By Doug Porter
It’s been a bad week for cherished institutions in America’s Finest City. Our blessed football team, our world famous zoo, our info-tainment water park, and the mayor’s Hope Diamond of re-development all find themselves in trouble of one sort or another.
You might even say business as usual is getting unusual for San Diego. While a few instances of bad news do not constitute an omen of fundamental change, there’s reasons to believe we have not seen the end of these wannabe sordid sagas.
Then there are the shenanigans taking place in the electoral arena. Jacquie Atkinson is challenging Rep. Scott Peters. Supervisor Dave Roberts is in some kind of trouble. And those pesky House Republicans are after funding studying climate change, Again.
Impending Doom for Football?
Earlier this week National Football League executive Eric Grubman warned the mayor’s citizens stadium advisory group there isn’t time enough for promises of funding via 2016 ballot measures.
…Grubman said the stadium advisory group needs to move quickly in putting together an agreed-upon finance by the end of the year, or the Chargers could move forward with a proposal to relocate to a $1.7 billion stadium shared with the Oakland Raiders in Carson by next season.
Grubman said that differences between the Chargers and the city take on an even greater importance because the time frame to get something done is short. One of the reasons each of the home markets are on a tight time frame is that the competing projects for NFL stadiums in Inglewood, developed by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, and Carson are both on pace to start construction by 2016.
The NFL would consider moving up the relocation application window from January 1 and February 15 of 2016 to the end of this year to accommodate those projects in Los Angeles, Grubman said.
On Thursday the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office verified that enough of the signatures were valid to qualify a vote on a proposed stadium in Carson. This means the proposal will be presented to Carson’s City Council, who could vote on whether or not to set and election or debate the matter themselves without resident input as early as April 21st.
The Oakland Raiders, who may also have an interest in moving to Carson, are now seriously negotiating with San Diego businessman Floyd Kephart according to the Contra Costa Times over a proposal to build Coliseum City, a 72,000 seat complex in East Oakland.
Today’s UT-San Diego has a column speculating about the potential for Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers retiring should the team decide to move to Los Angeles. No actual facts are presented to boost this claim other than anecdotes about other quarterbacks who have decided to retire at or near the peak of their careers.
Get ready folks, and hold on to your wallets. The manufacturing of the appearance of public consent for a new football stadium is underway.
Stadium Foodservice Contract Questioned
Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani raised questions about a potential conflict of interest several months ago following observations that Jason Roe, chief political consultant for Mayor Kevin Faulconer was unofficially involved with the stadium advisory group.
Roe is also the registered lobbyist for the Delaware North company, which is apparently the new concessionaire at Qualcomm Stadium and, potentially, at any new stadium in San Diego.
The incumbent company, Centerplate, has cried foul about the selection process, saying the city’s selection committee apparently couldn’t be bothered to ask questions about any of the five different offers put forth by the company.
According to a letter sent to Ronald Villa — the city’s deputy chief operations officer — Delaware North was given an unfair advantage for its presentation.
“Also, at no time was Centerplate advised that it could bring food exhibits into the presentation (as [Delaware North] apparently was able to do), as we were advised there was to be no food sampling. In fact, and more specifically, the City’s general manager advised Centerplate representatives not to bring food samples as it could be viewed as ‘an unfair advantage’ to the company (at least one other City official along with the consultant advised Centerplate that food sampling would not be permitted at the presentation). So the question remains, why would the committee permit DNC the opportunity to create, as the City’s general manager put it, ‘an unfair advantage’ while instructing the competition otherwise?”
Centerplate closed out its operations at Qualcomm this week. As of this moment there will be no food and beverage operations at the stadium for summer events, which include a mega-concert by One Direction.
From Voice of San Diego:
A divided City Council subcommittee voted on Wednesday to push forward a contract with food and beverage provider Delaware North that calls for the company to upgrade kitchen and food sales areas, and for the city to pay that money back if the Chargers move to Los Angeles.
City staff says that regardless of whether the team leaves, it needs to keep the stadium operational and hosting events for at least a few more years.
Councilman Todd Gloria, who voted no along with Councilman David Alvarez, ripped what he dubbed a rushed proposal.
“Unless we want to talk out of both sides of our mouths, we know that there’s a strong desire to replace (Qualcomm Stadium) and one of the main barriers to replacing that facility is that we don’t have enough money to do it. So why on earth would we try and put another $6 million in debt on the taxpayer when we’re having a hard enough time funding a new facility?” Gloria said.
Reader reporter Matt Potter indulged in speculation that there was more to come:
Whether or not the charges against Roe and the mayor are the idle allegations of disgruntled players in the major-money stadium game, federal investigators have by some accounts taken an interest in the matter.
But What About the Pandas?
Attorney John Stump spoke to the City Council Charter Review Committee meeting on Thursday urging a repeal of the portion of local property taxes dedicated to supporting the San Diego Zoo.
“Zoo Global”, he said referring to the nonprofit operating entity, “now has huge cash reserves and makes millions.”
City staff reports cite figures of $451 million in total assets as of 2013, and “unrestricted revenues” of $269 million comprising “admissions, memberships, auxiliary activities, contributions, grants, etc.”
The NBC report by Gene Cubbison started off with speculation that there’s a move afoot to increase city subsidies to help pay for repairs and maintenance at the facility. Current funding is limited to support upkeep of the animal exhibits.
The Zoo currently receives is nearly $12 million in city tax subsidies. City lawyers told the Charter Committee that any increase in property taxes to fund other portions of the Zoo budget was unconstitutional under the state’s 1978 Prop. 13.
Three Strikes Against SeaWorld, Maybe
Attorneys in San Francisco have filed suit against SeaWorld and are seeking to gain class action status for their claim that the water park has misled the public in promotion, marketing and communications.
This is the third lawsuit filed against SeaWorld in the past three weeks.
From the Times of San Diego:
Christine Haskett, lead attorney in the suit, said in a news release: “SeaWorld is violating California consumer protection laws and engaging in unfair business practices.”
[Plaintiff] Palmer said the latest suit has been in the works for more than six months — after the release of thecritical “Blackfish” documentary but before publication of “Beneath the Surface” by former San Diego orca trainer John Hargrove, which is 18th on The New York Times Best Seller List for hardcover nonfiction.
“Whereas the other two lawsuits are in federal courts, ours is in State of California Superior Court,” Palmer told Times of San Diego on Tuesday. “The laws pertaining to unfair business practices, false advertising and consumer protection are considerably different in California. These factors distinguish our suit from others.”
Troubled Times for Civic San Diego
Until recently Civic San Diego was benignly described in the local media as a, “private nonprofit in charge of permitting in select neighborhoods and handling redevelopment functions throughout the city.”
Civic activists like Norma Damashek looked at the big picture concerning Civic SD and concluded that we need it like another hole in the head. Jim Bliesner wondered just how CivicSD would be “serving” the neighborhood in San Diego and argued on these pages for a specific focus on the groups activities. And Jay Powell cast a questioning eye on the so-called public input meetings staged after questions began being asked.
CivicSD Boardmember Dr. Murtaza Baxamusa and the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council have filed suit hoping for a ruling giving legal guidance to the organization’s role in regard to economic and community development.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has introduced a bill in the state legislature that would require city officials to sign off on any land-use decisions made by the private nonprofit.
Why? It’s possible that any decisions made by CivicSD may not stand up to legal challenges.
Now former City Councilwoman Donna Frye has weighed in at Voice of San Diego with news that CivicSD’s treasurer Cynthia Morgan and CFO/COO Andrew Phillips have both tendered their resignations.
Meanwhile, Dorian Hargrove at the Reader reports the Downtown San Diego Partnership is lobbying to prevent further oversight and/or restrictions on CivicSD.
According to an April 13 disclosure, executives from the Downtown San Diego Partnership are busy lobbying mayor Kevin Faulconer, council president Sherri Lightner, and newly elected council member Chris Cate to reject any proposal that would “create additional appeals processes or other layers of additional oversight for Civic San Diego decisions.”
The partnership also wants the city to give Civic San Diego the authority to “create and administer their own community benefits policy.” The policies are a new approach from Civic San Diego to adopt individual neighborhood development plans, as opposed to reviewing each on a project-by-project basis.
The city’s agreement with Civic San Diego to handle permitting and redevelopment is unique. No other cities or counties have handed over similar duties to a private nonprofit group. Doing so has some elected officials as well as members of Civic San Diego’s own board worried that granting Civic San Diego additional authority coupled with less oversight is a recipe for disaster.
Your Elected Officials at Work
Capital Hill’s Roll Call reported yesterday on the unusual choice of a location for Jacquie Atkinson’s announcement that she was challenging incumbent Democratic Congressman Scott Peters.
Last night’s roll out party, with a $250 minimum contribution, was held at Heat Bar & Kitchen… which isn’t in the 52nd congressional district.
While the menu seems plenty all-American (well, New American, anyway), a political insider pointed out that the restaurant is in the North Park section of town — placing it in the proverbial backyard of neighboring Rep. Susan A. Davis, D-Calif.
By our calculations, Atkinson will declare her candidacy for Peters’ gig roughly 3 miles outside of his legislative purview.
Perhaps this boundary busting roll out is an indicator of the outside-the-box thinking Atkinson expects to bring to Washington, D.C….
County Supervisor Dave Roberts is at the center of controversy in the wake of disaffected staffers quitting in recent weeks, according to reports at NBC7 and UT-San Diego.
Here’s the UT’s Logan Jenkins:
So why, one wonders, did three of Roberts’ top staffers, including his chief of staff, leave his office this week?
And why did Glynnis Vaughan, chief of staff for the past four months, refer to “reports of abuse and perceived ethical misconduct” in her Tuesday resignation letter? Upon exactly what is that ominous charge based?
After interviewing Roberts and Vaughan, and several county insiders, a picture emerges of a deeply disappointed staffer and a politician who has been forced to do some soul-searching as he rebuilds his decimated office.
NBC7 indicates there may even been more people involved.
Documents obtained by NBC 7 Investigates through the California Public Records Act show what appears to be an excessive amount of staff turnover.
Since the beginning of this year, seven of Roberts’ 11 staff members are no longer working in his office.
Science for Congressional Republicans
From the usual snark-filled revelations about GOP budget proposals at Wonkette.com:
House Republicans offered their visionary solution to our problems in their proposal to reauthorize funding for several research agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy (DOE). Science Insider notes that the NSF reauthorization comes in at about $126 million less than what President Obama requested, and shifts a lot of funding around, slashing $165 million from geosciences, which is where all that pesky global warming information comes from, and $140 million — about half the current funding — from social and behavioral sciences, which just wastes money looking at stupid stuff anyway. Another $100 million gets cut from education.
And yes, I ran this item just because I liked this graphic from the deniers over at the Heartland Foundation.
On This Day: 1961 – About 1,400 U.S.-supported Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro. It was an unsuccessful attack. 1964 – The FBI lab reported that it could not determine the lyrics to “Louie Louie.” 2013 – An explosion at a West Texas fertilizer plant kills 15 people and injures nearly 300 when 30 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate—stored in sheds without sprinkler systems—caught fire. Of those killed, ten were emergency responders.
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