Ezra Rapport, Boss, Friend, Architect Of The Oakland Raiders Deal, Died October 6th 2022

Ezra Rapport, Boss, Friend, Architect Of The Oakland Raiders Deal, Died October 6th 2022

Ezra Rapport, Boss, Friend, Architect Of The Oakland Raiders Deal, Died October 6th 2022

A friend of mine, Mike Jacob, passed along word that former Oakland Assistant City Manager Ezra Rapport died in his home after an 11-year-battle with cancer. I can’t help but shed a tear because of the dramatic roll Ezra played in my life. This is not the first livestream I will do about Erza, and because his passing means the death of fiscal innovation in Oakland (and I hope I am wrong).

I first met Erza in 1987, when I was hired by Oakland Economic Development Specialist Pat Cashman to be an intern at the Oakland Redevelopment Agency. Even though I did not work directly for him, as I worked for Pat and for Jeff Chew and Austin Penny, Ezra gave me my first project. In perfect Ezra fashion, it was a job with a twist and an unexpected turn.

Ezra asked me to find a place, some land, to store large and small pipes that were on the then-EBMUB now office property across the I-880 (Nimitz Freeway) from the Oakland Coliseum. Ezra wanted to clear that land to make room for a Price Club, as Big Box retail was the “thing” at the time.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I got a real estate broker, toured sites, got cost estimates, and wrote a six-page memo. Along the way of writing it, I called the property manager for EBMUB at the time, a woman named Joan, and asked her if there was any information I should be aware of as I worked to move the pipes off her property. To my surprise, Joan asked me who put me up to this, and I said Ezra. She said “FUCKING EZRA” and hung up the phone. So, I called Ezra and he came rushing over to the annex building I was in, and that’s now the Elihu Harris State Building. Ezra asked why I called and I said “You didn’t tell me not to and it was a logical question.” Ezra was known for secret projects like that. But it was always to the end of improving Oakland.

Ezra then gave me another project because he called me an “energetic intern”: the Emeryville Cresent as it was called. See, EBMUB wanted to put a wet weather storage facility there, and where a knuckle is formed when I-80 and I-580 meet. Ezra wanted a real estate development because that was where the Oakland Redevelopment Agency’s boundary crossed into Emeryville in a weird quirk of the lines. Anyway, Ezra asked me to work up calculations of economic and fiscal and tax increment impact of a project that consisted of Big Box Retail, a hotel, and an office. So, I did. What came out of that is where the Best Buy and Home Depot are located today, in Emeryville.

Ezra then put me on yet another project: the Coliseum Redevelopment Survey Area. I was in charge of forming the data that would take it from Survey Area to Redevelopment Area with City Council Approval. Out of that request came something I built on Lotus 123 Spreadsheet called “The Area Redevelopment Economic Model”. You could feed square foot data for any project in California and it would produce tax increment revenue estimates, employment and economic impact as well. OK, it took more inputs but you get the idea.

Ezra came to me as his data guy, but unfortunately he asked me to do something I did not want to do: hide revenue estimates from Steve Szalay, the then-Alameda County Administrator. I asked Ezra what would happen to me if my hiding that was found out? Would he come to my defense? The result was a big meeting with George Williams and the Economic Development Staff. I was rehired as a consultant for just six months, then let go. That was 1989.

Anyway, I became a columnist for The Montclarion and with no background in the news business. I wound up covering the Oakland effort to bring the Raiders back to our great city from Los Angeles. Ezra Rapport was the man who was behind the Raiders Deal. And in loving fashion, Ezra had in his back pocket, if you will, the spreadsheet that did show a possible bond issue default. I will leave that alone from this point.

I prefer to remember that Ezra allowed me to be great. Ezra was not at all bothered by what I knew but encouraged me to work harder. I really enjoyed that period of time with the City of Oakland. In our short time we did some great things. I want to thank Ezra for never once letting racism come into play in our relationship. Not once. He let me be me and knew I was the best at what I did.

Ezra told me and Lewis Cohen (who repped then Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente) on January 14th, 1996, to “Learn the Raiders Lease Documents because no one cares.”

Ezra should be remembered as an innovator in the public sector. He also understood his role in a meeting – never bombastic and always analytical. Ezra would not say much at all. I learned from that, and then got more training from my boss, Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris.

I will share more in another video-blog. Rest in intellect, Ezra. I am sorry we never really patched things up.

Stay tuned.

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