City Seal The City of San Diego
HomeContact the City
City Seal
City Seal Business City Hall Community Departments Information Leisure Services A-Z Visiting
Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues
Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues Home About the Task Force Task Force Meetings Documents
Documents

San Diego Union-Tribune

TIM SULLIVAN

If Chargers want to talk, shouldn't city be listening?

November 30, 2002

Abstract:
The fact is that the Chargers have given [Dick Murphy] all the political cover he needs in order to hear them out. Though Task Force member Geoff Patnoe describes the stadium issue as "radioactive," the Chargers' willingness to negotiate on the onerous ticket guarantee ought to be, in itself, sufficient grounds for a get-together. If the larger deal they have outlined raises some objections -- and it does -- what taxpayer would oppose exploratory talks that could conceivably reduce his National Football League subsidy?

Rather than wait for the Task Force to complete its due diligence (probably in the spring), [Bruce Henderson] proposes the city hire a professional negotiator to begin the bargaining process. Though Henderson has repeatedly described the Chargers' lease as a "road map to L.A.," and yesterday expressed the opinion that "the deal is pretty well done in Pasadena," he would like to believe the Chargers are not simply staging a charade in order to limit their legal liability.

The Chargers' purported goal is a "clear shot" at a stadium vote on the 2004 ballot. To date, their definition of a "clear shot" entails elimination of both the ticket guarantee and the "trigger" mechanism, but also a dramatic condensing of their lease. Instead of the current 2020 expiration -- which might be difficult to enforce -- the Chargers would seek to cap their commitment at 2004.

Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Nov 30, 2002

There's no danger in dialogue. If the Chargers are prepared to talk turkey, the mayor should not tell them to stuff it.

Dick Murphy should, instead, promptly clear some time on his calendar for some face-to-face haggling with Team Spanos. Conversation is not obligation. If His Honor doesn't like the deal the Chargers want to do, he is free to counter it, to recommend revisions or to fold the proposal into a paper airplane.

Stonewalling, however, is senseless. Waiting on a Task Force recommendation is specious. Adopting a hard line before negotiations can even begin is both premature and inappropriately pugnacious. It suggests a politician more interested in polls than in progress.

The fact is that the Chargers have given Murphy all the political cover he needs in order to hear them out. Though Task Force member Geoff Patnoe describes the stadium issue as "radioactive," the Chargers' willingness to negotiate on the onerous ticket guarantee ought to be, in itself, sufficient grounds for a get-together. If the larger deal they have outlined raises some objections -- and it does -- what taxpayer would oppose exploratory talks that could conceivably reduce his National Football League subsidy?

Answer: "Nobody," Patnoe said.

What's the harm in finding out if there's a middle ground before the Chargers hold a gun to our heads and pull their renegotiation/ escape clause trigger? What's the problem with seeking a suitable frame for the Task Force's work in progress? What's Murphy's point in summarily rejecting the Chargers' proposal as "ridiculous," without advancing a more palatable plan?

On Sept. 27, 2000, while running for mayor, Murphy described the Chargers' ticket guarantee as an "intolerable situation" and declared the city "must take action." Thus far in Murphy's administration, though, his nonaction has spoken considerably louder than his campaign rhetoric.

When the issue causing citizens the most anguish is placed on the bargaining table, isn't it incumbent on a public servant to investigate?

"There's no danger in talking about anything, so long as it's done in public," said Task Force member Bruce Henderson. "This is a sufficiently small town and a sufficiently narrowly circumscribed issue that I don't think public discussions at various levels of the city are going to affect the Task Force. A three-way or four-way dialogue may well be useful."

Henderson is one of those suspicious San Diegans who can smell a rat in Rangoon, and his Chargers strategy to date has been heavy on litigation. Still, he's also pragmatic enough to recognize the inherent difficulties of his city's position vis-a-vis Los Angeles.

Rather than wait for the Task Force to complete its due diligence (probably in the spring), Henderson proposes the city hire a professional negotiator to begin the bargaining process. Though Henderson has repeatedly described the Chargers' lease as a "road map to L.A.," and yesterday expressed the opinion that "the deal is pretty well done in Pasadena," he would like to believe the Chargers are not simply staging a charade in order to limit their legal liability.

He would like to believe the Chargers are as serious about staying put as they say they are.

"We have said from the beginning that we're going to consider all ideas, including the elimination of the ticket guarantee and restructuring the lease," Chargers consultant Mark Fabiani said yesterday. "But it's impossible to negotiate with yourself."

The Chargers' purported goal is a "clear shot" at a stadium vote on the 2004 ballot. To date, their definition of a "clear shot" entails elimination of both the ticket guarantee and the "trigger" mechanism, but also a dramatic condensing of their lease. Instead of the current 2020 expiration -- which might be difficult to enforce -- the Chargers would seek to cap their commitment at 2004.

In effect, the team is seeking the freedom to make an immediate, unfettered move if its stadium initiative were to fail. The Chargers are looking for an all-or-nothing, up-or-down vote as opposed to a prolonged and contentious courtroom experience.

Even if they have no designs on L.A., the Chargers have a vested interest in voiding the latter years of their Qualcomm lease. According to Henderson's computations, the team's rent payments between 2005 and 2020 would be roughly $136.7 million.

Naturally, this warrants some wariness.

"My opinion," Henderson said, "is we shouldn't do anything to facilitate their leaving town."

Patnoe's suggestion is that the Chargers' trigger period be pushed back in order to allow the Task Force to make its report in a cooler climate. Instead of the 60-day window that opens tomorrow, Patnoe would prefer that the trigger period be rescheduled between April and May.

"It would make sense," Patnoe said. "It would also show that (the Chargers) respect the mayor's process. If they were to trigger and then come in and present their plans to us, it's going to be met with skepticism."

The Chargers' problem is that exercising the trigger may be the only move that can create movement. The city's problem is that if the Chargers trigger, persuading people they're serious about staying becomes devilishly difficult.

"We have a pretty good sense that if the ticket guarantee weren't there, that if you didn't have to battle through this trigger, you'd have a great chance of getting something done," Fabiani said. "We think if you eliminate these barriers, we'd get a ballot measure passed in 2004."

That much is hypothetical. But if Fabiani's theory is to be tested, somebody needs to start talking to him.

Tim Sullivan: (619) 293-1033; tim.sullivan@uniontrib



| Citizens' Task Force Home | About the Task Force | Task Force Meetings | Documents | Top of Page |
Site Map Privacy Notice Disclaimers