A $280M handout for baseball? Secret California budget item might juice Oakland project

The bigots of the sports world, Major League Baseball, are going to get $280 million from taxpayers as part of a plan to build a stadium and business complex costing $12 billion—and they say that is not enough free money.

“But the infusion of state dollars came just weeks before Tuesday’s vote on developing the port’s Howard Terminal into a baseball stadium and mixed-use development in one of the smallest markets in Major League Baseball, and as the Oakland A’s hold out for more government funding.

The Oakland City Council is scheduled to take a nonbinding vote on a draft of the financial terms it will offer to the A’s, but the two sides remain at odds. Team executives said Friday the city’s offer was about $350 million short in funding for “off-site infrastructure.”

Why should the poor and middle class finance the risks taken by billionaires?  To me the property owners have every right to build—but not with a dime of tax money.

A $280M handout for baseball? Secret California budget item might juice Oakland project

By DEBRA KAHN, Politico,  7/19/21 

SAN FRANCISCO — California leaders tucked nearly $280 million into the state budget that could benefit the proposed A’s baseball stadium in downtown Oakland, taking advantage of a record surplus to potentially bring the team and city closer to a deal.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers quietly approved the funds weeks ago, and the money has stayed under the radar ahead of a pivotal Oakland City Council vote Tuesday on the stadium’s future — a decision that the A’s and Major League Baseball insist could determine whether the team remains after 53 years in the city.

A state budget bill Newsom signed late last month directs $279.5 million in general fund money to the Port of Oakland for a broad range of infrastructure projects. The port says it doesn’t have a specific plan for the money, which the budget dedicates to “improvements that facilitate enhanced freight and passenger access and to promote the efficient and safe movement of goods and people.”

But the infusion of state dollars came just weeks before Tuesday’s vote on developing the port’s Howard Terminal into a baseball stadium and mixed-use development in one of the smallest markets in Major League Baseball, and as the Oakland A’s hold out for more government funding.

The Oakland City Council is scheduled to take a nonbinding vote on a draft of the financial terms it will offer to the A’s, but the two sides remain at odds. Team executives said Friday the city’s offer was about $350 million short in funding for “off-site infrastructure.”

Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval said in an interview Monday that he wasn’t familiar with the budget language but acknowledged that it “sounds pretty similar to what our project is.” The money has to be set aside by June 2024; the A’s current lease at the Oakland Coliseum expires after the 2024 season.

California is expected to receive tens of billions of dollars in direct federal pandemic aid this year. Those funds, paired with a strong stock market and unexpectedly high tax revenues from the state’s wealthiest residents, helped the state emerge from the pandemic with a record budget surplus.

Kaval said the off-site infrastructure he’s looking for includes grade separations, railroad safety, sewers, roads, bike lanes and other transportation improvements. He said further negotiations Monday ended in disagreement on the money and on the fundamental issue of developing a ballpark on the Oakland waterfront.

“That’s just something that the council is going to have to decide: How does it see the future of the waterfront?” he said in an interview. “It’s easy to focus on the money, but actually I think more than anything it’s the land-use question.”

“I’m worried about them voting yes on what they released Friday, which is like a nothingburger,” he said. “There’s just nothing in it, it’s got no details.”

A letter the port sent to the City Council last week notes that state or federal money can be used to get the terminal ready for the stadium project by upgrading pedestrian crossings.

“It is anticipated that a significant portion of the needed infrastructure to enhance vehicular and pedestrian safety at rail crossings may be eligible for state or federal transportation or infrastructure funding,” wrote the port’s executive director, Danny Wan.

The port on Monday thanked the state budget chairs for the funding.

“The State’s investment in transportation-related infrastructure will address safety and efficiency needs at the Oakland seaport,” port spokesperson Robert Bernardo said in an email. “We greatly appreciate the recognition by the State budget chairs and the Bay Area caucus for recognizing the Port’s role as an economic engine which supports 84,000 jobs in the region.”

Senate Budget Chair Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) represents Oakland and the neighborhood where the stadium would be built. A spokesperson for Skinner said the lawmaker was not available to comment.

A critic of the project said he welcomed the funding and didn’t think the stadium would progress to the point where it could use it.

“The fact that people are looking at this port money, which is obviously free and clear to the port, and saying, ‘Wow, this is a great backdoor for the A’s,’ I think underscores how ridiculous the A’s project is,” said Mike Jacob, vice president and general counsel for the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, which represents the container shipping industry and is suing over the stadium potentially receiving expedited environmental permits.

The money is relatively small change in the context of the overall $12 billion plan to redevelop the terminal with housing, office space, retail and parks. Most of that cost is for the area around the proposed ballpark; the stadium itself would cost the team about $1 billion.

“$280 million is significant, but it only represents first or second base. It surely doesn’t come anyplace close to third base or home, with home being, ‘Hey, we’re building a stadium at Howard Terminal,'” said Andy Dolich, a former A’s official who runs a sports business consulting firm.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.

Comments

  1. John Hurabiell says

    The Giants ownership group paid for its own stadium. No taxpayer funding. What the hell is wrong with the idiots that allow taxpayer funding of private businesses, especially in Oakland where they have failed so many times. Stupid politicians—I should say venal politicians.

  2. Given the escalating crime wave, I don’t know anybody who wants to go ANYWHERE in Oakland. Not to visit, eat, stroll, shop, not anything. It is getting increasingly dangerous to go to any large event, including sports; why does anyone think the A’s are now the only game in town?

    Nearly a billion of the 12 is to go into the Oakland City general fund, nothing to do with sports at all. Another half billion into ‘community benefits’ whatever the hell that is, again, nothing to do with sports at all. And over 3000 ‘affordable’ housing units are to be built. That will attract the very best that Oakland has to offer, won’t it? Again, can anyone find a connection to sports somewhere in that?

    This is going to become a giant cesspool, ripe for crime: burglaries, robbery, gang violence, mayhem, murder. The A’s are right to say to Oakland, ‘sure, you betcha, we want to be here’ all the while looking as hard as they can for an alternative spot.

  3. I once enjoyed watching baseball. I read many books of it’s glorious past and some of the great players. today, the spoiled ones are the wealthy owners who place demands on the cities and namely the little guy, the bleacher fans that pay the free ride the owners get through merchandising, TV rights and outrageous parking fees.

    The salaries are another subject that deserves far lower caps. Any of these morons that are stupid enough
    to not be vaccinated, takes chances like the carousing Yankees of the Fifties need to be fired or sent to class C ball if that still exists.

    Like the hapless Joke-land Raiders (raiding public cash troughs!), the A’s can take a bullet train to Las Vegas and stay there. That goes the for the rest of MLB and their Woke BS.

    Another gripe about the Commissioner of Waste ball. they want more Blacks to pay the game. Maybe the blacks take a different path to sports like college and not the poorly paid minor leagues which was severed in many ways from cities and traditional leagues. Fans want the best available talent that plays good baseball, doesn’t play take a knee politics to get his name in the paper but respects this nation. If you punks in sports are so tough, join the Navy Seals or Army Special forces. Most would be out in a few days.

  4. Another train to nowhere democrat failure in the making. Oakland could have used those funds to reduce taxes or simply save it, rather than line the pockets of the well connected few.

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