Sunday, May 26, 2013
The founders wanted more of a representative democracy and would probably not be happy with the extent to which issues are put directly to the people for a vote. The idea was that the people are not in the position to cast an informed vote directly on most complex issues of governance. Also, many issues go to the public because politicians are afraid to cast a controversial vote on, say, taxation, and so jeopardize their continued stay in office. Politicians usually like to vote whichever way they perceive the public wants them to. That's the best way to stay in office. This lack of leadership, in which officeholders seldom act in the people's interest when the people don't understand their interest in a complex matter, is one of the problems this country faces. One of the reasons California is in such a fiscal and governmental mess is because of initiatives and referendums in which spending is approved but taxes to pay for it are not. I'm making these comments separate from whether I think the arena is a good idea, by the way, but it is interesting to note that the story states the poll showed people support the arena, so you might say in this case the politicians did what the people wanted.
So is the cost for operating automobiles in construction and maintenance of roads; health care and death costs stemming from thousands of auto accidents a year; paying police to spend much of their time monitoring motorists, supporting the empire of traffic court with its judges, clerks, and attorneys; not to mention the direct cost of buying, maintaining and insuring cars.
Yes, you can do a lot of other really positive things with the money and these things, some of which have been mentioned, at least in theory should be done. I particularly like the idea of luring business that brings those with higher education to the area. Sacramento ranks 45th in higher education among US metro areas and if you look at the list those areas in the top 10 are generally considered good places to live whereas the areas down around the 45th spot are not. One of the major reasons Sacramento lacks the amenities needed to be considered a good place to live is because we don't have enough educated people with their higher salaries and generally wider life experience here.
But I believe having amenities like arenas, major sports franchises, libraries, theaters, museums, etc. rarely pencil out if you're looking for guaranteed direct positive benefits. But these are the sorts of things that also attract those businesses and individuals with higher education. So all of this should be done and that is difficult in a down economy and in a city which has too many people with not enough education. Recessions will always hit those with less education harder as has happened here in recent years. So for the moment we have to ask, should we go for this arena/sports team amenity first or do something else? I'm not sure we really have a choice. If Sacramento loses the Kings (which I think is going to happen) it may be many years before we can even entertain the notion of another major sports franchise. If we don't have a major tenant for an arena then I think it makes the chances that we will build one and be successful with it that much lower. And if we don't have these and other amenities it's going to be hard to lure the type of businesses we need.
Well now, I don't think they are bad examples. Public money was used in both. A lottery is just a device used by government to collect money from people who have a not very rational hope that they will win something. The Sydney Opera House had big cost overuns, and with its other problems could be considered a disaster except that it is the world famous symbol of Sydney and indeed it is a symbol for all Australia. Hard to put a price on that! Also, it occurred to me that if this city proposed building a tower with 25% public financing, insisting that it would pay for itself, after which they would tear it down in 20 years, do you think there would be many supporters for that?
To Tony and Julian: Now you guys didn't really know off the top of your heads how the Sydney Opera House and the Eiffel Tower were financed, did you? If you did, I'm impressed! But my real point is that the examples I gave are important amenities and even symbols of those cities which I doubt could be justified if we only consider whether there is a net direct financial gain for the public money (lottery or otherwise) spent on construction & maintenance vs income, etc.
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