Tuesday Jolt: Questions raised about arena proposal, McKenna lawsuit

The day's winners and losers.
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The day's winners and losers.

Today's first loser: The city's arena proposal.

In sharp contrast to city officials' tacit endorsement of San Francisco investor Chris Hansen's half-billion-dollar arena proposal, members of the King County Council sounded skeptical of the idea at a meeting of the council's budget committee this morning.

Although the county would only be on the hook for, at most, $85 million of the total $200 million in public investment in the arena (just $5 million if Hansen fails to recruit an NHL team), County Council members questioned the value of investing in a new arena at a time of government cutbacks in other areas, such as social services. They also questioned whether the arena would really pay for itself; whether taxpayers would be on the hook if it didn't; what impact arena fans would have on traffic to and from the Port of Seattle's SoDo terminal; and whether Seattle-area residents really have enough disposable income to support six sports facilities, including the Kingdome, which, as council member Larry Phillips noted, "we're still paying off" 12 years after its demolition. 

"The deal as it stands today is not without risk," staffer Mark Melroy told the council. "It's unlikely that you'll ever get to a point that it does not include any risk to the government." 

As for the traffic impacts, council staffers were somewhat dismissive of a traffic study commissioned and funded by Hansen himself. 

That study, which found that traffic would not be any worse if the arena was built, was merely "fatal flaw analysis — not the detailed analysis that you would get with the construction of a facility," staffer John Resha said. 

The county has appointed a seven-member panel to review the arena proposal; it includes well-regarded local economist Dick Conway and former state transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald.

The city council, for its part, will get its first official look at the arena plan on Thursday, at 9:30 in the morning in council chambers. 

Today's second loser: Attorney General Rob McKenna. 

Although King County Superior Court Judge Sharon Armstrong's rejection of a request to enjoin McKenna from arguing against the federal health care law certainly looks like a win for McKenna, the ruling effectively finds that, contrary to his public statements, he has in his legal motions consistently opposed the entire Affordable Care Act, not just the requirement that every American buy health insurance. The judge specifically said that McKenna's public statements were "political statements" that had to be judged in the political realm rather than the courtroom. As to McKenna's going along with other states' attorneys general in seeking to have the law overturned in its entirety, Armstrong said the court lacked authority to second-guess whether it was a wise legal strategy.

Dozens of women have sued McKenna for his opposition to Obamacare, arguing that the federal lawsuit  he signed on to would deny women improved coverage for birth control, cancer screenings, and other preventive care.

McKenna has said publicly that he only opposes the individual mandate; the lawsuit, however, seeks to overturn the entire act. 


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