Pro-arena group holds press conference in cemetery to blast opponents

In a move that made even die-hard Sacramento Kings fans and arena boosters cringe, a pro-arena group held a news conference inside East Lawn Cemetery in east Sacramento on Friday to criticize arena subsidy opponents.

The 4000, a group leading a campaign against a proposed June ballot measure on arena subsidies, said it held the press event inside the cemetery to highlight the fact that petitions for the initiative included the names of deceased voters.

City Clerk Shirley Concolino confirmed there were names on the petitions of deceased people, but added “that happens every election.”

Asked if he thought the news conference location should be seen as offensive, Josh Wood, the director of The 4000, said, “Our intentions were to highlight how disgusting it is to forge someone’s name who is deceased in order to get a political gain.”

Kings fans took to Twitter as soon as the press event’s location was released, urging the pro-arena group to quit before it started or move locations.

Kevin Fippin, a social media editor for the Sactown Royalty Kings fan blog, wrote: “Abort Abort Abort.”

“Pro-arena group hasn’t had too many missteps in my mind. This though, is definitely one,” wrote Akis Yerocostas, co-editor of Sactown Royalty.

Isaac Gonzalez, the campaign manager for Voters for a Fair Arena Deal, or VFAD, one of the groups that filed petitions for the ballot measure, said, “Holding a press conference in a sacred place is distasteful. Josh Wood should apologize to the families of those who have laid their loved ones to rest at East Lawn.”

The media gathering was held soon after the Sacramento County registrar released new figures showing it had begun recounting the petitions handed in by Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork, or STOP, and VFAD. That recount is being done so county elections officials can closely track various versions of the petitions handed in by the groups.

The groups have said they turned in versions of the petition with minor differences. County Registrar Jill LaVine said earlier this week there were four versions, but would not describe how significant the differences were.

Friday’s count showed that 2,803 signatures had been counted and that 1,943 were deemed valid, a validity rate of 69 percent. STOP and VFAD turned in 35,247 signatures and need roughly 22,000 valid signatures – or 62 percent – in order to qualify their measure for the June ballot.

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