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Monday, July 7, 2014

Oakland City Council Nearly Loses A's Stadium Deal by Reading It

Posted By on Mon, Jul 7, 2014 at 8:39 AM

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Officials in Oakland nearly lost the city's iconic baseball team after City Council members inadvertently read the proposed lease agreement, sources on both sides say.

"It's yet another example of chaos down at city hall," said San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson. "For the city council to read the terms of a lease they're asked to sign is just not how business gets done."

ESPN analyst Tommy Melvin agreed. "Sports isn't about reading," he said. "Neither are legally binding agreements with teams. They're about heart."

City governments are allowed to ask questions in the negotiation process, Melvin said, but only if they're solicitous. "It's fine to ask the owner of a professional baseball team whether his chair is comfortable, or if he'd like the deputy mayor to freshen up his mint julep."

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom said that it took that level of blind, almost willfully ignorant competence to bring the America's Cup to San Francisco when he was mayor.

"We signed anything they handed us. I think we once paid for Larry Ellison's tab at an Australian brothel. It's hard to say, there were a lot of numbers," said Newsom. "But at the end of the day, no amount of empirical evidence will convince me that the city didn't make hundreds of millions of dollars on that event. That's leadership."

Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff said he remembered how surprised he was to learn that the Oakland City Council, which by law has to approve any deal negotiated on behalf of the city, might consider whether it wanted to approved the deal. "Honestly, I suspect the league may fire (Oakland City Councilwoman) Rebecca Kaplan soon. She's just not a team player."

"Hell," Wolff said, "if they would have just approved the deal, we could have already had the stadium built and left for the next town with deep pockets. That's how much they're slowing this process down."

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said she was "embarrassed and apologetic" for the city's behavior.

"I looked at the numbers, thought, 'this isn't so good for the city,' and then mentioned that in public," Quan said. "I don't know what I was thinking. I'd like to apologize to the A's, and to all of professional baseball. Of course you can stay, and take whatever you want from the taxpayers. In fact, I would like to offer Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig one of my kidneys. Even if he doesn't need it. Please: it's the least I can do."

A spokesman for Selig responded that he would like both of Quan's kidneys.

Benjamin Wachs is a literary chameleon


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