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Chargers Respond to Mayor’s Proposal for Another City Task Force
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Wednesday night San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer addressed the Chargers’ 13-year-long search for a new stadium in San Diego during his State of the City Address. The Mayor’s plan, announced during his speech, to appoint a task force to work on the issue for the remainder of 2015 has sparked discussion throughout San Diego.
We sat down with Mark Fabiani, the Special Counsel to the President of the San Diego Chargers, to discuss the Chargers’ response to the Mayor’s speech.
Q: Many people had high hopes for the Mayor’s speech because there was some expectation that the Mayor would introduce a new stadium plan. The Chargers’ reaction, on the other hand, seems to put a big damper on those hopes. What’s behind this?
A: Over the entire time we have been working with Mayor Faulconer and his staff, we have only ever asked for one thing – and we asked for it at the very first meeting we had with the Mayor’s staff: ‘Please do not assign Steve Cushman to work on this issue; instead let’s try to find some new voices and fresh perspectives to add to this 13-year-long process. Again, this is the one and only request we’ve ever made of the Mayor.
So hopefully the community will understand our disappointment when the one and only specific stadium initiative the Mayor announced in his State of the City speech was the appointment of Steve Cushman to be in charge of devising a financing plan.
Q: Why do the Chargers object so vigorously to Cushman’s appointment?
A: Two reasons. First, we believed we had established a working relationship with the Mayor’s Office that was based on open lines of communications and shared goals. Obviously the Mayor’s designation of someone the team objected to at our very first meeting together does a great deal to undermine that working relationship.
Second, if you were going to line up the people in San Diego who have done the most to block a new stadium over the years, there is no doubt that Steve Cushman would be near the head of that line. When the Chargers were exploring the Chula Vista bayfront as a stadium location, Cushman told the Chargers to stay away so that the Gaylord Project could move forward. Of course, under Cushman’s leadership, no such project was ever built. When the Chargers were exploring a joint-use stadium/convention center facility downtown, Cushman again told the Chargers to stay away because of the contiguous convention center expansion plan. Again, under Cushman’s leadership, the courts decisively invalidated the financing plan for the convention center project. And when some in the community wanted to explore Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal as a stadium location, Cushman pushed through a ban on everyone at the Port of San Diego from even so much as discussing the issue. The fact that Mayor Faulconer has now assigned Steve Cushman — the architect of so many of San Diego’s civic failures — to work on the stadium is discouraging.
Q: Shouldn’t you wait to see what financing plan Cushman comes up with before criticizing him?
A: Steve Cushman was one of the key architects of the financing plan for the convention center expansion; the plan that was unanimously rejected by the California State Court of Appeals. There were many people and organizations around town that predicted right from the outset that the Cushman convention center financing plan would be struck down as illegal. But Cushman and the City – with the strong support of then-downtown area Councilman Kevin Faulconer and then-City Council President Todd Gloria – decided to forge ahead anyway. The result: Years and years of wasted time and effort, and millions and millions of dollars of wasted tax dollars – all expended on behalf of a financing plan that was doomed from the outset.
In light of this track record, we are not encouraged that Steve Cushman will somehow come up with a workable solution to the stadium problem that has eluded everyone else for 13 years.
If Steve Cushman does come up with some kind of plan, our strong view is that it will be a plan designed to provide political cover – not to actually result in the building of a stadium.
Q: So what’s next? Does this mean that the Chargers franchise has given up on working with the Mayor?
A: We announced in December that we would not be exercising our termination clause and would continue to work in 2015 to find a publicly acceptable stadium solution in San Diego. And that’s what we intend to do. We will continue to attempt to come up with our own ideas for review by City leaders – as we have been trying to do for the last 13 years. And we will certainly carefully consider any ideas that are presented to us by the Mayor or others in the community.
Still, it’s unfortunate that the Mayor’s State of the City speech certainly didn’t move the ball forward at all and, with Steve Cushman’s appointment, may well have set us seriously back.
Q: But what about the Mayor’s task force? Isn’t it possible that the task force, when its members are actually named, could come up with useful ideas?
A: The Chargers will remain open-minded about any idea presented to us. That’s the attitude that we’ve had for 13 years and that had led us to explore stadium solutions at the Qualcomm Stadium site, in National City, in Chula Vista, in Oceanside, in Escondido, and now in downtown San Diego.
And we know what it means to work with a City task force and City experts because we’ve worked with many of them over the years. Mayor Murphy appointed the Citizens’ Task Force on Chargers Issues, and subsequent mayors retained – at significant taxpayer expense – two separate outside consultants. Whether yet another task force – which will undoubtedly hire other experts – will come up with ideas that haven’t been thought of by everyone else over the last 13 years is, of course, a real question. Read