Arena arguments laid bare

By R.E. Graswich

As we near the 7 p.m. start time for Thursday’s arena Town Hall forum and debate at the North Natomas Library, moderated by former Sacramento City Councilmember Lauren Hammond, a couple of trends have emerged.

John Hyde and I get along pretty well, personally. And we have some serious differences of opinion on critical issues facing Sacramento.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

– We disagree on the virtue of “direct democracy,” or the public’s right to vote on various initiatives. I think the initiative process is counter-productive and extremely vulnerable to manipulation. It’s a conceit for voters to cast ballots on complex regulations that even experts have trouble explaining. John (who can speak for himself), believes “direct democracy” is a fundamental right of Californians.

– We disagree on the arena’s ability to revitalize downtown Sacramento. I think a regional cultural, sports and entertainment center is exactly what downtown needs to restore a vibrancy not seen for 50 years. John (who can speak for himself), believes multiple problems deserve multiple solutions, not just one big, expensive arena.

– We disagree on locking Sacramento into a costly arena bond commitment that will extend into the next generation. I think the bonds will look like a bargain after they help revitalize downtown. John (who can speak for himself), believes a 35-year arena loan commitment is too expensive and dangerous for the general fund.

– We disagree on the proposed arena initiative’s potential impact on the Kings and their owners. This is a big one. I think the arena initiative is an illegal change in the City Charter. Right or wrong, the initiative could slow the arena process. And delays mean the Kings and their investors could leave town. Call it extortion, but we can’t afford to lose the Kings and their new owners, whose investment downtown could top $1 billion (figuring the team’s value, plus the private investment in the arena real estate development project).

Yes, John can speak for himself. And I can’t wait to hear him deal with these disagreements Thursday night at North Natomas Library.