Bruce Maiman is a former radio show host who lives in Rocklin. Reach him at brucemaiman@gmail.com.

Viewpoints: Are the naysayers wanting Sacramento to fail?

Published: Tuesday, May. 21, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 9A
Last Modified: Wednesday, May. 22, 2013 - 8:58 am

Why are so many so angry over the Kings staying in Sacramento? Judging by online reaction of Bee readers, you would think someone had stolen their firstborn.

Many things are worthy of our ire, but even when the news is good? You mean it's bad that the Kings are staying put? Without the Maloofs?

Not being a Kings fan, or even a basketball fan, I side neither with the pernicious acidity of the naysayers nor with ebullient sports boosters unwilling to remove their rose-colored glasses and appreciate that a favorable NBA ruling hardly guarantees a financial panacea for Sacramento.

Unquestionably, the new arena's financing details are far from issue-free, and prudent decisions about that project are paramount. Citizens ought to be able to vote on whatever plan is finally finalized. Indeed, a vote might impel Sacramento's leaders to craft a proposal more attractive to those raising fiscal concerns.

But this isn't a problem; it's an opportunity. So gather ye petitions and bring forth a referendum, as activists with Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork – STOP – are attempting. Failing that, you still have a vote: replace any council member deemed too cavalier. That's far more threatening to politicians than an arena vote, and certainly of more immediate impact than suing the city, as STOP is also doing. How does one complain about reckless public financing while filing suit in clogged courts already stressed with a backlog of legitimate cases precisely because of a fiscally bare cupboard?

Perhaps Mayor Kevin Johnson could use his powers of persuasion – certainly formidable on this front – to engineer a better arena deal?

No one can guarantee the fiscal outcome of Sacramento's new arena. Any number of studies assessing the impact of a new facility generally center on two key questions: Does the project promote economic development of the metropolitan area? Can the new facility substantially help maintain that new development, once established?

There are positive lessons to glean from the last 20 years: Camden Yards in Baltimore, Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Coors Field and the Pepsi Center in Denver, the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., and more recently, the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.

Various local accounts and urban renewal studies show that in each case, these facilities delivered significant economic improvement on respective downtowns heretofore impoverished, desolate or abandoned, and generating very little tax revenue.

Even the Sprint Center in Kansas City, home to no professional sports franchise, has become the nexus of redevelopment and financial vitality in a downtown previously decimated by decades of suburban flight. Today, the Sprint Center is credited with sparking both nightlife and high demand for downtown residency.

Similarly, developers beyond California are now inquiring about vacant lots near the proposed arena site, according to the Sacramento Downtown Partnership, hopefully reversing a similar decades-long downtown exodus.

Sacramento has thus far failed every attempt to revitalize its core. If not the arena, what better suggestion can the curmudgeons among us offer for generating economic development?

But it's more than just the arena. It seems some people simply have it in for Sacramento, and for California, craving failure as a way to justify their beliefs, fears or anger. The potential for greater good is irrelevant.

When Elizabeth Studebaker arrived from San Diego last year as executive director for the Midtown Business Association, she quickly proposed a farmers market for midtown. Party-poopers pooh-poohed her idea with, "You just got here," and "You're biting off more than you can chew." Studebaker agreed to take time and study the idea but pushed ahead. Today, midtown has another vibrant farmers market.

When The Bee's Editorial Page Editor Stuart Leavenworth praised Studebaker in a recent column as "exactly the kind of young leader Sacramento needs," several readers were quick to trash her and Sacramento. One reader "warned" ambitious entrepreneurial types to "put the city of Sacramento in their rearview mirror ASAP."

That's not a warning; that's someone's desire to see Sacramento fail. Why, so he can "win"? What kind of wretched selfishness is that?

Where does such venomous braying come from? Where did we ever get the notion this was an attractive and acceptable form of discourse? Can't we raise thoughtful objections without strident malevolence?

I'm reminded of a story from folklore where the tribal elder tells his grandson about a battle the old man was waging within himself. "It is between two wolves," he said. "One is an evil wolf: anger, envy, sorrow, greed, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is the good wolf: joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The boy asked, "Which wolf won?"

His grandfather answered, "The one I feed."

So, too, our public life, and given the resentment, insolence and bitterness harbored by so many, it feels like many of us are all happily digging our own graves.

Bruce Maiman is a former radio host who lives in Rocklin. Reach him at brucemaiman@gmail.com.

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