Local Government Idiocy Watch, Football Stadium Edition

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

In the great scheme of things this is trivial, but if you want a good example of the inertia and idiocy of local government, here you go:

The state appeared to be ready to put the brakes on the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission’s proposed lease deal with USC on Wednesday, the same day the panel posted losses of more than $7 million since 2009.

….”The state won’t be rubber-stamping … what the commission has negotiated or agreed to. We’ve identified some concerns,” such as control of the property’s revenue-rich parking lots, said Anna M. Caballero, Brown’s secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency and the governor’s point person on the Coliseum issue….Later in the day, the Coliseum Commission released financial statements showing losses of $2.4 million in fiscal 2009-10 and $4.8 million the next year.

Yeah. The revenue-rich parking lots. Because obviously the state of California should be intimately involved in the lucrative parking lot business in South Central LA, which is apparently losing them several million dollars a year.

Watching this stuff from afar is just maddening. The Coliseum was built for the 1932 Olympics and is jointly run by the city, county and state. The NFL has made it crystal clear that no professional team will ever play there, which makes it completely useless to all three entities aside from the fact that it provides a cozy sinecure for members of the Coliseum Commission, who get free tickets to USC games and the occasional X Games event, as well as the warm glow of being important people. Except they don’t even get free tickets anymore. They had to give them up after a series of LA Times articles exposed endemic corruption and mismanagement within the commission.

The answer to all this is obvious: just sell the damn thing to USC. They’d pay a fortune for it, they’d renovate it to within an inch of its life, and they’d turn it back into a jewel. That’s because USC is really rich and has lots of alumni who really like football. And the city, county, and state would be out of the football stadium business, which they never needed to be in in the first place.

But that will never happen because — because shut up, that’s why. Running a stadium is just too much fun and provides too many perks to think about giving it up. Idiots.

UPDATE: In comments, nominal says that Coliseum Commission members aren’t paid salaries. That’s true, and I’ve corrected the text to reflect this. Most of the recent scandal has involved Coliseum executives, not commission board members directly. As the LA Times says, “The groundwork for the scandal lay in years of clumsy stewardship, marked by inattentive commission members and a cozy relationship between [former GM Patrick Lynch] and his bosses.”


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend