Oakland is one step closer to helping Mark Davis pay for an NFL stadium. The Oakland City Council and Alameda County Board of Supervisors both voted to approve the framework of a plan that would require that Oakland pay $200 million and give up a $150 million piece of land. The County Board vote passed with three yes votes, one no vote, and one abstention, while the City Council had seven yes votes and one abstention.
The vote is non-binding and merely approves a term sheet for a $1.3 billion deal that would additionally be financed with $400 million from a Ronnie Lott-led investment group and $500 million from the NFL and the Raiders. Most of the public speakers at the City Council meeting were fans who stressed how much the Raiders meant to the community of Oakland. Marcus Allen and Rodney Peete (who had the help of a certain disgraced former mayor) spoke on behalf of the Lott group and argued that the Raiders were a vitally important institution that held up the “psyches” of their fans.
Few speakers dismissed the plan outright, aside from a woman who ended her very short remarks with, “Just let ‘em go to Las Vegas.” One speaker made an extended, tortured sports analogy about the city of Oakland contending a football game (against Las Vegas perhaps?). Planning Commissioner Jahmese Myres noted that the new deal should provide union jobs and low-income housing. As she said when discussing the plan for a new neighborhood near the stadium, “Last time I checked, we had a neighborhood.”
The lone abstainer, Abel Guillen, said that he did not vote for the plan because it was too risky. The city still owes $181 million on the existing stadium deal, and the new plan has no provisions for how that will be dealt with. Additionally, the election of Donald Trump may force the city to scramble and cover vital areas if the federal funding winds shift.
Moreover, with the Trump presidency just a few weeks away, there is too much uncertainly about federal funding that Oakland programs and service depend on for us to take a gamble with our public land and tax dollars like this one. We have many other competing priorities, daunting needs that this Council has a fiduciary and moral imperative to address.
Of course, NFL owners have already voted on and approved the Raiders’ seemingly imminent relocation, and Las Vegas is prepared to offer more than twice as much as Oakland. Even if Davis is simply using Las Vegas as a cudgel against Oakland to try and scam them into giving him a better deal, their best is still $400 short of what Vegas can give. The term sheet approved by East Bay officials will provide Davis with additional leverage in negotiations with casino mogul/ghoul Sheldon Adelson (his camp also seems to be applying pressure through the media). The Raiders are still likely to leave, but if Davis and his team decide not to go to Las Vegas and set an unholy precedent which all NFL owners can gleefully copy to force their cities to pay up, Oakland appears to be a willing participant in the stadium financing scam.