McGinn, Constantine score even before they score an arena
by Knute Berger
Mayor Mike McGinn and County Executive Dow Constantine discuss a plan for a new arena in Seattle during a Feb. 16 press conference. Credit: Office of the Mayor
Can you be a winner on a what-if?
In these hard economic times, yes. We need politicians willing to be bold, or grasp at straws. So this week’s winners start with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine who announced that they are seriously reviewing a new proposed $500 million-ish sports arena for SoDo to be financed by Seattle-boy-turned-hedge-fund-millionaire Chris Hansen. Isn’t time for the 1 percent to do something nice for the 99 percent?
It’s all speculative at this point, but as outlined it would be privately financed, the city’s and county’s investment (via bonds) would be limited to $200 million paid back through arena-generated revenues and taxes, and in 30 years, the public would own it, probably as a faded antique.
Hansen would get an NBA franchise back in Seattle (how he does that is up to him), help attract a National Hockey League team to boot (we last won the Stanley Cup in 1917!), and fulfill a life-long dream (he grew up here during the SuperSonics heyday). With a public skeptical of taxpayer sports subsidies, the talk at the press conference was jobs jobs jobs, and a blue ribbon committee will examine the whole thing to see if it’s workable. The politicos know it’s no slam dunk, or as Constantine said, “It’s tip off of the first game of the pre-season.” McGinn made no promises either, yet says he feels “excitement in the air.” With hopes raised, a political air-ball could still put them in the losers column (you do not want sports talk radio against you), but for basketball fans, Hansen’s dream and pocketbook seem like no-risk manna from hoops heaven.
Other winners and losers of the week:
Winner: Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, buoyed by a new Elway Poll showing him with a nine-point lead over Democratic candidate Jay Inslee. Elway’s assessment, as described in a Seattle Times report: “Overall, Elway says the results show ‘a significant early advantage’ for McKenna, while Inslee has yet to broaden his appeal beyond the Democratic base. McKenna does an even better job among voters who are familiar with both candidates, suggesting that he will get stronger as the campaign unfolds,” Elway notes.
The buzz for a long time has been that Inslee needs to step it up, partly because the Congressman is less-known statewide than Attorney General McKenna. But, McKenna is also well regarded by many Democrats and independents. That suggests Inslee and his surrogates will have to run an aggressive campaign to both introduce Inslee to voters, but also drive down McKenna’s positives with negative ads. More good news for McKenna: the disenchantment with Democrats and education reform by major party- and Inslee-donor Nick Hanauer, who says McKenna is more right on education than Inslee and the D’s in Olympia who, Hanauer says, are too tight with the reform-resistant unions.
Winners: Gov. Christine Gregoire, Sen. Ed Murray, and Rep. Jamie Pedersen, signer and sponsors of the Gay Marriage law that was signed this week. Washington state joins seven other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing gay marriage. Gregoire, quoted in the Seattle Times, got it right: “It’s a day that historians will mark as a milestone for equal rights — when we did what was right, just and fair and did it together, Republicans and Democrats, gay and straight, young and old.” After the gay marriage honeymoon, however, comes the budget.
Winner: Rick Santorum has caught Mitt Romney in the national polls. Others have accomplished that, but lived to regret it. But so far this week, no embarrassing fall from grace. Santorum was in Pugetopolis briefly for a rally in Tacoma. He gave his speech in front of the Washington State History Museum, a perfect venue for highlighting a 17th-century political platform. This week he also received a not-an-endorsement-endorsement from the family-values band, Megadeth.
Loser: Mitt Romney is being compared to Bob Dole, aged Viagra spokesman and a onetime GOP presidential nominee who was famous for being able to suck the enthusiasm out of a room of Republicans. Romney, however, lacks Dole’s mordant wit. Because there are no major primaries or caucuses this week, and because America’s most famous dog show was in the headlines, Romney’s been taking hits over his maltreatment of the family dog on a long ago car trip to Canada. It’s a story that reminds me of his current primary campaign: He’s strapped the GOP base to the roof of his station wagon for his drive to the nomination, and the closer he gets, the worse the brown trickle coming down the windshield gets.
Loser: American politics. Everything Charles Dickens is being revived for his 200th anniversary, including how he fell out of love with America. All it took was an extended visit here in 1842. After a visit to Washington, DC, Dickens concluded our politics featured “Despicable trickery at elections; under-handed tamperings with public officers; and cowardly attacks upon opponents, with scurrilous newspapers for shields, and hired pens for daggers.” Sound familiar?