When the 2021-22 state budget was being finalized in June of last year, an allocation of $279.5 million was quietly inserted into the massive spending plan before being sent to Governor Gavin Newsom.
“Funds appropriated under this item shall be for the Port of Oakland for improvements that facilitate improved access for goods and passengers and to promote the efficient and safe movement of goods and people,” the budget stated.
Apparently, the Legislature was responding to numerous requests from the shipping industry for improvements to maintain the viability of the port in the face of intense competition for international trade.
However, when the port commission recently approved a list of specific projects that would fund the money, its long-suspected true purpose became clear. The money would not be spent to improve cargo handling, but to subsidize the development of a new stadium for the Oakland A’s baseball team at a disused shipping container site known as Howard Terminal near Jack London Square.
The money would pay for facilities to make it easier for baseball fans to access the new stadium. Apparently, they would be the “passengers” mentioned in the credit.
The commission acted shortly after the San Francisco Bay Area Conservation and Development Commission officially removed Howard Terminal’s designation as a cargo location.
For years, A’s owners, citing the inadequacies of the Oakland Coliseum, have longed for a new stadium while threatening to move the team if their demands are not met. At one point, the team tried to move to San Jose, but that city was part of the territory designated by the San Francisco Giants and the Giants refused to give it up.
Oakland officials, after losing the Raiders football team to Las Vegas and the Warriors basketball team to San Francisco, are desperate to keep the Athletics in Oakland and several potential stadiums have been explored.
Finally, the city and A’s owner John Fisher, a scion of the family that owns Gap clothing, settled on the 55-acre Howard Terminal, not just for a new ballpark but for a $12 billion residential and commercial complex. .
The decision did not sit well with the shipping industry, which saw it as an intrusion into cargo handling operations.
While Fisher was negotiating with city officials on the project last year, state Sen. Nancy Skinner, the Democrat who represents Oakland and chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, introduced the $279.5 million appropriation into the bill budget and was finally approved by the full legislature. Newsom.
It’s just a small fraction of the 2021-2022 state budget that approached $300 billion but would be enough to build affordable housing for more than 500 low- and moderate-income families.
Additionally, it represents two common but unseemly practices at the state Capitol.
The first is to use the state budgets, which are largely drafted in secret and with little opportunity for the media and the public to consult their details, as a vehicle to deliver goodies to those with political leanings.
After the budget and its corresponding “tow bills” are enacted each year, we find out – too late – exactly who got special attention, whether in the form of money or some beneficial change in the law.
The second is the slavish attention California politicians devote to the well-being of professional sports teams and their wealthy owners. Every major sports stadium project in recent years has received some form of help from the Capitol, mostly exemptions from the environmental red tape that other major projects must overcome.
The $279.5 million may not technically be a gift of public funds to a private developer, but it certainly smells like one.
CalMatters is a public interest journalism company committed to explaining how the California State Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to calmmatters.org/commentary.
Should California taxpayers subsidize a new A’s ballpark? – Press Telegram Source link Should California taxpayers subsidize a new A’s ballpark? – Press Telegram