Recently, I drove from Chicago to Minneapolis to visit my daughter, who had interned at Shriner’s Hospital. I had an ulterior motive for the visit, which was to check out Target Field, the new home of baseball’s Minnesota Twins.

The beautiful ballpark is a huge improvement over the domed stadium the Twins previously called home. Baseball is best played outdoors, and Target Field is a great place to see a game. I was happy for the Twins’ fans.

I started to think differently about Target Field — and stadiums like it — a week later. I was listening to one of the sports talk stations, on which a debate was raging over whether they represent a good investment for taxpayers, especially when police officers and firefighters across the country are being laid off. One listener opined that taxpayers vote in favor of stadium projects but vote against other referenda that would raise their taxes because they know they will make use of the stadium. The same doesn’t hold true for emergency services, he reasoned.

I suspect there’s more to it than that — primarily humankind’s need to be entertained and to belong — but the listener makes an excellent point.

Let’s examine the construction costs of the taxpayer-supported stadiums that opened just in the past couple of years. Target Field cost about $390 million. That’s chump change compared to Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., which cost $611 million before overruns. And that’s a mere pittance compared with the New York City area. The new Yankee Stadium cost $1.5 billion, while Citi Field cost $850 million. Across the river, the new stadium for the city’s pro football teams cost $1.6 billion. That’s roughly $4 billion for stadiums at a time when the Big Apple is so economically challenged that, until recently, it was considering cutting more than 3,000 police officers and more than 1,000 firefighters.

There never seems to be enough money to keep emergency-response departments adequately staffed, or personnel effectively trained. There never seems to be enough money to maintain public-safety radio systems, much less upgrade them. Yet, there always seems to be a bottomless bucket of money available to build stadiums. Granted, there’s usually a bunch of political hand-wringing whenever a new stadium is proposed and the process often takes years to unfold — but when push comes to shove, the stadium always gets built.

I’ve written several times over the years that public-safety communications won’t get its proper due until lawmakers — especially those in Congress — make them a priority. Upon reflection, it seems clear that their constituents also need to reexamine their priorities. As legendary cartoon character Pogo uttered in an anti-pollution poster for the first Earth Day in 1970: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

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