Mayor to announce political group to fight anti-arena subsidy campaign

Mayor Kevin Johnson’s response to the campaign seeking a vote on Sacramento’s arena subsidy is coming into focus.

Johnson and his supporters have organized a political coalition dubbed The4000 that will “stand up and fight for the 4,000 jobs tied to the downtown arena,” according to a letter circulated by the group Wednesday afternoon.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, will co-chair the coalition. Joshua Wood, who leads the building coalition group Region Builders, will act as the campaign’s executive director.

The group will announce its plans at an event at 2:45 p.m. today at the Assembly nightclub at 10th and K streets downtown.

The formation of the group came the day after Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork (STOP) said it submitted 35,000 signatures from city residents who support a June ballot measure that, if passed, would require voter approval of public subsidies to sports facilities in the city.

Sacramento’s city clerk is counting the signatures, a process that is expected to be completed by the end of the week. If that count finds STOP turned in at least 22,000 signatures, the petitions will be handed over to county elections officials for validation.

A determination of whether STOP collected enough signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot is not expected for several weeks.

Wood said he and members of the pro-arena group filed 15,266 signed forms from people asking that their names be removed from the STOP petitions.

STOP spokesman John Hyde said he was not surprised that Johnson formed a political group to counter the ballot measure campaign.

“We expect it to be a very intense and expensive campaign, especially on the part of the developers and others who are supporting the arena subsidy,” Hyde said.

The city has tentatively agreed to contribute $258 million toward the $448 million arena at Downtown Plaza. Most of the public contribution would come from bonds backed by parking revenue.

In his letter to supporters, Wood repeated his campaign’s message describing STOP as a “Trojan horse” that relied on funding from sources outside city limits to collect its signatures.

“This is a deliberate attempt to jeopardize the downtown entertainment and sports complex by creating enough delays and uncertainty to disrupt the project timeline, undermine the public-private partnership to finance the arena, and potentially imperil the Kings’ continued presence as a treasured civic asset in Sacramento,” Wood wrote.

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