Marcos Breton: Support for arena is support for all that Sacramento could be

02/26/2012 12:00 AM

04/18/2013 7:45 PM

A few days ago, I got a strange email from a nice man who suggested the Kings and the NBA were paying me for supporting the idea of a new arena in Sacramento.

The misguided missive reminded me of something an old journalism professor said years ago: "When they start calling you names, you know you've got them."

I know.

After 22 happy years in Sacramento, I've gotten used to the name-calling that kicks into high gear whenever it's suggested that Sacramento could and should be more than it is.

In my opinion, this idea is particularly offensive to long-time residents, people who live and breathe the government-town ethos that any change must be bad.

And yet?

Pension spiking and public-payroll double dipping are rampant around here. Politicians like Roger Dickinson, who spent lavishly as a county supervisor while kicking budget cans down the road, get elected to the statehouse because his opponents offer even less.

Local Democratic clubs that endorse political candidates are anything but democratic. Sacramento's cop union would rather sacrifice its younger officers – and public safety – than pay into their pensions and preserve jobs.

The local teachers union resists any and all reforms, and good luck to the poor person charged with trying to run local school districts – especially the one in Sacramento.

The capital region is routinely ranked near the bottom in the nation for its business climate, and yet the politicians are focused on protecting the entitlements of their benefactors.

All the metrics of unemployment, job creation and a stagnant housing market suggest the Sacramento region is depressed.

But we have too few ideas for fixing these issues and too many political consultants adept at exploiting them.

Sacramento has many virtues: beautiful neighborhoods, terrific restaurants, a vibrant arts scene and many people who truly care and love this place.

The surrounding communities show great signs of life: West Sacramento's remake of its once-drab image; Roseville's economic might; smart efficiency in Rancho Cordova and Citrus Heights; the promise of big growth in Elk Grove.

All the elements are here for something beyond an economic recovery everyone is hoping for.

The elements are all here for a renaissance where the Sacramento region moves beyond its government town image to become a place of true economic diversity.

But until that happens – until the local focus becomes creating and maintaining jobs and economic activity – we can scream all we want about diminishing social services. It won't matter.

Nothing works until people go back to work.

Nothing works until opposition ceases to be Sacramento's default setting.

Here is where I win the argument over the naysayers: I'm willing to admit the arena deal could fall apart today for the right reasons – if NBA Commissioner David Stern expects Sacramento to endanger its general fund to build the facility.

If that happens, it's time to focus on something else. Bye-bye, NBA.

But arena opponents? They oppose without even knowing the particulars of the deal. They oppose the idea of an arena.

When you ask them: OK, what's your idea to change the economic dynamic in Sacramento?

What's your plan to counteract the bad publicity of Sacramento losing its major sports franchise? What's your suggestion for being stuck with the former Arco Arena, an antiquated building the city would not control if the Kings left?

You know what they say? Nothing.

To me, some arena opponents seem like GOP presidential candidates rooting against the U.S. economy because they want to unseat Barack Obama.

That's fine. But I'm not hoping for an arena because I am a Kings fan. I'm certainly no fan for the current Kings owners.

But I am a fan of Sacramento. Like you, I've lived through the last several years of decline and painful downsizing. I've seen friends and family go unemployed.

I've been saddened by promising businesses that have gone under for a lack of business.

Almost everyone I know is underwater on his or her house.

And yet I love it here. I love the rivers and the parks. I love the restaurants and the Second Saturday Art Walk. I love that you can go anywhere around the region and run into people you know. I love Sacramento's history of hanging tough when times got hard.

To me, the arena is part of several musts this region needs to achieve for a better future.

Another is fortifying the levees to ensure safety and economic development. Another is to pump life into Sacramento's downtown so it can be a viable partner with Roseville and every community in between.

My hope is that success in Sacramento would breed success. Confidence would trump cynicism. The future always belongs to people who believe and hope rather than those who oppose and sneer.

What's it going to be, Sacramento? What do you want to be?

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