Commentary: Oak View Group’s team includes those hired by the Port of Seattle, Mayor Murray

The most overlooked story of the weekend was the launch of Oak View Group’s website for their new arena. And honestly, it’s nice to read about their vision for KeyArena and attempt to address all 20,000 concerns about the project and location.

But the big news is: They’ve already acquired a team! It’s called their “Team On The Ground.” Let’s introduce a couple of them.

"First up for Team OVG, she’s a Seattle native who went to Georgetown Law. From CBE Strategic, it’s Emelie East!"

Wait. I’ve heard of CBE Strategic. And I know that name.

Oh Yeah! CBE Strategic, also known as Ceis, Bayne and East, who was hired by the Port of Seattle for $185,000, to help the Port refine its Communications and Outreach Plan, whose stated goals were to oppose the SODO Street Vacation and build public support for the KeyArena proposal.

And who was the Project Manager on that effort with the Port? That’s right – Emilie East – now part of Oak View’s “Team On The Ground.” All of those emails we showed between the Port and their consultant? Well, she was that consultant, and that was her project.

In fact, last week, when the City of Seattle and Port of Seattle announced a funding deal for the Lander Street Overpass, I noted how strange it was that the project’s MOU between the city and port included this clause – a clause completely unrelated to the project itself: “WHEREAS, the City and Port recognize KeyArena as an important civic asset. a historic anchor to the Seattle Center...” and so on.

Well, this pretty much explains it! The company working for the Port is also working for Oak View Group. Pretty sneaky, or shall I say (CBE) STRATEGIC.

"Next Up for Team OVG, from Evergreen State College, a Vice President of Communication for Strategies 360, it’s Jeff Reading!"

Wait. I’ve heard of Strategies 360. And I know Jeff Reading too!

(From Reading’s Bio): “Most recently, Jeff served as Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s first communications director.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Mayor Murray’s former communications director is now a member of OVG’s “Team On The Ground?” OK. And OVG is currently in negotiations with the city on drafting a fair and equitable MOU for KeyArena, and one of their new team members was also Murray’s personal spokesman as recently as May, handling the PR requests surrounding the sex abuse claims against the mayor? Got it.

And then there’s the company Reading works for: Strategies 360. That rings a bell too.

Remember this blatant push-poll, commissioned by (guess who?) the Port of Seattle last year? The poll that asked voters which problems they’d like to see the city address, from homelessness to transportation, to housing, traffic, cost of living, transit and education - and THEN asked whether a SODO Arena should be a priority or not? That misleading and deceptive poll whose results councilmember Lisa Herbold actually cited as a reason to not approve the SODO street vacation request last May? That poll was executed by Strategies 360!

What an appropriate name for a company – “Strategies 360” – because this whole thing has clearly come full circle!

I understand the argument of “playing the game, and if you can’t beat them, join them.” But how many consulting firms and communications and research companies are there out there? And Oak View Group hired the same ones as The Port of Seattle...and a spokesman for the mayor?

If OVG’s trying to win over sports fans – especially those who prefer the SODO plan – that’s not a good look.

And because we have all these interwoven relationships between OVG and and the city and the port, it makes the City Council’s job in this process that much more critical. It actually puts them in the role of watchdog – to make sure everything is fair and copacetic with this project and process before approval.

Again, Oak View Group’s vision and plan might be great. And I’ll welcome the final product, if it ultimately includes BOTH an NBA and NHL team. But to me, their website launch exposed some very disturbing truths.