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Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 23, 2009 8 years ago

Go for it: Sell the stadium


Let’s think: Take $10 million for a millstone that’s valued at $16 million but will have lost $2.3 million over the past five years? Or keep it and spend anywhere from $2.5 million to $30 million, much of it tourist-tax dollars, to build a new stadium complex to bring a major league baseball team here for 16 games in the spring?

Make a deal with a for-profit, private company that would convert 52 acres of non-taxable property to taxable, productive property?
Or continue subsidizing the stadium at the rate of about $460,000 a year?

Positive news has been scarce these past three years for Sarasota taxpayers when it comes to the future of Ed Smith Stadium. But last week’s disclosure that a private group wants to buy the stadium complex for $10 million is the most positive development of all in this long, stinky saga.

City commissioners and others have expressed some queasiness over selling the stadium for a price that is said to be $6 million below value. But who’s to say that $16 million is the real value? How many other buyers have made higher offers? None.

Sure, the city hasn’t put an official “for sale” sign on the property to generate other interest, and this offer from former major leaguer Mike Pagliarulo and his group is coming when real-estate prices are depressed.
Even so, those factors shouldn’t preclude city commissioners from trying to make the deal work. Better to have a bird in the hand than two in the bush.

Heretofore, nothing has worked in the way of closing a deal with a major league baseball team. And any deal that would work would require a huge public subsidy.

This is a big opportunity — a time to break the maddening cycle of taxpayers handing over huge, unearned subsidies to overpaid jocks. No matter what all of the public officials and sports promoters say, a public subsidy to a private venture is never justified. They payback never occurs to the degree that is touted.
In this instance, the city is looking at a deal that could have little downside and big upside.

The down: Say the private group fails. To cover the worst, the city could craft terms in the sales contract that would give the city the option to take back the property.
The up: Taxpayers finally would get out from under its city government owning and managing a property it shouldn’t manage or own. The 52 acres would be put back on the tax rolls, contributing to rather than draining city coffers. And imagine if the private group succeeds. Say it draws a Japanese baseball team here. The stadium would go from a money-losing, capital-draining liability to a money-producing, capital-attracting asset.

Finally, a deal that, at first glance, makes economic sense.

+ The Next New Deal
It’s happening before your eyes every day, more than it has since the dark days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: The takeover of your life by the Next New Deal.
Step back for a moment and absorb what you have witnessed in the first 100 days of the new administration. Domestically, it has cast a wide net:
Money: Disguised as rescue plans, Barack Obama’s Next New Deal has executed de facto takeovers of the largest corporations in American banking, insurance and finance. And he’s not finished yet. The federal government (Obama & Co.) now controls enormous swaths of the American financial system and is dictating the terms to the bankers and insurers. The man who controls the money calls the shots.
Energy: Obama’s Next New Deal has expressed its intent to control the production and use of energy via its cap-and-trade initiatives and constant drumbeat to invest “stimulus” money into alternative fuels. Consider Obama’s firing of Rick Wagoner at General Motors the government’s first step and takeover of dictating energy usage via the manufacture of one of Americans’ lifelines, their cars.
Health care: There should be no doubt that Obama and certainly his Democratic colleagues want (and will race this year for) a nationalized-health system that controls the price and supply of health care.
Education: This is the smallest of the initiatives so far. The Next New Deal wants universal pre-kindergarten throughout America, funded, of course, by taxpayers. From a government acorn grows a mighty bureaucratic oak.
Combine the government’s control of money, energy and health care, and together you have Obama’s vision of economic equality for everyone.
Winston Churchill had a description for this: “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy; its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
Count on it.

+ Mexican stimulus
This is just the beginning.

Over the next four years, we’ll be reading many news stories about how your “stimulus” money was wasted.

To be sure, there’s no humanly possible way the federal government can mete out and spend $700 billion efficiently and accountably — especially when you consider this largesse is being passed through Washington and its bureaucracies, 50 legislatures and their bureaucracies and more than 20,000 U.S. counties and municipalities and their bureaucracies.

Poof! Up it goes in smoke it goes. Or rather, down to Mexico — to fuel our southern neighbors’ economy.
Consider the accompanying table. This is only a small portion of Florida’s total stimulus take. Indeed, the projects listed at right — $40 million worth — are only one-third of what Florida is expected to get for transportation projects.

And what are we getting? Trails and sidewalks to nowhere.

The Legislature is sending this list of municipal and county transportation projects to the Department of Transportation to wire us this boat-load of cash that the federal government is borrowing against your grandchildren’s future taxes.

Think about this.
First, think about what else could be done with that $40 million. But also think about who the most likely beneficiaries of this taxpayer giveaway will be. When you see trails, sidewalks and road being built these days, who is doing the work? Unemployed computer programmers? Unemployed mortgage brokers? Unemployed investment bankers?

If this money is going to stimulate anything, it’ll provide a hefty to boost to the Mexican economy.

What’s more, this stimulus is nothing more than a crack-cocaine high. It will last for only a short time. These projects will do almost nothing to stimulate sustainable economic activity. Once they’re done, they’re done.
Walking trails don’t generate commerce. Sidewalks don’t generate commerce. Nor do, for gosh sakes, wildlife crossings!

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