Aug. 3 2016 01:07 PM

Jerry Sanders throws Chamber of Commerce backing to Team Spanos

Mayor Faulconer: "Hey, Jerry and Dean, I might cut in after further analysis..."
Photo illustration by John R. Lamb

I cannot live under pressures from patrons, let alone paint.

—Michelangelo

The only thing missing was the cheesy ’70s porno soundtrack.

Bow-chicka-bow-wow. “Ohhh Dean, you’re a man who needs no introduction!” Wakka-chicka-wakka-chicka. “Oooo Jerry, once a leader, always a leader! Yes, yessss, YES!” Bom-chicka-wah-wah….

Spin Cycle teases somewhat, but if only San Diego could bottle the gushing goodwill shared last week by San Diego Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos and San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce big cheese Jerry Sanders when the former mayor announced that his influential organization would back the team’s stadium/convention-center annex ballot measure come November.

Conspicuously missing from the Friday press conference was Mayor Indecision himself, Kevin Faulconer, who was reportedly out of town. His office did not say where when asked, but he issued a flaccid statement that “we are looking forward to additional analysis and information that is coming that will give greater clarity on the project’s finances and, ultimately, whether this is a fair deal for taxpayers.”

The chamber, which boasts on its website that it “spearheaded” Faulconer’s 2014 mayoral campaign, was immediately excoriated by downtown stadium foes. April Boling, a Republican stalwart and former chairwoman of the San Diego Convention Center, blasted the endorsement as a decision “based on a relationship, not a policy discussion…Dean Spanos is important to the Chamber and that, unfortunately, was more important than good public policy.”

Indeed, A.G. Spanos, Dean’s son, sits on the chamber’s board of directors, but Margie Newman, a chamber member who helped wade through the Chargers’ complicated ballot language and spoke at Thursday’s press conference, insisted that the decision was made “after an extensive number of hours of policy discussions and analysis.”

She said the ad hoc committee she was a part of initially had their doubts about the measure, which would raise the city’s hotel tax from 12.5 percent to 16.5 percent and dedicate the lion’s share of the increase toward construction of a stadium/convention-center facility in East Village. “There were several people on the committee, myself included, who were quite skeptical of this deal,” Newman said in an interview Monday, “and then over time and as we really dove in we realized that it’s in the best interest of San Diego commerce.”

At the press conference, Sanders alluded to concerns that remain about the initiative. “No ballot is ever perfect,” he said, adding that “considerations” the team should address include the “long-term security of the Tourism Marketing District,” “absolute protection” of the city’s General Fund, and downtown parking and infrastructure needs.

The Tourism Marketing District is currently collecting 2 percent of that 12.5 percent—roughly $30 million a year—that hoteliers approved in 2008 and was extended in 2012 for 40 years by the San Diego City Council. That assessment has been challenged in court by activist attorney Cory Briggs and is likely not long for this world.

The ballot language in the Chargers’ Initiative—similar to a competing measure in November known as the Citizens’ Plan, championed by Briggs—would eliminate that 2 percent surcharge. But the team’s measure would immediately dedicate 1 percent of the hotel-tax increase to a tourism-marketing fund and make up the remainder, with fingers crossed, through robust cash flow.

Whatever monies remain would trickle into the city’s General Fund—although skeptics wonder if there will be any left, considering that Sanders has noted that the hotel-tax increase, once the Chargers complex is complete, could be used to finance a long-desired expansion of the downtown convention center.

In contrast, the Citizens’ Plan—which would boost the hotel tax to 15.5 percent—directs all of the increase to the General Fund and creates voluntary pathways to finance a host of endeavors, with the exception of paying for a new Chargers stadium unless voters later agreed to it. A chamber spokesperson said the organization has not yet taken a formal position on the Citizens’ Plan.

Sanders claimed the Chargers measure would create an estimated 7,000 permanent jobs and 15,000 construction-related positions, the latter having drawn the support of the county’s San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council.

Polling suggests that the Chargers face a tough challenge convincing voters to throw so much money—$1 billion by some estimates—at a downtown bauble while the city’s roads and sidewalks continue to crumble and 911 calls languish. Barrio Logan residents fear accelerated gentrification in their neighborhood a few blocks away, and some East Villagers are crying foul over their preferred vision of a job-driving innovation district.

Spanos, however, seems to have his game face on, noting last week, “It’s a long, hard road ahead of us, and we’re up for the challenge. We’re committed to get this thing approved, and we’re going to do it.”

Toward that end, the team has hired a formidable campaign field general, former Rick Perry devotee Dave Carney, a behemoth of a New Hampshirite known for his near-religious belief in voter analytics.

Carney, a long-time Republican operative, rose from political operations in the George H.W. Bush White House to becoming Newt Gingrich’s top political adviser during his 2012 presidential run before jumping on the Perry bandwagon and gaining him national attention.

Known for an unconventional style, Carney turned GOP heads when he hired Yale political scientists to study campaign methods while working for Perry—they became known as the “eggheads.” His White House office was adorned with a pinball machine and “toy airplanes and Happy Meal trinkets,” according to author Sasha Issenberg in her 2012 book, The Victory Lab.

In the book, Carney said that rather than “being a good team player,” he’s learned that “it’s better to be a loud, obnoxious person,” admitting he once punched a hole in a wall after Perry nixed a negative ad campaign.

But he also noted that he cares more about results than effort, colorfully explaining that “if a guy can create his TV ads sleeping in his boxer shorts in his mother’s basement, I don’t give a shit—I just want to win.”

Sanders—known for the occasional profanity—likely couldn’t be happier. Bow-chicka-bow-wow…


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