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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
, the editorial board has finally decided to do
what we all knew it
: 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.”

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.

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

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

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

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