July 08, 2008
The Smart Politics of the Sonics' Departure
It is little secret that many conservatives - including a vocal portion of the Sound Politics readership - loathe public subsidies for sports facilities benefiting private enterprise. Moreover, it's difficult not to argue with detractors who criticize the current product and economic model of the NBA. This blogger - even as he was sorry to see the Sonics go - no longer watches the NBA and hasn't been to a Sonics game in a decade. Yet, the politics of the issue deserve to be viewed through an entirely different lens.
Already the tepid state activity to support the City of Seattle's efforts to retain the Sonics has resulted in contrasts in the Governor's race. Dino Rossi likens the Sonics' flight from town as another failure in leadership from Olympia. Christine Gregoire offers lots of reasons to explain why state government couldn't get the job done. This is a familiar theme.
Remember, however, just how Dino Rossi made the 2004 race for Governor close: by outperforming the rest of the Republican ticket in key demographic groups. See for example, the Washington State exit polls for President and Governor that year:
- George Bush lost white men to John Kerry by one point; Dino Rossi beat Christine Gregoire by eight.
- Bush beat Kerry by 10 points in the $50,000 - $75,000 income bracket; Rossi beat Gregoire by 17.
- Similarly, Bush lost the $75,000 - $100,000 bracket by 12 to Kerry; Rossi won it by three (and let's stipulate, both income brackets are the heart of the middle class in the Puget Sound metropolitan region).
- Bush lost union members by 17 points; Rossi lost them by only eight.
- Bush and Kerry tied in the suburbs (a huge 46% of the electorate). Rossi won them by six.
- Lastly, a big one. Bush lost the urban Puget Sound area (outside King County) by five points. Rossi won it by six.
Thus, it should be little surprise Rossi won the closest thing this state has to a pure swing county - Snohomish - by over 2% while Kerry was beating Bush by 7.5%.
With all that in mind, recall from where the true public outcry is coming regarding the departure of the Sonics: the sports pages of Seattle area newspapers and local sports talk radio.
Dino Rossi succeed in 2004 in significant part by doing better than other Republicans among white working/middle class men in the Seattle suburbs. Who listens to sports radio and regularly partakes of the Seattle area sports pages? People in the same demographic.
That's why Change our Gov's latest "Sonics" ad on KJR-AM is a smart play. Campaigns often turn on expected twists. The current status quo in Olympia getting flayed on sports radio definitely fits that bill.
Conservatives don't like public dollars supporting stadiums and arenas for professional sports. Many a sports fan isn't all that enamored with the modern NBA. All fair points. But at the same time, the modern era likewise rarely sees an opportunity for half the cost of remodeling a public, multi-use facility in a downtown urban area to be paid for by private funds.
All the state had to do to make that even possible was grant the King County Council the authority to extend an existing, special-use tax. The state didn't have to spend a dime to show it cared. Yet the Legislature and the Governor couldn't even find a way to bring it to a vote.
Agree with keeping the Sonics or not, this whole affair does fall right in the wheelhouse of a failure of leadership. The sports pundits are already all over this - creating an overt political tone to normally apolitical discourse. Now Change our Gov is piling on, with good cause.
All of which is creating a political dialogue that is decidedly unfavorable to the sitting incumbent, right in the heart of a swing demographic from 2004. Wherever one stands on the Sonics - and public dollars for pro sports facilities in general - that's a dynamic worth watching.
UPDATE: headline fixed.
Posted by Eric Earling at July 08, 2008
09:25 PM | Email This
1. this is a stretch. it can hardly be a failure of leadership to "fail" to get something done that is not worth doing.
What is accurate about the Gregoire failure here is that today's Progressives hate precisely the heroic and good natured competition embodied by professional sports. I fully agree that I don't like public funding or arenas, and if billionaires want to fund half of the arena, why not all? And I loath the NBA's product which has declined.
But I fall exactly in to the demographic that Eric mentions. I love sports. I love competition. Competitive professional sports offers a microcosmic opportunity to see a competitive and productive battle play out. And this appeals to capitalists who see the same thing on the business playing field, but played out over a longer and less interesting time frame.
In that sense, Greogire is totally disconnected from sports both as a female who does not seem to be that interested, and as a Progressive who views sport as an unnecessary display of raw competition. Whether not Gregoire believes these things is immaterial. She exudes sporting apathy in her dry and tepid personality.
Rossi can capitalize on the Sonics, and if that's a small part of bringing down a Progressive, then that's a sound offense.
3. Is there any reason that sports should be treated any differently from other art forms ?
the NBA represents competition.
Progressives hate competition, they want everything "fair and equal".
Jeff B is spot on about Progressives simply not understanding the lure of competitive sports.
They don't have to compete, they just have to steal elections and they get their way.
5. Should be interesting with the departure of the Sonics what will happen to Key Arena. I doubt some concerts, Storm and SU b-ball games will fill the void for local businesses.
I think it should be chained shut until road capacity is increased enough to support the vehicle traffic generated by its events.
I also think that all county offices should be moved to Kent to alleviate congestion.
The failure I see here is the failure to recognize that if Rossi wins conservatives would still have failed to get a politician into office that is opposed to the idea that government can and should use tax payer money for private causes.
Kn other words, a rossi win does not equal a conservative win.
in re #6
What did Kent ever do to deserve the county offices being dumped on it? :-)
Having spent way too much time looking at the Sonics forums of the Times & PI, I think this will be a gold mine of votes for Rossi. The only question is, will they really register and vote.
It's a double-edged sword, since conservatives should oppose subsidies to private business. However, if it puts Rossi in the Gov. mansion, I can't be too unhappy about it. Does anyone want to see a repeat of the last four years in Olympia?
Do we really win if we get Rossi in office if in the process we find he has no principles?
I have a sneaking suspicion he will instead turn into a big spending republican in the likes of George Bush.
11. Most leftists are too stiff to enjoy competitive sporting events, or even laugh at themselves or at a good joke. Can you imagine John Kerry, Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, Christine Gregoire, Patty Murray, Jim McDermott or Nancy Pelosi at your Saturday afternoon barbecue? Their elitist attitudes, ideas and values do not jibe with those of working people. Instead of sharing a beer and a burger with these clowns, you'd be thinking about sawing their wooden heads off to stoke the fire. Can you say BORING!
12. Lysander: perhaps so, but only if Rossi has a Republican legislature like Bush did until 2006. That doesn't seem likely for WA.
over-focus on Sonics relieves the MSM from REAL analyses and holding parties accountable for silly actions;
howz those WA ferries? effieicnt? updated equipment? more secure from attacks? and the gas tax of a few years ago--results there? schools improving?
meanwhile, SEA micro-manages your life with more redundant and asinine plastic bag rules; easy things for the Council to pass; like banning fires at Alki; their version of "doing something" and "results" again stifles freedom and imposes more micro-focused, useless nanny state thinking;
and these bag-banners will lead us in a local or national natural, civil or terrorist emergency? my gosh--scary;
14. Hi everyone, how're you all doing. AM/V you let me down. I specifically asked you to make sure that Mrs Clinton survived and you not only didn't hold up your end there - but you ALSO let our Sonics get away...WOW! :)
Great to be back in civilization and in a mode of modern communication. Folks you don't realize how lucky and fortunate we are. Even with the current petrol situation we are so fortunate to be living here in the good 'ol USA and especially here in beautiful Washington State. Well just wanted to check in with you'all - I've obviously much catching up to do; at this point I may be considering exercising my right not to vote...ha.
Hope you are all well. :)
If Gregoire had procured the nuke jobs in Richland- that would have been something to crow about.
If Gregoire had kept the sonics, that would be something to crow about.
Instead all she to show for four years is higher taxes and appointing Norm Dick's son to a cushy environmental suck fund position.
It's not tough to see why she is leading with negative recycled attack ads on Rossi. She has nothing to say that the voters will hear w/out coming at her with torches and pitch forks.
16. Quincy, yes, it is a failure of leadership if she set out to do something and then failed. It is another question if her quest was righteous.
17. And if memory serves, this is the very same Dem legislature and Gov who let another outstanding Public-Private enterprise slip away with NASCAR. Let me rephrase that...they threw it away. And they did it with typical Progressive style...calling one of the greatest names in racing a drunk driver.
We all have our favorites hobbies and sports...mine is baseball. I'm not fan of professional basketball and I have never attended a NASCAR event, but I understand a business plan and revenue generation. Its clear most Dems don't.
18. BTW...have the Mariners left also?...and forgot to tell everyone? IN'frickin'CREDIBLE!!!
Duffie, go back to your beer and keep writing to your loser lady.. (billary"
PS... Send her some bucks too!
20. Haha...same 'ol AM/V I see; I'm in a state of denial. :)
since conservatives should oppose subsidies to private business
I disagree completely, it is LIBERALS, SOCIALISTS, and LEFTWING NUTS, who should oppose subsidies to PRIVATE businesses.
It is liberals, socialists and leftwing nuts who support taxing and regulating private businesses to a point where they can barely make any profit.
It should be the goal of conservatives to do everything possible to help private businesses to stimulate the economy and provide private sector jobs.
It should be the goal of conservatives to see to it that the government is run more like a business and less like a bureaucracy. If the benefits outweigh the costs for a significant ROI, then the govt. should subsidize the private businesses. Whether it's something as commonplace as targeted tax breaks, subsidizing railroads, highways, docks, airports, whether it's something as common as contracting work done by a private contractor for city construction - those are all subsidizing private businesses. If the benefits are significant enough, make the right business decision and just do it, don't listen to the liberals on this 'conservative' blog.
Yep Duffie... You sure are.
Welcome back. (-:
Now put on your learning cap.
But it is NEVER the goal of conservatives to use taxpayer dollars for ANY private purpose... to enrich the few.
Because if it is... I'm ashamed to call myself one.
Clearly, there is confusion on the part of those who should know better as to what it means to be a Republican.
It, of course, means many things (or at least, it's supposed to) but among them is that it's not SUPPOSED to mean the "eminent domain" of our dollars for a private purpose.
This pathetic spin job by Eric (Who appears to be looking for a job in a Rossi Administration) is just that: pathetic spin.
There is no excuse nor justification for supporting tax dollars to go to professional sports. None. If Dino will chuck conservative principles for political opportunism for this, where else will he sell us out?
No, this time around, Gregoire and Chopp were directly on target. And these efforts to justify Dino's stupidity and political tone deafness simply won't wash.
His last-second effort to parachute in with a "solution" that continues to screw us instead of actively engaging in the process and representing the will of the people in this matter is what screwed the pooch for me.
He has no chance anyway, so I wish him luck in whatever it is he's doing when this election is over.
But I'm calling bullshit on this, and I will continue to do so with EVERY effort to spin his betrayal into something it isn't.
25. What about using the dollars of a taxpaying citizen group to subsidize a government owned facility? That is what we are talking about here. The city of Seattle OWNS Key Arena. They are in the business of renting out the facility. Now the city of Seattle will have to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize their business because their number one tenant left. Are they going to be able to fill 41 dates on the calender and get 8 - 10 thousand people? Not a chance. If we look at it from a pure business (and conservative) standpoint it was in the best interest of the governments (State, County, and City) to accept the Ballmer group offer because it improved THEIR asset at a half of the cost. The Ballmer group was offering to subsidize the city, not the other way around.
26. There is a consequence to the NBA leaving Seattle that Liberals have forgotten about...with no NBA team what is going to happen to the rate of unwed mothers and their children ...this rate may fall by 50%. If the Liberals really wanted to save the Sonics...they would have done it for the Children!!!
The conjecture of the post was that Rossi was saying these things as an election "ploy". I don't think so.
In the past, the Mariners, Seahawks, etc. couldn't have started up without support of diehard conservative businessmen. The keyword is "businessmen".
There is an argument to be made that the City of Seattle has an asset that soon will become a liability- the Seattle Center and environs. The City needs to protect that investment. They did well not kowtowing to the 'half billion or else' good faith bargaining effort (cough, cough) of the Bennett group.
Even I was pleasantly surprised with the Ballmer group counter offer. I thought I could live with it.
The Sonics do provide jobs and incomes in the community and Seattle and Rossi were right in supporting the Ballmer proposal. Too bad the governor didn't toot this proposal before the end of the last legislative session.
"All the state had to do to make that even possible was grant the King County Council the authority to extend an existing, special-use tax. The state didn't have to spend a dime to show it cared. Yet the Legislature and the Governor couldn't even find a way to bring it to a vote."
That's disingenous, Eric. You are upset that the Legislature didn't authorize King County to raise taxes on its citizens. And make no mistake, it is a tax increase. That half a cent restaurant tax is not small potatoes, especially for the working Joe, and the rental car tax in King County is extraordinarily high.
And it is not that that Governor and Legislature "couldn't find a way to bring it to a vote." They didn't choose to bring it to a vote, just as they didn't choose to bring a lot of unpopular proposals to a vote in the last two sessions. That's disingenuous, too.
"With all that in mind, recall from where the true public outcry is coming regarding the departure of the Sonics: the sports pages of Seattle area newspapers and local sports talk radio."
Well, duh. Is there anybody with a more vested interest in professional sports franchises (other than their owners) than the sportswriters at local newspapers and local sports talk radio? This is their jobs, for gosh sakes.
Give it up. You're on the losing end of this debate. Not buying your attempt to show this is good politics, either. It's sure not supported by the polling.
I wanted the Sonics to stay because I like NBA basketball. Don't have much background to weigh in on any other level.
But -- really, making completely unsupportable statements like "progressives don't like competitive sports" is ridiculous. I'm not a progressive, but I have plenty of very liberal and progressive friends who are huge sports fans. Seattle may be a city of fair weather fans, but its pretty clear that not everyone attending Mariners, Seahawks and Sonics games are conservative. And I'm pretty sure that there are a good many liberals that attend the UW sporting events.
And -- TacomaPhlash -- that post was completely inappropriate. And it wasn't even close to funny.
"And -- TacomaPhlash -- that post was completely inappropriate. And it wasn't even close to funny."
ROFL. Yeah, it was! Your objection is even funnier.
I object to taxpayer funds being used for this sort of thing for exactly one reason. I don't attend sports events. They could all be held in Nebraska for all I care. So why should I pay for stadiums?
Let the people who go to them pay for them. That seems reasonable. Surely if money can be made off it, private investors can be found? If not, the government has no business getting involved in it. (Not that it does anyway.)
"...it is LIBERALS, SOCIALISTS, and LEFTWING NUTS, who should oppose subsidies to PRIVATE businesses.
It is liberals, socialists and leftwing nuts who support taxing and regulating private businesses to a point where they can barely make any profit.
It should be the goal of conservatives to do everything possible to help private businesses to stimulate the economy and provide private sector jobs...If the benefits outweigh the costs for a significant ROI, then the govt. should subsidize the private businesses....
Posted by: Doug "
Doug according to your apparent definitions of 'liberal' and 'conservative,' I can't see much difference between the two. In both cases they want gov't heavily involved in managing business. It appears that the only difference in your world is that conservatives do it effectively, while liberals screw it up.
My definition of conservatism entails limited gov't. The gov't should not be involved in the entertainment biz.
33. Woot! PHLASH, the PHLAVOR sign!
You bring up a good point. The since the City of Seattle owns Key Arena, Governor Rossi should be pushing for them to sell the assett to private industry not throw more money at a money pit that the government never should have owned to begin with. What legitimate governmnet function does a city have owning a sports arena?
The same govt. function that is provided in govt. owned library buildings, govt. owned airports, govt. owned shipping docks, govt. owned ferry boats, schools...and the list goes on and on...
There are some services that won't be provided for effectively without the government and it's tax dollars paying the huge capital costs. It's just important that the govt. entities ensure that the benefit is greater than those costs.
The libertarian mantra works for most things (and I would agree with most), however, it doesn't work when there are huge capital costs that don't have a guaranteed and relatively short ROI that is profitable for the business. Hence, initially sports stadiums have been publically financed back to the Roman days. Now, whether or not they should be sold to private enterprise after being built is another matter. If they ever did get sold back, no doubt it would be for pennies on the dollar as there wouldn't be multiple buyers.
So, like a ferry boat or a light rail system - once it's built if the govt. sells it, the government will lose money on it, and lose control on whether it's used or not.
36. Talking strictly "politics", it's a great move for Rossi. It doesn't cost Rossi much in tax payer cred as there are conservative sports fans, it doesn't cost government much - except for Seattle tourists, so there's really no cost to tax payers. Add in the private funds to improve the Key and it starts to look like smart business when you throw in the lost jobs, (currently lost)taxes collected from sports related businesses etc...
Rossi's "cool" far outclasses Gregoire's "school marm" personna. Add up the roads debacle, the ferries, and the annoyance factor Gregoire seems to engender in men, and you have to say it's going to be another close one. Why not go for the sports fans if you're Dino?
I guess we fundamentally have a difference in what we think governments role is. You seem to beleive that government should fund things too risky for private business and also projects where the benifits do not outwiegh the costs.
I think risky projects should only be funded by epople willing to risk their own money, not by forcing taxpayers. I also think that if the benifits do not outwiegh the costs then the project is not worth being done.
Unfortunately Rossi and Gregoire both believe as you do it appears. They just differ on which risky and losing propositions they want to spend our money on.