Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton: Mayor Kevin Johnson suits up for today's big playoff

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Sep. 23, 2013 - 8:09 am

It's not only unprecedented that Seattle and Sacramento will be bidding against each other for the future of the Kings before the oligarchs of the NBA in New York today.

It's odd that Sacramento still is involved at all.

We do many things in the capital, but locking horns in a high-stakes bidding war to retain a high-profile private business isn't usually one of them.

It's very un-Sacramento.

Normally, our idea of economic development is a tax hike. Our notion of snazzy development is when the state commissions another gray, sensibly sized "high-rise" for a height-challenged downtown grid.

This is part of why Mayor Kevin Johnson has always been an odd duck in his home pond of small fish that snap like toothless piranhas at his corporate pitchman ways.

Say what you will about the mayor, but Sacramento remains in today's competition for the Kings only because of him.

He first saved the Kings two years ago when he bought a year's reprieve from relocation to Anaheim. Last year, he had a deal with the Kings' current owners, the Maloofs, until those bumblers bagged out.

Now this. KJ will have all his political chips on the table when he and his group of imported billionaires pitch NBA Commissioner David Stern and NBA owners on why the Kings should stay put.

The mayor is the epitome of all in. His unlikely tenure as mayor is held together by this campaign and – true to his nature – he's been smiling like the Cheshire Cat for weeks. He's practically guaranteeing victory.

Normally, one force or another rises up to oppose progress in Sacramento, but so far only a pair of lawyers, Patrick Soluri and Jeffrey Anderson, have threatened to sue. They won't tell The Bee if they have a client, but in Seattle, a formidable longshoremen's union has been openly fighting that city's arena bid for the Kings.

The NBA should take note.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg will be joining Johnson and his rich guys in New York today. He is a symbol of the many Sacramento constituencies that have aligned to retain an NBA franchise and promote a downtown arena plan that would house the Kings, stage premier events and lift a sagging urban core.

Johnson's efforts have triggered regional reflection over Sacramento's self-image.

People who want a downtown arena often speak of being tired of the image of Sacramento as a sleepy town afraid to do big things. People opposed to an arena hate the idea of public subsidies aiding billionaires at the expense of the sensible town they know. Each argument, sooner or later, veers toward impassioned ideas of what people think Sacramento needs or should be.

Win or lose, Johnson's role as a catalyst for this regional discussion is his biggest mayoral achievement so far.

Call The Bee's Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096. Back columns, Follow him on Twitter @marcosbreton.

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Read more articles by Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton, news columnist

Marcos Breton

Hello, my name is Marcos Breton and I'm the news columnist with The Sacramento Bee. What's a columnist supposed to do? I'm supposed to make you think, make you laugh, make you mad or make you see an issue in a different way. I'm supposed to connect the dots on issues, people and relationships that cause things to happen or prevent them from happening in our region. I also write a weekly baseball column during the baseball season. I am a voter in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, I have voted for Barry Bonds - twice. I am a native of Northern California. I am the son of Mexican immigrants. I've been at The Bee for more than 20 years, and I love Sacramento.

Phone: 916-321-1096
Twitter: @MarcosBreton

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