“So, if these are the clowns, who are the Ringmasters?“
They’re still going after the owners, the Maloofs, as the finger-pointing looks for targets to pin the tail on the donkey’s collapse in the latest failed arena-deal. Is he just being greedy? Is he saying, “If I can’t run things the way I like, this town doesn’t get a basketball team?” Or, perhaps he’s trying to signal that there’s more risk in the current scheme than he care’s to take with his money? No, matter, he’s the poster boy for this month’s round of ‘Who let the dogs out?’ What we’re not supposed to notice is whose printing the posters and hanging them up around town as fast as they can. Could it be the other three ringmasters in this circus of how to risk the future of Sacramento for the benefit of a few headline acts on something for which “Sacramento First” and “Think Big” would have been nice slogans if they had ever really meant anything.
They did not. Not when the matter was put to the voters in 2006 and voted down 3-to-1 by the citizens who had other priorities for what to do with their money. Not when the NBA tried to leverage the last large chunk of public commons, Cal Expo, into developer’s pockets and run off with a big, fat arena while Cal Expo argued over a few parking spaces. Not when Kamilos’ and his three-legged-stool, “Convergence”, scheme attempted to trade off the land in huge, complicated “swaps” crashed to the ground – a deal that no one but the privateers (e.g. Rex Himes on the Cal Expo Board; or, the shadow Maquerie Group), really knew anything about.
And, certainly not in this most recent round of River City roulette when the city did everything it could think of to distract everyone else by its purple shirt campaigns and bus tour hype, to circumvent the public along with the public interest. Their plans were anything but ‘Sacramento First’ and hardly ‘Big’, except for the fact that they pretended to cut the arena to about half the size of the Kamilos deal but knew it would quickly balloon to something more in line with what their own pockets had in mind all along.
It’s just the same Circus, the same tired acts, over and over. And most of all, it’s the same people who are expected to pay for the tickets – the taxpayers – most of whom never go to this basketball circus, don’t like the show and know that the barkers running around town advertising it are just a bunch of con men and carnies trying to fleece the public purse. So let’s take a moment and see what the folks who are promoting this house of cotton candy do every time they set up tent:
- They first throw up a few big balloons to catch attention and frame the thing to look like mom & apple pie – “Jobs!”, “The Team Will Leave and Sacramento will die.”, “The old arena is no good!”, “There will ge revenue and gold for all!”, “Compete!”, “Save the City!” – really just empty, unexamined, hot air balloons. But, if they can rouse a few noisy fans and hungry business folks (esp. real estate and developer folks) and silence everyone else, the emptiness of their promotions will go unnoticed, uncontested or outshouted;
- Next, they begin the real meaning of show – to get money. For the City? For its citizens? For its infrastructure? For the homeless? Na. For themselves – the developers and “stakeholders” – corporations, investors and, yes, politicians (campaign contributions and winning elections are are a form of personal wealth – don’t let anyone pretend otherwise).
– The third step is to cobble together the “financial plan”, before any real arena plan or its necessity and real benefits are fully analyzed and known. This is all done sub-rosa, with a deliberate attempt to exclude and circumvent the wishes of the people of Sacramento and the taxpayers who will foot a substantial portion of the bill and the risk. Two-minute inputs are meaningless dog&pony show, and the promoters know it. If you don’t show up, they will of course say “we gave you a chance to speak out and you didn’t.” But what everybody knows is that “speaking up” at public meetings is a futile exercise. The votes are already counted before anyone gets their two-cents worth of two-minutes. Count on it.
- Backroom deals, non-disclosure agreements, bogus “rushed schedules” and phony deadlines are set up all to the end of getting the deals secured before anyone has the information or time to react – anyone who is not on the take, that is. Purple shirts and die-hard fans are whipped into a frenzy of unexamined sound and fury, with no interest in taking a hard look at whatever script their cheer leaders choose to hand them. Dare to criticize something on one of their websites like “Kings Fans” and see what happens. We did, and we’re immediately erased and prevented from making any further comment.
- Stealth is key, and the less the public knows what is happening the better the real players like it. Their “business model” for a municipality is the kind of “Public-Private” partnership that plays by their rules – like a business; but an incompetent one, unequipped to play with the “big boyz” and beholden to conditions and procedures the private interests insist upon to their own advantage. Those are the boyz that have no loyalties to anyone but themselves and don’t hesitate to play one city off against another if it is to their advantage to do so. Count on that.
- Then come the votes and the frog-boiling step-by-step immersion in the game. At Cal Expo, one of the more thoughtful Board members wistfully said at a Board meeting, “I don’t know how we got here. It seemed like we were just taking small steps and committing to nothing, and now, here we are considering approving large sums of money without much information or assurance, and I still don’t know a lot about what we are really voting on.” That’s the way it works, in every round, with only slight variations on the theme. It’s a developer/investor/promoter managed undertaking, intended to give municipalities as little say as possible and the taxpayers and citizens, none.
There’s more. But, since all the previous schemes have, thankfully, collapsed of their own weight, we needn’t examine the rest of these processes. Only to understand, completely, that it isn’t finished – not by a long shot. The entertainment industry knows when there are sheep to be fleece, and cities, pretending they can be run like businesses (that is, entities who are only accountable to their wealthy prime stockholders and the bottom line) are first in line for the fleecing. Make no mistake, this isn’t about sports fans, or music/concert audiences. More than one Federal judge has noted the arrogance of these businesses when it comes to fans.
Lest we all forget in the recent round of whose-to-blame, there are four rings in this circus, that has parked its tent in the town for more than a decade. And it’s always the same show, only the costumes change. But it should be pretty clear by now, at least to everyone else that there are no wondrous acts and amazing feats to be seen at the ‘Kings Arena Circus’. Only clever, scheming clowns. The Maloofs, the NBA, the City of Sacramento and the Sacramento Bee newspaper have been putting on the same tired show, scheme after scheme, to enrich a few friends and nail down some campaign slogans.
The final act has always been the same – the tent collapses and everybody fights over who didn’t ‘play ball’. We have very short memories, indeed, if we forget that the NBA and the City and its politics, the developers – foreground and background – are any more reliable, less risky or self-serving than the Maloofs. Yet, here is the Mayor touting that “It isn’t over” and that he’s going to try again, “Figure something out.” What? Does he expect a different result in a town that doesn’t know how? Will he and his pals try to dredge out the same backrooms, consultants, vague deals, self-serving players and, then, hope for a different result? And the dealers in the game, are they supposed to show anything but the stripes they’ve always shown? Did we forget already how the NBA played us in the last round and upstaged the ‘Sacramento First’ processes that were supposed to be impartial in their examination of prospects and risks in an arena plan. How did Kamilos jump to the head of that pack (and his ex-Disney troup)? The point is, they are all clowns in this circus and they can’t help themselves.
Let’s not forget the role of the fourth ring in this circus – the Sacramento Bee and its point man, Tony Bizjack. The Bee is the paper that offers silence to any cogent criticism, let alone alternatives. It’s right in their boosting, day after day, headline after headline. Whatever the latest fashion in sports-arena hype and machination is, the Bee is always right in their pitching, even when it should have been asking tough questions and pulling the curtain aside on how these parodies of prudent planning and thoughtful attention to the real future of Sacramento really work. They don’t work; not in the dreams of sports and entertainment palaces that only the 1% can buy – the playthings of their own design. Read the Bee, though, over the past few years of “arena coverage”, and you wouldn’t know that – they don’t print anything that doesn’t serve the schemers (and their advertisers?).
And we what? Do we want to let these same clowns, without a trace of imagination in the lot of them, continue to be the principles in planning the future of our city and protecting the scant and diminishing resources we have? Do we want to keep buying into their give-aways, that are long on self-bloat and so short on public interest and vision for the future? There is one small difference, however, in the latest round. There is a group “Sacramento Opposed to Pork” (STOP), that has recently appeared on the horizon. As far as we know, it is the first time organized opposition to the double-dealing arena business has shown itself since the sports-arena quest began many years ago. How large it will get, how well-managed and successful it can become remains to be seen. We do note that its general target is pretty much constrained to the arena’s financial package as well – to protecting the taxpayer’s interests. But, that is the field (almost the exclusive field) where the big boyz play. So perhaps that will be enough.
After several years of our playing in a relatively one-man gadfly band against this giant hoax that will not stop, it’s good to have company. We do suggest anyone who thinks another side to the story needs to get told go to their website and get involved. We don’t believe, for a moment, that this little Maloof-goof wrinkle in current party-plans changes anything. The scheming goes on and the only way to STOP it is for citizens to get involved. The clowns you are up against aren’t going to change a thing. They can’t help themselves – double dealing and backroom schemes are an addiction – its the only way they know how to play. If it ruins the city in the process, so be it. They have no shame, they have no real accountability, except among themselves. Count on that, too.
So, if these are the clowns, who are the Ringmasters? We don’t know at this time. They may be some of or all of the clowns (City, NBA, Owners, Developers, etc.). Or they may be people we don’t even know. Some figures in the background playing their own little 1% game. That, too, remains to be seen.