On Friday, January 10, a group representing the pro-arena camp did something that defies imagination – and common decency.
The4000 held a press conference at a cemetery to make a political point. Even diehard supporters of the group reacted strongly and negatively. “Abort! Abort! Abort!” tweeted one supporter prior to the event, according to the Sacramento Bee. Reporter Ryan Lillis tweeted that a high percentage of Kings fans opposed the idea.
And KCRA’s Kevin Oliver reported that the press conference was called “disgraceful.”
But it doesn’t end there. Oliver’s investigation also revealed that the mayor himself may have been involved and responsible for this ill-conceived PR stunt. According to cemetery officials, the mayor’s office set up the conference and “misrepresented” their plans.
Oliver reports that “the cemetery said it received assurances from the mayor’s office that the event wouldn’t interfere with services or be controversial in nature.” Moreover, cemetery officials believed that the mayor would hold the press conference and were more than a little miffed when he didn’t show up. “Surprisingly, and without prior notice, the officiant at the conference was Josh Wood with a pro-arena organization,” read a statement from the officials; “We are extremely disappointed and concerned with the misrepresentation that was provided to us pursuant to the event.”
Pattern of Bad Behavior
It has been argued that, while in bad taste, this press conference by The4000 doesn’t change anything with respect to the arena issue. “Cemetery presser dumb but not a game changer,” tweeted R.E. Graswich.
Fair enough. Setting aside the point that “dumb” ignores the utter cynicism and disrespect this press conference demonstrated, Graswich is right on one level: the press conference was a sad side show.
Except for one thing: For The4000, along with its predecessor, DowntownArena.org, and partner-in-crime, Crown Downtown, this was only the latest in a series of highly questionable and barely legal activities. These include:
1. Secret videotaping. Over the course of several months, these two groups were involved in videotaping signature gatherers and publishing those videos without permission. This may not be strictly illegal, but it’s certainly unethical.
2. Robocalls. On at least two separate occasions, DowntownArena.org paid to have automated calls placed to Sacramento households, discouraging people from signing STOP’s petition. If these calls were legal (and they may not have been according to the California Public Utilities Commission), that’s only because DowntownArena.org used a vendor in Nevada to place the calls. Legal? Maybe. Ethical? Hardly.
3. False accusations. In September 2013, Joshua Wood of DowntownArena.org made a public statement alleging illegal conduct by Momentum Political Services, which was operating STOP’s signature-gathering effort. However, Wood never once offered specific evidence. Nor did the media ever challenge him to. Nevertheless, the controversy itself was enough to cost MPS its largest private client – even though she demonstrated that these allegations were simply false. Wood’s fabricated accusation damaged her business, and he was never held accountable. In some circles this is called slander.
4. Public shaming. When the Sacramento Bee, for reasons known only to them, dredged up Monica Harris’s past (she’s the owner of MPS), Crown Downtown seized on this opportunity to highlight her history of mental health issues and publicly shame her on Twitter. Ethical? Classy? Graceful?
5. Flagrantly misleading claims. While STOP was busy collecting signatures for its initiative, DowntownArena.org was occupied collecting signatures of 15,000 people who, according to DtA, wanted to withdraw their signatures. DtA touted this number, 15,000, everywhere, including the media. The only problem: Less than 10% of these people had signed STOP’s petition – and both DtA and the signers themselves knew it.
6. Illegal release of private information. Crown Downtown was also busy during the petition drive – photographing petitions that STOP and its signature gatherers collected. After the petitions were turned in to the city, Crown Downtown published the photos on its website and Twitter. These photos contained names, addresses, and signatures of people who had signed STOP’s petitions. Legal? I doubt it.
7. Graveside chat. The cemetery press conference held by Joshua Wood and The4000 is more evidence of extraordinarily unethical actions.
Graswich: Stay Classy, Sacramento
I’m happy to report that my debate opponent, R.E. Graswich, was not involved in any of these shenanigans and PR stunts. Despite our differences on this issue, I know him to be a good man, a family man, a father of two, a concerned citizen. I admire his passion for this town and his concern for its future. Whatever else I might say about Graswich, I don’t question his ethics.
Nevertheless, I can’t say the same thing about the people who run the group he’s aligned with. The4000 has pushed the boundaries of law and ethics in their attempt to defeat STOP’s petition drive. It appears they are willing to do almost anything to prevent people from voting on the city’s arena expenditure.
Why? The answer will be obvious to anyone who looks at the history of this issue.
Whenever the question of public funding for a new arena has been put before the voters, most recently in 2006, the citizens of Sacramento have overwhelmingly voted no. Given the opportunity to vote on a subsidy for the new Entertainment and Sports Center, there’s a strong chance they would vote it down.
The mayor knows that, and he’s doing everything he can to push this project through before the people can vote on it. And his organization, The4000, is hard at work to undermine the efforts of the subsidy opponents so that a vote never happens.
Ed. note: This blog post was originally published on the Sacramento Arena Debate website.