Friday, December 28, 2007

Subsidy opponents interviewed on KPFA

This morning KPFA, 94.1 FM, interviewed Byron Fleck, a founding member of our sister organization You can listen to a recording of it here -- fast forward to about the 33'42" mark.

Also on the show was Neil deMause, co-author of the seminal book "Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit," and the wesbite of the same name.

KPFA is listener-sponsored, and has been broadcasting from Berkeley, CA since 1949.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Just barely above junk bonds

The 49ers would like Santa Clara taxpayers to believe that building, owning and operating this stadium will be a fabulous investment of our money. Better than buying Google stock at $100, or Sunpower at $25.

Some members of City Council are all but ready to put on Gold Rush outfits to repeat that chant.

But if it's such a screaming good deal, why haven't the 49ers themselves scooped it up yet? Or the city of San Francisco, which has been looking this over even longer than we have?

Well, one source for impartial opinions turns out to be the bankers, because to build a 68,000 seat stadium, the city will have to borrow a lot of money. The bankers are the ones who will have to take a hard look at the deal and decide how risky it is. The bankers have no personal attachments to this, only their money. And money itself is neutral.

At the November 20 City Council meeting, David Brodsly, the city's own bond consultant struggled to spit out the cold hard facts: the Stadium Authority bonds will be BBB-rated -- just one step above junk bonds!

Besides the bruised egos ("They think our pride and joy is junk!") there is also the practical matter of bond interests. Safe loans have lower interest rates. Risky loans have higher interest rates (think pay-day loan.) Higher interest rates drive up the total cost of borrowing of money. Ultimately this will make it harder for the stadium to break even.

Nobody on City Council batted an eyelash at this. Here we are, mortgaging our future for this white elephant, but nobody even registered a reaction when a disinterested bystander calls it a turkey.

Here's a video clip of the remarks, with a transcript:

Santa Clara resident Don Buchanan: "What kind of a rating do you think this bond will receive?"

David Brodsly, Managing Director, KNN Public Finance (the city's bond consultant): "The two bond issues that are ... umm ... being contemplated by the Stadium Authority ... they would be the [inaudible] ... the ... the admissions bond would probably be in the BBB level which is the bottom of the investment grade range, that's ... it's ... that ... it's the less certain area of the market, but that's ... that's a good guess standing here today."