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Sac City Council members tip their hands on arena vote

Sep 28, 2011, 8:59 AM EDT

ProposedKingsArena

Sometimes you need to see the look in somebody’s eyes when they’re forced to make a decision before you truly know how they feel.

We got to see that on Tuesday night when the Sacramento City Council voted 7-2 to approve $550,000 to secure consultants, lawyers, and parking experts to start formalizing a funding proposal for the $387 million Entertainment and Sports Complex (ESC). Once the funding proposal is finalized, the council will eventually vote on it. The NBA and the Maloofs have given Sacramento until March 1, 2012 to get a funding plan in place.

Each council member was given ample time to wax poetic about the nature of this small request, and most of them gave some clues about how they view the larger $387 million question that will be coming.

Here, I am going to handicap their votes, based on what they said and how they said it. A total of five out of nine votes on the city council will yield a new Entertainment and Sports Complex for Kings fans.

And for the sake of brevity, I’m going to call mayor Kevin Johnson and known proponent, councilman Rob Fong both yes votes, and I’m going to call both Sally Sheedy and Darrell Fong no votes, though I have a slight suspicion that Darrell Fong could be turned to the purple side.

Onto the science of word-parsing:

Angelique Ashby:

We have a real opportunity here. AEG is at the table. That’s great news. That’s terrific news.

This, for me, is not about a decision for what we do this week. It’s long term. A lot of the things we decide at this council…is how to fix things right now. We have a public safety problem, right now. We have three browned out fire stations, right now. But this…is a half-million dollar investment in long-term solutions, so we don’t have the urgent ‘right now’ discussion every year. If we play our cards right and we invest wisely, and we make smart decisions, we can come out of this with multiple economic engines.

Me: Real opportunity, long-term solutions, we can come out of this with multiple economic engines. She’s a yes.

Steve Cohn:

Let me be real clear, this work has to be done. If we’re even going to consider an arena, this has to be done. If one has the point of view that we shouldn’t be doing an arena, obviously it’s a waste of money, and we should stop right here. But I think if we’re open to the idea that we might find the public-private partnership that works, then this work has to be done and it has to be objective information.

Me: He voted yes to authorize the spending, which presumably he wouldn’t do if he opposed the arena given his comments. And he hung out with Slamson and KJ at a district meeting in May, so if he’s not a ‘yes’ he’s on the fence and leaning hard that way.

Bonnie Pannell:

What I heard this week….is we need jobs. Seniors are talking about ‘we need jobs,’ and our young people are talking about ‘we need jobs.’ There are no jobs in Sacramento. So what do we do? Do we take a chance and invest $500,000 that could lead to billions of dollars, or many jobs?

We need jobs, many more jobs, so I have to take a chance. We can’t depend on the federal dollar…state dollars…our destiny is in our hands. So I have to support this next step.

Me: Jobs, jobs, jobs. Jobs. Billions of dollars? Many jobs? Almost like she was reading from the Think Big brochure. Yeah, she’s in.

Jay Schenirer:

I talked (in my campaign) about my opposition to the city giving away land. This is something very different here, which is a city owned property (an arena), and an asset we will have for a very long time. We saw Sacramento build the Crocker Art Museum, and put millions of dollars into it, and I think that it has become a jewel of the city. And I would look forward to this facility, this complex, being something similar. And what it can bring to the city will be incredibly important.

Me: Incredibly important, jewel of the city, that’s a yes.

Kevin McCarty:

I don’t want to be a naysayer, but this project is still a long-shot. It’s a shot, more than we had before, but it’s still a long road to hoe. With that, I’m thinking, if we can find some tools that we can invest in our downtown, whether it’s an arena or a California academy type thing in the railyards or anything else, we may not have an economic development tool anymore, such as redevelopment or the really limited opportunities to make sense of the investments.

Me: I don’t know what that means, either. That he thinks the project is a long-shot puts him on the fence for me, and probably leaning no.

First things first, none of these folks are going to sign off on something that they don’t agree with, so the Think Big Sacramento coalition still has to provide a viable proposal to them. But this issue didn’t just pop up overnight. These officials, for the most part, have a strong grasp of arena politics after 10-plus years of talking about this topic to no avail.

Looking at my ridiculously unscientific analysis I’d say that four of the five are either a yes or leaning that way. They only need three of the five to vote yes after counting K.J.’s and Rob Fong’s vote.

As always, the devil is in the details, but if you’re a Kings fan or a fan of teams staying put – then tonight’s meeting was an unqualified victory.

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