The Sonics have sent an ultimatum to Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels: agree to a $220 million Key Arena expansion this month, or the NBA team will start looking to move elsewhere.
Under the terms of the Sonic’s proposal, the team would pay $18.3 million towards construction — less than 9 percent of the costs — plus $1 million a year in rent on a 20-year lease. In return, the Sonics would take over management of Key Arena, and keep all revenue from all events. But don’t you worry, the city would still own Key Arena… and be financially responsible for all major maintenance projects.
Such a deal.
Now personally, I really couldn’t give a shit whether the Sonics stay or leave, though I understand if these sentiments place me in the minority. But I’m pretty damn sure a majority of Seattlites share my disgust at the thought of billionaire Starbucks Chairman and Sonics owner Howard Schultz holding taxpayers hostage at a time we face so many other pressing needs.
Still, I’m nothing if not a consensus builder, and so I’d like to suggest a revenue proposal that not only satisfies the coffee mogul’s greedy demands, but also satisfies my own insatiate sense of irony: a Latte Tax.
Yes, what better way to finance a new arena whose primary purpose is to make a very rich man even richer, than to tax the business that made him so awfully damn rich in the first place? And what could be more delicious than a Marble Mocha Macchiato, than the spectacle of Schultz’s Sonics spending millions of Schultz’s dollars to convince voters to levy a tax on Schultz’s ubiquitous Starbucks?
Now I know what you’re thinking… voters already rejected Initiative 77’s Latte Tax back in 2003. But this Latte Tax would keep a professional basketball franchise in Seattle, whereas I-77’s Latte Tax only funded desperately needed preschool for low-income families, and really… who the fuck cares about them? It’s all about priorities.
What would it cost? Well, back in 2003 I-77’s sponsors estimated a 10-cent per shot tax would raise $7 million a year. The Sonics had previously backed a 20-year revenue package that would have provided $176 million for new construction plus $75 million to guarantee the bonds, so I figure a 20-cent per shot tax should more than cover the costs over 20 years.
We can quibble over the details — whether we’d need a higher or lower rate, or whether to extend the tax to drip coffee, beans and specialty items — but as long as Schultz is intent on reaming the citizens of Seattle, it only seems fair that voters ream his core business in return. And if he objects to a Latte Tax, well then, he’s free to follow through on his ultimatum… though I’m not so sure Schultz really wants to be remembered as the man who moved the beloved Sonics out of Seattle.
Basketball is a contact sport… but then, so is politics. Perhaps if city officials start throwing a few elbows, Schultz might be persuaded to negotiate a realistic deal.
That’s Nick for you… always looking for the pony. As for me, I’m wondering if I can get the city to pay to remodel my kitchen?