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#SeattleArena opponents can't back claims with facts

#SeattleArena opponents bemoan phantom maritime job losses, but are not able to justify those fears with facts.

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Saturday evening brought us yet another Seattle Times article lacking data but insinuating job losses and negative economic impacts of the proposed #SonicsArena.  This time it's from the Seattle Times economics guy, Jon Talton.

Hi Jon.  We love your work.  But we feel like this time you didn't do your homework.

You claim @Sonicsgate's time lapse footage of traffic around the proposed vacation of 2 blocks of Occidental Ave S is not representative of Port activity:

"But the time lapse isn’t for 24 hours. Nor is the day representative of Port activity, which can wax and wane according to ship and train arrivals..."

@Sonicsgate filmed on February 29, 2016, when two large container ships were being unloaded.  One at Terminal 46, right next to the proposed #SonicsArena.  Another, the largest container ship to ever visit Seattle, at Terminal 5 across the way.  How is this timeframe not representative of Port freight activity?

Not 24 hours?  Well if you ever cruise Occidental between S. Holgate and S. Massachusetts, you will find that the traffic at night is even more sparse than it was during the hours of 10:30AM to 7:30PM when Sonicsgate filmed their time lapse.

You claim:

"Unlike Tacoma, Seattle must truck most of its containers between dockside and trains. This requires intensive use of a limited street grid, and at a time when the city is more congested than ever."

...yet Port of Seattle plans and other evidence indicate that Terminal 5, across the way at Harbor Island, is the future of Port freight activity.  Terminal 5 is increasingly automated ship-to-rail, requiring fewer and fewer trucks to move freight off of the ships.

And even more damning, it seems the Port is considering using Terminal 46 as a cruise ship terminal instead of a freight waypoint. So... going forward we really don't have a freight traffic problem around Terminal 46.  Or at Terminal 5.

You claim:

"The city can’t mitigate this loss if it closes the street."

Really, Jon?  What about leveraging the $40 million in SODO transportation funds provided by the MOU around #SonicsArena? The City, County, State and Port are already planning to use those dollars as seed monies to attract 2-3 times as much federal funds for transportation improvements in the area.

It seems that arena opponents routinely claim that the sky is falling, and that the arena will spell the end of SODO as an industrial center, yet they consistently try to back these up with ridiculous assertions like "the city can't mitigate this loss."  Did you know that the Occidental Ave S street vacation proposal is time-limited, and that building an arena on that vacated street is conditional on getting a team? Do some more homework, Jon.

You strongly suggest a decline due to the creation of the #SonicsArena and related entertainment district:

"...what should be one of the most valuable industrial and manufacturing districts on the West Coast could begin a slow, or fast, decline."

How, exactly could #SonicsArena "begin a slow, or fast decline" to the economics of the Stadium District?  What data support this insinuation?  Or is this just more of the paranoid fantasy spouted by the Port of Seattle paid lobbyists, paid lawyers and paid politicians?

Or perhaps you're getting this false narrative from the ILWU, who continue to fear-monger their members into believing this nonsense, while knowing that the real threats to longshore and maritime jobs are automation, ship-to-rail, giant new robots, and the widening of the Panama Canal?  Oh, and speaking of threats to maritime jobs, don't forget the wrongheaded direction of the Port of Seattle itself, spending a bunch of your and my tax money on PR against #SonicsArena, instead of on key transportation infrastructure?

You claim:

"A report prepared for the Port by Martin Associates showed more than 23,400 jobs connected to marine cargo in Seattle in 2013. These are generally family-wage positions, paying much better than the jobs connected with sports (aside from the millionaires on the court). How many of these might be lost? How soon? Would they merely relocate elsewhere in the region or leave permanently?"

Here's the deal.  It's not an either-or situation.  We can have Port and maritime jobs, and the #SonicsArena jobs. #SonicsArena will generate hundreds of team operations and management jobs. To quote one of our commenters:  "40 players; coaches and trainers; team management and staff; business operations staff; ticket sales and marketing departments; scouting and player development staff; media and public relations; legal; and a few others. That’s several hundred people to the local economy, nothing to sneeze at, and the athletes themselves will help increase the local tax base."

Not to mention those jobs inside the arena itself.  But apparently, per our friends in the maritime and newspaper industries, these jobs aren't good enough for Seattle.

And here are more false claims and straw man arguments:

"A city concerned about inequality should pay attention. Maritime jobs represent well-paying blue-collar positions that fill the middle between the tech elite and fast-food work. Seattle would be foolish to drive them away."

First of all, Seattle is not driving away those jobs.  But to your point on equality, the Port turns a blind eye to the plight of low wage and minority truckers, not using their clout with the shipping companies to support the truckers' fight to no longer remain independent contractors with no benefits under terrible working conditions. (Look, I even linky'd your article on this).  What was that about #equity and #equality again, Jon?

Port truckers

Truckers strike against Port of Seattle and shipping companies

Then you go on to insinuate that #SonicsArena means that local governments (or anyone, for that matter) will stop supporting freight transportation improvements in SODO:

"Even allied with the Port of Tacoma in the Northwest Seaport Alliance, it faces a new level of rivalry from other West Coast ports.  Why? Because ships are getting bigger and container lines have too much capacity. Also, we will soon feel the effects of a wider Panama Canal. Not every port may make it. Staying competitive will require public investments — and support from all governmental entities."

Well now you've begun to make our argument for us!  Yes, the real threats to jobs and our maritime economy are not arenas in the Stadium District that are open mostly at night when the Port's gates are closed.

But really, why does investing in #SonicsArena stop local governments from investing in transportation improvements in SODO?  It doesn't. The claim is just further anti-arena chicken little nonsense with no data to back it up.

Chicken Little


You state:

"When the facts change, I change my mind," John Maynard Keynes said to a man who confronted him. "What do you do, sir?"

Well, Jon, the facts have not changed.  The claims of job losses due to #SonicsArena are still data-free.  Nothing to back them up, even after the Port has had four years to develop reasonable studies to prove their fallacious, aspirational point.

The facts have not changed.  Freight transportation impacts of #SonicsArena will be insignificant. Per the FEIS, which actually studied this issue directly:

"The full annual delay costs to Port related traffic from additional Arena traffic is estimated to be $115,584. For non-Port truck trips the estimated delay costs are estimated to be $66,141."

That level of impact is the definition of minor.  Insignificant.

The facts have not changed.  #SonicsArena will bring a ton of economic benefit and jobs with benefits to our region. Per the FEIS:

"The construction related economic activity from direct and re-spending is estimated at $533 million.  Arena construction would support approximately 3,570 jobs and $289 million in wage earnings.  Gross regional economic activity from Arena operations would generate approximately $313 million in economic activity annually."

Not insignificant.

Jon, we love your work.  Next time, please do more homework on the arena issue.