Saying no to arena is saying yes to Sacramento’s future

Back in the day, I was given the task of trying to dissuade a friend from jumping off a rocky precipice in the Berkeley hills. David, as I shall call him, was standing at the edge of a 100-foot drop-off. He was slowly raising and lowering his arms as though he had wings.

“I can fly,” he announced as I slowly approached. “I know I can fly.”

David was gazing at the bay and San Francisco spread out beneath a blue sky dotted with lazy white clouds. I was looking at the rocks and shrubs jutting out  below.

“All I have to do is jump and I’ll be as free as a bird,” said David, who had ingested a delusion-enhancing drug. I could hear the exhilaration in David’s voice as he bent his knees and raised his arms. He spoke with such conviction that for a split second I fed off his energy and half-believed in his vision.

That gave me an inspiration. Why be negative and issue dire warnings? I could buy into his fantasy instead of bumming him out. No need to get him agitated and thinking he had to prove me wrong. “Hey, David, you can fly,” I said. “No doubt about it. But why go through all that exertion? Just go back on the grass and watch the clouds.”

David pondered the thought and then said, “Groovy, man, groovy.”

This memory surfaced yesterday as I pondered yet another accusation by a Kings’ fan that I’m a negative guy, just a downright naysayer. Why couldn’t I be positive about building a new arena for the team at public expense?

Well,  try as I might to buy into fantasy, it’s hard to see the positive side of pushing cash-strapped Sacramento off a financial cliff. Giving away city parking revenue for 50 years when the city is almost $2 billion in debt  is irresponsible. Believing a new arena will infuse economic life into moribund downtown Sacramento has no rational basis. Tearing up Downtown Plaza because a billionaire recommends it is nutty.  Substituting backroom deals for transparent city development is harmful. Subsidizing the wealthy at the expense of the working class is unfair.

Saying no to the delusional hype touted in behalf of the arena is actually saying yes to economic fairness, sound financial planning, improved schools, parks, libraries and city services.

Now, if we could just get Mayor Kevin Johnson and his developer buddies to think positive, act wisely and pull the city away from the financial cliff. That would be an all-star move.

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5 Responses to Saying no to arena is saying yes to Sacramento’s future

  1. bbbbmer says:

    KJ’s god is not the NBA — it’s GOLDMAN SACHS, which is moving this arena scam agenda, and which has left a trail of fiscal woe in its wake to dozens of other cities….

    • Jason says:

      If this issue lives long enough to see the particulars of a lease-out deal for the City’s parking assets, it’ll be interesting to see the terms of the deal- how many years will parking be leased out and how much the firm leasing the parking stands to make from decades of pocketing the parking revenue. I don’t know if Goldman Sachs has a parking operation such as this but I believe that Morgan Stanley expressed interest in this project. The profit here is basically “interest” in the form of foregone city revenues- city revenues for day to day operations- law enforcement, road and sidewalk maintenance etc. There’s nothing wrong with borrowing money. There’s only something wrong with borrowing money if you spend or invest it on a project that doesn’t make enough to cover or exceed your costs to borrow plus principal. I highly doubt the arena and the resulting economic activity meet that test.

  2. Jason says:

    Thanks, Paul. I love living in Sacramento but based on what I see with the arena business now and the real estate market about a decade ago, understanding economic reality is not one of our region’s strengths.

  3. Jason says:

    The local media has fanned these flames as well- as they, like the developers have a financial stake in building a new arena and keeping the Kings. The Kings means ad revenue for media outlets and jobs for those in the media business. The media has created a narrative in which the Mayor serves as a charismatic leader of a unified city wanting to keep the Kings while he rounds up his posse of billionaires to save Sacramento from the Maloofs and Microsoft. The gullible that follow this story are always ready to tag arena skeptics as haters and as part of a small, older freakish population of people that want to keep Sacramento in pre-1985 mode. I’m not hopeful that the media, developers, the City Council, and the Mayor will show any real leadership on this issue. The one thing that could save us is economic reality. We haven’t heard about the Railyards because of the costs to clean up the site and to put the necessary infrastructure and that an arena could jeopardize federal transit funding. We’ll hear more about Downtown Plaza but that property has thousands of parking spaces that would be leased to a private parking firm- which would be replaced by a basketball court. Then, there’s the NBA’s economic reality- the franchise will go to the highest bidder- city and ownership. I predict that the Kings will go to Seattle and there will be a new effort, #HereWeBuySomeOtherCity’sTeam.

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