Arena dominates Sacramento city council District 4 debate

Candidates for the District 4 city council seat met last weekend to talk arena, Broadway bridge, arena, historic neighborhoods, arena, strong mayor and arena. But mostly arena.

The event was put on by the Sacramento Old City Association. District 4 includes Land Park, Southside Park, downtown and Midtown.

Candidate Terry Schanz was among the most skeptical about the proposed arena-financing deal, saying it sounds like “bad math.”

“This should be a business deal. Not a charity. If we’re putting up the most money, we need to be making money on the deal,” said Schanz, a Land Park resident who works as policy director for Assemblyman Isadore Hall.

Candidate Joe Yee, an architect who serves on the city’s planning commission, said that the proposed arena timeline that’s been presented by the mayor—breaking ground in April of next year, and completed the facility before the opening of the 2015 NBA season—may be unrealistic. “That’s a quick schedule. Watch out.”

He said, “From an urban-planning standpoint, there are lots of reasons to support the arena,” but cautioned, “If we can’t get the best deal for the city, we need to look somewhere else.”

Other candidates were more positive about the plan. Candidate Phyllis Newton, an attorney who works with architects, and former executive director of the American Institute of Architects-Central Valley, said she’s hopeful that the arena, “will be the first vehicle that’s come along in a long time to help us grow our way out of the recession.”

The Sacramento Old City Association was involved in efforts to preserve the historic train depot near the proposed arena site, and members were concerned about how the arena plan will impact the long-planned intermodal transit facility there. Newton said, “We need to make sure the intermodal doesn’t play second fiddle to the arena.”

Candidate Steve Hansen acknowledged that an arena deal is far from done but urged “patience” while the details are hammered out. “I’ve got concerns about the financing too, but we have to suspend our disbelief to see how this turns out.”

Hansen is an attorney who works for Genentech, a downtown resident and a neighborhood advocate, and a board member of the Sacramento Downtown Partnership. He served on the redistricting advisory board that was instrumental in uniting the central city neighborhoods of downtown and Midtown into District 4.

Midtown resident Kai Ellsworth said Saturday that while he wants an arena, “I don’t like the way we’re getting it.”

Ellsworth’s platform includes a Sacramento minimum wage and rolling back restrictions on food trucks. He also says on his website that, “I am in favor of building the arena in Midtown.”

Not sure what spot Ellsworth’s got in mind. But we’re going to go out on a limb and say the arena is going to be an issue in this campaign, and probably the other races, too. (Cosmo Garvin)