Given Jason Reid and Adam Brown’s feelings for Richard Conlin, perhaps it should come as no surprise that the two Sonicsgate filmmakers endorsed Conlin’s challenger, Kshama Sawant, for Seattle City Council yesterday. In truth, short of Clay Bennett, David Stern, Howard Schultz or Greg Nickels, the Sonicsgate guys probably would have endorsed anyone over Richard Conlin at this point. Even Jim McIlvaine.
“Councilman Conlin has alienated many local constituencies including Sonics fans,” Reid and Brown wrote in their official endorsement of Sawant. “He was Seattle City Council President when its members unanimously approved the $45 million settlement agreement that let the Sonics out of the team’s lease at KeyArena in 2008, officially sending Seattle’s iconic NBA franchise off to Oklahoma City. Conlin missed a shot at redemption last year when he vocally opposed the SoDo arena deal and wrote an editorial letter attempting to justify his anti-arena position.”
The fact that Reid and Brown are anti-Conlin is no surprise. However, the fact that they’re throwing their weight – and, perhaps, the weight of thousands of still-pissed Sonics fans – behind a Socialist Alternative candidate does raise eyebrows. Will a Socialist Alternative candidate like Sawant support the current Memorandum of Understanding, which although significantly safeguarded does use city money for a private arena? Will Sawant have the appetite to champion the Sonics cause on the council, given her dedication to issues affecting the poor and working class? Will she help a ridiculously wealthy hedge-fund manager bring a pro basketball team to Seattle?
Assuming any of that seems a bit shaky. Apparently, however, the Sonicsgate guys have been assured by the mere fact Sawant is willing to listen to them.
“Richard Conlin has proven to be smug, short-sighted and out of touch with the citizens of Seattle during his 16-year reign on the council. He needs to be removed from office to send a message that entrenched politicians aren’t untouchable when they go against the will of the people. I believe it is important to have new blood with a healthily dissenting voice on the council,” Reid says in the Sonicsgate endorsement press release.
“Although Sawant has not taken an official position on the SoDo arena MOU, her campaign shares in our outrage that Seattle was robbed of the Sonics by powerful, corrupt forces and that many local politicians, including Conlin, own a share of the blame,” he continues. “The Sawant campaign has met directly with the Sonicsgate team and will maintain an open dialogue on this issue. We believe Seattle’s citizens will have a real voice in her administration. Living wage jobs and the enjoyment of sports are both rights we should enjoy in our community.”
Reached for comment by Seattle Weekly, Sawant clarified her position, saying: “Richard Conlin did nothing to stop the stealing of the Sonics basketball team from Seattle by the NBA. I share Sonics fans’ desire to have their team back.”
“I don’t have a formal position on the current MOU, since it’s not something I would vote on as a council member. My understanding is that the deal is far better than the huge giveaways to super-rich owners of the Mariners and Seahawks, both of which were undemocratically rammed through by the city’s political establishment. NBA owners want taxpayers to foot the bill, and so opposed the deal in part because it sets a dangerous (for NBA) precedent that new arenas could be established without taxpayers getting stuck with the bill.”
“However,” Sawant continues, “there are a number of priorities I would want addressed should the MOU need to be renegotiated or replaced when it expires in 2017. … Many people are concerned that the current MOU will undermine port operations and local small businesses, and that the deal includes public handouts to private investors. I will oppose any potential undermining of good-paying jobs at the Port of Seattle, damaging local small business, and public handouts to private investors. I want a deal that allows sports fans to enjoy sports but ensures living-wage unionized jobs will not be lost. … I will oppose any regressive taxation used for arena construction or renovations. The tax burden needs to be shifted onto big business and the super-rich.”
“I would need to examine any proposal that came before the council concretely and listen to the different sides - maintaining an open dialogue with sports fans, port workers, unions, and local small businesses - something seriously lacking from Richard Conlin,” Sawant concludes.
So would Sawant have supported the current Sodo arena MOU – which will be good for five years from the time it was adopted unless lawmakers revisit it?
Philip Locker, Sawant’s political campaign director, tells Seattle Weekly that Sawant does not have a firm position on the current MOU, having not studied it closely or talked to all the stakeholders involved. Rather, according to Locker, Sawant’s statement is meant to speak to “the spirit of how we’d approach the issue,” and the “fundamental principles and values of how we’d deal with it.” He says Sawant, like Sonics fans, wants to see the NBA’s return to Seattle, but also has legitimate concerns about how a Sodo arena would affect the port and its good paying jobs, not to mention taxpayers possibly left footing any bill for a corporate handout.
To put it bluntly, Locker says Sawant does not expect the council to revisit the current MOU, but “that’s not to say we endorse it.” He says, as Sawant does in her statement, that the arena issue is not a primary concern of the campaign.