By Joe Flynn
Back to basics. All money in the city’s funds, coffers, treasure chests, you pick the title, is taxpayer money. In the effort to fund the Stadium Environmental Impact Report (EIR), the unanticipated refund from the state is being treated as “free” money.
Perhaps the term “refund” got lost in the shuffle; a refund usually implies that the money you paid or over paid, is being refunded, i.e., given back. It comes back to the city with the same restrictions that it had when it was paid. It may not be earmarked for a particular use, but that only implies that it goes back into the general fund.
So a $2 million unexpected refund comes back to the city treasurer, and like any other funds owned by the city, it requires a decision by the Mayor and Council to spend it – period. This is not complicated. I won’t use the rocket science analogy, and you don’t have to be a CPA or an auditor to nail this one.
So the Mayor and a majority of the Council made a decision to spend $2 million dollars of city funds for an EIR for a stadium to be named later. So this adventure in municipal finance is a double header; they are spending money under false pretenses (that it is free money) for an EIR in search of a project.
On complicated projects, one of my supervisors used the “Big Thicket,” analogy. The Big Thicket is a forested and swampy 112,000 acres in Texas, almost impenetrable. He used this analogy to ensure that we were not getting in deeper and getting lost. It was time to stop and get our bearings, and try to find our way out. Any reference to the current stadium dilemma is entirely coincidental.
Joe Flynn is a retired City of San Diego Planner