By MARK KNUDSON
Anger, sadness, disbelief and a lot of finger pointing. But no accountability.
The people of San Diego, at least the ones who care about the NFL and their now former team, the Chargers, have expressed a ton of emotions over the past few days in reaction to the news that the team not enough of them loved is packing up and moving to Los Angeles.
Chargers owner Dean Spanos has been vilified, called a ‘greedy billionaire’ and much much worse, which is to be expected. Some dude even tossed eggs at the front door of the Chargers offices.
Yet no one in San Diego seems to be looking in the mirror.
Had voters in San Diego (not counting surrounding communities that were excluded from voting for some odd reason) voted in favor of a tax increase – which was not a tax increase on any of them – the Chargers would have been able to build a badly needed new football stadium and continued to be a good corporate, job producing citizen into the next century. But “Ballot Measure C” failed miserably in November.
Here’s where it gets confusing: The “tax increase” (and just those two words put together bring about an automatic ‘No!’ from the knee-jerk crowd) would have been on tourists who stayed in hotels in San Diego. The citizens of “America’s Finest City” would not have been asked to spend a thin dime…and they would have gotten a new stadium and upgrades to their convention center. Even though the measure was “hastily thrown together” as some in SoCal have noted publicly, it was still the right plan.
What on earth were the ‘No’ voters thinking?
Measure C was very similar to the plan that was roundly approved in Las Vegas as a way to finance a new stadium there. As a result, that city will be getting an NFL team when the Raiders move to town.
The only thing opponents of Measure C could cling to was the tired old, “Ya, but there are better things to spend that money on…” mantra. Amazingly, that ridiculous argument actually worked.
They act as if keeping and creating more jobs would not have been a major benefit to the city. Passing the hotel tax increase would have not only meant keeping the Chargers for matters of civic pride, but thousands of people whose livelihood was tied in large part to the NFL would have kept their gigs as well. Vendors of all sorts, stadium workers, merchants and business owners would have ALL benefited immensely from the construction of a new stadium in San Diego. It would have meant badly needed growth for the economy of the region.
And it would not have cost the residents a penny.
For anyone that still questions the benefits of a new stadium, we present exhibit A: Denver. Back in 1990, the city was courting Major League Baseball for expansion. At the time, the Broncos played in old Mile High Stadium – and so did the Triple A baseball club. Everyone associated with MLB knew Denver would be a prime new market for MLB (which has proven to be true) but that Mile High would not cut it as a home ballpark long term. So those who were pursuing an expansion team were also strongly pushing for a new baseball-only stadium at the same time.
The idea that was proposed and ultimately accepted by voters was a one-tenth of one percent sales tax increase on non-essentials over the seven-county metro area. In other words, with food and medicine excluded, for every $10 someone spent in the seven county area, one penny went to fund the construction of what would become Coors Field. It was 10 cents on every $100 spent. It WAS a tax the people of metro Denver would be paying.
It turned out to be a windfall for the region.
When Coors Field opened in 1995, it rejuvenated an entire section of the city. Lower Downtown or “LoDo” exploded and more than two decades later is still thriving. It produced new businesses, homes and jobs, none of which would have happened without the ballpark. New tax revenue for the city. Great for the local economy.
The tax was originally voted in to run for 20 years – 1991 to 2011. The sales tax revenue turned out to be much higher than expected. The effort was so successful that in 1998 voters opted to allow it to continue – even though the bonds were paid off way early – so Denver could build a second stadium as a new home for Broncos in 2001.
So Denver got TWO new stadiums when the voters/fans had originally agreed to pay for one. It was more than worth it. The tax was permanently ended at the end of 2011 as originally scheduled with both stadiums paid off.
The residents/voters of metro Denver were smart. A small investment now, big benefits for the future. Sadly, the clueless folks in San Diego who voted against a tax they weren’t even going to have to pay never got the memo. All they got was angry.