DeLaFuente interview with Dave Newhouse...
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Wednesday, July 17, 2002 - 3:15:09 AM MST
De La Fuente is still fighting for local sports
OAKLAND -- Ignacio De La Fuente's nose makes a sharp bend in the middle, a souvenir of street fights when he was a kid.
De La Fuente still is a fighter, although his battles now are restricted to labor negotiations and the political scene. As Oakland City Council president, he has had his share of scraps, but last week negotiated a new lease agreement with the Oakland A's.
De La Fuente shared his views on a new Oakland ballpark, his testy relationships with the city's combative sports owners, the Oakland Raiders' lawsuit, and other topical subjects with Dave Newhouse of ANG Newspapers.
Q. People in Oakland sense that you don't want a downtown ballpark. Are they right?
A. Absolutely not. My first remarks after the HOK (architectural) study, when they came up with four or five sites, was that the only place where I would support a ballpark is downtown, because it will bring additional benefit to the city -- housing, retail, some other issues.
Q. Did you have much of a relationship with A's owner Steve Schott before the lease was signed?
A. No. Unfortunately, in my position, the way that the lease came out publicly was not the right way. I've learned throughout my 25 years of labor relations that you have to respect the other side ... to do the best they can to protect their interests. We didn't have that
much contact before, but we've been able to establish a line of communication, which will be helpful.
Q. How much of a sports fan are you?
A. I grew up playing soccer, so I'm more of a soccer fan than anything else. But I love the Raiders. Sports brings an identification to a city. We're one of those few cities to have the privilege of having three sports franchises. I really value that, and I argued that when we put together the deal for the Raiders, which didn't work out the way a lot of people expected.
I've gotten a lot of criticism for that, but I always answer criticism this way: The A's would have left (for Denver) in 1985, the Warriors would have left for San Jose about the same time, the Raiders were already gone. So the criticism, in my opinion, hasn't been painful.
Q. Does Oakland need a mayor who knows sports?
A. People are different, with different interests. What we need is to understand that sports have changed tremendously the last couple of decades. We might have a (baseball) strike in the next few days. We have created an environment where cities and states compete against each other to use public funds to build a stadium. None of this would have happened 30 years ago.
Q. With Oakland's sports teams all unhappy, how can the Joint Powers Authority change that?
A. We brought in Thaxter Trafton, a guy we believe has the knowledge, expertise and ability to communicate with some of these sports franchises. We're going to try it this way, but high-powered attorneys can find holes in anything, where there aren't even holes. So we have a disadvantage in negotiating, and a lot of people don't understand that.
Q. Who's tougher to deal with -- Schott, Chris Cohan or Al Davis?
A. All of them are tough. The Raiders are more in the media. We have litigation going with the Raiders. But, and people don't believe me, I have nothing personal against anyone -- ever. I've learned through my life that people have the right to do the best they can for their issues, business, families, whoever. I can tell you that I used to have tequila shots with Chris Cohan. I think he's a tremendous, interesting guy. But I don't care who you are, I have the responsibility to face people and do the best that I can.
Q. Will Oakland prevail against Davis in the Sacramento court case?
A. Absolutely. Because the fact is his claims are fraudulent that we committed fraud against the Raiders. I would love the jury to look at who benefitted the last six, seven years of this deal. Who had $63 million out front, who paid for the day-of-game expenses of every Raiders game, and who really are the ones who pay all the bills? The taxpayers. Nobody will come to the conclusion that, somehow, somebody took advantage of the Raiders.
Q. Do you see any hope for the Warriors?
A. I've said it a couple of times: If these (Oakland) owners would concentrate on trying to get their teams to become the best they can be, and spend as much energy as they spend in court, maybe they would do better.
Q. Why is the Forest City project so important to Oakland when the city, by all accounts, would be paying $51 million for cheap housing?
A. What people have to understand is that this is negotiations. That doesn't mean a deal is going to happen. That figure, $51 million, has been thrown out there, but at the end of the day, there might be a project, and there might not be.
Q. Oakland campaign finance records show that Forest City has contributed $4,750 to your running for office. Are you, then, being influenced to approve the Forest City project?
A. Nothing is going on. I invite you to review my financial statements that we file every quarter. I'm one of the few politicians to get money from 100 different sources. To imply that I'm going to support some developer because of that, well, we can't do that for everyone. Politics are financed by campaign contributions -- that's the political system -- but Oakland is one of the few cities that has campaign limits.
Q. Do you truly believe what we're now hearing, that there is enough land for a downtown ballpark and a housing project?
A. The area we're talking about has many old buildings. It would be an improvement to tear them down. If you look at that area, it's possible to fit in a stadium, a housing unit, and retail. I'm absolutely convinced that it can be put together. The private sector does things better than the public sector. This has to be driven by the private sector -- Mr. Schott, Mr. (Ken) Hofmann, the A's, or some private group of people to structure a deal that makes sense.
Q. Why do you plan to vote against councilman Dick Spees' amendment to the Forest City project that would give the housing-entertainment concept weight before the July 23 final vote?
A. Because the majority of the council already made the decision to finish negotiations with Forest City, which have gone on for three years. Secondly, which I said very openly to Mr. Schott, the A's have not made any real decision on where they want to build the stadium. When I get that specific decision, then it's different. We need a specific commitment.
Q. Does Oakland need to pay Forest City anything when, according to city officials, contractors would pay Oakland to build housing here?
A. Please, I'll give you my number to put in the paper. If contractors want to pay to come in ... that's a bunch of baloney.
Q. Has the JPA functioned better than the old Coliseum board in running Oakland sports?
A. None of us ran for office to be in this type of JPA structure. I never expected to be involved in issues involving the Raiders. I ran for office to create jobs and fix potholes in the streets. I believe in my heart that everyone in the JPA has tried to do their best. I think that when George Vukasin and company were created in the 1960s, and we built (the Coliseum complex), it was a different time. The debt to the taxpayer was different than it is now. It wasn't as challenging and competitive as it is today.
Q. What's a perfect world in projecting Oakland sports into the future?
A. No litigation with anybody. And everybody pays their share of what we agreed to instead of looking at every loophole in every contract to get as much as people can. When you make a deal, you make a deal, and you live with it. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to do that with some of our franchises. How many times do we have to win our case against the Warriors, and they still haven't paid (back rent)? We have to be fair with each other.
Q. The biggest negative about Oakland sports, though, would be those horribly maintained fields that kids play on. Will that change?
A. It's one of the things I'm working hard on. Hopefully in the next three months we're going to announce something people will be interested in.
Q. Would you like to oversee Oakland's sports scene one day as mayor?
A. Not anymore. I ran for mayor once, and this guy (Jerry Brown) came out of nowhere and blows us all away. Something else may happen someday.
| By tekgraf on Wednesday, July 17, 2002 - 09:56 am:|
He certainly is a politician. He talks out of both sides of his face. IDLF I think one day will become some big shot politico, he's got the moves and the sounds. If the ball park is built he looks good, if the ball park isn't built, he still looks good. Whatta guy! For the sake of the A's and the fans, I hope this jackass doesn't do anything to hinder the construction of the ball park. The damn carpet bagger!
"Q. How much of a sports fan are you? A. I grew up playing soccer, so I'm more of a soccer fan than anything else."
How encouraging. :-/ And then he's a Raiders fan next....Baseball's down there somewhere on his list of priorities, I'm sure.
Yeah, I caught this article this morning. I think he is playing both sides of the fence. DLF is going to what benefits DLF, whether its going against builing a new ballpark, or doing a 180 and supporting it at the last minute or aleast trying to take credit for it.
He does seem to reconize the importance of a city having sports teams more so than Jerry Brown.
| By eyleenn on Thursday, July 18, 2002 - 09:42 am:|
I love the way he doesn't give a straight answer to a single question.
| By kevink on Thursday, July 18, 2002 - 09:56 am:|
eyleenn, I noticed that too.
I wish reporters would make these guys actually answer their questions.
I think they are ALL playing both sides of the fence...including and foremost the A's owners who have had ample time to examine ALL the sites. We all know they have had ongoing talks to the ballpark promoters and city staff.
First they were not saying anything until the lease was signed. Now the lease is signed and they are saying they are still looking at all the sites?
They have to come forward and take a stand now but instead they are playing the waiting game some more...they WANT a ballpark or they'll leave right?
So they are waiting for what?...the ballpark is something they want and why should the city have to go to them begging...this is ridiculous....here are three city council members and the city manager working their butts off to come up with a very viable plan for a ballpark which could benefit the city to make the process viable and the A's are still playing hard to get?
Oh yes! I forgot...now there's another politician wispering in their ears...Fremont is close to Santa Clara...especially the Warm Spring area...and they can offer land swapping for the owners to develope their housing projects.
So now the A's have to again look at their OTHER options!?!?!?!?!?!
Put me down for feeling like I have to puke!
This is disgusting!
If the city has any outside corporate $$$, what will it take for both sides to get together and get an idea if there's enough money to make this happen? Is it possible that they've got together, but it hasn't received any attention? I would think Dick Spees or Robert Bobb are the only ones who know. I like to believe a recent Dave Newhouse column that this is typical Oakland politics and perhaps something is happening behind the scenes. Two things worry me, Schott having little to say about uptown on July 9 and possibly the biggest wrench "the Giants Bigfone is too close" Jerry Brown. If I'm wrong about Brown, I'll be happy to mark my arm with felt-tip Giant orange for one day, but listening to his rhetoric leads me to conclude the A's are an afterthought in his political scheme.
here's just two paragraphs from responses he gave to an e-mail exchange I had with Brown:
"No, but the proximity of the Giants cuts in half the regional draw of the
A's. In Denver and in Baltimore, the stadium does not face the competition
that Oakland does. Moreover, the region help finance the stadium. No such
regional support is forthcoming here.
and in another response he said:
"The implied question is: will a new ball park get the fans out, given the
turn-out history in Oakland, the Giants in a new stadium 20-25 minutes away
and the city challenged by low incomes and few corporate sponsors?"
So you can see from these two short paragraphs from Jerry Brown that he shares the opinion with many of the ess eff media and particularly Mr. Magowan and Selig, that the Bay Area is not a two team market and that he feels PacBell has killed any chances of the A's getting a new ballpark.
Believe me, I sent him the "turn-out history" of the Oakland A's, which outdraws the Giants 17 seasons to 10 seasons, but that was before PacBell of course...
and Brown pays no attention to the fact that the A's have been profitable during this ownership and would stand to be a lot more profitable in a new ballpark...
The biggest problem I see with Jerry Brown is that he gives absolutely no value to baseball as a public good for a region or a city. Nor does he see the value of giving Oakland a status which would compete head to head with ess eff.
He has no idea what it would do to the image and public pride of Oakland if they build this Uptown ballpark and invigorate that area with hotel and other entertainment such as the Fox and the House of Blues, with restaurants etc...it would be a destination and a mecca of the Bay Area.
You have to think big and beautiful to be big and beautiful.
Jerry Brown wants Oakland to bow to ess eff and be happy with the crumbs.
"You have to think big and beautiful to be big and beautiful."
Unfortunately, Brown's favorite book when he was Governor was "Small is Beautiful," by E. F. Schumacher. I kid you not. Even I read the damn book back in the mid-70s.
| By eyleenn on Thursday, July 18, 2002 - 02:34 pm:|
Good point, Greg. Absolutely true.
Brown is no doubt content to let Oakland play second fiddle to SF.
| By bubba69 on Thursday, July 18, 2002 - 02:45 pm:|
Brown is geek!
There is no "A" in "Brown" or "geek."
Bubba, all the more reason for Schott to be a strong advocate of one location in Oakland, rather than this "we're still studying the options" baloney. Fans cannot rely upon Mayor Brown to do the right thing (from our perspective). In fact, he doesn't seem neutral to a new ballpark; he seems hostile to the plan that makes the most sense. Schott needs to be the biggest cheerleader for the ballpark in Oakland. He's not, and that's depressing.
This group of Oakland politicians have worked on this project for over a year, hired consultants, had presentations, took city tours to study the environmental and economic impact of urban ballparks and prepared a report and presentation.
At the end, they have a Master Plan the mayor doesn't want to see nor allow it to be shown and the A's are turning their nose saying they are just now starting to look around.
It's more than depressing...It's disgusting and
it smells of the same ol same ol "lords of baseball in action" ...
But its really very simple. Schott and Hofmann have to come up with 150 million and they get their ballpark in Uptown. If they don't...
call their damn bluff or/and forgedabouid!
How about this: Isn't it very likely that Schott and Hofmann are making money with the status quo? They have a good thing going: low rent (even with the new lease agreement); low payroll (relatively); competitive team (thanks to "In Beane We Trust"); slightly improving attendance each year; appreciating value of the franchise with each passing year...Why would he want to change all of that by shelling out $150 million of his own money (which he probably doesn't have) when he's got a pretty sweet thing going already?
The new ballparks are a fancy stop-gap in terms of attendance problems; they solve little over the long haul. Selig threatens contraction of teams -- mainly those that don't have new stadiums -- but Schott has to know that Selig has so injuried himself that the likelihood of Bud pulling off contraction is nill-to-squat. Schott makes noises about wanting a new ballpark in Oakland, but he probably thinks he can out-last Selig's blustering. Plus, if MLB commits suicide this year, why rush into an obligation for a new ballpark right now? Wait and see what may rise from the ashes of a labor stoppage. Who knows? -- If baseball really craters, maybe in a year or two Schott can move the A's to Pacbell Park.
Watching the situation, I'm growing more and more convinced that Schott wants no changes right now. A ballpark may not happen, because the Mayor doesn't want it, and the owner may not think he needs it. Status quo may be as much as the fans can expect.
Does this scenario make sense?
| By eyleenn on Thursday, July 18, 2002 - 04:36 pm:|
Not bad, Greg. Besides the impending fall of His Budness, another thing to consider is that Brown will be out of office before the lease extension expires. Perhaps by then the climate may be better all around (better economy, more corporate support) for a new park. Then the A's can negotiate another extension while a ballpark is built. Problem is, by then the uptown site may have been taken over by cheap housing. On the other hand, the Forest City deal may never materialize either.
| By jeffreyb on Thursday, July 18, 2002 - 07:22 pm:|
my take on things is that Schott is greedier than wanting to put up money for a ballpark. like in the Great America deal, he was just gonna pay rent, right? i figure he and Bud think they can blackmail harder than the outline of the Uptown deal.
don't count on Schott being anything other than in Selig's pocket. Schott owes Selig big time for killing the Dolich deal.
| By rono on Thursday, July 18, 2002 - 09:16 pm:|
The more I look at the situation, the more I think Gregorymark is right. The A's profess to want a new stadium but remain silent or noncomittal when real alternatives are presented. They will take a new stadium for free but not if it requires a signicant investment from them. I had the opportunity to meet an A's employee and a couple of city officials at a luncheon meeting which had nothing to do with the stadium. Speaking to them individually, seemed to conform my suspicions that neither the mayor nor the owners are excited about investing in a stadium. The owners may be pursuing a new stadium simply because MLB is pressuring them to do something. It appears three things have to happen to create movement for a new stadium.
1. New labor aggreement with more revenue sharing
2. New owners
3. A new political framework in the city or elsewhere which will support a ball park.
| By oaktownfan on Saturday, July 20, 2002 - 02:51 am:|
The A's ownership had months to examine all the proposed park sites as the lease talks were going on, you're telling me during that entire time they sat on their asses and did nothing? People say the owners would have to pay up to close to 120-150 million to help build the park. If that's what it has to take, I seriously doubt these owners would be willing to pay up. That amount of money is almost equal to how much they spent to purchase the team. Unless something huge takes place like current ownership selling part of the team to a investor who has deeper pockets, it's unlikely they'll pay that amount of money in helping build a new park downtown. Who knows, stranger things have and can happen. Maybe the Haas family can buy back part of the A's and then help finance a new park. It's wishful thinking but it'll never happen.
The housing idea alone at the uptown will never make sense to me. It will never revitalize the downtown area like a park would. Supporters say that the housing units would be inhabited by UC Berkeley students and/or upper class citizens. Is that what downtown needs at the moment, an area filled with college students and yuppies. Are these housing units going to erase the negative image downtown Oakland has right now, I don't so. Will these new residents spend their money in downtown or will they do most of their shopping in Emeryville, San Francisco, and other regions where there are huge mall outlets? If I'm Forrest City, I'd be on the phone with both Bobb and Spees asking how our housing units could be incorporated with the entertainment/housing/park plan.
I totally agree with Oaktownfan's assessment of the situation.
And I don't believe Forest City will succeed alone in developing that area if given another ENA. They keep changing the number of units and already said that they would not mind incorporating the ballpark in their housing project.
But the timing of all of this is very important and both Robert Bobb, whose term may end in November and Dick Spees, whose term ends this December, may not be around to champion the ballpark. I don't see anybody else at City Hall to carry this mission. I know John Russo wants the ballpark, but as City Attorney he is not in a position to be involved.
What is needed is a private and rich corporate involvement and we just keep hoping this big strong pinguin will come to the edge of the iceberg to take the plunge. Then we will see all the other pinguins jumping in for the fun.