After the city of Sacramento gives away its parking revenue for the next 50 years, after it gives AEG nearly all the money generated by a downtown arena, after it sells a few parcels of city-owned land and pays the interest on bonds issued to make up for its share of arena funding, there’s a big unanswered question:
How will Sacramento pay for all the things it is struggling to fund right now?
That question was posed by Neil deMause, co-author of “Field of Schemes,” on his website devoted to arena boondoggles.
City officials can’t even tell us how they plan to replace the current $9 million a year that flows from parking revenue into the general fund – the fund that pays for basic services like police and fire protection.
I just got a notice from the city Department of Utilities telling me that my rates would rise nearly 20 percent in the next three years to fund an accelerated pipe-replacement program.
City services and jobs have been cut to the bone through the painful economic crisis of the past few years, the housing market is stagnant, local unemployment is 11.4 percent, and recovery of the nation’s economy is years away.
Despite all that, Sacramento’s leaders extol the virtues of corporate welfare and trot out pie-in-the-sky economic forecasts that have failed to materialize in cities across the country that have paid to play with professional sports teams.
Think Big Sacramento has the nerve to use Kansas City as a model for Sacramento to follow, pointing to a profit-sharing deal KC has with AEG, the operator of the new Sprint Center. Look beyond this one sliver of economic gain and you’ll find a sports town buried in debt for the next 40 years.
The Sacramento Bee editorialized Sunday that the “city should take the next step on arena” without giving one reason why taxpayers should put up a subsidy of perhaps $250 million without a public vote, or one reason why the city should move ahead without any firm financial commitments from the private sector. Backers are hoping AEG will fork over $53 million and the Maloofs $85 million. Are there any other private parties that think the arena is a profit-making venture?
In this supposed public-private partnership, the city of Sacramento is playing the role of the desperate lover, willing to do anything to keep the beloved Kings in town. The Maloof family, the NBA and AEG are playing it cool and keeping their financial intentions to themselves. They have the city scurrying around to meet an NBA-imposed deadline of March 1 to come up with a financial plan. When the totals fall short, guess who will be expected to make up the difference?
It should be noted that the estimated cost of the arena has jumped to $406 million from the oft-stated $387 million, according to a Dec. 9 Bee story. The $19 million increase would pay for VIP parking lot near the arena.
The City Council is expected to vote Tuesday evening to lay the groundwork to get bidders for the parking concession. Not surprisingly, potential bidders, taking their cue from the NBA, have told the city to lay its cards on the table.
“Make sure you have the political will in town to see it through,” warned Rick Wilson of Ampco Systems Parking.
I would like to think the council has the political will to step back from the brink of folly, but that seems like wishful thinking.