The sky is not falling. The Port is not failing. The NBA isn't coming back — yet. What next, after City Council declines to make Chris Hansen's spec arena possible?

Share story

Just so we were clear that she was standing with The Masses, Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant labeled the Port of Seattle “a cesspool of corruption” before voting against vacating Occidental Avenue.

Now there’s a marketing opportunity. Who needs “America’s Green Gateway” when you can be “America’s Cesspool of Corruption.” Or “Natural Deep-Water Cesspool of Corruption”? (The line came from then-U.S. Attorney Mike McKay over a decade-old scandal, the origins of which are lost to time, or at least Google). Marlon Brando on the logo.

In any event, the 5-4 vote makes it highly unlikely that an arena will be built in the Sodo District.

Former PI columnist Art Thiel had a smart take about how the local and national mood about rising income inequality contributed to the City Council’s “no” vote. But I disagree with his implication that the Port’s business is in a hopeless nosedive.

Cruise ships are growing. Containers have held up well considering the move of the Grand Alliance lines to Tacoma. The two ports joining in the Northwest Seaport Alliance is a show of strength amid a changing industry, not weakness. The port has important roles, and vast potential, in economic development.

Whether one likes (or understands) the Port, it was only part of a larger issue: whether Seattle would make an effort to support its various maritime industries, which remain essential to a diverse economy beyond Technopolis. Many of these produce coveted family-wage jobs.

Voting against an arena — no teams in sight — is only one step. The sports palace and entertainment district would have destabilized the industrial district on which maritime and light manufacturing in Seattle depend. Other measures must be undertaken to bolster these sectors.

The maritime companies are real, contributing to the economy, paying wages. The NBA and NHL teams are not real (yet). If these leagues want to be part of Seattle, they will make an effort. We don’t have to beg like some needy burg in nowhere.

Hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen did much damage to his own cesspool image as a Sonics-loving hometown boy wanting to give Seattle a great arena deal when he was caught in the scandal involving the Sacramento Kings. Did I mention he’s a hedge-fund manager? The American Prospect magazine has a fascinating article about how hedge funds, an accident of history, do little if anything to actually help the real economy.

To be sure, the faithful will never be deterred. They equated the Occidental vote with a return of the Supersonics. But the NBA made it clear it was in no hurry to give Seattle any love. That is probably enhanced by Hansen being in bad odor with the league.

A new arena. Talk about a First-World Problem. Things in Sodo might have turned out differently had Hansen been able to strike quickly in 2012 with the local ownership group that then seemed possible. The location, as opposed to Key Arena, is somewhat close to light rail.

But Seattle leaders are going to have to focus on better transit for the waterfront when it opens up after the hideous viaduct comes down. And that’s a great spot for a new arena — I hope better looking than Hansen’s renderings for Sodo — where the proles can watch millionaires play basketball. If the NBA ever wants us.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Apple fell from grace

How much junk can we afford

On our gig paychecks?