Monday, June 27, 2011

49ers' Stadium Subsidy Ticker: Over Four Years of Secrecy - And For What?

Santa Clarans,

Imagine that your city had loads of empty hundred-acre parcels.  Imagine that it's thinking about locating an arena somewhere within its city limits.  Imagine that the actual location is not yet determined.

Our elected leaders would seek to reduce to a minimum the public costs of the land, but the only way they can do that is to shield the ground lease negotiations from the rampant speculation which would drive up the costs to us taxpayers.

The Ralph M. Brown Act rightly allows an elected body to take negotiations over real estate - and personnel matters and bargaining-unit negotiations - into closed session in order to get the best deal for taxpayers.  No one claiming to advocate "taxpayer value" could sensibly argue otherwise.

But now I'm going to pop that balloon. 

If you look at our own City Council Agenda of May 1, 2007, you will see virtually the same wording as you'd see if you looked at the Agenda of two weeks ago. **   For over four years now, we have known exactly who the participants are.

But far more important:  We've always known exactly which five land parcels are involved and where they're located.

The ultimate costs of the 49ers' stadium subsidies to Santa Clara residents, then, are far more dependent upon the giveaways awarded by our City Council's "stadium boosters" than they ever will be on the base costs of the land.  Our "partners" aren't even a public corporation, in fact, but are the super-secretive San Francisco 49ers. 

Now, consider:  At the Council meeting of June 7th, we were finally told not only that our RDA will be taking cash advances from the 49ers and paying them back at up to 8.5% interest - but that our Santa Clara Stadium Authority will now be doing the same thing.  Both agencies will be paying far more money to the 49ers to service that debt than they would with any bonds they could issue.  In the case of the RDA, they'll be paying for it out of your tax increment money.

In fact, the costs of the massive 49ers' stadium subsidy to Santa Clarans are about to be greatly increased.

As taxpayers, the giveaways to the San Francisco 49ers are indeed our business.  However, the Closed Sessions of the Santa Clara City Council give the clearest indication that the 49ers don't want us finding out about these cost increases until it's way too late to do anything about them. 

If the secret, Closed Sessions of our City Council and our Agencies are in fact merely being held to conceal the increasing indebtedness of our Santa Clara Stadium Authority from us taxpayers, then they have no place in the All-American City. 

Santa Clarans who contacted City Hall before the June 14th Council Meeting were entirely right to do so.  Thank you all for speaking up.

In fact, the Councilman who went completely off-Agenda on June 14th in order to criticize your correspondence may have revealed a bit more about this entire process than he intended. 

Please.  Stay informed on the 49ers' stadium subsidy. 

Demand more.

Thanks for your support,
Bill Bailey, Treasurer,

Annotated Brown Act - brochure from 2003.  Dated, perhaps - but then again, something like the Brown Act probably shouldn't change much anyway.

** I mentioned the June 14th meeting on purpose - because it was "Not Held."   When we count up the number of Closed Sessions, we specifically exclude dates such as June 14th.  We count only the meetings that were actually held.  June 14th doesn't count.

May 10th, May 24th and June 7th, however, do count.  The total of secret, Closed Session Council/Agency meetings is indeed 91 as of this evening.  Really.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

49ers' Stadium Subsidies: Putting the Stadium Authority's $1.5M in Perspective

Dear Santa Clarans,

Press coverage in today's Mercury News put quite a bit of ink on what the City Council would be paying itself to sit on the Santa Clara Stadium Authority.  However, that may not be the big story.

The additional $1,440 bucks a year per Councilmember works out to thirty bucks each for 48 meetings - the critical portions of which are likely to be held in secret Closed Session, thereby concealing the true functioning of the Santa Clara Stadium Authority from Santa Clarans.  We should be far angrier about that than about the dollar amount.

Let's set a few more decimal points:
  1. From the June 7th City Council meeting, we learned that Santa Clara's subsidy of the San Francisco 49ers' stadium is now likely to be far more than the $444,000,000 we were originally led to believe.
  2. Not one but two city agencies, the Stadium Authority as well as the Redevelopment Agency, will now be on the hook for high-interest cash advances from the 49ers themselves.  Can't issue your own bonds at 5.75%?  No sweat - borrow the dough from the 49ers at up to 8.5%.  The 49ers can use that cash flow to pay for the construction cost overruns they promised us they'd cover out of their own pockets.
  3. Take the $950,000 that the Stadium Authority will pay to lawyers and accountants in the coming fiscal year, and add it to the $2,800,000 in RDA money that our city has already spent.  It's likely that we'll blow four million on those costs before a single shovel breaks ground.  That's tax increment money, by the way - property taxes essentially unremitted.
  4. The $550,000 for City Staff can be added to the $612K in staff expenses we know of so far.  That latter amount is only a partial accounting, so we can probably count on those expenses easily exceeding $1.2 million.
Finally, bear in mind that this Stadium Authority budget is your money.  Recall that the City Council "parked" $4,000,000 in RDA cash with the 49ers Stadium Company while playing that old game of "RDA keepaway" with Governor Brown.  This $1.5 million should be coming back, and in fact, the remaining $2.5M should be put back in the accounts of Agencies our leaders told us were there to protect our interests.

The increased stipend to City Councilmembers should be noted, of course, as well as the cut they took earlier this season - but the costs of subsidizing the San Francisco 49ers are about to balloon for far different reasons.

That's the real news.

Thanks for all of your support,
Bill Bailey, Treasurer,
Santa Clara Plays Fair


Sunday, June 5, 2011

49ers' Stadium Subsidy Ticker: Secret Meetings and RDA Cash , Too!

Dear Santa Clarans,

In late April of 2007, the San Francisco 49ers demanded that our City Council sign the "Confidentiality Agreement" with the team. This agreement forced our Council and Agencies to take certain dealings with the 49ers into Closed Session, out of the view of Santa Clara residents. The Closed Sessions are indicated, but not detailed, in the "Action Summaries" here.

Also, over roughly that same interval, the Redevelopment Agency has paid RDA cash to consultants on everything from the Feasibility Study to the Term Sheet - and now for the Disposition and Development Agreement, or DDA. A summary of those payments and to whom they have been made is here.

Santa Clara Plays Fair continues to track both the count of the secret Council/49er meetings, and the cash paid for "Stadium Studies." As of this date:

90: The number of secret, Closed Sessions that our City Council has held with the San Francisco 49ers and Cedar Fair since 5/1/2007.

$2,800,000: The total of RDA cash spent on 49ers consultants since 4/3/2007.

We'll publish this ticker periodically to keep Santa Clarans informed of the costs of the 49ers' stadium subsidy - both in dollars and in transparency.

Best regards,
Bill Bailey, Treasurer,

Santa Clara Plays Fair