Steve Kline—a lawyer, former political consultant and current city activist—recently sent a letter to the San Jose City Council asking for a full hearing on the land option agreement with Lew Wolff that gives the A’s owner a sweet deal for a future ballpark.
It was a shot over the bow, not a lethal attempt to kill the stadium. But the city should be circumspect moving forward to insure transparency and make sure the community benefits from any deal made to bring baseball to San Jose are enumerated up front—beyond the traditional promises of jobs and increased business.
A couple of caveats: first, I am 100 percent behind a baseball stadium in the South Bay; second, Steve Kline is my former business partner.
That said, stadiums provide tangible benefits to communities over the long term. The 49ers recently ran a campaign in Santa Clara to insure their stadium was built and it was a great deal for the city, the schools, businesses and the community, even beyond Santa Clara.
The San Jose stadium deal points should be no less beneficial or transparent. The key to the entire process is to insure the residents of San Jose are getting their fair share of benefits from the new venture. That’s what Kline is asking for up front. He wants to make sure residents benefit from a deal if land is given to Wolff, which is clearly what the option agreement does. Clearly, such a benefits package will be necessary for voter approval.
Wolff and the city should bring Kline and those he represents in early. If the city simply gives away the store with no benefit to the residents, Kline will help kill the project. It is something, from my experience, he knows how to do.
Money can’t always overcome political expertise—just ask Meg Whitman. In a political fight, Kline is a champion. But a contest need not take place. All the city and Wolff have to do is prove to Kline that the residents and neighborhoods will benefit more from this project than it will cost them.
It should be easy, because if that is not the case, the deal should not be made in the first place. It is called a win-win. Both Kline and Wolff understand the concept—and it would be silly to jeopardize this project because of a lack of communication.
Make the deal.