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Eminent domain -- Oakland's key to keeping the Raiders in town?

Cities regularly resort to their right of eminent domain to acquire land for such projects as roads, parks, and schools.

What makes Oakland's situation different is that its exercise of eminent domain could lead to city ownership and operation of a professional football franchise. Would the mayor now want to be called head coach? Would city officials expect complimentary tickets to home games? The possibilities are endless.

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For four years Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis has fought to move the franchise to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum - otherwise known as the nation's first soap opera in shoulder pads and cleats.

Not too long ago, after a lengthy and bitter fight with the NFL, Davis and his team were cleared by the courts to become permanent residents of Los Angeles. But whether there is time for the league to adjust its 1982 schedule to accommodate them remains a question. Another question is where opposing teams would find suitable hotel rooms and practice fields at this date.

And now still another potential roadblock has appeared. Just when Davis appeared to have his battle won, the California Supreme Court ruled recently that the city of Oakland can use its powers of eminent domain to acquire the Raiders for the purpose of preventing them from moving.

This issue is now being addressed in the Monterey County Superior Court, where discussions are going on about such things as how much money the city of Oakland would have to pay Davis for his team. In the meantime, Davis can presumably hire a truck and move the Raiders to LA if he doesn't mind risking the possibility that he might have to move them right back.

Says David A. Self, one of the city of Oakland's attorneys: ''It's hard to imagine a more valid public use, something more beneficial to the city, than the Raiders.'' Davis and his associates, of course, don't think so.

Moses Lasky, the Raiders' attorney, says the city is violating the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by forcibly acquiring property without due process of law. Outside legal minds are predicting two more years of litigation.

Davis wants to bring his team to LA for primarily economic reasons. Oakland's football fans have nearly always supported the Raiders with sellouts. But if cable TV becomes the huge moneymaker everyone says it will, Davis can make millions of dollars more in a major video market like LA than he could ever hope to earn in Oakland.

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The club's owner has remained a strong personality through all the Raiders' legal battles. He's a man who doesn't know how to lose and who has never been afraid to spend money to get what he wants. His football team is an extension of himself - solid and flamboyant, but disciplined when it matters.

Give Davis enough steel wool and he'll knit you a Volkswagon. Give him time and he'll probably have the Raiders playing and winning big in Los Angeles.

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