Op-Ed: Sonics Arena deal doesn't do enough to protect jobs

Editor’s note: This opinion is written by Save Our Sodo, which is co-chaired by Max Vekich, a marine clerk in Seattle, and Warren Aakervik, the owner of Ballard Oil, a small business in Seattle for the past 75 years

As a grassroots group of people with concerns about the proposed Sodo site for a new arena, we were excited to hear the City Council’s lofty rhetoric last week when announcing a deal with potential NBA owner Chris Hansen.

The council members said they had reached a deal with Hansen that would protect Port of Seattle operations, family-wage jobs in the maritime industry and also require a thorough and unbiased study of alternate arena sites.

So we were greatly disappointed several hours later when the text of the revised memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the city and Hansen was released to the public. Instead of a deal that protects jobs, we have a deal that has a good chance of killing thousands of jobs. Instead of a deal that will study alternate sites in a thorough and unbiased manner, we have a deal that is overwhelmingly favored toward the arena being built in Sodo.

Instead of a genuine environmental-impact statement (EIS), the deal will allow a sham of an EIS that will do nothing to stop the irreversible momentum of a future Sodo arena. Never mind where the best site for an NBA and NHL arena may be in the Seattle area; the arena deal reached by the City Council has no concerns for that. Under the MOU, the Sodo site, rather than a possibility, is an inevitability.

In a meeting two days after the arena deal was announced and the opposition had raised concerns, some council members had good words to say about ensuring that the EIS is unbiased and studies multiple alternate arena sites, not just Sodo and Seattle Center.

The tens of thousands of people who rely on freight mobility and an efficient Seattle maritime industry will have to hope that in the months ahead, these words turn into action. Without an MOU that protects our interests, all we can rely on is the intangible: the City Council’s good faith and a commitment to an independent environmental review.

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