SACRAMENTO, CA - A possible snag has emerged in the effort to keep the Sacramento Kings in the Capitol City.
A legal group is threatening the City of Sacramento, saying voters should get a say in whether or not the city uses public subsidies to help construct a new arena.
In an 11-page letter sent to Sacramento Assistant City Manager John Dangberg, attorneys Patrick Soluri and Jeff Anderson said they represent a coalition of community groups opposed to public subsidies.
Those public subsidies would come from the city leasing parking spaces and getting an upfront payment around $250 million; that was the plan last year with the Maloofs.
This year's plan would be similar, and that's what the lawyers are opposing.
The letter claims there are several reasons for opposing the arena, including the group not being able to find any economic benefits to building it. They cite several articles and studies by economists saying as much.
One quote comes from University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson, who wrote, "If you want to inject money into the local economy, it would be better to drop it from a helicopter than invest it in a new ballpark."
Soluri and Anderson themselves wrote:
This is not simply the idle opinions of these economists... No matter what cities or geographic areas are examined, no matter what estimators are used, no matter what model specifications are used, and no matter what variables are used, articles published in peer reviewed economics journals contain almost no evidence that professional sports franchises and facilities have a measurable economic impact on the economy.
They also wrote that history proves the public is opposed to a significant public subsidy, referring to the signature drive last year and Measure Q & R failing by 80 percent in 2006. But most importantly, they said the city should put this to a referendum, which would force a public vote.
The referendum is where things could get very ugly for supporters of the arena.
A referendum can only be demanded on legislative action. Sacramento's city attorney said that when the city council votes on the term sheet on March 26, that is not a legislative action.
However, if the council approves the use of the funds, that would be a legislative action and could be subject to referendum.
To force that pubic vote, a petition with 22,000 signatures would be needed, which is about 10 percent of registered voters.
Late Thursday, Mayor Kevin Johnson's press secretary Ben Sosenko sent a statement:
We know that there is a breadth and depth of support for a public-private partnership to build a downtown based arena that will create thousands of jobs and transform the downtown - all while putting the taxpayers first and protecting the general fund.
As to whether or not the NBA Board of Governors will take any of this into account isn't known. But Seattle has its share of legal hurdles too, including lawsuits against the site of their proposed arena.
By Nick Monacelli, firstname.lastname@example.org