Funding or failure

Funding or failure

It has been a difficult stretch for the City of Pawtucket to say the least. We have lost more than our share of prosperity of late. Losing Memorial Hospital is devastating. As much as we can say and chant hospitals before stadiums, are we really going to subsidize a business operating at less than 25 percent capacity? Care New England, as the owner of a failing business, has a fiduciary responsibility to do the right thing for stakeholders.

For those that haven‘t heard, the Gamm Theatre located at the Pawtucket Armory next to Tolman High School is relocating. This is a tragic loss to an arts district struggling to survive. Absent the opportunity to expand and the lack of public venues and attractions near the Gamm, how can we expect small local treasures, such as the Gamm, not to look elsewhere to succeed?

It is no surprise that Hasbro has moved its corporate offices to Providence, only a stone’s throw from another government subsidized structure that lacked public support, the Providence Place Mall, because of the vitality it has brought to the area. The mall has been the centerpiece and catalyst for several structures in the downtown area of Providence and can serve as a model for the rejuvenation of downtown Pawtucket.

I do not want to mortgage the future of the City of Pawtucket for the PawSox, but after reading the Senate Finance report on the PawSox stadium, I believe it is the right decision to have it partially subsidized if that’s what it takes to hold on to what’s left of Pawtucket’s identity. Whenever there is an opportunity for growth, there is always risk. I believe the current structure of the legislation minimizes the risk to acceptable levels. We have a city that eight short years ago was on the cusp of financial collapse, now boasts a surplus in the neighborhood of $10 million.

While Pawtucket is at a crucial crossroads, each path has an opportunity for economic failure; however one also has a possibility of economic stability. If we do let the PawSox leave, our future may go with it.

I understand the statewide concern of millions of taxpayer dollars heading off to subsidize wealthy business owners endeavors, but please don’t think that if the PawSox plan falls apart that the State of Rhode Island saves that $26 million. These monies will simply be re-allocated to fund building in other parts of the state. They will subsidize the building of private structures in Providence, Warwick, Cranston, and any other municipalities looking to jump start their economy.

At the end of the day, the money will be spent. It can be spent in communities that have very little need for economic stimulation, or it can spent in a once proud city, with a bustling commercial presence of times past, Pawtucket desperately needs a commitment from a major player, to not just preserve our identity but also to enhance our economy.

Mark Theroux