Is the Talking Stick Resort Arena renovation deal a "billionaire sport team owner's project"? Arizona Republic

Opinion: The mayoral candidate can't support renovations for the Phoenix Suns and expect not to be called out for the decision.


Who can forget Phoenix mayoral candidate Daniel Valenzuela and Councilwoman Vania Guevara’s unequivocal support of the $230 million sweetheart deal for the Phoenix Suns?

Valenzuela, who was off the council when it voted, nonetheless urged his colleagues to approve the arena-renovation deal, while Guevara bragged about her $10 million pact with the Suns to secure her vote.

Now both of them are being hit hard for their support in hotly contested races.

Fair game, folks.

Guevara said yes after $10 million

Guevara, who was appointed to replace Valenzuela in his west Phoenix District 5 when he left to pursue the mayoral bid, got hit with a mailer calling out her vote on the arena agreement.

“After taking money from a Suns lobbyist, it’s no surprise Vania Guevara voted to give the Suns $174,000,000 in tax dollars,” the mailer states. Guevara is facing Lydia Hernandez, Betty Guardado and Audrey Bell-Jenkins in the March 12 election.

Guevara initially opposed the deal but flipped after the Suns agreed to a $10 million “community benefit investment,” including $2.6 million toward the early childhood program Head Start. She bragged about her deal-making abilities, so that is fair game for her opponents.   

Valenzuela still supports the deal

Valenzuela, who’s facing a tough runoff against fellow Democrat Kate Gallego, is crying foul over a second TV ad by Revitalize Arizona calling out the Suns’ deal he supported as a “tax giveaway.”

Valenzuela’s new campaign team – of Republicans, by the way – is indignant, calling the ad “false.”

Let’s get this straight. A few weeks ago, Valenzuela went all out urging his colleagues to sign off on the $230 million deal that multimillionaire pal and supporter Robert Sarver sought for his Suns, but somehow it's now unfair to point that out?

Good grief.

Valenzuela’s campaign has been sending long emails explaining the Suns deal. They correctly point out that the city owns Talking Stick Resort Arena and will shell out $150 million while the team will put $80 million toward the upgrades.

The ad also blasts Valenzuela’s vote raising property taxes toward the Milwaukee Brewers' spring training facility and other city needs. Valenzuela painstakingly explains that the money generated from the property tax hike also went for things like hiring police officers and firefighters.

How is any of this unfair?

All that is true, so why cry foul?

Valenzuela is not reneging on his support of the Suns deal and isn't saying that he shouldn't have voted for the tax hike. So, how is the TV ad "false?" Valenzuela can't have it both ways. His campaign balks at the notion that the Suns deal is a "tax giveaway" for multimillionaires because the city owns the arena.

It's true that the city owns the venue and that it also hosts non-sports events. But the main tenant is the Suns, whose owner makes tons of money, including revenue generated by events at the arena. How is that not a tax giveaway?

Many Phoenicians are fed up with public subsidies for millionaires, but that didn't bother Valenzuela, Guevara and her colleagues on the council who rushed a vote before the March 12 election.

There is a reason why Sarver was willing to give Guevara whatever she asked to get the deal done. He wasn't taking any chances in the event Gallego, who opposes such public subsidies, becomes mayor. There is a reason why he and other heavy-hitters are backing Valenzuela. They know they can keep getting sweet deals with him at the helm of City Hall.

Valenzuela can't have it both ways. He supported the Suns deal. Period.

Elvia Diaz is an editorial columnist for The Republic and azcentral. Reach her at 602-444-8606 or Follow her on Twitter, @elviadiaz1.


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