By Steven Tavares.
While some Coliseum Joint Powers Authority commissioners appeared less than enthused about a fan base seemingly grasping again at a long-gone straw to keep the Raiders in the East Bay via a lawsuit, Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo says he will offer discretionary funding from his office to help the cause.
The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority board ultimately decided Friday morning to punt the issue of whether it would join as a plaintiff a fan-led proposal to sue the Raiders and the National Football League in order to block the team’s announced move to Las Vegas. “I’m frustrated that we haven’t been able to get to a place where we could vote on this,” said Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, also a member of the JPA board.
The group calling itself “Forever Oakland,” have retained two anti-trust attorneys, James Quinn and Eric Hochstadt. The pair have faced the NFL on five previous occasions in court, but several outstanding questions forced the Coliseum JPA postpone discussion to its Oct. 20 meeting.
Among the questions yet to be answered is whether the Coliseum JPA has legal standing he fan group to bring the potential lawsuit forth. It is unlikely the fan group has such standing. In addition, attorneys for the group have yet to deliver a promised analysis to the Coliseum JPA’s attorneys, said JPA counsel Andrea Weddle, although it is expected in the next week.
Gallo, who represents the Fruitvale District 5, highlighted rumored intransigence by city and county leaders toward what he called a “citizens-led initiative.” Gallo lashed out at the Oakland city administration, NFL and Raiders ownership in a passionate diatribe before the JPA board and pledged to join the proposed lawsuit by using his district’s allotted discretionary funds.
“The city is making the excuse that they don’t have the $100,000, we have it, and I’m willing to commit it out of my budget and with your approval and the council’s approve to become a client,” said Gallo, to cheers from over a dozen people clad in silver and black gear. Gallo, who is not a member of the JPA board, added the Oakland Athletics would have moved to San Jose without legal action to block the relocation. “If we didn’t take action against [Lew] Wolff and the A’s, they wouldn’t be here.”
“I am willing to designate support for the legal action. I got elected to represent the public and that’s what I want to honor because I believe what they are doing is the right thing, it is the best thing for Oakland. At the end of the day I truly believe what the NFL did is to side-step their process, take advantage of Oakland and lie after lie after lie.
Gallo continued by slamming Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “I think the way Oakland gets treated day-after-day when it comes to business, when it comes to business development, I think we get short-changed and I think the leadership of this city in a lot of ways has allowed that to happen,” said Gallo.
Forever Oakland representatives have also been coy about the specific aim of the lawsuit and who is funding the legal team. Ray Bobbitt, a representative for Forever Oakland, referenced during Friday’s meeting that an unnamed group is interested in retiring the Coliseum’s roughly $83 million bond debt and build a privately-financed stadium at the current complex. “The [city and] county is not in a position to not fight for the $83 million,” said James Jones III, a Forever Oakland member, referring to the public debt associated with the rebuild of the Coliseum in 1996.
The result of the lawsuit, says Forever Oakland members, absent keeping the Raiders in Oakland, is to strike a deal to retain the team’s logo and colors in hopes of attracting an expansion team.
The Raiders, meanwhile, continue to move forward with plan to build a publicly-financed stadium in Las Vegas and the NFL has not mentioned expansion plans or has an existing team been rumored to move to the East Bay.
If the Coliseum JPA has reservations about the proposal, they surely showed in the facial expression of some commissioners. Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty and two other elected officials on the board appeared more interested in concluding the early morning meeting in order to get to other meetings on their schedules. Haggerty attended to his smartphone for much of the public comment section and Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid skipped the entire agenda after emerging from closed session.
Some members of Forever Oakland, including one during public comment, charged Reid with having a hand in attempts to scuttle the group’s proposal to sue the Raiders. In the days after the Raiders announced their move to Las Vegas in 2-3 years, it was Reid who blasted the team and urged city and county officials to block the team from renewing its lease to bridge the gap between now and when the Las Vegas stadium is constructed.