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San Diego Union-Tribune

NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

For now, Chargers, task force only will hold talks | Panelist says council's vote legitimized process

December 12, 2002

Abstract:
Under the team's 1995 lease with the city, the Chargers can force a renegotiation once every four years if their salaries meet a financial bench mark. The latest renegotiation window opened Dec. 1, and for the next 60 days the Chargers can notify the city it is using the triggering option.

The Chargers have expressed concerns that the task force won't complete its work until after the trigger period ends, but [David Watson] believes that the renegotiation schedule in the lease gives the panel ample time to finish its work.

[Ralph Inzunza] said he believes the Chargers can easily disclose the financial details needed for the trigger clause, which ultimately will allow the team to leave San Diego.

Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Dec 12, 2002

Editions vary

Unless the Chargers formally use an exit clause in their lease, the team has to deal exclusively with a 15-member citizen task force over its future in San Diego.
City Council members sent that message with a 5-4 vote Tuesday, reaffirming their support for the task force and their distaste at the attempt by the Chargers to hold private talks with city staff.

"All that (Tuesday) did was continue the policy that nine (council) members established in June," City Councilwoman Donna Frye said yesterday, referring to the establishment of the 15-member task force.

Councilwoman Toni Atkins agreed.

"The city is talking to them. Our task force is the city. We are not denying the opportunity to negotiate. We need to do this in a process-oriented way. They agreed to this," Atkins said.

Atkins said the Chargers' offer to talk was a veiled attempt to "pre-empt this."

The task force was formed to find a fiscally responsible way to keep the Chargers in San Diego that the public could support.

One task force member, Geoff Patnoe, said he felt the panel would be emboldened by the council's decision.

"I think the council discussion and vote legitimized the task force process they created," said Patnoe, who is also executive director of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. "This is going to be the focal point for the Chargers debate from here on, outside of the legal maneuverings that take place should the team choose to trigger."

Under the team's 1995 lease with the city, the Chargers can force a renegotiation once every four years if their salaries meet a financial bench mark. The latest renegotiation window opened Dec. 1, and for the next 60 days the Chargers can notify the city it is using the triggering option.

Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani said the team had hoped to avoid using the trigger because it may disillusion fans. Now, the team may be forced to because of the council's refusal to negotiate directly with the team, he said.

"I don't think it's a fatal mistake. I do think it's a momentous decision," Fabiani said. "It raises serious questions about the ability to get anything done in San Diego."
Even so, task force Chairman David Watson told the editorial board of The San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday he believes the panel will come up with various options that city leaders can pursue, including a new stadium, a renovated stadium or defense of the current lease.

"We don't need a trigger over our heads to keep this process moving," Watson said.

The Chargers have expressed concerns that the task force won't complete its work until after the trigger period ends, but Watson believes that the renegotiation schedule in the lease gives the panel ample time to finish its work.

He said the task force should have its final report ready for the City Council by the end of February or first week in March, assuming the others on the panel approve a revised meeting calendar.

Councilman Ralph Inzunza, who led the charge to continue private talks, was not optimistic yesterday. He called Tuesday's vote a "monumental mistake by the City Council."

"The task force is definitely equipped to deal with this, but we're the ultimate authority," he said.

Inzunza said he believes the Chargers can easily disclose the financial details needed for the trigger clause, which ultimately will allow the team to leave San Diego.

"When they're shopping in Los Angeles, don't come crying to me," he said.

Norberto Santana: (619) 718-5069; norberto.santana@uniontrib.com


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