OAKLAND CITY Attorney John Russo has attacked the A's for allegedly not making an honest effort to stay in Oakland (My Word, "A's have not made an exhaustive effort to stay in Oakland," April 28). Too bad Russo didn't take the time to get the facts.
Russo attacks A's managing owner Lew Wolff claiming, among other things, collusion to abandon Oakland dating back to 1999, but he fails to mention that the Wolff ownership group did not buy the A's until 2005, there has been no collusion of any sort at any time, but whatever may have happened in 1999 long predated Wolff's ownership.
Russo claims that the A's and Major League Baseball simply "see American cities "... as ATMs that exist to provide them with ever greater amounts of taxpayer dollars," but fails to mention that the A's never have asked for taxpayer dollars.
From Day 1 of the Wolff ownership, the A's made it clear they did not expect any subsidy from the taxpayers of Alameda County or Oakland, and would finance a new stadium with private funds. Big fact to miss, Mr. Russo. In fact, when the A's were considering moving to Fremont, they spent $80 million for a ballpark site without requesting a dime of public money and would have done the same in Oakland if a viable site existed.
Maybe Russo is confusing the A's with the Oakland Raiders and the Golden State Warriors — who have received hundreds of millions of taxpayer subsidies, only to turn around and sue Oakland for even more money.
Russo mentions the study of potential stadium sites by stadium architects HOK, a study that was commissioned long before Wolff owned the team. Contrary to Russo's assertions that the A's failed to pay any attention to this study, the Wolff ownership closely investigated all seven possible sites in the study —- two of which, by the way, are in Fremont. Unfortunately, only one of the potential sites mentioned in the study received high marks — the downtown Oakland site.
But long before Wolff owned the team, the city decided to allow Forest City Developers to develop the downtown site with condos — and even provided Forest City with a $67 million subsidy. So instead of a baseball stadium, retail space and housing — at no taxpayer cost — the city, in a monumental example of bad planning, gave away the site to condos. Where was Russo when this deal went down?
What is most noteworthy about Russo's commentary is what it fails to identify: A single viable stadium site in Oakland. Russo writes a long commentary claiming that "feasible options for a new ballpark" exist, and that it only takes "imagination" to find it, then fails to identify a single feasible option, or indeed, any stadium option.
The time is long past for platitudes and empty rhetoric from grandstanding politicians who aspire to be the next mayor. If you have a secret stadium site and plan that no one else has yet seen, Mr. Russo, let's see it.
Guy T. Saperstein, a member of the Oakland A's ownership group, practiced law in Oakland for 25 years before retiring in 1995.