Sunday, May 26, 2013

On Both Sides Of The Bay, Politicians Shamelessly Kiss Up To The Warriors

SUNDAY COLUMN | When it comes to the Golden State Warriors these days all types of ass-kissing is permissible. The grand prize: an NBA team on the rise and which side of the Bay they will call home within the next five years or so. But, take into account the actions and public comments from both sides of the Bay since the Warriors from eliminated from the NBA playoffs (and let’s not forget the team was jettisoned in the second round of a playoff format that allows more than half the league to participate) local politicians are showing no shame, whatsoever.

The opening salvo may have occurred at San Francisco City Hall. Mayor Ed Lee raised a Warriors flag over City Hall and bathed the edifice in blue and gold lights. Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, the one accused by his former chief of staff of misusing game tickets at the Coliseum complex for his own gain, did not like the display of affection and made  joking comments tinged with anger during a Board of Supervisors meeting this month. “If you don’t take it down,” Haggerty reportedly said to San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar, “I’ll burn it down.”

San Francisco City Hall in blue and gold.
Not to be outdone, Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan tweeted photos of her office decorated in Warriors memorabilia, including one with her seat on the council dais featuring the team’s pennants. Kaplan is the council's biggest proponent of the Coliseum City plan.

On the legislative side, Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle, in forming the county’s opposition to San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting’s bill to circumvent the local purview for planning of the proposed waterfront arena at Piers 28-30, made sure to include phrasing stating unequivocally the Warriors belong in Alameda County. In an ironic twist, any possibility of a waterfront ballpark for the A’s near Jack London Square might entail side-stepping the same state Tidelands Act Ting is attempting to avoid in San Francisco.

Once the Warriors laid an egg against the San Antonio Spurs, the stack of proclamations piled up with sometimes hilariously out-of-touch mispronunciations of its star player's first name. Mayor Lee infamously called Stephen Curry (pronounced Steffen, or Steff for short) “Steve” while giving him the key to the city during a grand presentation in the City Hall rotunda lavishly decorated in team colors. The video was lampooned on the sports Web site Deadspin and nevermind the speech sounded like it was written by my grandmother, who knows as much about basketball or she does about basket-weaving. Another local official made the same mistake last week. While reading a proclamation from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, Keith Carson called, paused, then called Curry “Steven.”

Most curious of all was comments last Tuesday by Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo, maybe not the biggest basketball fan, who praised the Warriors for their “championship performance.” Championship? The Warriors haven’t won a championship since 1975. To which old #24 Rick Barry jumped from his recliner and muttered, “Finally!”

This bureaucratic brown-nosing is somewhat of a new thing, at least, in Oakland and Alameda County. Over the years, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s administration has routinely traded barbs with Oakland Athletics owner Lew Wolff and you may recall 10 years ago, the city declined to honor the Super Bowl runner-up Raiders following their loss to Tampa Bay.

Things are different for Warriors even though Supervisor Haggerty once remarked to a question from a reporter about Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob by saying, “Fuck Lacob.” Yet, it was Haggerty who was once choked by former Raider Jeremy Brigham in the Tri Valley after Haggerty got too cute with his kid’s playbook angering the bulky tight end who put the supervisor in a neck brace.

So, although Haggerty may think he understands complex blocking schemes, in the end, doesn’t it seem odd that we entrust the most sports inept among us to make decisions over which franchises represent our cities and how much public money goes into funding their cathedrals of sport? And you wonder why Alameda County still owes $100 million in taxpayers’ money on the Coliseum, a stadium no team wants to call their home.

“This is a really important to me and this is my baby and I do intend to give birth to her in a grand fashion.”
-Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Oakland council member, May 21, describes her connection to the Oakland Army Base project located in her district.

The Week That Was
>>>Tuman’s tumble: Believe it or not, election season is already here. Joe Tuman, the San Francisco State political science professor who is a likely challenger to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan next year, put himself in an ethical bind this week. According to the Chronicle, Tuman gave his students an assignment, due Thursday, to in part formulate a campaign strategy for his mayoral run. The Fair Political Practices Commission, according to the article, said the act could be construed as a campaign contribution. Say it ain’t so, Joe?

Oakland Councilmember
Lynette Gibson McElhaney
>>>Oakland’s base reprieve: Oakland needs to clear the former Oakland Army Base of its tenants or risk losing $176 million in federal funding to redevelop the lucrative waterfront. This week, led by Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, the few tenants remaining were given a bit more time to iron out new digs. Yet, time is of the essence before the Sept. 1 deadline. Budget talks were also featured this week with some council members showing a willingness to compensate public workers who have taken the brunt of budget cuts over the past five years. Then came news the state wants back $32 million in redevelopment funds it says the city finagled with shifty accounting practices. One step up, two steps back for Oaktown.

>>>On Point in Alameda: In nearby Alameda, the City Council entered what was called an “historic vote” Tuesday signing papers that will eventually lead to the development of Alameda Point, the former Navy installation offered to the island city for no cost. After nearly 20 years of stops and starts, the city will soon begin the search for developers and could begin construction as earlier as 2015. Good news, but for the cynical among us, let the shenanigans in Alameda commence!

>>>Education’s musical chairs: This is the time of the year when children end yet another school year. It’s no different for administrators. This week the president at the College of Alameda announced a move to the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District, while San Lorenzo’s popular superintendent Dr. Dennis Byas announced his retirement. Berkeley Unified has a new superintendent in Dr. Donald Evans, who was approved this week. Evans leaves the downtrodden Hayward Unified after just 18 months at the helm. Applications for the interim job in Hayward are due Tuesday. San Leandro Unified is also poised to name a replacement for their superintendent who announced her retirement earlier this year.

Tweet of the Week
“no. i have to stop at the beer store. seriously.”
-@greenkozi, who tweeted May 21 in response to whether the witty and politically-engaged #oakmtg hashtag was ready for a full night of council coverage in the East Bay.

Best Reads
>>>Some may think the key to Ro Khanna’s run for Congress versus Rep. Mike Honda is Silicon Valley. However, this article shows the basics of Khanna’s beliefs in manufacturing returning to the states may lie a bit up the road in Fremont, a city this AP story described as “nondescript.” (Associated Press, May 18.)

>>>”Devin? What’re yoooo dooooing heeerre?” Midlle-aged scribe James Fallows tries to get cool with the Saturday Night Live reference in this well-done profile of Gov. Jerry Brown. However, the dude still comes across as mightily aloof. (The Atlantic, June 2013)

Voice of the People
“Wonder where the board should search next? The snake pit, the cesspool, or the bottom of the ocean and scrape it for whale dung. They may be able to retrieve a figure head off another ship that has gone down.”
-Anonymous, May 24, commenting on the departure of Hayward’s superintendent of schools on “Donald Evans Named Berkeley’s Superintendent.”