City Commissioner Amanda Fritz once again slammed Major League Soccer this morning, as her fellow commissioners voted "yes" to the deal by 4 to 1.
Update, 4:17 Fritz has posted her full remarks on her blog. Back to the original post:
"I do have concerns about the cost, the sources of funds and the alternate uses for those funds," said Fritz. "The question of which sports fans win, and which sports fans lose."
She expressed concerns that the city is topping up wages paid by Merritt Paulson, and about workers' limited opportunities to organize. "What else could we do with over $29million?" she asked.
"In 2001, the city spent $38.5million of taxpayers' money to redevelop PGE Park, and another $33million for debt service," Fritz pointed out. "For over 100 years, Portland has had a professional sports facility that has supported baseball. The Beavers' season will end at the end of 2010, and that is sad."
"Soccer fans must recognize that their joy comes at significant cost to basketball, hockey, and soccer fans," she added. "It has been said that no general fund dollars will be spent on this project. But it is hard to see how that can remain so," she said. "It is the lost opportunities for the dollars that are spent on the spectator facilities fund that really will impact taxpayers."
"The spectator fund would be in better shape if PGE Park sat empty for the next 20 years, than in developing a project that cannot possibly pay for itself," she said. "In the mean time I hope every Timbers fan will hug a Blazers fan, because those are the people who will really pay for this."
"I don't think it's appropriate to say taxpayer dollars are at risk when they're not funding this project," said City Commissioner Randy Leonard, responding to Fritz's remarks. "It's harmful to the public debate to make arguments that play into peoples' worst fears."
"It's easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees," said Leonard. "It's very difficult to go out and explain over and over and over why the public position is not right. And some of what we're hearing from up here simply isn't accurate. The truth is that this is an outstanding opportunity for Portland, period."
"I don't mind calling out problems when problems exist, but I don't like creating problems when they don't exist," he said. "There is no problem with this deal, other than the fortitude that it takes to vote for it. I think the experience here in Portland is best reflected in Seattle's experience."
"A reporter recently asked me what's in it for Merritt, and the answer is simple—Merritt is going to make a lot of money," said Leonard. "They don't call this soccer city USA for nothing."
"In a difficult economy like we are living in right now, the opportunity to pledge spectator resources to a project that gets tens of millions of dollars in private investment is remarkable," said Mayor Adams. "I don't know of a project that has been more publicly-vetted."
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