By Sharon Calvert
(Reprinted with permission from Eye on Tampa Bay)
According to this Floridapolitics.com article, House Bill 13, that bans Florida sports franchises from constructing or renovating facilities on leased public land, is heading to the House floor. It does have a companion bill in the Senate SB352. House Bill 13 is identical to one that passed the House last year but died in the Senate.
The bill will pass the House but will it pass the Senate this time? With all the recent brouhaha going on over wealthy players protesting on their wealthy employers time and dime most often in stadiums paid for by taxpayers, will subsidizing wealthy sports team owners, franchises and players finally become toxic in Florida?
The bill went nowhere last year most probably because Senator Latvala, as the powerful Senate Appropriations Chair, did not want it to. According to Noah Pransky’s latest post at his Shadow of the Stadium blog, which we highly recommend you follow, the wealthy sports team franchises love Latvala:
Why do pro teams love Latvala? In addition to his attempts to provide them stadium subsidies, he’s also the biggest thing standing in the way of a House push to ban public land giveaways for new stadiums in Florida.
Senator Latvala’s PAC is Florida Leadership Committee. As reported by Pransky, the Rays and the Dolphins have handed tens of thousands of dollars to his PAC. From the PAC’s last campaign finance reporting the Rays and South Florida Stadium who operates the stadium the Dolphins play in handed Latvala’s PAC $10K each on 9/29 and 9/30.
A real eye opener is Latvala’s PAC received its largest amount of contributions of any campaign filing period ever this past February. With Latvala in his powerful role as Senate Appropriations Chair, his PAC received over $1 million (the most ever in a single filing period) in February 2017 right before session started. Go here and click the campaign finance activity and select the filing period to review the contributions for that period.
Follow the money….and follow the electeds who are beholden to that money and not you the taxpayer. The special interests give the big bucks to the PACs where there are no limits on their contributions. The special interests are giving the big bucks for a reason – they want something in return. The PACs then contribute to candidates they agree with who will help further their agenda. It’s a big circle of money.
Pransky also reported that locally the Rays just gave $50K to Kriseman’s Sunrise PAC raising the total to $81,500 that the Rays, the Rays owner Sternberg and Rays’ executives have handed St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman. Kriseman faces off with Rick Baker in the St. Pete mayor’s general election on November 7th.
What about over in Hillsborough County? Commissioner Hagan, the commission King of County Center who is selfishly refusing to abide by the spirit of term limits in the county charter, is also on the receiving end from the sports team franchisees.
Hagan has raised a special interests war chest of over $400K dollars for a SINGLE MEMBER District seat. A quick review of donors to his campaign include a thousand dollars each from:
Stuart Sternberg, Rays owner
Strategic Property Partnership, Vinik
Amalie Arena, where Vinik’s Lightning and Storm play
Tampa Bay Lightning, Vinik
Tampa Bay Storm, Vinik
Yankee Global Enterprises
Robert Dupuy- attorney in NY firm Foley and Lardner, recently was president and COO of Major League Baseball
Latvala’s Florida Leadership PAC
Those donations are just the tip of the iceberg of Hagan’s special interests donor war chest. After 16 years of being a county commissioner and being term limited out of his county seat next year, Hagan thinks he is entitled to 8 more years. Hagan is leap frogging back to a District 2 seat he has already held.
Since the county charter was enacted 34 years ago, no one else has ever done what Hagan is arrogantly and selfishly doing – violating the spirit of the county term limits in the county charter by abusing a loophole. And his donors know it…
For WTSP, Pransky reported on August 23rd about Hagan’s idea of handing the Rays the HCSO property in Ybor:
“In his search to find the Rays a new place to play in Tampa’s urban core, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan has toyed with the idea of relocating the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office headquarters out of Ybor City to make room for a new stadium.”
Providing public land for stadium development could be another possible avenue for taxpayers to subsidize the project. Hagan, who once advocated “no public dollars” be spent on a Rays stadium, has recently said he thought taxpayers should help with the “infrastructure” side of a new stadium.
And voila! More money goes pouring into Hagan’s Pay to Play war chest. As Pransky posted on his stadium blog on September 18,
“Companies controlled by Darryl Shaw, who has been dubbed “Ybor’s big new (development) player,” gave $5,000 to Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan last month, according to campaign finance reports. Shaw’s wife and a company she controls also each chipped in $1,000, the maximum-allowable donation for the 2018 election.
Nothing about how taxpayers would be on the hook for paying for a brand new HCSO HQ facility somewhere – can’t let those silly little details get in the way….
Not only is Hagan a leap frogger from one county commission seat to another and back, he’s also a flip flopper on the issue of public funding for a stadium.
We posted this expose of Hagan and his tactics back in January 2016 during the Go Hillsborough tax hike debacle.
At the October 1, 2014 county commission meeting, Hagan stated
I CAN TELL YOU FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, THERE’S NO LESS THAN A DOZEN BASEBALL STADIUMS I’VE GONE TO AND TAKEN RAIL THERE, THAT’S CRITICALLY IMPORTANT (emphasis mine), REGARDLESS OF WHERE THE STADIUM IS ULTIMATELY LOCATED, BUT TRANSIT’S GOING TO BE A NECESSARY INGREDIENT.
At the next BOCC meeting on October 15, 2014, the county commission “quietly” hired the major league baseball law firm Foley and Lardner. They did it egregiously through the use of the Consent Agenda where there is no discussion – just a rubber stamped approval. See above – Foley and Lardner is now one of Hagan’s Pay to Play donors.
No wonder Pransky reported for WTSP in August that the county was eyeing federal transit dollars to help pay for a stadium aka Hagan’s quest for costly trains and stadiums.
Hagan and his baseball attorney took the baseball meetings secret and behind closed doors. Hagan likes the Atlanta model for how the Atlanta Braves got a new stadium because all their negotiations were behind closed doors too.
That new stadium effort was led and shepherded by Cobb County commissioner Tim Lee.
According to this article in May last year:
Lee cut a deal in secret to give nearly $400 million in tax money to multibillion-dollar conglomerate Liberty Media (AKA the Braves) to get the team to load its gear into moving vans and head north on I-75 to the Smyrna area. Lee even had a code name for the clandestine negotiations with the team — Operation Intrepid — which kind of gives it that Invasion of Normandy feel.
What summarized the process was a May 2014 meeting where commissioners approved a series of legal agreements with the Braves without serious debate. The bond documents weren’t even made available until one business day before the meeting.
As an exclamation point — or slap in the face — the 12 slots for public comment at the meeting were gobbled up hours earlier by sneaky pro-deal forces. Complainers were sent packing. The image of citizens getting shut down and marched out of a public meeting by cops doesn’t say Open Government.
But this is what eventually happened to Tim Lee according to a July 2016 Atlanta Journal Constitution article (emphasis mine):
By the time the first pitch is hurled from the mound of SunTrust Park stadium next spring, the man who lured the Atlanta Braves to Cobb County will be out of office.
Incumbent Chairman Tim Lee lost his reelection bid Tuesday to challenger Mike Boyce, a retired marine colonel, in a runoff seen by many as a litmus test for support of the deal to bring the Atlanta Braves to Cobb.
Boyce beat Lee, winning 64 percent of the vote, with all precincts reporting.
Now this: The Braves want $14M more from Cobb County taxpayers for their new stadium
Once these deals are made, it never ends for taxpayers.
Hagan liked the Atlanta “speedy” process done in secret. Why? Because it enables electeds to make deals behind closed doors to commit hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to a baseball stadium while prohibiting citizens and voters from appropriately weighing in.
We bet that Hagan’s Pay to Play donors likes the arrogant Atlanta quick and dirty process too but it should scare taxpayers in Hillsborough County. Hagan is being paid to deliver for his special interests – why their bucks are pouring into his Pay to Play campaign.
Beware Hillsborough County taxpayers and stay aware! Who knows what Hagan’s going to hit them with when the St. Pete Mayor’s race is decided next month.
Hagan does have a challenger who has filed, Chris Paradies, who is a West Point graduate.
So voters in Hillsborough County could do to Hagan next year what Cobb County voters did to Lee and toss him out.
The continuing pursuit of a new taxpayer subsidized baseball stadium in Tampa Bay is why HB13 needs to be fast tracked and quickly passed by our state legislature next year.
All the Pay to Play to put taxpayers on the hook to subsidize wealthy sports team owners in Florida must stop.