During the best of economic times, taxpayers need to be on their guard against special interests who are looking to make big bucks by putting their hands on your tax dollars. Of course, during especially difficult financial periods, like the recession in which we find ourselves today, we all need to be incredibly diligent to guard against this sort of thing -- and we expect our politicians to be looking out for us.
The reason why this should worry Los Angelinos? These are the same folks who built the Staples Center and the LA Live! mall that received millions in taxpayer subsidies and continues to get special consideration on taxes that amount to ongoing public gifts into the pockets of these developers.
A few days ago, former Los Angeles Daily News Editor Ron Kaye, on his widely read and insightful blog, RonKayeLA.com, penned a “must read” column warning taxpayers that this Downtown LA stadium deal could be very costly. Kaye’s column starts out with a trip down memory lane, to the 1984 Olympic games...
At the height of his power when the leadership of LA still was driven by a vision of greatness for the city as well as greed for themselves, Tom Bradley pushed through a 1978 Charter measure that barred the use of public funds to support the 1984 Olympics because he knew it was the only way the people of the city would support it.
It was a great Olympics by any measure, hugely profitable, a grand spectacle and dire warnings about traffic gridlock never materialized because trucks were banned from freeways during rush hours and major companies staggered their work hours.
What a fantastic idea, and one which you be sure the Leiweke and Wasserman would hate. Kaye goes so far as to suggest actual wording for a public vote that could take place this coming March (when the city has elections taking place anways):
"The City of Los Angeles, its officers, employees, agencies and instrumentalities shall be prohibited both directly and indirectly from appropriating funds, issuing bonds, lending credit, diverting funds received or to be received under grants, levying taxes or assessments, incurring expenses, making or undertaking any capital expenditures, or entering into any financial agreements in aid or in furtherance of the of the development or construction of a professional football stadium and related Convention Center project.
The City of Los Angeles shall be prohibited from surrendering any admissions, ticket, parking and similar attendance connected taxes or revenues from these venues to private interests for a professional football stadium and related Convention Center project."
Kaye closes his comments by saying that there is really no point in this proposal going forward if the interests of the public are not protected. I couldn’t agree more!
Let’s not forget that the Leiweke/Wasserman/Convention Center Downtown L.A. Stadium proposal is not the only one out there. Billionaire Ed Roski has been focused on building a stadium east of Los Angeles, in the City of Industry. San Gabriel Valley Business Journal columnist Mike Lewis, who is quite enthusiastic about an East LA stadium, wrote a column on it, in which he says (my emphasis):
In the City of Industry proposal promoted by billionaire developer Ed Roski and his Majestic Realty you have a piece of land ready to go, all the approvals needed to build, a completed Environmental Impact Report, preliminary designs enough to figure out the construction costs, the lawsuits are all settled, no need for taxpayer funds and a guy who can obviously write a check to pay for it.
I should add, by the way, that it is not just Los Angeles residents that should be worried about their tax dollars going to make developers of a sports stadium wealthy -- this is going on in San Diego where the city is looking at a potential, staggering $500 million public subsidy.
You should take three minutes and watch this video below from Reason.TV about the folly of taxpayer supporting sporting arenas. Bottom line, they don’t create wealth for anyone but the people that own them.
(Note - The original version of this blog post incorrectly named Mike Lewis as a columnist for the Los Angeles Business Journal. He is, in fact, a columnist for the San Gabriel Valley Business Journal. Our apologies for the error.)