In the year 2032

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

To paraphrase a popular song from the '70s:

"In the year 2032, if the St. Louis Cardinals are still around

Missourians will know if we got a steal

or if we were victimized by a high, inside fast ball that put us on the ground "

While legislators in Jefferson City can't agree on whether to tap the Rainy Day Fund, how to spend money from Missouri's share of the tobacco settlement, and can't even say there will be money available to give state workers a cost-of-living raise in exchange for caring for the elderly or developmentally disabled, etc., the issue of $210 million in subsidies for a new St. Louis baseball stadium and $294 million worth of improvements to Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums in Kansas City is still on the table.

Family members with loved ones now confined to beds in the medical care unit at the Marshall Habilitation Center - on the third floor of the Administration Building, a disaster in the making if ever there is a fire - cannot see anywhere on the horizon a movement to allot money for construction of a new medical unit at MHC that would move such patients to the ground floor.

Teachers and school administrators are left to wonder whether they will see further cuts in state aid, or whether the state's funding formula will be adequately funded.

Those same school officials face a loss of money for Missouri Assessment Program tests, the results of which have been used as a cornerstone in judging the state's public schools in recent years.

And college students have seen the money going to state universities sharply cut, possibly affecting their choices for classes and training, while they also get to pay tuition that is rising at several times the national inflation rate.

The message, bluntly put, is there are a lot of people in this state who are hurting much more than the owners of pro sports teams simply trying to keep up with the multi-mulit-multi-millionaire Joneses who own sports franchises in other states.

Supporters proclaiming a $400 million windfall from a new Cardinals stadium base that number on assumptions, not the least of which are that pro baseball will not be subject to strikes or lock-outs and that the team's attendance will continue to rise. For those keeping score at home, by the way, it would cost you a minimum of $30 for tickets for a family of two adults and three children, for the cheapest seats, to take in a Cardinals game. And, to be fair, you would have to figure in the cost of gasoline for the trip to and from St. Louis, the price of a motel room if you choose not to drive straight home after the game, parking in a parking lot near the stadium, refreshments, programs, etc.

And, with state payments stretched out over 30 years in the deal, who is to say that owners in 2032 won't cry their stadium is hopelessly outmoded compared to other major league parks?

The Kansas City sports teams haven't even put together some of the rose-tinted projections the Cardinals' supporters have. What does that say about the wisdom of investing public money in upgrading those stadiums?

Missouri's representatives should strive for a business environment that makes it possible to succeed. But success for businesses should be ensured by hard work, not millions and millions doled out to politically popular causes.