San Francisco Chronicle
A’s, council agree: It’s a barfworthy ballpark plan
On DropDead Day for the Oakland A’s ballpark project, nobody dropped dead, although one City Council member apparently dropped to his knees.
The City Council and A’s president Dave Kaval faced off Tuesday in the Showdown at NotOK Corral.
Verbal shots were fired, but nobody died. Amazingly, an agreement was reached! Both sides agreed that the term sheet the City Council voted to approve, is wildly unacceptable to the council and to the A’s. The two sides should have raised a toast.
Councilmember Dan Kalb won the meeting’s soundbyte contest, saying that if he did vote yes on the proposal (he did), “I’m going to be holding my nose and probably going to the bathroom and throwing up afterwards, not very happy.”
It might have been a royal flush, because several council members expressed distaste for the agreement, before voting to approve it, disapprovingly.
So where does this leave us? Well, the project is still alive, the deal still cooking, until one side or the other officially pulls
the plug. The A’s are still rooted in Oakland, but rooted more like a radish than like an oak tree.
Kaval made it clear over the previous few days, and early in Tuesday’s meeting, that if the city voted on its own new term sheet, the game was over. The A’s wanted major concessions, and after a quick premeeting look at recent concessions made by the city, Kaval did not change his tune.
“I just really want to stress that voting ‘yes’ on something that we don’t agree with or we don’t have consensus around is not an effective path forward,” Kaval said prior to the council vote.
Yet, forward on that path they do march, the A’s and Oakland.
The council made it clear that Oakland desires to keep negotiating, and is eager to strike a deal that would benefit both sides, and believes it can happen. Kaval made it clear ... actually, he didn’t make anything clear.
And that’s where it stands.
Waiting for the A’s.
What we can expect: More Kaval ultimatums. He is the threat guy. He pushed for this meeting and this vote, and made it clear that the council would have to agree to pretty much all of the A’s terms or the game was over. Time’s up, rubes.
The council, despite making major concessions, did not cave in to all the A’s terms, so it’s reasonable to expect another Kaval ultimatum soon. Possibly a threat delivered via postcard from Las Vegas, where Kaval was expected to go Wednesday to continue the A’s pursuit of a new stadium, which grow in Vegas like saguaro cacti.
We’re at the point in negotiations — if, indeed, negotiations do continue — where the deal could blow up at any time. A clear path is nowhere to be found. The council members seemed almost repulsed by how far the city went on this most recent term sheet to accommodate the A’s, and the A’s reacted as if they were being handed a hors d’oeuvre the butler just picked up off the
If these two sides can eventually agree on a deal, after minimal barfing, then there is hope for world peace.
I don’t see it happening. I hope I’m wrong. Oakland could use a major homeimprovement project, and lord knows John Fisher could use more money, but the gulf is wide.
The city seems motivated, wary but super eager to pump new life into the waterfront. Willing to go to almost embarrassing lengths to help Fisher and the A’s avoid doing things like building affordable housing and helping pay for infrastructure.
The A’s seem ready to bolt, waiting for just one more reason to pack the bags and end the broken relationship. That theory gained cred later Tuesday when baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred scolded Oakland for not giving the A’s everything they demanded.
Manfred noted the A’s frustrating fouryear quest for a downtown ballpark, conveniently neglecting to note that the A’s spent three of those years bungling a deal at Laney College. Manfred’s rebuke added to my conviction that the A’s are looking for a smooth — or slimy — exit.
But I’m no veteran of these megadeals. The A’s onefootoutthedoor stance could simply be Kaval’s style of negotiating, which rubs some folks the wrong way. Council members said Tuesday they’re willing to plow ahead despite what they consider to be the obnoxious stylings of Kaval.
“I do take issue with how the A’s have shown up through this process,” said Councilmember Loren Taylor. “The bullying tactics, the sleight of hand, the tweets from Vegas meant to taunt and sort of provoke.”
Sticks and stones. Taylor voted yes — “reluctantly.”
If you’re confused, you are not alone. Councilmember Carroll Fife said at the beginning of the meeting, “I’m not exactly sure why we’re here today.”
Maybe they were there for the sole purpose of unintentionally giving the A’s that final nudge out the door. We’ll see. It’s the A’s play.