L.A., TAKE IT AWAY
For a generation it has been hallowed political doctrine in New York City that public funds can—and should—be spent for slum clearance. Last week New York's city fathers waved the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles on the ground that there is no hallowed political doctrine in New York permitting them to invest public money in the kind of municipal clearance and development that it would take to keep the Dodgers at home.
The whole issue was incandescently clarified by Nelson Rockefeller's plan (SI, Sept. 23) to save the Dodgers. Rockefeller urged the city to condemn 12 blighted acres in downtown Brooklyn at a cost of about $8 million, essentially as an act of municipal development. Rockefeller would then purchase the land from the city for $2 million (he later raised the ante to $3 million) and in turn lease part of it, rent free, to the Dodgers for the stadium which the club would finance. At the end of 20 years first the Dodgers, then the city, would have the option of repurchasing the land at cost plus 2�% interest. ($3 million plus interest, priced him out of the deal, Brooklyn's Walter O'Malley said sourly.) The remainder of the tract was to be improved by Rockefeller.
New York's Board of Estimate simply saw it as a "giveaway" of the taxpayers' money.
Rockefeller argued that his plan "would increase values in the entire area and add to the city's tax revenues so as to offset a temporary loss to the city in the price of land." (In Los Angeles it is calculated that big league ball will bring 20 million new dollars into the economy yearly, not to mention the intangible boost to city pride.) This vision the fathers did not have the eyes to see—nor were their constituents marching and counter-marching in the streets to emphasize it to them. New Yorkers just did not seem to care very deeply. On the whole issue, said one of Mayor Wagner's secretaries, "an occasional letter dribbles in."
It is a pretty good axiom of U.S. politics that elected jobholders move when the voters build a fire under them. If the Dodgers move to Los Angeles it will be because the old home town glow never burst into flame.
The man who made the Robinson-Basilio fight wasn't there. A month before, James D. Norris, International Boxing Club president, came down with a violent attack of food poisoning after a corned beef sandwich and a boxing commission hearing at which Sugar Ray Robinson threatened to walk out on the match.
When the fighters entered the ring at Yankee Stadium 29 days later, Jim Norris was still at St. Clare's Hospital under treatment for—not just food poisoning but a heart condition, a kidney ailment, a disorderly liver and, very likely, the emotional strain of recent events that have threatened his boxing empire and, for a time, threatened what promised to be one of the more glorious matches of his sporting career. He heard on radio a fight that may have been his boxing swan song.
For now two decrees have been entered against Jim Norris. The first was Federal Judge Sylvester J. Ryan's pronouncement that the IBC must be broken up to end its monopoly of boxing. The second was a decree of nature. From the first there is the possibility of a successful appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. But nature's decrees are irrevocable.