Oakland Coal’s Wheel of Influence 

Leaked documents about the effort to sell a coal terminal to a reluctant city show how the government sausage gets made.

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Siegel believed that the path toward winning over Gordon could go through former Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch. Perhaps nobody personifies Oakland at this time more than Lynch. "Both Greg McConnell and Marshawn Lynch are close to her so accessing her will not be a problem," Siegel wrote.

Lynch could not be reached for comment. McConnell said he met with Lynch to discuss the bulk terminal project. "We had a casual lunch. I asked, "Do you think the community would support coal?' Marshawn did not agree. There was no further contact. He's just a good guy who cares about the community." McConnell attributed the mention of Lynch to Siegel, who was a former football player, knowing the connection between Lynch and the city. Siegel and Wolff, however, met with Lynch and his agent, Doug Hendrickson, last March, and again, in April.

McConnell said he met with Gordon to discuss coal. During their conversation, he said they talked generally about the bulk terminal, and that its handling of coal would be safer than any method currently in use. "I feel we had a good conversation," he added.

It would be the only such meeting with Gordon. "I told them that I was against coal as a commodity," she said in an interview. She expressed surprise that McConnell believed there was any chance that she could be flipped. After advocating for clean air in West Oakland for 25 years, she said, no one in the community would ever take her seriously again if she suddenly reversed course. "We can't talk about the future if we allow coal in West Oakland."

However, Gordon said McConnell was not seeking her total endorsement, just her backing for a proposed compromise to phase out coal shipments over the next two decades. Still, she doubts the issue will be resolved anytime soon. "It's going to be a continuous fight. Whatever decision is made the other side is going to fight it."

The Path Forward

To date, there is no evidence that Siegel's strategy will prevail. Abel Guillen, a former Oakland councilmember who faced the full force of Oakland coal's lobbying effort before leaving office last December said he doubted the coal's backers will be able to change the resolve of the current city council.

"This seems like a full court press to try and lobby the new council members by out-of-town interests to bring coal to Oakland," Guillen said after being provided with Siegel's memo and travel log. "While it is typical for councilmembers to get lobbied by powerful interests, I think it will be very difficult to flip the council's position and allow coal to come through Oakland."

And yet, there's a good chance the federal judge's decision in favor of Tagami's lawsuit will ultimately achieve Siegel's desired result on its own. 

Coming Next Week: Phil Tagami is Still Fighting


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