Alameda County, Coliseum Needs To Quit Undercutting Its Sports Assets

PHOTO/Mark Salinas-Facebook

SUNDAY COLUMN | We hear quite a bit about shopping locally from our public officials and supporting commerce in Alameda County, but when it comes to one of the biggest and most popular assets in the region, the view is fascinatingly obtuse.

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, as long-time sports broadcaster Brent Musberger has over the decades introduced as “you are looking live at…” is not just a stadium and arena, but an asset belonging to the City of Oakland and the entire county, hence the hyphenated name. Taxes derived from the large soda bought at a Justin Bieber concert and game tickets to the Oakland Athletics home opener next month go into the coffers that fix your roads and pay public employees to process and distribute social services to needy residents, among many positives.

An AC Transit bus last January celebrates
the 49ers entrance to the Super Bowl.

Yet, now we sit at a time when our local government and corporate entities fret they cannot support major league sports in the East Bay. Maybe the perception of Oakland as crime-infested and the area’s working class ethos doesn’t match the future as it is formulated in the South Bay with the likes of Google and Facebook, but the East Bay is not helping its case either.

Here’s a case in point, last month an antendee at a Save Our Sports event in Oakland raised a very important point. Why can’t all the county’s local agencies stand in solidarity with the challenge of keeping our three teams in the East Bay? Specifically, he said, why are AC Transit buses gliding through the streets of Oakland advertising for the San Francisco 49ers and Giants?

Of course, AC Transit wants to make advertising money, but at the expense of Alameda County’s ability to produce tax revenue? Large beer billboards hover next to Interstate 880 and beyond extolling their virtues of cheap lagers and sports franchises from across the bay, while ads featuring the Swingin’ A’s are never plastered in San Francisco. They seem to understand competition why can’t Alameda County?

The world of sports, however, seems to cloud matters when it comes to government and doling out tax dollars hand or fist. Unlike, the vicious push and pull of funding additional police officers or improving schools, hundreds of millions of dollars are easily and willingly offered. At least Oakland Councilmmeber Larry Reid, also a member of the Coliseum Authority is honest about his loyaties. He showed up for a meeting last January wearing a Raiders cap. Can you imagine the outrage of opponents to a current plan for a dog park in Oakland if Reid delivered the deciding vote allowing for funding of the proposal while wearing a Scooby-Doo shirt? Roh-roh!

When it comes to supporting large corporations located in the East Bay, local officials extol all their virtues. Mayor Jean Quan would never laud the internet music service Spotify when the headquarters of its competitor, Pandora, resides in downtown Oakland. That’s a given. So, why are some East Bay cities hosting the Giants World Series trophy own their home turf? In particular, Hayward’s City Hall hosted the reigning champ’s spoils last Tuesday. You may recall, the Giants are a multi-million dollar company that provides no economic benefit to Hayward or Alameda County. Even worse, they are company with the express intent of squeezing the life out of its business competitor in this county, the Oakland Athletics Baseball Company, a business that actually generates revenue and significant amounts of civic pride.

Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney, center, Councilman Mark Salinas,
right, poses with the Giants World Series trophy, Mar. 12, inside
City Hall. PHOTO/Mark Salinas-Facebook

It should be noted, too, that Hayward has some of the most viciously critical public officials in the region when it comes to state government stripping its ability to provide services with takebacks of local revenues over the years. However, none saw the hypocrisy of happily posing with the Giants World Series trophy this week, but they surely grouse when fewer tax receipts come their way when the very real possibility all three tax-generating teams scurry from here to other counties.

These cities are not anemic to this trend, the Coliseum’s own governing board and administration can’t even understand some of its actions are actually a net detriment to themselves. Has anyone driven by the Coliseum lately? Not only does the bright red glow of the Oracle sign, a corporation located in the South Bay, light up the freeway, but billboards own by the Coliseum and those adjacent nearby and owned by others are actually encouraging you to spend your money at venues other than the Coliseum. A digital billboard owned by Clear Channel periodically advertises for the World Baseball Classic at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Go across the bay, it is saying, and buy an early dinner and drinks. The Coliseum’s signage is even blunter. An advertisement for the San Jose Sharks even acts as a road map for Coliseum customers to purchase their $15 beers at HP Pavilion in San Jose, saying, “Icy Conditions Ahead.”

Instead of calling our sports teams by the short nicknames, maybe it would be wise to start using the names typed on their corporate tax returns because some of us may have loyalties when it comes to sports teams in far off places, but we also need to start being a fan of our own local government treasuries. If the so-called City of Champions, as the plaque reads on the grounds of Coliseum is to continue to mean anything to the East Bay, it needs to cease to exist solely as a marker for how many trophies the A’s, Raiders and Warriors have earned over the decades, but also signify the quality of life exhibited in fields not just played on grass and hardwood exist in all levels in Alameda County.

Quotable
“It’s not unusual for public officials to change sides when something fails.”
Dev Mahadevan, CEO for the Eden Township Healthcare District, Mar. 13, mocking some Alameda County supervisors (we’re guessing Wilma Chan is one of them) for encouraging the District to sue Sutter Health for title to San Leandro Hospital only to later admonish the District for “wasting money” on legal fees when the strategy failed.

The Week That Was

That old feeling: Bill and Nadia in 2010.

>>>It was surely an embarrassing sight last month when city officials in Oakland announced they would need to return $600,000 in federal stimulus fund due to an error by the past Dellums administration. This week, members of the Workforce Investment Board told a city committee it has streamlined its operations over the past two years. Notably, the city employees who initially misapplied for the federal grants no longer work in Oakland.

Oakland Councilman Larry Reid continued his constant drumbeat of criticizing the master contractor chosen by the city (and him) to develop the Oakland Army Base. Reid said with much bravado the city auditor should investigate the handling of the entire army base deal saying, “If she asks the right questions, she’ll prove me right.”

>>>Not only does Rep. Eric Swalwell have a bill calling for the need to protect rare earth natural resources used for electronic devices (sounds like a declaration of war with China over iPhone parts), he took the lead on an international matter—protecting rights for LGBT communities in Ukraine. Wasn’t using staff time on seemingly innocuous issues a major talking point for Swalwell last year against his opponent, Pete Stark?

>>>The East Bay progressive Rep. Barbara Lee took umbrage with the federal budget plan put forth yet again by Rep. Paul Ryan, saying it would hurt the poor and disadvantaged.

>>>In Hayward, the $100 million 238 Corridor Improvement Plan comes to even greater fruition with the opening the Hayward Loop, which will redirect traffic through the city’s quickly improving downtown business and entertainment center.

>>>Finally, when it comes to love, there is nothing more sweeter than when its once again blossoms where it once was seemingly extinguished. State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, 71, and his wife, former Alameda County supervisor Nadia Lockyer, 40, are getting back together, according to numerous reports this week.

She attended a hearing last Thursday in Orange County for her arrest for possession of methamphetamines and child endangerment. Bill says the couple will try to work it out. That, or he just wants to give Alameda County Democrats at next Thursday’s big Eden Area United Democratic Campaign dinner that special feeling of awkwardness when he shows up for his keynote address with his formerly estranged wife in tow.

>>>Ding! Ding! State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbettt and Rep. Eric Swalwell will also speak at Thursday’s belated St. Patrick’s Day dinner for what may be round one, or, at least, the preliminaires, for their 2014 race for the 15th Congressionl District.

Tweet of the Week
“Shameful #GOPBudget. Republicans vote down my amendment calling for a National Strategy to Eradicate Poverty. #talkpoverty”
Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee), Mar. 13.

Best Reads
>>>The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has been used in the East Bay as a powerful weapon for issues like the possible closing of San Leandro Hospital and a wind turbine on the San Leandro Shoreline, among others. But, a case in Berkeley is showing it can also be used against its own intentions. (East Bay Express, Mar. 13).

>>>The A’s are in a catch-22 when it comes to attracting corporate support in Oakland, says the Web site, Small Ballpark, with team owners looking hopeful to the South Bay, while minimally functioning in Oakland. (Small Market Ball, Mar. 13).

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