Bud Selig looks pretty ridiculous right now — two days after he publicly congratulated Oakland/Alameda County officials and the A's for reaching a 10-year lease extension at the Oakland Coliseum, the extension is as far from approval as it has been at any point this month. The hardball tactics obviously didn't work — Wolff and MLB seem to have hoped that publicly announcing a lease agreement would magically lead the other side to agree to the lease.
But no. In a maddening (but not shocking) no-show, City of Oakland officials with seats on the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority Board of Commissioners have jeopardized the lease extension talks by skipping out on a crucial meeting. A vote to approve the lease was supposed to be held today, but the board didn't reach a quorum and never had the opportunity to make a key decision regarding the A's future in the city, one Lew Wolff has called a necessary first step for discussions about building a new venue on the current Coliseum site.
The two Oakland city councilmembers with seats on the Coliseum Board of Commissioners are Rebecca Kaplan and Larry Reid, and neither of them showed up to the BoC's meeting this morning, thereby preventing it from reaching a quorum and allowing the vote to go forward. Reid is the Vice Mayor of Oakland and the Vice Chair of the Board of Commissioners. Kaplan is an Oakland city councilmember and an Oakland mayoral candidate, and has been credited with successfully brokering a framework for a lease agreement after it seemed like the talks had failed entirely. Now it seems like they've failed entirely again.
The move is disheartening, obviously, especially given that the board is using sleazy tactics to get out of an important decision. They could have voted yes and dealt with the consequences of an imperfect deal. They could have voted no and dealt with the consequences of restarting negotiations from square one. Instead, they didn't vote at all, which is effectively a no vote, just an immature one that only marks a step backward in actual progress.
Worse yet, Kaplan and Reid apparently didn't show up at the behest of the rest of the Oakland City Council, a decision it made on Wednesday.
Oakland City Council's decision to stop its two members on the Coliseum JPA from attending today's mtg occurred on Wed. and legally-binding.— Steven Tavares (@eastbaycitizen) June 27, 2014
If you decide, on Wednesday, to sabotage a Friday meeting, at least be open about it. Fans showed up to this meeting, other politicians showed up, members of the media showed up, and it all turned out to be a waste of working people's time on a Friday morning. At least have the decency to warn them that you won't be there.
Complicating our ability to judge the move is the fact that the terms of the specific lease in question were never truly revealed to the public. That's for the best — far too often throughout the conflict have the opposing parties used complaints and open demands in the media to attack one another; the fact that the terms of this lease were never public was actually a refreshing and mature change of pace that allowed the parties to negotiate in relative privacy.
That said, Wolff and Selig's move to "announce" a lease agreement is just as juvenile as Kaplan and Reid's aggressive no-shows. Announce an agreement when there's an agreement — this blatant attempt to win the PR war seems to have blown up in the ownership's face.
It is known that there are various minor disputes over unpaid rent, who'll be funding the new scoreboards, and what the JPA will charge the A's in rent moving forward. That said, the figures are all relatively close to one another and inconsequential in the big picture, especially considering the roughly $20 million in annual subsidies the city and county bleed out as a result of the terms of the Raiders' 1994 lease and subsequent Coliseum
destruction renovation, and the projected cost of any future development on the Coliseum site, which would be well in excess of $1 billion.
So what needs to happen, moving forward? The JPA's very existence might be in jeopardy, which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world in the eyes of the A's and Raiders. But the first step to making real progress on the issue of a home for the Athletics — a much larger issue than a contested lease — is to secure their short-term future, regardless of the governing body approving the lease.
It'll still happen, likely within the next week or two, but the process has been a microcosm of all involved parties' inability to effect real change to the status quo. Hopefully, Oakland, Alameda County, and Coliseum officials realize that aggressively haggling relatively insignificant dollar figures isn't the best path to keeping the A's in Oakland long-term. Hopefully, Wolff and the rest of the ownership realize that the Coliseum Authority is in a bind, has been screwed over by Oakland sports teams before, and that his side hasn't been the most cooperative either. Stop using the media to smash the Coliseum Board into submission. There's a balance to be found, but finding it is proving more challenging than anybody thought.
And after that lease inevitably gets signed? A lot more needs to happen. More on the A's long-term future in Oakland next week.