Why I love Jerry Brown

Back in June, the city of Santa Clara, California approved funding for a new stadium to house the San Francisco 49ers. Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders continued to push for a new stadium of their own, despite the fact they play 10 miles from where the Niners are currently located.

That, to me, was tragically unacceptable. Football stadiums, which take up far too much space and cost tax payers far too much money, are bad investments for everyone but the owners themselves. That’s because all of these swiftly depreciating venues are paid for by people like you and me, not the billionaires who build them.

Here’s what I wrote about the stadium debacle in the Bay Area this past summer:

At the risk of sounding like Helen Lovejoy, I have to throw it out there: How dare politicians ask the public to help fund two billion-dollar stadiums located in the same general area? Think of all the other, more pressing needs that can be served with that money.

The 49ers and Raiders play a half-hour drive across the Bay Bridge from each other — 10 miles as the bird flies. Santa Clara is less than 40 miles south of Oakland. What’s the point in building two separate stadiums such a short distance apart? These venues will go unused for the vast majority of the year.

We’re talking about 20-26 games a year, between August and January. That’s it.

The people of Oakland shouldn’t stand for this. They should look at their city — one of the most crime-ridden municipalities in the United States — and protest the possibility of spending even a penny on a new stadium of their own.

Fortunately, California Gov. Jerry Brown, who used to be the mayor of Oakland, is putting his foot down. Brown, who took over for Arnold Schwarzenegger nine weeks ago, looks to be eager to remove redevelopment money previously allotted to building the Niners’ planned stadium in Santa Clara.

“My general view is we have to put education first and entertainment second,” Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Private enterprise should be able to survive on its own, as witnessed at Pac Bell (AT&T) Park.” (Brown is referring to the Giants’ ballpark, which was built in 2000 at a cost of $357 million — not a penny of that coming from tax payers.)

It’s clear that the budget crisis in California has forced the state to rethink where its money is going. Brown used public funds to help the Raiders renovate their home in the 1990s, but the economic climate was very different then. Owners who think they’re going to build new venues using the people’s money every 20-30 years are in for a shock.

It’s funny, because this is a large point of contention on the current collective bargaining agreement. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has stated that the league needs to build new stadiums, but new stadiums help no one but the 32 men in charge of NFL teams. They screw the fans (in the form of personal seat licenses and generally higher prices) and they screw citizens in general (in the form of tax increases).

By voting in support of stadiums like these, clueless people are just helping the rich get richer.

We need more politicians like Brown to realize that there are much higher priorities than new stadiums.