Officials down in the paint on basketball arena negotiations
The Metropolitan King County Council voted 6-3 in favor of an amended Memorandum of Understanding to build the proposed sports arena in Sodo. Council discussion seemed equally split between vetting two key documents, and being reassured members would indeed get another chance to vote on the arena. For now, the operative phrase is "narrowing the discussion."
Among the worries and details were efforts to secure the Sonics name and memorabilia, and warm thoughts about the Storm and women's professional basketball in Seattle. Appropriate, but the council also waded into the topics that truly define this complex public-private partnership.
The council wants increased financial transparency with the business entities formed by investor Chris Hansen to make the deal. Members want improved language on bankruptcy protections, and unfettered access to all records during the terms of the leases. The council provided for an economic analysis and assumed state environmental reviews will provide other details. And, yes, council members want that final vote, and a say in reconciling an inter-local agreement with the city of Seattle.
Seattle City Council took a half step back on Monday, looking for more information. A letter to Hansen signed by eight city council members raised exactly the sort of questions that define protecting taxpayer interests.
For starters, the council wants a piece of the revenues raised at the venue. The idea is the money could be bonded against to raise funds for transportation improvements. The council wants more financial protections for the public, and more information about how much skin Hansen's investors will have in the game, and how the investment group shares in presumed proceeds. Basic information about the business plan.
For a megadeal that could wrap up soon, some of the questions appear to be quite basic for this late in the game. Of course, this is what Hansen does for a living, and is not a strength of local units of government created to provide basic services.
The impact of the arena on the Port of Seattle is going to get a serious, focused review. The city and council got there in different ways, but they both want it done.
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
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