The Unanswered Questions about AEG’s NFL Stadium Plan — Will City Hall Ask Them?

By KEVIN JAMES, Candidate for L.A. Mayor in the L.A. Business Journal

In 2010, word leaked out that Anschutz Entertainment
Group and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa were courting the NFL. The league that
dashed in 1995 and remains elusive today was, as Councilwoman Jan Perry put it,
“our own economic stimulus package.”




New stadium designs released earlier this month prove that as we approach 2012
the citizens of Los Angeles still don’t know the details – and apparently
neither do the developers. The new designs prove that AEG’s proposal is still
in flux. But our city government refuses to ask tough questions.


Despite promises by city officials and pageantry by AEG, details of the plan
are scarce. What remains readily available, however, are broken promises and
unanswered questions.


When AEG’s proposal was announced, we were promised that the expanded
convention facility and new stadium would result in more than 30 additional
citywide conventions bringing hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars
to our city. We were showered with guarantees that Los Angeles would go from
15th in the nation to fifth as a convention destination. In the beginning,
outlandish statements projected that our new events center would be 1.4 million
square feet of contiguous space. Most importantly, we were promised more than
30,000 new jobs.


Few, if any, asked whether any of that was possible.


Throughout the vetting process, our city government immediately abandoned its
promise that not a “dime of taxpayer money” would be used for the project. In
exchange for flashy photo ops, city officials guided the project through
approval without any finished details or hard, pressing questions.


Subject of study?


Going back one must wonder what city officials studied in the first place. The
building hadn’t been designed. The Environmental Impact Report hadn’t been
started. The only thing on the books was a mere six-page proposal by the
developer.


How much will Farmers Field really cost? With the propensity for outrageous
cost overruns in Southern California (e.g., the Robert F. Kennedy Community
School at the Ambassador Hotel site, the “subway to the sea,” and the Anaheim
to San Francisco “bullet train”), this is a question that we should be very
concerned about – I’m sure the National Football League is. Will AEG pay for
all cost overruns?


How will Los Angeles compete for conventions without a roof on the stadium?
Will the Convention Center end up bigger than it is today? Or is this really
just for the NFL?


We now know that the promise of jobs was inflated and without a roof on the
stadium, the impact on the Convention Center won’t be as significant as the
City Council stated.


As for those 30 conventions each year or the equivalent of 80 new event days
(FarmersField.com), did anyone ask what convention in the world is going to
come to Los Angeles without a roof on the stadium?


Farmers Field has already begun to damage convention business. The Society of
Critical Care Medicine – a large annual convention – canceled its convention
planned for 2014 because of construction issues. This negatively affected our
local hotels and restaurants, but it didn’t seem to dissuade our City Council.


Since then, our city government has been silent. The agreement with AEG and the
city reportedly states that the developers must pay for the loss of convention
business – but that remains to be seen.


How many other conventions will cancel? After all, construction, noise and
transportation issues won’t make for a memorable trade show.


How many conventions will this plan give us? How much money will local
businesses lose during construction?

Don’t our city officials want these answers? They are unanimously behind AEG’s
proposal.



It appears that under this project, Los Angeles will not get a bigger
Convention Center and will not jump to the top five in convention cities. We
will however get a bigger deficit, something our city cannot afford.

Has anyone looked at the top five convention cities/centers in America? Las
Vegas has 10.5 million square feet of convention space. Chicago’s McCormick
Place has 2.6 million. Orlando has 2.1 million. Washington, D.C., ranks fourth
and Georgia’s World Congress Center ranks fifth. And while Georgia has a
football field, it also has more than 3 million square feet of exhibition
space.

How does this plan make Los Angeles more competitive? Have any conventions
expressed interest in using Farmers Field?

How does the Los Angeles Auto Show take place in November at the peak of
football season? Especially if we have two teams? Will our team(s) have to play
road games throughout the month of November?

A closer look at the project is warranted and will certainly reveal the flaws
in our city government and in the plan’s prospectus.

The biggest question that remains is whether or not our city officials – many
of whom are running for higher office – are willing to ask these tough
questions.

As a citizen of Los Angeles and a candidate for mayor, I recognize that AEG has
had a positive impact on the community and I would like to see the NFL return.
But not until we understand all of the details and not until we have all of the
answers.


Kevin James is an attorney, radio broadcaster, former assistant U.S. attorney
and currently a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles.

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The NFL Calls the Plays for AEG’s Fumbled Downtown Stadium Deal

Of all the strange plot twists, audacious power plays, ever-changing story line, the strangest one of all is to see the National Football League taking charge of deciding the who, what, where and when of bringing pro football back to Southern California.

Here is a business enterprise that has twice robbed other cities to put teams in L.A., approved deals for them to move from the Coliseum to Anaheim and even to Irwindale, and then twice pulled the plug. 
And now Commissioner Roger Goodall and his greedy owners want to decide where a new stadium will be built, what he looks like, whether there’s one team or two, who will own them, how much somebody will have to pay the NFL for the privilege of bringing football back into the second largest market so newly-recruited fans can pay $200 to $300 a ticket to see what they now see for free on their giant flat screen in the comfort of their home.
No other sense can be made of AEG’s sudden abandonment of its roofed stadium/events center — the core idea it sold the city to justify tearing down half the Convention Center and adding to the $45 million in annual interest on its existing debt — except that the NFL made it clear that it would cost twice the $1.1 billion estimated cost.
The latest design — perfectly described by LA Weekly’s Dennis Romero as looking like a Maxi-Pad — isn’t meant to be taken seriously. Its cost would still be prohibitive and it would take a day to put it up and take it down, a problem for the month-long Auto Show that would be facing football games on its busiest day for visitors.
It was slapped together to break the news that the rebuilt Convention Center will actually be smaller than what exists now — unless you count luxury suites as exhibition space.
AEG, for all its willingness to buy city and state officials, is feeling heat right now — and there is almost no chance that a team will be playing at the Coliseum or Rose Bowl next season unless Ed Roski’s Majestic Realty prevails with a shovel-ready stadium in the City of Industry.
That’s the difference at its basic level: Roski can start construction as soon as the NFL gives the green light to one of the teams that have been negotiating with both sides in this game.
AEG in contrast has yet to show design one for the new Convention Center and only has a table napkin drawing of winged insult to the aesthetics of architecture to show for more than a year’s worth of work and millions of dollars in wasted spending. 
We know now that it is going to be impossible for AEG to produce an environmental impact report as promised by January since it would have to actually be the detailed design and show what the impact would be on the city to withstand legal challenge.
AEG showed just how corrupt Sacramento is by getting the legislature and the governor to agree to  undermine the state’s environmental laws but it’s harder but not impossible to give money and free 50-yard line tickets to judges.  
Even if AEG pulls off everything just as planned — something it hasn’t done even once in the last year — it won’t have a team at least until 2013 because the Chargers aren’t saying adios to San Diego, the Jaguars to Jacksonville or the Bills to Buffalo without the assurance of a new and more lucrative home.
Roski can offer that; Tim Leiweke can’t — unless the NFL decides there is more money to feed its greed in downtown.
Greedy bastards like the NFL and its owners are looking at history and they are seeing the Rams and Raiders deciding downtown at the Coliseum wasn’t as good as going to Anaheim and Irwindale and eventually to St. Louis and back to little old Oakland. (The death of Al Davis making the return of the Raiders a near certainty).. 
That might suggest that downtown isn’t the right place to try for a football revival since it failed twice already. 
That’s why AEG came up with its plan for a spectacular domed, now winged stadium — for no purpose other than to create a visual image on a TV screen no matter how pathetic it made our city look.
If L.A. had any self-respect, it would have told the NFL at the outset to show us the money: How much are they going to pay us for the right to call a team the Los Angeles whatevers. Instead what we’ve got is a deal that is whatever the NFL wants it to be and guys like Leiweke and his boss Phil Anschutz who don’t give a damn about anything except adding to their wealth.
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AEG, the Dodgers and the Genius of Janice Hahn

Dear Janice:

Your daddy would be so proud of the stand you took today in introducing legislation in the Congress of the United States of America called the “Give the Fans a Chance Act.”
He never missed a chance to get his name in the newspaper either. Every newsroom in town kne the axiom “Need a quote, call Kenny Hahn…” He was an unbeatable politician and so are you, which just proves the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree — at least half the time.

janice.jpg

What’s so beautiful about you getting your name everywhere associated with the sale of the once beloved Dodgers is that you good and well know your bill doesn’t stand a chance in hell, especially not in the time frame set to consummate the sale of the team at auction by the bankrupt Frank McCourt.
As you acknowledged to reporters, the bill faces “an uphill battle — two previous attempts to pass similar bills have failed — and would unlikely be approved in time to apply to the Dodgers.” 
 
“Fans across this country have really been upset with many of the owners who really are all about corporate greed and profits and not so much about the team or the fans,” you told them.

I have to admire the astonishing chutzpah you showed in calling this the Occupy Major League Baseball.Act, shamelessly associating the outrageous self-indulgences of the McCourts with the greed of Wall Street and the bankers that has awakened millions of young people in America from their decades-long stupor. 

Pure genius, Janice. 

And drawing the distinction between Major League Baseball’s banning a majority of a team from being publicly owned while the National Football League grandfathered in the community ownership of the Green Bay Packers was stunning.

After all, weren’t you among the first to jump aboard the plan to build an NFL stadium in downtown L.A.? You remember the proposal by AEG owned by Phil Anschutz, one of the greediest and most right-wing billionaires in America, and you told his front man TIm Leiweke back in January what a splendid deal he was offering: “We believe you, Tim. But we have to convince the public.”

It’s hard to believe it was half a century ago that your dad brokered the deal that stole the Dodgers from Brooklyn and brought professional baseball to the L.A. And now here you are doing the same thing to some poor town out there in trying to bring professional football to back to L.A. for a third try.

I got to hand it to you, coming up with this scheme to get ordinary folks to each put up $10,000 to become partners in owning the Dodgers. You know how to convince the public of almost anything but finding 100,000 of them with that kind of money to spare to meet the $1 billion asking price is asking a lot in a town with one of the nation’s highest poverty and unemployment rates.

As you well know, the bill you introduced was just good old-fashioned political grandstanding and isn’t going anywhere. The new owners of the Dodgers will be just like the people you talked about today — “owners who really are all about corporate greed and profits and not so much about the team or the fans.”

You know the type, a lot of them are your friends and contributors.

Anyway Janice, keep up the great work and know we love you.

Congratulations!
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Field of Schemes: Crony Capitalism Is Alive and Well in L.A.’s Pursuit of Pro Football.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Troy Senik,a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom and a contributor at Ricochet.com, wrote this article for City Journal. 

By Troy Senik, City Journal

California, a state whose greatest innovation in recent years has been finding creative ways to inhibit economic growth,
stepped out of character in late September: it went easy on a
developer. Seated at a table outside the Los Angeles Convention Center,
Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill expediting the resolution of legal
challenges to–and thus speeding the construction of–Farmers Field, the
stadium that, its backers hope, will usher in the National Football
League’s return to the City of Angels.

Thumbnail image for nfl stadium.jpg

This is the latest step in L.A.’s nearly two-decade-long effort to
exorcise the Ghost of Christmas Past. The yuletide in question was in
1994, when both of the region’s professional football teams–the Los
Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Raiders–played their final games in the
Southland on Christmas Eve. By the time the next season rolled around,
the Rams had decamped to their new home in St. Louis, and the Raiders
had retraced their steps northward, departing downtown L.A. for Oakland,
the city that they left in 1982.

___________________________________________

The plan even manages to debit taxpayers in other states. Los Angeles officials in February used
$1 million in federal community-development grant money–earmarked for
“the most vulnerable in our communities”–to move the architecture firm
working on Farmers Field from Santa Monica to a location near the site
of the future stadium. The highly questionable idea was that a new
stadium would produce enough economic benefits to qualify as a public
good, though the experiences of similarly situated cities in the past
have almost universally disproved that supposition.

When Governor Brown signed the bill speeding up the AEG project, he
said, “There are too many damn regulations, let’s be clear about that.”
He was certainly correct about the excesses of California’s regulatory
regime. But he ignored the fact that the same bureaucracy that impedes
stadium projects with stratospheric price tags also chokes off prospects
for much smaller businesses throughout the state. While enormous
corporations like AEG and Roski’s Majestic Realty can grease the
legislative skids to make their development projects viable, small and
midsize entrepreneurs enjoy no similar source of relief. Removing those
burdens for all Californians, at a time when the state’s
unemployment rate is stuck above 12 percent, would demonstrate a serious
commitment to jump-starting economic growth. Removing them for just a
privileged few is nothing more than crony capitalism.

(READ FULL STORY)

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NFL to AEG, LA: Sweeten the Pot or No Deal

I hate to tell you I told you so but I did over and over: The deal to enrich right-wing extremist billionaire Phil Anschutz and his minions like Tim Leiweke stinks as far as the NFL and its greedy owners are concerned. 

Even as city and state officials including Gov. Jerry Brown have green-lighted the deal with no questions answered and short-circuited environmental laws, the NFL has concluded the financial numbers don’t add up to a profit for anyone except AEG.
“During a Sept. 6 meeting at the NFL offices in New York, commissioner
Roger Goodell told Los Angeles Councilwoman Jan Perry and political aide
Bernard Parks, Jr. that neither the league nor any team interested in
moving there would agree to the business proposal set forth by Anschutz
Entertainment Group, according to three sources with knowledge of the
conversation,” Jason Cole at Yahoo Sports reported today in the latest in his series of excellent articles. .

Thumbnail image for nfl stadium.jpg

One source said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear that significant changes must occur before the league would be interested. Another said: “He was very complimentary of a lot
of the project, so it wasn’t all negative. But he laid out the problems the league sees.”

What it boils down to is money. 

With the costs of domed stadium so high — far higher than AEG has publicly said in estimating it at $1.2 billion — the average ticket price is expected to run between $250 and $300, pricing football out of the reach of a region with one of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the nation.

By the time AEG takes its cut — far more than the less than 6 percent profit margin they claim in city documents — even teams in small markets like the Buffalo Bills or Jacksonville Jaguars are better off staying where they are.

With dramatically lower costs of construction and operation and 40 times as much space for a stadium in the City of Industry, Ed Roski’s “Grand Crossing” stadium is far more attractive to the NFL and teams than Farmers Field downtown.

“What’s interesting about that site
is that it’s a 600-acre site which would be totally devoted to
football,” NFL insider Charley Casserly said on CBS last Sunday. “In other words, you’ll have plenty of room
for the stadium, parking, entertainment, the ‘NFL experience.’ Sounds
like a Super Bowl site to me.”

Another problem for AEG is that it wants a landlord-tenant relationship with the two teams that are expected to come to LA or Industry to make the deal work, which would mean Anschutz “sells the tickets, advertising and sponsorship deals for those teams,
takes a cut and then pays the teams.”

“You’re talking about a team being disconnected from season
ticketholders and rights holders,” said a team executive, reflecting what five other executives have told Cole recently. “There’s no team that will do that and I don’t think you can get
approval from the rest of the owners for an arrangement like that.”

“The NFL is in a position to demand what it wants, not take what it
gets,” another team executive said. “When you look at the analysis of the
revenue that could be made, it looks great. You’re talking about some
of the highest revenues in the league. The problem is that when you
start to look at the expenses and how much has to be divided among all
the competing interests, you have to wonder how much is going to be
there for a team.”

You can be sure that the ultimate target of the NFL isn’t the billions in direct and indirect profits Anschutz is going to take out of LA to support his assault on immigrants and gays back in Colorado. It’s the fact that AEG is putting up money to rebuild the eternally losing LA Convention Center and sharing a trickle of its profits with the city, perhaps enough to cover $7 million of the $45 million a year the city pays in debt service already on the Convention Center.

What the NFL wants is the public’s money. The deal AEG and the city, inadequate as it is from the taxpayer’s standpoint, will be rewritten to provide greater costs to taxpayers and greater benefits to the league, the teams and, of course, Anschutz.

Do you think the mayor and the Council will protect you and your interests?

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Big city, small city — L.A. vs. Pasadena, Burbank, Glendale, Lakewood, Compton, Monterey Park …

This tale of two treasures of
the greater Los Angeles area — two National Historic Landmarks, two
venerable stadiums built at the same time 90 years ago — says a lot
about the role of politics and leadership in determining the fate of our
communities and institutions.

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Both the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and
the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum are aging structures, relics of a
bygone era in many ways, facing unprecedented new challenges.
                                                                                                                                             
Competition is coming with
construction of a brand new state-of-the-art stadium to house two
National Football League teams either in the city of Industry or, more
likely, in downtown L.A. a short distance from the Coliseum.

No
more Super Bowls, no more World Cups, fewer if any big concerts and
other major special events that help pay the bills for any facility that
is costly to operate.

For the Coliseum, everything is not coming up roses these days.

It
reeks of scandal, with its top executives caught with their hands in
the till, contracting with businesses they held a stake in, charging all
kinds of questionable expenses to the Coliseum and, worst of all,
running the stadium into the ground with deficits and no business plan.

The
Coliseum — home to the Olympic Games in 1932 and 1984, a World Series
and Super Bowls — faces an uncertain future, with USC pressing to take
control away from the city-county-state commission that runs it — a
conflict-prone joint ownership that has a lot to do with why the
Coliseum lost two National Football League teams and has so many
problems.rosebowlgate.jpg
Then, there’s the Rose Bowl, the pride of Pasadena.

It
was formally dedicated on Jan. 1, 1923 — five months before the
Coliseum was opened — with the first Rose Bowl game, which USC won 14-3
over Penn State.

Like the Coliseum, it has been the site of many
great events, including the Super Bowl, FIFA World Cups and national
college football championship games, as well as the annual New Year’s
Day game.

But rather than sitting content with past glory,
officials began planning for the future three years ago when momentum
first began to build for a new NFL stadium in the region.

They
issued $152 million in bonds to provide for badly needed renovations,
including wider tunnels, safety improvements, modernized bathrooms and
concession stands, a rebuilt press box, a new scoreboard, a
state-of-the-art video board, and thousands of premium seats that will
sell for high prices to help pay for the renovations.

With the
plan in place, 30-year leases were signed with the Tournament of Roses
for the Rose Bowl game, and with UCLA to continue playing its home
football games at the stadium.

“We anticipated the NFL coming
back to Los Angeles and that there would be a great new venue with all
the bells and whistles of a modern stadium,” said Darryl Dunn, general
manager of the Rose Bowl.

“Our thought process was there was a
significant chance we would lose some of the special events we had been
getting, so we would have to do something. We knew we had a great
college football venue and built our economic model based on that,
knowing that we had an old stadium with a lot of infrastructure needs.”

Now, the Rose Bowl’s future seems as secure as the Coliseum’s is not.

It
isn’t just the difference in how publicly owned stadiums are run, and
it isn’t just the difference between how Pasadena and Los Angeles are
run.

(CLICK HERETO READ THE END OF MY SUNDAY COLUMN FOR THE LA TIMES COMMUNITY NEWSPAPERS IN PASADENA, BURBANK AND GLENDALE)

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CBS2 Accuses City Hall of Funneling $1 Million Grant for the Poor to Farmers Field Architect

Like taxpayer money that goes to the Community Redevelopment Agency and winds up in the hands of wealthy developers, federal community development block grants (CDBG) given to the city often are funneled away from programs to help the poor as they are intended.

CBS2 investigative reporter David Goldstein dug up a story broadcast last night about how a $1 million CDBG block grant went to Gensler, the architectural firm that is designing AEG’s Farmers FIeld, to help pay for remodeling its corporate offices for its move from Santa Monica to downtown LA.

Goldstein confronted Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa about the appropriateness of taking money away from the poorest people in the city and breaking his promise that no public money would go towards the stadium project.

“Actually, it’s not. It’s public money going to job creation going to provide more revenues,” Villaraigosa said. “It’s part of an effort to revitalize the city and it’s an effort that I stand by.”

Of course, it’s all about creating jobs — the current excuse used by the job-killing mayor and City Council to continue their policy or redistributing the wealth from the poor to the rich.

Gov. Jerry Brown is going along with the farce and is set to sign SB 292 freeing AEG from key elements of state environmental laws at an invitation-only event this morning at the LA Convention Center.

Here’s the CBS report:


LOS
ANGELES (CBS) —
 Jeff Dietrich serves a thousand meals a day at his soup
kitchen on skid row. He sees the poor and needy firsthand.

But
he does not see why a $1 million of taxpayer money, that could go to help the
people on skid row, is ending up in the hands of one of the world’s largest
architectural firms. The money is slated to go to the firm that designed
Farmers Field, the new, privately-financed football stadium.

“When
you drive around here and see all the people on the streets pushing shopping
carts, when you see them lying on the streets, when you see them homeless, you
have to ask yourself how can you use money for that type of activity,” Dietrich
said.

But
we found that is just what the mayor is proposing.

After
promises of no public money going to the stadium project, he has OK’d $1
million of federal community development block grant money, earmarked to help
the poor and needy, to go to the Gensler Architectural Firm.

They
are moving from Santa Monica to a building dubbed the “jewel box” in Downtown
L.A. The money is for rehabbing the building to turn it into a trendy office
complex for 250 employees.

“People
are really mad,” said Becky Dennison of the L.A. Community Action Network — a group devoted to protecting the rights
of the homeless.

“I
think it’s pure politics and driven by the stadium project,” she said.

Through
the Legal Aid Foundation, they filed a complaint with HUD, which administers
the money, alleging mismanagement of the community block grant funds.

“I
think we’ve said from the beginning we didn’t oppose the stadium project, but
we didn’t want public money and we didn’t want backroom deals. And that’s what
we see.”

HUD
responded saying Gensler is eligible for the money, as long as they create just
29 new jobs. At least 51 percent have to be held by low or moderate income
workers, who have no more than a high school education.

It
sounds easy enough, but even people within the city questioned it. In e-mails
obtained by Legal Aid, one person involved 
with
granting the money said, “This project could meet a national objective, public
benefit, etc. But I imagine this will not.”

Mark
Lewis and his wife, Beth Mueller, tried to get some of the same public funds
that went to Gensler. Through the Central City Community Outreach, a church on
skid row, they proposed more than two-dozen programs to help the needy. All
were turned down.

“There
are better ways to spend a million dollars and provide a lot more jobs,” Lewis
said.

Despite
some of the questions and despite the fact that Gensler still has not said what
jobs would be created and how, the City Council approved the mayor’s proposal.
The company and the city are still working on the final agreement before the
money changes hands.

(READ FULL STORY)

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Billionaires’ Bragging Rights, Boosters’ Benefits and the Brutal Battle for Big-time Football

While AEG was busy gutting the heart of California’s environmental protection law with the help of business, labor and environmentalists, competitor Ed Roski’s NFL football team was rounding up support from the Boards of Supervisors of.neighboring Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties as well as officials of many cities east and south of downtown LA.

They made their point at a press conference Wednesday at Diamond Bar City Hall with windows looking out on the graded and shovel-ready 600-acre site for stadium Roski’s Majestic Realty wants to build in the City of Industry. Their effort got quick backing from the San Bernardino Sun.

The officials, and former NFL players at the event, sound a lot like promoters and backers of AEG’s plans\ — 20,000 jobs, more tourism to boost the economy, the joy of football — with some differences, namely that millions more people will be able to reach the stadium in a real amount of time, seats will be cheaper and they will be able to tailgate all day long.

“Los
Angeles County and all our residents will benefit tremendously from
Majestic Realty’s proposal because it is the only plan on the table that
presents zero risk to taxpayers or the general fund,” said Los Angeles
County Supervisor Don Knabe. “This plan will create nearly 19,000
desperately needed jobs and serve as a direct revenue stream for Los
Angeles. When the Super Bowl and other events take place it will be our
hotels, our restaurants and our stores that will be full of tourists.”

 

“The
National Football League is too big and its return is too important to
limit the benefits to only 14 acres,” added Chairman of the Riverside
County Board of Supervisors Bob Buster. “Majestic has a plan on the
table that will create jobs and generate growth in a way that spreads
benefits to the millions of people who live in the four corner region.
Since the NFL departed the population has shifted east. We are one of
the fastest growing regions, and we should be the next home of the NFL.”

 

“This
proposal which includes a new state-of-the-art stadium and a retail
campus will make a tremendous impact on our regional economy,” said San
Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt.

The stakes are high in terms of who gets the jobs, which communities get most of the economic benefits and which billionaire gets the bragging rights.

AEG’s lobbyist team of Armbruster, Goldsmith & Delvac — recipients of nearly all of the $1 million AEG has spent in the last year to influence City Hall in LA — have been doing a lot of bragging in their own right after spending a month in Sacramento drafting and selling the legislation fast-tracking AEG’s stadium through the environmental review process and opening the door to other massive projects to minimize the amount of review they face from the public and the courts.

An email blast from the firm boasts that they drafted the legislation, brought together legislators of both parties and key environmental groups “for the first time in decades” to initiate “major California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) reform aimed at
avoiding unnecessary delay while keeping legitimate CEQA review intact.”


The bills — AB 292 solely for AEG and AB 900 expanding the weakening of CEQA to other major projects — are awaiting the governor’s signature of veto. They bypass the Superior Court if EIR approvals are challenged and give the Court of Appeal. just six months to revolve what are inherently complicated cases based on thousands of pages of detailed documents.


“We prepared the draft legislation at each step, and worked for months
with leading environmental groups, legislators, unions and the business
community to craft legislation that would meet each group’s requirements,” the lobbyists said in their email. 


“To
help make this bill a reality, one of our partners spent the last solid month
in Sacramento on the drafting and advocacy, while other partners provided
detailed support on important legal and technical issues from Los Angeles. All
of this hard work paid off ..”


They humbly credit these legislators for their fine cooperation: Speaker John Perez, Sen. Alex Padilla, Assemblymen Michael Feuer, Bob Blumenfield and Wesley Chesbro and Sens. Alex Padilla, Fran
Pavley, Joe Simitian and Senate President Pro Tem Darryl Steinberg. 


You might remember their names come election season, particularly City Attorney wannabe Feuer and West Valley Councilman wannabe Blumenfield.


What’s iinteresting is it appears that Armbruster, Goldsmith & Delvac were acting in Sacramento as lawyers since there appears to be no reports to this point of AEG hiring them as legislative lobbyists or the firm reporting it was paid for lobbying.

The firm does confirm what Feuer and others have been whispering — the legislators intend to further “reform” CEQA to speed developments in the name of creating jobs as long as there is any kind of fictional narrative about how “green” the project is. Since the heroes they lobbyists credit for undermining CEQA — something long-sought by business — are all Democrats, you can see how hard it is to tell the difference between them and Republicans.

“The work-and opportunities for greater reform with AB 900-will continue
into the next year’s legislative session with a follow up bill,” the email blast said.


In other words, just say “green” and there will be a green light. 

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Lies, Deceptions, Bungling Incompetence and the Absurdity of Politics from LA to Sacramento

It’s hard to know which is worse: The lies and deceptions of our corrupt politicians or the bungling incompetence of the bureaucrats who carry out their policies.

Look at the nonsense in Sacramento in the last days of another disastrous legislative session where nothing was achieved of any significance for the 35 million people of the once proud Golden State who are enduring some of the nation’s worst unemployment in no small part because of suicidal policies that drove away the businesses that create the jobs and squandered the public wealth while letting the infrastructure age and deteriorate.

Despite the ideological differences between the know-nothings and the know-it-alls, the Legislature did muster the votes to bar local communities from banning circumcision while criminalizing the sale or possession of shark fins.

Now it’s on to the really important matter of eliminating the state’s complex environmental protections — the CEQA blamed for so long for creating an unhealthy business climate — solely so that Anschutz Entertainment Group can build a football stadium in downtown LA and sports venues in Sacramento and Santa Clara can move forward in creating lowly-paid part-time service jobs without the annoyance complying with the same laws everybody has to.

Always willing to say or do anything in order to get its way — including spending a million bucks on lobbying and millions more buying friends and fabricating stories for public consumption that have nothing to do with private reality — AEG’s latest creation to skirt environmental law protections is that a domed
74,000 seat air-conditioned stadium lined inside and out with digital
signage and brilliant lighting will be “carbon neutral.”

Dakota Smith in the Daily News puts the lie to AEG’s specious argument by delving into what “carbon neutrality” means, which is next to nothing for LA’s dirty air, and what AEG means by it, which is mainly based on the claim that Farmers Field will bring more of its fans to the game than any other stadium in America. Apparently, AEG’s Tim Leiweke never noticed nearly everyone, even the rich, take the subway to Yankee Stadium and the El to Wrigley Field.

“Carbon
neutrality, in general, is an elusive goal,” said Ted Bardacke, senior
associate at Global Green USA, a Santa Monica-based nonprofit that
advises on green building and greenhouse emissions. “It can mean many
things to many folks.
To call it (Farmers Field) carbon neutral is a parsing of the term that I don’t think is appropriate, Call it trip neutral, call it offsetting of trip emissions.”

Similarly, David Carter, a sports business professor at the University of Southern California, believes the promise of carbon neutrality based on use of public transit is a “marketing pitch, business development, public relations document, and a legal document” all rolled into one …

“They will offer some balance of public transportation. Not because the fans are always going to take it, but because these team owners want to work with their respective city, so to as appear as though they are continuing to help the problem.”Legislative leaders John Perez and Darrell Steinberg appear to be so pleased with AEG’s lie they are ready to push through the exemption for Northern California as well to get the votes they need.

LA County Supervisors have their own deceitful game going with regards to drawing up new districts.

The plan put forward by thei 10-member was unacceptable to the board so they are fighting over three different plans:  Knabe’s that preserves the current boundaries, gerrymandered as they are for the benefit of the incumbents, and two by Molina and Ridley-Thomas that create a new Latino district by connect Pacoima to Downey in one district for Latinos and Agoura Hills and Long Beach for a white district.

Nothing like racial gerrymandering to engender hope that the next generation of supervisors will be devoted to public service and not self-service like the current one.

Since none of these three plans is likely to get the four votes needed for adoption, the question of drawing up new districts will go to the other three county election officials — District Attorney Steve Cooley, Sheriff Lee Baca and Assessor John Noguez.

Ironically, Baca is a Latino elected by voters who showed race isn’t what counts and Noguez is Latino and gay, which shows race and sexual orientation aren’t what the majority of voters are considering and suggests the preoccupations with divisive issues of so many people in high office are out of step with the tolerant values of the electorate.

If your own sensibility can handle further irony, there is the bungling incompetence of Noguez’s office and the State Board of Equalization which have allowed the world’s largest beermaker, Belgium’s InBev, to pay a lousy $18,000 a year since it bought Anheuser-Busch in 2008 for $52 billion on three million square feet of land and the Budweiser brewery in Van Nuys.

That works out to a penny a square foot instead of a minimum of 44 cents a square foot or $1.3 million the company should be paying to the county since the property should have been reassessed at the time of the sale, Alana Samuels reports in the LA Times..

Noguez, who actually claims he has a staff member checking newspapers for property sales, blamed the company for not notifying his office of the highly publicized change of ownership.  “We might need someone monitoring the TV news as well as the Internet,” he offered feebly.

Then, he back-tracked from that silly explanation to blaming the Board of Equalization and the complexity of the laws and regulations he was elected to enforce — an argument that appears to have some validity because of numerous loopholes in the law and the failure of government officials to do their jobs.

“Counties are losing millions of dollars on these loopholes, there’s no
question,” San Francisco County Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting said.

Lenny Goldberg, executive director of the California Tax Reform Assn., estimated the state could raise $2 billion if officials did their jobs properly and closed the loopholes.

“The whole system makes so little sense, but if you’re going to actually
have the system right, you have to have extensive paperwork and
reporting requirements,” he said. “It’s an absurd way to run a tax
system.”

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One More Lie from AEG, One Less LA Convention

AEG’s TIm Leiweke has good reason for pulling out all stops to block anyone from suing over his NFL stadium plan in downtown LA — lies aren’t perjury if you didn’t swear on a stack of Bibles in court to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

No sooner did Leiweke bamboozle the City Attorney’s office and the City Council into signing off on a Memorandum of Understanding that gives away the farm to AEG for next to nothing, then we learn a key element wasn’t the way AEG said it was.

aegnfl.jpg

It took the Society of Critical Care Medicine to figure out that the framework stadium plan just approved is not what it was supposed o be with regards to the promise that the new wing of the LA Convention Center — a $2 billion white elephant heading towards its fourth disastrous incarnation — will be completed and operational before the old wing is demolished.

The medical association on Thursday canceled plans to hold a gathering of 5,000 members at the Convention Center in February 2014 after the group’s CEO David Martin was “told by officials with the Los Angeles’ convention and visitors bureau, known as LA Inc., that part of the new building would overlap with the existing one, so the latter would have to be removed before the former is built,” according to Associated Press reporter Jacob Adelman..

“We really can’t risk our largest event of the year on construction,” said Martin, who added that the group had not changed an existing plan to hold its 2021 convention at the Los Angeles venue. 

LA Inc. spokeswoman Carol Martinez could not immediately account for the discrepancy between the construction schedule related to Martin and the plan that was approved by city officials, AP reported. She said she regretted the medical group’s cancellation, but saw it as an acceptable loss in light of what would be an improved convention center campus that can attract bigger events once work is complete.

“In the long run, this will be extremely beneficial,” she said.  

Don’t expect anyone involved in this sham to lose much sleep over the exposure of this deceit, certainly not ambitious state Sen. Kevin DeLeon who is holding a dog-and-pony show Friday for Leiweke’s stadium plan to drum up support for the legislation needed to exempt the deal from legal challenge under the state’s tough environmental laws.

The event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ronald Reagan State Building’s auditorium (AEG-DeLeon.docx) is headlined “Community Impacts of Proposed Stadium Weighed by State Senate Select Committee on Sports and Entertainment.


Since the departure of the Raiders
for Oakland in 1995, Los Angeles has not had an National Football League team.
Friday’s hearing will examine the latest plan to bring football back to Los
Angeles,” the press release says. “This proposal must be fully scrutinized to expose any financial risk
to taxpayers and to reveal potential environmental impacts. This project
will be thoroughly vetted to ensure that any action improves the local
residents’ quality of life.”

To fulfill his commitment for scrutiny and vetting, DeLeon who surely must be headed to the City Council has set up six “panels” starting with NFL defensive great Michael Strahan as a solo act on Panel 1 called “The Need for Football Downtown” and Leiweke as a solo on Panel 3.called “Minimizing Taxpayer Risk, Stadium Financing and the Return of Football.”

In between them, CLA Gerry Miller and his assistant Mark Whitaker who negotiated the MOU with AEG will defend what they have wrought. Panel No.4 features four union leaders answering the topic question “Will Farmers Field Create Jobs?” in the affirmative based on Leiweke’s claims.

There might be some concerns expressed in the last two panels but I doubt if they will be very loud. They bring together experts for “Examining Land Use and Environmental Concerns” and community people for “Balancing the Event Center and Community Needs.”

It’s probably worth noting that immediately after shilling for Leiweke, DeLeon is rushing to Vernon where the Chamber of Commerce of the notoriously corrupt town is staging a rally in support of his plan for “reform” instead of Assembly Speaker John Perez’s nuclear option of dissolving Vernon and making it an unincorporated part of the LA County governed by the Board of Supervisors.