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Thu Jan 14, 2016, 01:34 AM

Better ways to have spent $280 M in taxpayer money

In 1995, the Edward Jones Dome was built for $280M. The main tenant, the St Louis Rams, just left the taxpayers on the hook until 2021 for $12M per year.

Riverfront Times has made an irreverent list of 25 things to do with the empty dome. My personal favorite, having grown up with the pop-a-matic games of the 70s, is:

10. Replace the roof with a clear plastic bubble and fill it with dice, like the old Trouble board game. All future decisions involving taxpayer money will be resolved by fiat of the giant dice popper.

This got me thinking along a more serious line: what are better ways that $280 could have been spent? I do get that a lot of money gets dropped at an NL game. 50-75000 people pay for tickets; pay to park; buy food and drinks and merchandise at the stadium; sometimes go out for a meal before or after the game; and sometimes purchase room nights at hotels. But so many families are priced out of this experience that I have never felt that stadium building for pro sports teams is/was a good investment. So I started thinking -- what could a city buy?

1) Free Wi-Fi

That's why I loved to read that New York City wants to build one of the largest public wifi networks. The request for proposals was announced on May 1, looking for the installation, operation, and maintenance of up to 10,000 hotspots. It will be ready in four years.

Wikipedia reports free wifi is available in some way across 150 cities in the world like: Bangkok (Thailand), Blackpool (UK), Helsingborg (Sweden), Toronto (Canada), Denver (USA), Guadalajara (Mexico)and Stellenbosch (SA). Business Insider report 9 cities with the best free Wifi among which Helsinki (Finland), Taipei (Taiwan) and Hong Kong (China).

In the Netherlands there is a start-up, planning to build free wifi-networks in 38 cities, costing € 10 million. It was launched last year in Tiel, a small city of 41.000 citizens. At the moment 16.000 unique visitors in Tiel use the free wifi 20.000 hours per week. Other cities like Leiden (115.000 citizens) and Zwolle (120.000 citizens) are offering free wifi in The Netherlands too. And more will follow soon.

2) A Construction Job Training Center

If you're looking for a job in construction or manufacturing, there's a new training center in Birmingham that will help you get the right certifications.

Wright Way Inc. opened its doors on Friday with a free training session for people interested in the construction field.

The company will work with job seekers who need soft training and skilled-trade training.

3) School Technology

Gates makes a strong case for making new technology part of our investment in education. He cites the example of the Christopher Columbus Middle School in Union City, New Jersey, where the local telephone company, Bell Atlantic, conducted an experiment in computerization and networking. The school was in trouble. Dropout rates were high and test scores were low. Bell Atlantic funded the installation of networked computers linking students' homes to classrooms, teachers, administrators, and the Net. Teachers, parents, students, and administrators were trained to use the computers. Two years later, “The dropout rate and absenteeism were both almost zero”

4) Sports fields - for Kids

The Fourth of July brings more than just fireworks and celebration to the mild summer climate and Rocky Mountain air of Denver, Colorado. It’s also a time where nearly 800 elite fastpitch-softball teams from across the country travel to for the annual Colorado Sparkler, Sparkler Juniors, and Fireworks.

While Colorado is not known as a true hotbed for softball talent, it becomes the center of the sport’s recruiting universe for one week where more than 600 college coaches attend to watch the best players compete in the country’s largest fastpitch event. This week (June 30-July 6) the three events, which are produced by Fort Collins-based Triple Crown Sports, will combine for more than 3,000 games played on 133 softball fields at 30 different sites; bringing in an estimated $30 million in economic impact to Denver, Aurora, Westminster, and communities in Northern Colorado.

5) House some homeless

Those who are homeless in Killeen will have a place to stay this winter after the city cut a ribbon for its first homeless shelter Thursday night.

Families In Crisis, a local nonprofit organization, will operate the $1.4 million facility that will house up to 74 people.

According to a compilation of surveys by the Central Texas Homeless Alliance conducted earlier this year, 532 people identified themselves as homeless in the Killeen-Temple metropolitan area.

Larry Moehnke, Families in Crisis board president, said the shelter, at 412 E. Sprott Ave., will operate 365 days a year and provide housing for people from 3 p.m. until the next morning.

6) Riverfront Times suggested 10 better ways to spend St. Louis taxpayer money than building the $1.1 billion dollar stadium designed to replace Edward Jones. One stuck out for me:

5. Gift four years of undergrad tuition to 5,813 students at Washington University

7) On the topic of the 1.1 Billion dollar St. Louis stadium that never emerged

Inside Tuesday night’s fan meeting, the room turned tense as Nadra, a critic of the stadium proposal, questioned why officials were committing public money to the project without funding “40 years of neglect on the north side”.

“This isn’t the stage for that,” one fan shouted. “What made you so important?” went another, as jeers rained down from across the room.

Nadra continued. “Is the NFL interested in doing anything to promote the racial justice that has been misaligned here?”

Whatever the answer from NFL senior vice-president of public policy Cynthia Hogan may have been, few likely heard it. A group in the back had begun to chant: “If we don’t get it, shut it down,” while unveiling a banner that read “Fund Schools, Not Football.”

8) We could build grocery stores

Adults living in neighborhoods with supermarkets or with supermarkets and grocery stores have the lowest rates of obesity (21 percent) and overweight(60–62 percent) and those living in neighborhoods with no supermarkets and access to only convenience stores, smaller grocery stores, or both had the highest rates (32–40 percent obesity; 73–78 percent overweight), according to a study of more than 10,000 adults.

The lack of supermarket access corresponds with higher rates of diet related death in Philadelphia.

In Los Angeles, a longer distance traveled to reach a grocery store was associated with higher BMI. Those who traveled more than 1.75 miles to a supermarket weighed 0.8 BMI units more (4.8 pounds for a 5’5” person).

A national study of more than 70,000 teens also found that increased availability of chain supermarkets was associated with lower rates of overweight.

9A) We could build bike lanes

1. It inspires more people to ride bicycles

If you build it, they will come. Time and time again, cycling studies have shown that adding bike lanes motivates more people to get out and bike. New Orleans saw a 57% increase just six months after bike lanes were marked. Los Angeles also saw a 52% jump in cyclists on their new lanes. Meanwhile, New York City found it was able to double the number of people commuting by bicycle in just a few years after introducing a few cycling initiatives including bike lanes. In a country plagued by obesity, the health benefits of a population that rides bicycles should not be mitigated.

2. It stimulates the local economy

That same increased use also results in a boost to commerce. While communities often fight bike lanes out of concern that it will discourage vehicular traffic from coming to the stores, recent studies have shown that bicycle lanes have the opposite effect on sales. In Manhattan, streets that had bike lanes put in saw their business increase by nearly 50%. A business boom, particularly one of that size, can probably be attributed to a number of factors, but surely an increase in people in the area plays a big role. Similar results were found for businesses by bike lanes in Portland.

3. It’s safer for cyclists

Accidents happen, but research illustrates that city streets with bike lanes reduce the rate of cyclist injury by 50%. For years, the conventional wisdom was that sharing the lane with vehicles made for safer cycling, but data supports that having a separate lanes significantly cuts down on the number of cyclist emergency room visits. In fact, protected bike lanes – those with barriers dividing cyclists from vehicles – cuts the injury rate by a whopping 90%.

9B)Fund a community bike project

Volunteers and community activists in the Gifford Park Neighborhood started the Open Shop program in 2007 as a neighborhood-based community involvement program that focuses on the transportation needs of neighbors. The Bike Project continues to work to improve access to bicycles for everyone through Open Shop, Earn-a-Bike, and maintenance classes. In addition to serving as a hub for sustainable and equitable transportation, the Bike Project also serves as a social learning space that promotes youth mentorship, community building, and mechanical intelligence.

10) Build Libraries

To measure the value of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the library's economic influence and its benefits for its users, which were measured with time value....To measure users' benefits, the study measured the time that 1300 users spent at ht library. The value of the time used by each individual was calculated by applying the intermediate value of male and female wages in the area. The total value of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library was $3 per $1 of library expenses, and varied according tot he possibility of changes in time value offered by the users of the library. The library created $6.14 per $1 of budget provided by the city government.


In the study of Florida public libraries, a total of 17 public libraries were analyzed to assess the benefits to adult users who were 18 years of age or older; this study also considered the economic impact on these users....The analysis showed that approximately $6.40 of the total value per $1 of the budget was created.

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Reply Better ways to have spent $280 M in taxpayer money (Original post)
Algernon Moncrieff Jan 2016 OP
exboyfil Jan 2016 #1
Algernon Moncrieff Jan 2016 #2
exboyfil Jan 2016 #4
exboyfil Jan 2016 #3
RichVRichV Jan 2016 #5
exboyfil Jan 2016 #6
Algernon Moncrieff Jan 2016 #8
Sherman A1 Jan 2016 #7
Algernon Moncrieff Jan 2016 #9
Sherman A1 Jan 2016 #10

Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Jan 14, 2016, 01:43 AM

1. Still $100M left to pay off too

The one bright note is that the Rams did not accept the $400M public money to stay. Who were the politicians responsible for the original deal and do they still hold public office?

Here is a summary of some of the biggest fleeces.


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Response to exboyfil (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 14, 2016, 01:46 AM

2. Yet when school improvements are needed, the money can never be found.

e.t.a. Great article at your link - everyone should read it.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 14, 2016, 01:51 AM

4. School kids don't buy fancy lobster dinners for politicians

or give them box seats.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Jan 14, 2016, 02:24 AM

5. Actually the city is better off financially without the Rams.

People don't realize the Edward Jones Dome is just one part of a convention complex. The Dome/convention center is expected to bring in $23M this year in taxes from conventions and only $4.2M in taxes from the Rams. With the Rams gone they will be able to book more conventions.

The reason the Rams got out of the contract early was because the St. Louis CVC (Convention & Visitors Commission) that is in charge of maintaining the Dome refused mass renovations (basically a rebuild) to meet first tier requirements (stated the dome had to be top 10 stadium in the league last year) necessary to extend the lease for 10 years. One reason the CVC refused was because it would have put the convention center out of business for 2 years doing the rebuild (also it would have cost $600M rebuild to extend the lease for just 10 years).

Story on convention revenue.

Info on convention center

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Response to RichVRichV (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 14, 2016, 02:39 AM

6. And we already know that $400M of taxpayer

renovation money is available for economic development based upon the last proposal they made. Now hopefully those funds can be used in a more constructive fashion. What that money only applied to keeping an NFL team - get out of here.

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Response to RichVRichV (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 14, 2016, 12:24 PM

8. Good. Let that be a lesson to other cities!

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Jan 14, 2016, 07:55 AM

7. Thanks for posting.

I am very pleased to see the Rams leaving and really wished they would have never come to this city. That said I am in hopes that the CVC can use the opportunity to book in more convention business, make what tweaks, repairs and upgrades that are needed for their needs. Conventions are big business and St. Louis does have much to offer and in my opinion much, much more without the NFL being anywhere near this city.

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Response to Sherman A1 (Reply #7)

Thu Jan 14, 2016, 12:26 PM

9. I'm fine with NFL owners that will build their own stadiums

I'm even fine with some "reasonable" concessions -- the city puts in the water/sewer; builds the freeway access, etc. But the concept of building a new taxpayer funded stadium every 20 years is bad public policy.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Reply #9)

Thu Jan 14, 2016, 01:19 PM

10. Agreed

I can go with infrastructure enhancements for a stadium built by a team owner, but the facility itself should not involve taxpayer funding.

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