PawSox no vote? Consider why.

The PawSox new stadium debate has been on the minds of many Rhode Islanders since late 2016. It is quite a polarizing issue for the Ocean State, but I’m not quite concerned with which way you swing.

The facts of the deal are irrelevant here for our purposes. If you are against the PawSox deal simply because of how things played out with 38 Studios, you need to find a new reason to be against this deal.

Public-private partnerships (also known as P3s) at the federal, state or municipal level are just a necessary part of doing business. Sometimes, they are instrumental in ensuring a better quality of life. A P3 is a defined as a contractual arrangement between a public agency (federal, state or local) and a private sector entity. Through this agreement, the skills and assets of each sector (public and private) are shared in delivering a service or facility for use of the general public. We can’t allow the 38 Studios mistake made by the General Assembly to keep the state from ever engaging in such a partnership for all of eternity.

In my research, I found some examples of successful P3s in Seattle that are associated with vital industries in a state economy:

  1. Private maintenance and operations agreements for federal, state and local parks – The US Forest Service in Arizona turned over operations of the Crescent Moon/Red Rock Crossing Recreation Area in Sedona, Arizona to Recreation Resource Management (RRM) in 1994. RRM operates the park under a public-private partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.  This long-running P3 partnership stands out because RRM prepared and published a case study on the project in 2011.  RRM’s case study compared the privately-run Crescent Moon park to the nearby Red Rock State Park.  Red Rock State Park is operated by Arizona State Parks, a public agency.  RRM found that while the two parks in the study are geographically close and share similar entry-fees, attendance and overall revenue numbers, Crescent Moon (operated under the P3 agreement with RRM) returns close to $45,000 to the U.S. Forest Service each year in the form of net revenue, while RRM claims the publicly operated Red Rock State Park operated by Arizona State Parks costs the U.S. Forest Service $234,000 per year.
  2. Leveraging private real estate for public schools – A collection of interesting P3 examples exist around repurposing existing private real estate for use as classrooms for public schools or building new mixed-use construction that houses both private businesses as well as public school classrooms. A few examples around the nation can be found on The Heritage Foundation’s report “New tax law boosts school construction with Public-Private Partnerships” including:
    1. 700 students in Mesa, AZ report to class each morning in a former Smith’s grocery store.
    2. 1,200 students in Raleigh, NC are repurposing a manufacturing facility as classroom space.
    3. Two schools in Phoenix, AZ share a 300,000 sq. ft. venue that once served as the Maryvale Mall.

Beyond repurposing existing real estate, details a New York City project where the city leased 1.5 acres of city-owned property to a private firm in exchange for the developer adding space for two public schools in a 12-story building that also houses a Whole Foods store.  The project marks the 17th P3 deal that New York’s Department of Education has signed to build new public schools by leveraging mixed-use development with private companies.

  1. High-speed internet access for America’s cities – In 2012, the City of Seattle announced a deal with Gigabit Squared to provide ultra high-speed fiber connections to residential and commercial customers, an infrastructure upgrade that will “help bring 21st-century infrastructure to Seattle” according to the city’s mayor.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of more examples out there.

Let me state this clearly: you have a right to take issue with the deal and feel it is the wrong choice for Rhode Island. However, I take umbrage with one using the sour taste from 38 Studios as the support for no new PawSox stadium. No state should avoid P3s. Just read the fine print in proposed legislation!

Carry on, Rhode Islanders…

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