Headlines in the Bee screamed “It’s high noon for arena” and “Crunch time goes into overtime.” No agreement had been reached as of this morning and as usual the specifics of a funding plan are being kept secret from the public that is expected to hand over $200 million to keep the one percenters happy.
You have to worry when city officials are so desperate for a deal that they pay to travel across the country to negotiate with the NBA and the Maloof brothers at the ritzy Waldorf Astoria hotel in Disney fantasyland. The humble Hyatt in Sacramento wasn’t good enough? Apparently, the NBA all-star festivities are more important to NBA commissioner David Stern and the Maloofs than shacking up in River City to hammer out a deal. Or maybe they know they hold all the cards. Who knows what going on behind those closed doors?
Not the local media, evidently. They seem as much in the dark as the public. Yet instead of decrying the wall of secrecy and back-room deals, they fuel the crisis atmosphere with speculation, scare stories about outside Goliaths intent on snatching the Kings away from Sacramento and name-calling of arena critics.
Why don’t they ask some hard questions about funding schemes that make little sense and that contribute to the sense of being snookered?
Example: The Bee ran a story last week that the city had asked Sacramento County to contribute some funds for an arena. The county said it might allow use of three of its parking lots for arena events if the city would pay the cash-strapped county $500,000 a year for maintenance of county parks. The county claimed the city could make $2.5 million a year on the deal.
Huh? The county, already cutting staff and services, is willing to give up $2.5 million for $500,000? What sense does that make? Could the county be taking the city for a ride? Does the deal mean the county gets $500,000 today and gives up $2.5 million when the arena opens? Is the county so desperate it would sacrifice $2 million in a couple of years to get $500,000? Heck, why not just get a Payday loan?
Example: The above scheme is being floated along with the key plan to privatize the city’s downtown parking facilities. Privatized parking deals, such as the one in Chicago, usually include a clause stipulating that the city can’t compete against the private operator. How would Sacramento get around such a clause? If it refuses to go along with the clause, how much would the desired $200 million upfront payment be lowered? By $2.5 million a year for 50 years? That would kill the city’s plan.
Example: The city stands to lose $9 million in annual revenue to the general fund if it privatizes downtown parking. Officials insist no arena funding deal will be approved unless replacement revenue is assured. With the March 1 deadline for a funding plan looming, how exactly will this revenue be replaced? Vague references to ticket surcharges and arena signage fees won’t keep cops and firefighters on the city payroll.
Finally, a few questions for Bee columnist Marcos Breton, who described himself in Sunday’s column as a person who preferred being hopeful rather than cynical:
If opponents of the arena don’t know all the facts, whose fault is that? What facts has he, the journalist, provided? If they’re cautious about investing $200 million without knowing the full story, doesn’t that make them financially responsible citizens? Since he urges spending $200 million without bothering to get all the facts (or declining to reveal them), what does that make him?