The arena battle headed to a courtroom today as Judge Timothy Frawley heard arguments from both the City and STOP regarding the validity of the petitions that were rejected by the City Clerk on January 24th. Those petitions were rejected by the Clerk due to numerous failures to comply with election code and the Sacramento City Charter.
STOP's argument in court was that the deficiencies in the petitions were technical and minor and that the people who signed them were not being misled. These "techincal deficiencies" included not listing names on the notice of intent, not including an enacting clause on any petition, and submitting nine different petitions with different wording on each.
Judge Frawley did not seem sympathetic to STOP's arguments of "substantial compliance" stating that while no one error was enough to reject the petitions, "collectively there are so many errors that the flaws are fatal". The Judge also expressed disappointment that STOP's attorneys did not bother to address the issue of these petitions being against the City Charter, which does not allow decisions such as these to be put up to a vote. He also declared that with the level of funding that STOP received, there should have been a substantially better product put forward and that these errors could have been avoided.
While the Judge did not make a final ruling, he did say that he was currently in favor of ruling for the city and that STOP would have to make a "compelling" argument to convince him otherwise. That written argument (there will be no more oral arguments) must be submitted by Tuesday, at which time Judge Frawley will make his formal decision.
Most tellingly, STOP's lawyer asked the Judge to make a final ruling today, even after hearing that he was leaning towards siding with the city, all in the "interest of time" and STOP's pocketbook. Per the Bee's Ryan Lillis, that's a bad sign for a potential appeal, especially if STOP is running out of funds.
This was definitely good news for Sacramento Kings fans and supporters of the downtown Arena. We'll know once and for all on Tuesday whether this issue will ever be up for a vote, but as of now it appears very unlikely. If that's the case, the city will vote on approving bonds in May and groundbreaking could begin as early as September.