On Tuesday night May 11, Milwaukee Brewers general manager Sal Bando strongly hinted in a radio interview that the baseball team might not be able to build a new stadium unless the city, county and state governments pay for it. And no new stadium means no Brewers in Milwaukee.
The politicians didn’t even wait for a polite interval before they jumped to attention.
“The city will continue to sit down with the Brewers to find ways to meet their needs,” Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist said the next morning. “If the Brewers need public financing, let’s get it out from under the table and let’s all start talking about it.”
Jim Klauser, secretary of the state Department of Administration, was equally sycophantic. “If the circumstances require more action, let’s talk about it,” he said. “The team is very important to Milwaukee’s economy and the state’s economy.”
Milwaukee County Executive F. Thomas Ament piped in that he too was willing to look at the issue of public financing of the stadium, which is currently estimated to cost at least $207 million.
The Milwaukee Sentinel, meanwhile, published front-page editorials two days in a row after the Bando statement, sounding the alarm that our dear Brewers might be forced to seek greener pastures in another city unless they get more public support and money.
One could dismiss such comments as typical post-adolescent male fanaticism toward baseball as an institution just below, and sometimes above, God and country. But we couldn’t help but be struck by the sharp difference between such comments and the negative statements, particularly from Norquist, during the $366 million school referendum debate this February. (Ament, to his credit, supported the referendum.)
One doesn’t have to be a Rhodes scholar to interpret the differing responses: Keeping the Brewers in Milwaukee is more important than educating our city’s children.
While we are in such a deservedly cynical mood, we’d like to suggest another motivating factor. Could it be that Norquist and Thompson don’t want to be seen as the politicians who “lost” the Brewers and thus face voter wrath at the polls? After all, 68% of the voting age populace in Milwaukee is white, as are most of those attending Brewers games. (Next time you go to County Stadium, count the number of African-Americans you see who aren’t working there.)
Unfortunately, such racial demographics don’t prevail in our schools. Some 74% of MPS students are non-white.
Do you suppose that if we suit up all those students in Brewers uniforms, Norquist and Thompson might be more inclined to help them.