"No. 26" See more of the globes at 100worldsproject.com
At the outset, it looks as if Mayor Dick Murphy did a decent job of stocking his Chargers task force with independent thinkers. We hope the panel continues to probe the city's relationship with the Chargers with skepticism and intelligence.
Those who thought Bruce Henderson, former City Council member and outspoken critic of the city's dealings with the Chargers, would be the only one asking tough questions will be surprised to learn that at the Aug. 29 meeting task force members Len Simon, Karen Heumann, Tom Fat, Pepper Coffey and Ron Saathoff also showed signs that they'll be something more than table decorations. That's certainly a step in the right direction.
After just two meetings we already have task force members raising serious questions about the wisdom behind the city's contract with Chargers-beyond the obvious sniping over the provision that requires San Diego to pay the Chargers face value of every football game ticket that goes unsold and the section that allows the Chargers to bail out of the contract if player payroll outpaces revenue under a certain formula.
Henderson noted that the city was silent when the Chargers raised ticket prices despite the fact that higher prices would likely result in fewer tickets sold-and the city is on the hook for absorbing the ticket deficit if fans don't come to the gate. Meanwhile, Coffey opined rather emphatically that she doesn't believe the Chargers have done their best to sell tickets.
Task force members noted that no studies have been compiled that show what impact the Chargers-or the Padres, for that matter-have on the local economy. Seems like that would be terribly useful information if the study wasn't commissioned by the Chargers themselves.
And there was a very interesting exchange between Heumann and Assistant City Attorney Les Girard during which Heumann asked if the Chargers had violated any part of the contract by talking to billionaire Philip Anschutz about moving the team to Los Angeles.
Heumann suggested that perhaps the conversations between the Chargers and Anschutz have lowered our confidence in the Chargers commitment to San Diego, perhaps resulting in fewer tickets being sold and increased cost to the city under the ticket guarantee.
Girard said it was his understanding that the Chargers did not initiate those talks and that it was Anschutz's group who were the “aggressors.” That's what he read in the Union-Tribune anyway. It was one of a number of times Girard cited “the paper” as the City Attorney's Office's source of knowledge on matter related to the Chargers.
True, sometimes investigative journalists are ahead of the curve, but here's the likely scenario: The Chargers will begin to initiate their escape clause shortly after Dec. 1-probably after the Super Bowl. Three months later, the team will begin negotiating with interests in Los Angeles (if they haven't already), because there's no way San Diego can deliver a commitment to building a new stadium. It would be reassuring to know that the city attorneys are taking a critical stance and an active role in the contractual relationship between the city and the football team in order to look after the taxpayers' interests.
Task force members have shown that they mean business. Let's see the city do the same.