The Sacramento Press on ‘Insight’: Arena, affordable housing, utilities and buses

David Watts Barton hosted his final “Insight” show on Capital Public Radio Tuesday, and we talked about a few stories that have caught the attention of Sacramentans recently, including arena financing, affordable housing and utilities rate hikes.

After Mayor Kevin Johnson announced a tentative agreement to get a new arena built followed by a 7-2 vote by the City Council in favor of moving forward with the project, it looks like a done deal.

But a local group called Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork is making an effort to put the kibosh on the deal with a new November ballot initiative.

The initiative would require any public financing for the new entertainment and sports complex to go to a public vote. STOP needs to gather 21,000 registered voter signatures by May 31 to qualify the initiative for the November ballot. City Councilman Kevin McCarty said last week that he supports the idea.

AEG President Tim Leiweke met with city officials, NBA representatives and the Maloof family in Sacramento last week to start finalizing details of the agreement to build the new arena.

Leiweke said at a press conference with Johnson that – despite naysayers from within the sports entertainment industry – he and AEG are willing to bet on Sacramento as a good market for a successful arena endeavor.

Leiweke said the city’s positive qualities, including its status as capital of the state and its strong sports fanbase, are reasons for his faith in the success of the new arena deal – and the $58 million investment AEG is kicking in for the project.

A recent fundraising effort to keep some of Sacramento’s public pools open through next year has been under way for nearly a month, but – so far – that effort seems to be faltering.

Modesto-based grocery chain Save Mart launched a funds-matching drive to encourage community donations in support of funding six of the city’s 12 public pools for another year. Save Mart agreed to match, dollar for dollar, all donations up to $500,000 for a total of $1 million until the project deadline April 10.

By March 26, the total had barely topped $191,000 – including Save Mart’s match – falling well short of the goal.

City Council members are staging a fundraising challenge among themselves Wednesday at City Hall in hopes of raising $10,000 each to the total.

There are numerous affordable housing projects under construction in Sacramento, but applicants trying to get access to those housing units often find the process more challenging than they expected.

The paperwork, verifications and background and credit checks required to apply for the housing can seem daunting. Property owners set the application criteria, and successful applicants often face long waiting lists for housing because of the low inventory and high demand.

The city inventory of affordable housing is increasing, however, with the nearly complete Hotel Berry accepting lease applications, and the recent city approval to start renovations at the Ridgeway Hotel on 12th and J streets.

City residents struggling with the effects of the current economy will soon face higher utility bills if the City Council votes in favor of proposed rate hikes Tuesday.

The city Utilities Department is recommending a yearly 10 percent rate increase for water customers for the next three years, along with 16, 15 and 14 percent increases for wastewater rates over the same time period.

The utility bill for the average single family residence is estimated to go up by nearly $288 per year if the rate increases are approved.

At the opposite end of the financial spectrum, a local business family is working to save people money by providing low-cost transportation between the Sacramento State campus and downtown on Friday and Saturday nights.

The new Sactown Hopper bus will make three stops near the campus and four stops around downtown and Midtown at a cost of $10 per ticket. The bus will run Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. – 3 a.m.

Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

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March 28, 2012 | 1:25 AM

First, let’s please all chip in and save our pools. I’ve helped promote the Facebook campaign, but I’ll be making a $ contribution too. Let’s do this together.

March 28, 2012 | 9:34 AM

Thanks for being a fantastic guest on Insight, Melissa, as well as a terrific reporter for The Sacramento Press. It’s been good.

March 29, 2012 | 1:06 PM

I was honored to be your guest.

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