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Private business, public dollars

In my other virtual life, I spend an awful lot of time railing against public financing for ballparks, and in recent months, most of that time was spent opposing the new Marlins' stadium. It's not that I think the Marlins shouldn't have a stadium -- Lord knows they need one -- it's just that I don't think governments should be in the business of providing hundreds of millions of dollars to billionaires, especially those with a history of playing Dr. Kevorkian with Major League franchises.

After all, as these kinds of owners constantly remind us when they won't sign the players we'd like them to, baseball is a business, and like any other business, one would expcet that a baseball team would build pay for its own office space. The Dodgers did it. So did the Giants. Those ballparks worked out better than almost anything else in the game, so why shouldn't the Marlins do it too?

Of course that ship has sailed now that Miami has agreed to pony up big money for the new Marlins' Stadium or whatever it's going to be called. Ultimately the politics of it all boiled down to a classic governmental gambit: convince the taxpayers that someone else is paying for it. In this case, the someone else would be tourists, as a huge portion of the construction costs were supposed to paid by a hotel bed tax.

Slight problem (apart from the fact that tax revenue is tax revenue, and the diversion of tourist taxes will impact local residents anyway): due to the economic downturn, tourism revenue is going to fall far short of the rosy projections offered by stadium backers. You know what that means? Yep, general taxpayer funds are going to be used to build a building that will primarilly enrich Jeffrey Loria and other Major League owners. The plan calling for such use of general funds was approved yesterday. The specifics of that plan have received far less fanfare than the big-picture decision to go forward with the stadium project.

Ultimately I'm tilting at windmills with this stuff. Most cities already have their new stadiums, and most of them were financed by public dollars, so that ship has sailed too. So why do I keep up my ranting against these sorts of things? Hard to say, but at the very least I hope people remember just how much public largesse was showered upon team owners the next time they cry poor or complain about player salaries or anything else.

Given our personal investment in their stadiums, these teams are, in a very literal sense, our teams too, and we as fans are entitled to better than we get from the owners most of the time.