Courtside with Rob McAllister: She must have economic blinders

Sacramento is not just known as a cow town.

In the business community near and far, California’s capital is met with smirks and head shakes as bureaucracy is at its best here.

You’d likely be more successful riding a unicycle on thin ice than starting your own business in the River City. The hoops you have to jump through and the people with zero economic experience you have to convince is beyond daunting.

It has been this way for decades and arena supporters should not be surprised when council members such as Sandy Sheedy do everything in their power to break the shovels that could build a new entertainment and sports complex.

Since the arena effort began last spring, Sheedy appears to be ignoring the urgency of the project. Her constant requests for more reviews, a misleading voter poll on the arena, asking if parking revenues would bring in $2-million over the 50-year term (had she read the report, it clearly states $2-billion) and her quizzical expression after inquiring the meaning of the word “monetize”.

As a friend pointed out, “Someone who is making a decision on a $400-million project should understand the definition of monetize.” No argument here.

While she can be credited for fighting hard for North Sacramento council district number two, it’s odd that Sheedy is more content on winning a personal battle with Mayor Kevin Johnson than helping the city grow economically.

The benefits from a downtown arena and surrounding development would bring new tax revenue and better yet, businesses that have the capital to make large donations to the same non-profits she fights for.

Sheedy represents one of the most economically depressed areas in the city.  Whether she wants to admit it or not, her district may need a major economic catalyst such as the arena more than any other community in the city limits.

If her previous attempts were not enough, Sheedy is now getting ready to ask the rest of the City Council to hold off on approving any kind of sale that includes public parking spaces and garages. She wants to put the $200-million idea to voters in June. Never mind that the city is working on the notion of a March 1st deadline to avoid seeing the Maloof Family file for relocation. Without the NBA’s contribution, the arena effort would be dead.

Every time there is a project or issue, it does not need to end up on the ballot. That is why we have a representative democracy in Sacramento. It saves time, money and puts people who are supposed to understand the issues in charge of making key decisions. Having spent 11 years on council, one would think Sheedy would understand this.

And she does.

This is simply her way to crush Mayor Johnson’s dream of a new arena.

She does not have to like Johnson. She can despise his Strong Mayor attempt. She can believe that Sacramento does not need a place to watch basketball, concerts or hold conventions. That is her right.

What she forgets is that these events bring in tax revenue, increase hotel stays, fill tables at restaurants, and give underprivileged children a chance to see some of the greatest athletes, musicians and performers the world has to offer. Power Balance Pavilion will not stand for much longer and getting to Oakland and back for $54 on Amtrak is not something many teenagers can afford. Without a local option, YouTube may have to suffice for live entertainment.

Some economists argue Sacramentans will spend those dollars at other places around the city if the arena goes away. It is hard to believe that the nearby miniature golf course is a better entertainment option than say U2, Lady Gaga or Cirque de Soleil.

Sandy Sheedy may cringe at the sight of Kevin Johnson, but she needs to set aside her personal vendetta and do what is best for the children and neighbors in her own district who would benefit from an arena in downtown Sacramento.

As the 22nd largest metropolitan area, it is time to get rid of the circus acts inside City Hall and let businesses provide jobs and stability to the region.

That is something bureaucracy just can’t do.

Weekly contributor/columnist Rob McAllister is a reporter for KFBK Radio in Sacramento.  You can follow him on Twitter.


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