Manufacturing Consent for a New Stadium in San Diego

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in Culture, Environment, History, Media, Politics, San Diego, Sports

Qualcomm flooded-12-23-10 ed

December 23, 2010

By Doug Porter

Two months ago prospects for building a new football stadium were waning. The thinking was that San Diego had done too little, too late to accommodate the demands of the Chargers for a new facility. The football team, it seemed, was ready to head north for a more obliging locale.

Now, thanks to a blizzard of press releases and the timely release of a think tank study, the tide may be turning. Today we’ll take a look at those developments and the role they may play in shaping public opinion.

Back on February 2nd a certain columnist (me) noted :

“The only thing more likely to be declared dead on arrival than any plan coming out of the newly ensconced Citizens’ Stadium Advisory Group for San Diego is the budget proposal the President is sending to the Republican-controlled congress.”

While congressional antipathy towards the administration has not diminished, the emerging narrative suggests that funding and building a stadium in San Diego may not be such a far-fetched idea.

Over the past few weeks the County of San Diego has become involved, first by way of mentions of a “bridge loan” financing scheme (to be repaid through increases in future property tax assessments) and secondly, through a deal whereby the Supervisors coughed up a matching $250,000 to hire big name experts to weigh in on what it might take to build a new stadium.

The issue of where a new stadium will be built has also been resolved, as the Mayoral Task Force has declared the existing site in Mission Valley to be the only feasible location.

Here Come the Banksters

Citi-Bank-IndiaOn Tuesday it was announced that investment banker Citigroup and law firm Nixon Peabody were being retained to negotiate a possible stadium deal with the Chargers in San Diego. This means the football team will be hearing proposals from competing financial institutions; Goldman-Sachs is connected to the proposal being put together for the Carson location under consideration.

The UT-San Diego article on Citigroup/Nixon Peabody included endorsements from the right local political figures, including Supervisor Ron Roberts and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. Charger’s special counsel Mark Fabiani gave the deal a thumbs up, “We have valued our relationship with City Attorney Goldsmith over the years, and we welcome the initiative he has shown to bring stadium experts into the process on behalf of the city.”

And then there’s these details, via UT-San Diego:

Citigroup could also underwrite a possible bond issue if a stadium proposal is eventually endorsed by the public. Citigroup will not receive a retainer or professional fees up front, but employees will be reimbursed for travel expenses and part of the company’s payment could include a fee if it helps issue bonds.

While the county and city have agreed to jointly spend a maximum of $500,000, officials from both agencies acknowledged this month that more money for attorneys and consultants would probably be needed if negotiations progress.

See? We’re already being prepared for cost over-runs…

The Data Dump

Nation Policy logoSo the financial hurtles facing building a new football stadium are now being taken care of by experts from the financial consortium Barrons questioned in 2014 with the headline “Too big to fail, too complicated to manage?”

Next up are the political hurtles, and the experts at the National University System Institute for Policy Research have come forth to polish that turd. By forging a coalition of Republican and Latino voters, they’ve concluded it might be possible to reach a 55% “yes” vote on a bond proposal.

From City News Service, via 10News:

Passing a ballot measure to build a football stadium in San Diego with significant public financing will be “challenging but winnable,” according to a study released Monday by the National University System Institute for Policy Research.

City and county elected officials, and the Chargers, which would be the primary tenants of a new facility, have called for any proposal to go before the public for approval.

Vince Vasquez of the NUSIPR said Democratic and Republican leaders would have to endorse the project, and a “yes” campaign would have to quickly identify and appeal to skeptical voters.

Despite my general skepticism of National University-related studies–they do generally seem to re-enforce talking points favorable to the local plutocracy– this particular study does contain data worth studying on the evolving electorate. And, most importantly, it concludes that the current administration has little to lose in the short-term by going all-in for building a new stadium.

A recent Georgetown University study examined the subsequent years in public service served by city mayors in 235 situations since 1900 where a professional sports team stays, leaves, arrives, was selected as an expansion site, stayed while a stadium was being built, or moved away/moved to a neighboring city.

Overall, the study found that mayors who lose teams don’t do any worse or better in their later political careers than mayors who retain teams or preside over new stadium construction. Statistical tests did however identify that Republican mayors served slightly fewer years than Democratic mayors when they became involved in a stadium project.

The study also found a statistically significant negative correlation between the years served by mayors in public service and the percentage of public subsidy towards a stadium project. In other words, the more public money put in, the greater the risk to one’s political career. Thus, while Mayor Faulconer may suffer few political repercussions of a failed stadium vote or the Chargers leaving San Diego, he may face negative consequences if the public stadium financing is considered large and lavish.

Dissing the Competition

la stadiumWhile we’re being pumped up with the good news about San Diego’s chances at keeping the Charges, UT-San Diego has an article casting shade on the competition.

A financial analysis projects that a proposed $1.7 billion NFL stadium near Los Angeles would need two teams to call it home to be a steady money-maker for the city where it would be constructed.

The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are planning the shared stadium on the site of a former landfill in Carson, on the edge of Los Angeles, if both teams fail to get new stadiums in their current hometowns.

According to documents released by the city of Carson on Monday, consultant AECOM estimated that with two teams installed, the city budget would see a net fiscal gain in each of 40 years.

There are a significant amount of “ifs” going on here, and the report says that having only one team cost Carson “annual fiscal losses in most of the first 30 years.” The reality that stadiums no longer have three decade shelf life is nowhere to be found in the story.

Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani is quoted, saying the report’s calculations are flawed. (Because “everybody knows” about all those trickle down benefits….)

The Fear Factor

Dont-Be-Afraid-of-the-DarkAny campaign aimed at persuading people to act irrationally or against their economic interests needs to have a boogie man to be effective.

Today’s contribution to that cause comes via UT columnist Tom Krasovic, who quoted local football hero LaDanian Tomlinson opining about the Chargers’ star quarterback on the NFL Network.

….On if he thinks Rivers will be the Chargers starting quarterback next season:

I personally don’t think so. I really think this is a situation where Philip Rivers wants to move on. The reason why I think that and the reason why I feel like that is the Chargers have already approached Philip about doing another contract and he declined it. He doesn’t want anything to do with it; he didn’t even want to talk about another contract with the San Diego Chargers. That tells me that he’s thinking about moving on.

Quarterback Rivers leaving the team somehow gets mentioned often in stories speculating on the potential of a move northward.

All this ‘good news’ about the Chargers is not–as some would like me to say– part of a conspiracy. It doesn’t have to be. It’s just business as usual, and this week’s business is a public relations effort seeking to convince us all that we really need a stadium.

Finally, for those who have questions about the facts bandied about in all these discussions, I recommend Lisa Halverstadt’s The Definitive FAQ on San Diego’s Stadium Saga at Voice of San Diego.

Here’s one other matter before I call it a day…

The Fair Pay Act

equal payThe California Senate’s Labor and Industrial Relations Committee will be considering SB 358, also known as the Fair Pay Act, today.

From The Guardian:

A new state bill would directly protect millions of women in California like Chicas from being fired, retaliated or discriminated against if they ask about or discuss pay at work, especially if the purpose of the inquiry is to seek equal pay…

“…If passed, SB 358 would be the strongest equal pay law in the nation,” said state senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, chair of the California legislative women’s caucus and the author of the Fair Pay Act. “Women comprise almost half of California’s workforce. Yet across our state, women’s hard work and true value is not reflected in their paychecks.”

Jackson says SB 358 was inspired by President Barack Obama’s focus on fair pay for women, actress Patricia Arquette’s impassioned plea during her 2015 Academy Award acceptance speech, and data that shows that as the economy improves women are not benefiting.


This is an excerpt of Doug Porter’s column at San Diego Free Press, our online media partner.


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