By Mike Salk
It's one thing to oppose the arena deal. It's another to do so after accepting an actual government handout. But that's exactly what The Seattle Times has done.
The Times has reminded us that there is no such thing as a free lunch. That the proposed arena deal is "too good to be true." Aphorisms, it reasons, that have survived for a reason.
I guess it left out "those in glass houses should not throw stones" or some old cliché about the pot and the kettle.
In 2009, the state of Washington enacted a bill that lowered the tax rate for newspapers to 0.2904 percent. According to the report in The Times itself, "the new law gives newspaper printers and publishers a 40 percent cut in the state's main business tax."
Not a bad break, if you can get it. It seems, in fact, like the perfect kind of public/private partnership!
I wonder what the editorial board would think? This, after all, is the same group that wrote of the arena deal, "Take any public money, credit or risk out of the investment equation."
I guess that principal goes right out the window when you're the one receiving the subsidy.
The publisher and chief executive officer of The Seattle Times is Frank Blethen. His bio states that he is a "fourth generation member of the Blethen family, which founded The Seattle Times in 1896."
He is also very wealthy. The family is believed to be worth some $650 million, as of 2006.
I have no problem with a wealthy family owning a newspaper. And I have no problem with his business receiving a subsidy from the government, especially in an era that has seen rising publishing costs combined with a free Internet that is death to print media.
But when his same paper asks, "Why these deep-pocketed investors need any public participation is a mystery?" then I have a problem.
Meanwhile, his editorial writer, Bruce Ramsey, states that he "doesn't like to see the city put its capital at stake for what [he thinks] is a private venture. ...I don't really like public/private partnerships for things like this."
Maybe he's OK with capital flowing from the state instead of the city? Or maybe his own self-interest trumped the philosophy.
Regardless, The Times found a way to accept a tax break. Despite its wealthy owner, it bought into a public/private partnership that helped itself do business and actually cost each citizen of Washington real money.
I won't ask for it back, though. I guess that's the difference between me and this Ed Board.