While the King County council gets ready for its big arena hearing, the Seattle city council has stolen its thunder by issuing a letter to Chris Hansen (PDF here) telling him that “the majority of Councilmembers to conclude that the agreements do not represent an appropriate balance of public and private benefits,” but that they’re willing to keep talking, if he agrees to certain concessions. Namely:
- Kicking back 100% of arena taxes “does not represent an appropriate balance between private and public benefit,” and Hansen will need to agree to a “more equitable arrangement.”
- The city needs to be guaranteed it’ll be first in line to be repaid if Hansen’s arena company goes bankrupt, and get more access to Hansen’s business plan and books.
- There needs to be a concrete proposal about what to do with KeyArena once the new building is in operation.
This is a huge bombshell, obviously, but not an unreasonable one: There’s no particular reason Hansen shouldn’t agree to pay at least some taxes on his building — even if you were to agree that they’re entirely “new” taxes, most businesses don’t get to keep all the tax revenue they create — and guarantees that neither the loans nor KeyArena will turn into albatrosses aren’t crazy asks. The question now: Does Hansen play hardball and say “You’ll take my arena plan or get none at all!” or does he go back to the negotiating table and try to find a compromise?