Are Mayor Dick Murphy and City Councilmember Scott Peters on the Chargers' payroll?
It's one of the many questions that came to mind during Monday's public hearing at City Hall, where high-level city staffers, who appear to be hopelessly devoted Chargers fans, told members of the City Council that they should pay two guys upwards of $100,000 to chat with the football team's lawyers on the city's behalf.
Why would the city consider such a thing? Well, silly, because the Chargers thought it would be a good idea to schedule a couple of get-togethers, according to Deputy City Manager Bruce Herring, who might as well have painted his face blue and gold and worn beer-can headgear for the occasion. In fact, maybe Assistant City Attorney Les Girard should also have gotten in on the fun-he and Herring could have painted “Go Chargers!” on their bellies and performed a rousing wave as the City Council argued about the wisdom of the recommendation. After all, it was Girard who told the City Council that the clock's a-tickin', and time for a new-stadium ballot measure will soon be upon us.
What in the Schottenheimer is going on here?
Last year, the city signed one of its famous sucker deals with the Chargers. (It's almost sad how good Murphy thinks that pact was for the city.) It requires the city to negotiate in good faith with the Chargers. So, fresh off a rare winning season-the team's timing is uncanny-the Chargers told their toadies at City Hall to pass a message along to the City Council: We're waiting at the negotiating table. Move it along.
Now, no one with any decision-making power thinks there's anyone employed by the city who can read a contract-or a ballot proposal, for that matter-so the recommendation Monday was to pay Paul Jacobs and Dan Barrett somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000 to talk to the Chargers. Apparently, they have some extraordinary powers that make them resistant to the wiles of those crafty devils on the Chargers' legal team.
If you missed Murphy's comments, which were parroted by Herring, Girard, Peters and Councilmember Jim Madaffer and Ralph “Empty Suit Jacket” Inzunza, you missed a highly amusing act. Dagnabbit, Murphy said, we hayseeds ain't lettin' them city-slicker football lah-yers “snooker” us again-'tain't happenin'!
Um... too late, Mr. Mayor.
Why, in the name of LaDainian Tomlinson, wouldn't the city simply tell the Chargers: If you want a new stadium, we'd be happy to mull over your proposal when you're ready to submit it. Then, if city officials still don't think they have anyone in-house clever enough to read the fine print, go ahead and hire the great and powerful Barrett and Jacobs.
Oh, that's right-Murphy said that if the city dawdles too long, someone else would hire them. Thankfully, Councilmember Michael Zucchet managed to hack his way through that logic, saying that if the potent pair is that much in demand, more power to them-that's just a risk we're going to have to take.
The hysterics of Murphy, Peters, Herring and Girard were particularly strange given the comment by Herring that the conversations between the team and the city would merely cover “process”-how these talks would proceed, what topics would be on the table, etc. Kudos to Councilmember Brian Maienschein for asking the obvious question: You need expert consultants for that?
Madaffer staged a little two-man routine with Herring, enlisting the deputy city manager to answer a question Madaffer already knew the answer to: Wouldn't this money come from a fund that can only be used for stadium-related costs? Why, yes, Herring dutifully responded. That led Councilmember Toni Atkins, who's not a member of the Chargers Fan Club, to suggest that perhaps that money's better spent on Qualcomm Stadium maintenance. That, in turn, led Peters to utter all the words his District 1 constituents need to hear. Why spend money on Qualcomm, he said, when we're just going to tear it down and build a new stadium? Looks like we know where Peters stands. He sounds quite sure that a stadium development will be a cash cow for the city. He obviously hasn't learned that the Chargers are unable to sign deals that don't screw the taxpayers.
Incidentally, isn't Herring the guy who, back in 2002, sold the pension-underfunding-in-exchange-for-enhanced-retirement-benefits deal to the city's retirement board? Right. Just checking.
Fortunately, the City Council voted to do nothing on Monday. But the Chargers and their fans at City Hall will come calling again soon. The City Council must find a way to resist their mind-warping powers.