Friday, August 10, 2012

Kraft Not Being Shy in Foxboro Negotiations

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on August 10, 2012.


By Bill Gouveia

No one has ever accused Bob Kraft of being shy.

In the opening round of talks between the Kraft Group and the new unnamed Foxboro committee formed for the purpose of drawing fire – er, I mean negotiating on behalf of the selectmen, planning board and water board – the Kraft organization presented an aggressive proposal. They are seeking eight new liquor licenses for Patriot Place, which would bring the total number between the development and the stadium to 25.

The Kraft Group is also seeking to reduce the town’s share of revenue from ticket sales to stadium events (not including Patriot and Revolution games). They are looking for a guarantee of support from some town boards and officials on revising certain zoning laws, state funds to help build a pedestrian bridge across Route 1, and advocacy for a permanent MBTA rail station near Patriot Place and the stadium.

In return they offer to continue (in part) the infamous “billboard deal” which could net the town $100,000 per year, as well as pay $300,000 towards increased sewer costs involved with a proposed regional deal with Mansfield and Foxboro. They also offered to help fund alcohol education efforts in the schools and throughout town.

No one should be shocked by the proposal. It represents a sound negotiating strategy on behalf of the Kraft Group. After all, if you don’t ask – you don’t get. The fact negotiations must take place in public makes it particularly difficult in the early stages, but that’s the price you pay when you operate a franchise of this type. Transparency is a strange but wonderful (and in town government necessary) thing.

It will be interesting to see how the process moves forward from here. The Committee-To-Be-Named-Later has a tough task ahead, though they will not have the final say on any ultimate deal. There are those already complaining that Bob Kraft is trying to buy additional liquor licenses in order to increase development and line his pockets with profits. And you know what? That’s pretty much exactly what he’s doing.

But is there really anything wrong with that? After all, the idea of being in business is to make money. Large businesses apply for tax breaks from the state and local communities all the time, promising in return to supply jobs and other ancillary benefits. There might not be liquor licenses involved, but the premise here is the same.

Having said that, it seems pretty clear Foxboro needs eight more liquor licenses about as much as I need eight more sandwiches. Like my sandwiches, it sounds good and would no doubt be enjoyable for a while. But what you are left with afterwards is not always a pretty sight.

The current economic times make running a successful business very difficult. They call for extraordinary measures, which is why Massachusetts has finally allowed casino gambling (oops, I’m not supposed to say that in Foxboro – sorry). But though I am no expert, I have to wonder about the wisdom of 25 individual liquor licenses in single development. That sounds more like New Orleans than Foxboro.

But it pays to listen and weigh the options. Foxboro town officials have learned the hard way that refusing to listen to proposals from reputable parties can bring about division, resentment and distrust. They appear to be making a good faith effort to avoid doing that again (darn, another veiled casino reference) and that is wise.

But clearly, the committee in question needs a name. Perhaps it could be the “You’re Being Punished Committee”. The “Take A Bullet For Us Committee” has a nice ring to it. Calling it “The Political Suicide Committee” might be a bit harsh. I heard someone suggest “The We-Ought-To-Be-Committed Committee”, but that’s a bit long.

The fact one of the unnamed committee’s first official acts was to go into an unscheduled executive session at the request of former and new town counsel Richard Gelerman has not helped get them off to the positive start they might have liked. But as Gelerman told the committee as they prepared to meet in secret: “Foxboro’s a lot of fun these days.”

The “Let’s Have Fun Committee?” Well, they’ll come up with something. Let’s hope they do it in open session.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be reached at and followed on Twitter at @BillInsideLook.

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