Foes of Sacramento arena vote accuse petitioner of misleading statements

Published: Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2013 - 5:38 pm

A group trying to block an effort to place the city of Sacramento's arena financing subsidy before the voters released a video this week that shows a campaign worker making misleading statements as she tries to collect signatures for the initiative.

The video – posted on pro-arena website DowntownArena.org – shows the signature gatherer tell a man carrying a camera that the city is raising taxes to come up with its subsidy for the arena at the Downtown Plaza. A tax hike is not part of the city's plan.

That campaign worker is part of a group seeking to gather enough signatures to place the arena subsidy on the June 2014 ballot. Two affiliated groups are involved in that effort: STOP, a Sacramento-based committee, and Taxpayers for Safer Neighborhoods, a political action committee based in Orange County.

When the amateur cameraman asks the petition worker if "they're going to increase taxes" to build the arena, the woman replies, "Yeah, they're trying to increase taxes because the arena will cost a quarter of a billion dollars to build and they want to impose those taxes on the voters."

The cameraman then tells the signature gatherer that it was his impression the city was planning to use taxpayer dollars to help fund the arena, but that he did not think the plan called for a tax hike.

"No, not really," the campaign worker replies.

"So it's going to be an increase?" the cameraman asks.

"Yeah, it's going to be a tax increase," the worker says.

While $258 million in public money has been approved by the City Council for the $448 million arena, the plan does not call for a tax increase. Most of the funding would come from revenue bonds backed by downtown parking spaces and garages.

In an emailed statement, Jonathan Wilcox, a spokesman for the campaign seeking the public vote on the arena subsidy, said the video "is the classic distinction without a difference."

"Supporters of this massive subsidy are only attempting to shore up the shaky idea to spend more than a quarter-billion dollars of taxpayer funds, and do it without the consent of the people," Wilcox said. "Nothing in this video or any other contradicts the fundamental fact that taxpayers have every right to weigh in on this decision and the city has every obligation to convince them it is worthy of their support."

Joshua Wood, the executive director of Region Builders, which represents building interests, said, "We believe (the public vote campaign) would not have near the number of signatures they have if they would tell the truth."

Region Builders and Crown Downtown, a Kings fan group, have partnered to create DowntownArena.org.

That campaign announced Monday that it had crafted a form – available on its website – for voters who believe they signed the petitions in error to remove their names from that list.

Call The Bee's Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at sacbee.com/citybeat. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_lillis.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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