Category: Politics


Not Breaking: Reinsdorf US Cell Boondoggle Lawsuit Dismissed

Five months ago, store rx while his White Sox were in full June swoon, Jerry Reinsdorf was celebrating victory. Unreported and unnoticed, with the silent efficiency of a mob hit, the lawsuit against the White Sox chairman brought by an ex-government employee was weighted down and left for dead in a river of motions, minutes, and memorandums.\n\nIn April 2013, Perri Irmer filed an impassioned claim with a local district court arguing that her individual rights had been violated in a wrongful firing, but the case was a larger indictment on behalf of taxpayers against the enigmatic Reinsdorf, his goose, and his golden egg.\n\nThe goose is the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. In her lawsuit, former ISFA CEO Irmer affirmed what those of us who have been paying attention have long suspected: that the ISFA—the government agency created by the state of Illinois allegedly to promote jobs and economic development through investment in sports stadiums—is in practice an entity that mobilizes public funds in the interest of Reinsdorf and his White Sox ownership partners.\n\nReinsdorf’s golden egg is US Cellular Field. The White Sox home ballpark was built, renovated, and is maintained with public money. Taxes pay for upwards of fifty million in bond debt and stadium upkeep annually while the White Sox pay one or two million dollars in “rent” or “ticket fees,” or whatever they happen to be calling the pittance in any given year.\n\nIrmer was in charge of ISFA operations from 2004 to 2011. Early in her tenure she recognized that the White Sox stadium agreement with the ISFA and state of Illinois was “abusive to taxpayers.” And so Irmer sought to reduce costs of ballpark management, earn more revenue for the state at US Cellular Field from events such as concerts, develop public land around the park, and make White Sox games more accessible to members of surrounding south side communities.\n\nAccording to Irmer, Reinsdorf didn’t like her proposals because they cut into his bottom line. US Cellular as a music venue would compete with the United Center, which is owned by Reinsdorf (and incidentally, way undertaxed). More businesses near the ballpark would mean less revenue for White Sox ownership inside the facility. And Reinsdorf opposed lower-class people of color at US Cellular Field because they undermined the White Sox “brand.”\n\nIrmer also fought against additional public funds being diverted to Reinsdorf and the White Sox. She opposed the Bacardi at the Park agreement in 2010, in which Reinsdorf received both state money to build a restaurant outside of US Cellular Field and all the revenues generated from the bibulous White Sox fans therein. And when Reinsdorf asked for $7 to $10 million additional tax dollars for renovations in 2011, Irmer balked again. Despite Irmer’s protests however, Reinsdorf got his (extra) millions in both cases.\n\nBy Irmer’s account, insiders knew that she wanted to make people in power aware of the ISFA’s wastefulness to taxpayers and Reinsdorf’s undue influence over ISFA decision makers. But few were willing to listen. In late-2010 and early-2011 Irmer attempted to meet with Governor Pat Quinn but was rebuffed by his staff. She had a meeting scheduled with Mayor Rahm Emanuel on April 28, 2011. However, four days before the meeting date, Irmer arrived at work to find herself locked out of her office. She was terminated by the ISFA Board two days after that.\n\nNone of these facts or events were disputed in the judge’s opinion on the case. Instead, Irmer’s lawsuit was thrown out because the judge ruled she had not adequately argued that her civil rights had been violated. Unfortunately, collusion is hard to prove, having clout is not illegal, and by law Jerry Reinsdorf has the right to act in his own business interests.\n\nMeanwhile, no one is acting in the public’s interest as the major stakeholders in the ISFA and US Cellular Field, and that is seriously troubling.


Depraved Owner of the Week: Tom Benson

Tonight the Bulls take on the New Orleans Pelicans, viagra buy ampoule or last season’s Hornets by another name.  So let’s take a look at Louisiana taxpayer “investment” in the various enterprises of Pelicans owner Tom Benson, site view or extortion by another name, thumb in this holiday double-length edition of Depraved Owners.\n\nName: Tom Benson\n\nNet Worth: $1.3 billion\n\nTeam: New Orleans Pelicans (formerly Hornets)\n\nForbes Team Valuation: Value $340 million; Revenue $100 million; Operating Income $3.3 million\n\nTenure: Since 2012, when he acquired the Hornets for $338 million.  Good luck with that!\n\nArena: New Orleans Arena (1999)\nOriginal Capital Cost (2010): $160 Million\nOriginal Public Capital Cost (2010): $160 Million (18%)\nSource: Judith Grant Long, Public-Private Partnerships for Major League Sports Facilities (Routledge)\n2013 Renovations: $50 million\nPublic Cost: $50 million\n\nCost of Game for a Family of Four (2012-13): $220.40\n\nOngoing Subsidies:\n\nIt’s difficult to separate Tom Benson the Pelican’s owner from Tom Benson the New Orleans Saints NFL team owner, and why try?  Through his ownership of both teams and property adjacent to the taxpayer-owned New Orleans Arena and Mercedez-Benz Superdome, Benson regularly receives oodles in renovation funding and tax breaks from the government.\n\nHere’s part of the recipe for the subsidy gumbo that Benson has cooking with the state of Louisiana Continue reading


How About a Hotel Tax for Workers?

Hotel taxes are how public financing of sports stadium construction for private companies gets done.\n\nHere’s how it works historically and in principle:\n\n1. The owner of a beloved sports team threatens to leave town if the city/county/state doesn’t build the team a new state-of-the-art facility.\n\n2. Politicians—facing tight budgets, no rx malady but craving private-industry allies and nervous about facing crazed sports fans—agree to pony up.\n\n3. Knowing that raising taxes on citizens for such a thing—especially when public schools and transit services and police forces face budget cuts—wouldn’t sit well with voters, see legislators introduce a new hotel tax to be paid by tourists who stay in local hotels and controlled by some freshly minted government sports facilities commission made up of appointees.\n\n4. The commission issues bonds for the stadium (backed by the government) and pays principal and interest and for ongoing stadium improvements using the hotel tax revenues, while operating outside of the workings of day-to-day, elected-official, as-the-founders-imagined-it-type government.\n\n5. The sports team gets their stadium, sports fans are psyched, taxpayers don’t seem to mind so much, and the politicians get to keep the whole dirty business at arms length: everybody’s happy!\n\nIn Chicago, the commission that manages the stadiums is called the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority.  In practice, hotel taxes cover about 70% of the ISFAs expenses.  Politicians rarely mention the $10 million in direct taxpayer subsidies that go to the ISFA every year, or that the city has to make up for any shortfalls in hotel tax revenue, but the hotel tax pays for the stadiums for the most part.\n Continue reading

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Depraved Owner of the Week: Dan Gilbert

The Bulls triumphed over the Cavaliers on Monday night; let’s take a look at how Cavs ownership is triumphing over Cleveland taxpayers.\n\nName: Dan Gilbert\n\nNet Worth:  $3.9 billion\n\nTeam: Cleveland Cavaliers\n\nForbes Team Valuation: Value $434 million; Revenue $128 million; Operating Income $18.6 million \n\nTenure: Since 2005\n\nArena: Quicken Loans Arena (1994)\nTotal Capital Cost (2010): $328 Million\nPublic Capital Cost (2010): $285 Million (87%)\nSource: Judith Grant Long, discount viagra medical Public-Private Partnerships for Major League Sports Facilities (Routledge)\n\nCost of Game for a Family of Four (2012-13): $287.60\n\nOngoing Subsidies:\n\nThe naming rights to the taxpayer-built arena were included in the private deal Dan Gilbert cut with former owner Gordon Gund to buy the Cavs, pharm and so the city received no compensation when Gilbert renamed the arena after his online mortgage company, Quicken Loans, in 2005.\n\nSince the facility is technically owned by the public (but the Cavs receive the revenue it generates), Gilbert pays no rent or taxes on the building.  In 2009, a Cleveland journalist estimated the Cavs’ property tax savings to be a little less than $4 million annually, 55% of which would go to schools.  By the way, with Gilbert’s personal net worth of $3.9 billion, he could pay the current annual property tax rate on Quicken Loans Arena for about a thousand years.\n Continue reading


Depraved Owner of the Week: Herb Simon

A look at Pacers ownership before the Bulls visit Indiana on Wednesday night.\n\nName: Herbert Simon\n\nNet Worth:  $1.95 billion\n\nTeam: Indiana Pacers\n\nForbes Team Valuation: Value $383 million; Revenue $98 million; Operating Income $10.9 million\n\nTenure: Herb and his brother Mel purchased the team in 1983. Herb became sole owner after Mel died in 2009.\n\nArena: Bankers Life Fieldhouse\nTotal Cost (2010): $262 Million\nTaxpayer Cost (2010): $252 Million (96%)\nSource: Judith Grant Long, buy cialis sovaldi sale Public-Private Partnerships for Major League Sports Facilities (Routledge)\n\nOngoing Subsidies:\n\nIn 2010, the Capital Improvement Board of Marion County agreed to give Herb Simon and the Pacers $33.5 million over three seasons after the owner complained that he couldn’t make money at the eighteen-thousand seat facility the state built for him, where he pays no rent and keeps all the revenue.\n\nIn December 2012, the CIB decided to pay the Pacers $10 million more in 2013, after the team agreed to extend its lease with the city one more year until 2019.\n\nIn August of this year, the CIB committed $11 million to Herb Simon and the Pacers in 2014 to “offset losses from operating Bankers Life Fieldhouse.”  The team will receive an additional $10 million next year for renovations to the arena.\n Continue reading