The great sports stadium scam

As the Chicago Bears move closer to leaving the city for the suburbs, taxpayers need to remember that billionaires have fleeced the public time and time again when it comes to public funding of sports stadiums.

The End Zone Club under a proposal for a revamped Soldier Field.

The End Zone Club under a proposal for a revamped Soldier Field.

Landmark Development

Since we’ve just watched this year’s Super Bowl, this is a good time to remind ourselves that billionaires have found one more way to fleece the public: sports stadiums. And if we don’t play ball, they’ll take our favorite teams away.

Ever notice how there never seems to be enough money to build public infrastructure like mass transit lines and better schools? Yet when a multi-billion-dollar sports team demands a new stadium, our local governments are happy to oblige.

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A good example is the new Sox Park (now Guaranteed Rate Field), which opened in 1991. Sox owners threatened to leave Chicago unless they got taxpayer help to build a new stadium. The threat worked: Taxpayers got stuck with a renovation-related bill of $430 million.

Same for the disgraceful disfiguring of Soldier Field. Taxpayers still owe $631.5 million, and it will not be fully paid off until 2032.

State Farm Stadium in Arizona, home of this year’s Super Bowl, was built based on the owner’s threat to move the team. Arizona taxpayers were stuck with a huge bill.

Since 1990, franchises in major North American sports leagues have received billions in taxpayer subsidies from state and local governments to build stadiums.

These team owners always try to sell their projects by claiming the new stadiums will increase economic growth. But research has shown that benefits are mainly realized by team owners alone.

So, these taxpayer subsidies help the rich get richer, while our schools and other infrastructure fall apart. Is this what we want?

Bob Chimis, Elmwood Park

SAFE-T Act fails to protect the innocent

Sixty-four Illinois counties sued to keep criminal justice reforms known as the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act from being implemented — an unprecedented amount of pushback for a bill. The Illinois Supreme Court responded by postponing the bill’s abolition of cash bail, and for good reason.

The SAFE-T Act, signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2021, aimed to create a more equitable criminal justice system. However, by pushing for the end of cash bail, the new law threatens the safety of law-abiding citizens for the benefit of criminal suspects.

This isn’t the first time the bail system has been on the chopping block, as detailed in a recent Manhattan Institute report. In 2017, Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans unilaterally altered how judges determine bail, basing it on the presumption of immediate release of defendants back into the community.

Within 15 months, the number of felony defendants released with no bail almost doubled, from 26.5% to 52%.

Those released on bond for a pending felony case have caused more havoc in the streets: 91 people have been murdered, 98 were victims of attempted murder, and 12 defendants have been charged with attempted murder of a police officer.

Current estimates show that at least 273 people have been killed or injured by individuals free on bail — a far cry from Evans’ claim that no horrible incidents have occurred under the court’s bond reform initiative.

Reforms have also led to a huge increase in those placed on electronic monitoring, which has been linked to a tendency toward more criminal activity. One news investigation found 1,264 felony defendants on electronic monitoring were charged with new crimes over a 17-month period, including murder, attempted murder, armed robbery and a variety of gun and drug charges.

Unfortunately, these victims have gone unnoticed by those now pushing for even more radical reforms in the SAFE-T Act. The underlying motivation is a longstanding, misplaced benevolence toward criminal suspects. It’s time to consider the well-being of law-abiding citizens and seek an equitable criminal justice system that protects the innocent first and foremost.

John Paul Wright, professor, School of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati
Leah Thomas, senior press officer, Manhattan Institute

Landmarking alone won’t protect sacred spaces

On behalf of our organization, Save the Shrine, we are writing to thank you for your editorial in support of greater protections for Chicago’s historic sacred spaces. Our work at the Shrine of Christ the King in Woodlawn informs our awareness of the critical role historic sacred spaces fill in Chicago’s neighborhoods as community anchors, centers of social life and service and cultural continuity.

We appreciate your drawing awareness to the critical role of landmarking as a tool for the city to encourage responsible decision-making around historic religious structures. We are grateful for the 2003 landmark status afforded to the Shrine of Christ the King, formerly St. Gelasius and St. Clara.

We want to draw attention to some of the limits of landmarking alone in safeguarding these community treasures.

All Masses and sacraments have been suspended at the Shrine following the Archdiocese of Chicago’s suppression of the Institute of Christ the King in its jurisdiction.

This decision and its consequences demonstrates that even with landmark protections, the discretionary actions of religious organizations can threaten preservation efforts.

Jennifer Blackman, managing director, and Emily Nielsen, board president, Save the Shrine

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