Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What Yesterday's Election Results Mean for Baseball

If you blinked you probably missed it, but yesterday was Election Day in 32 states. While federal elections like president, senator, and representative rarely affect matters as serious as baseball, local elections often do hinge upon such matters that touch our daily lives. Several local elections yesterday had a baseball angle that could affect fanbases of four different teams; herein, educate yourself about the decisions made by one-quarter of your fellow citizens:
  • Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). This well-publicized ballot measure in the City of Houston (you probably got a New York Times alert about it) doesn't affect baseball per se, but it had a significant baseball angle. Astros legend Lance Berkman (in)famously recorded a radio ad opposing HERO in September; you may have noticed from the Twitter firestorm it ignited. If passed, the initiative would have banned discrimination "based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy," but opponents seized on the specific gender-identity language in the bill and turned it into a referendum on transgender acceptance. Anti-HERO ads, including Berkman's, used messaging like "no men in women's bathrooms" and "troubled men," leading to backlash against Berkman for prejudicial statements and against the whole campaign for fearmongering atop the incredibly specific bathroom issue. The vote was expected to be close (though Houston may be in Texas, it is still an urban area and leans Democratic); however, with 95% of precincts reporting as of last night, the city's voters roundly rejected the ordinance, 61% to 39%.
  • St. Petersburg City Council. Three seats on the city council of St. Petersburg, Florida, were on the ballot last night, and the intractable stadium saga of the Tampa Bay Rays was a starring issue. The Rays want out of their lease at Tropicana Field, one of baseball's most unattractive ballparks but, more importantly, easily its poorest-located, as Tampa-area traffic patterns make it miserable to trek to cross-bay St. Petersburg to see a game. St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman wants to let the Rays explore new stadium sites in other communities in Tampa Bay, but the city council has repeatedly blocked his proposals in a series of close votes—most recently, deadlocking at 4–4 in May. Yesterday, three of those city council seats were on the ballot, two of which were held by the "Anti-Rays Party"—those who oppose letting the team move. However, the "Pro-Rays Party" flipped one of those seats, as Kriseman-proposal supporter Lisa Wheeler-Brown won the seat being vacated by term-limited proposal opponent Wengay Newton. This means that allies of Kriseman and the Rays now hold five seats on the eight-seat council. That, in turn, means the Rays may now be able to cut a deal to leave St. Petersburg for a more economically sustainable part of metro Tampa—and avoid becoming the next incarnation of the MontrĂ©al Expos.
  • Mission Rock development. Among the ballot questions put to voters in San Francisco yesterday was Local Measure D, asking residents' permission to develop the area around a parking lot just south of the Giants' AT&T Park. The proposed mixed-use complex for the 28-acre site, Mission Rock, would erect 1,500 rental homes, including some affordable housing, as well as office space, shops, restaurants, and a park. The Giants endorsed the ballot measure and threw their full weight behind it in the hopes that the new neighborhood would evolve into the Giants' equivalent of Wrigleyville or the area around Fenway Park. The Giants' investment in Mission Rock would generate millions of dollars in revenue for the team that it says is necessary for it to compete with its larger-market rivals (a good way of translating San Francisco's anti-Dodgers sentiment into votes). In the face of the Giants' advocacy and no organized opposition, Local Measure D passed yesterday with over 73% of the vote, meaning Mission Rock could become a reality very soon.
  • 50-50 raffles in Texas. Not nearly as sexy as the other three elections here, Texas's Proposition 4 amended the state's constitution to allow sports teams to hold more of those charity 50-50 raffles that you see at so many baseball games. (Yes, apparently a constitutional amendment was necessary to do this—previously it was unconstitutional to hold more than two such raffles per year and to give out cash prizes for them.) The proposition passed 69% to 31%, so you can expect more cash drawings at Rangers and Astros games going forward.


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