Former Connecticut governor John Rowland’s basic claim to infamy will be his resignation and prison time, but it was twenty years ago that he was involved with another fiasco—the master plan to move the New England Patriots to Hartford.
Yes, that Hartford. In Connecticut.
Even the thought of it created more excitement in our state than any event since 1961. That’s when Troy Donahue came to Old Saybrook to film Parrish. No one under ninety will get that reference, but trust me, it happened.
The other mastermind behind the Patriots’ move was Robert Kraft, the team owner. But his masterful mind was more masterful than Rowland’s; in fact, all Kraft did was blackmail Massachusetts into building him a new stadium. We were left with the Whalers…well, their memorabilia. Pucky the Whale had relocated to North Carolina the year before.
The Patriots non-move was a masterful screwing by an amoral organization, or what we now call business acumen.
But even that pales by comparison with Jeff Bezos’s decision to open his new Amazon headquarters in two locations: New York and Washington, this after luring 238 cities to submit bids on what they would do for Jeff Bezos. (Hartford, Stamford, Waterbury, Danbury and New Haven/Bridgeport also played.)
Bezos is worth north of $150 billion.
Let that sink in. I can present all kinds of examples of what that means, like if you have 750,000 Facebook friends, you can buy each of them a Mercedes-Maybach S 650 (see photo). I don’t begrudge him his money. But for him to demand tax breaks from his new city-victims is beyond unconscionable.
Now some say building in New York will finally improve the City’s transportation systems and other infrastructure problems, even improve its schools. Those would all be positive steps, but the more than $2-billion-tax incentives should have gone the other way, from Bezos to the cities themselves. And one of New York’s increasingly dire problems, affordable housing, seems destined only to worsen when Bezos provides low-paying jobs for people who cannot afford to live within twenty-five miles of the headquarters.
The holidays approach, and how I get through them without Amazon is beyond me. Worse, a boycott of the company or a suspension of my Washington Post subscription (Bezos owns that paper) hurts only the people at the bottom of the pyramid—the ones who eke out a living sorting packages or delivering newsprint.
John Rowland—and by extension—every resident of Connecticut was snookered real good twenty years ago. Today we have a lot of company.