Saturday, August 20, 2005

An Open Letter to Oakland Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente

August 20, 2005

The Hon. Ignacio De La Fuente
Oakland City Council
Vice Chair
Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority

Dear Ignacio,

Today, I happened to pick up the Sunday August 21st SF Chronicle
Sporting Green to read Tom Fitzgerald's article on the Raiders PSL
problem. I noticed -- much to my surprise as I was not contacted --
that you made a remark about my idea for a Coliseum Surcharge Program.
I'm not bothered by the remark as much as I am the misspelling of my
name -- they wrote "Zenon" rather than "Zennie" and for the second
time, requiring another correction -- but the fact that you said "I
don't listen to his ideas" recalled a painful chapter in my
occupational life and that was my time with the City of Oakland.

For me it all started as an intern with the City of Oakland's Office of
Economic Development in 1987. During that time, I created a giant
spreadsheet system such that one could evaluate the fiscal and economic
impact of any redevelopment project and project area in the State of
California. I was told by one person "You have three problems: You're
young, gifted, and black."

When I was Economic Advisor to Elihu Harris -- actually a bright spot
in an otherwise dim period -- he rejected my idea and groundwork for a
"Sega GameWorks" development in downtown Oakland. Now, Elihu's a
member of my company's advisory board, and he said "I wish I'd listened
to you about that." Why? Because the GameWorks facilities in places
like Las Vegas are very successful establishments.

When Elihu tried to place me at the Coliseum as he was leaving office,
you told him you didn't want me there. So, Robert Bobb placed me at
Economic Development in 1999, and from there, I went on to establish
the Oakland Alameda County Sports Commission, head the Super Bowl XXXIV
Bidding Committee, and came close -- we did get a good number of NFL
owner votes -- to doing the impossible: landing the 2005 Super Bowl for
Oakland. I might add that during that time, you stood as an impediment
-- until you realized that I (as you told me) "was generating the only
positive press The Coliseum had."

While I was in Oakland, I had to deal with people who didn't listen,
politicians who were jealous that I couldn't be "controlled" (you were
one of them), harrassment by executives who didn't understand how I
could amass such media attention or contacts, and employees who just
didn't have a "winning" attitude. Through all of this, I created
Oakland's Super Bowl Bid, and used very creative financing and
political techniques to help consitutuents and developers. I convinced
the develpers of Times Square's Renovation to come to Oakland, and of
course, I brought Forest City here as well, but not to do housing.

Over the years, I've created a number of ideas, from "Phasing" -- my
concept that would have generated more money for the Oakland
Revelopment Agency -- to The Oakland Downtown Coalition. In the
Phasing example, your legal counsel did state that I found a true
loophole in redevelopment law -- that loophole still exists today. Of
course, you didn't listen.

I've told you how to establish a naming rights marketing strategy for
not just the facility but the Coliseum Complex. I've explained that a
number of "punch list" items on the Coliseum's renovation for the
Raiders were not done -- and are still not done today.

I've put up with your attempt to ask Oakland Business people about my
Super Bowl Sponsorship Concept -- one that Mike Lynch, the head of
VISA's Worldwide Sponsorship Division, said was innovative and can add
value to what they do (and they're an NFL Sponsor) -- without ONCE
asking me about it. You didn't know what you were doing, and yet was
trying to explain something I created. A terrible mistake.

I've put up with your needless coddling of SMG. I've put up with the
ill--considered decision to let SMG run the Coliseum's marketing effort
(what's SMG doing, putting money in your campaign?) I've put up with
your allowing Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty to use the
Coliseum Authority and SMG for his own purposes. I've put up with the
very impossible position you've placed your Executive Director in, with
little resources and staff. I've even put up with how anyone could not
go to the Alameda County Grand Jury and report these matters....Hmm...

Now, I'm in the best two years of my professional life. I run an
Internet company that's over two years old and am currently making as
much money as you, and will surpass you soon. I've established a new
niche market and am able to implement my ideas without being blocked by
those who are insecure, jealous, racist, or just plain unhappy. When I
need to make more money, I simply learn more and implement the
web-based concept. Pretty dangerous, ah? I'm also in an industry of
very bright and very ambitious people. I love what I do.

But what I also love is that I can donate to political campaigns, and
just for the heck of it. I'm not in need of some development contract
-- I just want a better world and a better Oakland. I've given over
$1,500 thus far, and while that's small now, it's going to get bigger.
At this point, I'm not inclined to invest in any campaign you're

One campaign I might be interested in is one that involves improving
the Oakland Coliseum. As long as the Coliseum is in the state of
disarray it's in, I'll always be a critic, and I might add that in an
Internet age, being a critic of The Coliseum Authority is good for
Sports Business Simulations.



Zennie Abraham
Chairman and CEO
Sports Business Simulations
"Learn to Run"
510-444-4037 (o)
510-387-9809 (c)

Good People / Bad People

After some thought, I decided to make this more of a diary. I've had some interesting experiences I want to share. For example, I went out last night (8-19-2005) and to visit "Bix," a great restaurant near North Beach in San Francisco. (And beautiful, too! Click this link!) Mom's visiting and I spent so much time with her, that I wanted to just plain hang out.

Well, the real story is that I invited Mom to see this show that's a tribute to The Rat Pack, but she didn't want to go, sadly.

Anyway, I went there and just wanted to listen to this jazz band. But as I stood there, a very attractive white woman kept trying to get my attention. Eventually, she just plain old said "Nice band, huh?" So, I walked over to talk to her -- not much of a trip; about six feet in distance.

I had noticed she was with someone, so I really didn't expect anything. The three of us - her name's Rachel and her boyfriend's name is Alex -- had a series of great talks. They're both British, but met here via family members. But there was a woman who would walk over periodically. Her name was Debbie. Now, I thought Debbie was rather attractive, but I was just feeling out the entire situation. Debbie spent a lot of energy talking to Rachel's boyfriend and so much so that -- considering her body language -- I thought she was trying to pick up on him. I even caught her taking a look at me, then rolled her eyes up when I looked at her.

My feeling about Debbie was that she was "hunting" and for white guys. My beef is that some people stupidly judge others by race and based on that determine who's attractive. For example, some African American women tell me I look a bit like Tae Diggs -- moreover, some white and Asian women say that, too.

In my life I've noticed that the more a woman's used to dating black men, the more she makes such comparisons. It's a good gauge.

After I decided to ignore her, Debbie manuevered over next to me. We eventually talked. Debbie's new to the Bay Area, and from Nerw York City. She works for Wells. It turns out that we both know two friends of mine: Frank and Roberta. They've had an on again, off again relationship. So that revalation launched a new conversation. But right in the middle of it, she just turned and started talking to these two white guys standing about six feet away. Frankly, I thought the guys were gay.

I thought Debbie's act was terribly rude, and something only done because she's not interested in me because I'm black. That's not an excusable reason for that. My friend Beth, for example, has a great way of making you feel important, even if she's interested in someone else. A good heart, she has. In that context, Debbie's behavior just plain got me. We were having a great conversation and knew the same people. Then "poof."

Fortunately, Rachel and Alex invited me to join them at a table for dinner. On the way, I said to Debbie -- in front of the two guys -- that she was totally rude. No -- I didn't yell. I just said it very plainly. Then I walked off with Rachel and Alex. They were very supportive, considering we just met. Rachel offered that she struck up a conversation with me because she thought I was attractive. Hey, guys like to have their ego's stroked too, especially by lovely women!

We had a great time with at dinner, and I did give them my card. I hope they stay in touch.

But as we were talking and eating, we would notice Debbie at the bar talking with the two guys. Eventually, they left -- she was alone at the bar. No one came over to talk with her. I thought that was sad. I felt that was God's work. I hope she learned something. Had she been nicer, she could have had a great time with us, and left with new friends instead of being left alone.