EDITOR’S NOTE: Troy Senik,a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom and a contributor at Ricochet.com, wrote this article for City Journal.
By Troy Senik, City Journal
California, a state whose greatest innovation in recent years has been finding creative ways to inhibit economic growth,
stepped out of character in late September: it went easy on a
developer. Seated at a table outside the Los Angeles Convention Center,
Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill expediting the resolution of legal
challenges to–and thus speeding the construction of–Farmers Field, the
stadium that, its backers hope, will usher in the National Football
League’s return to the City of Angels.
This is the latest step in L.A.’s nearly two-decade-long effort to
exorcise the Ghost of Christmas Past. The yuletide in question was in
1994, when both of the region’s professional football teams–the Los
Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Raiders–played their final games in the
Southland on Christmas Eve. By the time the next season rolled around,
the Rams had decamped to their new home in St. Louis, and the Raiders
had retraced their steps northward, departing downtown L.A. for Oakland,
the city that they left in 1982.
The plan even manages to debit taxpayers in other states. Los Angeles officials in February used
$1 million in federal community-development grant money–earmarked for
“the most vulnerable in our communities”–to move the architecture firm
working on Farmers Field from Santa Monica to a location near the site
of the future stadium. The highly questionable idea was that a new
stadium would produce enough economic benefits to qualify as a public
good, though the experiences of similarly situated cities in the past
have almost universally disproved that supposition.
When Governor Brown signed the bill speeding up the AEG project, he
said, “There are too many damn regulations, let’s be clear about that.”
He was certainly correct about the excesses of California’s regulatory
regime. But he ignored the fact that the same bureaucracy that impedes
stadium projects with stratospheric price tags also chokes off prospects
for much smaller businesses throughout the state. While enormous
corporations like AEG and Roski’s Majestic Realty can grease the
legislative skids to make their development projects viable, small and
midsize entrepreneurs enjoy no similar source of relief. Removing those
burdens for all Californians, at a time when the state’s
unemployment rate is stuck above 12 percent, would demonstrate a serious
commitment to jump-starting economic growth. Removing them for just a
privileged few is nothing more than crony capitalism.