Midday Scan: Arena as circus; money for lawmakers; GOP's remarkable demographics

Come one, come all; see the amazing sports proposal. Fairy dust lands on legislators. And Tim Egan sees Republican nominating electorate as a small fraction of the U.S. population.

Sen. Maria Cantwell

Sen. Maria Cantwell Wikipedia

Seattle's arena politics are a figurative blend of Century 21 optimism, P.T. Barnum flam, and Byzantine process. It is hope, joy, fear, and bureaucracy expressed in a scale model (and often underwritten by a deep-pocketed patron.) Still, there's nothing wrong with a little world's fair-style sureness and cheer every half-century or so.  

"The wheels are turning for a new, self-funded NBA and NHL arena in Seattle in the city’s Sodo neighborhood, funded privately and publicly by tax revenue on the arena development and the professional teams that would call it home," the Seattlepi.com's Nick Eaton writes. "The plan was spearheaded by Seattle-born investor Chris Hansen, who with his investment group is planning to purchase an NBA franchise and bring it to Seattle. He also is searching for a partner to bring an NHL team to Seattle."  

Sportspress Northwest's Art Thiel cautions patience. "If this proposal — and that’s all it is — becomes an arena on First Avenue South, nearly in front of the office of the last owner Seattle was excited about, Howard Schultz,it’s going to take a damn long time," Thiel writes in an article also published on Crosscut. The plan gives a needed political lift to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn who comes across as a consensus building, get-along jefe. And, anyway, we deserve this, yes? Yes. Thiel notes, "Given the heartaches, ripoffs, failures and boredom that have attended big-time sports in Seattle in recent years, we are overdue for an oil tanker’s worth of fairy dust."

The fairy dust has already rained on Olympia. A positive revenue forecast is like winning big at poker, it is both a relief and a surprise. The latest good news of an extra half-billion bucks could relieve Democrats of having to peddle a temporary sales tax to voters to backfill the state's education budget. The only downside is it postpones a meaningful discussion about sustainable revenue sources.  

"Washington’s budget shortfall is down to $500 million as the economy shows signs of stabilizing and people rely less on state services, leading two prominent Democrats to suggest that a solution the state’s budget problems might be possible without a temporary sales tax hike," the AP's Mike Baker writes. "Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ed Murray said the modest improvement in Thursday’s state revenue forecast, coupled with a cheaper than expected report on caseloads earlier this week, casts doubt on the need for a sales tax increase subject to voter approval."  

This is not your daddy's Republican party. In fact, it is more like your great-great granddaddy's Republican party. The challenge for the party of Lincoln, both in Washington state and throughout the country, is to throw open the door to people who don't necessarily resemble the 16th president in terms of gender, race, or creed. Old white guys, however venerable, are only one small slice of an increasingly heterogeneous nation. 

"There is no other way to put this without resorting to demographic bluntness: the small fraction of Americans who are trying to pick the Republican nominee are old, white, uniformly Christian and unrepresentative of the nation at large," Seattle's Tim Egan writes in the New York Times. "None of that is a surprise. But when you look at the numbers, it’s stunning how little this Republican primary electorate resembles the rest of the United States."

When in doubt, drill it out. The Alaska congressional delegation understands the levers of power, and once again they have helped shepherd a bill in the U.S. House to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling. The bill, which passed by a 237-187 vote on Thursday, is likely to die in the U.S. Senate, although Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski believes a majority of the members on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee support drilling (Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell sits on the committee but is opposed to opening ANWR.) The Anchorage Daily News' Lisa Demer and Richard Mauer get the money quote from Alaska's Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich. "When you say the word 'ANWR,' there are some members who literally get hives," Begich said.   


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