EDITORIAL: Mr. Speaker, Do Not Succumb to a Last Minute, Backdoor PawSox Deal

Monday, May 21, 2018


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Speaker of the House, Nick Mattiello

Mr. Speaker, follow your own model. You have built a track record of passing ethics reform, eliminating the master lever, improving the financing legislation that is repairing our state’s infrastructure — solid achievements.  Why undermine it with a last-minute deal on the PawSox that benefits a small group of private investors who purchased a minor league baseball team — a fledgling sport.

Mr. Speaker, multiple public polls confirm that Rhode Islanders — every age, gender and geographic group — reject public financing of this stadium by a two to one margin.

Mr. Speaker, the foundation of this deal — fans attending games and spending money — is unreliable at best. The attendance claimed is simply not true and the league has no standard for reporting attendance.

Mr. Speaker, the standard for publicly funded stadiums in New England has been established — TD Garden, Gillette Stadium — the owners pay for their stadiums and the state and taxpayers are generous by funding land and infrastructure.

Mr. Speaker, the owners of the PawSox made a private transaction and purchased the team in 2015. The owners are among the most wealthy individuals in the country. Combined their wealth places them among the most wealthy sports team owners in the world. Their wealth exceeds the wealth of Russian oligarchs who own premiere European soccer teams. The value of their summer homes exceeds the $40 million they are seeking from the state of Rhode Island. That is not counting the ski houses.

Mr. Speaker, you served as Majority Leader when the 38 Studios deal was jammed through. Many clearly did not know what the intention of that legislation and who the forces were behind the deal. In this case, we do know the facts — who owns the team, how Rhode Islanders feel about the deal, that the PawSox numbers are not reliable, and that the owners have the capacity to self-fund.

Mr. Speaker, it is time to change the dynamics of the great Rhode Island General Assembly pastime - end the tradition of last-minute insider deals. Rhode Islanders will appreciate your leadership.


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