‘Arena derangement syndrome’ afflicts Sacramento

‘Arena derangement syndrome’ afflicts Sacramento

arena1Call it “arena derangement syndrome,” or ADS. It afflicts cities trying to use taxpayer money for new sports arenas or stadiums.

It’s now threatening the validation of 35,000 ballot initiative petition signatures that would halt the proposed subsidy of a new arena for Sacramento’s Kings basketball team.

The ADS gripping Sacramento has infiltrated most of city government, and made it all the way to the city’s top ranking officials. ADS started in the office of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, himself a former NBA star, then spread like a communicable disease through the Sacramento City Council, senior city management and city hospitality and convention agents. ADS thrives in a host of labor unions and crony capitalist business owners that would benefit from constructing the arena — and, of course, in the super fans.

ADS has divided friends and neighbors, even caused riffs in families.

In December, after the Sacramento City Clerk’s Office is done counting the petition signatures, Sacramento county elections officials said a validation process would take weeks.

The anti-public subsidy group Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork only needed 22,000 valid signatures from registered city voters to qualify the anti-subsidy measure for the June ballot.

Shortly after STOP turned in the signatures, Johnson decided to turn up the heat on those who oppose the public subsidy, launching a new group called “The4000” (no space between the letters).

“We are going to do everything that we can, and everything in our power to protect the 4,000 jobs we are going to create in this community,” Johnson said at the Dec. 12 launch.

The4000 what?

The4000, co-chaired by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, now is claiming that several of the petitions the anti-subsidy group used are invalid.

The Sacramento City Clerk’s Office and the Sacramento County Registrar said different versions of the petition were submitted, and could be invalid.

The4000 filed a complaint with County Registrar of Voters over the petitions, demonstrating they will do absolutely anything to see that this issue doesn’t get on the ballot.

Fox guarding henhouse

In what could be the fox guarding the hen house, Sacramento County Registrar of Voters Jill LaVine said she is giving the issue to the city and its attorney for their determinations. “I’m tossing it back to the city and their attorney for their determinations,” she said. “Whatever the city and their attorney decide it is up to them,” she said in a recent Sacramento Bee story.

And just in case the County Registrar, the city of Sacramento, and city attorney aren’t effective, Johnson has one more ace-in-the-hole.

Why no vote on “economic game-changer?

The entire planned Downtown Plaza arena project, which Johnson says is “a once-in-a-lifetime economic game-changer that has an opportunity to transform downtown forever,” will be punted to the Sacramento Planning Commission.

The owners of the Sacramento Kings also want to build a 250-room hotel, 550 apartments, new offices, and more retail shops on the blighted K Street Downtown Plaza — property now mostly owned by the city of Sacramento, obtained through eminent domain from previous redevelopment efforts that failed.

The Planning Commission is expected to make its recommendations on the arena project in February.

And … drumroll please … the Planning Commission Chairwoman is none other than Kiyomi Burchill, a former legislative staff member to Steinberg. Kiyomi was appointed to the planning commission by Mayor Johnson.

Burchill, now 29, was appointed assistant secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011. Prior to that, Burchill was a policy consultant, legislative aide, and California Senate Fellow for Steinberg, going all the way back to 2006.

This is a cartel

It appears Mayor Johnson has this cartel locked up. A cartel is an explicit agreement among often competing business interests, and formal organization of stakeholders who agree to fix prices, marketing, and production, among other business processes. Every which way STOP turns, city officials and local politicians are standing in the way of the taxpayer having a vote in how they want their tax money used.

With Steinberg and Gaines in Mayor Johnson’s cartel, along with the city and county officials, the taxpayers and voters don’t appear to have a chance to avoid being part of Arena Derangement Syndrome.

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