| San Diego Union-Tribune
Let's define terms before charging on
February 27, 2003
During hearings of the task force, the Chargers put forth an intellectually
insulting proposal for development of the Qualcomm site. Theoretically,
taxes thrown off by new structures at the 166- acre Qualcomm site would
pay for the city's $200 million contribution.
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Feb 27, 2003
The Chargers' task force report can be quite useful to the City Council, but several things must be kept in mind: The report appears deceptive, it lacks perspective and its basic conclusion is faulty.
First, let's consider the basic conclusion: The task force recommends that the city begin immediate discussions with the Chargers over modifications to the existing contract with the team, and either renovation of Qualcomm Stadium or construction of a new facility.
But the report simply does not support such a recommendation. The finance committee alludes to its "inability to determine whether the San Diego Chargers require a new football stadium to remain financially viable, due to lack of information provided by the team" and the National Football League.
The whole discussion began with the Chargers' basic premise that they are not economically competitive in Qualcomm. But they will not provide data demonstrating this. No sane person would launch a contract negotiation when the other party refuses to provide information backing up its basic claim.
During hearings of the task force, the Chargers put forth an intellectually insulting proposal for development of the Qualcomm site. Theoretically, taxes thrown off by new structures at the 166- acre Qualcomm site would pay for the city's $200 million contribution.
But the city hired a real estate consulting firm, Keyser Marston, to analyze the proposal. Its conclusion was that the Chargers' proposal didn't pencil out. "The site would not generate the revenue necessary to cover the city's contribution," mentions the task force report.
Says former Councilman Bruce Henderson, a member of the task force, "The Keyser Marston report is emphatic about the fact that numerous substantial costs are omitted from the Chargers' report."
There are also reams of problems at the site: It's on the periphery of a flood plain, there is a fuel plume there, traffic congestion is already horrendous, Mission Valley hardly needs more retailing or a hotel, among many.
Why negotiate over a dead horse? And as Henderson says: There is absolutely nothing wrong with Qualcomm, as the recent Super Bowl proved. There might be minor improvements that would fall short of the definition "renovation."
The City Council -- and San Diegans -- must also be aware of deception. The reports starts out boldly stating that there will be "no cost to the city's general fund."
But in the very next paragraph, it's stated that sales, property and hotel taxes from ancillary development might pay for infrastructure at the site. Those taxes generate general fund revenue.
As lawyers are fond of saying, "You can write the agreement, if I can define the terms." This report cries out for some definition of terms. It would be unfortunate if San Diegans believed that a project was not touching the general fund when in fact it was plundering it.
Similarly, the report says, "Any new agreement should address the existing debt, including outstanding bonds." Address? "The report should state that the Chargers should pay for the ($68 million) outstanding debt on the current stadium," says Henderson.
Also, the team owes $150 million in rent through 2020. "The report suggests the team should be relieved of that rent," says Henderson. That is hardly consistent with the notion that no public money is being spent.
Sums up lawyer Michael Aguirre, "There has been no case made to start negotiations. The Chargers have not shown that they have a financial need or a legal right to start negotiations."
All told, however, there are some very good points in this report. It says that any new contract must jettison the ticket guarantee and trigger clause. The Qualcomm site should not be sold. Any plan should be approved by voters.
The report should have added that any new taxes should be spelled out in full, and the ballot measure should require the support of two-thirds of those voting.
Finally, the report needs perspective. It fails to address civic priorities. For example, in one place it laments the poor press facilities at the current Qualcomm. But when education spending is being slashed, infrastructure is in terrible shape, beaches are polluted, pension funds are inadequately funded and public safety spending may have to be scaled back, just how important is it to have posh press facilities?
Don Bauder: (619) 293-1523; firstname.lastname@example.org
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