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John Fisher’s Lackeys Eat Shit In Contentious Stadium Financing Hearing, May Win Anyway

Fans hang signs at Oakland Coliseum calling for John Fisher to sell the Athletics.
Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

After declining to take up the matter before the conclusion of normal business earlier this week, the Nevada Assembly met in a special session Wednesday to discuss and debate SB509, a bill that proposes to grant $380 million in public funding to billionaire Athletics owner John Fisher. Fisher, having worn out the thrill of openly antagonizing Oakland baseball fans and taxpayers, is now hoping to relocate his abominable laughingstock of a baseball operation to Las Vegas, where his lackeys insist a publicly funded baseball stadium will meaningfully boost the tourism industry.

The special session appears to be going poorly for the bill's supporters, led by governor Joe Lombardo, whose pronouncement Tuesday brought the session together. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Wednesday that opponents of the bill from "both sides of the aisle" battered Athletics president David Kaval, a deeply ridiculous man named Jeremy Aguero who is Fisher's chief lobbyist, and Nevada Stadium Authority Board Chairman Steve Hill, with questions about the rosy forecasts and suspiciously unformalized promises they've used to sell this massive expenditure of public resources as a solid investment for Nevada taxpayers.

Sen. Edgar Flores brought up how Nevada taxpayers were burned by arrangements in the public financing for the stadium project that brought the Raiders to Las Vegas in 2020. A majority of the whopping $750 million in public funds used in that project were raised when Clark County sold municipal bonds, which under SB509 would be used again to raise funds for the Athletics project. In 2017, looking ahead to those hefty debt obligations, the state passed a special increase in the Transient Lodging Tax in order to secure funding for future payments on the bonds used to raise the cash for stadium construction. Per the Review-Journal, by January 2021 the special tax had already fallen behind budget projections by eight percent, or nearly $14 million. When room tax income lagged far behind forecasts during the pandemic, the county was forced in 2021 to pull almost $20 million from a debt reserve fund in order to make biannual bond payments, which put pressure on future tax income to not only cover future bond payments but to replenish the debt reserve.

Aguero and Hill, two of the men sitting in for the Athletics on Wednesday, know all about this mess with the Raiders. It was Hill who explained the consequences of the room tax shortfall during a Stadium Authority board meeting in December 2020; Aguero, a Las Vegas-based consultant who is now shilling for Fisher, joined the Raiders in 2021 as Chief Operations and Analytics Officer, where he was put in charge of the operations of the team's shiny new publicly funded Las Vegas stadium. Aguero, who evidently feels no shame about inventing eye-popping projections, told the Assembly Wednesday that he still believes a new stadium for the horrendous Athletics and their infamously miserly failson of an owner will be a winner, so long as Las Vegas taxpayers are willing to be bold.

"This project is not without risk. It is not without risk for the A’s. It is not without risk for the state of Nevada," Aguero said, evidently just blubbering frantically. "I do believe the ballpark will be iconic and the ability to draw folks, that will gravitate them." It was Aguero who, earlier in June, insisted to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times that a stadium that currently provides approximately 200 full-time jobs in Oakland will somehow provide 5,400 jobs each year in Las Vegas, so maybe double-check this guy's math.

Opponents of the bill pointed out that the governor has balked at the cost and complexity of other recent, vastly simpler and more immediately important spending proposals. In May, Lombardo vetoed a bill aimed at improving state mental health services for children, despite describing it as "noble," on the grounds that the measure was inadequately resourced. He vetoed another bill, requiring publicly funded projects to pay prevailing wages for skilled and unskilled labor, on the grounds that increased costs would be "absorbed by Nevadan taxpayers." He vetoed another "well-intentioned" bill, aimed at making health insurance more accessible to substitute teachers, in part because it would've created an administrative burden for school districts "in addition to the cost of actually providing this benefit." On June 1, Lombardo vetoed a bill that would've allowed county commissioners to increase the fuel tax in order to fund transportation infrastructure projects, on the grounds that a matter of this level of significance to voters should be subject to a direct ballot initiative. In general this is an executive who does not miss an opportunity to shoot down a spending bill. Unless, of course, that bill shifts money into the pocket of a billionaire looking for a new home.

"I just want to get this correct," Sen. Rochelle Nguyen said at the hearing. "You called us in here for a special session and are asking minimally for the state to give you all $36 million per year for the next five years for a taxpayer funded stadium, at the same time that the governor has vetoed funding for summer school, a bill to support children’s mental health, and a bill requiring paid family leave, all because the governor said we couldn’t afford it?"

The Wednesday session ended without resolution, and it sounds like the bill's supporters are on the ropes. In an unrelated special session on Tuesday the Assembly declined to increase the pay of charter-school teachers; Wednesday an infuriated lawmaker "shifted from a weak NO to a HELL NO," per a handwritten sign posted to his office's outer wall.

When you've got a red-assed Republican from Nevada passionately scolding a billionaire businessperson on behalf of the residents of Oakland, California, buddy, you have got your work cut out for you:

Meanwhile, in Oakland, Representative Barbara Lee sent a letter Wednesday to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, zeroing in on MLB offering to waive the standard relocation fee in order to facilitate the relocation of the Athletics from Oakland to Las Vegas. Importantly, Lee's letter draws a straight line from MLB's conduct to the league's long-controversial antitrust exemption, which if nothing else should get Manfred to sit up in his chair and pay attention:

The Assembly is expected to vote on the stadium proposal Thursday. Public sentiment is against it; economists are against it; previously burned lawmakers are against it; that one bald Republican guy is against it. No one wants it, except for baseball's worst owner, baseball's chickenshit commissioner, several lackeys, and one nincompoop governor. Given how power is sorted in our beshitted world, that might just be enough.

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