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Saturday, February 25, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Special to The Times

Today, pass the basketball test

Let me summarize what happened in Olympia Thursday. NBA Commissioner David Stern and Starbucks billionaire Howard Schultz appeared before a legislative panel, appealing to lawmakers to spend tax dollars on behalf of Schultz's top priority: a new basketball arena for his hobby, the Seattle SuperSonics. "No particularly skeptical questions were asked of Stern or Schultz," largely because the legislative panel was chaired by the Sonics' oldest cheerleader, Sen. Margarita Prentice. "NBA's Stern goes 1-on-1 with lawmakers" [Times, Local News, Feb. 24] did not say if she was in uniform or had pom-poms.

Folks, we're talking about private enterprise asking for our tax dollars. So I offer the following brief, multiple-choice test to Puget Sound area residents to help clarify their relationship to the Sonics, as well as to their own wallets.

1) The average Puget Sound area resident can afford to attend a Sonics game:

a. Several times each season.

b. Once each season.

c. Once each decade.

d. When pigs fly.

e. Never.

2) State/county/city tax dollars should be spent:

a. Subsidizing billionaires who'd rather not spend their own money.

b. Creating better schools and educational programs.

c. Supporting social programs.

d. Underwriting the arts.

e. Everything but A.

3) Just because the Seahawks and Mariners franchises picked Seattle's pockets, we should:

a. Understand that it's the Sonics' turn to pick Seattle's pockets.

b. Acknowledge that millionaire basketball players need a home, too.

c. Quake at the prospect at the Sonics' departure.

d. Be genial, stop whining, and open our wallets.

e. None of the above.

Answer Key:

1) e. I cannot afford to attend Sonics' games. Most of us can't.

2) e. Too many social and educational needs are already unmet because of stretched tax dollars.

3) e. Big-league sports owners have got a "huge" problem with cost-control — huge salaries for huge egos — that they'd rather solve with our tax dollars. That cannot be our problem.

Sorry, Mr. Stern and Mr. Schultz, many of us would like you to stay, but only if you pick up the tab.

John Scannell lives in Bothell.

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