The Metropolitan King County Council could vote as early as next week on a proposal to invest up to $80 million to build a sports arena in Seattle.
In a move that surprised some council members, Budget Chair Joe McDermott pushed Monday for the proposal to move from his oversight committee to the full council for its action.
After nine committee meetings on the proposal, he said it is time for all nine council members to focus on the deal.
McDermott’s move was unusual because his budget committee did not vote on the arena deal. McDermott said if he waited until his next committee meeting in late August, the full council might not get the proposal until Labor Day. And by pushing the proposal to the full council now, he will clear the decks for his committee to focus on its primary duty, which is working on the county budget, he said.
But Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer said if McDermott had the votes to move it out of his committee he probably would have already. Instead, von Reichbauer believes McDermott wants to put pressure on skeptical Seattle City Council members by moving the proposal through the county. “That’s the only reason,” said von Reichbauer, who has called for a public vote on the proposal.
McDermott said that’s not the case.
The County Council voted 8-0 to take up the proposal Monday. von Reichbauer said he doubted it would be approved next week.
The legislation before the council would approve $5 million in bonds for the project if investors led by Chris Hansen land just an NBA team; if investors bring both NBA and NHL teams to the arena the county obligation would grow to $80 million.
Shortly after the council vote, a pro-arena group praised the action. “If the proposal passes the King County Council floor vote as many expect, passage of the arena proposal would then shift to the Seattle City Council, which appropriately carries the bulk of the fiscal obligation,” said a news release from arenasolution.org.
Councilmember Larry Phillips called McDermott’s move “really bad form” during the meeting. Phillips did not return to the full council after it recessed to discuss McDermott’s pitch.
Later, Phillips said he agrees with von Reichbauer that the move is “totally, absolutely” designed to put pressure on the Seattle City Council.