Lawmakers Fight to Rename Ballpark After Citibank Bailout

This is a rush transcript from "America's News HQ," December 2, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BILL HEMMER, HOST: Hi. You want some rage? How about this? New York lawmakers are calling the New York Mets stadium to be called "Citi Taxpayer" — "Citi Taxpayer Field." Citibank has the naming rights for Citi Field. They paid millions for it. But after the banking giant's $300 billion bailout, some are demanding a name change.

One of the lawmakers leading the call as New York City council member, Vincent Ignizio. How are you, sir?


HEMMER: The proposal is, what for here?

IGNIZIO: Well, look, 52,000 people losing their jobs. We, the taxpayers, paid $300 billion to bail out this company.

Video: Watch Bill Hemmer's interview

HEMMER: But Citigroup paid for this. Well, 20 years — $400 million.

IGNIZIO: Right. A mere pence compared to what we've put in. So what we're saying here is why not pay some homage to the taxpayer, the guy who is going to work every day and paying the bills? So what I suggested is name it Citi/Taxpayer Field. So that way Citi gets their naming rights, the taxpayers get the gratitude that they willfully deserve for $100,000 for every man, woman and child.

HEMMER: Now, this came up a week ago. As I remember, Citibank — they weren't pulling out of this deal. It was full steam ahead.

IGNIZIO: Yes. I think they want to walk around with daddy's credit card, that being us, the taxpayers, saying "Look at the luxury suites we have. Look at how beautiful. It's our stadium." It's not your stadium, Bill. It's our stadium. We paid.

HEMMER: So what has the ball team said about this? The New York Mets — are they on the record.

IGNIZIO: They're saying they respectfully decline to comment. So, you know, you take that for what it's worth.

HEMMER: Have they gotten any further than that?

IGNIZIO: Not that I have seen.

HEMMER: So you want Citigroup to say, "Listen, this is not the best way to spend our money, we'll go ahead and give it back to you?"

IGNIZIO: They took $300 billion of our money; 52,000 employees are getting laid off. Don't you think it's time to not spend money luxury boxes and? And let's really open it up to thank the taxpayers.

HEMMER: How many voices are out there on this? Is it just you? What kind of support do you get?

IGNIZIO: Me and my colleague, Councilman Verano(ph) are fighting hard, obviously. But look, we've gotten e-mails and letters from across the nation that saying, "You're right. This is wrong, we bailed them out. It's not Citi Field. It's thanks to the taxpayers. It's our field."

HEMMER: You're in Staten Island, right?


HEMMER: That's played out in (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


HEMMER: So you're doing the work for the other constituents?

IGNIZIO: Well, it's your thousand dollars. It's my thousand dollars. It's my family's thousand dollars. And when start demanding accountability from the CEOs who are making $250 million — is what this CEO is making in his contract.

HEMMER: Give me another option. Is it "Citizens Field?"

IGNIZIO: You know, the naming rights are open. It may be Citi Citizens Field. It may be - you know, the name of - what we're going to thank the taxpayer for is wide open.

HEMMER: Now, in all honesty, since the company hasn't given anything, how far are you going to get with this?

IGNIZIO: Look, I think the people ultimately will decide where we go with this. So I think that the people should stand up. And anybody listening here, your viewers out there, should —

HEMMER: The auto makers are back in D.C. this week.

IGNIZIO: Everybody wants a bailout anyway.

HEMMER: Us, too. Thank you, Vincent. Good to have you in tonight.

IGNIZIO: Thank you.

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