Phil Caldwell

Sports Blogging With a Grin

Seattle Sonics vs Rep Tina Orwall’s Bill – Childlike Approach to Adult Problem!

with 2 comments

Howardandclay_crop_340x234Representative Tina Orwall, a Democrat from Des Moines,Washington, introduced legislation in Olympia that would extend the “Sports Tax” that paid for Seattle sports stadiums, to become a permanent tax for “Arts and Culture.”

This is the same tax that lawmakers promised voters would only be temporary until all the sports facilities were paid off, thus Orwall’s bill makes many of us cranky on several fronts.

The below is from the article in the Seattle Times, written by Molly Rosbach on the arts and culture bill:,

“The taxes outlined in the House bill are currently going toward paying off the Kingdome, Safeco Field and Qwest Field. The Safeco Field debt is expected to be paid within the year. The House bill extends the 0.5 percent restaurant tax until 2015, even if the Safeco debt is paid off.

“Under the measure, the 3 percent car rental tax and 2 percent hotel tax are extended indefinitely to raise revenue for an expansion of the Washington State Convention Center, affordable housing and Pioneer Square-International District revitalization projects in Seattle.”

Being your basic politician that could fill up several hot air balloons with used car sales rhetoric, Representative Ross Hunter, a Democrat from Medina, claimed:

“It is important to point out that this bill will result in 4,500 new construction jobs and 3,000 long-term jobs in hospitality, and that it is important to have that growth in King County.”  


If jobs are the goal, then why were politicians with Hunter’s concerns so hostile to the Seattle Supersonics while they were in town, since they too created thousands of jobs for the poor suffering mass of unemployed?

Instead we had a legislature that was fairly hostile to the changing business climate of the Sonics, while this area was still in control of the team.

We all understand why. The city built what we all thought was a state-of-the-art arena, and then a decade later we were told the arena was dilapidated and inadequate before the paint had dried.  If the Mariners and Seahawks tried that same approach today, they’d probably receive a similar reaction.

But is it the NBA we should be blaming?

Aren’t the real villans those who sold the Key Arena project to the community in the first place?

Remember, Key Arena was a compromise project, due to fierce opposition to funding a new building for professional sports.  The same rhetoric we’re hearing today.

If our leaders ignored the needs of the NBA before approving Key Arena, how is it fair to now blame the NBA for the State of Washington building an inadequate facility for long-term use?  We don’t see this problem in Chicago, or other arenas that were built in the mid 1990’s!

The real question is how does it make sense to exclude what potentially could make a project profitable in the long run?

Isn’t there a way to make the convention center project dovetail into an arena project for the NBA and NHL, so that both the sports fan and arts enthusiast win?  Have there been any studies done?  Why not make the two buildings business compatible?

Why does it have to be one or the other?

Basically Tina Orwall, and especially Representative Hasegowa who introduced this silly amendment demanding that no funds could go to professional sports, propose emotional versions of what should be a rational solution. There really is no reason to exclude potential revenue streams, even if it is from the hated NBA!

For more on that angle, let’s take a look at the opinion from Michael Gastineau of KJR950am. Local and beloved radio sports show host, who on Monday 3/7-2011, argued the following during his afternoon gig:

  • “Back in 1995, voters did not reject measures to fund the building of Safeco and Qwest Fields, as so many claim.  They voted down, by a very narrow measure, a referendum to remodel the Kingdome.  Only after legislators realized how strong public support was for keeping the Mariners and Seahawks in town, did they agree to pass legislation to fund Safeco Field.


  • “Gas and his KRJ colleagues broadcast at all hours of the day, for the stadium tax that ultimately did build Safeco Field, plus help pay off the Kingdome.  But it was at great personal cost to himself and his colleagues.


  • “The people that opposed the measure then, are mostly from the same political camp that now proposes to hijack the tax for other issues that have nothing to do with sports, all while specifically writing into this new bill, that future funds can never go towards sports facilities for professional athletes.

What to do with Sports Tax?

Extend it for Arts and CultureExtend it for New NBA ArenaLet it retireSubmit Vote vote to see results


  • “The tax was sold as temporary and would go away.  Thus lawmakers today are making him look bad and his colleagues look bad.


  • “Since the tax has always been referred to as a Sports Tax, and since it has been wildly successful to the point of paying off several stadiums early, long before they were expected to be paid off, wouldn’t it make more sense to use future funds to help with a new facility for the NHL and NBA?


All excellent points that nobody in Olympia is addressing.

As a former Sonics multi-season ticket-holder and one of many jilted Seattle fans, I too am displeased with the commissioner of professional basketball.  In fact if it were up to me, David Stern would be adrift somewhere off the coast of Yemen.

Nor am I, like most of you, pleased with the self-serving actions of one former-Sonics owner Howard Schultz, who shortly after announcing his responsibility to protect the Sonics as a community asset, committed the ultimate act of treason for extra profit to himself.

But I also appreciate that these fine gentlemen, or others like them, are the guys we have to do business with.  So we can either spend the next four decades making ourselves feel good while flipping them all off, or we can get to work on a viable plan that kills many birds with few stones.

When they were built, corners were cut at both the Kingdome and Key Arena.  In both cases that came back to bite us.


Seattle has made the same mistake twice, wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in the process, and in the end lost a professional basketball team.  Lost revenue streams directly linked to the absence of professional hockey and basketball in this city, with outdated facilities going mostly unused.

Rather than continuing on this path, perhaps the legislature in Olympia could come up with long term solutions to both host teams AND generate much-needed revenue?  Perhaps actual business people could work on a plan, instead of politicians who have never run an actual business?

To specifically declare that the “Arts and Culture” tax not be used for an arena, that could potentially host events for arts and culture, makes as much sense as banning automobiles from gas stations. It is not a solution, but rather is more “children throwing dirt clods at other children.”

I would suggest the politicians in this city and state, grow up and behave like adults.

That is not to say that what the NBA did to Seattle is acceptable.  It wasn’t. If we ever do business again with the NBA, the city needs to bring that issue up and beat David Stern over the head with it.  Leases should be for 50 years, not 15 years, with increased and more effective consequences in lease language.

But it’s time to get over what happened.  Learn from it, yes.  Hold grudges, no.  Stop introducing bills that ultimately hurt both sports lovers AND haters alike.  Start thinking realistically and long term.

Like them or not, professional sports are a fundamental ingredient to the culture in this country, and they earn communities millions from taxes and tourists when done correctly.  They are great publicity for cities with teams, and they are dovetailed into the arts of each city.

Effective planning requires co-operation from all involved, and it requires all parties working together to make it happen. When one camp accuses the other camp of bogus motives and goals, it hurts BOTH camps.

So the choice has never been “art & culture” vs sports. The choice is either behaving like adults vs  behaving like little kids.  Sadly Representative Orwall’s bill represents the later!

See the full series of six articles on this topic, beginning with part one at:


2 Responses

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  1. Vote for Will Benge and let’s get her replaced with someone who does not want to turn temporary taxes into permanent ones.

    John O.

    September 9, 2012 at 11:19 am

    • Politicians should be held accountable for pulling “bait and switch” tactics such as this… So-called “temporary taxes” are rarely ever temporary. Once a specific tax for a certain purpose has fulfilled it’s goal it is to be retired…do not extend specific taxes for funding other purposes that some of us do not agree with. … that is not true representation. I recommend taking a look at voting for Will Benge for State Representative as well…he will truly represent us folks here in the 33rd District.

      Frank S.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:49 am

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