update: Welcome, Taibblog and Reason readers.
The Portland school district, like many others in the state of Oregon, is considering trimming from an already-short school year – Oregon has among the shortest school years in the country, and lost quite a few more days this past December to snow – no surprise given the fact the state has quite the budget shortfall on its hands for this and the next biennium. How dire is the situation? Gov. Ted Kulongoski, in all his wisdom, recommended that the state’s teachers work five days this year without pay. Not any other state employee – just the teachers.
No matter how one feels about that situation, clearly the state and most of the cities of Oregon aren’t exactly flush with cash these days.
Yet in spite of all this, Merritt Paulson (son of former Treasury Secretary Hank), continues to push a plan to build a new baseball-only facility for the Triple-A Beavers, and to convert the recently-renovated (at taxpayer expense) PGE Park to a football/soccer only facility. If the city of Portland provides the necessary funding for these two stadium projects, Paulson intends to then spend the $40 million Major League Soccer franchise fee, thus bringing an MLS team to Portland.
So during a time when consumer confidence has hit record lows, and businesses short on credit are ratcheting things down, Paulson wants Portland taxpayers to spend at least $80 million (the projected cost of the two stadium projects) on his business venture? Nevermind the debatable popularity of MLS – isn’t this the league that mega-star David Beckham just ditched – spending tax dollars on a special interest, so to speak, is sad and pathetic given what PPS is considering.
Let me reiterate – Portland schools face massive cuts, and Son of Hank wants tax money to build stadia? No, no, no, no, no, no!
For as much as I enjoy sports, I cannot with a clear conscience agree that taxpayers ought to subsidize it. For all the to-do about “socialism” in our culture today, it’s thoroughly vexing why any American would want the taxpayer to subsidize such a limited interest. Sports are hugely popular, but by that same token, they’re hugely unpopular with just as many people/taxpayers. Stadium construction-as-public works projects stimulate the economy only insofar as the construction is concerned. Once they’re built, the only jobs left are minimum wage beer and hot dog vendors and ticket takers. There is no “economic investment,” contrary to what Paulson is trying to sell. Investment in such projects is only enabling millionaire owners to continue leeching off of the taxpayers.
Here’s a thought, son of Hank: try paying for your own playthings. For as much as Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has been disagreeable in one way or another, I will say this about him – he may not have had enough assets at the time when he purchased the Dodgers. But here’s a novel concept – he borrowed the money using his own credit, not that of L.A., or its taxpayers.
The state of Oregon and the city of Portland have far more pressing issues than bringing what amounts to another minor league team to the city. If son of Hank wants new stadia, perhaps he can borrow the money from dear old Dad.