Leadership, of course

So, after pitches and proposals galore on the arena failed, flopped and moved around Sacramento like a jackrabbit on steroids, now some members of the city council are knuckling under to coercion from the Kings’ owners and throwing the whole jumbled and incomplete thing back in the laps of uninformed voters.

Sounds like inspired government leadership to us.

Let’s try to review. Even though the billionaire Maloofs owe the city $82 million for the serviceable arena they own, the brothers pushed impressionable Mayor Heather Fargo in 2000 toward a new arena. They didn’t want to pay off their debt, of course, or pay for the new arena. (Fargo probably was persuaded by her political consultant, Richie Ross, who also worked for the Maloofs.)

Then we helped pay $654,000 for a study of the rail-yards location, but that flopped, of course, when area business people were told they would have to pay the bulk of the cost of the arena instead of the gambling-liquor magnates the Maloofs.

To avoid public involvement, Fargo then got some business insiders with conflicts of interest to push an idea to plop a taxpayer-built arena down on K Street and paste it onto the end of an existing mall. But it was too expensive and not well-thought-out, of course, and we wasted more city staff time researching that.

A thinking leader would have first formed a task force to explore the possibility of finding private financing for a new arena, but that would have made the Maloofs mad. And, as we saw last week, you don’t want to do that, because they’ll storm out of meetings and consider taking their team elsewhere, even though they said they wouldn’t do that.

Somewhere along the way, the developer-business consortium jumped from K Street to the downtown frontage of the Sacramento River, where placing a monolithic structure to block our view would, of course, certainly add to the scenic nature of the river.

So then, councilmembers Sandy Sheedy and Steve Cohn fell for that we’re-taking-our basketball-and-leaving gambit and threw out the latest proposal: that the Maloofs would pay for half, only they forgot to ask the Maloofs, who were stunned—stunned to learn someone would dare propose that they pay big money for a place to do business. (The only worse finishing touch to this Kings comedy would be if the owners gave up favorite Vlade Divac for some lumbering hack like Greg Ostertag.)

But let’s not blame the Maloofs for these errors and confusions—they’re just working the business welfare system for all it’s worth.

Let’s ask our elected and paid leaders to slow down and think. If it’s vital to spend $400 million to $600 million in taxpayer money to improve Sacramento, do you want to be remembered as the people who were bullied into an arena? Wouldn’t you prefer to be remembered as the visionaries who put available money into housing, public safety, libraries, infrastructure and the arts? Of course you would.