Five Things Seattle Can Do When It Wins The Jackpot Tonight | KUOW News and Information

Five Things Seattle Can Do When It Wins The Jackpot Tonight

Jan 13, 2016

Everybody’s dreaming about how they could spend all that money when they win that $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot – the biggest lottery prize ever in the U.S.

You might be thinking car, house, travel. But what if the city of Seattle won?

Here are five ways the city could spend the money:

1. Just buy light rail to Ballard already. The most optimistic estimate for the cheapest at-grade route would be about $1.7 billion, according to Sound Transit. So we wouldn’t have quite enough money. But wait – didn’t Sound Transit say it came in under budget on the $1.9 billion light-rail extension to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington? If that agency continues its penny-pinching ways …

2. Solve homelessness (kind of). We could help build all 20,000 affordable homes (and then some) called for in Mayor Ed Murray’s 10-year housing plan. The mayor’s office in December announced the city was investing $45 million in 809 low-income units. Extrapolate that to our $1.5 billion and we get nearly 27,000 units. Of course, the effect on the city’s homeless population would be hard to predict. In last January’s count for King County, 3,772 people were on the streets (this year’s count is the night of Jan. 28-29). And one report from 2014 put the statewide number of homeless people at 35,900. Would more homeless come here hoping for shelter?

3. Fill all of Seattle’s potholes for about the next 571 years (not adjusted for inflation). It costs about $150 to fill a pothole, the city says. And the city filled more than 17,500 of them last year. At that rate, we could fill potholes until about the year 2587 (again, not counting for inflation). You can see the status of your request to fill a pothole on the city’s map.

4. Buy a National Basketball Association team. Just a few years ago, you could have bought one of the “cheaper” teams – say the Oklahoma City Thunder – for way under a billion. But then Steve Ballmer went and bought the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion, far more than most analysts had pegged the team’s worth. That pushed the value of teams like the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, to about $2.5 billion, according to a 2015 valuation by Forbes. But with our $1.5 billion, we could still buy back the Thunder (remember when they were the Seattle Sonics?) for the Forbes estimate of $930 million and still have half a billion to pay for a new arena.

5. If Seattle feels really magnanimous toward the rest of the state, it could help out hard-pressed legislators with $1.3 billion for education over the next two years. That’s the amount lawmakers added to K-12 education last year, a nod toward complying with the Supreme Court’s mandate in the McCleary decision. Even with last year’s extra money and the jackpot, the state’s spending would be billions below the level required by that mandate, but it’s a start.

Now we know what you’re thinking: Seattle is never going to win that money. First, it never buys a ticket. Then, the odds (292 million to 1) are just too long.

Also, spoilsports will point out that even if the city were to win, it wouldn’t actually get $1.5 billion – at most, it would get $930 million in cash, barely enough to even bother with.

Yes, some financial planners are advising that the winner/s take the 20-year annuity rather than a lump sum – the better to learn how to manage such enormous sums of money. But where’s the fun in that?

And just think, just think … 

Photo: “Powerball now worth more than $1 BILLION,” by Arturo Pardavila III on Flickr (CC BY 2.0