Oakland seems indifferent to potential NFL city swap

In San Diego, Mayor Kevin Faulconer is the face of the city’s push to retain the Chargers and keep the team from heading to a new stadium in Los Angeles, this week promising $350 million in support from the city and county — even though San Diego is still recovering from financial woes so severe that bankruptcy was once considered a serious option. In Missouri, Gov. Jay Nixon and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay are leading the fight to keep the Rams from heading west to a $1.8 billion stadium in Inglewood that team owner Stan Kroenke is on the verge of building, offering at least $400 million in public funds.

Oakland skyline, wikimediaBut when it comes to Oakland — home of the third team that’s been subject to years of intense speculation about a possible move — Mayor Libby Schaaf has handed negotiations with the Raiders and the NFL over a new stadium to an assistant city administrator, a low-level official more accustomed to helping neighborhoods get better trash collection or to settling disputes over zoning infractions.

Given that the Raiders have a loyal fan base, an international following and a rich history, how is it that local elected officials could be so blase about losing the team?

The most obvious reason is the city’s weak finances and how they relate to the most pressing local issue. Oakland has had persistent budget gaps and has not benefited from the tech boom remotely as much as San Francisco, Santa Clara or many smaller communities in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley.

Fighting crime the priority, not keeping Raiders

Meanwhile, crime has grown steadily in recent years, to the point where Forbes declared Oakland to be America’s third-most dangerous city. Public safety is Mayor Schaaf’s priority, as this April story about her proposed budget in the San Francisco Business Times story makes clear:

The $2.4 billion two-year budget would increase the Oakland Police Department from 722 to 762 officers in the next year and a half, with a long-term goal of 800 officers by 2018.


“Oakland will not grow unless people are confident it is getting safer,” Schaaf wrote in a letter earlier this month to the City Council.

That letter identified three priorities beyond public safety, but never mentioned the Raiders or the NFL and their desire for an upgrade from the battered Oakland-Alameda County Stadium.

From the national media perspective, this indifference is being interpreted as a sign the team’s departure for L.A. is inevitable. The NFL executive overseeing Los Angeles relocation issues this week said no “viable” plan had ever emerged from either the city or the team, and a league committee declined to even talk with a Bay Area real estate developer who wants to build a stadium as a centerpiece to a larger, $4.2 billion mixed-use development, believing the plan to be far-fetched.

“As for Oakland, there is no there, there. The area doesn’t have a stadium offer on the table, and time is running out,” ESPN’s John Clayton wrote on Tuesday.

But that presumes the Raiders’ and Chargers’ proposal to jointly build and then share a $1.75 billion stadium project in Carson — where they already have land and regulatory approvals —  is likely to get the league’s go-ahead.

St. Louis and San Antonio may be team’s future

San Diego officials don’t believe that’s close to inevitable. It’s why their stadium proposal announced this week is actually tougher in its financing terms than a proposal that a task force recommended this spring, as CalWatchdog reported Tuesday. The thinking appears to be that the NFL is far more likely to approve the Rams’ move back to Los Angeles, where its stadium plan is considerably closer to fruition than the Raiders/Chargers proposal. There is believed to be no NFL interest in having three teams in Los Angeles.

Oakland’s mayor and City Council may have a similar take. But unlike San Diego officials, they’re not offering a financing plan, one perceived as “tough” or otherwise, to the Raiders. They appear resigned to having the Raiders eventually leave for a city with a much more lucrative, modern NFL stadium with luxury boxes and more seats.

If the Rams leave town, St. Louis is an obvious option for Raiders owner Marc Davis. This week, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon expressed confidence that the St. Louis riverfront stadium project that’s now being planned would have an NFL team as a tenant even if the Rams departed for Inglewood.

And the most populous U.S. city to not have an NFL franchise — San Antonio, America’s seventh-largest city, with 1.5 million residents — is also likely to be in the mix. City officials are eager to get a team for football-crazy South Texas. And the Raiders have already had talks with city officials, dating back years.

San Antonio believed it had proven itself as an NFL-ready city in 2005 when the New Orleans Saints got a warm reception after temporarily relocating that season because Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Superdome. But so far it has been unable to attract a team.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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