There will be a lot of talk about priorities here in town between now and November. Talking about priorities is a good thing. It is especially good before an election. But talking about priorities without vision and the ability to see The Big Picture is pointless.
Priority. Improve schools. GREAT idea. That always sounds good. How to do so? Usually it means "more money". Which also sounds like a good idea. But again, priorities. Sacramento City Unified School Board put "new building on prime real estate" as a priority over spending the money they had in classrooms. Elk Grove Unified, on the other hand, spends more of their allotment in the classroom. It doesn't matter if more money is raised if it is prioritized into the classroom.
Priority. Poor people and the homeless. I absolutely agree that the poor and homeless need services. We do a pretty good job of that in Sacramento County. We can do better, to be sure. But we DO have some solid services in place. So much so that we have a problem with the homeless from other places coming here because of these services. We cannot house all the homeless. Simply because some of them might be HOUSEless, but they are not HOMEless. Their home isn't a building but a camp along the river. There are those who have no desire to get sober and move off the river's edge. That's fine. We can still be sure medical care is provided, food is available and services are offered. There are those who would disagree with me, but I think a priority of our society should be to care for those who don't care enough about themselves. We cannot solve the problem, but we can manage it.
Priority. Affordable housing. This is tricky. Housing is a for profit business. And when the house is worth less than is owed, times are bad. "Affordable housing" has often become the ghetto. The problems of the facilities and the people that live there are myriad. There is no single solution and no amount of money will solve the problems. The will of each individual must be there. That can not be legislated, mandated or bought.
Priority. Fill the potholes. Guess what California and Sacramento County.... we pay for our potholes to be filled. Every time we buy a tank of gas and every time we make a purchase and pay our sales tax. The money is THERE. It has just been spent on NEW roads instead of repair of old roads. We keep building new communities needing wider main roads, new main roads, wider freeways, new freeways. Sacramento County is working to add a freeway/expressway between Highway 50 and Highway 99. It will take a tremendous amount of money. But it is agreed a new freeway in that area is a priority.
Currently our sales tax rate is 7.75%. So when I bought my Sacramento Bee yesterday I paid 54 cents. If the sales tax rate were to be raised to an even 8%, I would pay.... 54 cents. On a $1 purchase, the sales tax PAID will be the same. On a $2 purchase, it would be a penny more. Yes, I know those pennies add up. I might be bad at math, but I'm pretty good at arithmetic.
Priority. Raising the sales tax one quarter percent (to an even 8%) for the next 15 years. There will be much talk about the taxpayers financing "millionaire playboys" and their basketball team. The only problem with that is that it is, simply put, wrong.
Normy and I were trying to think of the basketball games we've been to. We remember going with the Australian Air Force. (not ALL of them, just those stationed here for a bit) That might have even been before the Maloofs owned the team. We have a vague recollection of going before that... but neither of us can clearly remember if it was another time or not. So maybe we've been to two basketball games. Why haven't we been to basketball games? Because basketball isn't our game. And we aren't really good with planning ahead. That's why movies are good. We decide right now to go catch a movie, we go, we get tickets, all is good. We've done that with River Cats too. One morning last summer I sent Normy an email and said "River Cats game at 11. Wanna go?" He took a vacation day and we went to the ballgame. Got there after the first pitch and got a ticket. The Kings would be sold out.
However, we have been to Arco Arena many times. I've been there for Paul McCartney twice. Garth Brooks. More Disney on Ice than I'd like to think about. Graduation. Someone told me recently that she wasn't going to go to Arco for a concert anymore. The acoustics are horrible. Well.... yea..... And it's expensive. Well.... yea..... But that's Paul McCartney or the Eagles. Cause Disney on Ice is affordable. And our floor Garth Brooks seats were less than our nose bleeder McCartney tickets.
So why should we spend $5/person/month (the projected amount) for a new arena? Because it will be the cornerstone of the railyard development. A new arena will be bigger. It will require more people to run it, on all levels. Restaurants will spring up nearby. The bonus to this quarter cent is that it will also fund other things. A portion of the sales tax will go to the cities that generated them in about 7 years. Seven years is a long time, but that's how we get back to vision and The Big Picture.
In seven years (2013) a new arena will have been open for three years. Emma will probably have her graduation at the new arena. Yea... Emma's graduation. That seems forever in the future and just around the corner all at the same time. In seven years we will have had 2 presidential elections. Seven years ago we were worrying about the Y2K bug. If we had done this THEN, we would have that sales tax money NOW. Money that could build a new library in Elk Grove. Or help with those annoying median weeds. It could be used to finish paving that last few blocks of Elk Grove Blvd that is determined to shake my car apart every time I drive over it. Right. Now.
The question that will be facing us in November, as a county, will be very simple. Do we have vision? Can we, the taxpayers, see The Big Picture? Can we set aside the narrow view that this all about Joe and Gavin (because it isn't) and understand that it takes money to make money. Funding the new arena will attract private investment in an area that is currently an ugly swath of land in the middle of Sacramento.
The money out of each person's pocket will be marginal. Some will feel it more than others. Some will pay more than others. Frankly, I don't buy the $70 t-shirts I see in stores anyway. So when I spend $5 on a new t-shirt I won't be putting as much into the bucket as those that have $70 to spend on a white t-shirt. Nor will I feel it as a family living closer to the edge. But unless we are growing, we are dying. We can complain about growth, but the fact is we need it. We need to attract more families and businesses. We do that with good facilities. A new arena now. Maybe a new theater (the live kind, not the movie kind) in the future. Children's museum? Children's theater? Maybe a new zoo. Perhaps a hotel (with a hefty hotel tax).
The Maloofs are putting their money in. They will get it back out over the next 30 years the guarantee the Kings and Monarchs to be in Sacramento. We will get it back too. Not only in the sales tax, but in the taxes and revenue generated by both the arena and the other 'attractions' that will be at the Old Railyard.
Vision. Do we have it?