It is time for the Sonics to negotiate in good faith

The Seattle Times, purveyors of the most widely read sports section in the state, selflessly urges the state Legislature to approve a new $500 million Sonics arena: “Don’t bench Sonics: take it to a vote.”

The Legislature has waited long enough. It is time lawmakers passed a bill out of Olympia that allows King County to work on new digs in Renton for the Seattle SuperSonics and Storm.

To which I respectfully ask the Times’ editorial board… what part of 74-percent don’t you understand?!

The Times laughably attempts to champion “local control,” arguing that this is a local decision that should be settled by a council vote or a countywide ballot measure.

But… um… do these editors actually live in Seattle? Do they read their own paper? Hell, do they even bother to read their own editorials?

The voters have spoken, or maybe, shouted, on the use of city funds in Seattle sports arenas.

The 74 percent “yes” vote on Initiative 91 means there will be no renovation of KeyArena at Seattle Center for basketball. […] Seattle voters are in no mood to finance a Sonics arena or any other improvements. If Seattle voters are this grouchy, voters in suburban King County probably don’t feel that much different.

Just this past November, no less an authority than the Times editorial board itself put its finger on the pulse of the region’s voters, and declared a new Sonics arena dead. No, Seattleites aren’t the only fish in the Sound, but nothing passes countywide with three-quarters of Seattle voters going against it.

But more than just being unrealistic, it is downright insulting for the Seattle Bothell Times and its Mercer Island based editors to now ask for a countywide vote to approve a tax on Seattle voters to pay for an arena that we have already so overwhelmingly rejected. Hell… why not make it a statewide vote? That way, the Times gets to hawk sports headlines during those dreary months between football and baseball, while the rest of the state gets the opportunity to once again screw Seattle. Everybody’s happy.

This isn’t about local control. It’s about leaving the door open to the possibility of some back-room deal, where enough council members might be arm-twisted into approving the taxes without putting them up for a public vote. This is about finding a way to ignore the will of the voters, not honor it.

And in doing so, the Times editorial board is once again playing loose with the facts, and being intentionally naive with their analysis.

The legislation was crafted so King County, not the state, would use existing taxes to pay for $300 million of the projected $500 million arena in Renton, the site preferred by team owners.

Actually, “the site preferred by team owners” is in Oklahoma City, but we’ll get to that in a moment, for first I have to point out how much it annoys the shit out of me that the Times continues to repeat that $300 million figure when in fact the Sonics’ plan calls for $400 million in taxpayer subsidies: $300 million from the sales tax, and $100 million from Renton. I’m not sure what the correct answer would be on the math WASL, but the last time I checked, 300 plus 100 still equals 400. (Wait… let me check my calculator. Yeah. 400.)

Whenever the Times repeats the “$300 million of the projected $500 million” canard it suggests that the Sonics are picking up the $200 million difference, and that just isn’t true. They expect an additional $100 million to be picked up by Renton taxpayers, and of the remaining $100 million, I’m not really sure that it will cost the Sonics owners a single dime out-of-pocket. Between naming rights, seat licenses and advance leases on luxury boxes, the Sonics portion is pretty much paid for. And don’t forget, the Sonics refuse to be responsible for the inevitable cost overruns — this will fall on the backs of local taxpayers.

Money for the arena would come from taxes, such as a restaurant tax and rental-car tax, already being used to pay for Safeco and Qwest fields, and the often-used sales-tax credit.

The implication being that we don’t actually pay these taxes — people who eat in restaurants, stay at hotels, or rent cars do. You know… other people. Oh… and that “often-used sales-tax credit” the Times attempts to slip by without explanation… that’s hundreds of millions of dollars that would otherwise go into state coffers to pay for schools, prisons, health care and other frivolous stuff like that. No biggie.

The bill would also bolster two other cultural amenities: the arts and the Mariners. Money raised by the taxes would be used for the upkeep and repairs of Safeco Field and funneled into an account for the arts.

Holy shit! Didn’t we just build Safeco Field? Aren’t we still paying the taxes to pay off the bonds on that voter-rejected public extortion? And we already need more taxes to pay for repairs? And that’s supposed to be a solid argument in favor of another such public boondoggle?

There have been whispers and shouts that SuperSonics owner Clay Bennett is only buying time until he can move the teams to his home state of Oklahoma. This is an unfair claim. Bennett has done nothing to suggest that moving the teams is a foregone conclusion.

“Nothing to suggest” that Bennett is being insincere? Um… how about seeking $400 million in taxpayer subsidies on a $500 million hoops palace, just weeks after 74-percent of voters rejected $200 million in subsidies on a $220 million Key Arena renovation? If that’s sincere, it’s sincerely stupid.

The Times insists that “the SuperSonics deserve a chance to work something out with King County,” and on that they’re absolutely right. But to do so, the Sonics and their allies at the Times will first have to take an honest measure of the public mood instead of attempting to misrepresent it. Local control means working out the details of a proposal with local officials first, and then going to the Legislature to ask for the taxing authority, if necessary. Local control means taking into account the will of local voters. If the Sonics choose to negotiate honestly and sincerely — and within the confines of political reality — there is a deal that can be struck that could garner sufficient popular support… maybe a $100 million team contribution to a $220 million Key Arena renovation, a deal that would be more in line with the kind of public-private partnerships struck elsewhere. It doesn’t necessarily have to make financial sense. It just has to make sense.

If the Sonics owners are serious about keeping the team in the region there is no rush for the Legislature to act. All of the Sonics deadlines are self-imposed, and they can always be extended. So come on Clay, prove me wrong and the Times right. Come back to the table and negotiate a realistic deal, in good faith, that actually has a snowball’s chance of being approved by voters.

And oh yeah… here’s a free PR tip: it probably wouldn’t hurt your negotiating position if you didn’t put such a shitty product on the court.

Comments

  1. 1

    spews:

    Don’t worry Goldy — the Democrats in this state are stupid enough to give $400 million of taxpayer money away to a bunch of Republicans from Oklahoma. Queen Christine merely needs to say this should happen, and the Democrat super-majorities in the state legislature will make sure this is done. Look for Mrs. Gregoire to call a special session for this purpose after the regular session has been completed.

  2. 2

    ArtFart spews:

    I’m all in favor of allocating enough money to buy Clay Bennett and his pals a one-way ticket out of town.

  3. 3

    spews:

    I am just high on life since NASCAR went back to Florida and left my beloved Kitsap County alone and didn’t get any of our taxes to build their bloody stadiums.

  4. 6

    ArtFart spews:

    Some of the haste being shown by the parties involved may be because of a concern that if they don’t get the deal wrapped up before the next election they’ll have to contend with “Initiative 91: The Sequel”.

    Hey, it’s almost certain that the Oklahomans proposed their outrageous deal so as to get told “hell no” so they could pack up their teams and head for home. Now that some of our public figures have been dumb enough to take it seriously, maybe greed has taken over and Bennett & Co are going to go ahead and see how much they can stick us for. Then a couple of years later they’ll conjure up another excuse to clear out anyway, leaving Renton with an abandoned monument to just what a bunch of rubes we really are.

  5. 7

    Ludicrus Maximus spews:

    You know, Goldy, I notice you’ve been using the word “canard” a lot recently. Our good friend Stefan is quite fond of that word.

    You are the anti-Stefan, so please stop using pretentious words that make you sound like him. How about something more HA and more to the point — like “bullshit.”

    “Avoid fancy words” — Strunk & White

  6. 8

    spews:

    Why in the hell should the State negotiate at all with these private business owners, whether they be conservative Republicans from Oklahoma or liberal Democrats from Seattle?

    Goldy is assuming that just because someone is rich and powerful, they have the right to negotiate with the government for a nine figure giveaway. The millionaire (maybe billionaire is more correct, especially if all their net worths are added together) business owners want $400 million, and Goldy is willing to give them at least $120 million.

    Instead of Goldy wanting to give away at least $120 million of Washington public funds to wealthy business owners (out-of-state ones, to boot), why isn’t he instead advocating the state or local government to spend a similar sum of money to benefit deserving state residents who aren’t so well off?

    Hell, I could sure use even a fraction of the public funds that Goldy is willing to give away.

  7. 9

    spews:

    Tree Frog Farmer @ 4

    A better suggestion. The Sonics owners can take C.Gregoire, D.Goldstein, and F.Blethen with them back to Oklahoma.

    The minimum $120 million of public funds that C.Gregoire and D.Goldstein are willing to give away can instead go to deserving state residents like T.F.Farmer, A.Fart, and R.Pope.

  8. 10

    headless lucy spews:

    re 7: “Canard” is also a delicious rice pudding that is perfect for oreo-dipping when enjoying a glass of ice-cold milk.

    Just ask PudWax! He’ll tell ya!

  9. 11

    spews:

    Richard,

    I never said I supported a $120 million giveaway. I just said that the public might. My main point being that after voters rejected a $200 million giveaway, coming back and asking for $400 million was an act of good faith.

    There is a deal to be made somewhere between $200 million and zero. Thus far, the Sonics have been uninterested in exploring it.

  10. 12

    spews:

    Ummm, Popester, what gives you the idea that Goldy wants the Sonics to stay? That he supports giving Bennett and his gang a nickel of his or your or King County’s or Washington’s money?

    I infer from everything I’ve seen from Goldy that he’s ready to sign onto ArtFart’s suggestion in comment #2:

    I’m all in favor of allocating enough money to buy Clay Bennett and his pals a one-way ticket out of town.

    That’s a levy I’d happily support.

  11. 13

    Don Joe spews:

    Goldy, I think you meant say that coming back and asking for $400 MM was not an act of good faith.

  12. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    “Top Aide to Attorney General Resigns

    “WASHINGTON (April 6) – A top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales abruptly quit on Friday … after telling Congress she would not testify about her role in the firings of federal prosecutors.

    ” … Monica M. Goodling … resigned in a three-sentence letter to Gonzales …. Asserting her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Goodling had rejected demands for a private interview with a House committee investigating the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. …

    “Goodling is at the center of the controversy because, as the bridge between the Justice Department and the White House, she may be best suited to explain how deeply Karl Rove and other members of President Bush ‘s political team might have been involved in the firings. …

    “Goodling’s attorney, John Dowd, confirmed she had resigned but declined further comment. … Goodling’s lawyers have asked Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, not to compel her to appear at a public hearing …. Her lawyers have said such a hearing would be a perjury trap for her. …

    “Goodling’s mother, Cindy Fitt of Osceola Mills, Pa., said … ‘She told me I’m to say “no comment” for everything,’ … in a brief telephone interview.”

    Quoted under Fair Use; for complete story and/or copyright info see http://tinyurl.com/2b726o

    Roger Rabbit Commentary: Goodling is small fry; give her immunity and subpoena her!

  13. 15

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    “But … do these editors … bother to read their own editorials?”

    Hey Goldy, you know how the Repug crowd works — if they lose, they want a revote!

  14. 16

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    And if it loses again, we have to keep voting until it passes; and if it never passes, they take our money anyway. Just like school levies and stadium taxes.

  15. 18

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    “But more than just being unrealistic, it is downright insulting for the Seattle Bothell Times and its Mercer Island based editors to now ask for a countywide vote to approve a tax on Seattle voters to pay for an arena that we have already so overwhelmingly rejected.”

    Hey Goldy — you know how this works! If voters reject a $200 million renovation for Key Arena, they have to pay for a shiny new $500 million Renton Mickey Mouse Club sandbox! It’s the Seattle way! $$$

  16. 19

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    And people laughed at Fremont when they adopted a sister sister in Russia … hell, King County IS Russia.

  17. 20

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    “$300 million from the sales tax, and $100 million from Renton”

    Does anyone here believe that Renton’s $100 million share will be paid by Renton residents? You can bet your sweet bippy the Renton poobahs are scheming to dump THAT on county and state taxpayers, too!

  18. 21

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Renton and Bennett make a hell of a team, don’t they? It’s time the rest of us organized a tarring and feathering party. Somebody call the Edmonds asphalt tank farm and the Marysville chicken ranch to let those folks know extra supplies will be needed soon for a special project.

  19. 22

    ArtFart spews:

    I dunno whether or not it’s reasonable to assume that Frank Blethen is inherently a Republican, nor whether the guys from Oklahoma are, either…although as a wild guess I’d say they probably are. What they, like all too many uber-rich businessfolk are, is political opportunists. They’ll play up to whichever party at any given moment is in the better position to present the public teat for them to suck from.

    A fine example of this is what happened with the RIAA right after the 2000 election had been decided. Hillary Rosen abruptly resigned, and her replacement waiting in the wings was a Republican luminary. They went straight from schmoozing Fritz Hollings to kissing up to Sam Brownback and Orrin Hatch without so much as breaking their stride.

  20. 23

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    “The Times insists that ‘the SuperSonics deserve a chance to work something out with King County,’ and on that they’re absolutely right.”

    I agree!!! If they can come up with a business plan showing they can make their sports franchise work without public subsidies, King County should expedite their rezone and building permits! If they can’t, make ‘em get in line with the rest of the permit applicants.

  21. 24

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @1 “Richard Pope says: Don’t worry Goldy — the Democrats in this state are stupid enough to give $400 million of taxpayer money away to a bunch of Republicans from Oklahoma. 04/06/2007 at 1:41 pm”

    An optimist like you should be doing fundraising for McCain! He could use your help.

  22. 25

    Luigi Giovanni spews:

    The editorial is about selling newspapers.

    I keep repeating to no avail: newspapers are exempt from the state and local sales tax; let’s eliminate that exemption. Newspaper readers in California, for instance, pay sales tax on their purchases of newspapers.

    I believe the exemption should be eliminated regardless of whether the arena is built or not. However, if the arena is going to be built, let’s apply the proceeds from eliminating the exemption to the new arena. Let the beneficiaries of the arena, such as the Seattle Times and its readers, pay for it.

  23. 26

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @8 For weeks, I’ve sensed it would come to this — Richard Pope panhandling for public welfare.

  24. 27

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Richard must have missed the Vern Rieke lecture at U.W. Law School that went like this: “Practicing law is a fine hobby if you can afford it.” He was trying to tell us plumbing pays better, Richard.

  25. 28

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @9 What’s with the package deal, Richard? Are you trying to ride Art’s and Tree Frog’s coattails?

  26. 31

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @25 You’ve got a point. Frank Blethen recently doubled the price of a newsstand copy, from 25 to 50 cents, so if the market can bear that it can also bear an 8.8% sales tax.

  27. 32

    spews:

    Roger Rabbit @ 29

    You just aren’t competent enough to be a good Democrat! I have custody of a minor child. Therefore (if I was otherwise eligible, of course), I could get TANF, which pays a lot more than GAU. Not only that, but I could get TANF for up to five years, simply by being a custodial parent of a minor child and sitting on my ass and not working (like so many Democrats do). By contrast, GAU has additional eligibility requirements (although it is available to everyone who meets those requirements, without regard to whether they have children or not).

    In any event, I would vastly prefer the kind of corporate welfare that the Democrat politicos hand out in this state. It is a helluva more profitable than the meager subsistence welfare allotments the Democrats hand out to their most faithful voters under TANF and GAU.

  28. 33

    spews:

    FRANK BLETHEN IS A DEMOCRAT!

    I have researched both the PDC and FEC databases. The only political contribution I could find relevant to Frank Blethen was $1,000.00 to the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee by the Blethen Corporation, of which Frank is the president:

    BLETHEN CORPORATION,
    SEATTLE, WA 98111

    DCCCC NON-FEDERAL ACCOUNT #1
    02/29/2000 1000.00 20035423525

    Committee ID: C60001450

    DCCCC NON-FEDERAL ACCOUNT #1

    Treasurer Name:
    Committee Designation: (N/A)
    Committee Type: NATIONAL PARTY ORGANIZATION. NON FED ACCT.

    Link To: DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE – CONTRIBUTIONS

  29. 34

    thor spews:

    Why wouldn’t you keep the Sonics in the state?

    That’s about the only thing most people are going to be thinking if the state legislature doesn’t allow this to happen.

    The GOP will simply say: “if the Democrats wanted to keep the Sonics they’d have put it up for a vote.”

    I like the current majority. And I’m not willing to risk the majority over this.

    The legislature should vote this Sonics bill out and give the King County Council something to do.

    Why wouldn’t you?

  30. 35

    spews:

    Roger Rabbit @ 24

    You’re right. The public good would be better served if the state legislature divided up this $400 million differently. How about $200 million to the Republican National Committee, $50 million each to the Republican U.S. Senate and U.S. House committees, $20 million each to the campaign committees for Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson, and the remaining $20 million to the Washington state GOP?

    Much better to give away $400 million to public funds to these deserving non-profit causes, instead of to a group of private investors.

  31. 36

    headless lucy spews:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....us-apology

    IMUS SORRY FOR COMMENT ON WOMEN’S TEAM

    Conservative “Radio host Don Imus apologized Friday for calling the Rutgers University women’s basketball team “NAPPY HEADED HOS” on his nationally syndicated program.”

    Here’s an injustice I’m sure PudWax will be eager to correct.

  32. 37

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @32 “I have custody of a minor child. Therefore (if I was otherwise eligible, of course), I could get TANF, which pays a lot more than GAU.

    How the hell was I supposed to know that? Do you think I assume you’re capable of making babies? If the judge gave you custody, I’d hate to meet the mother — either that, or I’d hate to try a case in front of that judge!

  33. 39

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @36 Other commentators have been fired for less — what’s with today’s media that they put up with shit heads like Imus?

  34. 40

    Sid58 spews:

    That “shitty product” comment is unworthy of you, certainly of the team itself, a group of guys that play together coherently on the court and have not been disgraces off it. Retraction, please (comment is also racist).

  35. 41

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @35 That’s what I’m talking about, Richard! Now give the McCain folks a call! Tell them you’re looking for a fundraiser job.

  36. 42

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @35 (continued) However, before you discuss salary with them, you might want to edit that split.

  37. 43

    spews:

    Sid58 @40,

    Hmm. The Sonics have the 2nd worst record in the conference, are 32.5 games out of first place, and once again nowhere near the playoffs. That’s a shitty product. No wonder they have to simultaneously conduct a circus in the arena to keep fans in their seats.

    Retraction, please (comment is also racist).

    You’re out of your fucking mind.

  38. 44

    Paddy Mac spews:

    Yes, but look at the details: a portion of each patron’s ticket price will, via the Sonics’ owners, go to screwing gays and lesbians out of equal treatment under the law. Surely that makes this private business worthy of a subsidy, right? Far right?

    (P.S. There is an actual engineering term, “sonic fatigue”. Could you make this geek-boy happy, by using it as the title of an upcoming post?)

  39. 45

    GS spews:

    Roger you are once oops always farting in the wind again! I truely enjoy your F’n ignorance. Please continue!

  40. 46

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @45 Your pleasure is my mission. Ready? Here goes:

    BRRRRRFFFFFFFFPPPPPPPPPPTTTTTTTTTTTT

  41. 48

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @33 I think the bookkeeper sent that one while Frank wasn’t looking, Richard. Hey, you want to know something funny? Some years ago, I looked up the precincts with the greatest concentration of votes for the communist candidate for president, and they were all in The Highlands!!! It would appear the revolution can’t get here fast enough to suit the household servants who wait on the rich Republicans in their mansions.

  42. 50

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @34 If the Sonics are a going concern, why do they need a $400 million taxpayer bailout? Fuck ‘em and give the money to me. I’m more deserving.

  43. 51

    Broadway Joe spews:

    All Seattle, King County, or the State should pursue is a deal with the NBA that will allow the City to keep the rights to the identities “Seattle Sonics” and “Seattle Storm”. Let Clayboy and his Recraplican haters take their team to that great toilet known as Oklahoma, I could care less. Hell, I’ll drive (or fly) in from Reno to help pack.

  44. 52

    spews:

    I think the main thing to consider is that the NBA business model must be broken. Paul Allen has not been able to keep his Blazers profitable with his own privately funded arena. I heard on KJR that the Heat cannot even make money with their brand new arena that was just built.
    When Michael Jordan left the NBA, he took the league with him, much like when Muhammed Ali left boxing.

  45. 53

    Sportsfan spews:

    “The voters have spoken, or maybe, shouted, on the use of city funds in Seattle sports arenas.

    The 74 percent “yes” vote on Initiative 91 means there will be no renovation of KeyArena at Seattle Center for basketball. […] Seattle voters are in no mood to finance a Sonics arena or any other improvements. If Seattle voters are this grouchy, voters in suburban King County probably don’t feel that much different.”

    Last I checked King County is not just Seattle. In fact Seattle is less than one third of King County.

    Seattle’s its own unique place. Remember Seattle’s rejection of the 4 foot strip club rule last election? That rule was upheld everywhere else in the area when it went to the voters.

    Thor has it right.

    “The GOP will simply say: “if the Democrats wanted to keep the Sonics they’d have put it up for a vote.”

    I like the current majority. And I’m not willing to risk the majority over this”

    Look Goldy. The Sonics have had a shitty record this year because of injuries to the team. 4 of their starters have been out.

    They will be here next year and if they stay healthy they will make the playoffs. If they do and then move to OKC the following year. I guarantee you the GOP will use it against us.

    We have nothing to lose by letting King County voters vote on the proposed Renton Arena.

  46. 54

    Bill Johnston spews:

    The names of the jerks who voted the Sonics bill out of committee need to be published so the voters can boot these asses out of office. I noticed this was not done in any of the 3 articles I read on the committee vote.

    Who are they? I want to contribute to ANYONE running against them and donate some shoe leather and knock on doors to campaign against them.

    Gawd we wonder why this state is such a mess!