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An open letter to Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen represents downtown on the City Council. There are so many reasons for him to support this deal.


Dear Steve,

Let me start off by saying that no matter which way you vote, so long as you vote your conscience, you're okay with me. While you could be the swing vote in a historic decision on whether or not to present to the NBA a viable option that would keep the Kings in Sacramento for decades, it's your vote to make. You ran for Council, sacrificing your time, your money, your bandwidth. I don't believe in telling policymakers at any level what to do. I tell them what I think, and explain why. That's what I hope to do here.

You represent District 4, which includes downtown. Your platform was diverse, but included a desire to revitalize the city's core. We can both say that no plan in Sacramento's modern history has the potential to do more for the city core than this one. And it's not just the arena: under this deal, some of the most blighted lots in downtown will be redeveloped by the investment group. Downtown Plaza, which is a running joke among those who visit Sacramento on business (including NBA players), will sprout anew. And downtown will finally have its centerpiece, a link between the charm of Old Sac and the organic loveliness of Midtown.

The deal isn't cheap. But because the city has been dealing with Ron Burkle instead of George Maloof, most of the risk has been shifted away from the public. The city won't be responsible for cost overruns or pre-development fees, isn't relying on quick sales of city land parcels to add up and now has a guaranteed floor in the profit sharing mechanism. As should be the case in public-private partnerships, the majority of risk lies with the private developers. They believe in Sacramento. Burkle stepped up in 2011, back when the Maloofs were plotting to high-tail it to Anaheim with our team. Back then Burkle stepped up and told the NBA and the public that he believes in Sacramento. I know you believe in Sacramento, too. This is a deal that allows that belief to manifest as revitalization with minimal risk to the public.

I know getting public input and a full public vetting is important to you. I share your frustration that the term sheet wasn't ready for the three planned public workshops. But the city manager and mayor were ensuring that the deal protected the public -- and that's the most important thing. You've no doubt been able to review the term sheet at length since its release, and as a representative of the public, you have access to the experts who can answer questions. If there were time to spare, I would agree that the public needs time to review. But we don't live in a perfect world, and there's very little time to spare. Approval of the deal on Tuesday is necessary to allow the mayor and the investors to develop their pitch to the NBA relocation/finance committee. I encourage you to ask every question that your constituents want answered during the meeting. But I hope you'll understand why this deal needs your vote on Tuesday. Sacramento can't risk missing this chance. We don't know when we'll get another opportunity from a pro sports league if we lose this. We don't know when we'll get another opportunity to inject downtown with this type of capital if we lose this. Delaying the vote at this point puts the whole project at risk of earning a fair hearing at the NBA. We don't have time to lose.

You're a good representative of your community no matter what you vote -- Sacramentans are smart enough not to be one-issue folks. (The thousands of political ads we see every June and November surely helps us maintain our nuance.) Many have been surprised that the City Council could actually negotiate, vet and approve a deal like this because folks in this city -- elected officials and voters alike -- are so passionate and educated about the issues. That speaks to how important the 2012 deal was, and given that the 2013 deal is stronger, it says something about the importance of this one.

I hope to see you support the deal by voting in favor of it on Tuesday. It's Sacramento's time. Your district deserves this shot in the arm.


Th. Ziller