Friday, October 23, 2015

Times Ed. Board: Council Missed "Last Chance"...Now We Have to Wait Two Weeks Until Next "Last Chance"

Just hours after St. Pete councilmembers approved a counteroffer that would allow the Rays to explore stadium sites in Hillsborough County, the Tampa Bay Times editorial board wasted no time in panning the vote and calling for voters to replace some of the councilmembers:
Once again, the St. Petersburg City Council has sent exactly the wrong signal and further jeopardized the future of Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay. It voted Thursday for the most expensive proposal to let the Rays look for a new stadium site in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, virtually ensuring the Rays will reject it and prolonging the stalemate.
If nothing else, the Times is jeopardizing MLB's future in Tampa Bay by continue to give Rays a free pass on transparency, as well as doing the team's public bidding against a local municipality trying to secure the best deal for its taxpayers against a major corporation.

As a firm believer in the power of the Fourth Estate, I recognize editorial pages can be used to hold the powerful accountable, as the Times did in 2012 when it pushed two Pinellas County commissioners out of office over the removal of fluoride from the water system.

But it's irresponsible for the Times to give the powerful (the Rays) a free pass on this one. Although the Rays won't share season-ticket data, revenue data, or anything to dispute the monstrous profits Forbes estimates they've made in Stu Sternberg's 10 years as owner…the Times is essentially shaking down a local government over a $15 million difference in opinions when it's the Rays who have asked for the financial concessions in the first place.

I digress...and the editorial continues:
Voting for an unrealistic plan is no better than voting against a reasonable one that adequately protected taxpayers and that the Rays already had accepted.
The Times has never provided any numbers or data to support its "unrealistic" claim.  Its only evidence: the Rays have said they don't want to pay very much and they'd like to please get out of their contract for a much smaller price. 
Here is the reality: Another year has ticked off the Rays' lease to play in outdated Tropicana Field until 2027. Another year has passed where the Rays were last in attendance. Another year has been lost where outside forces, such as development plans for downtown Tampa and the Pinellas County-owned Toytown landfill, have changed the tenor of the Rays discussion. St. Petersburg is losing negotiating leverage, yet the City Council upped the price for letting the Rays look throughout their core market for a stadium site.
Actually, maybe St. Pete isn't losing negotiating leverage since the Rays seem to have fewer options - and a more pressing need - than they did five years ago.

The Times issues a mild compliment of Kennedy for at least showing the slightest notion of compromise, but it was not as complimentary of his counterparts who voted for the plan...especially popular councilman Steve Kornell, who is up for re-election in two weeks:
Voters can resolve this issue in the Nov. 3 elections. Two City Council candidates, Lisa Wheeler-Brown and Philip Garrett, have pledged to support Kriseman's agreement with the Rays. If even one of them is elected, that would break the stadium deadlock. The quickest path forward is to elect new council members rather than wait for enough incumbents to see the light.
The Times is right that the election remains the Rays' best chance at getting out of the Trop cheaply...but it's not a good use of ink for the paper to advocate the voters of St. Pete (many of whom might actually be happy their elected officials want the Rays to pay more of a penalty for skipping town 7-9 years early) cast their Nov. ballots with just one issue on their minds - the Rays - despite a multitude of issues facing their city.

The Stadium Saga is a long, drawn-out game...and we're only in the fifth inning.

A brief history of Times editorials on the Stadium Saga:
The history goes further back than that, but for a good synopsis, watch my 2010 piece on newspapers cheerleading for new stadium projects.

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  1. [NSFW] Explicit content. Times-Rays. Gross.

  2. The MLB owners are getting an increasingly bigger slice of the increasingly bigger pie known as MLB revenues. The recent trend in the MLB is that the percent of total revenues being paid to players is declining, even with the many incredibly stupid long term contracts being signed and with the average yearly player salary now at $4.25 million. In 2001 player payroll as % of total MLB revenues was 56%. For 2014 it was 38% per Maury Brown - . What are the owners doing with all this extra money as MLB revenues grow through the roof year after year? Hopefully our spineless elected officials will ask this question and demand that the Rays open their books. Of course that is very unlikely to happen, as no MLB team has ever opened their books. During the Bud STEALig era, 21 new stadiums were built, 20 of them requiring substantial public funding, and not one team opened their books. I wonder if any were even ask!