Group won’t seek referendum on Sacramento Kings arena deal

A citizens group that has sought a public vote on Sacramento’s arena plans for two years announced Sunday that it has abandoned its latest campaign to force a referendum vote on the City Council’s approval of an arena financing deal.

Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork (STOP) determined that the City Council’s approval of the financing plan is not subject to voter referendum because of the form of joint-powers authority the city created to issue the revenue bonds backing the project, said Jim Cathcart, one of the leaders of STOP.

“It’s a big disappointment to us, needless to say,” Cathcart said. Getting the signatures to force a referendum “was going to be a slam dunk, and we got very, very excited.”

The City Council voted last month to contribute $255 million toward a $477 million arena at Downtown Plaza. Most of the city’s contribution will come from revenue bonds backed by city-owned parking.

STOP first emerged in 2012, saying it wanted a public vote on a now-defunct deal the city had reached with the Maloof family, the former owners of the Kings, over the financing of a new arena in the downtown railyard.

STOP re-emerged last year and gathered signatures for another ballot measure. That measure, if passed, would have required voter approval of public financing for professional sports facilities in the city.

The group gathered enough signatures to place its measure on the ballot, but a judge tossed the initiative after determining petitions circulated in support of the campaign contained significant legal flaws.

It does not appear STOP began collecting signatures this time around.

In a statement on its Facebook page, STOP said attorney Patrick Soluri and others had discovered legal statutes indicating the group needed to gather fewer than 13,000 signatures in two months to force a vote on the arena plan. But an elections attorney later told the group the City Council decision could not be reversed by referendum.

City officials also had said the council decision was not subject to referendum because it was approved through a resolution. Only ordinances, not resolutions, are referable, City Clerk Shirley Concolino said.

Soluri had announced the referendum plan May 20, the night the City Council voted to approve the arena deal. He and fellow attorney Jeffrey Anderson said they would help lead the signature campaign. Soluri declined comment Sunday.

Cathcart said STOP is following through on its lawsuit challenging the arena under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The lawsuit described the proposed arena as “hideously designed” and said it would cause significant traffic, noise and public safety issues in downtown Sacramento. The suit is also challenging the legality of a new state law that provides extra protections for the arena against CEQA lawsuits.

Soluri is also pushing ahead with a lawsuit against the city claiming the Kings received “secret subsidies” in the arena deal, including parking spaces at Downtown Plaza donated to the team.

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