Monday, May 24, 2010

Public Paralysis

Michael Hiltzik has a long column inveighing against the NFL to LA, but he includes this interesting thought in the middle:
The next time you hear that [building a stadium with a zoning exemption] is supposed to be a private project, think about the damage to public policy that vote represents. "It seems that if you have a major project and you're rich and you have access to the Legislature, you get special attention," says state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), who opposed the exemption.

Supporters of the project claim the exemption is a special case and no precedent. That's not a slice of baloney but a full loaf. Proponents of a San Diego stadium are already agitating for an exemption, and wouldn't it only be fair to level the playing field for Leiweke and Wasserman?
One of the most damaging problems with the American economy is this: infrastructure-wise, we’re perfectly able to build new stadiums, highways and prisons; not so good at building new rails, sewers, or broadband connections.

And it’s more than simply favoring rich people or not. There are plenty of rich people agitating for new broadband connections, for example. It’s about status quo paralysis: the three earlier options are a public default option and so always appealing; the three latter are new and different. So it is that—if anything—we have too many sports stadiums, highways, and prisons. They’ve hyped up the Orlando Magic building a newer arena to replace its…twenty year old one. I’ll outlive their arena. And you can say similar things about many of these stadiums. It’s a shame: the most valuable stadiums are the oldest, and yet we keep on chasing the new, diverting funds from other worthy projects.

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