July 22 2015 11:41 AM

We haven't seen the river card, yet

Photo courtesy of Images Money / Flickr

Poker analogies have been and continue to be appropriate in assessing the high-stakes game being played by the city of San Diego and the Chargers over new stadium siting and funding. Like Texas Hold-Em players, both sides are making misdirection moves that seemingly don't make sense.

This page has called for the city to "up the ante" and "call the Chargers' bluff" while going head-to-head in this ongoing game of chance. That advice, however, has been aimed at prompting the team and the deep-pocketed National Football League to push in more of their chips while also encouraging a strategy that the city use not one dime of taxpayer money to pay for any new construction.

A skilled poker player can sit at the table for hours, folding most of the hands dealt while waiting to play the right cards. So what happened recently? Chargers representative Mark Fabiani had gotten up from the game, complaining that San Diego wasn't offering the right location or the proper timeline for a new stadium here. Fabiani's chips are still on the table in the San Diego poker room. But he's making sure we see him eyeing the higher-risk/ higher-reward game up in Carson.

In response, San Diego has made a seemingly out-of-position bet. Mayor Kevin Faulconer and his advisors proposed spending $2.1 million to get a quickie environmental impact report (EIR) done on the Mission Valley site. The reasoning: When the NFL owners meet next month to discuss all the cities that are playing cards with other teams in the league—each angling to score a jackpot in Los Angeles—the league honchos will see how serious San Diego is, and decree that the Chargers stay put.

With Fabiani absent from the table, says mayoral spokesperson Matt Awbrey, the city is dealing with the NFL.

However, it's unconscionable that the city is spending $2.1 million of taxpayer money (even if it's found money from the state, and/or a transferable cost) on a gamble, rather than on tangible infrastructure or public services.

Feeling lucky, the San Diego City Council voted 6-3 to approve this bet. The gamblers include all the Republicans (Lorie Zapf, Mark Kersey, Chris Cate and Scott Sherman) and Democrats Myrtle Cole and Sherri Lightner.

"People might say this is a fool's errand," Sherman told the San Diego Union-Tribune. But Sherman, whose district includes Mission Valley, says he has faith the right deal will get the Chargers back to the table.

Meanwhile, a SurveyUSA news poll shows more locals—even hardcore fans—think the EIR is a bad idea; and, that Comic-Con is more important to the city than the Chargers.

Justin DeCesare, running to unseat Sherman for the District 7 council seat, says, "The vote to spend $2.1 million on an EIR for a new football stadium is an irresponsible waste of taxpayer funds that are desperately needed for rebuilding our neighborhood's aging infrastructure." He calls it a political boondoggle and says it's "just another example of putting special interests ahead of taxpayer interests."

District 1's Lightner, who voted for the EIR, is termed out. Barbara Bry, a Democratic candidate for Lightner's, seat would have voted differently. Bry says "it's simply good business to have an agreement in place with a financing plan before you spend $2.1 million in tax dollars on an EIR."

Agreed. So what's next? 

Oh, the poker game is still on. Logic and probability say the Chargers are Carson-bound. But there are still cards to be flipped. So don't be surprised when the NFL postpones a vote on allowing teams to petition to move to Los Angeles, and a revised plan to build a downtown San Diego stadium, funded in large degree by taxing tourists, floats to the fore.

Yes, that's a prediction, based on what seems the most unlikely next scenario.

Write to rond@sdcitybeat.com


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