Kings arena referendum debate descends into utter madness

The Sacramento Bee lede reads, “Sacramento’s arena war hit new levels of intensity this week,” but my brain read it as “insanity.” Which is probably apropos, given that now that Chris Hansen has been revealed to be the Kings arena referendum campaigners’ mystery donor, arena proponents began hanging flyers on doors yesterday proclaiming, “Don’t let Seattle money steal away our chance at 4,000 jobs for Sacramento!” and calling on people who’d already signed petitions to withdraw their signatures. The referendum backers, meanwhile, hired a new PR guy who declared that the Hansen news is “a temporary setback” that has “brought STOP to the forefront in the awareness of Sacramento citizens.”

All this craziness has totally overwhelmed any serious debate — okay, possibility of serious debate, since it’s been pretty much people trying to shout over each other for months — over the actual Kings arena deal, which let’s remember requires $334 million in subsidies that would come from maybe parking revenues, or maybe hotel tax money, or maybe we’ll get back to you on this one. Maybe if the referendum collects enough signatures to get on the ballot, by the time there’s a vote next June things will have cooled down enough to have a calm, sensible discussion of the pros and cons of devoting that much public money to a pro basketball team whose best threat of moving just publicly shot himself in the foot … oh, who am I kidding?

7 comments on “Kings arena referendum debate descends into utter madness

  1. “…temporary setback…”.

    Sure, in the same way the French revolution was a temporary setback for (some) European monarchs, I guess…

  2. *Long-time reader and fan of the site, first-time poster*

    I am surprised that you two appear to believe that the NBA would be swayed it its designs by a blunder like Hansen’s. If the league wants to keep Seattle out, it would find reasons to even if Hansen were a saint; if the league eventually expects more money with a franchise in Seattle, it would find reasons to place a team there even if Hansen were among the worst people alive.

    Discretion in response to minor scandal is not something that I tend to associate with events with outcomes that are known to those who pull the levers.

  3. The anti-arena people are likely thanking god the vote would be in 10 months, because if it happened now the arena would be easily approved, for it does seem like the guy fighting the hardest to stop it isn’t a good citizen trying to make sure the city gets a fair deal and not get screwed, it’s just a rich guy angry he didn’t get what he wanted.

  4. Neil, sorry to be picky about accuracy, but you call the measure STOP is proposing a referendum. This is incorrect.

    The STOP measure is an initiative: a voter-initiated law. The measure, if it qualifies for the ballot and is approved by voters, would require the city to seek and receive majority voter approval to use or borrow against general fund money to develop or build an arena for a professional sports team. Because it is not likely to reach the ballot before June 2014, it may not apply to the current arena decision, as the Council may well have launched the arena by then.

    By contrast, a referendum is a public vote on whether to approve a particular law or decision. In California, some laws are subject to automatic referendum (e.g. state general obligation bonds or increases in local taxes.) Legislative bodies may voluntarily submit laws to voters for approval. Or voters themselves may collect petition signatures to force a referendum.

    So far, there’s been no possibility of a referendum. As you point out, the City Council has yet to put together and pass a funding plan. When it does, it will set off the opportunity to file a referendum, which offers the only reliable way to block the Kings ransom.

  5. Sorry, I’ll try to be more accurate in the future. We don’t really have either initiatives or referenda here back east, so it’s easy to forget the difference between two mythical creatures.

  6. Neil, I understand. At least you’re willing to recognize the distinction. One of my old friends, a stringer for the New York Times out of San Francisco, used to rage at the Times copy desk for replacing “initiative” in her articles with “referendum.” When she would tell the editor that he was introducing a factual mistake, the editor would reply that the change was required by NYT style because the paper’s readers could not understand the distinction. Which may have been the only time in history that a New Yorker ever conceded that the residents of the states that have the initiative and referendum were more sophisticated than New Yorkers.