Sunday, February 26, 2012

Winston-Salem's Stadium Experience

Looks like they were right where we are (but with a less expensive stadium) four years ago.


In 2007, Winston-Salem City Council meetings sounded similar to recent ones held here.

Residents attended a meeting in January of that year to speak for and against building a minor league baseball stadium, some disapproving of the city using taxpayer dollars for the project, according to the meeting’s minutes.

The city initially contributed about $12 million to Brookstown Development Partners LLC and Sports Menagerie LLC to build the stadium, where the Winston-Salem Dash now plays.

But later, when the developer had trouble securing financing because of the economic downfall in the middle of 2008, the city council voted unanimously to give an additional $15.7 million to finish the stadium’s construction.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

One Reason Why NC Is Out of Work

The resistance is in full swing. Download petitions and get updates at and

What does it take to become a private investigator in NC?
Three (3) years experience within the past five (5) years in private investigative work, OR three (3) years within the past five (5) years in an investigative capacity as a member if a law enforcement agency.
That's right. To become a private investigator, you pretty much already have to be one. What about if you want to be a land surveyor?
College Graduate, with Bachelor of Science (BS) in Surveying.

[This degree must contain a minimum of 45 semester hours (or quarter hour equivalent) of surveying subjects.]

[...]After successful completion of the Fundamentals Examination, and upon completion of a minimum total of two (2) year of progressive practical land surveying experience, one year of which shall have been under a practicing Professional Land Surveyor (PLS), applicants are eligible to apply for the Land Surveying Principles and Practice Examination (Exam II).
There are different routes for people, but this is if you already have a four year degree in land surveying. Can you say racket?

NC licenses 176 occupations, including pest exterminators, telecommunicators and milk testers.

While that might "Mmmm good!" for the people who already have the licenses, it's not good for the overall economy.

Licensing is a form of government-granted cartel. It keeps people out of the market, thereby raising prices and potentially lowering quality.

What does the actual research say on licensing?
The most recent study, from 2008, found 23% of U.S. workers were required to obtain state licenses, up from just 5% in 1950, according to data from Mr. Kleiner. In the mid-1980s, about 800 professions were licensed in at least one state. Today, at least 1,100 are, according to the Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation, a trade group for regulatory bodies. Among the professions licensed by one or more states: florists, interior designers, private detectives, hearing-aid fitters, conveyor-belt operators and retailers of frozen desserts.

[...]Mr. Kleiner, of the University of Minnesota, looked at census data covering several occupations that are regulated in some states but not others, including librarians, nutritionists and respiratory therapists. He found that employment growth in those professions was about 20% greater, on average, in the unregulated states between 1990 and 2000.

Licensing can also drive up costs to consumers. Licensed workers earn, on average, 15% more than their unlicensed counterparts in other states—a premium that may be reflected in their prices
, according to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research and conducted by Mr. Kleiner and Alan Krueger, an economist at Princeton University.

[...]But whether licensing guarantees better-quality work is an open question. Several academic studies in the 1970s and '80s found that licensure boosted quality in professions such as dentistry, optometry, plumbing and real-estate sales. More recent studies have found no evidence that licensing improves the quality of teachers or mortgage brokers.

It's harder to measure quality in more subjective fields such as interior design or hair styling. But a look at consumer complaints about manicurists suggests licensing doesn't necessarily correlate with quality.
Eliminating licensing can increase employment in those fields by up to 20%, lower price by approximately 15%, all without a necessary loss in quality.

Why are we standing for this anymore?

Monday, February 20, 2012

More Facts and Figures Against the Taxpayer-Funded Stadium

The resistance movement is in full swing. Join us, get updates and details at


The Atlanta Braves ranked 27th out of 30 clubs in their (farm) system for winning percentage in 2011; 15th out of 30 clubs for fan attendance.

They are second-worst in the National League in several categories and second worst in Major League baseball in others.

StarNews (Chad Adams):

The old Meadowlands stadium was demolished even though taxpayers are still on the hook for part of the $110 million cost of construction. The new world champion Giants needed a new place to play.

Folks in Seattle, Philadelphia and Indianapolis are still paying for their stadiums that have also been torn down, according to The New York Times. The Times also documented that Houston, Memphis, Pittsburgh and Kansas City, Mo., are paying for stadiums/arenas that have been abandoned by the teams for whom they were built.

Even the Florida Marlins bilked taxpayers to the tune of $2.4 billion after telling local folks that they didn’t have the money to build a stadium and would leave without it. Turns out the Marlins had plenty of money to cover a significant chunk of the stadium but didn’t want to.

But those are big cities with big names, one might say. True, but even here in North Carolina we have our share of taxpayer sport bilking. Winston-Salem and Forsyth County funded a stadium they were told would cost $22.6 million, but cost overruns have pushed that figure to almost $50 million now. Leaders claimed the ball stadium a success in their first year, but that became laughable when the Winston-Salem Dash would not reveal their expenses, citing “trade secrets” when asked.

In spite of promises to the contrary, a new team signing a lease doesn’t bind them to the taxpayer obligation. The lease could be broken, but the taxpayer obligation would remain.

Stadium petition:

Limiting city spending petition:

Increased transparency petition: More

Friday, February 17, 2012

Reading Assignment: Publicly-Funded Stadiums Create Economic Liability

The resistance movement is in full swing. Join us, get updates and details at 

In light of our city's wishes to be the next big losers on that long gray line of failed taxpayer-funded stadiums, here are some very real and very serious stories and research about real-life scenarios out there concerning taxpayers who wish they didn't have the enormous responsibility and liability of buying failed stadiums.

Please read and pass this on to your neighbors in and around Wilmington:

Even a very leftist magazine appropriately entitled The Progressive comes down hard on this issue:

Previously posted, but needs a second read:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wilmington Watcher ALERT: Stadium Petition Finally Ready to Go

UPDATE: The resistance movement is in full swing. Join us, get updates and details at
Our petition to stop taxpayer funding of the baseball stadium is finally ready to be downloaded and distributed for signatures. Please join us this Saturday, Feb. 18 from 12-2 behind the Convention Center downtown for our rally and signature drive. We have a slate of speakers lined up including:

Commissioner Rick Catlin
Curtis Wright
Tyler Cralle
Tony McGhee
Chris Farr
Frank Meares
Ben McCoy
and State Rep. Carolyn Justice via written statement

Download and distribute the official petition here:

Signatures must ONLY be from registered voters who live in the city limits of Wilmington. No other signatures will be deemed valid.

We are already underway with two other initiatives - more on those soon.

See you Saturday!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

How Much Is the Stadium Going to Cost Each Taxpayer?

UPDATE: The resistance movement is in full swing. Join us, get updates and details at

With all the talk of the publicly-funded baseball stadium, there's typically not much attention paid to how much it's going to cost each Wilmingtonian.

Bill Saffo has been quoted as saying it will be $35 - 40M. I think that's a low ball, no pun intended. NHC County manager Bruce Shell has said it is estimated at $42M. Let's use that.

There are costs in addition to construction.

There's interest on the debt. The total cost of the convention center was about $60M, and total interest on the debt will be over $50M. Just this year, we paid $2.5M in interest on the convention center debt.

Let's be generous and give the stadium a lower interest rate than the convention center, and say it will accumulate $30M in interest on its debt.

There are also operational costs. It costs us $3M per year just to run the convention center. How much will it cost to run a baseball stadium? Again, let's be very generous and assume $1M.

Of course, these operational costs go on forever, but let's just assume they go on for only 30 years.

How much will everything cost the people of Wilmington?:

$42M in construction + $30M in interest + $30M in operational costs = $102M.

Total number of people in Wilmington? About 107,000.

This means a cost of $953 to every person living in Wilmington when everything is said and done.

Of course, not every person in Wilmington is a property tax payer, which is where the city gets its overwhelming majority of revenue. So, people paying property tax are going to get slammed. Of course, even if you're renting you indirectly pay property tax because the cost to the owner will go up.

Now, let's see what the bare minimum cost just for construction would be:

$42M/107k = $393/person.

Again, that isn't even including necessary costs such as interest or operational costs.

Is that the kind of money you want to pay? For some people that's nearly a rent check.

Everybody needs to go to and go to the protest Saturday, Feb. 18th at noon behind the convention center to sign this petition that can actually change the law in Wilmington.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bobby Cox in Wilmington; Takes in a Performance at Thalian

UPDATE: The resistance movement is in full swing. Join us, get updates and details at

The stage was set. The actors took their places. Scripts were polished; hair and makeup perfect. Ex-Atlanta Braves GM Bobby Cox was situated in the audience expecting a well-executed production. The cast was the Wilmington City Council, and the play was entitled, "Building a Baseball Stadium with Other People's Money - Even though We Can't Afford it". The location was the city council chambers; ironically a floor directly above the historical Thalian Hall main stage in downtown Wilmington.

On Tuesday night, the Wilmington City Council met to act out the pre-planned script of unanimously approving the Memorandum of Understanding with Mandalay Entertainment and the Atlanta Braves to explore the idea of Wilmington taxpayers fully funding a baseball stadium, while the aforementioned entities collect the proceeds. Sounds like a real win-win... if you're not a Wilmington taxpayer.

Developer Chuck Schoninger, who owns the land where the proposed stadium is expected to be constructed, is quite cozy with local political leaders, as this marketing video demonstrates. The developer operates several outfits with the same purpose have made his intentions clear that he wants lots of public money for the project, in order for "it to work".
Schoninger created an international website promoting the EB-5 program as a way to try and attract Chinese investment into their expansive project as well; in addition to another website promoting his downtown development plans, including the baseball stadium, from a downtown perspective.

If this plan goes through, it will be a handsome payday for Schoninger, who has plans for a marina, hotel, and multi-use development complex; of which the stadium would be a center feature. Not a bad public-private partnership from Schoninger's perspective, who will benefit from the taxpayers investment in the stadium, the purchase of his land to build it, all without any investment of his own in the stadium project.

The combined efforts of the private developer, as well as the undying promised support of Mayor Bill Saffo and other local leaders have resulted in real paydirt from their perspective. The Atlanta Braves, Mandalay, and Bobby Cox are all interested in planting a Braves farm team here, with the Wilmington taxpayer being forced to absorb the costs, and take all the risk for their "investment". Schoninger will be rewarded for his persistence, since it appears the Wilmington City Council will be paying him a premium for their land with taxpayer dollars.
Schoninger said Mandalay officials expressed “serious” interest in bringing a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Atlanta Braves to Wilmington — a nearly $12 to $15 million investment for staff and players alone. He said he would sell the parcel of land needed for the stadium to the city and county for an undisclosed price, but none of the money currently being raised would be allocated for the stadium’s construction. LINK
Local leaders have willingly ignored study after study that clearly demonstrates that publicly funded stadiums are an economic liability for communities - not a boon.

Also, just as recently as late 2011, Mayor Bill Saffo stated in his campaign for re-election, a promise to voters that he would not support a property tax increase to pay for the baseball stadium. However, every discussion as of late involves Saffo talking about the distinct possibility of such an increase, given that the math doesn't work any other way, and the city is already tens of millions of dollars in debt, due to a plethora of other failed economic projects, such as the convention center.
It’s unclear how the city plans to pay for the stadium’s development; however, Saffo hinted at increased property taxes for Wilmington residents and businesses — reneging on a 2011 campaign promise where he told supporters he would not support a property tax increase to finance the stadium’s construction.
“We’re going to take a look at all of our options,” Saffo said during an afternoon press conference. “I’m candy-coating it, there might be a property tax increase.” LINK
Tuesday night's meeting ran more like a well-rehearsed performance, than an official meeting of city business. Council sat in their distinguished perches given the management from the Braves and Mandalay what they came to see. For good measure, Councilwoman Laura Padgett even ad-libbed a line about how she was "concerned" about taxpayers footing the entire bill for Mandaly's benefit, but then of course, voted for the measure anyway - the pre-determined and collectively agreed upon outcome of the meeting.
But a lot has to be decided, particularly how the city would pay for a potentially $35-40 million, 6,000-seat stadium and where it would be located. There's been a lot of talk about the riverfront but no commitment.
Councilwoman Laura Padgett had concerns about taxpayers footing the bill for the stadium.
"I'm going to vote for this to move forward because I think we'd be foolish to have an opportunity to like this and not look into it," she said, but added: "I think it's wrong for city taxpayers to pay an increased tax rate on their own to pay for this facility." LINK
The lone Republican, Neil Anderson, who also campaigned on the idea that he would be cautious and wary of such a raw deal for taxpayers, was obedient to the cause, and went along with the majority, as he was expected to do.

As part of the charade that this agreement is somehow going to be good for taxpayers and citizens, the local media and the city point to a study that was obviously paid for by the city, that states
An economic impact study done by Brailsford & Dunlavey found a baseball team and stadium in Wilmington could bring $62 million in initial impact in the first year and $9.8 million annually. LINK
Based on those numbers, it would seem that by the term "initial impact", they mean "taxpayer investment" - or "additional city debt obligations"; which would most certainly result in massive tax increases being levied at many different levels within the city in order to finance this initiative. As has always been a time-honored tradition in Wilmington government, is the city doesn't contract a study, or hire a firm to do an analysis, without a pre-determined outcome that echoes their position, or that supposedly supports their theory or analysis; given that many other real-world studies that analyze existing stadiums, paint a very negative economic picture, and demonstrate dire economic consequences on the community that is forced to pay for them.

Wilmington Downtown Inc. leader John Hinnant, referred to the Durham Bulls in his assessment of the popularity and success of minor league baseball teams. One must take note however, that the Bulls are the most (only?) well-known minor league baseball team in the nation, given the prominence of the box-office hit told on the silver screen starring Kevin Costner, entitled Bull Durham.

Perhaps if Hollywood takes note of Wilmington's team, draws up a script, dusts off Kevin Costner, and shoots a movie highlighting our little venture into minor league baseball, we'll have a chance at economic success. It would be a fitting addition to this saga, given all of the acting and dramatic performances already in play.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Broke WAVE Transit Puts Four Video Cameras in Every Bus

WAVE's annual budget is about $7M and they only take in about $1M through fares. The rest comes from intergovernmental transfers.

There's no mention of this being funded by grant money.


Four cameras on each of WAVE Transit's 45 buses constantly monitor the comings and goings of passengers with video and audio recordings. Signs on the buses alert passengers of the equipment.

"All passengers of this vehicle are subject to having their image and voice recorded," the signs read.

The cameras, purchased and installed in 2010, cost Wave about $100,000, said Albert Eby, Wave executive director. They replaced older cameras and offer a much more detailed look inside and outside the buses.

I just realized that it doesn't say if outfitting each bus costs $100k or if outfitting the entire fleet costs that, but I'd find it hard to believe they outfitted the entire fleet for $100k.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Wilmington Signs Up for Baseball Debt

Despite every indicator that it's a bad idea, the Wilmington City Council has shown that they will belligerently ignore economic reality and move forward with plans to raise taxes on the people of Wilmington to buy a baseball stadium for outside investors to profit from.

In typical ego-stroking form, Mayor Saffo gave the annual State of the City speech this past week, and referenced his plans to go forward with pursuing the baseball stadium in downtown Wilmington.

The agreement, Saffo said, would likely include the city buying property and building a stadium that could cost between $35 and $40 million. Mandalay would operate the stadium.
"It might be a tax increase to pay for it," Saffo said.
Within hours of this statement, the Star News released the new figures on area unemployment.
The Wilmington area's jobless rate jumped to 10.6 percent in December from 9.8 percent in December 2010, according to figures released Wednesday by the N.C. Commerce Department's Labor and Economic Analysis Division.
However, the stadium, although it will require more money being forcefully taken out of the struggling local economy, will provide the much-needed economic relief that we all so desperately need... right?
Independent analyses of the economic and employment impacts of sports stadiums have consistently found that there is no statistically significant economic benefit to building a stadium. An analysis by Robert Baade of Lake Forest College studied thirty cities over thirty years and found that twenty-seven experienced no significant impact from new stadiums, while only three cities experienced a negative economic impact.
But jobs will be created, according to Saffo and friends.
A common argument heard from stadium proponents is that the construction of a new sports stadium or arena will generate thousands of new jobs for the local community. Robert Baade found that "sports tend to produce low-skilled, low-paid employment such as: food and souvenir vendors, security personnel, hotel and restaurant employees."(14) If a city encourages a movement toward this kind of employment by subsidizing sports, the city will find its economic development lagging behind development in the rest of the region. In other words, jobs created by stadium and arena construction and/or operation do not, on their own, generate significant tax revenues for a city. Taxes generated by the operation of a factory or similar industry would likely be greater than that of a stadium or arena, and therefore are more valuable to a city from a revenue standpoint.

Often one will hear Mayor Saffo and other proponents talking of the "wonder" it will be to hear the sound of wooden bats cracking on the river. However, the only cracking sound we will hear, if this ill-conceived operation goes forward, is the sound of the local economy completely falling apart.

Often times, taxes must be raised to accommodate the funding for additional police officers or firemen, or other critical needs in the community that must be funded with public dollars. Even those issues are met with some resistance from the community, when attrition seems like the better and more feasible scenario. However, this issue is that of a private stadium, that an outside conglomerate will operate and profit from, and can only do it if our taxes are raised to pay for it? This is absolutely ludicrous, and really demonstrates just how out of touch Saffo and the rest of the city council really is.

When the downtown convention center was being forced on us, we were given the same platitudes and speeches about economic viability and job creation. Saffo would kindly like you to now forget about that, as it has been demonstrated that the convention center will now operate in the red indefinitely. The Wilmington Watcher has proven that your tax dollars pay for the convention center in addition to ROT funds; even though city leaders continually deny this is the case.

The issue of not only using, but RAISING taxes in this economy for the purposes of a few developers and investors getting richer off of the backs of taxpayers, is not a conservative vs. liberal issue in any way. This is an issue of an overreaching, arrogant government against the people is supposedly serves. Property taxes are already high due to the reckless and excessive spending by city government on unneeded and wasteful projects. This would add over $40 million to that tab.

It's time to finally say enough is enough. Please Like our Facebook page here, and show your objection to this idiocy. Also, make sure you sign the petition against it that will be presented to the city:

More info on the stadium and why it's a bad idea here: