Mayoral spell

Hocus-pocus: Do you believe in magic? Nah, Bites doesn’t either. But wouldn’t this be a great town if Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo really did have a magic wand, a real magic wand, not the plastic toy variety she brandished at last week’s annual “State of the Downtown” breakfast meeting.

Charting an ambitious course that would include more homes and businesses along the rivers and a combination sports/entertainment arena and multi-modal transportation facility on the Union Pacific railyard property, Fargo waved a big pink wand and declared, “One swing of the mayor’s magic wand will not make it happen.”

Actually, magic could be our best bet. Even with a new city commission charged up about building the arena, and even with the partnership Fargo is forging with the Maloof family of Sacramento Kings fame, only magic could build a massive arena on the downtown site.

Magic … or a huge subsidy from Sacramento taxpayers. Unfortunately, subsidizing new urban sports complexes is something that too many people do believe in, and sports moguls across the country have cashed in big on the public’s willingness to pay any price to keep their teams at home.

But if Fargo is relying on the public’s belief in corporate welfare wizardry, then she may be headed for disappointment, because across the country there is a growing backlash against subsidizing the powerful and profitable sports industry.

Just look down the road to Oakland, where taxpayers had to dig deep to subsidize the return of the Oakland Raiders, only to have the deal turn into a money pit for the city.

If Fargo could just say “Alacazam” and transform the decrepit railyard into the sparkling urban jewel everybody wants it to be, she’d have no more awestruck admirer than Bites.

But until Fargo can use that wand as something more than a prop to illustrate her wishful rhetoric, Bites is going to remain a nonbeliever.

Drive-by: The gushing praise of downtown Sacramento that emanated from the podium at last week’s shindig was to be expected, but Bites couldn’t help but hear a note of hypocritical irony amid the glorious “Hallelujahs.”

“In downtown Sacramento, we have it all,” proclaimed Supervisor Roger Dickinson, who was one of many to single out K Street’s distinctive “pedestrian mall, open to the elements and with real trees.”

Yet the event’s host, Downtown Sacramento Partnership, has been quietly, but persistently, pushing the city to open the mall up to automobile traffic, trying to destroy that forward-thinking centerpiece of downtown to placate some of its member businesses along K Street, who believe they can make a few more bucks if customers can pull their cars right up front.

Maybe Fargo can use that wand of hers to whack some sense into the Partnership’s executive director Michael Ault before this lame idea turns into anything more serious.

Round and round: If Fargo really did have a magic wand, Bites would like to see her cast a spell on Gov. Gray Davis to make it so he gets fatter with every campaign contribution he receives, kind of like that blueberry kid in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Yet if His Grayness were to be under such a spell, he would have long since exploded. Released last week, the latest semi-annual campaign statements show Davis continuing his gluttonous pace of shaking down individuals and corporations alike for nearly $1 million per month since taking office, continuing to shatter previous records.

Well-represented on his list were corporations in the financial services, oil and gas, insurance, beverage, high-tech, entertainment and communications industries, as well as labor unions.

Although it’s probably chump change to our larger-than-life governor, Bites finds it interesting to note that Davis has accepted nearly $100,000 over the last year from all the black hats in the current energy crisis: utilities Pacific Gas & Electric ($48,500) and Edison International ($15,000), and plant operators Duke, Reliant, and Enron ($10,000 each).

When Californians start waking up to the idea that politicians are being bribed to let huge corporations exploit and abuse us—a realization that the said energy crisis could help facilitate—Davis may find that his assets are also his liabilities.