San Diego Mayor Sanders defends the greater good of rich corporate community

by on January 10, 2012 · 9 comments

in Economy, Popular, San Diego

 Temporary Stadium Name Change Brouhaha

by Lucas O’Connor/ Two Cathedrals / January 9, 2012

It was a story that nobody cared much about at first — the Mayor had ignored legal advice from the City Attorney, allowing Qualcomm to temporarily re-name the stadium and its signage without paying what contracts would normally dictate. But the Mayor issued a statement dripping in condescension, giving the kerfluffle a new, stronger second life. When the Mayor declared that the gift of public money to a rich corporation “was for the greater good of our community,” it revealed more than any of us might have liked about whether anyone’s drawing a distinction anymore between the ‘greater good of our community’ and corporate handouts.

First, it’s important to put this in the right conceptual context. It isn’t Qualcomm’s money that the Mayor decided it should keep. Rather, it’s the public’s money that Mayor Sanders unilaterally decided to present as a gift to Qualcomm. The theoretical debate would be no different than if the Mayor decided that Qualcomm employees have license to take books from the library to add to their personal collection. Or decided to reassign SDPD officers as a round-the-clock security detail for Qualcomm board members. Or gave Irwin Jacobs a fire truck.

Maybe we would still have the same arguments that Qualcomm has earned the right to take the public’s money by virtue of being a good corporate citizen. But the underpinning of this argument is perhaps even more distressing, because it skips over the question of whether it’s possible to buy immunity from the law in San Diego and instead goes straight to how much does it cost in San Diego to live outside the law? And besides, at a time when our public discourse is focused on demonizing teachers and public servants for daring to flirt with earning a middle-class income, is it really credible to say Qualcomm deserves a reward for not acting like Walmart? Maybe in San Diego it’s to be expected, but that doesn’t mean it makes much sense.

In the meantime, the situation again underlines one of the primary dangers of relying on the magnanimity of private funders to keep government functional. No matter the good intentions of those involved, it can’t help but reach this point quickly. Private government simply requires a different standard for decision making, and sets a different definition of the ‘greater good.’ When private money is so directly vital, the concentration of wealth does perversely become the greater good, at least for the government.

Governments are accountable to those who create and perpetuate them. If it’s the working and middle classes, then the ‘greater good’ is defined for the government as the greater good of those communities. But when an ever-tightening circle of rich corporations and philanthropists become the support system, it’s their greater good that government must consider, at least for self-preservation. It’s understandable — natural even — but it isn’t sustainable, or in any sense supportive of the “greater good of the community.”

But here we are. Between this, the Jacobs plan for Balboa Park, the Convention Center expansion, and the spectre of a new Chargers stadium, Mayor Sanders has very clearly defined his definition of “greater good of the community” for his lame duck year. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s all about the public underwriting the plans of rich private sector players who get insulated from public accountability for their trouble of cashing the check. Meet the old boss.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

J. Monroe January 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm

The lesson learned repeatedly with Jerry Sanders is not to elect an ex-cop to city leadership. They acquire an attitude that they are above the law. Do not vote for Bonnie Dumanis unless you want more of the same.

This same mayor tells his constituency the city cannot afford to keep fire pits on our beaches while he promotes the city to subsidize a new stadium for a billionaire.


Eliel January 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I guess it’s easier to see big money lining your pockets than it is to see the city’s needs and your fellow San Diegans in trouble.


Jon January 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Wondering if anyone has the amount Qualcomm contributes to city coffers via various taxes? Wondering also if anyone has estimates on future amounts based on projected growth (Said growth being driven heavily by the success of Snapdragon) of Qualcomm? Wondering if all this isn’t a giant case of Penny wise, Pound foolish?


John Lawrence January 11, 2012 at 6:34 am

BFD, I don’t care whether they call the freakin stadium Qualcomm, Snapdragon or Bulls##t Field. Here’s the point: Jacobs has given zillions of dollars to the Symphony, UCSD and virtually every other San Diego institution unlike many billionaires who are only content to line their own pockets and pay lobbyists to get bigger tax breaks for themselves. Jacobs is a lifelong Democrat whose values are much more towards the progressive end of the spectrum than the conservative zillionaires whose only interest is accumulating as many dollars as possible and screwing the poor.

As the Voice of San Diego article mentions, Jacobs is primarily reponsible for the new central San Diego library now being built and is willing to give millions of dollars to create a pedestrian friendly Balboa Park which most progressives are not in favor of I acknowledge. However, no one else with their ostrich heads stuck in the sand is willing to do squat to improve Balboa Park except to give gratuitous advice.

Progressives are shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to their attitude towards someone who is willing to spend millions to make San Diego a better place at a time when the city government can’t even keep its head above water.


Anna Daniels January 11, 2012 at 11:53 am

John-BFD? Progressives better take notice. What does it mean when our city no longer funds or maintains a public park (Balboa Park) and a much needed public library ( the Central Library)? We are told that private-public partnerships are the future to municipal solvency in conjunction with private philanthropy. There are any number of strings attached in both instances that erode public participation, public desires and public access. Those are progressive issues.
It is also hard to believe-actually impossible to believe- that the Snapdragon Syndrome does not reflect a quid pro quo. This serves to further entrench a power structure in which the distinctions between Democrat and Republican are laughable. This also strikes me as a progressive issue.
I applaud Lucas for continuing to raise these issues. He is one of the few voices doing so. I recommend a re-read of another of his articles posted here and a few moments of thought about “civic nihilism.”


John Lawrence January 12, 2012 at 9:02 am

“What does it mean when our city no longer funds or maintains a public park (Balboa Park) and a much needed public library ( the Central Library)?” What it means is that Balboa Park and the Central Library will go to hell in a handbag because the city’s finances are so screwed up. They are not not funding those items because they HAVE the money and just don’t want to do it. Luckily, you have a local billionaire who is willing to take up the slack. Otherwise, the whole city would just go to hell and no one would care and no one would be in a position to do anything about it. Progressives are just shooting themselves in the foot to spite their face if the latter is their preferred alternative, and I consider myself a progressive!


John Lawrence January 12, 2012 at 9:40 am

Who cares I do, I love Balboa Park and it is a tourest attrection that shold always look it’s best for all of the out of town people that come to spend their money and time enjoying the beauty of the park. My sister care too. she couldn’t believe that after all these years Balboa Park is being treated like it’s worth was nothing. My sister has not been here in years, but it broke her heart to know that no body cared about it’s up-keep. We can’t lose our livrary either we need it for all to use and benfit from. The city needs to take care of the needs of our Balboa Park and our new public library.


Anonymous January 11, 2012 at 11:56 am

Will Occupiers of SD be there at Balboa Theatre for this FREE event ? I believe it is imperative we attend, OUR voices must be HEARD, we MUST MIC CHECK EX MAYOR SANDERS….


hank pfeffer January 12, 2012 at 9:43 pm



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