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Retaining The Oakland A’s Takes Action and Aggression

It doesn’t matter if it’s a retail business or the Oakland A’s, all good economic development efforts start with one thing: action. Well, two things – action and aggression. Over the past six years, the City of Oakland – and I mean everyone, not just the government, has shown little of either. By contrast, Fremont, led by Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, and Fremont’s Mayor Bob Wasserman have been both active and aggressive in attempting to yank the A’s from Oakland.

What can Oakland do? Simple. Fight. Take action and aggressively work to retain the A’s. Oakland should use Jacksonville, Florida as an example. Jacksonville had no business thinking it could host a Super Bowl game, but their shortcomings didn’t stop them from trying. They were rejected by the NFL, but kept coming back until finally in 2000, they landed the right to host the 2005 Super Bowl – the one the Oakland-Alameda County Sports Commission and I worked to bring to Oakland.

We had a better plan, and (read this) more hotels signed under contract than Jacksonville, which lied on its application to host the game. But “J-Ville” claimed to have 17,000 rooms under contract -- where we had 7,200 and a letter of commitment for 15,000 from the San Mateo County Convention and Visitors Bureau -- when in point of fact they had none signed – zero -- and in 2002, almost lost the ’05 game. If Oakland’s economic development system were aggressive, we could have yanked the ’05 Super Bowl away from Jacksonville.

I’m not suggesting Oakland tell lies, but I am showing what lengths cities will go to win economic development wars. Oakland’s in a war right now, but is paralyzed by its shortcomings rather than seeing them as paths to success.

The anatomy of the Oakland response should be directed by the Chamber of Commerce, and for the simple reason that this organization is the only body capable of marshalling the people resources to turn this game into an Oakland win. The Chamber’s habit has been to wait for the Mayor, regardless of the person. That simple pattern yields to non-aggression, which in turn causes inaction. It’s not that I’m saying that Mayor Dellums will not do anything – no – but he wants someone to “have his back.” That’s where the Chamber comes in.

For this, the Chamber should create a special task force specifically around the matter of retaining the A’s, and it should not be formed it in secret. Make it a large group, a public affair, and then go to the Mayor with the idea of making him the Chairperson.

The group’s charge is a simple one:

1) Form a plan
2) Introduce the plan to the A’s
3) Create public support for the plan.

It’s the last part – 3 – where you need people. Not just corporate heads, but young A’s fans who blog. People who can make media noise and distribute two messages: 1) We’ve got a plan, and 2) It’s better than Fremont’s. Period.

With the right (high) amount of action and aggression, the Oakland A’s can remain just that. Don’t place your hopes on toxic problems in Fremont; place your faith in your ability to act to make a difference. Get going!
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