Just stumbled across this column I wrote for some local magazine or other, and put on my blog, dated August 8, 2006. This was about five weeks before the family sandbagged Q&R with ridiculous demands, and a $6000 bottle of wine.
The economy is different, as is the real estate market, but I still feel pretty good about this.
Five years... Let's push things forward.
An unexpected joy, being asked, along with my good friend Enid Goldstein, to pen a column debating the pros and cons of the quarter-cent tax that will be on Sacramento County ballots this November. I'm the black sheep at AM 1320, Sacramento's Left Channel, as I am all for the initiative, which unfortunately puts me at odds with my ordinarily like-minded liberal brothers and sisters.
Discourse is healthy, no?
Unfortunately, Enid was too chic...er, too busy to defend a giant hole in the ground, so it has been left to my morning co-host, Scott Forrington, who quite honestly, has more important things to do.
The primary argument that I keep hearing against the tax is that we have myriad other important problems in Sacramento that tax dollars need to be spent on: Homelessness, filthy air, mass transit, a lack of affordable housing, ad infinitum.
I agree with you.
I absolutely recommend, for example, that you vote yes on Proposition 84, which deals with water quality, safety and supply. It'll put some money into flood protection here in Sacramento and statewide. I mention this, because one of the arguments against the railyard development is that the rest of the state will think that if we want to improve our city, we obviously don't care about flood control, and therefore, they will vote down this important initiative.
I would respond by saying that I believe that's a full boatload of Grade A bullplop. Why?
First of all, the rest of the state could not possibly care less what the city and county of Sacramento are doing. The government is here, but that is all they know about us. Secondly, it is in their interest to keep our levees intact and sound, because nearly every drop of water used for drinking, bathing and irrigation in this state flows right through our downtown. Get some nice color photos of North Highlands and Rio Linda on a brochure, and ask LA and the Imperial Valley how they'd like their water filtered through those streets before it comes out of their tap. Done and done.
As for some of the other local needs that are used to justify arguments against the expenditure, good luck finding them on the ballot, suckers. These issues won't be dealt with, because no one bothered to put them on there. Yet...
You do have the opportunity to raise at least $600 million for the cities in Sacramento County to use for local projects. Oh, it's a tax hike, but a good liberal like you isn't afraid of a tax hike. "Taxes" is only a bad word to people like Grover Norquist and these lunatic Howard Jarvis devotees. You remember, the people who ruined California's world-class educational system and infrastructure. These are the ones I expect to do the "no new taxes" war dance, not generous progressives like yourself.
What about the other money to be raised, smart guy?
Oh, yeah. We spend that developing the eyesore that was the Union Pacific railyards, and we get a new arena.
I said the magic word, didn't I? You are opposed to the arena for the Kings. And the Monarchs, you misogynist. You don't like the deal that was struck, which will further enrich the Maloofs. Maybe you don't like the Kings or Monarchs, would never go to a game, and don't even like basketball. I'm not here to tell you how to live your life, and that you ought to like what I like. I'll go so far as to agree with you that the deal that was struck isn't remotely perfect.
Is there anything in life that is?
It galls you that this deal will make the Maloof family a lot of money. Join the club. The Maloofs are rich, made their money honestly, and America is set up in a fashion that allows the rich to get richer. It's so easy to do, and if you'll meet me halfway, I'll tell you how.
First, get a million dollars...
Yep, the Maloofs will make money on every single transaction that goes on within a hundred yards of the new arena. If it makes you that angry, I suggest that you boycott all events at the facility. That'll show them, because if a family of billionaires doesn't get your ten bucks from parking when you go to see Stalin On Ice, it'll probably drive them right in to the poorhouse.
Don't kid yourself.
If the railyards are not developed, along with the construction of a new arena, certain things will happen:
The Maloofs will take the Kings and Monarchs elsewhere. I will concede that there are far worse things that could happen to Sacramento. The levees could break, we could have a drought or an earthquake. Locusts could attack. The parking situation in Old Sacramento could get worse. Somehow. Anything is possible.
Now, I will tell you how many of these things will be prevented, and how many of Sacramento's social ills will be solved by voting no on the initiative.
Voting no achieves nothing. Not one thing.
Getting back to what will happen. Again, the Maloofs will move the Kings and Monarchs elsewhere, in and of itself, not the end of the world. Since the Maloofs own Arco Arena, and will no longer have any use for it, they will tear it down.
Why would they do that? Are they that spiteful?
No. Well, sort of. They're businessmen.
Arco will be torn down, and the land will be turned into tract housing and strip malls, if you can imagine such a thing occurring in Natomas. The Maloofs will make a ton of dough on the deal, and every dime will be wired to Las Vegas. We will get the additional traffic and infrastructure headaches, and nothing else. There is a clause that says the county has a say-so in the fate of the facility, but if you believe for a minute that the Maloof's phalanx of lawyers can't make that happen, you are quite naive.
Wait, we do get something, I almost forgot. We get to take trips to Oakland, San Francisco, Reno and Stockton.
Why would we do that?
Because with Arco torn down and replaced by McMansions, Sacramento's largest venue becomes Memorial Auditorium. You are not going to see Green Day, Shania Twain, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the monster trucks, Mannheim Steamroller, or any of the other tours that require large venues. Sacramento will be bypassed for all of them, and you will drive to the aforementioned cities, because they have buildings of the required size.
While you ponder that, I'd like to delve into the financial aspect of the tax.
A quarter cent per dollar on all purchases in Sacramento County. More money out of your pocket. Dammit.
I understand that there are people on fixed incomes. Technically, since I am a salaried employee, I am also on a fixed income. I suspect that most of us are. We are going to have less money if we choose to develop the railyards.
Every time you spend one thousand dollars on taxable purchases, the arena will cost you two dollars and fifty cents.
This will not affect your mortgage payment or rent, your car payment, credit card bills, or utilities. In my household, these are my major expenses each month. These expenses are not taxed.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to spend ten thousand dollars a month on purchases aside from these, you're out an additional twenty-five dollars. Twenty-five bucks. You spend more than that filling up your car nowadays, and a no vote on the downtown revitalization will mean more fill-ups for you. How come?
Because each time you drive to Oakland, San Francisco, Reno or Stockton, you're going to have to load up the car for, let's say, fifty bucks. Fifty dollars...
You are willing to spend the additional fifty dollars to drive a couple of hundred miles round trip, rather than put one cent toward developing the eyesore that is the downtown railyards. Let these other cities have your tax dollars! And with the new tax in place, do you know how many purchases you'd have to make in Sacramento County in order to pay that fifty dollars you spent on your little trip?
So, let's not kid ourselves about this. It's not about the money coming out of your pocket, as such. It's about where the money will be spent.
Which leads us to another argument that I hear frequently:
"I don't like the Kings or the Monarchs. I don't care about sports. I hate the rock and the roll. I'm not going to use some stupid arena. Let the people who use it pay for it."
I wouldn't mind seeing a surcharge slapped on every single ticket sold to Arco and a new arena in order to offset the cost to taxpayers. That would be fair.
But your "I won't use it, I'm not paying for it" angle doesn't fly.
By that logic, homeowners whose property taxes help pay for local schools should be exempt if they don't have school-age children in the household. What would that do to the budgets of our schools?
You're against education now? I don't even know who you are anymore.
A new arena will not make us any more of a "world-class city" than we already are. It is not a step to "a new level." It will not solve all of our problems, nor will it transform Sacramento into a heaven on earth. The arena is not the entire equation. Not even half, technically.
The initiative will develop Sacramento's railyards and downtown, and also put an additional $600 million minimum into the county to spend on the myriad things that we are all concerned about. It will be a long-term investment in our community.
Voting down the initiative, once again, accomplishes nothing at all.
You are not some greedy neocon. You are concerned about your fellow man, and the community we live in. You want your tax dollars spent for things that will help people who need it, and not line the pockets of the super-wealthy. I assure you, I couldn't agree more.
This initiative is not perfect. It is, however, about as good of a deal as we can hope for. Sacramento benefits from developing the railyards, in ways large and small. It is a community need, and the community must foot the bill. This is an investment. Irrespective of the Kings and Monarchs, the railyards need to be developed.
Voting no does nothing to improve Sacramento.
Stop thinking about the Maloofs. To hell with the Maloofs. This is about us, the residents of Sacramento County. Those of us that live here, work here and play here. It is about what we can achieve by continuing the revitalization of our downtown core, and additionally, by pumping an additional, separate $600 million dollars into needs all over the county.
In November, as you enter your polling place, ask yourself what a no vote accomplishes for your community. But don't stand there all day, the polls will only be open for about twelve hours.