City Councilor Meghan Kallman

Pawtucket, Rhode Island

October 17, 2017
Meghan Kallman's Statement on the PawSox Proposal

First, I want to acknowledge that this has been a long process, and I appreciate the efforts of the administration and of the community throughout it. Second, I want to reiterate that the entire Pawtucket city council would love to see the team remain here. The PawSox are part of the fabric of this community.

And yet there are other things that are also critically important parts of the fabric of this community, and without which we wouldn’t be a community: our infrastructure. Our schools. Our small businesses.

As a representative of Ward 5, I try to balance my decision-making between two things: what my constituents have told me they think about an issue, and what my own principles (upon which I was elected to serve) tell me. In the case of the ballpark proposal before us, neither my constituents nor my own values, at the end of the day, are in support.

In the many months leading up to this hearing, I have heard from exactly six constituents who are in support of this deal, compared to many dozens of people who are against it. In Oak Hill, one part of my district, neighbors are concerned about property taxes, and about the risk that they bear as taxpayers if the stadium does not yield the hoped-for return on investment to our community.

In Woodlawn, the other part of my district, concerns are much more pointed because many more people are having difficulty meeting their basic needs and putting food on the table for their kids. In this area, 30% of people are living below the poverty line[1]. At the Baldwin School, also in my district, 80%--80%!—of children are on free or reduced lunch[2]. That is a lot of children who are living with need, and it demands of us that we consider our priorities. During the budget season this year, we seriously considered cutting half a million dollars out of our allocation to the school budget. In a case like this—when so many of our citizens are struggling, and we’re actually contemplating cuts to basic services like schools—I cannot in good conscience support a deal that would put millions of taxpayer dollars into the pocket of a large and profitable corporation while children are hungry.

I also have concerns about the mechanics of the deal itself. It has become clear to me that the relative burden of this deal between the state and the city is unfavorable to Pawtucket. The state is projected to get double the rate of return that we do while Pawtucket backstops its own bonds, meaning that we as a city could lose our state money for critical services if the project goes bad.

Next, there is the issue of how this affects our small businesses. Rhode Island has approximately 96,000 small businesses[3]. If you took the total proposed PawSox subsidy and divided it among the state’s small businesses, each business would receive about $400. If you took the subsidy and divided it among Pawtucket small businesses, that number would be much higher. Small business owners who provide critical services for the city don’t have access to this kind of taxpayer money, or to these financing mechanisms. We are facing the worst economic inequality in this country since the gilded age, and I feel that we cannot be making policy decisions that exacerbate that inequality by giving public money to billionaires. If we are going to be organizing ourselves to provide huge public subsidies to businesses, I feel that we ought to be directing our attention at the regular people who run the businesses that we rely on every day, from the laundromat to the corner store to the pub.

I want to acknowledge two final things about tonight’s vote—first, that I am likely going to be in the minority, and also that the enabling decision will be made by the legislature, and not here. This is a resolution, and it is not binding. Second, reasonable people differ on this issue, clearly, and I have municipal and state colleagues who I respect deeply, and who feel differently about it than I do. That is part of the democratic process, and it is healthy.

Altogether, while I respect the improvements of this package proposal over the last, this is not a deal that I feel is in the best interests of my district and of Pawtucket, and I will be voting no on this resolution.

 

[1] http://www.city-data.com/poverty/poverty-Pawtucket-Rhode-Island.html

[2] https://elementaryschools.org/directory/ri/cities/pawtucket/

[3] https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/advocacy/Rhode_Island.pdf