If your city can't check off each of these items - ahem, pay attention, Baltimore - then maybe it should think twice before throwing public money at a sports arena or stadium.
Here's a new formula: If Team Owner is worth anywhere in the neighborhood of two times the cost of a proposed arena, let him sign the check.
Public municipalities have been in the sports business so long, we take for granted that taxpayer dollars are essentially used to subsidize rich owners.
These owners are given a monopoly on the marketplace and then use your money to run their business. And when they don't get their way, they whine and complain and hold a city hostage. See Irsay, Robert.
Or if you want a more recent example, take a gander down south. Washington used $611 million in public money to pay for Nationals Park. Claiming the stadium isn't sufficiently complete, the Nationals have withheld more than $3.5 million in rent.
What's a city to do? Can't exactly evict the tenant, can you?
2. What's your crime rate?
Here's an irrefutable fact: Dead people cannot visit sports arenas. Shouldn't a city's priority be spending money on keeping people safe?
Here's another rule of thumb: If your crime stats place your city within three places of Detroit, you should probably try to divert more money in the way of public safety.
(Detroit, by the way, has relatively new, publicly financed football and baseball stadiums. Think quality of life has improved there much?)
In Baltimore, city police have counted 118 homicides this year, which is actually a big improvement over last, when the death toll hit 282. The truth is, the homicide rate is basically the same as it was in 1990.
If a new arena helps in this area, then let's build two. If it doesn't, then let's file away the blueprints for a sunnier day.
3. Are you educating children?
Yes, let's spend money on sports. Let's give it to middle schools and high schools and give children an incentive to stay in the classroom. Let's give them new equipment and uniforms and places to play. Parks and Recreation and community centers are in constant need.
Consider: the graduation rate in city schools is between 40 percent and 60 percent, the state school board has labeled five schools as "persistently dangerous," one-third of Baltimore students fail the required reading test and nearly half fail the math portion.
Of those who manage to attend college, only 15 percent manage to graduate in five years.
The last thing we need is to build Baltimore's children another building they can sleep behind when they're old, uneducated and homeless.