Urban Politics #226: County Support for Sonic Subsidy

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.



Today I released the results of a poll of King County residents about tax subsidies for sports teams. With the Washington State Legislature set to convene on January 8, the Seattle Sonics basketball team is preparing to ask state Legislators for hundreds of millions in subsidies for a sports arena in Bellevue or Renton.

In November 2006, Seattle voters overwhelmingly approved, 74 percent to 26 percent, Initiative 91 that directed the City to refrain from subsidizing the Sonics or other professional sports teams.

I had the poll conducted of all King County residents to determine if the results of the I-91 vote in Seattle would be reflective of voters outside the city. And it was. King County voters by an over-all margin of 2 to 1, favor the exact wording of I-91, whereby taxpayers require a fair return on their tax supported public subsidy of a professional sports team.

On December 26-28, 401 King County voters were read the proposed ballot title for a King County initiative that contained the same language as Seattle’s Initiative 91. Fifty-three percent strongly supported or supported the proposed initiative while only 25 percent opposed or strongly opposed it. Support for the proposed initiative was strong across the board-from Bellevue to Renton. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, alike, favored the idea by two to one. This poll will allow our state Legislators to honestly tell special interest lobbyists that the voters of King County do not support a public subsidy for the Sonics.

The poll was conducted by Elway Research for Licata, the Service Employees International Union, Local 775, and Citizens for More Important Things, a taxpayer watchdog group.

Here is the exact wording used by Elway Research in its survey of 401 King County voters on December 26-28:

“Recently voters in Seattle approved a measure related to the public financing of professional sports facilities. A similar measure could be put before voters in the rest of King County. I will read the proposed ballot title:

‘If enacted, the measure would require that for-profit professional sports organizations pay the County at least ‘fair value’ for goods, services, real property, or facilities the County provides or leases from them, either directly or through another public entity or a non-profit organization. The measure defines ‘fair value,’ based in part on the rate of return for 30-year Treasury Bonds. Any King County resident would have standing to file a lawsuit challenging County that allegedly violated the measure.’

As things stand today, if that measure were on the ballot in King County, would you…
Strongly Support It…25 percent
Support It…28 percent
Oppose It…11 percent
Strongly Oppose It…14 percent
Don’t Know/No Answer…22 percent”
The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent.

Keep in touch…

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