Oakland A’s move to Las Vegas could be jeopardized if Nevada judge sides with teachers on Monday
A Nevada judge’s decision on Monday may give A’s fans renewed hope that the team will remain in Oakland.
A Nevada teachers union is opposing the state’s plan to spend $120 million in public funds to build a $1.5 billion ballpark on the Las Vegas Strip. The group wants a referendum on state Senate Bill 1, the ballpark spending agreement signed by Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo in June, in November 2024.
“Nevada voters should decide whether their tax dollars are used to subsidize a billionaire’s stadium,” said Alexander Marks, a Nevada State Education Association spokesperson. “We’re confident Nevada citizens are going to choose schools over stadiums next November.”
A coalition of lobbyists and construction union leaders assembled by A’s ownership opposes the teachers union. They accuse the teachers union of submitting a “inaccurate, misleading, and argumentative” petition that improperly targets only portions of Nevada legislation rather than the entire package.
The case is set to be heard Monday at 1:30 p.m. in Carson City’s First Judicial District Court.
The courtroom drama is taking place just one week before MLB owners vote on the A’s relocation to Las Vegas. The A’s owner, John Fisher, needs approval from 75% of MLB owners to relocate. They should approve the deal and waive the relocation fee.
Danny Thompson and Thomas Morley, who have strong, if indirect, ties to the A’s organization, filed the complaint against the teachers union. Morley was the president of Laborers Local 872 for 27 years, a union that has come out strongly in support of the A’s ballpark development and that he now represents as a lobbyist. According to his consulting firm’s website, he previously assisted in the organization of the Oakland Raiders’ relocation to Las Vegas.
Morley is registered as a lobbyist for other Nevada construction unions, as well as the Las Vegas-Review Journal, one of the area’s largest news publications, according to state records.
Morley declined to comment on this story when reached by phone on Friday.
An attorney for the complainants, Bradley Schrager, said the legal challenge is intended to ensure that the teachers union follows Nevada law in their efforts to bring the $380 million package before voters.
Marks, the teachers’ spokesperson, sees the lawsuit as more of a stall tactic. He doesn’t think Monday’s hearing will cause much of a snag in the teachers’ schedule.
“There’s not a scenario in which the A’s come out of this going, ‘Ha, we beat the teachers, take that!'” Marks stated. “That’s most likely what they want to hear. However, we believe the court will rule, ‘You’re clear, go out and gather signatures.'”
According to the Nevada Secretary of State’s office, a petition to create a ballot referendum must include at least 10% of the ballots cast in the previous general election. This means the teachers would need 102,586 signatures, with 25% coming from each of the state’s four congressional districts.
If the signatures are collected by June 26, 2024, and verified by each district, the issue may appear on the November ballot.
“The teams and team owners will always prefer that this doesn’t go to the voters,” said Nola Agha, a sports economist at the University of San Francisco who criticized the A’s previous development plan at Oakland’s Howard Terminal.
In Nevada, 14 petitions were submitted last year, but only one was successful in getting its targeted legislation on the ballot. Many of them died as a result of a lack of verifiable signatures.
“It’s doable,” Marks said of the union’s chances. “We’re not concerned about it.”
According to the teachers union, approximately $120 million of the stadium funding package will be provided through county-issued bonds. And, according to sections 29 and 30 of the spending bill, the Nevada Legislature has the authority to revoke its approval of that money at any time.
That is what the teachers hope to see on the ballot in November. And if voters decide they don’t want to give the A’s $120 million in county-issued bonds, the entire deal could collapse.
“(Fisher) would have to figure out where that other money is coming from,” Marks went on to say. “I don’t think he has that ability to get that money because he said specifically they need $380 million.”
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was asked about the teacher’s union’s efforts to get a referendum on the ballot during the World Series, which ended this week.
“If there was an adverse development with respect to that referendum, that would be a significant development,” Manfred said to the Los Angeles Times. “That’s all I can say about that.”
Back in Oakland, city officials are attempting to persuade MLB owners not to support Fisher’s relocation efforts.
Mayor Sheng Thao intends to hold a press conference flanked by A fans in order to persuade the team to stay. A resolution on the City Council’s agenda next week would state unequivocally, “that the Oakland A’s belong in Oakland.”