Tag Archives: Missouri

Amid Building Boom, Debate over Publicly Funded Stadiums Goes On

Source: Elaine S. Povich, Pew Charitable Trust, July 11, 2016

Missouri and St. Louis tried mightily to keep the NFL Rams from decamping for Los Angeles, offering $400 million in state and city money for a new stadium. To justify the public expense, officials argued that the team, which moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis two decades ago, was an economic engine for the region. They offered to put up the money even though the Rams’ billionaire owner, Stan Kroenke, could afford to build a new stadium on his own. … Two other NFL teams, the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders, also are eyeing a move to the nation’s second largest city. But Nevada is hoping to grab the Raiders for itself, by dangling a $1.4 billion stadium that would be paid for, at least in part, by the taxpayers. Meanwhile in Atlanta, construction is underway on a new $950 million stadium for the NFL Falcons, to be financed partly through bonds secured by extending a tax on hotel and motel rooms. Amid all the jockeying, a decadeslong debate rages on: Does it make economic sense for cities and states to use public money to build sports facilities? …

… But many economists maintain that states and cities that help pay for new stadiums and arenas rarely get their money’s worth. Teams tout new jobs created by the arenas but construction jobs are temporary, and ushers and concession workers work far less than 40 hours a week.  Furthermore, when local and state governments agree to pony up money for stadiums, taxpayers are on the hook for years — sometimes even after the team leaves town. St. Louis, for example, is still paying $6 million a year on debt from building the Edward Jones Dome, the old home of the Rams that opened in 1995, despite the team’s move to California. The debt is financed by a hotel tax and taxes on “game day” revenues like concessions and parking. …

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New stadiums cost more than just money
Source: Yousef Baig, The Weekly Calistogan, July 29, 2015

…The first place to start is with the financing. A few years ago, a Harvard urban planning professor named Judith Grant Long put out a book called “Public/Private Partnerships for Major League Sports Facilities” that shed some light onto what these deals really cost taxpayers and the subsequent spillover effect into other areas. … The average public/private partnership has the cities forking over 78 percent of the costs, and the teams themselves just 22 percent. Additionally, she added, taxpayers spent about $10 billion more than originally estimated on the construction of all 121 stadiums that were in use during 2010. Ownership groups (made up of billionaires) tell city officials that they can’t afford the hundreds of millions of dollars required to erect these modern coliseums. They talk about the boon it will bring to the surrounding area, the increase in tourism, and the creation of jobs, while in the same breath, threatening to leave for another city if they don’t oblige. …

Hamilton County, which took on stadiums for both the Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Reds in the mid-1990s, has been crippled with debt ever since. In 2013 alone, annual stadium expenses totaled $43 million. Since these two stadiums were built, a public hospital was sold, mass transit investments were put off, and the tiny amount of private development along the Ohio River, which was a big selling point to get an increase in sales tax approved, has still required additional public subsidies. …
To afford the $720 million required to build Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, the city raised hotel, restaurant and rental car tax rates. Five months after it opened in 2008, a first-year deficit of $25 million was projected to jump to $45 million a year later. In June 2013, the city of Detroit, amid a financial crisis and filing for bankruptcy, stayed the course with its $444 million hockey arena for the Red Wings. A $450 million bond with a 30-year term fit the average arrangement mentioned in Long’s book, leaving taxpayers responsible for $283 million of it. …

John Oliver: How Sports Teams Are Ripping Us Off
Source: Marlow Stern, Daily Beast, July 12, 2015

After a week off, John Oliver and his award-worthy HBO program Last Week Tonight are back, and this time, they’re targeting one of America’s favorite pastimes: pro sports….. “The vast majority of stadiums are made using public money,” said Oliver, citing a report from 2012 stating there’s been “$12 billion spent on the 51 new facilities opened between 2000 and 2010.” “Which begs the question: Why?” he asked…… But the theory that building a new stadium boosts a city’s economy is, according to an economic study cited by Oliver, a total myth. “A major review of almost 20 years of studies shows economists could find no substantial evidence that stadiums had increased jobs, incomes, or tax revenues,” he said….Recently, Hamilton County, Ohio, spent more than $50 million on stadium debt service and other costs in 2014 for the Cincinnati Bengals and Reds, even though the county has had to sell a public hospital, cut 1,700 jobs, and delay payments for schools because of budget gaps.

Stadiums
Source: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, July 12, 2015

Cities spend massive amounts of public money on privately-owned stadiums. Cities issue tax-exempt municipal bonds that — wait, don’t fall asleep!

Public-Private Partnerships for Major League Sports Facilities
Source: Judith Grant Long, Routledge, ISBN-13: 978-0415806930, 2012
(purchase required)

This volume takes readers inside the high-stakes game of public-private partnerships for major league sports facilities, explaining why some cities made better deals than others, assessing the best practices and common pitfalls in deal structuring and facility leases, as well as highlighting important differences across markets, leagues, facility types, public actors, subsidy delivery mechanisms, and urban development aspirations. It concludes with speculations about the next round of facility replacement amidst rapid changes in broadcast technology, shrinking domestic audiences, and the globalization of sport.

Do Economists Reach a Conclusion on Subsidies for Sports Franchises, Stadiums, and Mega-Events?
Source: Dennis Coates and Brad R. Humphreys, Econ Journal Watch, Vol 5 no. 3, September 2008

From the abstract:
This paper reviews the empirical literature assessing the effects of subsidies for professional sports franchises and facilities. The evidence reveals a great deal of consistency among economists doing research in this area. That evidence is that sports subsidies cannot be justified on the grounds of local economic development, income growth or job creation, those arguments most frequently used by subsidy advocates. The paper also relates survey evidence showing that economists in general oppose sports subsidies. In addition to reviewing the empirical literature, we describe the economic intuition that probably underlies the strong consensus among economists against sports subsidies.

COLUMBUS JUST WON $50 MILLION TO BECOME THE CITY OF THE FUTURE

Source: Aarian Marshall, Wired, June 23, 2016

….. If all goes according to plan, the Ohio capital will soon burst with electric vehicles, autonomous shuttles, platooning trucks, and bus rapid transit, which will sail through smart traffic lights that turn green just for them. Every resident will benefit.  Foxx today declared Columbus the winner of the $40 million Smart City Challenge, a competition that asked mid-size governments to envision how their city could capitalize on growing overlaps in transportation and technology. Announced in December, it’s the first of its kind: a speedy grant process buttressed by public-private partnerships, with money for cities instead of states. Of the 78 cities that competed, seven made it to the final round: Austin, Texas; Denver; Kansas City, Missouri; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Columbus…. Foxx says Columbus isn’t the only winner here. The six losing finalists can pursue their own plans, with technical and financial assistance from the DOT and its private sector partners, including Alphabet, Mobileye, Autodesk, NXP Semiconductors, and Vulcan. Even those who didn’t make it to the final round now hold detailed plans that could lead to their own equitable transportation futures. Columbus is just the first guy on the dance floor. ….

How Do You Put Out A Subterranean Fire Beneath A Mountain Of Trash?

Source: Maggie Koerth-Baker, Five Thirty Eight, May 10, 2016

Unfortunately — despite an April 28 announcement of an agreement between the EPA and Republic Services, the company that owns Bridgeton — that’s not going to be easy. Bridgeton may be a typical pile of trash, but this is no typical trash fire. The heat exists 40 to 140 feet below the surface, in places where Republic Services believes no oxygen is present. It exists in places that are wet, soaked with leachate. Those are not conditions where fire should exist, by most common-sense standards. … It’s the underground fires that are the weird ones. Despite the USFA estimate of 400 or so per year, no agency is keeping track of how many there are. And some may not even be fires at all. I’ve used the term “hot spot” to refer to Bridgeton because engineers from Republic Services are adamant that it isn’t a fire — they call it a subsurface reaction — and believe it represents an unstudied form of heat-producing chemical reaction whose cause remains a mystery. Even if they’re wrong and the Bridgeton hot spot is indeed a fire, it’s a type of flameless fire — subterranean smoldering combustion — that is notoriously difficult to put out and plenty mysterious on its own. … Essentially, the company plans to manage the hot spot, and wait for it to cool itself down. That’s common practice with underground reactions and fires, because managing these events is expensive — Republic is currently dealing with three heating events, including Bridgeton, and Beaudoin says each has cost the company tens of millions of dollars so far — but putting them out would be even more costly.

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Koster’s Bridgeton Landfill lawsuit back in county court
Source: Jacob Barker, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 26, 2016

A federal judge is sending Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s environmental lawsuit against the owner of the Bridgeton Landfill back to St. Louis County Circuit Court. In October, Republic Services, the owner of the burning Bridgeton Landfill and the adjacent radioactively contaminated West Lake Landfill, removed the 2013 state lawsuit to federal court. After several state reports suggested some radioactive material was discovered outside of West Lake Landfill, Republic argued that Koster’s office was seeking to assert state control over radioactive material under federal Environmental Protection Agency jurisdiction. Koster called the move, a few months before a now-delayed trial date, a stalling tactic. … Republic said the ruling was made “based on assurances made by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office that the State will not seek any court order concerning the radiologically impacted material.” That, Republic said, will allow EPA to finish its planning for a barrier between the two landfills “without further litigation involvement by the state of Missouri.”

St. Louis County health department to start surveying residents near Bridgeton Landfill this month
Source: Stephanie Lecci, St. Louis Public Radio, February 9, 2016

The St. Louis County health department said a health survey of residents living near the West Lake and Bridgeton landfills will begin in about two weeks, a year after its initial announcement. Director Faisal Khan said the odors coming from an underground fire at Bridgeton Landfill smoldering since 2010 have affected residents’ respiratory health. He said the survey will specifically look for complaints of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and allergies. …

New reports in West Lake Landfill case show the site is safe
Source: Blythe Bernhard, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 30, 2015

Adding to conflicting information about the smoldering Bridgeton Landfill and the radioactive West Lake Landfill, new reports filed in court show the sites are safe and under control. The 15 reports were submitted Friday by the landfills’ owner Republic Services as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the company by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster for various environmental violations. The case is expected to go to trial next year. …

Lawmakers want hearing on West Lake Landfill
Source: Farrah Fazal, KSDK, October 14, 2015

Missouri’s Senators and Congressmen said the Environmental Protection Agency isn’t doing a good enough job of protecting people who live in the area. They said they’ve been lobbying Department of energy to let the Army Corps of Engineers take over the landfills. … The EPA said it does continuous testing at the Bridgeton and West Lake Landfills. EPA scientists said there’s very little chance toxic fumes could come from the landfills and impact the people who live around it. … Republic Services owns the landfills. The company said it does regular testing at the sites and the sites are safe. State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal said the sites are far from safe. She said the dangerous chemical are in the groundwater and are making their way into the drinking water. She wants the Governor to call a State of Emergency.
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Battles in St. Louis Over School Privatization and Segregation

Source: Rachel M. Cohen, Alternet, April 30, 2016

The St. Louis Public Schools and the St. Louis NAACP recently filed litigation in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri against the Missouri Board of Education, claiming that state officials have diverted millions of dollars to charter schools over the past decade, in violation of a court-ordered desegregation settlement. The litigation alleges that those funds should have been allocated to traditional public school desegregation programs. Public school officials want to see more than $40 million returned to the district’s coffers. But charter school advocates argue that giving back those funds would harm their students and undermine school choice in Missouri. … The legal dispute hinges on whether public charter schools are entitled a portion of the revenues raised from a local “desegregation tax.” As part of a 1999 federal settlement, St. Louis voters approved a two-thirds of 1-cent sales tax to fund district desegregation programs. … But in 2006, Missouri revamped the state education funding formula to allocate local tax revenues to charter schools on a per-pupil basis. The desegregation sales tax was included in the new local funding calculation. St. Louis public school district officials, who did not learn that desegregation tax funds were going to charter schools until two years later, argue that those funds should be allocated only to traditional public schools, not to charters. …

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St. Louis Public Schools file $42 million suit against charter schools
Source: Chris Regnier, Fox 2 Now, April 20, 2016

A federal court battle over whether St. Louis Public Schools can recover millions in local sales tax revenues paid to charter schools in the city could put the future of the charter schools in jeopardy. … The suit filed against the Missouri Board of Education, on April 11th, focuses on the millions of dollars that Charter Schools receive each year from a sales tax that voters approved in 1999. The tax funds court ordered desegregation programs in the St. Louis Public School District. When Charter Schools started in 2000, proceeds from the desegregation tax weren`t used to fund their operations. But since 2006, the state has been sending revenue from the tax to charter schools. The plaintiffs argue that directing revenue from the tax away from city schools violates the desegregation settlement agreement. But the state argues that the distribution of the funds does follow the desegregation agreement. The suit is asking the state to not only return the $42 million that has gone to charter schools since 2006 but also an additional $8.8 million expected to go to Charter Schools for this current school year.

Welfare verification wins initial approval in Missouri House

Source: Associated Press, News Tribune, February 9, 2016

Legislation requiring a private company to scrutinize Missouri’s welfare rolls has won initial approval in the House. Under the bill endorsed Tuesday, the state would hire a company to check people’s eligibility for programs such as food stamps. The company would flag cases for state employees to investigate. Bill sponsor Rep. Marsha Haefner said the proposal could save more than $20 million over the next three years by eliminating waste and fraud.

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Welfare verification requirement gains momentum in Missouri
Source: Adam Aton, Associated Press, January 31, 2016

The Department of Social Services currently verifies a person’s eligibility for each program at least once a year, department spokeswoman Rebecca Woelfel wrote in an email. Federal and state agencies also send them reports regularly, she said. The legislation would require a private contractor to conduct quarterly comparisons of recipients’ personal information against public records and databases, as well as monthly checks for people who have died, moved or gone to jail. … Legislative researchers project that hiring a company and processing the cases it highlights would cost about $11 million over the next three years. Of that, $4.6 would be state money and the rest would come from the federal government.

Social Service works on welfare verification system
Source: The News Tribune, January 13, 2016

The Missouri Department of Social Services is moving forward with a system to verify eligibility of those on the state’s welfare programs and validate new clients. Brian Kinkade, director of the department, said he expects the request for proposals seeking potential bidders to start next week. After that, a pre-bid conference will be held and interested companies can ask questions about the proposal. By the end of March, Kinkade said, the department anticipates to award a bidder. Kinkade said he doesn’t know how much the system will cost until bids are submitted. …

I Was a Super Bowl Concession Worker

Source: Gabriel Thompson, Slate, February 9, 2016

The smart stadium was supposed to be an economic boon. Back in 2010, when residents of Santa Clara, a small city of 120,000 just northwest of San Jose, voted to support its construction, boosters promised it would create “thousands of desperately needed new jobs,” providing a lifeline to the very people “bearing the brunt of the recession.” Pro-stadium signs reading “Yes on Jobs!” blanketed the city, part of a campaign paid for by the 49ers, who plowed more than $4 million into the effort. … The stadium has indeed provided a few thousand jobs—about 4,500 people work each event, serving hot dogs, directing traffic, mopping up spilled beer, and securing the grounds. … Many of the stadium workers I spoke with told me they earn $11 or $12 an hour. That would be about $1,900 a month if it were full-time work, but it’s not. … That’s what the NFL usually does: Twenty-nine of the 31 NFL stadiums have received public funds. The stadium for the Indianapolis Colts was made possible with a $620 million subsidy; the Minnesota Vikings are set to receive $678 million from taxpayers to help build their new one. St. Louis, which recently lost the Rams to Los Angeles, built the team a stadium in 1995 with $280 million in taxpayer money—and will be paying off the debt on those bonds, team or not, through at least 2021.

Judith Grant Long, an associate professor of sport management at the University of Michigan, studied all 31 NFL stadiums in use during the 2010 season, and calculated that taxpayers shelled out an average of $374 million each. The 49ers got a good deal with Levi’s Stadium, too. Santa Clara used $114 million in public funds, and, with the help of Goldman Sachs, created a public authority that borrowed $679 million to fund the remainder of the construction, all of which would be paid off with revenue generated by the stadium over the next 25 years. Or so the authority—whose board comprises Santa Clara’s mayor and city council—claimed. The original plan called for the 49ers and the NFL to chip in another $493 million, but during lengthy negotiations between the stadium authority and the team, that figure was later cut nearly in half. In the end, Goldman Sachs earned $75 million in interest and fees and the 49ers’ net worth jumped 69 percent in one year, to $2.7 billion.

SPS will no longer outsource custodial services

Source: Claudette Riley, Springfield News-Leader, November 18, 2015

Custodians who clean the buildings owned by Springfield Public Schools will once again be managed by district employees. For nearly two decades, Missouri’s largest district has contracted with a company — initially ServiceMaster and, since 2001, Aramark — to order its cleaning supplies and manage its custodial crews. That will change Feb. 1. Carol Embree, chief financial and operations officer, told the school board this week. … There are 178 custodians and five supervisors employed by the district, but they answer to Aramark employees. This fall, the district received written proposals from four companies including Aramark interested in providing the custodial oversight. Embree said a committee reviewed the district’s custodial needs and the proposals — which ranged from $426,000 to $659,000 a year — and concluded the work would be better done “in house.” Embree said outsourcing custodial management is fairly rare in Missouri. She checked with 20 other districts and only two contracted with a company to provide the oversight.

Charter school must pay KC district $2M-plus

Source: Kansas City Business Journal, November 9, 2015

A closed charter school must repay the state of Missouri $2.6 million — money that will be used for Kansas City public schools, The Kansas City Star reports. A Jackson County judge ordered Renaissance Academy for Math and Science to repay state funding not spent when it closed in 2012. The school closed before a state law took effect directing how to handle leftover funds from a closed public charter school. The school’s board had sued, seeking to distribute the money to another nonprofit.

Critical food safety violations up at Royals games this year, health department says

Source: Patrick Fazio, KSHB, October 27, 2015

Critical health violations are up this season at Kauffman Stadium concession stands compared to last season.

2015: 146 critical violations on 176 inspections
2014: 129 critical violations on 167 inspections …

As a follow-up to our investigation, we discovered health inspectors have cited Aramark food stands at Kauffman for numerous observations of, “Potentially hazardous hot food was not maintained at temperatures in accordance with the Food Code,” as well as these critical violations since May … Other critical violations cited at Kauffman Stadium food stands since May include improperly trained Aramark employees: “Out Of Compliance Food Handler Card audit… No certified manager in the food service area at the time of inspection.”

Law Enforcement Investigations and Actions Regarding For-Profit Colleges

Source: David Halperin, Republic Report, Updated October 9, 2015

This is a list of pending and recent significant federal and state law enforcement investigations of, and actions against, for-profit colleges. It also includes some major investigations and disciplinary actions by the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Defense.  It does not include investigations or disciplinary actions by state education oversight boards.  It also does not include lawsuits prosecuted only by private parties — students, staff, etc. To date, 37 state attorneys general are participating in a joint working group examining for-profit colleges, according to the office of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. Many of those are actively investigating specific for-profit colleges in their states.