Neglected Questions at the Bee

Of all the silly things my old employer the Sacramento Bee has written in its campaign to keep the Kings in town, it's hard to find one sillier than describing Sacramento's "struggling downtown" as "the neglected heart of the capital city."

Neglected? Have they put the paper’s news archive down the memory hole?

Just off the top of my head, here are a few projects built using public money, in whole or part, since I moved to town in 1985:

Hyatt Hotel.

Sheraton Hotel.

Citizen Hotel.

Convention Center expansion.

City Hall expansion.

California Environmental Protection Agency.

Downtown library expansion and U.S. Bank Tower.

Esquire Building and IMAX Theater.

Downtown Plaza expansion.

Elks Building renovation.

Dive Bar.

Cosmopolitan entertainment complex.

County jail.

Matsui Federal courthouse.

Numerous housing projects, including the lofts where Gov. Jerry Brown bunks when he’s in town.

The list could go on and on. I haven’t gotten to all the investments made by the state after former Gov. Pete Wilson reversed state policy to encourage new agency buildings to locate downtown, a change that led to construction of the huge East End project, the Justice building, and the Secretary of State/Archives complex. There’s hardly a block downtown that hasn’t been blessed with a subsidy.

Far from neglecting it, Sacramento has been devoting attention and public dollars by the hundreds of millions on downtown for more than a half century. And what result has that devotion yielded? To hear the Bee tell it, a “struggling downtown.”

Anyone with a shred of curiosity or even a little concern for the public interest might be tempted to ask some questions here. If all those public dollars have left downtown still in need of “revitalization,” maybe the city has been doing things wrong. Are there policies that prevent efficient use of the money? Are public dollars being invested in the wrong way. Are they being overwhelmed by policies and trends that push people and private investment to the urban fringe? Are the benefits of downtown public investment going to developers instead of the broader public?

The Bee, it seems, has neglected to ask.