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Council majority slams ballpark funding plan

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 7/17/2000

mid intense negotiations between Mayor Thomas M. Menino and state and Red Sox officials, seven city councilors yesterday blasted all of the proposed financing plans under review for a new Fenway Park.

Led by Fenway district Councilor Michael Ross, the councilors insisted that no city funds be used to acquire the proposed ballpark site, even if the state and the team agree to help repay the city's investment in the project.

"The bottom line is that we don't want any public funds used for a new Fenway Park," said City Councilor Peggy Davis-Mullen. "The Red Sox should build it on their own dime."

The councilors also objected to a tentative plan embraced by Menino calling for the city to be repaid through a new citywide parking surcharge. The fee, which would be paid mostly by suburban commuters, is designed to offset city funds used to acquire 10 acres of privately owned land across from the 88- year-old Fenway Park where the Sox propose to build their new ballpark.

Because the seven members represent a majority of the City Council, yesterday's announcement served to undercut Menino's negotiating position on Beacon Hill. By law, the mayor needs the approval of both state lawmakers and the City Council to impose such a fee.

"It's a little curious that the City Council would take a position on a proposal they haven't even seen yet," Menino chief of staff James Rooney said yesterday. "The mayor has been very clear that he needs to get a dollar-for-dollar payback on any money the city invests in this project. So city funds won't be coming out of any other budget items."

Depending on whether employee or weekend parking is exempted, a 35-cents-a-day-per-space surcharge could generate up to $12 million a year. It would take $9 million a year to recoup the $120 million Menino has said he was willing to invest in buying the proposed ballpark site.

Although most of the fees would be paid by commuters who reside outside of Boston, the councilors rejected the idea. In a carefully worded statement, the seven city officials ruled out any public financing plan "that includes new or increased taxes, fees or surcharges or public land takings . . . for a privately owned ballpark."

The statement was signed by Ross, Davis, council president James Kelly, Councilor at Large Francis M. Roache, Roxbury district Councilor Chuck Turner, Jamaica Plain district Councilor Maura A. Hennigan, and Dorchester district Councilor Maureen E. Feeney.

Although city officials said state infrastructure aid was appropriate, they said the mayor should redirect the Red Sox to another, cheaper site. The councilors urged the team to consider selling shares to the public or taking on partners, which they said would eliminate the need for city aid.

Yesterday's statement was significant because it takes a two-thirds vote by the City Council to seize the ballpark site. As a result, just five councilors can block the required land takings. However because the council's formal vote on the matter won't occur until after state lawmakers decide whether to adopt a ballpark bill, City Hall sources suggested that Menino may be able to sway some votes for the project this summer.

This story ran on page B05 of the Boston Globe on 7/17/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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