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Brainiac

How Massachusetts gets sports stadiums right

And other highlights from the Ideas blog

Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff/File

Fenway Park

The use of eminent domain powers to make way for sports stadiums is always controversial. An article in the latest edition of the Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review heaps praise on the way Massachusetts has chosen to handle the thorny issue.

Steve Chen, an editor at the review, argues that eminent domain law has tilted too far toward the interests of sports franchise owners since a 2008 court decision (Goldstein v. Pataki) cleared the way for the highly controversial Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, where the Brooklyn Nets now play. That ruling, he explains, construed legitimate uses of eminent domain so widely that “the burden of proving that a stadium project has no public purpose at all is insurmountable” for people trying to prevent their land from being seized.

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Massachusetts, by contrast, uses a case-by-case evaluation system that Chen says protects citizens from improper land seizures while also ensuring that stadium projects with real public benefit go forward. In recent years the Massachusetts Legislature has passed two bills—the Foxboro Stadium Act and the Fenway Park Act—which specifically restricted the use of public funds to infrastructure, while team owners were required to foot the bills for the stadiums themselves. Chen also applauds the Massachusetts Legislature for engineering financial payback mechanisms into stadium legislation: The Patriots give the state $1.15 million in parking fees each year, and the Red Sox pay up to $12.1 million per year to lease Fenway.

Overall, Chen finds that some states, like New Jersey, are too friendly to sports franchise owners, while others, like Florida, are too strict about when they’ll apply eminent domain. Massachusetts, however, sits nicely in the middle.

Kouichi Chiba

Tiny paper people in the sky

Contemporary photography can produce images that are beautiful but also hard to fully appreciate as art, because it’s difficult to tell where the technological influence ends and a real image of the world begins. In that light, Japanese photographer Kouichi Chiba’s work is particularly refreshing. Chiba makes simple paper cutouts of figures and positions them in an assortment of light, adventurous poses: dangling from a branch, leaping from a flower petal, poised atop an open book. Her photographs mingle the tenderness of paper art with the sweep of landscape photography, creating a final product that is both visually novel and straightforward in terms of technique. Her stoic paper people appear as plainly in the world as a man sitting on a park bench, wholly absorbed in their worlds, and completely unaware of the artistic process that has produced them.

Kevin Hartnett is a writer who lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. He can be reached at kshartnett18@gmail.com.
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