As I've mentioned a couple times today, I attended last night's city council meeting and I wanted to share some of what I saw and learned. It was my first time attending one of these meetings so it was definitely a bit of an eye opener in terms of learning about how things are run in our local government and it gave me some perspective in how I (and really all of us) can help in trying to support the arena efforts. One big disclaimer for what I'm about to write: while I have plenty of things to share, don't just assume that because I was there, my observations are correct. Just like anything, I'm interpreting things a certain way and these could differ from what others heard or saw. Pretty much, don't take my word as facts and try to make your own conclusions; I don't want to be spreading things that may not necessarily be true. Just watching my back here
First things first. Big shout out to Blake Ellington from Bleed Black and Purple. He's (correct me if I'm wrong) the founder of the Here We Stay movement and has been for the past months collaborating with some of StR editors and contributors in getting this movement organized. It was an honor to meet him and, as I told him, I appreciate the fact that he's getting something going. Big ups to his gf/wife (sorry, forgot to ask) for getting up to the podium and saying a couple words about the arena and the movement.
Unfortunately for him, us, not a lot of people showed up to the meeting. There were Kings fans all around the seats in the room but not all seating in the area where we sat. I met a lurker from here (StR), a couple guys that heard about the event from the Here We Stay facebook page, and couple others, but there really wasn't more than 8-10 people there that heard about Here We Stay. It was a bit disappointing not seeing that many fans our there but it was also game night and I know a lot of people were at Arco.
I went in thinking that the council was going to make a decision on how to proceed with one of the four plans presented but I soon found out it wasn't going to be the case. The floor was given to the Governor's arena task force to explain where they were in their research and to present the findings of their work. The reps of the task force made sure to emphasize the fact that they had reached no conclusions and that they were not necessarily suggesting or advising the city council to move on with one plan. They were rather just presenting their rankings on all 4 plans (the ranking we've already read in the Bee) and that they now were turning it over to the city council to make a decision on how to proceed.
Throughout this presentation my feelings were that the task force was behind the number 1 ranked developer, David Taylor's and ICON, but for some reason they weren't making it clear enough to the members of the council. As we know, David Taylor's group had requested 90 days to present an official proposal and determine the feasibility of an entertainment complex. This doesn't necessarily mean they would have a good plan in 90 days but rather, that's how long it would take them to do their research and analysis and decide whether this could be done or not. It could very well be that after those 90 days, Taylor says they can't do it and the search was back to square one. Again, the rankings had them number 1, but there was never an endorsement from the task force reps. Does the bee article and Taylor's relationship with the major (implied by sources if I'm not mistaken) have anything to do with the lack of a clear vote of confidence? Maybe. Can't say for sure.
After the task force was done talking, the council opened the floor for testimonies/opinions (2 minutes max for the public, extended time reps of the 4 plans). Believe or not, some guy, possibly not a human, stepped up and called the Maloofs, not once but twice, "Magoofs." I kid you not. In front of the freaking council! I guess these neanderthals do exist in Sacramento. After talking for 2 minutes about the same BS you read from bee commentators, Kevin Johnson actually had to remind 'everyone' to refrain from being offensive and staying civil at all times. It was an awesome/awful moment. The good thing is that these are the people we're against so it doesn't take a lot to show everyone the kind of people that are FOR this project. That in itself is a great weapon we have in our favor; one we need to use. After a couple more testimonies (including Blake's gf/wife) all reps from the different entertainment complex plans got a chance to speak.
I won't lie and say I remember everything they said so I'll just write what I remember and hope it's accurate. More of a mix of thoughts kind-f-thing:
First, the Natomas group. They didn't have one rep, more of a group of people each using 2 minutes to speak. "Keep the arena in Natomas' is definitely a group effort. They have no big shot developers, no flashy suits, no big talk; they're just a bunch of business owners that have gotten together trying to do what they feel is right. They are definitely the group that most resemble us. They're regular men and women who believe the arena should stay in their community and are fighting for it. From the words of the council and the task force, this group had done a lot of research and was very prepared. Unfortunately, their main weakness may be that, like I said, they're just like us and maybe the city is looking for something bigger. They had some really good points though, including the fact that building over the current site would be cheaper as a lot of the infrastructure is already in place. Really inspiring stuff from these community members.
Then Kamilos group. Not many concrete ideas were thrown but you could tell that these guys have been working on this for a while. From what I understood, the idea of involving Cal Expo is still there but in a different dynamic. Not sure what this is however. They had some talk of introducing state legislature and continuing talking to the Cal Expo board (things we've heard from them before). One thing that you can firmly get from them is that they're in it for the long run. They have a good advantage too as they were the last plan considered (as in last time) and they already know the market and they've probably done a lot of research already. They acknowledged the financing gap that exist and talked about different waves of revenue that could be implemented. Again, nothing concrete, but those were the ideas thrown around.
The Downtown Plaza plan. This is the plan I got the least info from. They seem to have a plan and they made sure to remind this to the board members a couple times. This plan is under wraps though and their rep kept insisting that they would love the opportunity to present that plan (vague, I know, but that's how it came off). At some point, they almost got called out by the task force on a possible lie. It appears they had told the task force that they wouldn't continue with the process if they had to continue to compete with other plans. Their rep initially denied it, but I believe (sorry, this is one of the details that I forgot about) he then agreed that it was indeed the case.
The David Taylor group. They are definitely the flashy, big shot group. They were direct and confident. They need those 90 days to do their research and see if they can build the complex. They'll look at everything and at the end of the 90 days, they'd go back and say "Yes, we can do it" or "No, we can't. BUT (big but) this is WHY it can't be done?" This is a big point because even if they determine it can't be done, they will explain the WHY and this could really be a turning point to either fix whatever problem there is or honestly accept the fact that an arena just won't happen in Sacramento. They were also clear that they did wanted the top spot and were not interested in competing with others. They needed the council's attention, they needed the Kings' attention, and they needed all resources to do the best analysis possible in those 90 days. Can't help but think these guys know their stuff and they want to help, but they also don't want to waste their time. A council member asked why they wanted to get involved and they said that they had some involvement with the Sonics owner in the past and they were part of the relocating process from Seattle to OKC. He said he didn't want the same thing happening to Sacramento.
After comments and a chance for all groups to speak, the council members took turns to ask questions and give their opinion on the matter. It was clear by many of the comments that they didn't have enough information to make any kind of decision. The idea of having multiple teams working at the same time was tossed around but nothing solid came out of it. There were questions to task force members about the process and how much more they'd be willing to work to get this done. If I may say, there was a lot of 'politicians being politicians.' A lot of dancing around without really finding resolutions. Plenty of questions that I'm not sure had a good reason behind them. I'm just not used to this politic stuff so maybe that's what it is.
One thing I did learn though, is that you could tell who is for, neutral, or against the entertainment complex. I obviously won't name names as this all comes down to personal observations. As I've also mentioned, at the end of the discussion, the council members agreed to let all 4 plans come back in a couple weeks to present a bit more concrete ideas, especially when it came to financing, and to have another chance to present their qualifications. Then, the council would make a decision on how to move forward. All 4 reps were asked if this was ok, and they all agreed. I'm not sure if these presentations will be made to the task force or directly to the council but the next step will be discussed again in a meeting, about 2 weeks from yesterday.
If there are any questions I may be able to answer about last night's meeting or if anyone is wondering about something in particular I discussed feel free to drop a comment/question and I'll do my best to answer. Again, I'm just one dude that was there, so I'm not necessarily a 'legit' source.
Now a bit of a personal testimony: Though it was a long night, it felt good to be there. It felt like I was actually doing something to get this arena plan going. Yes, Here We Stay barely got anyone to attend (this time!) but I truly felt like the opportunity to make a difference is there. We need to step up and do something about this situation. I can't say that I left the meeting encouraged or discouraged, because at this point in time, everything is up in the air. I do know, for sure now, that the clock is ticking. This is the time when we are gonna have to either say, we're in it to do something, or we're just going to sit back and hope that everything goes well. I'm choosing to stand up and contribute my little drop in the bucket.
Attending a city council meeting is one small gesture, but being there, it felt like it counted. Going up to the podium and addressing these politicians by presenting who we are and distancing ourselves from those bee contributors will truly make a difference. These people will see that there are plenty of groups in Sacramento that NEED this arena to be built because we love our Kings and we want to keep them here. We need to put a face to the fight (one we haven't even began to show yet).
Blake made a great point as we were leaving last night; we need more of the average guy/gal to be there. We were surrounded by all these rich people, dressed in nice suits, that were mostly there because they knew someone important. We need the average hard working citizen to show that we really do want this, that the city of Sacramento needs it for now and for its future. I honestly believe it will make a difference to have a group of people wearing the same Here We Stay shirt and stepping up to tell these politicians that we support the development of an entertainment complex. I want to believe these guys are really there to represent us and do what's best for us, so we need to show them what it is that we need from them. We need to drown those "Magoofs" insults and show that the smart, educated, and hard working people of Sacramento are the ones that are calling for an arena and for the Kings to stay where they belong.
It's time to put up or shut up, and I would really love to share the fight with you guys. I left my pride a paragraph ago so let's just go out swinging and try to save this team. I really plan on being more involved and hope to help with whatever I can because I finally feel the sense of urgency. Blake, TZ, James, and others have opened the door for us to do something special, now we just gotta walk through it and give it our best shot.