Will Sacramento Residents Get the Chance to Stop a Massive Stadium Subsidy?

Really, you're calling yourself Kings with that record?Sacramento is considering
contributing $258 million to a stadium to keep the Kings around
(following failed efforts to move the team to Seattle or Anaheim,
Calif.), bringing them downtown. By this point, hopefully we know
the arguments about sports arena subsidies. The city says the
stadium will revitalize the downtown area and spur new development
and wealth creation. Critics say the predictions of development are
wildly optimistic based on evidence from previous stadium
developments and that stadiums really just shift money from one
part of the city to another and don’t actually cause growth.
The Sacramento Bee delved deep into both sides of the
arguments today. Read

California has a robust – but also complicated – ballot
initiative system. Opponents of the subsidy collected more than
20,000 signatures to get a two-part vote on the ballot. The first
part would have required all city subsidies for sports arenas to be
put up for a vote. Then if that vote had passed in June, the city
would then be required to put the Kings subsidy up for another
vote. Unfortunately, according to the Sacramento City Clerk, they
didn’t do a good job at following the law. On Friday, she ruled
that the petitions weren’t
up to snuff

City Clerk Shirley Concolino ruled that petitions circulated by
Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork (STOP) and Voters for a Fair
Arena Deal contained numerous violations of state and city
elections code. Those deficiencies included the omission of key
legal language on the petitions and differences in how nine
different versions of the petitions were worded.

“I’ve never seen a petition with as many flaws as this one,”
Concolino said.

Sacramento Bee columnist Marcus Breton has been
critical of opposition as being funded by “outsiders,” as if there
was a way to get enough money from “insiders” to fight a city’s
acts of corporate cronyism from wealthy business leaders unworried
about retaliation from Sacramento in terms of contracts, official
harassment, or more likely, threats to their own corporate crony
deals. We really do need to see an end to the “It’s outside money!”
argument. It helps give voice to the otherwise voiceless. That
outsiders may have additional agendas is not as relevant as critics
think. If the anti-arena argument isn’t compelling, it will still
lose. Money doesn’t buy elections, especially for ballot
initiatives, but it allows for both sides to make their cases to
more people.

Anyway, Breton’s latest
, while pointing out that a judge will have the final say
as to whether the subsidy initiative will go up for vote, lambasted
the anti-arena group for its lack of competence in their

Left off all the petitions, according to Concolino, was required
language notifying all voters that the measure proposed on the
petition would be enacted into law if passed by a public vote.

You read that correctly: These Einsteins asked people to sign
petitions that never stated what would happen if they signed.

You might say: People understood that signing the arena petition
would lead to a vote whose outcome could become city law.

OK, but how you can we assume everyone knew that?

“Just because people signed (the petitions) doesn’t mean you
don’t have to follow the provisions,” Levinson told The Bee.

“There is absolutely case law that says, ‘This might sound
picky, but we have these provisions for a reason,’ ” she

It does sound picky, but having encountered signature-gatherers
outside of grocery stores in California who have absolutely no idea
what they’re asking people to sign, I have to agree. Some ballot
initiatives are advisory and don’t actually lead to new laws.

But, having agreed to a regulation that makes the ballot
initiative even more complicated, this is why the “outside money”
complaint is pure bullshit. State regulations make it extremely
difficult for average people to operate on their own to get ballot
initiatives passed (would the sarcastic Breton had known that
language was needed if the clerk hadn’t said so?). Of course these
folks are going to need outside assistance.

Reason is all over the corporate cronyism of publicly funded
sports stadiums. In our January issue, Nick Gillespie interviewed
sports economists J.C. Bradbury about why stadium subsidies keep
winning (“They always underestimate the costs and overestimate the
benefits”). You can also watch the interview below:

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