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Katy Grimes

Media army of fools in Sacto arena deal

Nearly every member of the media in Sacramento is openly advocating for a new basketball arena to be built in downtown. And they are supportive of a massive public subsidy to offset the cost for the owners of the Sacramento Kings. Besides gross incompetence, this is also willful negligence.

A group of citizens and taxpayers known as STOP (Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork), and Voters for a Fair Arena Deal, are fighting the public subsidy of the proposed new arena. According to the lawsuit filed by STOP, the city subsidy is actually $338 million — not the $258 million the city claims.

STOP has tried to get the details of the arena deal and purchase of the Sacramento Kings to be made public.

Beyond the legal challenge to the city’s deal, there is also a ballot initiative petition to require a public vote on any public subsidy for a professional sports franchise.

However, it appears Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the City Council will attempt to moot the result of that vote by pushing up their approvals of the arena prior to the June vote that would thereafter require voter approval.  Approval of the deal and related bond sales were previously scheduled for summer or fall 2014.

Openly advocating for arena

Members of the media are expected to produce at least informed opinions. They are not entitled to their opinions; they are only entitled to what they can argue for. Advocating and opinion are very different.

Most journalists say that their primary role is accurate, clear reporting.

But what newspaper readers and television news watchers in Sacramento are getting is a dose of willful, biased ignorance.

And that is all they are getting in the news pages of the Bee, and on all five local television news channels, about the proposed new Kings basketball stadium.

Leading the media army of fools is Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton.  Breton calls the taxpayer lawsuit alleging fraud in the deal to build a downtown arena in Sacramento, “a smear campaign masquerading as a lawsuit.”

Breton said “these allegations were debunked in the very court documents the lawyers released to the media on Thursday.”

Nothing be further from the truth.

The current Kings ownership group paid more than $500 million to keep the team in Sacramento. The new owners propose to invest another $500 million in development around the arena.

 Chief ignoramus

Chief ignoramus Breton assails “groups of locals who want a public vote on a proposed downtown arena when a public vote isn’t necessary.”

He calls the taxpayers pushing for a public vote on the subsidy,  “this supposedly democratic anti-arena movement.”

Given that democratic government is Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives, STOP and Voters for a Fair Arena are correct to want the public subsidy to be voted on.

Voters For a Fair Arena Deal merely want “voter approval of all public spending in connection with arena.” They also are calling for Free and open competition for all construction contracts.

STOP and Voters for a Fair Arena Deal have said throughout the battle with the city, they are not opposed to an arena, and in fact are supportive of refurbishing the existing arena, or building a new one; they want the public subsidy of the arena project to be decided on by the voters of the city of Sacramento.

The lawsuit

What is shameful is Jan. 24, the Sacramento city clerk announced that she rejected the petitions, along with 34,000 signatures, on the grounds some of the petition versions did not comply with election code.

STOP and Voters for a Fair Arena Deal said they filed the lawsuit against Sacramento City Council, the Sacramento city clerk,  and the city of Sacramento city over a decision to disqualify thousands of petitions that would have put the issue to a public vote on the June 3 ballot — a move many describe as government tyranny.

In a recent deposition in that lawsuit, City Councilman Kevin McCarty testified that multiple representatives of the Kings Ownership group demanded that the city compensate the Kings investors by $125 million because they were “overpaying” for the franchise.

Officials with the city, unable to contribute any more cash than the $258 million offered to the former owners of the Sacramento Kings, the Maloof family, in 2012, instead agreed to provide a litany of “sweeteners” in the form of city assets including properties located throughout the city, thousands of off-street parking spaces, and digital billboard leases.

In the lawsuit’s wording from its May filing:

“Rather than risk a groundswell of public opposition that would be generated by accurately disclosing the combined subsidies for the arena and purchase of the Kings franchise, Mayor Johnson, Mr. Shirey and Mr. Dangberg determined that it was more politically expedient to simply misrepresent to the taxpayers the true value of the city’s subsidies.”

“In order to avoid disclosing that the true subsidy to the investors was $125 million more than previously offered to the Maloofs, these city officials failed to assign true values for these sweeteners in the Term Sheet. Councilmember McCarty protested to city officials last year and requested that these issues, among others, be addressed in a 27-question letter to City Manager John Shirey prior to the Council vote on the term sheet,” the attorneys for Voters for a Fair Arena said. “Councilmember McCarty never received a reply to his questions. When pressed on the issue, city officials justified their stonewalling by stating, ‘[Y]ou’re not going to vote for it anyway.’”

“This testimony squarely supports our serious allegations that city officials were caving into the will of the NBA and neglecting to consider the best interests of Sacramento’s citizens when they promised millions of dollars of corporate welfare to the Kings Ownership group in 2013,” said attorney Patrick Soluri. “These officials neglected to do basic due diligence, to negotiate in good faith to get the best deal for the taxpayers who will be on the hook for this deal, and worst of all, took steps to deceive the public about the true nature and scope of the city’s public subsidy. It’s shameful.”

Shameful, indeed. “Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.” – Euripides

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