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If you’re still holding out hope that the Athletics are stymied in their quest to take up residence in Las Vegas, then you’re not alone. The Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) has formed a political-action committee called “Schools Over Stadiums,” with the aim being pretty clear from that name. From the Los Angeles Times’ story:
[Alexander] Marks said his organization is concerned about the more than 3,000 statewide vacancies for teachers and educational staff and is outraged that a stadium is being presented as a financial benefit for the people of Nevada.
“Our priorities are misguided,” Marks said. “If stadiums were the fix, I don’t know why we wouldn’t build 10 of them.”
Well, the city is certainly trying to. Las Vegas has welcomed the NHL’s Golden Knights and already yoinked the NFL’s Raiders from Oakland in the last few years, and now the A’s are on their way, too. At least the T-Mobile Arena — home of the Knights — was happening anyway, since it’s a multi-purpose indoor venue in a city with no shortage of events taking place in it. That was a situation where the city got to go, “hey, we’ve got an arena, let’s put a team in it.” And without a sports franchise convincing local politicians to build the thing, it also didn’t lean on public money in the same way that Allegiant Stadium, home of the Raiders, did, or how the A’s as-of-yet-unnamed stadium will. The $750 million in taxpayer funds for the $2 billion Allegiant project, by the way, was the largest bag full of public money ever secured for a sports stadium project. The A’s might not be breaking that record, but the price tag is still likely to approach or exceed $500 million no matter what numbers the politicians in favor and the team throw out there.
So you can understand why the educators’ union might be tired of all of this public money they could use in schools going toward yet another sports franchise. Hence the PAC, and its goal of halting the A’s stadium and its use of public money, whether by lawsuit or public referendum. As Neil deMause pointed out at Field of Schemes, this kind of thing has happened in the past — “perhaps best remembered for the St. Louis voter referendum to place limits on sports subsidies that was passed after the Cardinals got a publicly funded stadium deal, only to fall victim to the established legal principle of “no backsies” — but Schools Over Stadiums at least has a chance of disrupting the process, since the laws of Nevada are not the laws of Missouri.
The Nevada Independent explained the way those laws work, in brief, back in June. The shortest way to explain is that if voters pass a referendum that stands in opposition to a law’s existence, the law is then void. And Nevada voters don’t have to ask permission to get a referendum on the ballot, either: they need a petition signed by 10 percent of voters from the previous election, and then it’s on the ballot. There are some bits about needing a certain number of voters from each of the four districts in the state there, too, but the important thing is that they don’t need a wildly huge number of signatures to get a referendum on the ballot. And then, if a simple majority of voters agreed with the referendum and voted in favor of it, the passed A’s legislation goes kaput.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that this is merely a possibility: it’s unclear right now how popular the idea of the Las Vegas A’s is, if 10 percent of eligible petition signers can be found in time, if a simple majority of people opposed to the use of this public money will show up on election day even if the referendum does make its way to the ballot, and so on. But it at least seems like something to rally around. Again, Nevada handed over the largest promise of public money in stadium financing ever just a few years back, and now they’re about to give out another huge “investment” in the community that, were it truly that good of a deal, A’s owner John Fisher would just pay for it himself to keep the benefits to himself as well.
I was just going to end this by writing that “spending other people’s money is what Fisher does best, though,” but that’s not even true, given his team has both the Players Association and other owners grumbling about his lack of revenue-sharing spending. Hopefully, this PAC does get its ballot referendum, and the people support it, and Fisher gets so fed up that he decides to just sell the A’s. I don’t know if the end result of this will be the A’s staying in Oakland, or having to rework the stadium deal with Vegas, but I do know that anything that gets Fisher to quit and go elsewhere would at least feel more like a victory than the reality we’re dealing with now. That guy sucks even among his awful cadre.
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