No really, let’s vote

It bears repeating: The plan to subsidize a new Kings arena is being specifically designed to avoid a public vote.

There may be a good argument for that, but arena boosters should have to make it in the light of day. They know—even without the help of Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy’s poll—that voters would reject public money to save the Kings, if given the chance.

Of course, boosters say that there’s just no time to put the thing to a vote and still meet the NBA’s deadline to come up with a subsidy package. True enough, if we’re talking about a run-of-the-mill ballot initiative.

But a referendum is a little different and can be qualified for the ballot as late as one month before an election.

So if someone is willing to gather about 30,000 signatures, it’s still possible for Sacramento citizens to use the referendum process to reject any financing plan they don’t like.

You know, on the outside chance that the thing turns out to be some sort of boondoggle.

There are some hitches to the referendum idea, and it gets a bit in the weeds here. Stephanie Mizuno in the city clerk’s office says only “ordinances” can be made the subject of a referendum.

An ordinance is basically a new law, but a lot of what the council does is pass “resolutions” which can’t be nullified with a referendum.

On the other hand, redevelopment plans and zoning changes often are in the form of ordinances. So it’s not entirely clear that the city council could craft a referendum-proof arena subsidy plan.

It’s worth exploring though. Hiram Johnson, the father of direct democracy in California, said the initiative, referendum and recall are, “no panacea for all our political ills.

“Yet they do place in the hands of the people the means by which they may protect themselves.”

Two-thirds votes in the legislature, Proposition 13, Proposition 218; we’ve gone to great lengths to protect ourselves from taxes. Look how hard it is to approve a school bond, or to keep libraries open, or to fund a bare-bones public-transportation system.

If we entrust voters to make the right call on these worthy initiatives, why not on an arena?

One more note about redistricting and Sacramento’s GLBT community.

Bites recently talked reapportionment with political consultant Paul Mitchell, whose company Redistricting Partners has been all over the state helping cities and special districts, like community-college districts, to navigate the redistricting process.

Mitchell also helped, pro bono, to gather an enormous amount of information about GLBT voters and voters in the central city to better make a case to the Sacramento Redistricting Citizens Advisory Committee for designation of gays and lesbians as a community of interest, and the creation of a unified downtown/Midtown city council district.

It collected data on everything from registered domestic partnerships, same sex households, to the voting patterns on controversial measures like Proposition 22 and Proposition 8. Did you know downtown, Midtown and Land Park—the neighborhoods that make up Council District 4—gave $1.9 million to stop Prop. 8?

All in all, Mitchell explained, “We gave the redistricting commission the richest database that the state has ever seen,” on GLBT voters in a particular locale.

And today Sacramento and San Diego are the only cities in California to accept GLBT as a community of interest in their redistricting process.

Mitchell called that and the creation of the central city district the “most successful, most measurable thing to come out of redistricting,” in Sacramento. And he’s right.