This week, he penned, "If you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention: What Orlando could learn from St. Petersburg’s war over The Lens." An excerpt:
Here’s the thing: This isn’t a fight over public spending or corruption or anything nasty or sordid. It’s a battle—an entrenched, vituperative battle—over architecture. Architecture!
Contrast that to Orlando City Hall this morning, where we had yet another round of glad-handing and civic boosterism dressed up as a city council workshop. The performing arts center folks talked about how close they are to finishing this magnificent structure, just $25 million more, please. The Citrus Bowl backers promised the sun and the stars—NFL games! NCAA championships!—if only we’d add $12 million to their coffers. And then there was Orlando City Soccer, brandishing its $1.2 billion in economic impact and an MLS franchise if only taxpayers helped them build a spanking-new stadium.
And yet, there’s no outrage, no movement for change...not one commissioner questioned the fundamental wisdom of having taxpayers subsidize professional sports facilities (of course, that horse left the barn the day the Amway Center opened) or blinked an eye at Orlando City’s economic impact assertions, even though economists are nigh-unanimous in thinking such studies—commissioned by the team, for the team—are hogwash.
To be more specific, 85 percent of economists oppose taxpayer-subsidized stadiums. That, my soccer-loving friends, is a consensus, and it’s backed up by (most of) the economics literature. You don’t have to like the facts, but they are facts nonetheless.
I’d love to see the city’s media (especially on TV) do something more than parrot the team and mayor’s talking points. I’d love to see this town get actually pissed off about the fact that our glut of tourist tax money can go to hundred-million-dollar venue after hundred-million-dollar venue while our schools are substandard, our city is quantifiably dangerous, and our public transit system is a mess.
I’d love to see us be half as enraged about that as St. Petersburg is about its pier. I’d love to see something other than apathy.