In Portland, Oregon, businessman Merritt Paulson, son of George W. Bush's former Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, is asking to the Portland City Council to offer him millions of dollars of aid to build a soccer stadium while human services such as aid to drug treatment centers, teen mental health counseling, fire and police face budget cutbacks because of a one million dollar city budget deficit. Unfortunately, such special requests by business interests for special projects with limited interest so that they can make money are all too common.
Portland, Oregon has never really proven itself to be a market for soccer, which is big in Europe and South America. In the U.S. and Canada there are currently 14 professional soccer teams. However, outside of the Portland Trailblazers NBA basketball team, minor league baseball and other sports have only struggled in Portland. Merritt Paulson is asking the city to commit millions towards a business project with an uncertain future and a questionable base of sports fans to make the sport pay for itself. Even the Portland Trailblazers faced an uncertain future until only recently when they went through many losing seasons of not even making the playoffs, and individual players faced legal problems for drugs and sex with under-aged girls. Some even nicknamed the team the "Jailblazers". Owner Paul Allen considered selling the team until only recently when a new roster of players and a winning season increased game revenues with sell out game attendance.
An organization has formed to oppose Paulson, OnwardOregon.org, which believes that it is up to Paulson to determine his own business risks using his own money and that of taxpayers.
This is a major problem, businessmen don't want to take business risks themselves, so they drag the taxpayer into their business deals and often fail to make a decent return for the taxpayer or even quickly go out of business. Taxpayer support for business upstarts are very risky and many times fail, and the taxpayer is often left out in the cold. Merritt Paulson may be well-intentioned. However, this is a major business risk, especially during a deep recession.
The flip side of this is long established companies such as General Motors who are major employers who are serious economic problems and impact the entire financial health of major cities like Detroit or Flint Michigan. The government has some obligation to offer some limited aid to major established employers if entire community financial health depends on such businesses as long as they can prove some plan to survive and recover from their problems. Currently, the economic problems in Detroit and Flint have pushed many recent home prices down to $3,500 to $7,500 to buy complete homes.
In the end, it will interesting to see whether the City Of Portland decides to gamble millions of dollars in a risky business venture so that a private businessman can make a profit will win out, or whether teen mental health services, street repairs, drug treatment, firemen or police are valued more. In the middle of this very serious recession, to me it would seem to be very wise to stick with the basic services and allow private businessmen to raise their own capital and take their own business risks. City business means fixing potholes, hiring police or firemen, and not funding the private ventures of some businessman who wants to own a sports team because it meets some private fantasy of his own.
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