BANG is reporting that in May A’s owner Lew Wolff gave $1,000 to Oakland City Council member and mayoral candidate Rebecca Kaplan. You may recall that after lease extension talks died earlier in the spring, Kaplan, who is also a JPA Board Commissioner, spearheaded the effort to revive the talks. Kaplan later caught a lot of heat from some of her colleagues on the Council, Mayor Quan, and numerous Raiders fans, all for different reasons. That caused Kaplan to actually vote against the extension she helped craft during a JPA session, though it passed anyway. When the lease got to the City Council, Kaplan became a Yes vote. The lease prevailed 5-2, then went to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, where it passed unanimously.
The campaign fund Kaplan ran was called “Safe Streets Local Jobs.” It was set up to support a 1/2-cent sales tax increase that would fund up to $8 billion in infrastructure improvements all over Alameda County. A similar measure in 2012, also sponsored by Kaplan, fell to defeat by the narrowest of margins. Because Kaplan entered the mayoral race, there was concern that money from the initiative campaign would go to her mayoral campaign, so the funds were distributed and SSLJ was shut down. Was it a quid pro quo moment, or something Kaplan saw as a way to differentiate herself from the rest of her rivals?
Undoubtedly, Kaplan will use the lease extension as a feather in her campaign cap. The deal keeps the A’s in Oakland through at least 2018 and commits them to talk to Oakland about a new ballpark at the Coliseum complex. Kaplan still believes that the A’s and Raiders can be accommodated via the Coliseum City project, though Wolff wants nothing to do with it. The worst-kept secret of all this is that there have been discussions about a scenario in which the Raiders leave and the A’s are the only team remaining in Oakland (once the Warriors leave for their SF arena). The November election will arrive too early for Raiders owner Mark Davis to declare that he’s leaving Oakland, but if the Raiders are to have their own Coliseum extension he and the NFL can drive their own hard bargain the same way Wolff and MLB did.
It’s unknown what if any blowback Kaplan will face from Raiders fans threatened by the new agreement. Fans highly opposed to the lease showed up en masse at early public meetings over the extension, but receded somewhat over time. The hubbub over whether the lease was fiscally responsible and a giveaway to the A’s largely collapsed as JPA negotiator Jon Streeter explained the net positive impact for the City and County when the lease is compared to previous A’s and Raiders leases. The next big question has to be whether the ongoing stadium operating subsidy for the Raiders of $7 million will be an issue for the JPA/City/County. If they’re going to be consistent, the subsidy should be an important point of debate.