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February 19, 2007

Is the Governor Tone Deaf?

Governor Gregoire seems to be shying away from the practical applications of representative democracy. Instead of guaging the public mood, encouraging the legislature to work with her on negotiating public policy and then making the tough decisions of governing, Gregoire is lately opting for direct democracy in the form of public votes on major economic issues like the Viaduct replacement and funding for a new Sonics arena. The governor held a press conference Monday, where she seemed utterly tone deaf on the public's hostility towards a subsidy for the Sonics. She's singing the same tune as state Senator Margarita Prentice:

The Senate budget chairwoman, Democrat Margarita Prentice, who represents Renton, is championing the plan. But a new statewide poll shows little support for public financing of sports revenues, and the state House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, may block the plan in the lower chamber. He said last week that lawmakers have much more important priorities than a sports arena.

Gregoire called herself a huge women's basketball fan and said she doesn't want to lose the WBA Storm, the Sonics or any other pro sports franchises on her watch. The new multipurpose design is "a whole lot more" than just a sports arena, she said.

She said the proposal is getting a friendly reception in Renton and that King County is now discussing the revenue package, which involves extending the taxes currently earmarked for sports venues for the Seattle Mariners and the Seattle Seahawks after those facilities are paid off.

Seeming to presume passage in Olympia, she said, "So it's up to the locals in King County -- do they want to support the tax package?"

Umm... no. They don't. The statewide poll mentioned in the article shows that 77% of state residents are opposed to public financing of sports stadiums and Seattle's voters bellowed a resounding NO to subsidizing the Sonics with the overwhelming passage of I-91. It garnered 74% of the vote. The only reason the governor thinks (hopes) a King County vote will turn out differently is because Renton, located in the county, is supposedly in favor of the tax package. This is an interesting variation on the the well-worn strategy of "divide and conquer". But the governor may be aiming very high in the short term, only to lose in the long term. The next election season is nearly upon us. Does the governor really believe that further antagonizing the base of her support here in Seattle is going to help her in November of 2008?

Posted by shoephone on February 19, 2007 at 11:20 PM in The Politics of Business | Permalink


Tone deaf? No, it is not tone deaf to prevent a use of state funds for the sports stadium while allowing the county in which the stadium location is proposed to vote on the question of taxing themselves to keep the team.

Posted by: Particle Man | Feb 20, 2007 9:14:45 AM

Of all the people to bash over this issue, the Governor is the last person that comes to my mind. What else would anyone expect her to say at this point, especially after a majority of the County Council has ruled out any funding without a public vote?

And relax anyway. This turkey is dead meat politically, so criticizing the Governor over this is completely moot.

Posted by: ivan | Feb 20, 2007 9:42:54 AM

I thought it was a dead horse too, Ivan. But it seems it keeps rising from the dead, no matter what. We all remember how the voters said "no" and "no" to paying for Safeco Field, and in the end... the voters' will was not respected.

As for the county taxes, it's not just a county issue because the tax financing for a stadium prevents the revenue from being put (in my opinion) to more urgent uses for state programs. Yes, I'm biased. I care more about education and health care than I do about professional sports. I don't believe the public should be footing the bill for private enterprises. Neither do I believe that the NBA is bringing economic development to the area. The jobs created will be, for the most part, temporary, part-time jobs. I don't see any multiplier effect at all. The new stadium is being billed as "a whole lot more than a sports venue" in order to appear more appealing, but Howard Schultz and his supporters tried a similar tactic with their losing deal by constructing it as also being a boon for arts organizations. I'm not trying to bash the governor, but I think she's playing a shell game with these public votes. I do expect my elected representatives to make the tough decisions. That's the only way they can be held accountable. If the policitians continue to ask me to make those decisions for them (especially where taxes are concerned) then I believe I should be drawing a salary for doing the job they were elected to do. And if Margarita Prentice wasn't from Renton, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

Posted by: shoephone | Feb 20, 2007 10:10:19 AM

You know, it's just not OK to just make stuff up. Voters nixed a county-only tax package for the Mariners' ballpark with less than 51 percent of the vote, and the Legislature made up the difference by spreading the cost out over the state.

So it's just plain inaccurate, and, frankly, disingenuous, to continue spreading the myth that the Legislature overrode the will of the voters. The voters never got to vote on the statewide package, and essentially half of them favored the countywide package in the first place.

Who are you, or Chris Van Dyk, or anyone else to say that King County voters, if presented with a financing package that spread the cost of the Mariners' ballpark across the state, would not have approved it? I guess it's easier to keep spreading myths, like George Washington and the cherry tree.

None of this is to make excuses for the Sonics. Their terms are unacceptable to me, and it appears that they have alienated Frank Chopp to boot, so this project is dead, dying, dead, and not even the formidable Margarita Prentice can save it.

The Sonics have only themselves to blame. Their selfishness killed a proposed expansion plan for the Seattle Center Coliseum that would have expanded seating capacity to more than 20,000 and would have accommodated a hockey rink for an NHL franchise.

Now they are stuck with their own shortsighted decision, only because they wanted to keep hockey from competing for their dates. They are demanding that the taxpayers bail them out. IMO they can go to Oklahoma, and from there straight to hell.

It is hardly the same situation that the Mariners faced, because the Kingdome was a built-on-the-cheap DUMP that was falling apart. Nobody wanted to pay money to see baseball played on plastic grass under a gray concrete roof. Now we have a baseball stadium that is a perfect jewel, and I'm happy that you are paying for it.

So the bogeyman of the Mariners' stadium does not apply to this case, except in the mind of sports-hating, self-promoting maggots like Chris Van Dyk. Don't be like him.

Posted by: ivan | Feb 20, 2007 12:56:23 PM

Sheesh, Ivan. Lay off the caffeine.

1) The Mariners stadium vote was close, but it still lost. (If we made allowances for every candidate that lost by 1% or less, we'd have to put up with people saying the voters really wanted to keep Slade Gorton as senator.)

2) Last time I looked, I am not Chris Van Dyk -- although I've always loved Dick Van Dyke and his show was one of my favorites (very favorite was "Get Smart", of course.)

3) I'm not a sports-hater, or even close to it. Until my basketball buddy got married and stopped taking me to Soncis games (what's up with that, anyway?) I went to dozens of Sonics games each season. I'm also a lifelong baseball fan; I even used to play second base on a softball team until I got knocked unconscious and my teammates thought I was dead.

4) This is not about liking or not liking sports. It's about priorities for much-needed revenues. Again, I don't believe taxpayers should be footing the bill for a private enterprise. The governor disagrees with that.

5) It will be interesting to see the result of a KC vote, particularly if it ends up as a "NO" to the Sonics. The last sentence of the blockquote in the article: "Seeming to presume passage in Olympia, she [Gregoire] said, 'So it's up to the locals in King County -- do they want to support the tax package?'". Gregoire presumes passage in Olympia, even though you and I don't. Maybe she knows something we don't know?

6) I'm still not Chris Van Dyk, but I don't disdain his efforts. And I'm still more fond of Dick Van Dyke than I am of any basketball players or politicians.

Posted by: shoephone | Feb 20, 2007 6:01:25 PM

Ivan, I'm a baseball fan, and was a Seahawks fan many years ago. My priorities are the same as Chris Van Dyk's. We need better transportation, better schools, and better health care. All we get are new stadiums. I never had a problem with the Kingdome. I had a problem with spending hours in traffic before and after games because there's so little traffic capacity in the area. If you want to have a sports team here, by all means start a corporation and sell shares. I might even buy a few. We taxpayers are under no obligation to make it possible for you to have a local sports team to root for.

If you want to start calling people maggots, I think the place to start is with sports teams, their owners and fans who seem to think that the rest of us are under some sort of special obligation to make their teams filthy rich at taxpayers' expense.

Posted by: Cujo359 | Feb 20, 2007 6:12:00 PM


What part of my statement "the Sonics' terms are unacceptable" have you failed to understand? What part of anything that I posted has led you to believe that I favor giving the Sonics a nickel?

I favored the baseball and football stadiums and I make no apology for it. This situation is entirely different. The Sonics got their arena before they even existed, and they got it remodeled to their specs 10+ years ago. They have a perfectly good place to play and it's not good enough for them.

As for Chris Van Dyk, I stand by my statements. He has never been there for transportation, for health care, for education or for teacher salaries, or any "more important things." He is a one-trick pony. Don't be like him.

Posted by: ivan | Feb 20, 2007 11:15:39 PM

Gregoire's base is split.
The south County Dem's want the Renton arena and convention center.
Remember, Gregoire won by just over 100 votes in a very suspicious election.
Frank Chopp comes from a very safe seat in the Socialist Republic of Fremont. So he can screw the South County all he wants.
Gregoire needs the Sounth County D's and independents to win re-election.
Gregoire has got to offer Frank something that he wants.
What could that be? What union needs to be paid off?

Posted by: Mark Gardner | Feb 20, 2007 11:54:12 PM

Mark, you really don't know shit. Nice falicy though.

Posted by: Particle Man | Feb 21, 2007 10:08:34 AM

Ivan, what part of "If you want to start calling people maggots, I think the place to start is with sports teams, ..." didn't you understand? If you're going to call people maggots for thinking that we have better ways to spend our money than building new places that well-off people can watch millionaires play sports, then you're calling me one, too, and a lot of other people besides. I also think that anyone who'd call someone a maggot because he doesn't happen to like sports is, to grossly understate, shallow. That's what I was saying.

The fact that you happen to think the Sonics don't deserve help is irrelevant to that point. You favored the other stadiums, and the guy who disagreed with you publicly on that matter is a maggot, according to you.

I neither know nor have any feelings one way or the other about Van Dyk, other than that he had an opinion I share and he tried to do something about it.

Posted by: Cujo359 | Feb 21, 2007 12:45:44 PM

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