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Sunday, February 19, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Letters to the editor

Double shot

All alone in the Key and nothing but net

Editor, The Times:

Regarding "A key decision" [Times guest commentary, Feb. 13]: I'd like to offer Sonics owner Howard Schultz the common man's perspective.

First, I love Starbucks coffee. I'm a daily customer. When I do the math, I find I'm spending more than $1,000 each year for my morning and midday coffee. There are millions of people like me, and we have made Howard Schultz a billionaire. I do not begrudge him his success, and I will continue to drink Starbucks.

But I don't do arenas, or stadiums, or other major-league sports venues. With billions in his personal account, I see no reason why taxpayers should subsidize Howard's hobby, the Seattle Supersonics. I fully appreciate his desire to have a new basketball arena, but I see no reason why any tax money should be used to pay for something Shultz could and should pay for himself. We all know he can afford it. Perhaps Seattle or Bellevue should offer Shultz a 99-year lease on a great piece of land (for a nominal fee) and let him build his Starbucks Coffee Cup Arena and keep all the profits (less applicable local taxes, of course).

Frankly, it's a mystery to me why major-league franchise owners feel abused when the citizens of large cities balk at handing over millions in tax money. We must all learn to pay for our own toys.

— John Scannell, Bothell

Hotly contested game

The big ringer who can't remember which side he's on

I found Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata's response to Sonics' owner Howard Schultz ["Another way of looking at KeyArena expansion," guest commentary, Feb. 16] to be one the best pieces of political satire penned in this new year.

How else would you describe his assertion that the extension at its current rate of the existing tax that financed competing sports venues (Safeco and Qwest fields) is a new tax? Didn't the City Council insist that the 2004 Families and Education Levy was not a new tax because it was the renewal of an existing tax — albeit with a 70-percent increase ($69 million to $117 million)?

This is the same council that budgeted public funds to cover the expansion of another entertainment venue at the Seattle Center, McCaw Hall, and lamented that the courts would no longer allow them to pickpocket City Light ratepayers to fund public art projects. I don't recall Licata expressing his outrage that no public vote was taken in these matters.

Given Licata's unwavering support for the monorail project, I cannot believe he would lecture us on the merits of the proposed public financing for the KeyArena expansion.

The Sonics and Storm are important assets to this community (they have both delivered championship trophies to Seattle) and should remain in the city. Under any scenario that prompts them to leave Seattle, the city and the Seattle Center will suffer. Maybe Licata can sell out 80 poetry readings at Key to replace the NBA games after 2010.

— Kenneth Moninski, Seattle

Traveling overlooked

So the owner of the Sonics wants a new home for his Seattle basketball team, because he states it is in the best interest of the Northwest, and it's the Northwest's team. Funny, I never heard of them. Out here in the Tri-Cities, all home games are blacked out, and we have no radio station carrying them.

The Seahawks train in Cheney, have held camps in the Tri-Cities and brought players to town and also have radio broadcasts of their games, plus they hold Tri-Cities Day at one of the games. Mariners bring out the Mariner Caravan, broadcast every game locally and market to include the Tri-Cities area as part of their market.

The Sonics, never heard of them. Seattle's team, yes. The Northwest's team, no! If you want them, Seattle, you pay for them.

— Dan Stevens, West Richland

Do you hear a whistle?

Wake up, smell the coffee, and just say no to Howard Schultz's plea for the Sonics.

For working families, life as a Seattleite can feel like living inside a train wreck where the leadership hangs out in stalled luxury cars up front, while the rest of us piece together the wreckage to build go-carts.

As the gleaming new City Hall, sports stadiums and other projects are built downtown, my son's elementary school falls into disrepair. Class size rose by about 18 percent for some grades this year, while PTSA funds just barely maintain meager existing programs.

Schultz touts the cultural value of the pricey Sonics experience for our families, while our public schools annually face the loss of access to art and music classes.

My neighbors here in southeast Seattle are on high alert due to spiking crime. Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske reports being understaffed by 50 to 60 officers.

Seattle has some work to do and the winning strategy doesn't involve footing more of the bill for sports teams and the billionaires who own them.

— Rhonda Aronwald, Seattle

School boosters in front

I read that one in four sophomores in the Seattle Public Schools has flunked so many classes they are now classified as freshmen. Very disturbing! I also read that the Sonics want $200 million to renovate KeyArena.

Please, take the $200 million and put it into tutors, teachers, building upgrades and programs needed to educate our at-risk students. I understand Sonics games generate money for the city. Illiterate, uneducated students are a financial drain on our region, more so than the Sonics could generate. Our students are our future.

I read that the buildings are crumbling, teachers are asked to increase class sizes, and students are struggling. We need to address these problems more than we need to watch basketball games.

I grew up in a small farm town that had no professional sports. We were expected to study hard and to succeed in school by parents, administration and community. The community put hard-earned dollars into the school system, and our drop-out rate was very low. Most students went on to community colleges or four-year universities.

Sad that the city has its priorities all wrong. Please think of the students and their (our) future.

— Colette Norby-Slycord, Redmond

The supercynics

Howard Schultz should use the profits from his overpriced coffee to pay to enlarge KeyArena.

Police officers, firefighters and our troops are paid far too little in exchange for putting their lives on the line every day. Sometimes they die performing their duties, leaving behind families that must struggle to survive without them

While the aforementioned fight crime, fires or terrorists, America's sports-franchise owners, teams and athletes rake in millions of dollars every year for playing a sports game.

Howard, America does not have its own culture. Emigres bring their culture with them when they come to America. The only truly American culture is that of the Native Americans. However, there is a trend in today's America. It is the amassing of more money than one could possibly need in a lifetime.

I'm not anti-sports, Howard; I'm anti-greed. If you want a bigger arena in order to rake in more money, Howard, pay for it yourself. Heck, go ahead and name it after yourself, too!

— Kathy Panciera, Seattle

No concession stands

Howard Schultz characterizes the taxes he wants to extend as "visitor" taxes. Not true. I own a small bistro in Shoreline. I am inside King County borders. My customer base is not "visitors." My customers pay .5 percent more on each food ticket to subsidize the two sports stadiums we voted against subsidizing. That's true for all retail restaurant trade in King County (Issaquah, Federal Way, etc.).

We were promised that additional taxes on restaurants and hotels would end when the Qwest and Safeco extortions were paid off. Put differently: An essential aspect of cultural life is to dine out. Why should a hot dog at Safeco or an osso buco at my place subsidize the Sonics' payroll?

If taxpayers (or their legislators) give away tax revenues to subsidize professional sports, where is the marketplace discipline on costs (viz. players' salaries) that the rest of us face every day? If Schultz (or any pro-sports owner) wants public money to ease their way, perhaps the public should enjoy a share of the profits when they come.

— Rich Morrisey, Shoreline

A game of horsepower

So the Sonics want a new arena. So far we've built stadiums for the Mariners and the Seahawks. Qwest Field looks like a bargain after the Hawks' Super Bowl run. The way the Mariners play, Safeco Field smells like a lemon.

After the Sonics play more like the Hawks than the Mariners, we can talk about Starbucks Pavilion. Until then, Bellevue can have them.

— Frank Lufkin, Seattle

The tipoff

I wonder next time I am at Starbucks and two dollars short for my latte if they will help me out? I guess I am supposed to come up with the loot for them. Don't be surprised to see a tip jar on the counter that reads "KeyArena fund."

— Kent O'Neil, Bellingham

Most dangerous game

The wild snipe

I absolutely don't believe it. The vice president was involved in a hunting accident. His hunting partner was where he shouldn't have been and he was wounded. It was an accident, pure and simple.

Get over it!

The Democrats seem to be desperate to turn this incident into some sort of scandal, and the media are eating it up like a bunch of pigs at a trough. This whole suggestion of a cover-up is ridiculous ["Bush satisfied with Cheney's handling of shooting," News, Feb. 16].

I'm sure everyone's first concern was to get the man medical attention. I really doubt if anyone gave any thought to holding a damn press conference.

The vice president's priorities were where they should have been... Where are yours?

— David Alvar, Edmonds

Impeding elephant

Cheney's latest attempted "spin" and "monarchy type" control of the news that he shot a friend is totally consistent with his public persona.

The explanation ["RNC leader defends Cheney," News, Feb. 16] that this is "private" does not stand up to the fact that this man was elected by the citizens of the United States to be second in line to the presidency of this country. This display of gross errors in judgment creates just feelings of mistrust in the electorate and the press. He would be wise to be available to answer honest questions and give honest answers.

— Marjo Miller, Seattle

Teddy scare

When all of the media attention wears off Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting incident and all is said and done, I would still rather go hunting with Cheney than driving with Sen. Ted Kennedy.

— Howard Simpson, Ocean Shores

Fish in peril

Enough already about the Dick Cheney shooting accident. Accidents happen. Move on. The public and especially the media: Don't be distracted, keep your eye on the ball. There are a lot more serious things going on: in Iraq, the economy, wiretapping, private health accounts, etc. Having said that, we now know why Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia prefers to fish with Cheney instead of hunt.

— Robert Whitney, Maple Valley

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