Top Union Leader Warns Time Is Running Out for a PawSox Deal
Thursday, November 16, 2017
Michael F. Sabitoni, President of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council, said on Wednesday, "We're in the 7th inning stretch -- I attended all but one [of the hearings]. I'm hopeful and confident that in the next week or so, the good work will be unveiled and we'll have something to consider in the near future.”
Sabitoni argued on his appearance on GoLocal LIVE that the issue has been politicized. He says that at a different time the deal would be completed by now.
“I have a saying [which is] I think this is an issue has been politicized. People don't understand the structure we have, and how to keep this iconic franchise, keep this Red Sox AAA affiliate. If Ben Mondor was alive, we would have had the money 8 months ago,” said Sabitoni.
Brushes Off the Opponents
Regardless of the position of Speaker of the House Nick Mattiello or overwhelming public opposition to Rhode Islanders backstopping the entire $80 plus million bond obligation, Sabitoni said this is a critical project for his members and Rhode Island’s economy.
“My members will support [members who vote for this]. This is not about the immediate construction jobs, it's about the state as a whole, you've got Memorial [Hospital[ that just closed, and potentially other firms going from Pawtucket to Providence -- Pawtucket needs to turn it around,” said Sabitoni.
“The initial construction could be between 300 and 400 jobs, [with] additional work for remediation and infrastructure. We're excited about the potential for investments around the ballpark, to create a lot more construction jobs as development comes in,” added Sabitoni.
A poll conducted in October by John Della Volpe of Harvard in partnership with GoLocalProv.com, found that Rhode Islanders were opposed to the taking on the financial obligation by more than two to one.
"Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?"
SEE ALL POLLING RESULTS BELOW
The GoLocalProv.com Benchmark Poll was conducted by Socialsphere -- founded by John Della Volpe, the Director of Polling at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.
Sabitoni says to keep the PawSox in Rhode Island is going to require public financing and ownership of the stadium or RI runs the risk of losing the team to Worcester, MA. or another city.
“The initial McCoy stadium was built with public money, owned and operated by the State of Rhode Island, leased back to the city of Pawtucket to the Paw Sox. We already own a ballpark -- we've had that relationship for 40 years,” said Sabitoni.
“[This is] just the way of business -- baseball, football, pharmacy, defense - there's always incentives in business for companies and corporations, owners, developers, that come into town and want to develop things. You don't look at their private net worth. There's agreements, TSAs, TIFs, job creation [incentives], tax credits -- the way business is done in this day in age, this is how it's done, regardless of who the owner is,” said Sabitoni.
“I truly believe and have full confidence in Stefan Pryor and the team at Commerce -- there's certain proprietary information. I have full confidence in this team that has vetted this proposal,” he said.
Let the Voters Decide
Sabitoni warns that there simply is not enough time to let voters decide and it's simply not the way government works.
Just after Sabitoni appeared on GoLocal LIVE, Mike Stenhouse, former Pawtucket and Boston Red Sox player and now head of RI Center on Freedom and Prosperity, said that the question of funding of the stadium should go before the voters.
“[As for whether the question should be put on the ballot], from what I understand, it's the timing of it. If there's not something in place when the lease expires, they can entertain offers from Worcester. They'd be more than happy to welcome something like this. The expiration of the lease, the deterioration of the ballpark currently, all those factors,” said Sabitoni.
“When you talk about something that is minimal to an extent on a development scale for a public-private partnership, if we're going to start putting things on of this nature, we might as well put the whole budget on the ballot -- this is not a ballot worthy question. There is no alternative for Pawtucket. It would be a real shame of the politicization of this issue allows this iconic franchise to go somewhere else. It would be a damn shame,” he said.
The RI State Senate Finance Committee is expected to offer revised legislation within the next few weeks.
"All we're asking for is if we do get a piece of legislation that's vetted, then take it up and put it to a vote. My members will count balls and strikes," said Sabitoni.
Related Slideshow: GoLocal: Benchmark Poll, October 2017
Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?
Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...
Definitely be voting: 78%
Probably be voting: 13%
What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?
Jobs and economy: 21%
State budget: 9%
Corruption/Public integrity: .8%
Don’t know: .9%
Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?
Net: Approve: 28%
Definitely approve: 15%
Probably approve: 14%
Net: Reject: 67%
Probably reject: 19%
Definitely reject: 48%
Don't know: 4%
The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).
$50,000 or less: 27%
More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%
More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%
More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%
$150,000 or more: 13%
Don't know/refused: 17%
What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?
Black or African American: 6%
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