SACRAMENTO - It appears opponents of the city of Sacramento's subsidy to bring a new arena to downtown are a step closer to having voters decide.
The petition backed by the Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork, STOP, needed 22,000 valid signatures go get on the June ballot. According to the Sacramento County Voter Registrar's Office, 22,498 signatures of the 34,532 submitted were validated, that's 65.2 percent.
"With the support of the voters of the City of Sacramento, Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork has surpassed the required threshold to place the Voter Approval for Public Funding of Professional Sports Arena Act on the June 2014 ballot," STOP Treasurer Jim Cathcart said in a statement. "Gathering more than 35,000 signatures to qualify this initiative was a tremendous effort, and we salute all who provided their support."
But submitting the signatures doesn't mean the issue will definitely make it on the ballot. First, Sacramento City Clerk Shirley Concolino has to decide whether or not the petition is valid. If it is deemed valid, the city is likely to file a suit against the clerk's office. Proponents of the arena question the validity of the initiative because they claim more than one version was circulated by STOP.
"As the City Clerk has made clear, this is merely a procedural step in part of a longer process," Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said in a statement. "Based on everything we have learned: from the way the initiative was purposefully written to delay the entire project as opposed to a straight up or down vote; to the failure to disclose the chief financial contributor behind the effort; to the fact that the vast majority of the money for this initiative comes from sources opposed to Sacramento; to the issues raised about the nature of the petitions; I have serious concerns about the integrity of the process."
Even before the initiative gets on the ballot, the issue will have to go the city council. Council members then have three choices: 1) to accept the petition as is; 2) order a special election and let residents vote on the issue or 3) ask for a report, giving the council 10 days to either accept the petition or order a special election.
"We call on our city's leaders and elected representatives to cease their unfounded attempts to circumvent the will of the citizens to vote, and to show the public the respect we deserve by engaging in an honest and open dialogue on the issues," Cathcart said.
"For Sacramento, there is a great deal at stake: 4000 jobs, transforming downtown, and keeping the Kings in Sacramento," Johnson said. "And given what is at stake, coupled with the troubling questions related to integrity of these ballot petitions ... I believe we should take a hard look at the petitions and consider all of the available options to protect the public."
If the issue makes it on the June ballot, city of Sacramento residents will be asked whether the downtown arena issue should be voted on in November. If the ballot measure passes in June, the issue will move to the November ballot where residents will be asked whether or not the city should use subsidized money to build the arena.
STOP wants Sacramento residents to vote on whether the city should use $258 million to build the downtown arena with Sacramento Kings investors. However, voting on the issue could make it hard for the city to meet deadlines outlined by the NBA, which allowed the Kings to stay in the city and not move to Seattle.
"As we have stated in the past, we love Sacramento and are committed to doing all we can to support the City's efforts to develop an entertainment and sports complex that will help revitalize our downtown," Kings President Chris Granger released in a statement. "The Kings appreciate the support we have received from the community and know that the organization is fortunate to have the best and most loyal fans in all of the NBA. We share the many concerns expressed by the Mayor, The 4000 and others in Sacramento regarding the anti-arena campaign and are prepared to work to support their leadership."