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City of Sacramento Voter approval for Public Funding of Professional Sports Arena Act, STOP Initiative (June 2014)

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City of Sacramento STOP Initiative
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Referred by:Citizens
Topic:Public subsidy of sports arenas
Status:In Court

A City of Sacramento Voter Approval of Sports Arena Subsidies, Stop Initiative ballot measure did not make the June 3, 2014 election ballot for voters in the City of Sacramento, California.

As of January 24, 2014, the STOP initiative had been put on hold by the City Clerk Shirley Concolino, who said that the petitions circulated for the initiative had major legal flaws and violations of city election code that made it impossible for it to be put on the ballot. The group behind the initiative sued the city and, after multiple legal arguments on both sides, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley upheld City Clerk Concolino's decision to keep the initiative from the ballot.[1][2] Construction crews are expected to begin work on the Kings sports arena in the fall.

The group Sacramento Taxpayer's Opposed to Pork (STOP)[3] turned in 35,247 signatures. Of these, 22,498 were found to be valid. Only 22,165 were required to qualify the initiative for the ballot. Although there were enough valid signatures, the initiative did not reach the ballot due to errors and violations of election code and the city charter. This initiative measure, if it had reached the ballot and had been approved, would have altered the city charter to prohibit the city from contributing funds or subsidizing in anyway the construction of a sports arena without voter approval. The measure specifically targeted the use of $258 million from the city's general fund to subsidize the construction of a $450 million Sacramento Kings sports arena in Downtown Sacramento. A vote on this measure, however, would not have explicitly approved or rejected the proposed Kings arena funding. A "yes" vote would have effectively put a stop to the city funding the arena until a public vote authorized it, adding the same requirement for future, similar construction projects. A "no" vote would have allowed the city to continue with its planned funding of the arena.[4]

If this initiative had been approved on the June ballot, there would have been another referendum on the November ballot specifically about the $258 million city subsidy of the Sacramento Kings Downtown arena.[5]

Text of measure

Full text

The full text of the charter amendment proposed by this measure was:

Section 1. Title

This Act shall be known and may be cited as the "Voter approval for Public Funding of Professional Sports Arena Act"

Section 2. Voter Approval

The City of Sacramento shall not use or redirect, undertake an obligation to pay, or bond or borrow against monies intended for or from the City General Fund for the development and/or construction of a professional sports arena, without the approval by a simple majority of voters.

Section 3. Definitions

As used herein, (i) "professional sports arena" shall mean any arena or event venue which serves as a facility for a professional sports team, and (ii) "redirect" shall mean to divert or alter.[6][7]



The group behind the signature petition effort was called Sacramento Taxpayer's Opposed to Pork (STOP)[3]. This group was formed in 2012 to stop a similar arena effort proposed for the downtown rail yard area. STOP, through lobbying, was successful in ending this previous arena effort. The PAC Taxpayers for Safer Neighborhoods has joined STOP in its effort to require voter approval for the public funding of sports arena construction.[8][9]

According to the STOP website, other supporters included the following:[8]

Another group, Voters for a Fair Arena Deal, also supported the efforts of STOP to circulate petition signatures. Voters for a Fair Arena Deal also partnered with STOP as plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city, suing to have their initiative put on the ballot despite technical and legal errors in the petitions.[10]


Below is a list of organizations that, according to the STOP website, supported the initiative:

  • Sacramento County Republican Party
  • Latino Democratic Club of Sacramento
  • Wellstone Progressive Democrats of Sacramento
  • Libertarian Party of Sacramento County
  • Sacramento County Peace and Freedom Party
  • Sacramento Taxpayers Association
  • Women Democrats of Sacramento County
  • American GI Forum (AGFI) of Sacramento
  • Sacramento News & Review

Groups and representatives

  • Bob Blymer, Executive Director of Sacramento Taxpayers Associaton: “Sacramento Taxpayers Association feels very strongly that this is a big enough issue to put on the ballot… We have felt all along there needs to be an independent financial analysis of the project and its projected benefits, and this has not been done. There are so many red flags.”
  • Janine Kloss, Chair, Libertarian Party of Sacramento County: “The Libertarian Party of Sacramento County strongly supports the efforts of STOP to bring the arena funding to a vote. Our members are happy to work with groups who go to such lengths to ensure public funds are utilized in the most effective and efficient manner possible and that proper accountability and oversight are built into the process from the start.”
  • Sacramento County Republican Party: “The Sacramento County Republican Party voted nearly unanimously for the right of the citizens of Sacramento to vote on whether public funds should be used to pay for a significant portion of the cost of a new arena. Republicans always stand for taxpayer rights – the members of the SCRP overwhelmingly supported putting the issue of a public subsidy for an arena on the ballot. The committee endorsed the language of a petition being circulated that would require a public vote before using public resources to subsidize a professional sports arena.”
  • Sacramento News & Review: “We want the Kings to stay in Sacramento. But we want it to happen as a result of a community consensus that the city’s plan to subsidize a new downtown arena for the team will benefit everyone, and not as a product of fast-and-loose deal-making between city officials and a small group of well-connected developers. That’s why we support the efforts of Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork, or STOP, to put the arena plan to a public vote on the June 2014 ballot.”
  • Sue Blake, Chair of Sacramento County Republican Party: "Keeping the Kings in Sacramento is a splendid idea, but the people whose pockets will be picked to pay for it ought to have a say. It’s their money. It comes out of city coffers. Defending the principle of the voters’ right to approve public debt outweighs my personal support of the Kings and a new arena.”


Drawing of the proposed arena


  • The city of Sacramento
  • Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson
  • The 4,000 Initiative[11]

Arguments against

The 4,000 Initiative was named after the 4,000 jobs pro-arena activists said that the arena would generate. Those who were in favor of the arena being built and were opposed to the ballot measure that could put a stop to it by requiring a public vote argued that the arena would be good for the city and would provide thousands of jobs to the city and is in the best interests of the city. They also argued that the use of public funds and the city budget was within the authority of the board of supervisors not the voters. Some argued that the legislation proposed by the STOP initiative measure constituted an illegal change to the city charter.[4]


Two polls were conducted on the issues of the STOP arena referendum and the subsidizing of the arena. These polls were conducted by Probolsky Research and co-sponsored by TABcommunications.

  • The first poll asked those surveyed whether they would support or oppose a referendum, such as the STOP referendum, that would require a public vote to authorize the public subsidizing of a sports arena. This question did not ask whether the voters would, in fact, approve or reject the proposed arena plan. This first question was most like the question the voters would have seen on the ballot in June had the STOP initiative been allowed to go before voters.
Question 1: “If the Sacramento City Council approves the new Sacramento Arena project and the accompanying financing plan, opponents plan to force a referendum that would give Sacramento voters final approval. Would you support or oppose a referendum that would require a public vote on the Arena Plan?"
  • The second poll asked whether voters would support or oppose the planned city contribution of $250 million towards the new arena.
Question 2: “The Sacramento City Council has tentatively approved a “term sheet” outlining financing for a downtown Sports and Entertainment Arena that would serve as the new home for the Sacramento Kings basketball team. The Arena would also host concerts and other events. The City Council must still vote on the final financing agreement, which requires the City to contribute 250 million taxpayer dollars. Do you support or oppose the proposed City contributing 250 million dollars to subsidize part of the new downtown Sports and Entertainment Arena financing deal?”

Below are the results of the two polls:

STOP Initiative Arena Referendum - Support v. Opposition
Poll Support OppositionUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Sacramento Survey - Putting the Arena project on the ballot
April 18, 2013
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to

Public funding of downtown Kings Arena - Support v. Opposition
Poll Support OppositionUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Sacramento Survey - City funding of Arena project
April 18, 2013
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California


The group Sacramento Taxpayer's Opposed to Pork (STOP) turned in 35,247 signatures. Of these, 22,498 were found to be valid. Only 22,165 were required to qualify the initiative for the ballot. Although there are enough valid signatures, the certification process is still on going, with several hurdles, including potential lawsuits, still before this initiative. If this initiative is approved on the June ballot, there will likely be another referendum on the November ballot specifically about the $258 million city subsidy of the Sacramento Kings Downtown arena.[5]

Petition rejection

On January 24, 2014, City Clerk Shirley Concolino announced that the petitions for the initiative measure were rife with legal errors and violations of city elections code, making the STOP initiative ineligible for the June ballot. She announced that, among other problems, the petitions failed to contain key legal language and that the differences in the wording of the nine variations of the petitions were unacceptable. Concolino said, “I’ve never seen a petition with as many flaws as this one."[1]

In a news release, the STOP group announced that it was "disappointed but not tremendously surprised" by the decision and pointed out that the city was the main proponent of the Kings Arena deal and that city officials disapproved of the initiative. The statement also said, “This is a very dark day for democracy in Sacramento. The city clerk is trying to use a small number of minor and insignificant printing errors in the initiative petition to disenfranchise Sacramento voters.”[1]

Joshua Wood, executive director of The 4000, said, “If this was an NBA game, (the ballot measure groups) would have been ejected for the equivalent of flagrant fouls by this point. For STOP, this has never (been) about a vote and democracy; it has always been about tricking voters and stalling the arena with a two-part vote designed to blow up the project.”[1]


On January 29, 2014, STOP combined with Voters for a Fair Arena Deal sued the city, arguing that their initiative had "substantial compliance" with the election laws and that the courts should overturn the city clerk's ruling against the initiative. Jim Cathcart, STOP co-founder, said, “The city should not stand in the way of democracy."[10] Supporters of the Arena opposed the STOP initiative, including The 4000, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and the Sacramento Kings, have filed to support the city in its defense of Clerk Concolino's decision to reject the STOP petitions so that they can also offer legal arguments against the initiative.[12]

City Attorney James Sanchez announced, “We believe the significant legal shortcomings presented by the STOP petitions will be persuasive to a judge. We believe a judge will be hard-pressed to conclude they complied with election code.”[10]

Jessica Levinston of Loyala University Law School in Los Angeles said, "A lot of this comes down to who the judge is. The more problems (there are), the more a judge is going to be inclined to say the signatures shouldn’t qualify.”[10]

Rick Hasen, of the UC Irvine School of Law, said, "Looking at it cumulatively, I think (subsidy opponents) face an uphill road. The courts do excuse technical errors sometimes. Here you have an accumulation of things … that look like more than just minor variance.”[10]

Brad Hertz, attorney for STOP and Voters for a Fair Arena Deal, admitted that there were many technical errors in the petition process used by subsidy opponents, but said, “It was a lot of very enthusiastic people with, you might say, too many cooks in the kitchen. All of (the flaws) are minor, technical. … No voters were deceived.”[10]

On February 21, 2014, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley, while reserving his final ruling, stated that the petitions were indeed very flawed and that, although each individual error was not serious, the errors taken together add up to a "fatal flaw." Frawley said, “These petitions are defective in a multitude of ways." On February 26, 2014, Judge Frawley went through with the ruling suggested by his previous comments, ordering the initiative blocked from the ballot. Frawely not only said that the initiative was "infected with errors," but he also ruled that the initiative violated the city charter by trying “to restrict the City Council’s future power to manage its financial affairs.”[13][2]

Similar measures

See also

External links

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