‘Throw a Billion Dollars from the Helicopter’ Is a Grand-Slam Attack on Publicly Financed Stadiums
Throw a Billion Dollars from the Helicopter is a new documentary about the wildly successful (and incredibly stupid) 2016 ballot initiative led by Jeff Williams, the mayor of Arlington, Texas, to throw $500 million in subsidies at a new ballpark for the Texas Rangers. If you care at all about sports, you’ll want to stream this movie, at the risk of killing whatever residual pleasure you might still get from watching baseball. And if you care about tax policy, crony capitalism, and good governance, you’ll want to watch it too, even though—spoiler alert—the ragtag bunch of ex–Tea Party renegades opposed to an indefensible giveaway got bowled over like Ray Fosse trying to protect the plate against Pete Rose at the 1970 All-Star Game.
Director Michael Bertin advances two intertwined storylines. The first is tight study of local politics, showing how Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams came into office in 2015 as a small-government, tax-cutting, low-spending character straight out of central casting. Once in office, Williams almost immediately starting pimping for taxpayers to cover half the cost of a new billion-dollar stadium for the Rangers (a team once partly owned by former President George W. Bush).
Williams expertly works the levers of local boosterism, and Bertin relishes showing the mayor and other stadium supporters invoking the phrase “world-class city” over and over again. The new ballpark will feature a retractable roof! It will be not just a stadium but a family “destination” with bars, restaurants, and concert venues! All of which will be “world class” and make Arlington a “world-class city”! Smaller cities—Arlington has about 400,000 residents and is part of the Dallas-Forth
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