By Doug Porter
(I’ve published two versions of the Starting Line for Tuesday. One on the stadium deal and one on the events taking place in Ferguson.)
Yesterday reporters were summoned to a vacant lot overlooking Mission Valley to hear the latest news about efforts to build a new football stadium for the San Diego Chargers.
Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer, County Supervisor Ron Roberts and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith solemnly announced a “real path to success,” complete with artist renderings, an environmental report and financing plan.
The on-line version of this road map to nowhere was so hastily created that the last page contained gibberish left over from the template used. As to the content, the only question remaining in my mind was whether or not these guys realize just how silly the plan looks.
A Better Deal for Nobody
The new phrasing on dollars coming out of taxpayer wallets is “a better deal for taxpayers.” Cough, cough.
Experts, paid with hundreds of thousands of dollars conjured out of thin air, utilized ground unicorn horns and a special magic incantation to create an environmental impact plan in mere weeks.
And a special election, funded with more it’s-not-really-money tax dollars, will seek to prove once and for all that there’s a sucker born every minute.
Here are the money quotes from the boys club press release:
“San Diego’s stadium plans are on track thanks to our continued regional cooperation and the work of dozens of experts,” said Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer. “A new stadium means new opportunities. This is an opportunity to replace an aging facility with a world-class sports and entertainment complex that’s an asset to our community, and to forge a new agreement with the Chargers that’s a better deal for taxpayers over what we have currently.”
“The release of this draft environmental impact report proves that at least one San Diego team can deliver on its promises,” said County Supervisor Ron Roberts. “Under Mayor Faulconer’s leadership, we remain extremely well positioned to negotiate with the Chargers a stadium deal that will meet the NFL’s timeline.”
“If the NFL wants a franchise in the nation’s 8th largest city, we have demonstrated we can move quickly toward a public vote meeting the NFL’s timetable,” said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.
Cue the Laughter
Asked by NBC7 reporter Derek Togerson if if the Chargers would classify the city’s announcements as public posturing, Special Counsel Mark Fabiani responded “Yes, that’s exactly right.”
Other quotes from the NBC7 story:
“Never before in California history has a controversial, billion dollar project relied on environmental review documents hastily prepared in three weeks,” said Fabiani. “The Chargers have been clear from the start that the franchise will not be the City’s guinea pig for this inevitably ill-fated legal experiment…”
“…Remember, these are the same politicians who told us, with disastrous results in court, that the convention center expansion could be financed by a vote of the hoteliers rather than a vote of the people,” said Fabiani.
Finding the Money
The County of San Diego will dig through the cushions on its sofas and pony up $150 million. Seriously, they’re just going to write a check. Because they can.
The City of San Diego pawned all its sofas back in the Sanders administration, so they’re going to have to dig a little deeper. Already paid-for city properties will be used to secure $200 million in lease revenue bonds. Think of it like a second mortgage. (There’s more to it…)
Here’s the UT editorial board’s spin on it:
The city and county would contribute $350 million in public funds without raising taxes. The Chargers would be responsible for cost overruns.
Why, that’s almost free money! Except it isn’t.
The payments on these loans will come to $13 million annually for the next three decades. Coincidentally, the city is currently losing $12.8 million annually on the stadium. We’re essentially paying the Chargers to use the facilities.
Assuming that the old stadium is torn down, taxpayers will still be on the hook for $4.8 million annually until 2027, when the bonds from the last face lift will be paid off. My back-of-the-envelope guesstimate on total actual out-of-pocket ($17.8 x 10) + ($13 x 20) = $438 million for city taxpayers to swallow on this deal.
Northwards of $400 million (or whatever the number is) is one figure that will never be mentioned in the run up to “voter approval.” But I’m sure we’ll hear a lot about “no new taxes.”
Such a Deal!
This, we’re told, is good deal because the Chargers will be on the hook for the cost of stadium operations, overruns in construction costs and guaranteeing revenues from $188 million in personal seat license sales.
The team will be expected to leverage future stadium revenues to come with $363.5 million and the NFL would be expected to come up with $200 million in what are called G4 loans. The Chargers will be expected to pay off the loan with club seat money they normally would share with the league.
So what we have on paper–as long as interest rates on the loans aren’t factored in–is a deal where every public dollar is matched with two private dollars.
The team hates these terms. They won’t even talk about it. Why should they?
The City Attorney apparently doesn’t know the difference between San Diego’s population (which he cites as 8th largest) and market size (#17). The Chargers don’t believe a stadium can even be built for the $1.1 billion figure being bandied about. They think they’re also being asked to suck up an eventual additional $4-600 million in costs.
If the team were to leave town, taxpayers would save: $150 million (county) and $330 million (city).*
*The city’s savings take into account the $390 million not paid in future lease revenue bonds less monies owed on the old bonds and $20 million to demolish Qualcomm. Losses from current operations, which presumably would end at some point, are not figured into this guesstimate.
Gosh, I wonder how else you could spend nearly half a billion in the county and city?
(Images via Joint City/County Stadium plan)
On This Day: 1884 – Federal troops drive some 1,200 jobless workers from Washington D.C. Led by unemployed activist Charles “Hobo” Kelley, the group’s “soldiers” include young journalist Jack London and William Haywood, a young miner-cowboy called “Big Bill” 1952 – Hank Williams was fired from the Grand Ole Opry and told not to return until he was sober. 1984 – President Ronald Reagan was preparing for his weekly radio broadcast when, during testing of the microphone, he said of the Soviet Union, “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you that I just signed legislation that would outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
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