Sacramento's Identity Crisis

FEB. 28, 2011

For several years Sacramento has waged a debate over whether our NBA team, The Sacramento Kings, will leave town for greener pastures and deeper pockets.

As a Sacramento native, I remember very well the fanfare surrounding the Kings’ arrival in town in 1985. You’d have thought that the real royals, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, had moved in. A local developer was able to bring the team to Sacramento without using public funds, but that tune has changed dramatically.

In the years since the Kings have been Sacramento’s team, fans have been fickle with support. When the Kings are winning, the arena is packed. When the team loses, as is historically the case, the arena has lots of empty seats.

Which makes many fiscally responsible Sacramento residents angry that the city council continues to push for building a massive arena. If you build it, they will come only happens in movies. Even on the verge of losing the Kings to Anaheim, talks about a local arena continue with local developers and money people.

Sacramento’s decades of elected leaders have a crisis of identity. Neither the Sacramento Kings, nor any other professional sports team can fill the empty void where confidence should be, or repair the insecure-city syndrome.

The city cannot manage to develop its two beautiful rivers or resolve the perpetually blighted K Street Mall downtown — despite the millions of redevelopment dollars dumped into the ugly and crime laden street. Such a cityshould not have a seat at the NBA’s table because the city has so badly mismanaged its 25 years with the Kings.

Taxpayers told the city emphatically “no” to a taxpayer-funded arena in 2006 when Measures Q and R went down in defeat. And instead of listening, city councils since have tried to end-run voters, attempting to keep talk of a publicly funded arena alive — despite the denials.

The Sacramento Grand Jury criticized both city’s and county’s backdoor dealings with the Kings, accusing the city and county of “deceiving” the citizens. The Grand Jury reported in “The Kings and City and County of Sacramento: Betrayal in the Kingdom?“:

In 1996 the second group owning the Kings was considering selling or moving the team. The owners approached the city with a $235 million public/private partnership proposal to develop a sports complex and entertainment center.

The proposal was termed ‘Partnership for Playing.’ The city’s gross commitment would have been $150 million. This included a $90 million contribution toward Arco Arena and a $10 million commitment for infrastructure at the arena and stadium sites as described under the North Natomas Financing Plan. On January 21, 1997, the Kings group withdrew their proposal.

And on January 28, 1997, the Kings and the city reached an agreement for financial assistance which included a $70 million loan, and fee credits and deferrals for future infrastructure. The source of payment for the loan was slated to be arena revenues and ticket surcharge revenues. The loan is still outstanding, although payments are being regularly made.

Planning failures

Sacramento’s elected councils have failed miserably in long range planning and priorities. Bad roads, failing city schools, threats of deadly flooding, foreclosures and suburban blight, high taxes, businesses closing or leaving and high unemployment are all the reality in Sacramento, and should be the regular agenda of the city council.

Sacramento needs to get its own house in order before aspiring to big city status. Downtown needs a sincere clean up and renovation efforts, not the shuck-and-jive redevelopment scams that have been in place for decades, making local developers wealthy, and leaving taxpayers footing the bill. Our downtown has never looked worse, with the city the biggest slumlord in the area.

The owners of the Dive bar, Mermaid bar, and Cosmo Cafe on K Street are recipients of $30 million in subsidies. Currently the city is planning a new entertainment venue and more low-income apartments and restaurants in the downtown area. Is that the best use of tax dollars during one of the worst economic slumps in history?

The small thinkers on the city council impose crash taxes and meddlesome, subjective home design requirements on area residents, acting more like a town council of busybodies. Recently the council killed the house design of a local couple, even though the couple had adhered to zoning ordinances and design requirements, and been given the go-ahead by two local boards made up of design professionals. Before voting to kill the project, the council spent hours during a council meeting discussing the design, demonstrating a tremendous waste of time, money and abuse of political power.

Let the entrepreneurs develop bars and restaurants and housing and entertainment venues, because they only build if there is a demand. Contrary to the popular liberal notion that government creates jobs, it’s actually private enterprise that creates jobs and profits, and the subsequent tax money required to sustain the government beast.

Unless and until Sacramento residents start electing business leaders, Sacramento will be forever referred to as the cow town between San Francisco and Tahoe, with only fleeting moments of fame.

– Katy Grimes

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  1. ExPFC Wintergreen
    ExPFC Wintergreen 28 February, 2011, 13:40

    The city council members are inextricably linked to, and are populated by, politically active left wing public sector employee populace that makes up the lion’s share of voters in the city. What we have ended up with is a confederacy of small-minded thinking, focusing on aesthetic “quality of life” issues and liberal causes (e.g., mass transit), not employment and private sector business. Other than the occasional land developer or restaurateur with contribution money, politicians in Sac regard most private sector businesses with contempt. The only reason the Kings have managed to have relatively good attendance over the years is that the majority of their fans live outside Sacramento city limits.

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