The trouble with setting a bad example is that you inspire others to follow your lead. Imitation, after all, is the sincerest form of flattery. No need to get all hypocritical when this happens.
The Kings arena boondoggle is an example of the rich, powerful and the politically connected taking what they want from the public for their own self-interest. Millionaires too smart to pay for their own project have colluded with ambitious politicians to grab $300 million or so from Sacramento residents. Knowing the public’s objection to subsidizing a sports arena, this coalition of the privileged sidestepped a public vote on the issue.
The City Council suspended competitive bidding rules to speed up arena construction and give local businesses a shot at participating. Well-connected labor unions flexed their muscles and told the Kings the $448 million project would go a lot more smoothly if union labor was used primarily. Local media led by the Sacramento Bee, eager to get a share of the spoils, gave up their watchdog role and cheered on the project.
Outsiders watching this feeding frenzy must have asked themselves: Hey, how can we get in on the action? A group of affordable housing advocates, environmentalists and homeless organizations came up with a creative idea. The Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity suggested that the Kings contribute $40 million toward affordable housing projects, allow arena event tickets to double as public transportation passes and create a fund to help small businesses relocate from near the arena site if they can prove the project hurts their bottom line.
The coalition includes the Sacramento Housing Alliance, the Environmental Council of Sacramento, Loaves & Fishes and the Democratic Socialists of America, Sacramento chapter.
When the Kings took a pass on this idea, the group last Thursday went ahead with its threat to file a lawsuit filed under the California Environmental Quality Act challenging the environmental impact report approved last month by the Sacramento City Council for a new downtown Kings arena.
I was amused to see Bee columnist Marcos Breton, chief waterboy for the arena project, labeling the Sacramento Coalition’s pressure tactic as “extortion.” That sure wasn’t a word in his vocabulary to describe the Kings’ incessant threats to leave town unless the city forks over millions of dollars to help build them an arena. Indeed, the whole NBA business model is based on extorting money from cities eager either to hold a team they have or attract a one.
Breton is shocked – shocked – that the Sacramento Coalition is led by “people with outstretched hands in search of cash – lots of it.” Where on earth could they have gotten such an idea? Breton must have missed all those arena millionaires and fat-cat developers extending their greedy hands.
Oh well, so much for watchdog journalism.