The new Kings arena has always been about lies

If Region Builders wants to ‘stop the lies' and support the truth, they can start with their own actions

Region Builders is a savvy political organization, and its director, Joshua Wood, is an experienced operative. He probably won’t be able to keep the arena initiative by Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork off the ballot. But Bites must hand it to him, Wood has played the TV media and Sacramento Kings fans skillfully, whipping up made-to-order outrage about some “lies” by STOP’s paid signature gatherers, caught on video.

We only have a bit of Region Builders’ edited footage to go by. But certainly, a signature gatherer shouldn’t be telling folks that, “Yeah, they’re going to raise taxes,” to build an arena. It’s no excuse that the videographer clearly goaded her into saying it, because it’s still technically not true. The city already raised taxes.

The YouTube footage, dutifully replayed by Fox40 News, maybe others, is like a wannabe version of right-wing gotcha videos against ACORN. The description even talks about petitioners, this one is a black woman, as “crusading in front of ghetto grocery stores.” (R.E. Graswich also describes them as “vagrants,” more interesting coding.)

It is true that paid signature campaigns are mercenary affairs, carried out by folks who often don’t know much and don’t care much about the petitions they are pushing.

But the Kings fans who are up in arms about the accuracy of these subcontractors’ pitches never, ever gave a damn about this seamy side of California’s direct democracy before. Nor will they care later, when their team’s $300 million-plus taxpayer handout is no longer on the line.

For every apoplectic Kings fan just now realizing the initiative system is screwed up, Bites says, “Welcome.”

To Region Builders: You don’t get to be outraged.

Is there any political organization in the greater Sacramento area with a more antagonistic relationship with the truth? This is the group that tried to muzzle the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, saying it was not OK for staff to speak up about projects that promote sprawl and undermine the regional blueprint for development—like the disastrous Cordova Hills proposal. So much for the truth.

Region Builders is trying to keep the truth about category-killer stores like Walmart out of the city’s planning process—leading the effort to gut requirements for an economic analysis whenever a big-box store targets a neighborhood. That sort of truth telling is bad for business.

Region Builders runs a website with “facts” about the arena, including a lot of numbers showing the supposed economic benefit of such a facility. What they don’t tell you is that very little of that is new money. The great majority of it is money that’s already being spent in the region, at the old arena, at the movies, or on a thousand other activities, and would continue to be spent, even if the Kings left tomorrow. By suggesting that the new arena will generate $7 billion over the coming years, arena boosters are telling a bigger lie than anything uttered by any signature gatherer.

Arena fans are also furious, all of a sudden, that STOP is getting its money from an Orange County conservative political PAC. Bites has always assumed that’s about some other billionaires wanting to steal the Kings away from Sacramento to Anaheim. Otherwise, what is Orange County doing messing around in our politics?

And how would Orange County like it if some Sacramento businessmen hired signature gatherers to go down there and collect signatures to STOP—sorry—to stop them from issuing bonds to upgrade their local arena, and thereby attract a team?

Oh, right, that actually happened. Bites forgot, because nobody here cared.

By the way, that signature-gathering firm was Arno Political Consultants, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based outfit with kind of a troubled past. They also collected signatures for Kevin Johnson’s first strong-mayor initiative, and there were complaints then that they tricked some voters into signing. Where was the outrage of the Kings nation?

In 2011, state Sen. Ellen M. Corbett sponsored legislation to ban petitioners who get paid by the signature—similar to the law in Oregon. The Sacramento Bee editorial board opposed Corbett’s bill, and Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it. If similar legislation comes around again, perhaps arena fans will be paying attention and will support it.

And here, again, Bites will suggest arena fans read Joe Matthews and Mark Paul’s excellent

California Crackup to learn more about how our system got so broken, and some ways to fix it.

Meanwhile, if Region Builders wants to “stop the lies” and support the truth, they can start with their own actions.