Ammiano wasting our time on coddling sports arenas

The California Legislature has utterly failed to perform its most basic duty — balancing the budget. But that’s just one placard on its wall of shame.

Legislators have also botched water policy, transportation policy, education policy and energy policy, thus diminishing the economic competitiveness of a state mired in a seemingly intractable recession.

They waste their time — actually our time — on such trivial matters as designating a state rock and naming freeways after each other, while hitting up lobbyists for campaign checks and plotting their next political career moves.

Not surprisingly, poll after poll finds that Californians hold the Legislature in almost universal disdain. Given that, one would think lawmakers would be doing everything they could to demonstrate that they are worthy of the highest-in-the-nation salaries, cars, staffs and hefty “per diem” payments we provide them. But no, they introduce measures such as Assembly Bill 266.

San Francisco Democrat Tom Ammiano’s bill falsely proclaims that sports are a vital economic activity and declares the Legislature’s intention to create a “Statewide Sports Authority” aimed at “eliminating intrastate conflicts in the procurement of sports teams, coordinating efforts to procure and retain professional sports teams within the state, and helping to finance sports arenas within the state.”

The backstory is that at the moment, there’s much angst among California’s professional sports teams over their venues. Wealthy team owners are playing city against city as they seek new arenas for men in polyester pants to ply their trades — arenas that the owners hope would be financed by taxpayers.

Professional sports are merely entertainment, competing with movies, musical concerts, carnivals and other amusements for consumers’ dollars.

To their credit, taxpayers throughout the state have been largely unwilling to have local governments force them to pay for sports facilities, believing that if the San Francisco Giants can finance their own ballpark, other teams should as well.

Ammiano’s bill strongly implies that if local folks are unwilling to pay for lavish new sports venues, the state should step in and do it for them — What part of “stone broke” doesn’t Ammiano understand?

The state is cutting basic services and can’t afford the bond debt it’s already incurred, much less the tens of billions of voter-authorized but unissued bonds still on the books.

It not only makes no financial sense for the state to get involved in this trivial matter of providing new sports arenas, but it would be an open invitation to corruption if politicians assume the power to pick one team or one city over another.

Go back to state rocks, Tom. They’re at least cheaper political toys.

Dan Walters’ Sacramento Bee columns on state politics are syndicated by the Scripps Howard News Service.

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