Hall of Shame: Baseball, Vanity & Ambition Trump Social Justice

This column appears in the June 12 – 19 edition of the Hartford News… “In our forthcoming Brookings book,  Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums, we and 15 collaborators examine the local economic development argument from all angles: case studies of the effect of specific facilities, as well as comparisons among cities and even neighborhoods that have and have not sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into sports development. In every case, the conclusions are the same. A new sports facility has an extremely small (perhaps even negative) effect on overall economic activity and employment. No recent facility appears to have earned anything approaching a reasonable return on investment. No recent facility has been self-financing in terms of its impact on net tax revenues. Regardless of whether the unit of analysis is a local neighborhood, a city, or an entire metropolitan area, the economic benefits of sports facilities are de minimus.” ~  Roger Noll and Andrew Zimbalist  
 
Mayor Pedro Segarra,  City Council President / State Senate Candidate / Sellout Shawn “I Don’t Talk About Race” Wooden, the Democratic Party controlled council board and the other miscellaneous hustlers at City Hall routinely provide proof that they don’t give a damn about racial economic disparity in this city. The evidence, of course, is that the Democrats never say a word about this issue. So the deal with the New Britain Rock Cats minor league baseball team should not be a surprise to anyone. More on this later. Wooden is using the publicity to boost his primary challenge against incumbent Sen. Eric Coleman. During a meeting at City Hall last week about the security bars issue I reported on in this space, (https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/political-roundup-jonathan-pelto-reportedly-considering-run-for-governor-fire-safety-in-hartford/ ) a Coleman supporter actually tried to use her allegiance to make herself look good. This person knows that the Coleman / Wooden race is a false choice.
 
Neither man has or ever will talk about Black / Latino unemployment or the racial wage / wealth gap between people of color and whites. They won’t support a $15.00 minimum wage https://twitter.com/fightfor15  or the Jackson Plan  http://mxgm.org/the-jackson-plan-a-struggle-for-self-determination-participatory-democracy-and-economic-justice/  (neither will this Coleman sycophant) because these core urban issues are not a part of the Democrats program. Wooden has gone from the street, to a mayoral candidate, to city council president, to a party endorsed candidate for state senate, an unheard of trajectory. Powerful people are obviously supporting him; word around the campfire is that Gov. Dannel Malloy played a key role in Wooden’s rise. Wooden is following the Barack Obama formula. Smile a lot, avoid the subject of race, and talk in vague terms about policy. 
 
My colleagues Mary Sanders, Adam Osmond and I endured endless double-talk at the meeting, which was a clear indicator that the public safety of low income residents in this city is not as important to Wooden as his political career. Several weeks ago we were told that Wooden would not be able to meet with us because of his work on the city budget. The budget of course is now signed, sealed and delivered, so the new excuse we got was that Wooden is now too busy campaigning to meet. The same person who said we had to talk to Wooden’s scheduler about his availability made it clear that he wouldn’t have time to meet with us. Um, ok. I know that if we had a fat check for Wooden, he would find the time. Predictably, I encountered resistance when I asked for a summary in writing, which would provide details of Wooden’s supposed effort to strengthen and enforce penalties for landlords who do not install security bars with a quick release device that can be opened from the inside. I will file a Freedom of Information request for any emails by Wooden and others at City Hall and the Hartford Fire Department regarding the security bars issue. Stay tuned for updates.   
 
Now, back to Rock Cats-gate. Debra Cohen of Activate CT  https://www.facebook.com/Activatectnow shared this report. 
 
“Due to confusion on my part, I arrived at the Hartford City Council meeting too late last night to sign up to speak on the Rock Cats stadium plan but I was there to hear some great testimony from others. The overwhelming majority of people who I heard speak were in opposition to building the stadium and their reasons included the following: Lack of transparency in the process of this decision – citizens of Hartford knew nothing about it until it was announced to be in the works. One person who stated this is a representative of the district in which the stadium is planned to be built! I am sorry I don’t remember his name (Hartford Cityline reported that this was Rep. Angel Arce). One speaker demanded to see an audit type of report from every group responsible for development of this plan.
 
The money planned to be spent on the stadium should be used to address other needs in the city. Many people spoke about improvements that are needed at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School. Another speaker brought an impressive list of specifics that could be addressed by 60 million dollars including the hiring of teachers, school renovations, early education opportunities for city youngsters and more.Parking – no provisions have been made for adjacent parking. Reports that stadium building rarely brings in the revenue that they are meant to bring in.
Several people challenged the idea that Rock Cat games would be a boon to the restaurant and hotel industry in the city, pointing out that the idea of thousands of people coming to games from out of town and choosing to stay at a city hotel is unrealistic. A challenge was made to the claim that the stadium would result in 600 new jobs. One person raised the important issue of consequences of closing the existing stadium in New Britain to that city.

“The meeting room was full – more full than I have ever witnessed. When the period of public comment was finished there was a lot of continued conversation in the hallway and several people were interviewed for TV. I do not recall the channels that were represented but it was obvious that this topic is a big deal. The next meeting for public comment will be in July (Hartford Cityline reported that the date is July 21). Apparently, this is not a ‘done deal’ but we must watch very closely to be sure that no further decisions are pushed through in secret as has been the case with developments so far.”

 
The motivation for Segarra, Wooden and the council board is simple. The plight of the poor does not keep elected officials in this state up at night, but their Boston / New York inferiority complex does. The Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins get busy to our north, the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets and Rangers do likewise to the south. Hartford’s professional sports scene is not quite as glamorous. The Hartford Whalers were this city’s only major league sports franchise. The Whalers played in the World Hockey Association from 1972-79, then joined the National Hockey League in 1979 along with the Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets as part of the WHA / NHL merger.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NHL%E2%80%93WHA_merger  The Whalers played in Springfield, Massachusetts from 1978-80 due to the Hartford Civic Center roof collapse.
http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=hartford+civic+center+roof+collapse+photos&qpvt=hartford+civic+center+roof+collapse+photos&FORM=IGRE#a
 
The team won a league championship and qualified for the playoffs every year during their time in the WHA, but struggled after joining the NHL. The Whalers won only one division title and missed the playoffs ten times. They were ridiculed throughout the NHL for their Brass Bonanza fight song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcluKrNGZYM The Whalers were also demeaned as the team that played their games in a mall. Still, the franchise had a loyal fanbase until owner Peter Karmanos moved the team to North Carolina in 1997.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rus3oCVc-r0
 
Since the Whalers left town, politicians in Connecticut have tried to fill the void. In 1998 Gov. John Rowland attempted to lure the New England Patriots of the National Football League to Hartford. Rowland and Patriots owner Bob Kraft came to a verbal agreement to relocate the franchise here. Two days before the deal became binding Kraft backed out; apparently Hartford was used by Kraft as leverage to get the Patriots a new stadium in Massachusetts. Rowland was left with egg on his face. http://articles.courant.com/2014-03-18/news/hc-250th-hartford-patriots-0317-20140316_1_robert-kraft-east-hartford-patriots
 
Now the New Britain Rock Cats are the object of desire. The Minnesota Twins farm team is viewed by the Hartford Democrats as an opportunity to bring some prestige to the city. The proposed $60 million dollar baseball stadium would be worth six times more than the most expensive ball park in the Double-A Eastern League, where the Rock Cats play. A specious claim that the stadium will generate 665 “full time equivalent jobs” is being used to justify the deal. Don’t get it twisted, this is the equivalent of your neighbor who never talks to you buying an outrageously expensive TV, then inviting you to come over and watch the game so he can rub his purchase in your face. Malloy, a notorious publicity hound who is running for re-election, was quick to distance himself from the Rock Cats announcement. Malloy said that the city should not count on getting funds from the state to pay for the new stadium. 
 
While tone deaf sportswriters like Jeff Jacobs of the Courant mock critics of the Rock Cats deal and hail the arrival of a professional sports team, the economic reality in Hartford remains unchanged. A 2011 Brookings Institution report shows the impact of poverty in this city. http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/nov/03/us-poverty-poorest  Black and Latino unemployment is still at Depression-era levels; the unemployment rate for young Black males in some areas of Connecticut is as high as 50%. http://www.democracynow.org/2009/3/17/report_communities_of_color_bear_heaviest  
 
People of color earn about 60 cents for every dollar whites make and possess about 10 cents of net wealth for every dollar whites have. The median wealth for single Black women is $100, $120 for single Latino women, and $41,000 for single white women. http://www.democracynow.org/2010/3/12/study_median_wealth_for_single_black  It’s a shame that residents had to tell Wooden and the council board the obvious; throwing money they don’t have at a luxury item like a sports facility is a bad idea. The Hartford Democrats’ top priority is themselves. This stadium, if it is built, will be another monument to their narcissism. The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame is located in Cooperstown, New York. You can find Hartford’s Hall of Shame at 550 Main Street.  
 
Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Trayvon Martin and Safe Work Environment Acts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1  Check out CP’s No Sellout blog for the archive of our Hartford News columns. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/  Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com            
 
 
Resources       
 
The truth about stadiums and economic development: 
 
 
United for a Fair Economy State of the Dream report on racial economic disparity:
 
 
It sure would be nice if the city shelled out money for THIS instead of a baseball stadium:
 
 
1995 phone conversation between Tupac Shakur and Sanyika Shakur (no relation) aka Monster Cody about Tupac’s revolutionary plans for community organizing:
 
 
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