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Sonics’ arena doesn’t add up to schools’ dilemma

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Editor, The Times:

Within a few days of each other, the following items appear in The Seattle Times: the Seattle School District’s chief financial officer warns of impending bankruptcy (“Financial news gets worse for Seattle schools,” Times page one, Dec. 16); the Seattle Sonics, with the help of Mayor Greg Nickels, appear poised to ask for a $200 million gift (via hotel and car-rental taxes) to make KeyArena more “competitive” (“Sonics eye tax money to revamp KeyArena,” page one, Dec. 17) and The Times pushes for a summit, led by Nickels, to wean the School District from its “free-spending ways” (“Troubled city schools need a new summit,” editorial, Dec. 20).

Yes, I know about the $34 million, and that somebody screwed up royally. I also know that the School District needs financial and administrative reform (and it doesn’t stand alone in that line). And finally, I’m aware that the same taxes that pay for schools don’t gift the Sonics. I don’t care.

I know everything has its own separate revenue stream, largely so people won’t make the sort of connections I’m making now. I don’t care. Where was that written in stone? Did I miss a commandment?

One of these enterprises is vital to civil society, another is an overhyped electronic opera with way too many divas. They are not equal claimants on the public purse, and nobody could seriously maintain that they are.

And administrative problems aside, if you think public schools in Seattle are overfunded, you’re crazy.

— Richard Musser, Seattle

Short on cost benefit

“Sonics eye tax money to revamp KeyArena” actually caused me to gasp. What, I wondered, could possibly need revamping on a building that was completely rebuilt, top to bottom, nine short years ago?

This proposed revamping will cost $200 million? And one of the major selling points is — get this — wider concourses? Which will, we’re promised, bring in more concession money? And when it’s all done, there will only be up to 500 new seats added (maybe), but 26 fewer luxury boxes?

And Mayor Greg Nickels actually believes all this pencils out? Isn’t that what we were told before the last renovation, that it would put the Sonics on Easy Street?

I’m beginning to think our mayor never met a rich man he didn’t like. Maybe he should tell Starbucks chairman and Sonics co-owner Howard “Limited Capacity To Earn” Schultz what he tells his 10,000-person city workforce: “Do more with less.” It’s hardly the community’s fault Schultz has been losing money on the Sonics.

— Steve Graham, Seattle

In line with practicality

Forget the financial health of corporate sports teams. Forget the health of buildings. How about the physical health of our citizens? I am so tired of tax dollars being spent on huge sport venues that just make citizens fat (“Plan would nearly double KeyArena,” Local Dec. 21).

Seattle has an incredible opportunity to develop 53 acres of Port property in Interbay into a commercially successful, active recreational complex. A regional aquatic center, ice rink, mountain bike trails, skateboard park, Little League baseball field and more could be developed.

Let’s spend some real dollars on sport venues that get people out of the concession stands.

— Denise Derr, Seattle

Wait till next century

Redo KeyArena. Absolutely ludicrous! We’re still paying off the Kingdome, which suffered annihilation after a brief life of 21 years. Now we’re being told we need to revamp KeyArena at a cost of $200 million (sans interest and the minimal multiplying factor of 1.5 to 2 for government project cost estimates).

Well, why not? After all, it’s been nine years. But coupled with the monorail, the dollar vacuum of Sound Transit, the most expensive “big pit” solution for replacing the viaduct, and facing a total resurfacing of Interstate 5, this ought to make Seattle a grand place to live if you love taxes and live off that genre of handout.

And for those who believe this is a tax-neutral project, be sure to tell Santa what other wishes you have.

Aside from that, let’s consider several notions before leaping off the seawall:

One, no public building erected with taxpayer funds should have a projected life of fewer than 200 years. Naysayers, before you issue a stream of negatives, consider Europe or other senior nations.

Two, with all the critical people-needs we have, is this the best we can do in prioritizing expenditures?

Lastly, get over the “my boat needs to be bigger than your boat” mentality.

— Albert Chukitus, Kirkland

All elbows

Yikes! Christine Gregoire hasn’t even stolen the election for governor yet, and already the hogs are lining up at the trough to rob the taxpayers. The Sonics want $200 million for KeyArena, and CPS wants a few million to fix a computer it claims killed the kids in Kent.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gary Locke claims a decrease of the increase is actually a “cut,” and that hundreds of millions of dollars in tax increases are inevitable.

When the governor of Seattle finally takes office, the only thing that stands between government greed and our wallets will be Tim Eyman.

— Mark Van Horne, Bellevue

Slam bunk

Regarding the plan to ask for $200 million in state funding improvements at KeyArena, I’d say the following to Mayor Greg Nickels, Howard Shultz and Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis: not only no, hell no.

As a parent, I’m already seeing the effects of a School District teetering on the brink of insolvency: My daughter’s public school will begin charging $125/month for kindergarten next year.

As a small-business owner, I’m already wondering how I’ll handle next year’s increases in health-insurance premiums.

And as a compassionate human being grateful for the abundance in my life, I’m already worried about more cuts in human services for those who have far, far less.

So as an amateur athlete, a sports fan and nightly devotee of ESPN, there’s only one thing I can say to the Sonics, the city and this absurd request: Stuff it.

— Carl Guess, Seattle

A Christmas bestiary

Stable investment

We greatly appreciate “How to give, not get taken” (Northwest Life, Dec. 7), advising the generous people of our community how to make sure their charitable contributions are being wisely made.

We would like to add one other item people may want to consider: how much of the charitable organization’s donations are used locally.

In the case of animal-welfare organizations, such as The Humane Society for Seattle/King County, there are national organizations that sound like they may share their donations with local organizations, but in fact they do not. Many charities have “parent” organizations; however, this is not true for humane societies, which are independent and not chapters or branches of other charities.

So if helping people in your local community is important to you, asking how much money is used here is a good question to ask.

— Nancy B. McKenney, chief executive officer, The Humane Society for Seattle/King County, Bellevue

Horns garlanded

The U.S. Post office has decided that the appropriate cost for (a book of 18) Christmas stamps is 666 ($6.66).

It is certainly something to ponder when cute little Santa ornament stamps carry a message Christians consider the “mark of the beast” with Merry Christmas cards sent this year.

— Mindy Sitton-Halleck, Bothell