Voters will have a say on subsidy for Sonics
Seattle voters will get a say on whether Sonics owners should receive a $220 million subsidy they have been seeking to renovate KeyArena...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle voters will get a say on whether Sonics owners should receive a $220 million subsidy they have been seeking to renovate KeyArena.
The City Council voted unanimously Monday to put Initiative 91 on the Nov. 7 ballot. I-91 is sponsored by Citizens for More Important Things, a group that unsuccessfully fought against public funding for the Mariners' and Seahawks' stadiums.
It is intended to thwart any arena deal that doesn't return a cash profit to Seattle taxpayers.
The measure would require the city to receive a return "at or above fair value" for any future taxpayer investment in KeyArena or any other facility leased to for-profit professional sports teams. It defines "fair value" as "no less than the rate of return on a 30-year U.S. Treasury Bond," which is about 5 percent a year, according to I-91 organizer Chris Van Dyk.
In practical terms, those conditions would block the sort of arena subsidies the owners of the Sonics and the WNBA's Storm have sought.
Citizens for More Important Things collected more than the 17,968 signatures needed to qualify I-91 for the ballot.
"We're just delighted that the council decided to put it on the ballot this year," Van Dyk said, adding that it would give lawmakers a "good, solid read from the voters of Seattle about what they think of subsidies for professional basketball."
If elected officials went ahead with an arena deal that conflicted with I-91, the measure would give any citizen legal standing to file a lawsuit challenging the deal. "That's the hammer," Van Dyk said.
Mayor Greg Nickels has said I-91 isn't helpful to those who want to keep the teams in the state. The Sonics' Oklahoma-based owners have said the measure would have "no effect" on their efforts to negotiate an arena deal to keep the teams in the area.
Signatures for I-91 were certified by elections officials Sept. 7. Monday's council vote was a formality that attracted no public testimony and little fanfare.
Several council members said they didn't fully understand I-91 and hope to have a public meeting on the measure's consequences before the Nov. 7 election.
Under the city charter, the council could have adopted I-91 as law, placed an alternative alongside I-91 on the ballot, or merely put I-91 on the ballot by itself. The council chose the last option.
Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or email@example.com
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