Friday, September 24, 2010

Moving forward with King County Executive Dow Constantine

On Wednesday, September 8th, at the invitation of our super friends at, a few of us had the good fortune of meeting with King County Executive Dow Constantine and his Director of Government Relations Sung Yang.

After some handwringing over the past, and well deserved compliments of the film Sonicsgate, Camp Jones brought us back to the present by asking what can we do now, and Brian Robinson asking Dow if he was willing to be proactive in working towards a new team.

Adam Brown, Jason Reid, Camp Jones and Brian Robinson provided Dow with smart answers to good questions. I think our conversation kept returning to our desire to get something, anything, moving in the future.

My favorite question was the "why me" question.

I'll answer that now as I think all of us did then, we need political leadership. Turning to the City of Seattle just hasn't worked out so well in the past (it's true). And... a solution anywhere in King County is a solution.

To me, turning to the city now this is what I see:
rumor: Things are so testy between certain council members and Mayor Mike McGinn that certain council staffers are not allowed up on the 7th floor., Moring Fizz, 9/14/2010

Seattle may not be the solution in the end, and they just do not look like they can agree and lead on who presses the button in the elevator, or signs a draft document. I am sure they will sort things out, soon.

When I look at King County, and in particular Dow Constantine, this is what I see:
“There’s simply no substitute for being there when it comes to getting a feel for a community, its people, and its issues,” Constantine said in a news release. “I met every mayor in King County on their own turf and let them set the agenda for our discussion.”
, IssaquahPress.comKing County executive completes sojourn to 39 cities, 9/15/2010

I am the mayor of my own opinion, and that's about it. But, you know, he was that way with us too.

Back to the answer to Camp's question; what we can do now is work with all of our friends in getting legislation passed at the state level that would bring home our tourism taxes.
I know that this makes people crazy.
We all have to try to keep an open mind and look at different ways to get something accomplished.

With Husky Stadium no longer in the picture, and our friends at 4Culture looking at "evaporating" if something does not pass this legislative session, it is in King County's best interest in helping all of us get a bill passed this legislative session.
As we know more, you will know more.

Let's move forward together.

Mike Baker

(originally posted at


Peter said...

Why did dow say "why me"? Makes me wonder if he`s as commited as he said he was. How do we know if the county does get the tourism taxes the arts folks won`t want it all? How much will there be? Wont safeco and qwest need some of it? I would really love a brand new arena and the NHL, but how likely is it that the issue has diminished so much is all the will there will be for is a little for the key redo?

Mr Baker said...

Every politico thinks that question, he actually said it, why me.
We think he is the right political leader, we were all straight with each other.
I think that if we work positively with the county and other interested oar ties that something good could happen for King County, I really do.

Peter said...

Did dow invite you guys, or did the group invite him? Is the county really the only hope for anybody to do heavy lifting to get the tourism taxes? I`m just a little antsy about going to the state again, even with the county`s support. How hard will it be to work around chopp? Year after year he`s shown no interest in even compromising on an arena. Neither does the state. Every year there`s "not enough support". What makes anyone think next year will be any different? I just fully expect the taxes to go to "more important things", even if the county pushes hard for an arena.

Mr Baker said...

I think that if you look at HB 2912 you will see that bill did not get out of the House Finance Committee without Chopp getting what he wanted. He did not stop that bill, Senator Rodney Tom put a dozen amendments on that thing, otherwise that bill was set to pass.
With Husky Stadium out of the picture I think there will be more money, less fighting, and less resistance. The flip side of not having Husky support is that you also have reduced effort to push the bill through... Unless you have some political leadership. I think we have that.

To be sure, I really do not think an arena will get too much funding support but, more or less, allow a municipality to leverage some of those funds to build something that generates revenue and taxes.

About lunch, like the story says, the Sonicsgate folks invited me. Camp Jones made that happen. First time I had met Camp, great guy, I owe him lunch.

Peter said...

You wrote on SC that Dow "had some reservations" about getting involved. What were they? He said he would be proactive but did he say hes commited? What did you mean by "the downside" of getting the tourism taxes is nothing happens? Even if we get the tourism taxes there wont be an arena?

Mr Baker said...

I do not think that it is fair to Dow that I write a bunch of details about a meeting, so I will limit what I choose to say.

Nickels got roasted in the Sonicsgate movie, I do not think he wants to play the role of Nickels. That is fair, nobody is expecting him to make and break promises.
Also, he was apprehensive about taking some other city's team. That is absolutely fair to have that reservation, plenty of us have the same reservation. I think we gave assurances that we feel the same way and which team becomes available does mean something different to Sonics fans, as well. He expressed the same sentiment most people have said at SC. Two things to take away from that, he understands the situation well enough to express such a nuanced position, and he (I hope) understands that we have similar feelings.

About the downside, we could do all of the right things, help the county get control of their tourism taxes, and not have the private side step up. I will admit that if we get legislation to pass then I expect something to happen, but I do not know it as a fact. I do not know, nor have I ever met, Steve Ballmer or any of that potential ownership group.
We are months away from having any kind if plan, heck, we are a month away from elections for state legislators. But, as we move forward my expectation is that somebody on the private side must provide some hint that they are interested. That is at least what they can do seeing that Dow is willing to have his name in public (buried on a blog) connected to our desire to get a team.

The downside could be that the county gets the taxes and doesn't have a private partner, all that effort and somebody else benefits. That's not so bad.
Not trying, and seeing things as they are is unacceptable to me, team or no team, doing the right thing for the right reason is enough for me right now.
This is my hobby.

Peter said...

just got this message from jan drago:

"Thank you for your email regarding the arena initiative proposed by Judy Nicastro. At this time, we have not seen anything on this issue but will watch for it."

so pretty much, nothing moved forward. is ballmer really the only hope for the private side to step up? everyone keeps bashing what brock and det said, but could they be not far off? there's been all this talk on speculation, but do you think they would just say anything they wanted without knowing what they said was going on? that may not be lying, but it definitely is misleading.

Mr Baker said...

I just do not put much stock in what Det said, it was very general. Brock may have heard something but the problem, again, is that people talk all the time about wanting to do something. If you are not used to that and you have a radio show you might be blabbing about something that isn't mature enough to call "a plan".

Not all of the former owners wanted to sell.

These questions really can't be bothered to be talked about until the is an arena. The wishful thinking that something like that would be completely planned and executed exclusively by a private party sounds good, but, where is it?
Nobody is being stopped from planting an arena and moving a team here, nothing.
I think getting the tourist taxes under the county control is the only thing I can apply effort toward that I know would lead to something happening. After that, I think people get their plan together in a hurry.

There really isn't Mitch to do until after the November election when I know who will actually be in office.

Mr Baker said...

He wanted those taxes.
He wants those taxes still.

The difference between March 2009 and now is the Dow is not a King County Councilman anymore, he is the executive.
And now we all know that he would like to see a team back here.

Peter said...

What do you think would be the best strategy to get the tourism taxes where it isnt overly presceptive and we can get an arena going? I dont think having "sports facilities" named anywhere in the bill is smart.look at the last 6 years` efforts. Is there any way we could just get the taxes given to the county w/o restriction or given to the PFD, then the county could do whatever it wanted with them later? Would that be politically attainable?

Peter said...

Assuming someone on the private side steps up, if the county gets control of the taxes, then how long would it take for the potential ownership group to buy an team/teams. Could they possibly buy a team next offseason or during the lockout? How long would it take to draw up plans for an arena, and who would pay for that? Would the county just pass an arena by a council vote so we could avoid a public vote?

Mr Baker said...

The words "sports facilities" would have to be in any bill. Safeco Field needs to get those parking taxes so they can use that money for future major capital maintenance.

I will take any bill.

Peter said...

If the county gets the tourism taxes and tries to use them on an arena, what`s to stop someone like CVD from filing a county wide initiative to block it? We all know what the result would be there. The arena would stop before it even started since voters would almost certainly block it. This is hopeless trying for the tourism taxes. We need something else. Another idea.

JAS said...

Van Dyk and Licata were both okay with the Ballmer plan for Key Arena, so a proposal for a new arena that had a similar percentage of private funding might also be okay with them.

JAS said...

Even if Van Dyk did try to rally voters against funding a new arena, I’m not sure he would succeed, since King County as a whole is not as aligned with him politically as Seattle itself is.

Mr Baker said...

CVD was one of the last people to testify at the legislature in favor of both 6116, and 2912.

Both had funding for health and human services, he gets paid by SEIU, he will say yes to whatever benefits them.
He's a lobbyist.

Peter said...

I wasnt referring to a general bill, my point was that CVD could later try to block an arena if the county tries to use the taxes on one. Would we have to specifically mention that the county is going to spend some of the money on an arena in the bill, or could the county later get an arena going if we got a bill that dosent specifally ban using money on an arena?

Mr Baker said...

The county will do what the bill says to do, no matter what CVD says.
He will be lucky to get anything for the people he represents. Once you stray too far away from who carries the tax (hotels) and what it is spent on, the closer you get to ending up in court with the hotelier's lawyers.
They flexed their muscle last year taking the state to court. If things get out of hand I expect they will show up again.

That is the benefit of following through on a threat, one they made a year prior (in 2008/2009). They came right back last year and got what they wanted.

Peter said...

So the hotel people would get mad and do something if the state tries to spend the hotel tax money on things not related to tourism? I know people have talked about the hotel tax building things that "put heads in beds", but do you think the hotel people would support an arena? With husky stadium out of the picture, do you think that the hotel people would want a major tourism project like an arena?

Peter said...

The best strategy for the county to get an arena going imo is to try and get the state to dump the tourism taxes in the PFD account. That way the county could keep the hotel people happy, and they could also try and include the arts under "entertainment facilities". If they could get a clear compromise on what the money goes for, i think this could very well be successful. Just one thing though: would they also have to get approval from the state to form a PFD for an arena? Or could they just form a PFD for safeco and qwest and then add the arena to that one?