Sta­dium deal the hot topic at ‘Eggs and Is­sues’

Woonsocket Call - - FRONT PAGE - By JONATHAN BIS­SON­NETTE jbis­son­nette@paw­tuck­et­times.com

LIN­COLN — House Speaker Ni­cholas A. Mat­tiello told a gath­ered crowd of lo­cal elected of­fi­cials and mem­bers of the busi­ness com­mu­nity that the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives con­tin­ues to work on a deal that would keep the Paw­tucket Red Sox in Paw­tucket at a new sta­dium down­town, while shift­ing away some of the risk from the tax­pay­ers.

Mat­tiello was the key­note speaker at Wed­nes­day morn­ing’s North­ern Rhode Is­land Cham­ber of Com­merce “Eggs and Is­sues” break­fast at Kirk­brae Coun­try Club. While Mat­tiello touched on a num­ber of is­sues – from the state’s bud­get to school con­struc­tion – many in at­ten­dance were cu­ri­ous about where

things stand with the fi­nanc­ing pro­posal to build a PawSox sta­dium on Apex land in down­town Paw­tucket.

The pro­posal for the $83 mil­lion ball­park was ap­proved by the state Se­nate in Jan­uary, but it’s lin­gered in un­cer­tainty since then, as the mat­ter has yet to go be­fore the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for a dis­cus­sion or vote.

“The PawSox, we’re work­ing on that,” Mat­tiello said dur­ing the cham­ber’s break­fast on Wed­nes­day morn­ing. “I said that it would have to be fair to the tax­pay­ers and the tax­pay­ers would have to un­der­stand and sup­port the deal.”

“Cit­i­zens some­times get frus­trated and think elected of­fi­cials don’t lis­ten to them … I think we’re mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion,” he said.

The House Speaker then said it is “dif­fi­cult” to cre­ate a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship when the pub­lic part­ner is say­ing no. He cited a poll that said 60 per­cent of peo­ple ques­tioned have ob­jected to the pro­pos­als vet­ted in the pub­lic thus far.

“I think that you can’t be a thriv­ing, suc­cess­ful com­mu­nity econ­omy with peo­ple be­ing frus­trated with their gov­ern­ment. You have to align them. There’s no choice. It’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity,” he said. “That means peo­ple like me had better make sure we lis­ten to the pub­lic. It’s not a per­fect sci­ence but I do my best.”

Mat­tiello fur­ther said that polling in­di­cates that when the tax­pay­ers’ risk is taken out of the for­mula, peo­ple are more sup­port­ive of the deal to re­lo­cate the PawSox to down­town Paw­tucket. He said the House is try­ing to come up with a frame­work for a deal that would mit­i­gate risk to be self-fund­ing, which he said the pub­lic could sup­port.

“I think we have a frame­work that will ad­dress those con­cerns be­cause I do think the PawSox are part of the fabric of the state,” he said. “Peo­ple are will­ing to let them go to Mas­sachusetts but much rather pre­fer they stay in state.”

“We’re work­ing on that, talk­ing about a frame­work that might serve the pub­lic’s in­ter­est better,” he con­tin­ued. “It gets close to 60 per­cent in fa­vor when you take the risk out, that’s the di­rec­tion we have to move in in terms of the leg­is­la­tion.”

John C. Gre­gory, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Cham­ber, in­tro­duced Mat­tiello as a “friend of busi­ness … A real, real pro-busi­ness guy,” cit­ing the re­duc­tion in cor­po­rate taxes, the elim­i­na­tion of the sales tax busi­nesses pre­vi­ously paid on elec­tri­cal bills, and im­prov­ing the state’s job cli­mate.

“Gov­ern­ing is about col­lab­o­ra­tion,” Mat­tiello said. “About get­ting ideas to­gether, be­ing at the ta­ble … Think of how much better the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment is as a re­sult of all of those ac­com­plish­ments. We are far better off but we have work to do, but we’re mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion.”

Ernest A. Brown photo

House Speaker Ni­cholas Mat­tiello speaks dur­ing the North­ern Rhode Is­land Cham­ber of Com­merce Eggs and Is­sues Break­fast at Kirk­brae Coun­try Club in Lin­coln Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

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