City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

February 6, 2012
Sacramento council to weigh June ballot vote on arena Tuesday

The City Council is scheduled Tuesday to consider Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy's request to place a measure on the June ballot asking voters if they want to use public parking assets to help finance a new sports arena.

Sheedy pulled the item from the agenda last month when Councilman Rob Fong was unable to attend that council meeting. While Fong is not expected to support Sheedy's request, he has played an integral role in the city's ongoing arena fight and Sheedy wanted her colleague present for the ballot measure debate.

There still appears to be limited support on the council for a June vote on the arena. Besides Sheedy, only Councilman Darrell Fong has expressed support for the vote.

City officials are counting on raising as much as $200 million toward the $387 million arena by leasing city-owned parking assets to a private firm in up to a 50-year deal. Officials announced last week that 13 companies had expressed interest in the arrangement. The field is expected to be narrowed down to the most qualified firms for next week's council meeting.

Sheedy and others have expressed concern about the plan, worrying about the $9 million that parking operations currently pumps into the city's general fund budget each year. Others fear a private company would hike parking rates.

At a December meeting during which the City Council voted to gauge interest from the private sector in its parking assets, Sheedy said, "We're not going to be using (the upfront payment) on anything the city needs done."

Mayor Kevin Johnson has tried to deflect concerns about the parking proposal, telling reporters last week that "we have to protect the general fund" and that allowing a private company to greatly increase rates is "not acceptable for us."

"We have to have some role or make sure we can control the parking rates so that the expense is not passed on to the normal constituent in Sacramento," the mayor said. "Believe me, (a private company) is going to make a lot of money. They may want to make a little extra money and we're going to say, 'Not if it requires you to do something in terms of parking and raising rates.' That's not acceptable."

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at rlillis@sacbee.com

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