Bee Bias

The Sacramento Bee shows persistent, long-standing bias and censorship on sports-complex/Cal Expo Issues.

In the past year and dozens of stories covering the progress of plans for developing a sports-complex in Sacramento, The Sacramento Bee Newspaper has shown unmistakable bias in favoring plans that would result in the destruction of some or all of the public commons land of Cal Expo.

Summary: The Sacramento Bee has selectively biased its stories on plans for building an arena in Sacramento to two choices – both of which entail turning State-owned, public land used by Cal Expo over to private developers. During that time, it has been well aware of CEAV’s opposition to handing over the last major urban public commons in the State to developers for purely private and local interests such as townhouses, shopping malls and other commercial mixed-use projects. Yet the Bee has systematically excluded mention of any opposition to private development plans or made argument that would conflict with its own bias; refusing all but one of CEAV’s numerous submissions and, presumably, those from any other sources (though CEAV has no direct knowledge of this). While the Bee does print an occasional letter to the editor that generally opposes the building of a sports-arena or questions the financial soundness of one plan or another, the absence of any cogent criticism of privately developing Cal Expo and the exclusion of opposing opinion in its stories can be attributed to little else than deliberate censorship and slanted journalism.

Over the past several months, the Bee has lavished attention on a single plan, the ‘Land Swap’ deal of the Kamilos group, over all other plans, despite the fact that the Mayor’s task force, Sacramento first, has not yet completed its analysis and selection of the best choices among the seven candidates.  Despite this, the Bee has run several major stories (most written by their staff reporter, Tony Bizjak), some of them receiving considerable front-page space, that focus on the Kamilos’ land-swap plan and mute mention, if they mention them at all, of the other plans.

Moreover, the Bee has entirely ignored The CEAV Projects arguments about why Cal Expo property should not be turned into privately developed townhouses, shopping malls and other mixed-use projects, though the Bee has known of these arguments for more than a year.  Indeed, CEAV has never been mentioned once in any of its numerous arena articles.  In addition, the Bee has elected to not print any of CEAV’s numerous submissions to the Bee over the past year (save one small comment in their letters to the editor) .

If CEAV’s position was dumb or ignorant or otherwise not germane to the issue, the Bee’s deliberate neglect of our existence and information might be arguable.  However,  CEAV has made many cogent observations  as to why those lands should be preserved for public use.  Among CEAV’s arguments are matters such as:

  • The site is State land belonging to all the people of California. Important as they may be, private development uses only serve very narrow local or, at best, regional interests having no benefit to the remainder of the people of California;
  • The estimated $50 to $80 million the property might bring
    bring to the State in an outright sale would be used up and forgotten and not materially contribute to solving any of the State’s considerable financial problems; yet the land, which is unique and cannot be replaced will be lost forever;
  • Lands on the margin that have already been identified and marked for preservation, such as the American River Parkway, would be undoubtedly threatened by the encroachments and pressures of nearby development, no matter what the assurances of developers. By their very nature of being wholly driven by market values, such projects would perpetually seek to expand their capture of rising values which they created. At best, high-rises and other visible elements of their presence would most certainly appear within a short time after their primary acquisitions were secured and built out;
  • The CEAV Project is but one of many alternatives to private development that might not only preserve the land and retain its public commons value (which is not included in developer’s ‘market-value’ assesments), but could well exceed any possible commercial, economic and cultural benefits that the most ambitious private development could hope to offer. These benefits, as outlined in The CEAV Project, are not only local and regional; but statewide and national as well. No proposed private development has ever, to our knowledge, even pretended to offer those potentials.

There are many other arguments that would at least suggest serious caution and careful consideration in any plan to privately develop Cal Expo property. Yet the Bee has never mentioned any of them, not in its news stories, not in its editorials.

Indeed, The Bee has not only neglected the mention of other concerns and options, it has, time and again, echoed the sentiments of vested special interests that the first and only consideration is “Financial”, as if the public interest was of no importance or, worse, was entirely a matter of money. Financing projects is, of course, important; even critical to the success of a project. However, to place it first and foremost of all the matters that decide what, when and where the landscape of the future will take shape is not only biased, it is a dereliction of duty when advocated or promoted by our media. We’ve already gotten a dose of what happens to this society when money is put first and above all other considerations – the near collapse of our national economy. It is other matters, of equal and sometimes greater importance, that even make money worth having. Without that, there is nothing, by way of our civic life, our culture and heritage that is worth buying.

Another type of bias on the arena issue is transparent in what the Bee doesn’t bother to tell its readers about the machinations going on among the principals. The Bee noted, in one article, (bee-council) only that the city should review the seven proposals that have been submitted to ‘Sacramento First’. They make no mention of the fact that the Kamilos group has already muscled its way to the front of the line or that Kamilos had dodged the question of how he got there, saying only that “Our proposal was on the agenda, so we came.”; as if his group had nothing to do with being on that agenda. (see our own editorials on the matter at: Kamilos-Kouncil and, Council-Breach for the other side of the story.)

In today’s Bee, a brief column note by Ryan Lillis on Cal Expo’s termination of its LOU with the NBA only bothers to quote the Board’s chair, Gilbert Albiani, as saying “(the letter) no longer seems necessary,” as if the whole matter was some little technical detail the Board had to get out of the way. This, despite the fact that both CEAV and developer Doug Tatara both testified at the same meeting that the LOU had been used repeatedly to block all opposition from participating in the discussion except those tied to the NBA and the private development of Cal Expo land. Nor does Mr. Lillis bother to mention that CEAV had accused the Board of violating its own LOU agreement and asked, only a few minutes before that vote, that Mr. Kamelos be barred from speaking to the Board that afternoon. CEAV also asked that all discussions with individual developers be tabled until after ‘Sacramento First’ makes its selection. The Bee said nothing about that. However, you can read about it in previous blog posts, here, or in the news section of our website

Margaret Mead once noted that we were “the first generation that was eating our own children.” The Bee’s promotion of the private taking of public land and throwing it to short-term gains and privileged individuals at the expense of our children, many future generations of them to come, is not simply an act of bias; it is willful participation in the theft of a legacy that ought, at all costs, be preserved for those who will survive our momentary crises and selfish behaviors. The Bee isn’t simply biased in this matter, it is decidedly biased-cubed.


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