• Critics claim Seattle arena deal is illegal

    By: Graham Johnson


    SEATTLE - Critics of a proposed NBA and NHL arena in SODO say investor Chris Hansen is poised to get an illegal sweetheart deal from taxpayers.
    They've paid for a new report that claims taxpayers will get stiffed $731 million.
    "We're not against pro sports. We think they can do it without public subsidies," said Cleveland Stockmeyer, who sued over the deal the city and county struck with developer Hansen.
    Stockmeyer said the Memorandum of Understanding violated Initiative 91, which Seattle voters overwhelmingly approved to block taxpayer subsidies for pro sports.
    "These are sweetheart tax breaks the average person doesn't get," Stockmeyer said.
    The deal calls for $200 million in public financing that Hansen will pay back.
    Stockmeyer said Initiative 91 requires the city make a profit from interest, which is not in the deal.
    Stockmeyer's group hired an expert who concluded when you add up all the pieces of the arena deal, including tax credits and the avoidance of property taxes, taxpayers will subsidize Hansen to the tune of $731 million over 32 years.
    Steven Pyeatt of Save Our Sonics said the new report does not factor in the economic benefit of an arena, and says developers and city and county officials have reviewed the arena deal carefully.
    "All the way through this deal Mr. Hansen has gone overtime to make this I-91 compliant," Payette said.
    The city council has the option of waiving Initiative 91.
    Critics want the council and incoming mayor Ed Murray to remove subsidies from the deal.
    A spokesman for Murray told KIRO 7 the mayor-elect is interested in the new report and said if it pencils out, it could be "cause for some review."


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