Thursday, July 17, 2014

A’s Lease Deal Approved by Oakland City Council with Minor Changes

Following approval by the Coliseum JPA,
Oakland City Council, the Alameda County
Board of Supervisors meet July 29 for a vote.
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | COLISEUM | The A’s Coliseum lease extension is rounding third and heading for home Wednesday after the Oakland City Council voted to approve the 10-year deal, but there may still be some obstacles before it touches the plate. The council voted 5-2, with Brooks abstaining to approve the deal, albeit with a short list of changes, it called minor and not financial.

Although an A’s official Wednesday night called the changes “disappointing,” Council President Pat Kernighan said she met with the team’s co-owner Lew Wolff earlier in the day and characterize the conversation as cordial. “We we’re not arguing over terms,” said Kernighan. Instead, she relayed Wolff’s general sentiment as “Vote it up or vote it down. He needs to move on.” The Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the third rung in the approval process, is scheduled to vote on the lease July 29.

The changes added in a motion by Kernighan appear cosmetic, while adding clarity to some language in the agreement, however, none associated with the length of the deal or any financial stipulations. A alternative motion proposed by Councilmember Larry Reid, essentially to approve the same deal brought before the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority July 3, failed to gain a majority. Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, like Reid, a member of the Coliseum JPA, voted for both proposal. Afterwards, she defended the votes, saying opposition to either motion would send a bad message to the A’s and the possibility of building a new ballpark in Oakland.

In fact, there appears to be no public official in Oakland who opposes keeping the A’s in town indefinitely, but the events of the last few weeks clearly frustrated some council members. “Everybody wants the city of Oakland to get on their page,” said Councilmember Dan Kalb. “I think there needs to be some clarity that team owners, developers and anybody else should be on our page…If someone is not on that page then they’re not a friend of Oakland.” Kalb says the city wants new stadiums in Oakland and urged for all parties to work together and “not get all pissy about something." He added, “Put egos aside to make work what we all want to happen.”

Councilmember Desley Brooks abstain on the modified lease agreement. Brooks criticized the JPA’s negotiator for failing to broker a more equitable deal for the city and county. She also had pointed remarks for A’s management for appearing to threaten the city earlier this month to sign the lease or risk losing the team to another city. “I really take great offense to being threatening by your movement,” Brooks said in the direction of Michael Crowley, the A’s team president.

Reid, however, cautioned the City Council is playing with fire when it comes to holding up the lease deal. “Major League Baseball is tired of us. The A’s are tired and at some time they will do what’s in their best interests.” Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, who also serves as the chair of the JPA, told the council the scope of negotiations over the last 14 months with the A’s and MLB have been increasingly positive after years of acrimony. “Think about the bigger picture and the prize in front of us,” he said. “We’ve been dealt a deck of cards and right now the A’s are in front of us and we have a golden opportunity.”


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