By Michael Gaffney

Will Worcester land the Boston Red Sox AAA team?

All appeared on track to at least get an offer, but then politics got involved when Mayor Joe Petty decided that he would turn the issue into a rally for his campaign.

He put forth a resolution that reads: “Be it hereby resolved that the City Council supports in principle the location of the Red Sox Triple A baseball team and building of a stadium in Worcester and does further request the City Manager do all that is reasonably in his power to facilitate this move.”

Worcester Magazine interviewed Petty on August 8, 2017 and reported as follows:

Worcester Mayor Joe Petty, who has filed a resolution urging the city manager to do what he can to land the Pawtucket Red Sox in Worcester, said on Tuesday, while the city is, “a long way from the finish line,” it is nonetheless, “important that we demonstrate that Worcester is a city that embraces bold ideas.”

The words were part of a large statement released by Petty’s chief of staff, Dan Racicot, one week after Worcester Magazine first reported the mayor was filing the resolution, and on the same day as a Telegram & Gazette about the same.

I filed this resolution to get the City Council on the record saying that we support this move in principle,” Petty said. “There is real momentum in our city and it’s great that an organization like the PawSox have noticed. We would be negligent if we didn’t pursue this opportunity. This is a chance to develop acres of brownfields that have been sitting vacant for over a decade.  We will make sure that any deal moving forward is in the best interest of the people of Worcester.  We’re a long way from the finish line but it’s important that we demonstrate that Worcester is a city that embraces bold ideas.” [Emphasis added]

It is clear that Worcester is interested. The canal district leadership sent nearly a 1,000 letters of interest. There have been numerous meetings with local leaders and the administration with the Red Sox. The Red Sox decision makers have visited the City several times.

Instead of just letting talks develop, Petty decided to put the above item on the agenda to “get the City Council on record saying that we support this move in principle.” And the City Council has certainly gone on record.

The Telegram and Gazette, August 13, 2017, reports the following statements from Councilors:

I don’t think public money is the right phrase,” Councilor-At-Large Morris A. Bergman said this week.

Very cautious,” District 3 Councilor George J. Russell said when asked about the idea.

We have a duty to provide appropriate oversight for public dollars,” said Councilor-At-Large Khrystian E. King.

Both Mr. Russell and Mrs. Lukes pointed to the DCU Center as an example. It went many years without turning a profit, they noted, even though it was supposed to also at least break even by the added tax dollars it brought the city.

“It didn’t live up to all the hype,” said Mrs. Lukes. “We’re being seduced by these uncertain promises.”

As I stated to the Telegram, the resolution is a “stupid campaign trick,” “useless propaganda tool” and “election-year gimmick.

“This (effort) has been going on behind the scenes for a long time,” Mr. Gaffney said.

Asked for more specifics on why the resolution was a ploy, Mr. Gaffney said the team “already knew we mean business” – considering that it has already met with city leaders – and noted that other city councilors, including Mr. Bergman and Mr. Rosen, have been pushing this idea for longer.

Mr. Petty took exception to the remarks.

“I can’t believe it’s being brought to this level,” he said. The resolution he proposed was meant to send a strong public signal to the PawSox of the city’s interest, he said, nothing more. [Emphasis added]

I stand behind my remarks. The resolution was a stupid campaign trick and election-year gimmick. And now the Council is on record, with several Councilors expressing the exact opposite of a “strong public signal.” Petty’s resolution has sent the wrong message to the Red Sox. All they need to do is read the Telegram to see that the Council has reservations.

It is highly likely the resolution will prevail at Council, but the damage has already been done. I expect most Councilors will express reservation about using tax dollars (as they vote for more tax cuts for other wealthy businessmen.) Most will want to see a proposal before taking a strong position. They will do their due diligence before they commit to anything.

Petty attempted to steal home, but was thrown out at the plate.