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March 23, 2010
49ers face suit, Quakes need sponsors, A's report still on hold
Much news from Santa Clara County:
- A former Santa Clara mayoral candidate has sued to block the June vote on building a new San Francisco 49ers stadium. Deborah Bress charges that the ballot language is misleading and hides the project's true costs; given that this issue has been raised before, if nothing else it'll be interesting to see a court of law take up the question.
- The 49ers, meanwhile, have already spent $1.4 million on the stadium vote campaign, including, presumably, for the lawyers who wrote up that contentious ballot language. The stadium opposition has raised all of $3,000, which according to the 100-to-1 rule (stadium referendums generally only pass when proponents have outspent opponents by that margin) indicates that if these spending trends keep up, the Niners have a good chance of winning the vote. Assuming, of course, that there is one.
- Over in San Jose, meanwhile, Earthquakes owner Lew Wolff clarified his plans for where the heck he'll come up with $40 million or so in "sponsorships" to pay for his proposed new stadium: He's going to make some calls. "The process of contacting potential advertisers and sponsors will begin in about a month, maybe sooner," Wolff told MLS Insider, adding, "It has to be privately financed in California, there is no public financing, so we do need certain level of pre-commitment to get the stadium done."
- Finally, MLB commissioner Bud Selig said Sunday that he's still waiting for that three-man commission he appointed last April to finish its report on sites for a potential new Oakland A's ballpark — the most important element of which will be whether San Jose is on the list, and if so whether the commission has decided how much A's owner Wolff would have to pay the San Francisco Giants owners for an official incursion into their MLB-designated territory. "They're getting reasonably close to competing their work, but they have some left," Selig told reporters Sunday. "They're working their way through a lot of things and they've made no recommendations to me." This is taking longer than watching Jack Cust try to score from first.
Not really any new info on the Quakes in that article. We've known for some time Wolff intended to pay for the stadium with sponsorships. The more important and changed info of late is that they're going to start the process absent full funding and continue to acquire it as they go. Which frankly makes sense as many Quakes fans have been saying for a long time. It's easier to sell sponsorships for something that actually exists than a for a drawing.
Are we reading the same article? I see Wolff saying that he's not going to break ground until he has sponsorships in place. He's going to bring "preliminary designs" around in a dog-and-pony show, yes, but renderings are cheap.
A large part of the 49ers campaign dollars is going into paying young campaign workers who don't live here or pay property taxes here to walk door to door in pairs to try to convince people to vote for the stadium. People here who pay property taxes don't take kindly to outsiders trying to tell us how to spend our money. Many of the campaign workers were in preschool the last time we had a slick glossy big money campaign like this - in 1992, when the card club tried to come in (was not successful).
Another large chunk of 49ers money is going into slick, glossy, multi-paged colorful mailers and door to door materials that don't provide any cost information (or are misleading about the cost information). I'm walking door to door for the opposition, and I consistently meet people who are tired of the slick mailers being sent constantly into their homes. People are suspicious of materials that promise the moon but don't say what it costs. People are also wondering what our mayor and 4 city council members are getting out of the stadium deal, when they have their photos, names, and titles printed in 49ers campaign materials over and over.
I have literally been greeted by people who say 'Bless you for coming to tell us what the stadium will really cost', and I've met people who won't open their front door to talk to me until I say that I'm with the group, Santa Clara Plays Fair, that opposes the stadium. People are extremely happy to have correct financial information.
There is a level of disgust with our city council because they have bent over backwards to give the 49ers everything they want, including a ballot question and impartial analysis that do not disclose the costs and are not impartial. And the 49ers campaign is tarnishing the good name of the 49ers football team as well as the NFL with their campaign strategy.
Through time, even though the Term Sheet numbers haven't changed, the 49ers campaign with the help of our mayor and 4 city council members, have systematically been reducing the amount that the stadium will cost us, from the true $444 million from Santa Clara and its agencies, to $114 (lop of the Stadium Authority), to $79 (lop off the hotel tax), to $42 million (lop off the electric utility money and the parking garage), to now, finally, zero dollars (Council member Jaime Matthews, the author of the hijacked ballot question, is quoted in a recent 49ers campaign mailer saying, 'There will be no cost to Santa Clara residents. Period.'.
It turns out that because of freedom of speech, 49ers campaign materials don't have to tell residents the truth about the costs. But voters don't necessarily know this.
And check out the judge's language in the Cal. state proposition 14 court ordered stay-the judge ordered the proposition taken off of the June 2010 ballot because of a lack of financial disclosure in the question and summary, and a lack of impartiality. The judge said that the place for a lack of impartiality is in the pro and con arguments and rebuttals. By state election law, the ballot question and summary (city attorney's impartial analysis) must be impartial.
Neil-if you want scanned copies of the 49ers campaign mailers to see for yourself the games being played with the numbers, let me know.
Neil-please don't assume that Santa Clarans can be bought. The 49ers campaign is spending a great deal of money on spreading misinformation about the stadium costs, with the help of our city council majority and our schools superintendent, who has been holding meetings with parents to express his approval of voting for the stadium. Shame on them. They are acting like they were elected to represent the 49ers instead of us.
The one, the only reason why the 49ers have a ballot initiative in Santa Clara is because they have a city council majority that doesn't care how bad the math on this project is for Santa Clara.
And the reason this has ended up in court is because the city council majority has bent over backwards to try to make this a yes vote, to the point of not following state election law which requires impartiality in ballot questions and summaries. Had Council Member Matthews not hijacked the ballot question (remember, he was on the committee of 3 that wrote the ballot question, but he worked behind the scenes to come up with his own question that satisfied the 49ers astroturf group who appeared in chambers that night with prepared statements thanking him for his new ballot question-how did they know in advance that he was going to have a new question???), and had the city attorney written an impartial analysis that fairly laid out the numbers in the Term Sheet, instead of leaving most of the numbers out of her analysis, there would be no court case.
To other cities-beware dealing with NFL owners, they are not your friends. I wonder if Commissioner Goodell approves of the tactics the Yorks are using to try to hoodwink Santa Clarans into voting yes. If he approves a change in venue to Santa Clara, that will mean that he agrees with all of the underhanded tactics and misleading information used by the 49ers campaign.
The 100-to-1 rule isn't perfect, but it's done pretty well so far. You don't have to buy the electorate if you can buy all the air time. (Cf. the discussion of the Miami Arena campaign in our book - it's in Chapter 6 if you have it.)
It doesn�t seem possible that what is happening in the campaign can really happening in a city that the headquarters several world renowned high tech companies. From this resident�s perspective, it feels like the local government is about what would be expected in some 16th world kleptocratic hellhole.
It�s obvious that the 49ers (and I include council with them) are going to resort to any tactics in order to jam this proposal through. This fight isn�t conducted by Marquis of Queensbury rules; it�s more akin to sand in the opponent�s eyes before a knee in the crotch.
Good sportsmanship has nothing to do with this: if stadium measure J fails, it�s hard to conceive of the continuance of the political careers of several 49ers council flaks. That�s why they�re appearing in the 49er�s glossy mailers inundating our mailboxes with lies, omissions, quarter truths, etc.
It�s like the citizens don�t exist and the council members were installed to represent the 49ers.
Now, we have the school superintendent, Steve Stavis, shilling for the stadium because of the RDA extension pass through that will divert some money to the school district. Stavis is falsely claiming that the pass through money is coming from the stadium when it isn�t: it�s coming from citizen�s property taxes that would otherwise be flowing into the city�s general fund.
In truth, I don�t even know if Stavis is aware of basic details of the stadium plan; the school board, when they endorsed the stadium deal in February, didn�t seem to understand that a stadium authority would be involved or the risks that presents to the city.
Stavis is also clearly a 49ers fan. Visit U-Tube to hear him recite a poem to the glory days of the team. I think he�s clearly excited about pro-football and is in no way demonstrating mature or responsible leadership. In short, I feel he behavior is reprehensible; he either keep his mouth shut or resign his position and work for the 49ers campaign. He shouldn�t be doing this while keeping his position.
One has only to look at the articles on the Santa Clara stadium in the SJ Mercury News to see the biased reporting-they can't be bothered to put in even a 1 paragraph article on the lawsuit filed against Santa Clara because of a lack of disclosure of financial information and a lack of impartiality in the city attorney's summary. But they can be bothered to reproduce a 1 paragraph press release from the 49ers that says tv commercials will be starting soon to advertise the yes on the stadium campaign. They are controlling the flow of information to readers because they stand to financially benefit from having the stadium here. And they endorsed in an editorial the 49ers hijacking of the ballot initiative, and would not print any letters to the editor critical of the hijacking of the ballot question.
Neil-I know you cover this in your book and you've seen it before, but to voters who are aware of what's happening, in the words of one of my neighbors, 'are we still living in America?' applies to how our city council majority, city employees (attorney, clerk), school district board and schools superintendent are working with the 49ers to try to hoodwink us into voting for this stadium, which will bring decades of debt down on our shoulders. And the local media are cheerleaders for the 49ers to bankrupt us.
It's like the city is viewed as virgin plunder by those who will or think they will get something out of the deal.
I just read John Lanchester's "I.O.U. or Why Everyone Owes and No One Can Pay" (The book's cover fittingly has a picture of a Piggy Bank with a lighted stick of dynamite protruding.)
In it, Lanchester details how the dreck of sub-prime trailer park loans to individuals with spotty credit was skillfully woven into supposed gold plated AAA securities by the banks and sold to a gullible public.
I think the process in Santa Clara is similar although less opaque. The important point is that individuals whose primary responsibility is to safeguard the city's financial interest are almost criminally abandoning it in order to advance a personal agenda.
It's astonishing how naked the process has been the past several years.
I think if there's a common thread here, it's that you can make anything sound reasonable with enough rose-colored assumptions. And a clear plastic binder.