Sacramento is at a crossroads. On Tuesday, the City Council will be asked to approve a conceptual term sheet, framework to protect the city's general fund, and a comprehensive timeline for community outreach to vet the parking monetization proposal for the entertainment and sports complex.
Make no mistake. Tuesday's vote is not the final say to build an arena. It is only a step forward and continues the process. It gives us a chance to evaluate the proposal publicly over the next four months and learn how it affects all of us, from local businesses to residents.
Just mention the arena in this town and you'll unleash a furious debate. On one hand, people question the merits of having an NBA franchise and on the other they tout the benefits of building a regional destination. But at its core, this has never been about basketball. It's about our community. And when we use that lens to view this issue, we'll find that we have much more in common.
Ask yourself these questions: Do you care about public safety and having enough police to protect our neighborhoods? Do you care about making sure our kids have access to the best possible education? Do you care if our city pools stay open, our parks maintained and our trash cans emptied? If you answered yes, then building a regional entertainment and sports complex can benefit you.
Here's why: All of those services are paid for by the city's general fund revenues, which continue to shrink each year. Right now, our local government is struggling to maintain service levels because we all are struggling to make ends meet. Sacramento has been hit hard by the recession. Last year we lost 1,300 jobs, and at the end of 2011 unemployment was at 10.9 percent. When our households have less to spend on discretionary items, less sales tax is generated, and our city has fewer resources to allocate to public safety, education and other services.
So while you may not give a hoot about the game of basketball, we all want to create jobs, breathe life into our stagnant economy and restore economic prosperity to the region.
The City Council has a choice. They can vote "yes" to lead us on a path to explore this game-changing economic opportunity. Or they can vote "no," letting more jobs slip away and losing a potential catalyst to turn around our local economy. We cannot afford to lose the 773 full-time and part-time jobs that the current facility provides for parking attendants, maintenance crews, hospitality and concession staff, and others. And we certainly cannot afford to lose the revenue the current facility generates for our general fund.
If the City Council votes "yes," we not only retain existing jobs and revenues in the short term but also gain the opportunity for a new economic driver for our region in the long term. It creates the possibility of new construction jobs to build the facility, new service sector jobs to operate the facility, new conventions and entertainment events, and the additional economic activity they generate. This allows local government to invest back into the community and fund much needed services.
While choosing to move this process forward may create waves, that ripple effect can benefit all of us in terms of creating job growth, new revenue sources and defining our city's identity. If we are serious about turning around the economy, we need to invest now to create the best deal possible for Sacramento's future. We cannot do that if we get bogged down by politics or frozen by fear and uncertainty.
It is easy to avoid the unknown. It is easy to say "no" when the honest answer is "I don't know." But these are not easy times and we are looking to our elected officials to lead us forward. Ending the conversation about the entertainment and sports complex prematurely is not the answer. This isn't a game. This is our future.