In the aftermath of the PR disaster that was Friday’s JPA meeting, discord between the two halves of the JPA, the City of Oakland and Alameda County, was revealed. Tensions had been simmering under the surface for some time, most evidently on display during the all-hands joint meeting last December. In Friday afternoon’s Trib article, JPA Board Chair and AlCo Supe Nate Miley expressed his discontent with the City, calling the no-show a step towards dissolving the JPA. He again brought up the possibility of the City buying the County out of the JPA, which would allow Oakland to go it alone on Coliseum City.
Neither party has the available cash to buy the other out, but Miley seems bent on making it part of the discussion. The implications would be huge. Coliseum City talks have divided the JPA into Oakland as the more pro-Raiders group and Alameda County as more skeptical and perhaps leaning towards the A’s. There are major fundamental differences between how the two sides characterize the talks. The City is optimistic about BayIG and the Raiders, whereas the County is questioning where the money will come from and is already looking at alternatives. Should this divide stay intact, it’s difficult to see how the two sides could come together to approve a large-scale redevelopment scheme like Coliseum City. Maybe the rift can be healed as more information comes in that could build confidence with the County leaders. Coliseum City’s current trajectory makes such a kumbaya moment nearly inconceivable.
I’m starting to think that if the JPA had a quorum and took a vote, the lease extension would’ve been approved 5-3 or 6-2, which would’ve forced the City Council to vote on it. There are 2 CMs on the board and 2 Oakland appointees, Yui Hay Lee and Aaron Goodwin. Goodwin has frequently taken independent positions in the past, most recently being the lone dissenter on the short-term lease vote in November. At the time, Goodwin cited the lack of a long-term agreement with the A’s as the reason for his dissent. 10 years is a much longer commitment, even with the opt-outs (which have been standard practice at the Coliseum for years). When the JPA took $3 million out of the capital improvements fund to fund the Coliseum City studies, it was Goodwin who was concerned about the impact the siphoning would have on the relationship with the A’s.
Goodwin’s name should be familiar to those with some sports business knowledge because he’s been an agent to numerous NBA players for 20 years. His current client list includes Oakland native and Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, among others.
If Goodwin didn’t like the lease or chose to vote as a bloc with the rest of the City side, the results would’ve been 4-4, a stalemate. That probably would’ve forced the JPA to go back to the drawing board, which would’ve been fine in that everyone would be forced to be honest about where the JPA stood with regards to the lease.
With a 5-3 or better vote, the next course of action would’ve been for the City Council and the County Board of Supervisors to vote on the lease. Let’s assume that the Supes approved the lease. It would’ve been up to the City. There’s no telling what could’ve happened. There are several potential outcomes:
- Council draws up resolution in support, votes to approve lease
- Council draws up resolution in support, votes to kill lease
- Council draws up resolution against lease, sends their own version back to JPA
- Council never makes resolution, lease never comes up for vote
Any of the last three outcomes makes the City look bad in MLB’s eyes, especially after Bud Selig prematurely announced that a lease agreement had been made. Selig’s power play and not-so-subtle wording put Oakland on the defensive. Whether it’s a setup to force Oakland’s hand or Selig simply siding with Wolff, it’s a difficult decision for the City to make with the Council attempting to balance the A’s and Raiders’ interests. As symbolically good a lease would look to Wolff and Selig, it could look terrible to Mark Davis and Roger Goodell. But the City had to know that this day was coming, and that to keep stalling until a solution magically appeared for them was a pipe dream. Selig has discounted Howard Terminal in concurrence with Wolff. Davis considers Coliseum City the last shot for Oakland, and continually has been disappointed by the lack of progress on the deal front. Oakland’s time to tap-dance around the issue is coming to an end.
That leaves the one lingering question about the lease extension, Why now? The A’s lease is up in 2015, not this year, so the urgency feels out of place. Maybe Selig decided to get the first domino rolling, knowing that Coliseum City had a timetable for a decision later this year. Sports law expert Nathaniel Grow considers a new extension potentially damaging for San Jose’s antitrust lawsuit against MLB. That seems like a long shot, especially considering San Jose’s shaky legal standing in the first place. If that is the motivation, it’ll prove once and for all that MLB isn’t terribly concerned about local politics. They’re looking out for baseball. Everything else ends up collateral damage.