It's the luxury box.
That's why Hartford city officials want to put taxpayers on the hook for $60 million to build a minor league baseball stadium.
The proposed contract between the city and the Rock Cats, owned by Boston real estate developers, provides a "City Suite" to local officials. The team owner's legal name is Connecticut Double Play. They joined Hartford leaders to impose a double-cross on city residents.
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Hartford, CT, USA
Mayor Pedro Segarra and his allies have cut themselves in on a dirty deal — that the public will have to pay extra for. Under the deal, the city gets a suite (commonly referred to as a skybox in other facilities) to use at the stadium. "The City Suite will be used by the City and any Affiliate of the City for promotional and economic development activities and other public and civic purposes during events at the Ballpark." No one will blame you if you just threw this newspaper to the floor in disgust at Hartford's grasping officials.
If this misbegotten plan goes forward, there's no doubt who will fill that suite at every event: politicians and their cronies. No wonder city council leader Shawn Wooden's state Senate campaign has been buffeted by his support for the baseball stadium. Wooden began trimming his support on Wednesday. Why would anyone believe he means it?
City officials do not just get a suite, they get free tickets. The contract gives city politicians "tickets to any Ballpark Events, except if Team is required to pay a promoter for any such tickets." The same politicians "shall be entitled to the number of tickets to any event in the Ballpark equal to the sum of the number of fixed seats and bar seats in the City Suite."
It is never enough. Parking issues have risen in the debate over the stadium proposal. Segarra and company were worried about that too — for themselves. Pay for parking? That's for other people. The people who pay for the stadium can also pay for their own parking. "Parking passes will be provided," the contract states, "to City at no charge for events at the Ballpark in the same proportion and on the same terms that other third Person suite holders in similarly located suites have parking rights." You can be sure that their royal highnesses in city government will not be parking near you.
City officials also get to give away 250 tickets for each of two games during the season. Many of the employees who will get those tickets, of course, do not live in the city and will not be burdened by the obligation to repay the $60 million the city borrows to build the stadium. The children of the city and their families? Segarra and Wooden have given them their usual consideration — none at all. Just keep paying the bills. It's not hard to figure out where the city did its most vigorous negotiating. They put their full measure into reserving exclusive seats and parking for themselves.
Meanwhile, the week brought an end to Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton's five-year quest to become governor. Boughton's decision to withdraw from the Republican primary race was a merciful one, saving him further embarrassment in a campaign marked by little other than missteps.
Boughton could not raise the $250,000 in small contributions required to qualify for $1.4 million in public financing for the August nominating primary. The first running mate he thought would help him reach that crucial threshold, Heather Bond Somers of Groton, decided to go it alone after getting to know Boughton on the campaign trail.
Boughton's substitute ticket mate, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, was unable to collect the 8,000 signatures he needed to get on the primary ballot. That failure showed there was little heft to the Boughton-Lauretti ticket. Both Boughton and Lauretti have been in politics for many years. Their inability to deploy loyal volunteers to collect the signatures to get Lauretti on the ballot and keep Boughton in the race suggested neither understands the imperatives of surviving the crunch.
Boughton withdrew from the race Wednesday afternoon and endorsed the candidate he is known to disparage often: Tom Foley. Boughton was Foley's 2010 running mate, and each got a heaping dose of the other. That was ignored Wednesday as Boughton's prospects in state politics were laid to rest.
Kevin Rennie is a lawyer and a former Republican state legislator. He can be reached at email@example.com.