Sports

Welfare Reform Comes to Key Arena

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One vote that didn't get a lot of attention last week: Seattle passed an initiative, sponsored by a group called Citizens for More Important Things, to end public subsidies for pro sports.

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  1. Hell yeah. Maybe the tide is finally(!) turning against this crap. When the new stadium craze was sweeping the nation in the 1990s, I thought I was going to kill someone if I had to read the phrase “world-class city” one more time.

  2. Maybe its the beginning of the end of Billionaire Welfare.

    But I’m not counting on it.

    Hang on to your wallets.

  3. Well, at least some crappy cities with low self-esteem will get sports franchises.

  4. Good for Seattle, but I don’t really see a problem if a city collectively decides to invest in a pro sports franchise. Many obviously feel it’s worth the expense.

  5. “”Bob Sherwood’s seat [in Pennsylvania] would have been overwhelmingly ours, if his mistress hadn’t whined about being throttled,” said Mr Norquist.”

  6. That initiative was wonderfully worded on the ballot, where it simply asked: “should the city provide services to professional sports franchises for free that it doesn’t offer to any other type of business?” I’m sure a lot of die hard sports fans voted yes without realizing what it meant when they read that, thinking it meant free toilet bowl cleaning services or something, and are probably kicking themselves right now.

    Unfortunately, Seattlites voted for every other tax raising measure on this year’s ballot.

  7. “should the city provide services to professional sports franchises for free that it doesn’t offer to any other type of business?”

    Of course, the city could get around that wording by building a $200 million arena and then charging the team to lease it, right?

  8. “Of course, the city could get around that wording by building a $200 million arena and then charging the team to lease it, right?”

    Of course, if a professional sports franchise would actually pay a lease that would cover the investment cost, then a private developer would be happy to build one and the city wouldn’t have to get involved.

  9. I think Dan conspicuously omitted the part about covering the investment cost.

  10. THAT’S the wording?

    Every city I’ve ever heard of has an economic development department, with a budget to provide services to bring business to town.

    I think the initiative might stop Seattle from paying for the traffic details during the game, but it wouldn’t stop it from providing an economic development loan or grant to upgrade a stadium.

  11. Good for Seattle, but I don’t really see a problem if a city collectively decides to invest in a pro sports franchise. Many obviously feel it’s worth the expense.

    Of course many people feel that way. Who wouldn’t want somebody to subsidize their ticket prices without having to directly demand it from them in person?

  12. “…I don’t really see a problem if a city collectively decides to invest in a pro sports franchise.”

    That’s the old collectivist team spirit, Dan.

    And don’t let the fact that your imaginary “collective decision” has nothing whatsoever to do with what is actually happening.

  13. Sorry, I’m still laughing about 11:03 am. Dan said, “invest.”

    Investing in (hosting) a pro sports franchise is akin to “investing” in a new Ferrari or a fifth of gin. Fun, maybe, but real investment implies an expectation of returns.

  14. Of course many people feel that way. Who wouldn’t want somebody to subsidize their ticket prices without having to directly demand it from them in person?

    I meant many cities feel that way.

  15. It would almost be alright if building the stadium bought a city an equity interest in the team. It seems to do well for Green Bay.

  16. Actually, minor league baseball teams can be good investments for a city, even if you just compare their costs to direct and indirect revenues.

    MLB and NFL franchises, on the other hand, are big financial losers. You have to get pretty deep into “putting our city on the map” territory to have an even vaguely credibly argument that they’re a good use of money. And you’re certainly better off fixing the streets or rebating some taxes.

  17. Investing in (hosting) a pro sports franchise is akin to “investing” in a new Ferrari or a fifth of gin. Fun, maybe, but real investment implies an expectation of returns.

    Right – and I think having a major league sports team does provide returns for cities. Otherwise they wouldn’t do it.

  18. Yeah, it really worked out swell for Detroit and Pontiac, now didn’t it?
    Those cities sure improved with the fortunes of their teams, right?
    Pfeh.

    no hugs for thugs,
    Shirley Knott

  19. …I think having a major league sports team does provide returns for cities. Otherwise they wouldn’t do it.

    Right, governments would never make bad investments with other peoples money. Nope, couldn’t happen.

  20. Shirley, you jest. It is a bit much to say that a city would rise and fall with the fortunes’ of its teams.

  21. MLB and NFL franchises, on the other hand, are big financial losers. You have to get pretty deep into “putting our city on the map” territory to have an even vaguely credibly argument that they’re a good use of money. And you’re certainly better off fixing the streets or rebating some taxes.

    There’s the publicity a city gets from having it’s name mentioned thousands of times in the national media, plus the quality of life factor since many people want to live in a city where there are pro sports, the civic pride factor when a team does well, etc.

    Look at my hometown of Charlotte – before the Hornets, many people couldn’t distinguish us from Charleston SC or Charlottesville Va. That team really did put us on the map (and later wore out their welcome, of course!)

  22. I’m pretty sure that city subsidized stadiums are almost always loss leaders for cities.

  23. “Right – and I think having a major league sports team does provide returns for cities. Otherwise they wouldn’t do it.”

    Bahahahahahaha.

    It may provide a return for the city government officials who get wined and dined and get skybox tickets.

    But for the average joe it just means more taxes.

  24. Right, governments would never make bad investments with other peoples money. Nope, couldn’t happen.

    Other people’s money? Are cities usually dealing with their own money?

  25. In case anyone’s interested, I’ve cut & pasted the actual ballot language as follows:

    Seattle Initiative Measure Number 91 concerns property, goods, and services Seattle provides to forprofit professional sports.
    If enacted the measure would require that for-profit professional sports organizations pay the City at least “fair value” for goods, services, real property, or facilities the City provides or leases to them, either directly or through another public entity or a nonprofit organization. The measure defines “fair value,” based in part on the rate of return for 30-year U.S. Treasury Bonds. Any Seattle resident would have standing to file a lawsuit challenging City acts that allegedly violated the measure.
    Should this measure be enacted into law?

  26. I’m pretty sure that city subsidized stadiums are almost always loss leaders for cities.

    A “loss leader” suggests that the losses are made up somewhere else for a net economic gain.

    As far as I know every honest study has shown that publicly financed stadiums are a net economic drain on communities.

  27. This is horrible. Think of all those “student athletes” who have used up their NCAA eligibility without graduating with their degree in sports science or communications.

    Where will they find jobs now?

  28. Good for Seattle, but I don’t really see a problem if a city collectively decides to invest in a pro sports franchise. Many obviously feel it’s worth the expense.

    So Dan, what did “Good for Seattle” mean? I thought you were saying that ending public subsidies for sports teams was a good thing, but then you go on to say if the city wants it then it’s okay. I don’t see how one could hold both positions simultaneously. Where do you stand?

  29. Id love to see MLB & the NFL driven out of San Diego. Easy enough to do, too: quit using tax $ subsidising water, traffic control, arena related roads, parking & the like. Theyd be outta town in a blink, taking (one hopes) the diehard fans with them, raising the cities average IQ by 20%.
    Gal rollerderby can stay tho. GO WRECKERDOLLS!!!!

  30. Fing, I never jest.
    The claim was that major league sports teams were an asset to their host (in the parasitic sense?) cities.
    Experience in Detroit/Pontiac suggests, rather strongly, that this is nonsense.
    If there might occassionally be correlation between major league sports teams and ‘benefit to the host city’, it is certainly at the level of (quite low, I’m sure) correlation. And correlation is not causation.
    Anyone who wants to argue that the correlation is significant should first demonstrate that it exists and second that it is greater than the correlation between some number of violent crimes and the same benefits. (After all, if your team isn’t winning, it is simply because you haven’t hired enough thugs, murderers and rapists yet, or so it seems to go…)

    no hugs for thugs,
    Shirley Knott

  31. I meant many cities feel that way.
    No, Dan. They don’t. Cities are not volitional entities. The term ‘city’ means ‘a group of individuals who live in a specific geographic area.’
    Also remember that “collectively decide to do x” means “The majority of people decide to expropriate funds from themselves and others to achieve x, and will use the coercive power of the state to do so.”

  32. These stadium deals make Amtrak look like money well spent.

    ———–

    “There’s the publicity a city gets from having it’s name mentioned thousands of times in the national media, plus the quality of life factor since many people want to live in a city where there are pro sports, the civic pride factor when a team does well, etc.”

    Yes, of course- all the ethereal “benefits” which will necessarily accrue to a project for which THE NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP.

    Disclaimer: As a former resident of Indianapolis, I watched Bart Peterson slave feverishly for years on his legacy welfare-for-millionaires scheme currently taking form as LucasOil Stadium, new home of the Colts. The Civic Pride Argument always featured prominently in the presentations.

  33. Shirley, by “equity interest” I mean that the city owns part of the team. If the team is profitable, then the city will get some of that back, barring accounting shenanigans.

  34. HERB: Building A. Are you for, or against, the motion to impeach?

    RALPH: What does that mean?

    HERB: It means, if you’re for the motion, you’re against Morty.

    RALPH: So why don’t you say that?

    HERB: Hey, I’m running the meeting.

    RALPH: If you think so.

  35. Oops, I am Jay Sherman

  36. If your a Lions, Tigers, Pistons, or Red Wings fan (Bonus question – Guess where I live) you should pay for it yourself withou appropriating (stealing) money from your fellow citizens.

    Hey, I like good whisky and sex for entertainment. Does anyone want to pony up their money for that?

  37. It’s a good investment. It keeps the riff-raff happy so they don’t try to confiscate even more of our property.

  38. “Look at my hometown of Charlotte – before the Hornets, many people couldn’t distinguish us from Charleston SC or Charlottesville Va.”

    Actually, Dan, I thought you lived in “Charlotte’s Web”.

  39. So Dan, what did “Good for Seattle” mean? I thought you were saying that ending public subsidies for sports teams was a good thing, but then you go on to say if the city wants it then it’s okay. I don’t see how one could hold both positions simultaneously. Where do you stand?

    By “good for Seattle” I was basically saying that as a city it’s free to make the decision that it doesn’t want to support pro sports, that’s fine with me. But if other cities feel that it’s a worthwhile investment (however they care to measure it), that’s fine also.

  40. Dan T.,

    “There’s the publicity a city gets from having it’s name mentioned thousands of times in the national media, plus the quality of life factor since many people want to live in a city where there are pro sports, the civic pride factor when a team does well, etc.”

    Yes, there are benefits, but we’re talking about costs on the order of $300,000,000 – $1,000,000,000. That’s a lot of scratch. Not to mention the opportunity costs from the land taken up.

  41. No, Dan. They don’t. Cities are not volitional entities. The term ‘city’ means ‘a group of individuals who live in a specific geographic area.’

    Every entity is composed of smaller entities. A city is a group of people who not only live in a specific area, but are also dependent on one another in various ways. People live in cities because they feel the benefit of being part of a greater whole is worth the price.

    Also remember that “collectively decide to do x” means “The majority of people decide to expropriate funds from themselves and others to achieve x, and will use the coercive power of the state to do so.”

    Sure, you could define it that way. But that’s basically how civilization works – what’s the alternative?

  42. Yes, there are benefits, but we’re talking about costs on the order of $300,000,000 – $1,000,000,000. That’s a lot of scratch. Not to mention the opportunity costs from the land taken up.

    Sure. And each city has to weigh the costs and benefits and come to a conclusion as to whether it’s worthwhile.

    Certainly all cities are willing to spend some amount of money on pro sports. Perhaps what we saw in Seattle is an indication that the costs have gone out of whack with the benefits?

  43. Incidetally, I am also against taxpayer support for the zoo, the art museum, the opera house, the aquarium, the historical museum etc. Recent experience in Detroit indicates that these entities, for the most part, survive when taxpayer support is removed.

  44. Why just stop at sports stadiums Dan? Think outside the box.

    If the goal is economic development within the city, shouldn’t the city be underwriting every business with direct subsidies?

  45. Yes, Dan, people live in cities. How does that equate to it making sense to talk about cities as volitional entities? And does living in society mean that one is subject to any whim of the majority? It certainly sounds that way.

    Also, I didn’t realize that giving money to corporations and subsidizing sports fans’ tickets equated to how things work in a society. What’s the alternative, you ask? Seattle just showed you.

  46. ‘ “Also remember that “collectively decide to do x” means “The majority of people decide to expropriate funds from themselves and others to achieve x, and will use the coercive power of the state to do so.”

    Sure, you could define it that way. But that’s basically how civilization works – what’s the alternative?’

    No. Thats the way Corporatism works. Civilization amounts to “Let’s do something together without beating each other up [or implicitly threatening to do so.]”

  47. Yes, Dan, people live in cities. How does that equate to it making sense to talk about cities as volitional entities?

    Why not? We talk about companies, countries, families, teams, etc as such. Any group of people can be a volitional entity, just like what we think of as a “person” is a volitional entity despite just being a big mass of individual cells.

    And does living in society mean that one is subject to any whim of the majority? It certainly sounds that way.

    No, but living in society means that one is subject to some “whims” of the majority.

    Also, I didn’t realize that giving money to corporations and subsidizing sports fans’ tickets equated to how things work in a society. What’s the alternative, you ask? Seattle just showed you.

    Now you’re taking my responses out of context – my remark about how civilization works was in response to your observation that “The majority of people decide to expropriate funds from themselves and others to achieve x, and will use the coercive power of the state to do so”

    I’m asking what’s the alternative to a situation where there are enforceable taxes and laws?

  48. Civilization amounts to “Let’s do something together without beating each other up [or implicitly threatening to do so.]”

    That would be the ideal, I agree. (Ironically, you’re describing socialism).

    But what happens when the first person realizes that he can get extra benefits by breaking the agreement?

  49. “(Ironically, you’re describing socialism).” ?!?!?!?!

    Dan, I think you took a sharp left turn on a straight highway, here. I am describing the voluntary cooperation that is part of civilization. But of course, you don’t believe that taxation amounts to an implied threat to beat up those unwilling to be taxed.

    “But what happens when the first person realizes that he can get extra benefits by breaking the agreement?” = now THAT’S socialism, corporatism, and every other form of state-sponsored thuggery and fraud.

  50. Sigh,

    No Dan, that does not describe socialism, but anarchism or voluntaryism.

    Now, it is possible to have a voluntarily socialist society, wherein everybody agrees to pool resources. This would be a kibbutz.

    Or you can have coercive socialism wherein people are assaulted and threatened if they don’t pool resources. Socialist governments, like the post FDR U.S. government, practice the latter.

    Incidentally, I laughed when I read your description of civlilization:
    “Also remember that ‘collectively decide to do x’ means ‘The majority of people decide to expropriate funds from themselves and others to achieve x, and will use the coercive power of the state to do so.’

    Sure, you could define it that way. But that’s basically how civilization works – what’s the alternative?”

    I’ve never heard the institution of slavery as practiced in the ante-bellum south as being compatible with civilization.

    I always thought civilization was essentially the system where people live in peace with their neighbors, a critical component of which is not taking things from them without their consent.

  51. Didn’t civilization really get rolling when humans discovered fermentation?

  52. I always thought civilization was essentially the system where people live in peace with their neighbors, a critical component of which is not taking things from them without their consent.

    So paying taxes prevents you from living in peace with your neighbors?

  53. “So paying taxes prevents you from living in peace with your neighbors?”

    Depends if you’re living next door to the IRS.

  54. Dan, I think you took a sharp left turn on a straight highway, here. I am describing the voluntary cooperation that is part of civilization.

    And I’m saying that civilization requires a certain amount of involuntary cooperation.

    But of course, you don’t believe that taxation amounts to an implied threat to beat up those unwilling to be taxed.

    No, it does, certainly. But that’s true of any law, so I don’t see the relevance. Unless you’re advocating true anarchy.

  55. Let me however congratulate Jesse Walker on the clever double meaning of this post’s title.

    Well done!

  56. No, dan, you’re saying that if a majority wants to force a minority to pay for a stadium, because the majority doesn’t want to pay for the stadium itself, it’s o.k. by you. Or you are saying that the majority is certifiably insane, and actually thinks a new stadium is critical to civilization, and is thus forcing the minority to contribute to it’s construction. Which is it?

    How about if the majority decided that civilization depended on everybody named “Dan” turning all of their property over to the majority? Would that be an acceptable outcome?

  57. “involuntary cooperation”

    Oceana would have loved that phrase.

    If you mean ‘coercion’ or ‘force’, say it. Don’t use a euphemism.

    While I am a minarchist, rather than an anarcho-capitalist, and thus am obligated to find funds to pay for the limited government I support, I hold that there is a vast difference between taxing funds to carry on the essential, definitive functions of the state – military, judiciary & police – and taxing funds for other purposes.

  58. Well, that’s just it, Areson. One doesn’t need to be an anarchist to desire that majorities make a good faith effort to demonstrate that the purposes to which they decide to direct tax revenues to are essential to the functioning of civilization. One of the larger straw men commonly erected is the one constructed whenever the argument is put forth, “If you don’t support the notion that majority can legitimately tax for activity x, then you must support anarchy! Move to Somalia!”

    Somehow, I don’t think having Peyton Manning playing football in Indianapolis is critical to society, even to the residents of Indianapolis. Call me crazy.

  59. If the NBA went bankrupt tommorrow, civilization wouldn’t bat an eye.

  60. “…a majority wants to force a minority to pay for a stadium, because the majority doesn’t want to pay for the stadium itself….”

    You have transposed “majority” and “minority”

  61. Buckshot

    “If the NBA went bankrupt tommorrow, civilization wouldn’t bat an eye.”

    Actually, I think it would be a considerable advance. Not quite up with sliced bread, but certainly comparable to the development of the remote.

  62. Well, P Brooks, when the argument is put forth that a successful referendum means that the majority will has been registered, I think it is important to note that even if this is true, it is irrelevant what the will of the majority is in regards to the use of tax revenues, except in those instances where the use is critical to the functioning of civilization.

  63. I don’t think anyone is arguing that building stadiums or government support of corporate interests is illegal. Hell, the U.S. has a long history of gov’t suppoort for favored businesses. Think about how the railroads got built. The libertarian argument is that it is not the gov’ts job to pick winners and losers in the economin realm. Additionally, the subsidizing of the entertainment industry is especially egregious. If we elect true libertarians to public office taxes will decrease and freedoms will increase. By subsidizing pro sports you put other entertainment venues at a competetive disadvantage. The carnival, the miniature golf course, the water park, the movie theater etc. When my wife was alive we went ot a ball game a couple of times a year, and I’m still a fan of the tigers. I just don’t think that somebody that hates or ignores baseball should have to pay for Mike Illitch’s new stadium. I believe this to be a rational and principled argument against public funding for pro sports venues. GO TIGERS, 2007!

  64. Any organization that has employees making 10 million a year and more on top of that in endorsements should be paying for their own damn field. Considering they only hold around 100,000 people max it would appear that many are being taxed for having a team they can’t even go see and most probably couldn’t afford the tickets. Why should someone else’s love of a game cost everyone money? Tac the cost of the new stadiums and domes on to the ticket holders, not the general public. This is not even a for the children or old people arguement its for the million dollar cry babies we call professional athletes.

    I noticed they are building a new Stadium next to the Dome in Indianapolis. Wasn’t that dome just opened not to long ago and the selling point being it was inside and climate controlled etc etc? So now they are going to tear down the dome and go back to an outdoor stadium albeit a brand new shiny one. Correct me if I am wrong but the Colts are a good team right, but they have not won a Superbowl. Perhaps the NFL should collect the money to build a new stadium from the teams every year and then have that be part of the prize for winning the superbowl.

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