The Oakland Army Base Project has a new enemy: Gene Hazzard. Yes, the same Gene Hazzard who designed the initial effort to recall Oakland Mayor Jean Quan that fizzled under a wave of what makes Oakland tick: jealously and insecurity.
And encapsulated within Gene’s objective of taking down the Army Base Project is a total dislike for the role of California Capital Group Managing Partner Phil Tagami. How does this blogger know? Because while walking away from Oakland City Hall and a video-interview with City Of Oakland Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell on the very same Army Base project, I turned a corner onto Broadway headed toward Awaken Cafe and there was Gene sitting down in a chair faced toward me; he was waiting for someone.
After a few minutes of talking in what I perceived to be cold (remember, I just came from San Diego and Comic Con, and the week before that I was in the Palm Dessert, 80 degrees and 100 degrees respectively) I wanted to go inside the cafe.
So we sat down and Gene proceeded to talk to me about his next plan: a court-based attack on the Oakland Army Base Project because Gene believes Mr. Tagami has not put up “A dime of his own money.” Normally, I’d listen to Gene without a reaction – he’s my friend and even though I don’t agree with his approach, I have a great deal of respect for him.
But this time Gene hit the “Ok, I’m pissed with Phil Tagami because he uses public money to build projects” button – and it’s a well-worn button at that. I’m tired of hearing everyone from the Oakland City Auditor (who also looked at Phil’s personal life) to now Gene crying about Phil.
Yes, the same Phil Tagami who brandished this shotgun to defend his beloved Rotunda from protestors during the Occupy Oakland skirmishes.
Yes, in 1997 I personally went to bat for Phil to get a $32 million deal with the City so that he and his team could rebuild The Rotunda. It sat in a terrible, blighted state for decades as outside developer after outside developer got large loans from Oakland to rebuild it – and did nothing. Phil worked for 10 years to get that project – it was his turn. And I knew that it was going to make him rich – good. I also knew he was going to do a good job on it, and he did.
Look, Phil has his faults – and lately he’s been a piss poor friend to me – but my personal feelings have not stopped me from defending Phil’s work in improving Oakland. What’s funny is that some people think Phil’s supposed to do this for free rather than realize any money out of the deal. People who think that way operate in LALA land.
But I digress.
Gene’s issue is that (he claims) the Oakland Army Base Exclusive Negotiating Agreement – the contract that gives Phil and his company and the other firms he’s working with the right to talk and work with the City of Oakland in building a new industria facility and basically new town within West Oakland – calls for a certain amount of money to have been paid by Phil’s organization by now. Hazzard is under the impression that Phil has not done this. But when I asked Gene how he knew Phil’s company – California Capital Group – had not done this, Gene didn’t have an answer.
No, I didn’t call Phil because to me, the real blog was not in the fact of payment or not, but Gene’s towering anger and what he plans to do Even though the Army Base was approved by the Oakland City Council, it’s still not in the clear, and the State Of California’s Transportation Commission is now (and this is new) asking for a new explanation of why its master plan changed (the full story’s in my video with Blackwell that’s coming soon).
Gene and I got into a public argument at Awaken Cafe, with long-time Oakland lawyer (now with the Oakland City Attorney’s Office) Celso Ortiz as witness. I asked Gene how much of this was a personal issue with Phil, and after saying that was not the case, Hazzard went off the rails and said “I’M TIRED OF PHIL TAGAMI SUCKING ON THE PUBLIC TIT.”
And he said that while quivering with anger.
I told Gene he was being a crab barrel – he wanted Phil to fail. That was all. See, if Gene wanted Phil to succeed, he would have put together a panel of institutional investors to help move the project forward. I’m really disappointed in Gene, and I’m also tired of this stupid, jealous whining that some Oaklanders do about each other. It’s a key reason Oakland’s development – from stadiums to retail – is decades behind where it should be. I can recall countless stories that add up to jealously and insecurity.
We used to say “Welcome to Oakland” – but I’m tired of that. It’s time to change.