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San Diego Union-Tribune

NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

Council to tackle Chargers issues today | Should talks continue or is lease more vital?

December 10, 2002

Abstract:
"We declined to engage in any discussion with the coliseum's representative," said Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Chargers President Dean Spanos. "We emphasized that we are now completely focused on finding a solution in San Diego."

"It's absolutely pivotal," said City Councilman Ralph Inzunza, who voiced support for negotiations on the ticket guarantee but opposed shortening the city's lease. "I have no intent of letting them out of their lease that runs until 2020."

Last month, the Chargers disclosed an offer they made in the summer to Mayor Dick Murphy, effectively swapping the city's obligations under the ticket guarantee for a shortened lease, ending in 2004.

Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Dec 10, 2002

For months, City Council members have voiced increasing frustration over the 1995 city lease they inherited with the San Diego Chargers.

Today, they'll get a chance to put their own stamp on city relations with the team amid the latest flare-up of the controversial ticket guarantee, intensified Charger demands for a new stadium and the continued threat of a potential team move to Los Angeles.

Late last week, the Chargers disclosed that a representative from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum had contacted the team, offering a briefing on the coliseum.

"We declined to engage in any discussion with the coliseum's representative," said Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Chargers President Dean Spanos. "We emphasized that we are now completely focused on finding a solution in San Diego."

At today's City Council session, council members are expected to get a public briefing from the city staff on private talks over the past week with Chargers officials regarding the team's recent offer to revise its 1995 lease with the city.

Council members will have to decide whether negotiations should continue or whether the city should instead focus more on defending the lease, possibly in court.

Some observers close to the team and City Hall say the council's approach to today's session may indicate whether city planners or city attorneys handle relations with the team in the near future.

"It's absolutely pivotal," said City Councilman Ralph Inzunza, who voiced support for negotiations on the ticket guarantee but opposed shortening the city's lease. "I have no intent of letting them out of their lease that runs until 2020."

Fabiani agreed that today's session will largely influence the tone and direction of relations between the two sides.

"This is the last, best chance we all have to sit down and talk about getting rid of the trigger and ticket guarantee," Fabiani said.
Some expect the council members to be critical and thorough.

"I don't think it will be a surprise to anyone that the new council's tone could be much harsher than the previous council," said Mitch Mitchell, a vice president with the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

However, with the future of professional football in San Diego hanging in the balance, Mitchell said, council members are prepared for an exhaustive review of the issues. "It is chock with land mines, and, as an elected official, you have to tiptoe carefully."

Last month, the Chargers disclosed an offer they made in the summer to Mayor Dick Murphy, effectively swapping the city's obligations under the ticket guarantee for a shortened lease, ending in 2004.

Chargers attorney Allan Mutchnik has said the team could deliver such an agreement to the council by mid-January for consideration.

Under the current lease, a 60-day window opened on Dec. 1 where the Chargers can notify the city that they have met the financial conditions needed to renegotiate.

Yet, some council members are wary of authorizing a continuation of such private talks while a citizens panel examines the issue.

In the summer, Murphy appointed a 15-member Citizens Task Force on Chargers Issues to study what could be done to keep the Chargers in San Diego in a fiscally responsible way.

"I campaigned against any more back-room deals, and I doubt I can support any new side discussions until the task force has concluded their work," said City Councilman Jim Madaffer.

Councilwoman Toni Atkins said that before authorizing further talks, she needs to fully analyze all the implications.

"I need to understand the impacts of their offer on the long- term agreement we have in effect, and since this is a public hearing, we'll have a chance to ask those questions," Atkins said.

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


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