Red Sox Fenway Boondoggle
Taxpayers On the Hook ... Again?


To:  Members of the General Court
July 28, 2000
Re:  It ain't over til it's over, is it? 
Contact: Barbara Anderson or Chip Faulkner; 508-384-0100

We know that the Big Four have announced the done deal on the Red Sox subsidy. But do we have a representative state government or don't we? Citizens for Limited Taxation supports the concept of allowing our elected representatives to vote on an issue before it is considered done.

As a member of Citizens Against Stadium Subsidies, we are opposed to the Red Sox bill. Our reasons are many, but these are the main three:

1. We believe in property rights. Eminent domain is intended only for vital public purposes, and a game is not a vital public purpose. Eminent domain that takes private property to give to another private entity is theft. Hello, Republicans! What are some of you thinking?!

2. As a member of the Green Scissors Coalition, we are opposed in general to corporate welfare. The government should provide only the same infrastructure that it would provide for any mom and pop business.

3. Even though Governor Cellucci's "no new taxes" pledge protects us from new taxes this year, we may not always have a governor who has taken the pledge, so the inevitable cost overruns threaten state taxpayers in the future. If you believe that the taxpayers won't be held up for these overruns, we have a highway construction project in Boston we can sell you.

If the Boston city councilors who say they are opposed to the bill stand firm, you will, a) be on record against public opinion for nothing or, b) be required to overpower a local government with the state's power of eminent domain or, c) have to create another public authority that will be out of your, and therefore the people's, control. Surely you won't be responsible for creating another authority that will lie to you about cost overruns. In the end, you are the one who will have to vote for that commuter tax to fund them.

It was refreshing to see a debate again on the House floor, on proposed primary enforcement for seatbelts. We hope to see another debate on the Red Sox bill, with legislators representing their constituents instead of just playing follow the leadership while wealthy sportsmen play catch with the taxpayers' wallets.

The Boston Globe
Friday, July 28, 2000

Lawmakers adding on to Fenway bill 
Seek support for pet causes in trade for vote

By Meg Vaillancourt
Globe Staff

On the eve of the only public hearing on the Red Sox's financing bill for a new Fenway Park, state lawmakers yesterday rushed to add pet projects to the legislation, ranging from funding for a minor league expansion team in Worcester to creating a statewide cultural fund.

"There are only a few more shopping days till Christmas," quipped one lawmaker who declined to be identified. "The session ends on Monday and a lot of legislators have things they've been unable to get for their district. Now, maybe they can trade it for a vote in support of the Red Sox."

Governor Paul Cellucci filed the bill authorizing the $665 million ballpark project late yesterday afternoon. A day-long State House hearing on the measure will be held today. Both Cellucci and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino are expected to testify in support of the measure, but it was unclear whether Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham or House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran would do so.

All four political leaders crafted the legislation, the result of months of difficult negotiations over the Red Sox's ballpark proposal. At a Tuesday night summit meeting, they insisted the Red Sox and their fans bear most of the burden for repaying the city's investment in the project and cover cost overruns on land acquisition and cleanup.

If adopted, the bill will require the state to fund up to $100 million in infrastructure for the project and the city to spend $140 million to acquire and clean up the ballpark site. The city will be repaid through a combination of ticket surcharges, game-day parking fees, a 15 percent luxury-box surcharge, and hotel and in-the-ballpark sales and meals taxes.

Racing to consider the measure before they adjourn Monday, state lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the bill this weekend, though opponents said they hope to delay final action by offering waves of amendments and prolonging debate.

Because the bill calls for the state to issue infrastructure bonds, it requires a two-third vote in both the House and Senate. While lawmakers said support for the bill seemed stronger in the Senate, due in large part to Birmingham's support, some suggested the team may have a more difficult time in the House.

House opponents have scheduled a press conference to critique the project this morning. Despite Cellucci's pleas to support the bill, Republicans are among the most outspoken critics.

To block the ballpark bill in the House, opponents need at least 53 votes. "There is enough concern about this in the House now that we are approaching the magic number," said Representative Byron Rushing (D-South End), whose district includes the Fenway. Horse trading over the bill may succeed in winning some converts, opponents of the measure conceded. But they warned that whatever lawmakers "win" in trading their votes could be stripped away in conference committee when the House and Senate versions of the bill are reconciled.

"The leaders in both houses are negotiating hard, and there are probably enough district-based projects they can tack on to secure the votes they need," Representative J. James Marzilli Jr. (D-Arlington) said, "But most of them won't survive the conference-committee process."

While supporters shied away from publicly discussing the deal-making that occurs whenever such a massive project comes up, opponents were quick to point out a number of trades quietly being floated at the State House yesterday.

Representative Peter J. Larkin (D-Pittsfield), for example, is said to be weighing a plan to propose an amendment authorizing his long-cherished cultural facilities fund, in which cities and towns could get matching funds for restoring theaters, museums, and other such entities. Larkin was unavailable for comment last night.

House members from central Massachusetts, meanwhile, were exploring ways to use the Red Sox legislation to acquire as much as $12 million in state infrastructure funds to help establish a minor league baseball team in Worcester.

In an interview with a reporter from WTAG radio in Worcester yesterday, Representative William J. McManus II (D-Worcester) unabashedly acknowledged that he is willing to trade his vote in return for help in bringing a minor league team to Worcester. He also said he would consider opposing the Red Sox plan if he didn't get what he wanted.

"If you include the word 'might,' that's accurate, yes," he said. Because of its proximity to Pawtucket and Boston, Worcester would need a waiver from the Red Sox and Major League Baseball to host a minor league franchise.

The Fenway Park bill was drafted in an all-night session led by the governor's legal counsel, Len Lewin, the speaker's chief of staff, Bill Kennedy, top Birmingham aide John McGinn, and Menino's chief of staff, James Rooney.

The final language includes funding for a feasibility study for an exit ramp off the Massachusetts Turnpike, a pet project of Menino's. While the city must pay the Turnpike fair market value for land on which the city would build a new parking garage, the bill requires the Red Sox to give a slice of the land they own on the garage site to the city free of charge.

And in a bid to help the city fight the all-but-certain challenges to power to take land by eminent domain for the ballpark site, the legislation states that the project serves a legitimate "public purpose," the standard used in assessing whether such land-takings are appropriate.

The city also wins on the way the bill defines the game-day parking area. The city can collect a surcharge of $5 a car up to a mile away from the new ballpark -- an area large enough to generate more than the $3.6 million a year in revenues estimated in the Red Sox financing plan. However, the bill includes language exempting area hospitals and the city's treasurer can exclude other spaces from the surcharge.

In a blow to the Red Sox, the bill does not specify that the city will receive $7 million a year in revenues from the city-owned garage, as expected. Instead the bill calls for the city to share an unspecified amount of garage revenues.

The bill also requires the Red Sox to obtain private financing for construction and offer proof that they can afford their part of the plan, before the state or city take any action on the project.

Under the bill now under consideration, the Red Sox would be required to fund $352 million to build the new ballpark, plus any cost overruns.

Red Sox chief executive John Harrington accepted the lawmakers final offer Tuesday night, but at a press conference he said that the financial burdens placed on the Red Sox will make the team's quest for private financing to fund the construction of the ballpark "extremely difficult."

The Telegram & Gazette
Worcester, Mass.
Friday, July 28, 2000

Squeeze play 
Red Sox, pols have taxpayers in a bad spot

Unless sanity belatedly returns to Beacon Hill, the Red Sox are about to make a financial killing unknown in these parts since Charles A. Ponzi roamed the streets bilking proper and improper Bostonians alike.

Caught up in the frenzied, eleventh-hour debate over how much money taxpayers should hand over to the lucrative sports franchise, most Statehouse leaders give little thought to the propriety -- and even legality -- of what they are doing.

The unanswered questions raised by the Red Sox deal are legion.

We won't quibble about the supposed "infrastructure" spending, even if the original estimates have ballooned to a hefty $100 million.

But it is recklessly irresponsible to create a smorgasbord of new taxes and surtaxes for the sole benefit of a particular for-profit enterprise: levies on parking, luxury box rents, tickets, meals and hotel rooms, among others.

Equally outlandish is the notion of building a parking garage for the stadium with public funds, then diverting part of the revenue to the team.

Taxpayers will be at risk, but it could have been worse. Originally, the owners wanted taxpayers to come up with the money to cover any cost overruns.

The legality of the land acquisition plan also is in doubt. Eminent domain is intended to allow takings for public purposes, not for the benefit of a private entity. If a precedent to the contrary is set for the Red Sox, the potential for future abuse of eminent domain is breathtaking.

Populist politicians who, properly, would denounce such a giveaway as unconscionable corporate welfare if any other enterprise benefitted, are silent. Except for a perfunctory protest of an absurdly unfair "commuter tax," lawmakers outside of Boston have been curiously complaisant.

In apparent acquiescence to the giveaway, Worcester Rep. William J. McManus II is trying to engineer a risky quid pro quo: Worcester's support for the Fenway plan in exchange for promises of state aid for a minor league ballpark and permission from the Red Sox to establish a Major League-affiliated ball club to Worcester. The last time Worcester got tangled in such a linkage deal -- for convention center aid -- years passed before the city got aid that amounted to chump change while Boston and other cities hauled in barrels of cash.

It is truly astounding the way normally intelligent, hardboiled politicians go all weak at the knees and swoony at the first eyelash flutter aimed their way by a professional sports franchise.

With the Red Sox deal roaring down the fast track at session's end, taxpayers won't have to wait long to learn whether their elected representatives will stand firm on their behalf or cave in and endorse this deplorable deal.

State House News Service
Friday, July 28, 2000

RED SOX: Hearing on new Sox stadium bill shaping up as a lively one. Unlike the pro forma, sparsely attended hearing last year on Foxboro Stadium bill, Gardner Auditorium was packed even before the Sox hearing got underway.

Prior to hearing, ballpark opponents held press conference on Grand Staircase to say, in the words of Rep. Byron Rushing, "This is not a done deal." Rushing says issues like Boston's affordable housing crisis must be addressed before taxpayers begin doling out "corporate welfare."

Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner says he's one of seven councilors who think it's "inappropriate" to use the council's eminent domain powers to seize private land for a ballpark, adds that such a move would lead to court challenges. Apparently referring to council's long-standing reputation for talking tough then backing down, Turner says, "I believe there is a clear majority (on the council) that is going to stay together." A two-thirds council vote, or nine out of 13, would be needed to authorize land-takings.

Another two-thirds vote from the Legislature would be necessary to authorize $100 million in state bonds.

Rushing says he doesn't know how many House members oppose the ballpark, but adds, "We are looking for at least one-third, plus one. We see considerable opposition in the House. What we are not sure of is how much pressure there will be from leadership."

WGBH's "Gavel to Gavel" begins broadcasting the Sox hearing at 11 am. Gavel will cut away to the House's formal session at 1 pm, but a tape of the Sox hearing will be re-broadcast on Channel 3.

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