My father, Chris Harris, was the first English-born player in the National Basketball Association (NBA). In my family we call him "the trivia question." I love the NBA! I was born with a basketball in my hand. The Sonics were stolen from us and we lost a piece of our economy and cultural identity. I WILL BRING THE SONICS BACK TO SEATTLE, on our terms. I've long supported any option that doesn't ask for direct public money, and that advances the economic development of our city and truly gives us a fighting chance to return our venerable franchise here.
We began with three competing options — two plans to renovate KeyArena and one to build a new arena in SoDo — and as with basketball itself, competition proved to be a good thing. The process was yielding new information every day, positive and negative, and new mitigations and opportunities that to me were exciting. Seattle found itself in the 4th quarter of this important debate and in my opinion and that of so many others in this town, the SoDo option had the lead and the ball — largely because it played the game right. Over time it adequately addressed concerns about potential impacts to our longshoremen, and offered to mitigate any potential negative impacts to KeyArena, an important civic asset. Good people got behind the SoDo project, and it was clearly the preferred option for both the NBA and NHL. The only ask the SoDo group made was for reasonable tax breaks from the city, and reform of our B&O tax that I already support. There couldn't be a better spot for an arena. The best place for Seattle to grow isn't an already-congested Lower Queen Anne but to the south, to SoDo, where undoubtedly the building of a world-class facility like this would be a boon to our economic development — and perhaps even yield additional housing, both for our middle- and low-income residents, maybe even our homeless. The mass transit and traffic infrastructure is there. All things were in place. And then… Mayor Ed Murray took the ball and ran home. In a clear rush to create a "legacy" before depositions on his sexual abuse lawsuit may force him to resign, he expedited and corrupted the process, negotiated in extremely bad faith with all parties, and then pushed through perhaps the worst plan on the table, the Oak View Group (OVG) proposal to renovate KeyArena – which involves significant public funding, constricts an important neighborhood in Seattle, offers no real economic development to the city or an opportunity to address other pressing issues like housing availability, and most importantly, offers no real chance of bringing the NBA back to Seattle.
On the day of his decision to send the OVG KeyArena proposal to City Council for a vote, Murray went on live radio to explain himself, sharing a litany of shocking things – first, when asked if being a lame duck Mayor has changed the way he governs now, Murray said yes, "it means I can be more open and honest now." He corrected himself immediately saying that "well, I've always been open and honest." He hasn't been, by many accounts, among other things being accused in a statement from the Seattle Group that he withheld "critical financial portions of Oak View Group's proposal from the public… raising serious questions about the integrity of the decision-making process and the ability of the public to make a fair and equitable comparison." I agree.
When asked about the concerns of the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood and others about traffic congestion, Murray dismissed them outright, saying that Lower Queen Anne is now, according to him, a walking neighborhood and people will simply go to games by foot. All Sonics fans live within walking distance of KeyArena, by that logic. Then in an extraordinary moment of self-importance, he said that he was resolved not to let anyone try to disempower him to make executive decisions he's entitled to while he's still in City Hall, comparing himself to Barack Obama and how our forrmer President wasn't allowed to get a hearing on a Supreme Court nominee. Murray went on to make a particularly inexplicable comment, saying that as a gay man that he came into office "with a lot of stereotypes" and that he felt that by making this decision now that he believed would be the fastest track to bringing back the NBA and getting an NHL franchise, that this would "dispel some of those stereotypes." In other words, the debate about sports arenas in Seattle somehow was about his sexual orientation. It's not. We are post-orientation in Seattle, and that is best conveyed by one bumper sticker symbol -- =, the equal sign. All of our residents are equal, gay or straight, and no particular group should be more equal than others, and certainly no critical economic development decision should ever be addressed in the context of who we are or who we love. Lastly, in perhaps the most telling comment Murray made on that live radio show, he recounted a brief, impressionable discussion he had with the current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver who told him to forget it, "we're not coming to Seattle." And our elected leader of this great city accepted that call. He went with a KeyArena proposal with a business plan that claims it doesn't need pro sports to pay for itself – but in fact it very much does. In just one chat with the Commissioner of a professional sport our Mayor admittedly doesn't care about, Murray quit. He gave up on getting our Sonics back. As the next Mayor and a person deeply connected to the NBA and a huge fan of the sport, and as someone who understands what we lost when another flawed Mayor dribbled the ball off his knee and allowed 40+ years of NBA history to be stolen away to Oklahoma City, I WILL NEVER QUIT ON GETTING OUR SONICS BACK TO SEATTLE. And I won't quit on the SoDo Arena. This game isn't over.