Even before the NFL and its players agreed on a new labor deal today the mayor of Los Angeles called a press conference to reveal a proposed pact between City Hall and the billionaire-controlled company that wants to build an NFL stadium on land owned by you, the taxpayer.
We have no problem with this, in theory: If it weren't for billionaires we might not have any new sports venues in America. And the old Convention Center West Hall, where Anschutz Entertainment Group of Staples Center fame wants to build, is somewhat of a tear-down.
But what amazes us about this dance ...
... is how coordinated city leaders are with a private entity that wants your help and land for this thing.
The stadium deal couldn't really launch without an end to the NFL lockout.
So even though this is supposed to be a deliberate, transparent process, what the people of L.A. have ended up with is an ad-hoc committee not, apparently, subject to open-meeting laws, moving in lockstep with the developer's time line (and, perhaps, its wishes).
Surprise, surprise: Even as there was a hint that the NFL and players would come to an understanding, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilwoman Jan Perry, an ardent AEG supporter, were at the ready for an afternoon announcement trumpeting a proposed "memorandum of understanding" with AEG.
Green light, almost.
We're not anti-Farmers Field, per se. We're questioning the process.
Perry's office told us there are public meetings Wednesday and Thursday (where you can say stuff that clearly won't matter). Then the council will take a vote.
In a statement today AEG CEO Tim Leiweke says ...
... Farmers Field will be entirely privately funded and the construction of a new state-of-the-industry convention hall, slated to replace the existing West Hall, will be accomplished without cost to the taxpayers. However, thanks to the commendable efforts of the City's negotiating team, we have fashioned an understanding that reflects a number of key changes that serve to further ensure that the interests of the citizens of Los Angeles are well protected and well served. Among other things, not only do the proposed terms contained within the MOU provide for full repayment of the City bonds by new revenue sources, they expressly contemplate that the majority of new tax revenues generated by Farmers Field will accrue to the general fund, providing a much needed source of new revenue for our City in the coming years.
A competing stadium proposal in the San Gabriel Valley, from a company that helped build Staples Center, Majestic Realty, seems poised to fight for an NFL team anyway.
Majestic veep John Semcken:
With the NFL season primed and ready to go, we are excited to re-engage with the NFL on how and when to move a team back to our region. Majestic's stadium proposal is shovel ready and we are experiencing a great deal of support from owners and team representatives around the league and leaders in our area who believe our deal is best suited for long term success.
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As far as building a stadium downtown, that's a done deal, if you ask us. Where a team goes? That's up to the NFL.
[Added]: Maria Elena Durazo, head of the politically powerful and City Hall-connected Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, was pleased with proposed downtown stadium deal. This afternoon she stated:
Today the City of has made a significant step towards making Farmer's Field a reality. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and it's hundreds of thousands of members enthusiastically support this deal.
In our current economy and with the unemployment levels we are experiencing, we need more good jobs. Farmers Field will create more than 30,000 good jobs in construction, tourism and entertainment.
We are committed to making this project a reality and are excited about the prospect of putting Angelenos back to work.