It’s your money

Bites clears up misconceptions on the Kings arena, cookie-cutter sprawl and power-grabbing candidates

Convinced that Sacramento will likely make good on its promise of a big public subsidy, the NBA board of governors has agreed to let Sacramento keep the Kings.

This is probably a good time to clear up any misconception out there that Bites is somehow opposed a new Kings arena in Sacramento.

Not at all. In fact, Bites is basically agnostic about the idea of building a downtown arena with public money. It’s your $250 million (plus), Sacramento. Spend it as you see fit.

After all, it would be an endlessly fascinating project for people interested in urban design and politics. It won’t create new jobs, except for saving the jobs of a few sportswriters. But really, is it likely to screw up downtown any more than 50 years of redevelopment and $1 billion of public money have already done?

Speaking of the magic that $1 billion can do, the “whales” have dangled the promise they will invest half that much in rehabbing the area around the new arena site—a sort of L.A. Live lite. It’s OK, Sacramento, that your big ideas are always reheated versions of whatever was cool somewhere else 10 years ago. But you might want to get that in writing.

The arena plan, however, is a fairly radical departure from the deal City Hall has had with citizens for the last 28 years that pro-basketball has been in town. The deal has always been no direct taxpayer subsidies, no tax money spent to build arenas.

This latest plan proposes something very different: It takes tax money away from the general fund and spends it on building an arena. Given this major shift away from the old policy of not directly subsidizing the profits of billionaires, it’s appropriate for Sacramento voters to weigh in.

If Sacramento city voters decide they agree with this change of direction, that they believe the promised benefits of the project will outweigh the costs, and they are willing to approve a referendum on the arena plan, then Bites says go for it. It’s your money.

By the way, the half-a-billion thing was not meant to imply that developers somehow won’t do what they say they are going to do. Developers never do what they say they are going to do, that’s a given. The problem is when they get local government to break its promises, too.

Take the big Delta Shores development project in south Sacramento. It’s one of the last big chunks of developable land in the city—an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and put smart-growth principles in action.

But Region Builders—a developer lobbying group and major campaign donor—has got some Sacramento City Council members ready to throw out restrictions on big-box stores in the city. Seems they want to ensure Delta Shores turns into the same cookie-cutter sprawl you can find anywhere else. Call it Natomas South or Elk Grove North. It’s likely got the votes to do it.

Region Builders has also been pushing for new rules that would prohibit the Sacramento Area Council of Governments—the region’s transportation-planning agency—from standing up for smart growth. SACOG rarely opines on local development projects, but director Mike McKeever was moved to testify against the Cordova Hills project approved by county supervisors earlier this year—an egregious violation of the smart-growth principles in Sacramento Region Blueprint adopted by area governments. Region Builders now wants a gag to keep SACOG staff from speaking out against sprawl.

Speaking of speaking out: Sac city school board member Diana Rodriguez has announced she’ll run as a Democrat for the California Assembly’s 9th District. The 9th’s current occupant, Democrat Richard Pan, is expected to make an up-or-out bid for Darrell Steinberg’s senate seat next year. And we may see a lot of churn down the ballot.

Rodriguez was tenacious in opposing superintendent Jonathan Raymond’s wrongsizing plan to eliminate several neighborhood schools. That may help win her some votes in the south Sacramento part of the district—which sprawls down to Elk Grove and Lodi. She’s joined in the contest by Tea Party Republican candidate Manuel Martin.

Bites lives in that district and tends to vote Democrat, believe it or not. But Martin would easily get Bites’ votes over sheriff deputy and Democrat Jim Cooper, also getting in to the race. Bites’ past tangles with Cooper, while he was Sacramento jail commander, were freaky and unconstitutional. No doubt about it, some random tea-party guy would be a better lawmaker.

Cooper’s campaign manager is Phil Giarrizzo, same guy who ran Allen Warren’s successful bid to capture the Sacramento City Council’s District 2 seat. Like Warren, Cooper’s got some baggage. Stuff that didn’t help him in his unsuccessful bid for sheriff against Scott Jones. But if Giarrizzo can do for Coop what he did for Warren, baggage is no barrier.