’s good for the player’s statistics are good for the team. The analogy isn’t perfect, but its a helluva lot better than football where its basically a totalarian milatary regime. (This reminds me of that George Carlin routine.)

  22. Aren’t there enormous uncaptured marginal benefits that a city reaps from having a major league team in its town; benefits that are non-excludable and non-rival and thus truly public in the economic sense?

    No. The economic benefits are illusory at best, as they represent the shifting of spending from one form of entertainment to another.

  23. Aren’t there enormous uncaptured marginal benefits that a city reaps from having a major league team in its town; benefits that are non-excludable and non-rival and thus truly public in the economic sense?

    No. The economic benefits are illusory at best, as they represent the shifting of spending from one form of entertainment to another.

  24. Aren’t there enormous uncaptured marginal benefits that a city reaps from having a major league team in its town; benefits that are non-excludable and non-rival and thus truly public in the economic sense?

    No. The economic benefits are illusory at best, as they represent the shifting of spending from one form of entertainment to another.

  25. Man, that server sure is screwy.

  26. Okay, so there’s benefits to having a sports team in your city. So? People are more than willing to shell out their hard-earned cash on tickets, merchandise, overpriced beer etc. They’re more than willing to generate TV ratings and therefore voluntarily contribute to ad revenue. Well run sports teams make a lot of money for the owners. None of this requires the government to help out at all, so why is it necessary to fleece the taxpayers for a stadium? It’s not. It’s a typical government scam designed to forcibly take money from the taxpayers for the benefit of politicians and corporate bigwigs.

  27. RC, the benefits are not entirely illusory. Some fraction of the spending is new, and not just shifted.

    And if you’re a city, and you’ve shifted entertainment dollars from a mall in the suburbs to the stadium and surrunding pubs in your city, what’s wrong with that?

    These benefits aren’t the hundreds of millions the owners always claim they’ll provide, but they’re not entirely illusorty, either.

  28. Aren’t there enormous uncaptured marginal benefits that a city reaps from having a major league team in its town; benefits that are non-excludable and non-rival and thus truly public in the economic sense?

    No. The economic benefits are illusory at best, as they represent the shifting of spending from one form of entertainment to another.

  29. None of this requires the government to help out at all, so why is it necessary to fleece the taxpayers for a stadium? It’s not. It’s a typical government scam
    While I’m a stereotypical D.C. hating Northern Virginia burb rat, I lay this one on MLB. The D.C. government floated an all-privately financed stadium to MLB two years ago and they rejected it because the debt would hurt the resale value of the team. Maybe the D.C. private finance plan was ridiculous; I don’t know, but I’m not inclined to give MLB any breaks.

    So D.C. came up with this “special tax” plan that involves an extra coporate tax on the highest grossing businesses in the city plus a bonus sales tax on food and souvenirs at the stadium.

  30. Major League Soccer’s DC (Diving Crackheads) United still plays in RFK.

    Before the Nationals moved in, RFK hosted US men’s national team games that attracted fans from all over several countries.

    (The last US men’s national team game in Columbus, Ohio; had fans from 37 states and 5 countries)

    Sure, DC United would go on Welfare if anyone offered. But no one will.

    The Diving Crackheads have won 4 MLS championships and even an Interamerican Championship (They beat the best team in Brazil).

    So where’s the Welfare for us soccer geeks?

  31. Joe, here in Salt Lake City; our tax dollars built a minor league baseball stadium.

    After 10 years, it had done pretty much nothing for the economy.

    Last year, guess what moved in to the space where a warehouse had been abandoned?

    You guessed it…..a Wal Mart!

    Aren’t Wal Mart’s supposed to ruin the economy?

  32. Let’s see. $97 million/23 landowners = $4 mil+ per property. Obviously a blighted area.

  33. I?m of mixed opinions on the issue of publicly funded arenas, but one sort of incalculable benefit from having a pro team is that it kind of works as a PR agent for the city.

    I grew up and still live in Charlotte. When the Hornets started playing here in 1988, many people around the country had very little knowledge of the city. In fact, it was often confused with Charleston, SC and Charlottesville, Va. However, in the time since Charlotte has been one of America?s fastest growing and most prosperous cities.

    While I?m certainly not saying that this growth is directly due to the Hornets, it?s hard not to think that on some level having a team on the national stage helped to get Charlotte?s ?name out there.? It?s impossible to quantify the benefits exactly, of course, but I suspect that the cost of the public arena where they played turned out to be a good investment for the city.

    Ironically, the Hornets later left town over a dispute to build a new arena?

  34. what strikes me is that, by wilson’s argument, governments have a right to spend our tax money on anything they decide may provide “marginal benefits”. it’s my (seemingly prehistoric) belief that tax money ought to be limited to performing specific services for the people, not just randomly bringing about things that are nice.

    protection and settling disputes are the most obvious of those specific services. roads and schools, i’ll take; education and transportation are essential for a functioning economy. baseball stadiums… no.

  35. Wilson, why do you want to agree with Welch?

  36. So D.C. came up with this “special tax” plan that involves an extra coporate tax on the highest grossing businesses in the city plus a bonus sales tax on food and souvenirs at the stadium.

    Which has, of course, had exactly the effect one would expect: The announcement by several businesses that they’re going to move to Maryland and Virginia.

  37. Anyone have any numbers on the economic value of a football stadium as opposed to a baseball stadium? Since football, the greatest sport ever devised by Man, is some 10 times as interesting as baseball, does it create 10 times the justification for corporate welfare?

  38. What bothers me nearly as much as the outright theft to build the billionaires their sports palaces is the local media hopping into bed with them and becoming cheerleaders for the cause. Their use of the collective “we” when drumming up civic pride, as if the whole community has a stake in the team’s success, is nauseating. The teams, the players and even the fan base is becoming increasingly elitist. And the vast majority of the taxed couldn’t give a rat’s ass.

  39. What about the economic benefit of a baseball stadium versus a bunch of gay bars, porn shops, and a garage?

    (If Moderator approves my last comment that will make sense.)

  40. The teams, the players and even the fan base is becoming increasingly elitist. And the vast majority of the taxed couldn’t give a rat’s ass.

    Interesting point. That’s exactly what happened in DC. MLB rushed the deal through after last fall’s city council elections. What happened was, several seats on the council were won by anti-DC-baseball candidates, running on an anti corporate welfare platform that had great populist appeal, among the rat’s-ass non-givers. A majority of anti-baseball types were elected.

    But since they didn’t take office till January, MLB had a window to squeeze the deal in before the newly elected council could spike the deal; and squeeze it in they did.

    A process that had been dragged out over four or five years was suddenly rushed through a rapidly closing window of opportunity, despite (a) no plan for financing in place (the one Mayor Williams said he had fell apart within a couple weeks of MLB’s announcement that “everything was in place”), and (b) as can be seen by this article, the stadium site had not yet been secured (which was also lied about at the time).

    So: nowhere to build a stadium, plus no plan for financing one, plus overwhelming voter opposition, equalled….. yep. Here comes baseball.

  41. Their use of the collective “we” when drumming up civic pride, as if the whole community has a stake in the team’s success, is nauseating.

    well in philly at least, as obsessed as we are with our sports, you rarely hear someone on TV or in the paper refer to a team as “we”. mostly you hear fans themselves say that, and they understand that they don’t have a financial stake in teams’ success (unless they’re betting). it’s just a communal gesture.

  42. in fact, we have lots of communal gestures reserved for our teams in philly.

  43. This actually makes perfect sense, because the grand-daddy of all eminent domain cases, the one that brought about the ‘blight’ standard (which is: IF Blight THEN eminent domain, blight EQUALS ‘what a city says it is’), the one that raised a lot of the SE quadrant, came out of D.C. In fact, this is kind of piddling in comparison.

  44. Well shoot, John, if one particular ballpark project in one particular city didn’t produce benefits that you are aware of, I guess that’s that then.

    The damage Wal Marts do to the economy is off site – in the factories that get closed in other states, in the stores that get closed in other towns, and in the storefronts that are left empty on other streets.

  45. And if you’re a city, and you’ve shifted entertainment dollars from a mall in the suburbs to the stadium and surrunding pubs in your city, what’s wrong with that?

    These benefits aren’t the hundreds of millions the owners always claim they’ll provide, but they’re not entirely illusorty, either.

    Comment by: joe at October 6, 2005 03:12 PM

    The damage Wal Marts do to the economy is off site – in the factories that get closed in other states, in the stores that get closed in other towns, and in the storefronts that are left empty on other streets.

    Comment by: joe at October 6, 2005 06:47 PM

    I’ve occasionally suspected that joe is actually the Reason writers collectively playing devil’s advocate, but this is the most damning evidence I’ve seen yet.

    Do you realize you’ve completely contradicted yourself in the course of one thread?

  46. You gotta remember, privately-funded stores where poor people can buy stuff are bad, while tax-funded stadiums where even the middle class blanche at the ticket and concession prices are good.

  47. Aren’t there enormous uncaptured marginal benefits that a city reaps from having a major league team in its town; benefits that are non-excludable and non-rival and thus truly public in the economic sense?

    Tell that to the folks in Tampa-St. Pete.

  48. What’s all this about Guzman? Where’s the love for Vinny Castilla?

  49. “Do you realize you’ve completely contradicted yourself in the course of one thread?”

    jf, do you realize that you are a twit?

    Is it possible that some migration of economic activity can be good, and that other examples might be bad?

  50. Dammit, it’s the playoffs! Can’t we all just stop the partisan bickering and root for the Cardinals like God intended? Maybe he’ll even let Boston come back against Chicago and get back to the Series so the revenge can be complete.

  51. joe:

    No, and no. You obviously realize that you’ve lost, as (like you always do) you’ve resorted to name-calling and non-sequiturs. Good night now.

  52. Oh, good, you’re both refusing to respond to the point, and leaving. A twofer!

  53. This has almost wrapped, but I’ll respond, joe. From your examples, one can draw the conclusion that “migration of economic activity” is only good when it is initiated by the government, as opposed to private concerns. Knowing as you should that this is a site run by a magazine with the tagline “Free Minds and Free Markets”, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I, along with most everyone else here, believe the opposite of you on this point.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.