Arena doesn’t make cents

After months of delay in issuing the consultant’s arena report because of behind-the-scenes wrangling by Sacramento city staff, political arm-twisting and the invention of last-minute legislation, Mayor Heather Fargo’s dream of building an arena for the billionaire Maloofs is headed down a rough road, probably one of defeat.

Of course, the idea of having taxpayers subsidize the majority of the proposed arena in the Union Pacific Railyards was obviously flawed and politically bankrupt, but the way the plan was kept from the public and eventually presented was flawed almost beyond belief. And we paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for that report.

As we stated in our cover story in August (“They play, you pay,” SN&R Cover, August 28) the consultant’s report was due in February. It was done, but it sat on the shelf because the key elite players (the mayor, the Maloofs and Union Pacific) were arguing over how little each entity wanted to pay.

The financing plan assumed Union Pacific would fund $50 million in land and utility improvements. But we already had reported that Union Pacific was balking at that. Why would Union Pacific give up land for the arena when the company had already started trying to sell it to a developer?

The mute Maloofs didn’t want to appear to be greedy multimillionaires, so they pushed the mayor out front and hid from view, but the consultant’s report calls on them to put up only 20 percent to none of the cost, and there’s no answer as to who would pay off their $80 million Arco debt. Did the mayor think the Kings-loving taxpayers would buy into that?

The tax burden was thrown on the shoulders of the bar owners and restaurateurs, who, of course, don’t want the extra taxes (oops, surcharges). So, what did the power brokers think would happen? Fargo got Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg to throw together last-minute legislation that would allow small-business owners to tax themselves for an arena for the Maloofs. That’s fair! The consultants and the mayor could have gotten their answer from business owners and citizens about that maneuver two years ago, before the city paid for the report.

We say the Maloofs should come forward and agree to pay for 50 percent of the arena and start paying down that loan. Then we’ll begin to talk about taxing citizens and small-business owners.

If the mayor truly had sought out the public’s advice before trying to move this costly mountain, she could have saved herself a lot of political embarrassment and all of us some tax dollars. Here’s the message she, the Maloofs and their political consultant Richie Ross need to learn: No citizen or small-business owner wants to carry the $500 million cost for some hotel-gambling-NBA moguls. So, when the elite meet behind closed doors, they should keep that in mind.