For years, the tiny-but-vocal anti-Oakland crowd has loudly questioned Oakland’s financial strength in getting a new ballpark deal done. But now that Oakland’s ongoing economic renaissance has been well-chronicled, and that argument doesn’t wash any longer, they are trying a new meme: Maligning Oakland’s politicians.
Just like every other scare tactic Wolff has tried, it won’t work. Because it’s not true.
Now, we’re not here to tell you that Oakland’s City Council and Mayor have been perfect, or that any of them is the second coming of Winston Churchill. They’re not. And yes, political mistakes have been made here and there.
However, our sincere response is: How does that make Oakland different from any other California city?
In fact, it’s important to remember all the great things Oakland’s leaders have accomplished in the face of these challenging times. For one, Oakland has been able to balance its budget, albeit while making some painful cuts, in contrast to several of its Bay Area neighbors who are on the verge of filing for bankruptcy. And Oakland’s leaders have overseen the revitalization of downtown, starting with the new Fox Theater in Uptown.
Let’s look at other governments around the Bay Area. (Note: As citizens of Oakland, we’re especially sensitive to intercity trash-talking. That’s not our goal here. We’re just pointing out the facts that show Oakland’s leaders are no different or worse than most other cities’ politicians. In short, no disrespect intended.)
In San Francisco — a city that is about to lose the 49ers, it’s oldest and most iconic sports franchise — Mayor Ed Lee’s crisis this week is whether he should fire his new sheriff, who has just been sentenced to a day in jail after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of abusing his wife. Political dysfunction is nothing new to our neighbor across the bay: the S.F. mayor before Lee had to weather his very own sex scandal with his most trusted aide’s wife, and the mayor before that drew some unwanted attention from FBI investigators, but was never charged.
Meanwhile, other Bay Area cities are having major financial trouble or engaging in labor wars, including unions filing serious SEC complaints against one high-profile Bay Area mayor.
Are any of these cities’ pols better or smarter than Oakland’s leaders? Hardly.
And look at their history of local sports facilities. The story of how Candlestick Park’s site was chosen in the late 1950s is so shady it’s a great lesson in San Francisco City Hall cronyism. And don’t forget the ahem, controversial, 1997 election for a new 49ers stadium/mall that never got built at Candlestick Point.
And people are suggesting Oakland’s leaders can’t hold its own with that motley crew? C’mon, now.
It appears now that new owners are eager to buy the A’s in the near future. That’s great news. Once they do that, the biggest obstacles to keeping the A’s in Oakland and the Bay Area — Lew Wolff and John Fisher — will be gone. Once city leaders have a willing partner for the first time since 1995, getting that new A’s ballpark in Oakland that all A’s fans want will be much easier.
Oakland can get a new stadium deal done. And, as written above, the city’s underrated politicians more than hold their own against their counterparts around the Bay Area and the nation. Oakland’s a can-do city … then, now, and in the future.