Americans' love of sports and their devotion to their hometown teams have a way of obscuring the reality that these professionals-sports franchises are private businesses that don't, as far as we understand it, provide a windfall of tax revenue for their municipal hosts. San Diegans by and large are fond of the Chargers and the Padres, and recent city administrators and elected officials have taken a subservient role in their relationship with franchise executives. The Padres got in under the wire of economic and political chaos, securing a big public subsidy for their downtown ballpark. The Chargers got a publicly financed stadium remodel not long before pulling an escape trigger that they somehow managed to have inserted in a lease that was supposed to be good until 2020.
If cities are flush with cash and have the support of a good majority of the public, they should go for it, donate to a private business because it's a source of civic pride. But San Diego is pretty much broke, so even though the Chargers are the object of some public admiration, Mayor Jerry Sanders was right to give the football team his blessing to shop itself to other jurisdictions in San Diego County. We initially cringed at another giveaway-letting the team out of its new lease early-but we understand wanting to offer some good will as you pull out the linings of your pockets and say, I'm sorry, buddy, I just can't spare a dime right now. The gesture might come in handy in the unlikely event Chargers owner Alex Spanos, a super-rich developer, and son Dean decide they want to be in San Diego badly enough to build a new stadium with their own money and without further taxing an already overburdened public infrastructure system by insisting that the stadium come accompanied by a new mini-village.
A sports team's ace in the hole is the relationship with its fans. It's a powerful force, and these folks' elected representatives feel it. So, it's smart of Sanders to stay involved. He's got a meeting scheduled with county Supervisors Ron Roberts and Dianne Jacob to kick around ideas for possible stadium sites, including one Roberts has floated on Navy land within the northern city limits. And that's great. Meetings can generate good ideas.
Sanders has our blessing to explore ways to keep the Chargers in San Diego, but only if the majority of us can be convinced that the solution would result in a net economic gain for the public and pay for the infrastructure improvements the project requires.
Sure, the Chargers might find some far-flung city that wants to spend public money to lure them away, and that would be regrettable, but San Diego simply doesn't have any more sugar in its cupboards to sweeten a deal to keep them here. We trust Sanders will remember that.
Feeling fine about Faulconer
CityBeat gave District 2 City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer a backhanded endorsement in last month's election that was more insult than show of support. We said we were "holding our nose" and endorsing Faulconer only because his only opponent had abandoned his candidacy. But Faulconer called us to thank us for the endorsement nonetheless. It was a classy phone call.
And when we urged him to vote in favor of renewing a needle-exchange program in his own district, he assured us that he was going to see a demonstration of the program with his own eyes and promised to genuinely consider its merits when it came time to vote. The program's advocates needed one vote from either Faulconer or District 8 City Councilmember Ben Hueso.
After the close of last Tuesday's public testimony, Hueso beat Faulconer to the microphone to pledge a yes vote, guaranteeing the go-ahead for needle exchange and offering the latter a chance to pull an audible. Faulconer could have sided with the opponents, with whom he probably shares ideology on other matters. It could be that the mayor's people did a good job of convincing Faulconer that he should maintain an alliance with Sanders. We'd like to think it was because Faulconer saw the obviousness of the program's public benefit and simply did the right thing.
Either way, we thank him for his vote. Now if Faulconer can vote against developers and builders when the public interest makes a compelling case, we just might give him a friendlier endorsement when he stands for reelection.