Sunday, March 9, 2014
Occupy Maine, take note: if you want your business leaders to get worked up about the ills of capitalism, forget about fast food workers and focus on your local pro sports teams.
We often hear from Chamber of Commerce types that government ought to be run "like a business," but now that the Cumberland County Civic Center's board of trustees is managing the arena in the best financial interests of its taxpayers and driving a hard bargain with the Portland Pirates hockey team, the Portland Community Chamber is calling for a coup d'état, as detailed by Bill Nemitz in his column today.
The reason the Pirates left, you may recall, is because the Civic Center turned down a weak lease agreement with the hockey team in favor of hosting other, more lucrative events.
It was a perfectly capitalist decision, made in pursuit of maximum profits. Nemitz points out that Neal Pratt, the Civic Center's hard-nosed negotiator, actually won a prestigious award from the Chamber of Commerce earlier this year for his work as the Civic Center's board chair.
But after two short months without a hockey team, members of the Chamber now want the Civic Center to be run less like a business, and more like a taxpayer-supported charity for the benefit of pro hockey. As Nemitz puts it:
"The Pirates, after all, are in this to make money. And if some of that comes at the expense of county taxpayers – who remain on the hook should the civic center fail to make its estimated $800,000 annual contribution to pay down that $34 million renovation bond – that’s not the Pirates’ problem.
"The trustees, on the other hand, are unpaid volunteers whose financial interest begins and ends with what’s best for those taxpayers."
Commercial Confidential tracks Maine's business leaders and economic indicators.
I'm an economics wonk and an online content producer for the Portland Press Herald.
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