By Doug Porter
Baseball season started yesterday, and the San Diego Padres are already in last place, having been pummeled by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who hit four homes on their way to a 14-3 final score.
While optimists might argue that yesterday’s score was better than the 15-0 drubbing (also by the Dodgers) on opening day last year, the baseball team representing America’s Finest City is pathetic. More than half their $68 million payroll will go to players no longer on the team. The fans get cheated. Many of the remaining players get MLB’s minimum wage, or close to it. And the owners get wealthy.
It’s the same kind of deal San Diego’s plutocracy is setting up for the rest of us. We’re about to give up 160+ acres of prime Mission Valley real estate in return for vague promises and guaranteed profit.
Our Republican Mayor is going all-in for a tax increase on behalf of the downtown interests he serves. On Wednesday, Mayor Kevin Faulconer will ask the City Council’s Rules Committee for permission to begin the process of scheduling a special election in November.
We’re to be promised an expanded Convention Center, the pot sweetened with money for filling potholes and services for the homeless not yet incarcerated via their inability to pay for the tickets passed out during the daily sweeps. And it won’t cost us a cent! (Just tourists will pay.)
Of course, all this wheeling and dealing is packaged in a manner so as to make it more appealing, much like this year’s refinements to the baseball team’s uniform (matte helmets!).
Money for Free
I’ve written about the shortcomings of the SoccerCity deal, which has now completed the signature gathering process, thanks to a blitzkrieg public relations campaign designed to salve hurting sports fans’ egos and the frequent mention of San Diego State University as an (apparently unwilling) beneficiary.
The bottom line premise of little-to-nothing for us regular chumps at the end of the process and a big payday for the gentry was also described not long ago by Union-Tribune columnist Dan McSwain:
…SoccerCity gets to subtract various costs (like tearing down Qualcomm Stadium) from “fair market value,” so it could get control of the land for as little as $20 million for the river park.
It’s a new wrinkle to an old developer strategy: Tie up bare land cheaply, work to get government permits, and cash in gradually, in phases, as you sell off the entitled parcels to builders.
Except that such private sector deals nearly always allow the landowner, having accepted a low upfront payment, to share in the proceeds. This one asks San Diego to discount for entitlement risk — and cut that risk to zero — without sharing the direct upside.
On The Waterfront
The expansion of San Diego’s Convention Center has been on hold for years, plagued by such problems as an illegal fee-not-a-tax scheme, environmental lawsuits, questions about whether an expansion is called for, and control of the building site.
On Monday Mayor Faulconer gathered would-be supporters for the project for a press conference to extol the virtues of expansion.
The elephant in the room, as Jeff MacDonald at the Union-Tribune explained, remains the property issue.
As Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s convention center ballot initiative kicked off Monday, one thing was missing from the plans — city control of the land where an expansion would occur.
In fact, developers of a luxury bayfront hotel proposed for the site have sued the San Diego Convention Center, accusing the city-owned nonprofit agency of interfering in their permitting process.
Fifth Avenue Landing, the company that controls the five acres along San Diego Bay where Faulconer wants to expand the city’s showcase meeting space, claims in the lawsuit that convention center officials are undermining plans for a 4-star, $300 million hotel.
On the Same Page?
An increase in the Tourism Occupancy Tax, the mere mention of which triggered outrage just a few months ago in connection with other projects, will require a two-thirds majority to pass, should it come before voters in November 2017.
From the Union-Tribune:
Faulconer, though, faces a daunting task in convincing a super-majority of the electorate to pass his measure, given that past efforts to boost the hotel tax to finance such high-priority needs as police and fire have failed.
“Getting two-thirds is never easy but I’m confident that San Diegans understand how important our tourism economy is for us, they understand the need for homeless funding and they certainly understand the need for additional dollars for street repair,” Faulconer said.
An added help, Faulconer added, is that “we haven’t had that collaboration before, with everyone working on the same page.”
Faulconer was joined at his news conference by representatives of the San Diego Tourism Authority, the local Lodging Industry Association, Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown San Diego Partnership and the San Diego Housing Commission.
Notably missing from Faulconer’s ‘collaboration’ was organized labor, non-profit groups actually working with the homeless (Sorry, the Housing Commission is part of the problem), and other non-business oriented community/volunteer groups.
Also missing was a city policy going beyond temporary solutions for homeless groups. The Mayor’s vision currently consists of promises to add hundreds of temporary shelter beds and building an intake center.
Recently announced plans by Father Joe’s Village to add more than 2,000 units of affordable housing, funded to the tune of $531 million, don’t include a commitment from the City of San Diego.
Back to SoccerCity
Given the haste of the petition drive for SoccerCity, a group of civic and business leaders announced a campaign to make sure the City Council does not use the option of bypassing the voters.
From the Times of San Diego:
“The Qualcomm Stadium site is one of the most valuable public assets in San Diego, and its development will have significant long-term impacts on our city and our region,” said Joe LaCava, a community planner and a leader of the Public Land, Public Vote Coalition.
“Residents deserve a thorough, impartial analysis of the Soccer City project’s impacts and the opportunity to provide input and vote on the project,” he said.
Coalition members contend that FS failed to engage the community in developing its plans.
A special election called by the Mayor opens the door for an earlier public decision on the proposal for the Qualcomm Stadium site.
…Here’s one other item… from Trumplandia:
GOP ZombieCare Rising from the Grave?
It looks like Republicans have finally drafted a health care bill with the likelihood of killing enough people to earn the support of the House Freedom Caucus.
By making all the really horrible decisions the responsibility of the states, they’ve come up with a bill concept that’s sure to please everybody except the people who might need health care.
From the New York Times:
Throughout the debate to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Trump and Republican congressional leaders have insisted they would retain a crucial, popular part of the health law: the promise that people can buy insurance even if they’ve had illnesses in the past.
Their efforts foundered last month, when a House health bill had to be pulled from the floor after it failed to attract enough support. Late Monday night, word emerged that the White House and the group of conservative lawmakers known as the Freedom Caucus had discussed a proposal to revive the bill. But the proposed changes would effectively cast the Affordable Care Act’s pre-existing conditions provision aside.
The terms, described by Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the head of the Freedom Caucus, are something like this: States would have the option to jettison two major parts of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance regulations. They could decide to opt out of provisions that require insurers to cover a standard, minimum package of benefits, known as the essential health benefits. And they could decide to do away with a rule that requires insurance companies to charge the same price to everyone who is the same age, a provision called community rating.
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