Jan. 13 2016 12:36 AM

San Diego wins by not subsidizing an NFL owner

Dean Spanos (center)
Photo courtesy of the San Diego Chargers

Everybody’s been fantasizing about winning the $1.5 billion-plus Powerball lottery. Newscasts are filled with people talking dreamily about what they’d do with the winnings. Some would hand out cars and homes like Oprah. Then there was the guy who was asked by a Fox 5 Las Vegas reporter what he’d buy with that much loot, and he answered on live TV, “hookers and cocaine.” Dreams are relative.

Would that you could successfully rebuild city infrastructure—or a pension system—with a lottery ticket investment strategy. But let’s visualize for a moment about what a Powerballian payday would/could mean to the citizens and the city of San Diego.

Imagine the city of San Diego winning $350 million in a game I’m calling Subsidy-ball. Recall that city/county leaders were prepared to subsidize the construction of a stadium for Dean Spanos’ Chargers for this amount. Now though, we hear the Chargers have been cleared to move to L.A. within a year. We still may or may not have to vote on some grand subsidy here for a craven billionaire. He doesn’t deserve a red cent.

No doubt a few Chargers die-hards have been sitting in their dens with Quick Picks in one hand and a blue-and-gold foam finger on the other, imagining how they’ll win Powerball, pitch in and build the Chargers a new palace here in town.

Let ’em go, gang. The Spanos Chargers don’t love you. Never did. It was all about the money.

Speaking of green, let’s get back to that $350 million pot of gold San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and County Supervisor Ron Roberts dug up from city/county coffers. C’mon, you all played exotic games of what-if for Powerball. Subsidy-ball will be fun but also pragmatic. Suggest what you’ll invest in for the city—and don’t say hookers and cocaine.

Chris Ward is willing to play. The candidate for San Diego’s District 3 City Council seat penciled out a whole Subsidy-ball budget: $125 million for immediate neighborhood infrastructure; $75 million for upgrades to public safety facilities; $50 million to end veteran homelessness; $50 million to upgrade Balboa Park; $25 million to invest in small business support; $15 million to incentivize water conservation; $10 million to improve city IT.

Or, we could expand the trolley system, says Dean Nelson, founder and director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University and new Subsidy-ball mogul. “I would love to take the trolley to work, to concerts, to restaurants,” he says. “As it stands now, it would take me two hours each way to work because it involves several buses. Every time I come back from Europe, Asia, Washington, D.C., New York, I ask, why don’t we have a mass transit system that accommodates more people?”

Maybe a more realistic goal would be to spend the money on Balboa Park, Nelson adds. “It’s nice now, but it could be beautiful, he says.”

San Diego Mesa College professor and Subsidyballer Carl Luna concurs: “I wouldn’t mind seeing at least a little of that money earmarked directly for our crown jewel, Balboa Park, which is tens of millions behind in repairs.”

Luna also points to what he calls a no-brainer—San Diego’s street and infrastructure repair backlog, which in 2014 amounted to somewhere between $1 and $5 billion.

“That $350 million ‘windfall’ amounts to between 7 percent and 35 percent of what the city needs to spend now just to bring our public infrastructure back up to basics,” he says.

These are all compelling and proper ways to spend $350 million. But no, we didn’t win a lottery—unless you call the thought of Spanos leaving town winning a lottery. He was right about one thing—San Diegans will never vote to subsidize him. Taxpayers saying no to the NFL ought to become a national trend.

Incidentally, when Ward sent in his Subsidyball budget he slightly overspent. But I’d personally fund his last line item: $149 for a SAYONARA, SPANOS banner.

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