A trick from a decades-old playbook, NFL owners on the West Coast are attempting to use public funds to build NFL stadiums but on this Election Day voters can turn them away the same way the league has turned them off.

By Andrew J. Pridgen

If Stanford economist Roger Noll is to be believed—and there’s no way he shouldn’t be—he is, after all, a Stanford economist, then politicians and voters who punch a ballot in favor of currying the favor of a billionaire pro sports franchise owner, are doing so to reap some kind of trickle-down reward that doesn’t exist.

This election season especially, white supremacist Americans who have been mainstreamed if not called to action by misinformation and age-old distraction and crowd suppression tactics are supporting a member of the lucky sperm club billionaire class who is gilding his rotten lily with some kind of implicit promise that he will, either Bruce Wayne or Willie Wonka-style, make all their wildest dreams of being beamed up to the one percent come true.

Of course, it doesn’t work that way. Karl Marx was right about capitalism-gone-wild when left unchecked as it relates to voters being asked to pad billionaire pockets while their own jobs vanish, their own schools rot and their own infrastructure crumbles.

More than a century and a half ago, Marx predicted the relentless drive for profits would lead companies to mechanize their workplaces, producing more and more goods while squeezing workers’ wages until they could no longer purchase the products they created. The average NFL non-premium ticket costs almost $86 in 2016. The amount the average fan spends on any given Sunday attending a NFL game is roughly $450.

This means a NFL commoner is poised to spend $3,600 post-tax dollars on tickets, parking, concessions, jerseys, car flare and whatever the fuck this Cleveland Browns merkin is over a 17-week span. Double that should the team make the playoffs and the die-hard want to travel.

The average U.S. household income is just short of $52k, so assuming the kids are in public schools and the cars are mostly paid off, and no other hobbies, interests, activities or emergencies enter the fray, one could deduce that the serious NFL hobbyist can squeak by with the narrowest of financial justifications for doing what they do. It’s like when someone’s on a diet and goes ahead and throws down at Round Table’s AYCE buffet, managing to devour the equivalent of two Ulta-Meat pizzas on their cheat day. It may ruin the whole concept of why you were dieting in the first place, but it felt good at the time.

NFL owners know the product is still possibly compelling enough (though conservative estimates have ratings down at least 10 percent from last year…and falling) to go directly to the taxpaying public, who now is educated enough to want their tax dollar to be allocated to schools, social services, police, fire and infrastructure.

Last month, Nevada’s Legislature approved a plan by a margin as thin as a rail on a Vegas hotel coffee table to give Raiders owner Mark Davis a $750 million check to partially fund a stadium that would also be subsidized by Vegas’ own Mr. Potter Sheldon Adelson. Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the bill into law, effectively putting the state in the business of subsidizing billionaires.

The measure raises hotel taxes in greater Vegas by up 1.3 percentage points to fund a convention center expansion and build a 65k-seat adjoining domed puke village and shit station. Vegas, with more than 42 million visitors/year and 150k beds, would levy the tax to come to about $1.50, per room/per night (about the same amount as you’re willing to spend at the nickel slots after 5 a.m. to redeem the evening).

Unlike most stadia, the Vegas group estimates the dome will host up to 46 events per year, so the Raiders would essentially be guest stars in their own home. Proponents argue that 25k construction jobs and 14k permanent jobs would be created for the area should the stadium come into play. Those numbers, while not irrefutable, take away from the point. If Davis and Adelson and co. want to team up for a for-profit venture, that happens to create wage-earning jobs (like all for-profit ventures do) that’s fine. But do it on your dime.

At play here is Nevada’s wanton desire to have a seat at the grownups table. While Vegas is slowly becoming a world-class city on its own merits, Bob Stupak’s playground still feels a bit like it’s constantly trying to put a fresh coat of glitter over its cheap veneer. Mulling over Vegas is sort of like wondering whether any restaurant with fake columns out front can be considered fine dining, even when it has a neon sign that says “Fine dining.” Indeed, it is difficult to be taken seriously when your general visiting public is encouraged to walk around sipping piña colada out of a giant plastic guitar.

In San Diego, the Chargers-owing Spanos family is trying to commit a slightly more brazen heist of the public’s funds (and goodwill) as they’re asking the general population to approve at least one of a pair of measures to give them hundreds of millions of dollars and, quite possibly, piss off the power users of San Diego’s current convention facilities in the process.

On November 8, voters will be asked to approve Chargers-backed Measure C, which would increase San Diego’s hotel occupancy tax by 6 percent to build a downtown stadium and convention center. The measure needs a 2/3 voter to pass. If voted through, the city’s taxpayers would contribute $350 million (to the stadium—when you throw in the convention center, city residents would be on the hook for $1.15 billion in total), the Chargers and NFL would contribute $650 million. Independent analysts claim there would be about a $406 million revenue shortfall with this plan.

Speculation of whether the new stadium/convention center would run the city into the red and possibly chase away conventions like Comic-Con to LA or Vegas, aside, the big deal-killer for the San Diego voter should be the fact that the city’s coffers are still smarting from $50 million owed to them from a 1997 renovation of Qualcomm stadium (the current Chargers’ home which is now being characterized by the same ownership group that benefited from that renovation, that it’s unfit to play in.) That’s almost $20 the Chargers owe back to each man, woman and child in San Diego…or just enough for a down payment on beer and nachos at Qualcomm.

…And if the Chargers’ welching instincts are not enough to dissuade casting a vote in their favor, proponents are calling the plan the “Convadium” which sounds like a strip club with a pretty decent buffet in downtown Reno.

There’s an alternate the Chargers can sneak in a stadium deal and that’s with Measure D (not Charger-backed, though it is blessed by the organization as their backup plan) which would also increase San Diego’s hotel occupancy tax up to 5%, create downtown overlay zone for a convention and/or new sports facilities and allow Qualcomm stadium property’s sale for educational and park uses.

Indeed, Measure D raises hotel taxes but does so in a seemingly friendlier way, It does not directly raise the money to build a stadium even though it clears the way for construction, and logic says the stadium would come shortly thereafter. Authors of Measure D say that a simple majority means it passes. The San Diego city attorney disagrees. A majority vote, in other words, also carries with it the implications of a protracted legal battle, which will also cost, you know, lots of taxpayer dollars.

Vegas, which plans to build its giant new binge-drink facility on a stretch of scorched desert adjacent to McCarran, last used to film the Mr. Chow-naked-popping-out-of-the-trunk scenes of the original Hangover, does not have as many land-use conflicts as San Diego.

A group of residents, academics, architects and public policy and planning wonks would rather see the proposed rare spit of undeveloped land near downtown San Diego turn into a tech-infused, public-private, live-work-play space similar to Greenpoint Brooklyn, South of Market in SF or Downtown LA. All of the aforementioned have all been renewed through careful planning with commerce in mind and have benefited the masses by utilizing the precious infill area for something besides an 8x/year rape culture command center.

Existing hoteliers would rather expand the center along San Diego Bay to keep Comic-Con and other growing conventions, than toss their meal ticket out with the allure of season tickets.

The San Diego Tourism Authority is against both measures C and D. USA Today, which dares not make a practice of getting political because they don’t want to ruin a business traveler’s hotel lobby waffle, came out against the measures Tuesday. And the LA Times and San Diego Union-Tribune rejected the measures saying San Diegans are in charge of their money and should hold out for a better deal.

Though Nevada decision is a legislative one and the ballot measures are for San Diego residents to educate themselves upon and come to their own conclusions on what really is the best allocation of the dollars that come into their beautiful berg, it seems in both cases, the NFL ownership—panhandling members of the general public hat in hand like the robber barons in hobo clothing they are, for a product that is losing the interest of the general public and may no longer hold the same appeal for the upcoming generation of coveted 18-49-year-old spenders—seem to be gripping on to what once was…or in each owner’s case, to the generational wealth that put them up there in the sky box glowering down upon the ever-thinning crowds in the first place.

Andrew J. Pridgen is the author of “Burgundy Upholstery Sky”.

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