The King County Council's expected vote comes after a thorough vetting
King County Councilmembers Joe McDermott and Larry Gossett say council members have "done our due diligence" on the county's role in vetting the arena proposed for Seattle's Sodo neighborhood: "It is now time to take a vote and shift our focus to more pressing needs."
Special to The Times
THE Metropolitan King County Council has undertaken a thorough review of the proposal to bring an arena and two professional sports teams to Seattle's Sodo neighborhood. The vote we plan to take on Monday is the first of many steps designed to protect King County taxpayers and comply with our region's strict environmental laws. It is time to move forward.
Like many, we were skeptics when we first heard of this deal. Our region has a long and difficult history with sports facilities. In the months following an agreement reached by county Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and investor Chris Hansen, the county's Budget and Fiscal Management Committee held nine hearings on the arena proposal.
We heard from attorneys, from Hansen, from council analysts and from an independent panel made up of experts in economics, public finance, public-private partnerships, labor, urban development and transportation. And the county and city councils held a historic joint public meeting where we took three hours of public comment.
The committee engaged in robust discussions and analysis. We examined the potential economic impacts of this proposal and the effect it could have on our transportation systems. The strength of the private-public partnership was praised, and the protections given for the county's general fund and taxpayers were thoroughly vetted. We developed and proposed solutions to the concerns raised. Councilmember Bob Ferguson has proposed requiring a full economic analysis before the arena can be constructed. We are also working to ensure improvements to pedestrian access. And we have committed to completing a full environmental review when the proposal is approved — before any public investment can be made.
This process has led us to believe that Hansen's proposal is reasonable. The bonding required represents less than 3 percent of the county's total capacity. Despite the perception, this proposal is not the most important decision before the county or the city.
The arena proposal provides ample protections for taxpayers and the county's general fund and relies on no new taxes. Our building trade workers and our economy will benefit from this construction project. And, perhaps most important, it could bring our beloved Sonics back to Seattle. We have done our due diligence. It is now time to take a vote and shift our focus to more pressing needs.
Joe McDermott is chair of the King County Council Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. Larry Gossett is chair of the Council.