OAKLAND (BCN) — Oakland City Councilwoman Libby Schaaf today announced a proposal that calls for more accountability and transparency in important negotiations such as the extension of the A’s baseball team’s lease at the O.co Coliseum.
Speaking at a news conference on the steps of City Hall, Schaaf, who is running for mayor in the November election, said she believes the city’s process in handling major negotiations needs to be changed because its handling of the A’s lease talks has been “embarrassing.”
Schaaf said the talks to extend the A’s lease for 10 years have been going on for 14 months but the City Council only learned about the details of the proposed agreement on June 17, less than a month ago, and is being pressured to vote on it as soon as possible.
The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority, which oversees the Coliseum site, voted 6-2 on July 3 to approve the lease but it must also be approved by the City Council and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.
The City Council is scheduled to vote on the lease at a special meeting on Wednesday night and the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on it on July 29.
Schaaf said, “We need to get the right professionals involved from the start, require ongoing transparency and demand fiscal accountability across the board. It’s high time we establish a process so that the people of Oakland get the most competent representation in negotiations that are critical to our city’s future economic health.”
Schaaf’s proposal is called, “The Accountability and Transparency in High-Stakes Negotiations Act” and will be presented to the City Council’s Rules and Legislation Committee on Thursday.
If the committee approves the proposal, it will be considered by the full City Council in late September, after its summer recess. If the council approves it, the measure would go into effect immediately.
“We need to learn lessons from the current round of negotiations and do better next time,” Schaaf said.
She said she thinks the reason why the current round of talks with the A’s didn’t work well was “there was no ongoing transparency” between the City Council and its negotiating team.
Schaaf said, “We must fix this by requiring upfront and real time transparency during the negotiations, not when negotiations are so far down the line that it’s too late to matter.”
She said the city should also require the city administrator and city attorney to bring in “the right professionals” who are experts in high-stakes deals to join the city at the negotiating table and give the council advice from the beginning of talks, not just at the end of the process.
In addition, Schaaf said the city must require strict fiscal impact reports during negotiations so the public knows the costs of such deals before they are signed.
Schaaf declined to say if she will vote in favor of the A’s lease extension as it is currently drafted, saying only that, “I am confident we’ll reach a conclusion” that city leaders can live with.
Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff has said he won’t discuss any changes to the lease agreement but Mayor Jean Quan has said she has instructed City Administrator Henry Gardner to make “clarifications” in the deal before it is finalized.
Oakland’s negotiating team is briefing the City Council in a closed meeting today on the latest details in the lease agreement talks.
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