02 March 2006

SB 4 author & AEG quid pro quo?

Remember SB 4, the state bill that would have allowed the state to fund numerous ballparks, arenas, and concert halls? It appears that its author, State Senator Kevin Murray (D-Culver City), is under investigation for receiving $20,000 in December from AEG. Murray and AEG already have close ties going back 20 years, and AEG supported the bill as it went through the legislature. Since the bill didn't pass in its final, weakened form, it's hard to tell if this was just a "thank-you-for-trying" quid pro quo gift or an actual payment for legal services Murray did for AEG. A Chronicle article compares this case with Governor Schwarzenegger's dealings with fitness magazines.

If this was a case of graft, one can only imagine how much bigger a scandal this would be had the bill passed during the regular session. There's still a flicker of hope for it through reintroduction, but the process neutered SB 4 to the point that there's no advantage in using its funding/approval system over more familiar local funding methods.

Uncertainty could push SJ ballot measure back

Residents of the neighborhoods surrounding Diridon South have asked for an extension on the EIR's 45-day public comment period. San Jose's City Council agreed and moved the deadline out to April 20. According to the Merc's Barry Witt:
That two-week delay will mean the study probably won't be brought back to the council for final certification in time for a ballot measure to be written for this year's election, said Joe Horwedel, the planning department's acting director. He said that means giving up on a timeline the city had been pursuing.
The hopes were that everything would be ready for final certification in June, with the ballot measure happening in November. That plan's biggest proponent was lame duck mayor Ron Gonzales, who wanted to submit a proposal based on a successful measure in December. I suppose he wanted it then so that he could say it was approved on his watch as a legacy item.

Plenty of questions were raised about funding the stadium and the fact that the A's haven't focused on San Jose during their search to date. With this uncertainty hanging over the effort, it's likely that the ballpark itself will be a major issue in the upcoming mayoral election. The next mayor will have a say on whether the ballpark effort continues through June 2007, when the next election could be held.

In previous posts I've advocated moving the ballpark ballot measure back to June. Why?
  • The new mayor will be in place, and it will be clear whether the mayor's a supporter or not. If he/she is, the awkward Gonzales situation won't hamper the effort.
  • The East Bay picture should be pretty clear. Any remaining Oakland options will have been explored, as well as Fremont, which wants to fast track the process. If Fremont doesn't pan out, that could leave San Jose as the best site available, with the territorial rights issue remaining to be resolved. Remember that San Jose isn't an option unless all efforts in the East Bay have been exhausted.
  • The ballpark measure wouldn't be competing with the huge infrastructure bond measure slated for November. It'll also be further removed from the 1/2-cent sales tax (the stealth BART measure) that will be on the ballot this June.
  • It should be clear whether funding will be available to bring BART to San Jose via the aforementioned sales tax hike.
  • All site acquisition should be complete and any changes to the plan involving other development such as a soccer stadium could be accommodated with the given extra time.
  • Construction would have to be pushed back slightly, but it could still be done by Opening Day 2010 or worst-case, 2011. The A's have lease options through the 2010 season, which leaves a good deal of wiggle room in a possible construction schedule so there would be no need to rush, as is the case in DC.