No fire sale to benefit Sacramento Kings

On this beautiful Sunday morning, I went for a ride along the American River bike trail. I like to do a 10-mile circuit from my Land Park home, pedaling up 21st Street past the  Sacramento Bee, where I worked for 32 years, to C Street, then onto a mile-long spur of the bike trail that begins at the Blue Diamond Growers plant. I am amazed that this almond processing plant in my city sends almonds all over the world.

The homeless were in transit along the spur section. I assume they were returning from breakfast at a couple of nearby shelters. There were a few camps off in the woods, but nothing like the tent city that existed here two years ago. One wishes the city could alleviate unemployment as quickly as it drove off the homeless and dimmed the unwanted national spotlight.

At the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers, I stopped to watch the salmon fishermen in their small boats. The annual migration of the salmon from the ocean back to their native rivers to spawn is a miracle of nature, although I have been saddened by the huge decline in the salmon population in recent decades. I was a serious steelhead fisherman in my younger days and spent countless hours watching the spawning ritual on the Sacramento River and its tributaries near Red Bluff. The salmon run was so huge as to seem indestructible. The steelhead were far fewer in number, and now they have almost disappeared. Round up the usual culprits: the water grabbers, the dam builders, the polluters, the clear-cutters.

As I headed toward Old Sacramento, I glanced over at the fenced off, weed-strewn railyard that had put Sacramento on the national transportation map a hundred years ago. Now it’s the stuff of dreams for big-time developers and ambitious politicians eager to build a new arena for the Kings at public expense. You can almost see dollar signs dotting the landscape and a big arrow pointing toward City Hall, where all kinds of schemes are being hatched to placate the greedy NBA and meet its March deadline to have an arena-funding plan in place.

Don’t miss the latest gambit outlined in today’s Sacramento Bee. Mayor Kevin Johnson’s  arena task force is proposing the sale of up to a dozen city-owned properties to help finance the building of a railyard arena, which would cost an estimated $387 million. The sales could generate between $30 million to $60 million for the arena, the Bee article said.

My first question is this: Why should the cash-strapped city sell any of its assets to subsidize a sports arena? Let the billion-dollar NBA and its million-dollar players  pay for their own arena. The city needs money for cops, schools, the poor, social programs, infrastructure and parks. If an arena were the money-maker this task force claims, capitalist entrepreneurs would be rushing to bid for the project.

My second question is: Why should the city rush to sell land in the worst real-estate market since the Depression? Why should the NBA dictate when the city sells assets owned by the residents of Sacramento?

One voice of sanity in this craziness is Sacramento City Councilman Kevin McCarty, who said he was skeptical  about “a fire sale of a bunch of city assets for an entertainment complex.”

“Is this the best time to sell?” he asked. (The real estate market) is at a historical low. Are we maximizing our assets? If we did sell, is this the place we want to park those (proceeds)? We have a reserve under 10 percent of our city budget. We have other (financial) issues.”

Thank you, Councilman McCarty. You seem to have the public’s interest at heart.

But I have to wonder whose interests the mayor’s task force has in mind when it pushes a plan like this.

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