CITY COUNCIL STOPS SPECIAL ELECTION
While the political dust settles, here is the outcome of the effort to get SoccerCity on a special- election ballot in November. At times it was a stand-off among Mayor Faulconer, the City Council and a barrage of lobbyists. At stake were three critical City Council votes and the Mayor’s veto.
So what was the outcome? The first show down was the Mayor’s veto of the Council’s budget cut to fund the special election. Curiously, the Council failed to override the veto with six votes despite the vote of 8-1 to cut the funding in a vote a few days earlier.
Looks like powerful political lobbying by the Mayor’s forces was successful.
Next the Council voted 5-4 not to put the convention center expansion on a special ballot. Now the SoccerCity promoters had the $50,000 special-election funding in the budget but lost the companion ballot issue for the convention center to help support their efforts to have the special election.
The final knockout blow came when the Council voted June 20 not to put SoccerCity on a special election. There were over five hours of heated public testimony both for and against. Mayor Faulconer was also a big loser. His political capital took got whacked.
Seems like a yin-yang issue was spinning around looking for a solution to please everyone. The City Council is the pivot, and it is almost evenly split in party lines. However, the special election should not be a party dispute.
The future of the stadium site for 99 years and the need for more convention space to sustain an important industry must be decided on an economic level, not political party allegiance.
Whatever the reasoning among the council members, they did the right thing to postpone an election to determine the future of the Qualcomm site in their landmark decision on June 19. Now that the rush to select an appropriate development in Mission Valley can slow down to consider other options.
Most important is the participation in the project by San Diego State University, a popular concept among the residents of San Diego. Presently the SoccerCity proposal has no reference to such a collaboration. Now there is an opportunity for more than a year to forge a joint occupancy of the Mission Valley site to provide student housing and research facilities for expansion of the SDSU campus.
The proponents of the pending ballot initiative claim that the delay will possibly deprive San Diego of a major soccer franchise. However, San Diego sports fans apparently still favor major league football and would like to keep the door open to again having a San Diego team. That is one of the important reasons to maintain the present Qualcomm Stadium and budget for upgrades.
Until the opportunity comes along to attract another major league team, the stadium can be used for college football by the Aztecs and the special bowls during the holiday season, as well as for large entertainment programs. The city has a commitment to keep Qualcomm in use for these needs through the 2018 season.
Follow-up media reports after the Council decision indicate that the SoccerCity promoters will keep lobbying for another City Council vote to have a special election this November. It seems the voters’ representatives have spoken. Since the flawed ballot initiative depends too much on “hand-shake” concessions with the Mayor, more time is needed for certain firm commitments from the SoccerCity developers.
Without adequate environmental remedial obligation from the developer, the city will be stuck with tremendous costs to upgrade the Mission Valley traffic flow, clear soil pollution and deal with flood-plain risks. The SoccerCity project must be responsible for this work or the lawsuits will cost the city, and eventually the taxpayers, a great deal of money.
The ballot initiative is not clear on these issues, as well as the river park and even a stadium, according to the analysis by the City Attorney. The SoccerCity initiative to be presented to the voters is vague on exactly what is to be built except the residential and commercial projects. The Mayor believes the concessions the developer gave him will be adequate. Several sports and business columnists, as well as the editorial board at The San Diego Union-Tribune, think otherwise.
Perhaps the ballot initiative delay will provide time to consider alternatives to include SDSU expansion and a stadium suitable for college football and a major football team later.