June 04, 2014


If Erin Stewart's political career lasts exactly one term as mayor of New Britain, you can chisel SPOILER ALERT onto her political gravestone. It has NOT been a good week for the mayor.

And really, it's not about the AA Rock Cats leaving the city at the end of 2015 for a promised larger, more modern stadium in Hartford. That, perhaps, was inevitable. Anyone with two eyes could see that coming - the Rock Cats regularly fill up their existing ballpark, or more specifically, the parking lot thereof; Wikipedia reports for all the world to see:
Because the attendance at games frequently exceeds the number of available spaces (especially on weekends), parking often overflows into grassy areas around the stadium, or onto nearby streets.
As a New Britain resident who lives near the ballpark, I regularly drive past the ballpark on game day watching the parking staff shoehorn cars onto the grass and any flat surface; and see a line of cars backed up onto Rtes. 71 / 571 / 9. I keep track of home games to avoid those roads before and after games.

So that the Rock Cats, who will have spent 20 seasons at New Britain Stadium, might be looking for someplace larger, with some room to grow should not have been a surprise to anyone. Except, apparently, the mayor of our city. And sadly, yes, I go back long enough to have attended New Britain Red Sox games at old Beehive Field, and cannot imagine the "new" stadium and the "Rock Cats" are both 19 years old, but there it is.

Someone on the mayor's team needs to take the smartphone out of her hand and run her social media for her. You should have PEOPLE for that, Mayor, people who might do some fact checking before sending a SPOILER ALERT tweet that demonstrates being completely out of the loop. 

And the recent "Rock Cats need to call me" debacle, as reported by (complete with video) the Hartford Courant, is just embarrassing. Nobody NEEDS to call you, nobody NEEDS to call anybody. The team has a lease, the lease is up at the end of 2015; the team has called New Britain home for 20 years. They did not HAVE to leave, but it's certainly their perogative. And the fact that they will be paying nearly 5x the annual lease at the new ballpark is indicative that it's not simply a "playing off Hartford vs. New Britain for the best deal". They want a better location, more seats and parking spaces, the status of being in the state capitol city, and access to two major highways; none of which New Britain can easily give them at the present location.

Now whether moving to Hartford is a good idea for the team is another story, which I will not bring into this post. Nor will I comment on the wisdom of Hartford's investment in a new ballpark. I'll leave that to the folks in Hartford, many of whom are already weighing in.

I'm not a huge fan of Mayor Stewart. It's no secret I lean left, although I'm also a New Britain homeowner and tax payer so I can appreciate a more conservative fiscal policy. But mostly, I am not a fan of political dynasties - be they called Bush, Clinton, Gore, Romney, Kennedy, or Stewart. She was elected on the strength of her father's reputation, not her own track record, and her inexperience and youth are pretty evident in the present situation.

 Her father, former mayor and present Chamber of Commerce president Timothey Stewart, notes in the Thursday morning New Britan Herald:

...he now knows negotiations have been going on between the Rock Cats and the City of Hartford for the past two years — “ever since this ownership group took control of the operations a little over two years ago. Unfortunately it appears that they never had any intentions of staying in New Britain.”

One wonders if this is a bit of sanity intended to calm the rocky waters of his daughter's recent public face.

Mayor Stewart, get over it. While perhaps the time to engage the Rock Cat's ownership was before your term began, it's likely that the Rock Cats were moving on regardless of what improvements, incentives, or concessions were offered. Now is the time to be gracious and magnanimous - thank the team for more than two decades of partnership, wish them well in their new ballpark, play up the new CT Fastrack as a way to get from New Britain up to Hartford to see them play, and commit to the citizens of New Britain that you'll start immediately working to find another team to occupy New Britain stadium.

There's that serenity prayer:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
It's that last bit - wisdom. No matter how smart, how dedicated, how hard-working one is, wisdom is something that comes with age and experience. And at 27, Mayor Stewart is still working on that one....

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