Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I've been having a nice little email get-to-know-you with a journalist at, the online home of Major League Baseball. Yes, for those of you who don't know me, I am a rather large baseball fan- figuratively, that is. Because of this, I sometimes find myself reading inane articles in the wee hours about this hitter's thumb and that pitcher's stint on the disabled list due to heightened levels of anxiety (that actually is quite an interesting phenomenon- could be tomorrow's column). While none of this consumption of sports reporting moves me forward in my spiritual evolution as a human being, occasionally I happen on an article that is actually pertinent to issues that do have real meaning for me and many others in America today.

The article in question was not exactly of that ilk; its pertinence rested in its ignorance of some of those issues. The writer, a Mr.Barry Bloom, gushed over the new Minnesota ballpark, Target Field. He spoke of how it would be a boon for the community, of the pleasure it would give the fans. Clearly, in this man's eyes, everything had been gained and nothing lost: "thriving communities, thriving franchises, happy fans."

Not quite, Baz. I sent him an email asking for clarification on exactly who he was referring to when he used the term 'community'. Certainly not the thousands of poor and working class residents who were relocated, or more accurately kicked out, to make way for the new stadium. Nor was he probably referring to the millions of people who may have benefited from the new schools, parks, health clinics and community centers that could have been built with all that public money. In all likelihood, Barry was probably referring to the super-rich corporations that received those funds to build the stadium and the sports owners and private vendors who will fatten their already bloated pockets by feeding and entertaining the mostly well-off people who can manage to buy a ticket and a bag of peanuts at the glitzy new stadium without jeopardizing next month's rent payment.

It's always fascinating to me how when local governments and the corporate media talk of 'transforming' a depressed urban area, it almost always results not in transformation, but destruction. Historical buildings tumble, poor residents with roots in the neighbourhood going back generations are kicked out and a new, 'vibrant' neighbourhood springs up. If you're not sure what I mean, I'll give you some reliable indicators: fancy, boutique hotels for the 'public', costing 200 a night and up. Brand new chain restaurants in shining malls and along paved promenades, offering 'local' flavours. Hey, an Applebys Caesar Salad made in Minneapolis is kinda local, after all. Brand new cookie-cutter apartment buildings offering 'local' housing. I love that- if you throw the word 'housing' at the end of a headline announcing the construction of a new apartment block offering million-dollar condos as part of an urban 'redevelopment', most people will believe something good is happening for the community.

It is. For a tiny percentage of the community, if you believe that word covers the entire population, not just the wealthy. I read a different kind of article today. If you vote, and especially if you're a fan of your local sports team, I strongly recommend its reading. Especially you, Barry:

These public-private projects do not help the community at large. There's no reason why people should have to spend enormous amounts of money on houses in prosperous neighbourhoods the moment they have kids, just so that child can go to a decent school. Enough with the insanity. Until we have good schools and hospitals in every neighbourhood, and health care for every person that doesn't bankrupt them, and decent public housing for people to live in and parks for children to play in, enough with the brand spanking new stadiums.

To borrow an old Arabic phrase, our priorities are ass-up and tits-backward.  Vote for leaders who tell sports owners that if they want a new toy that prints loads of brand new money for themselves and their buddies, that's wonderful. But they can build it without our help.

Pictures, from top:

The new stadium for the Arizona Cardinals, 67% of which was publicly financed.

The old and the new. The new Giants-Jets stadium, being built on public land, replacing the old one, which
the people of New Jersey are still paying back, with $100 million dollars still owed.

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