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Arena opponents make another huge mistake

By Mike Salk

Given my previous frustration with The Seattle Times and its editorial board's frustrating and mistake-laden columns, you're probably expecting me to tear apart the latest missive.

It would be easy to do.

After all, for more than nine hours, the sentence below the headline of the online version read: "If the Sodo arena plan is such a great idea, but well-heeled private investors prosper."

Sic. Or sick.

Both fit.

In the latest piece, the editorial board has finally decided to do what we all knew it would: officially oppose Chris Hansen's arena proposal. The writer offers a few reasons, ranging from traffic to public financing to "the region's capacity to support more professional sports."

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The Seattle Times' editorial board has officially opposed Chris Hansen's arena proposal, citing concerns over traffic, public financing and "the region's capacity to support more professional sports" as reasons. (AP)
All of these points are arguable in either direction. Reasonable people can debate whether games and concerts that start after 7 p.m. will truly affect traffic or will negatively impact the Port. Even if reasonable people were to agree to call the city's role in this proposal "public financing," they could then debate whether that is appropriate.

If The Times were to stick to arguing those points, I'd be happy to engage in the debate. To be honest, I too would prefer that Hansen and his group of investors pay for the entire cost of the building themselves. I too would prefer that the city not end up owning the building 30 years down the road.

Ultimately, however, I'd prefer that this deal just gets done.

And while stadiums and arenas may not generate enough money for the surrounding community to warrant some of the huge investments other municipalities have made in them, I think this deal is different. It is a new model and a creative way of sparing the city most of the risk.

We could debate all of these points and we have done so extensively on the show. But to do so with The Times is pointless. After putting this latest piece in context with the others, I now realize that its argument is not about the facts or the risk or the philosophical role of government.

The Times simply doesn't like Chris Hansen.

Why else would we see yet another personal attack, this time on his occupation? "Hedge funds and hedge-fund managers exist to neutralize risk," according to The Times. "Their own."

Ah, I see. Because Chris Hansen has made a tremendous amount of money by (legally) reducing the risk in investing, he is evil.

Nevermind that hedge fund managers also attempt to neutralize risk for their investors and that the city would essentially become one of those investors in this proposal. Why bother to point that out? Oh, I know. It doesn't fit the convenient analogy which is supposed to run through the whole column.

This must be about Hansen himself, right?

Why else would we see the continuing epithet "San Francisco hedge fund manager?" In this era of global commerce and telecommuting, I guess Hansen's current residence is more important than his Seattle roots. I guess he is no longer "anonymous" as suggested in an earlier column.

Why else would the writer use the word "cohorts" to describe Hansen's well-respected investment group (which includes Steve Ballmer and Pete and Erik Nordstrom)? Maybe the thesaurus didn't include "co-conspirators" or "accomplices." The implication would have been about the same.

I'm not going to try to debate The Times again. Instead, I'll simply offer a plea.

Please base your opinions and editorial stances on facts or philosophies rather than personal vendettas and lazy journalism. To characterize Hansen's intentions based on his profession and his bank account is unfair. To dismiss his math as "esoteric" is even worse: it's unprofessional. Dismissing the mathematical claims simply because they are difficult to understand could potentially prevent the city from an excellent opportunity.

If you want to oppose the arena deal, that's fine. But to do so like this doesn't befit our local paper of record.

You asked Mayor Mike McGinn to step aside? On this issue, I politely ask you to please do the same.

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