St. Louis city comptroller Darlene Green wants to make clear some things about her opposition to the now-dead-apparently funding plan for a new St. Louis Rams stadium:
- “I want to be part of the solution to saving the Rams. I want to be part of the solution for building a new stadium,” Green told KTVI-TV.
- Green’s problem with Gov. Jay Nixon’s last plan was that it would not only saddle St. Louis with the $6 million a year in taxes currently going to pay off the 20-year-old Jones Dome, but with a roughly equal amount (give or take, depending on how you count present value) in kicked-back stadium sales and income taxes: “Now, I am understanding that this [version of the plan] is outdated. So they need to work harder to deliver on their promises to the taxpayers: no new taxes.”
- The comptroller suggested instead creating a statewide sports authority to raise tourist tax money for improvements for all six of the state’s major-league teams: the Rams, Blues, Cardinals, and Kansas CIty Royals, Chiefs, and Sporting KC. “Those guys need to go after those tourist and visitor dollars. That’s a responsible way to fund major league sports these days. Think major league, stop thinking small.”
- She’s only one of three votes on the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (the other two are Mayor Francis Slay and Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed), so even if the board of aldermen approves a stadium funding plan, it’s not up to her to decide.
Okay, so what appears to be going on here is two things: 1) Green is trying to draw a “no new taxes” line in the sand over that $6 million in Jones Dome money, though even that would really involve new taxes (or old taxes extended farther into the future, which is the same thing); and 2) Green isn’t opposed to spending tax money on stadiums, she just doesn’t want it to be her tax money. It’s the “tax the guy behind the tree” principle, and while it’s sort of reasonable for a comptroller whose main concern is her own city budget, it’s not the best way to run public policy.
In any event, it does seem like we’re headed from “Should we give the Rams $400-million-plus in public money?” territory into “How should we find $400-million-plus in public money to give the Rams?”, which is usually the first step toward some kind of horse-trading that results in approval. Not always, mind you — sometimes nobody can decide who’s going to be the guy behind the tree — but usually. The money that Rams owner Stan Kroenke has spent on buying up land in Inglewood looks like it’ll be worth every penny.