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Filner: Stadium must give something back

FILNER: STADIUM MUST GIVE SOMETHING BACK! 

By: Bob Filner

February 4, 2012

 

San Diego is a major league city with untapped potential. Our professional sports franchises, the Padres and the Chargers, contribute to the vitality of our region. Our fans are passionate, and our teams bring together a truly diverse cross-section of San Diegans.

Like any good San Diegan, I love the Chargers, and recognize their importance to the city. Our next mayor will be faced with the prospect of the Chargers leaving the city that cares so deeply for them. I believe that we should find a way to keep our major league football team.

My career has been based on bringing together different stakeholders from across the political and social spectrum to figure out the common purpose, and then get the job done. Whether it was serving as president of the city school board, the deputy mayor of the City Council, or working with the opposite party in Congress to increase VA funding, I have been able to articulate a clear vision, and then work for meaningful change.

While my opponents declare war on public employees, cast aside differing opinions, or refuse to take stands on tough issues, I am the only candidate who will be able to bring the Chargers, environmentalists, labor unions, business leaders and community activists to the table to figure out the best solution for San Diego. Any plan that doesn’t include citywide support is destined to fail.

The retention of the Chargers, however, cannot be paid on the back of taxpayers. As mayor, my starting point in any negotiation will be that the San Diego simply cannot afford to give a billionaire owner half a billion dollars or more to build something that does not directly give back to the financial well-being of the city.

At a time when we cannot adequately pave our roads, keep our libraries open or our community fire stations folly staffed, the very idea of doling out half a billion dollars for a sports stadium is out of touch with the realities faced by average San Diegans. The price tag for one stadium could fund hundreds of soccer fields, miles of newly paved roads and a host of other desperately needed basic city services.

One of my opponents likes to say that it’s “time to turn the page” on San Diego’s past. It would be reckless and irresponsible of us to forget how our sports teams have treated this city for the last two decades. Our city has been held ransom by our sports teams, a fact we cannot forget.

The “stadium ticket guarantee” cost San Diego tens of millions of dollars in tickets nobody wanted. Also to appease the Chargers, the city spent nearly $80 million remodeling Qualcomm Stadium, only to have the team leadership threaten to move a few years later. It is clear that we have time and again made shortsighted, irresponsible deals that hurt the taxpayers.

As mayor, I will be the toughest negotiator the Chargers have ever faced. The only deal I will make is one that will give something back to the city and its taxpayers. Partial ownership of the team, greater involvement and support of our public schools and youth mentoring programs, partnerships in regional health initiatives, hefty compensation in the instance of relocation – there are several possibilities to ensure the city will not make an agreement at the peril of taxpayers.

I can guarantee a vision and leadership for working with the Chargers toward a solution in the city’s best interest – to get the best deal for San Diego.

Filner, a Democrat, serves in the U.S. House of Representatives representing California’s 51st District, covering the southernmost portions of San Diego County and all of Imperial County.



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