Oakland May Rescind Deal With Raiders : Pro football: Mayor Wilson will ask the council tonight to scrap its approval of plans to return the team to the city.
Oakland Mayor Lionel Wilson announced Monday that he will ask the Oakland City Council when it meets tonight to rescind its approval of the current deal to bring the Raiders back to the city.
Although Wilson said he still thinks the team’s return is a good idea and that the council will discuss what new negotiations might be undertaken, he feels that if the return “isn’t dead, it’s dying.”
The mayor said he had informed the Raiders Monday afternoon that he would urge the City Council to accept 33,189 petition signatures filed last week by opponents for a referendum on the Raider deal as valid and put the matter on the ballot.
But, he told a news conference, Raider negotiator Jack Brooks curtly informed him that under no circumstances were the Raiders prepared to see the city’s offer, recently revised downward from about $660 million to $486 million, voted upon by the populace.
Wilson said Brooks had pointed out to him that no agreement had been formally executed, that the Raiders have signed nothing and that, therefore, there really was nothing for voters to vote upon.
The mayor, a longtime promoter of the deal, said he accepted this reasoning and therefore altered his position Monday afternoon, deciding simply to ask the council to rescind the agreement as it now stands.
If negotiations do resume with the Raiders, Wilson said, he feels it should be on a basis of no municipal ticket sale guarantees to the team. In the currently proposed agreement, those guarantees would have amounted to $428 million, and the city and county would have been responsible for selling 36,000 premium seats each year. Had they not sold them, the city would have been liable to pay the Raiders with taxpayer money.
Although the mayor and others talked about the Raider deal dying, there seemed to be considerable confusion in Oakland on Monday.
After Wilson spoke about a council decision tonight, his press secretary, Carol McArthur, said it was unlikely any decision could be made final tonight because the matter had not been put on the agenda early enough.
But, McArthur said, the council can discuss the matter tonight and make its feelings known.
Alameda County Board of Supervisors Chairman Don Perata, who along with the mayor had been a major backer of the Raiders’ return, expressed consternation that Wilson had not informed him in advance of what he was going to announce Monday.
Perata said angrily that as far as he is concerned, the Raider deal is finished because he doesn’t think he can work with Wilson any more.
Wilson is opposed for reelection this year by two potentially powerful candidates, Assemblyman Elihu Harris and City Councilman Wilson Riles Jr., who both oppose the Raider deal. In recent days, Wilson became more and more concerned that turning down the referendum on technicalities, as the city attorney wanted, would have been politically devastating.
On Monday, Wilson said he had concluded that the only fair thing was either to put the matter on the ballot or rescind the deal.
Backers of the proposed referendum were jubilant Monday. “I’m glad the mayor and a majority of the City Council have finally recognized the strong feelings of the voters,” said Frank Russo, an Oakland attorney who led the referendum drive. “They basically negotiated a deal the public could not accept.”
In Los Angeles, meanwhile, Deputy Mayor Mark Fabiani said the latest developments in Oakland “open a tremendous window of opportunity for Los Angeles to retain a professional football team and infuse large amounts of private money to renovate the Coliseum.”
Fabiani said Mayor Tom Bradley may have more to say later in the week about plans to keep the Raiders in the Coliseum, which he said would not be demolished as some have proposed, but would be substantially changed in its seating arrangements. A plan for changes at the Coliseum is being negotiated with the Raiders by the Coliseum’s lead private manager, Spectacor Management Group of Philadelphia.
Los Angeles Coliseum Commissioner Richard Riordan said, “I have felt the last month very strongly that the Raiders will remain in L.A. I now feel the odds in favor of L.A. have gone up dramatically.”
Meanwhile, however, a legislative committee in Sacramento prepared to consider today a bill introduced by state Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles) that would call for a popular referendum in Los Angeles on any deal with the Raiders to demolish or alter the Coliseum in a major way.
Fabiani said he felt nothing would be done to the Coliseum that would require such a referendum, even if the Torres bill was to pass.
Times staff writer Jim Herron Zamora in San Francisco contributed to this story.