Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Whose side are they on?

Gambit's Charles Maldonado gives us one more look at the NFL "Clean Zone" policy and how other host cities have implemented it in recent years.
Yesterday's settlement on the Super Bowl Clean Zone may have left some wondering how, exactly, New Orleans city government could have drafted an ordinance with such obvious constitutional issues: sanctioned and permitted signs only, 60 percent NFL branding or "feel" in order to obtain a permit.

The answer is that neither the Landrieu Administration nor City Council invented any of this. The Clean Zone, as defined under the original, pre-consent judgment ordinance, has been around at least since last year's Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
And we've always understood that to be true.  The question raised here, though, is why do the city's elected representatives acquiesce to NFL policy simply as a matter of course?  Over the past week there's been a side debate going about the "economic benefit" to cities of hosting these events in the first place.  
Those estimates, though, are likely fool’s gold, according to an assortment of academic research into the actual economic impact of Super Bowls and other major sporting events. When professors Victor Matheson and Robert Baade studied the economic impact of Super Bowls from 1973 to 1997, they found that the games boosted city economies by about $30 million, “roughly one-tenth the figures touted by the NFL” and an even smaller fraction of what New Orleans officials predict. A later Baade and Matheson study found that the economic impact of a Super Bowl is “on average one-quarter or less the magnitude of the most recent NFL estimates.”

Similarly, a 1999 paper from professor Philip Porter found that the Super Bowl had virtually no effect on a city’s economy. Research on other events New Orleans has hosted, including the men’s Final Four, is similar. When Baade and Matheson studied Final Fours, they found that the events tend “not to translate into any measurable benefits to the host cities.”
Depending on whom you believe the impact of hosting a Super Bowl is either negligible or far more limited than what the NFL sells to the politicians it is attempting to trade favors from.  But rather than ask why our elected officials are so gullible, let's assume that there is at least some "economic benefit" that accrues to cities hosting the Super Bowl and that it is at least significant enough to be worth the trouble.

The question then becomes, how is that benefit dispersed, and who bears the brunt of the trouble? We'd like to think that our elected representatives are.. you know.. representing our interest in this matter; that they're bargaining with the NFL over every use of our space; that they're writing ordinances and setting policies that ease the burden on residents and spread the benefits of the event across the city.  If tourism really is the "economic engine" that makes this city go, it's our political leaders' jobs to make that engine run efficiently. 

And this is why it's so disappointing when, instead, they blindly write the NFL's boilerplate policy into law or they allow CBS to just stick its signs wherever the hell.

These actions indicate that our mayor and councilpersons are to be acting on the NFL's  and the NFL's corporate partners' behalf instead of our own. In some cases, the closeness is so obvious that our supposed representatives just repeat the bullshit they're fed verbatim.

“The Talk” responded Tuesday (Jan. 29) morning with a statement:

"The sign, which was placed due to a light reflection issue, has been removed. Our goal continues to be to showcase this great city in the best way possible."

Update: This is interesting. The locally famous "Bon Jovi Shrine" was created by Tara Ciccarone one of the plaintiffs in the anti-Clean Zone lawsuit. The shrine itself was originally a form of protest against similar measures surrounding Jazz Fest.

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