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Thursday, April 27, 2006 | We’ve often debated, in this office, whether or not to link to articles in The San Diego Union-Tribune. It is, of course, common for online publications to link to the articles they talk about regardless of whether they are disagreeing or agreeing with them. The point is to prove to your readers that you’re not taking anything out of context and that they can read the text you are discussing for themselves to make up their own mind about it.

But I’m not going to link to Wednesday’s Union-Tribune editorial about the mayor and the Chargers because it was garbage. If you’d like me to forward the link to you I will.

I will, however, take the liberty to summarize the U-T‘s editorial board Wednesday:

The U-T starts by arguing that San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders was wrong to announce his support for allowing the Chargers to speak to other cities in the county about building a stadium because San Diego is not in a position right now to do it.

This is the case, the U-T says, because neither the Chargers nor the city “has been willing to address in earnest the Chargers’ desire for a new playing facility costing nearly half a billion dollars.”

Wait a second. I’ve been as critical of the mayor as anyone in town. But here he was, faced with the Chargers’ “desire for a new playing facility” on the one hand, and a faltering city on the other. He told the Chargers that they may be better off trying to find another home but that he wants to keep them in the region. So, because nothing is happening right now, he’ll let them talk to other local cities. That sounds exactly like an “earnest” approach.

The U-T says that Sanders is right that the city has financial problems. “But,” the paper says, “that is not the issue here. The real problem is a need for Sanders and the Chargers to broaden their thinking and get creative.”

Again, I don’t know what that means. But I agree, I suppose, if that means Sanders and the Chargers have not put enough thought into, say, a less-costly inflatable-plastic stadium. Is that what the U-T means by creative?

Not sure, the authors don’t say. They don’t say a lot, actually.

Yes, I have pushed for Sanders to let the Chargers speak with the county of San Diego and other local governments about moving the team out of the city. I’m clearly biased on the issue. I think the mayor made a good decision: The city is unable to deal with the Chargers as City Hall teeters on the brink of bankruptcy and, given that people like the Chargers, it only makes sense to let other local cities have a chance to talk to them before places like Los Angeles do.

The U-T, however, says that the Chargers and city were wrong to abandon a proposal in which the Chargers would pay for everything related to a new stadium in Mission Valley as long as the team got the land to build 6,000 condos. As we discussed before, the proposal was a great idea.

But, in fact, it was too good to be true. The profits from the sale of all those condos were going to pay for the construction costs of the stadium. The problem is, the Chargers couldn’t get a development partner. That may have had something to do with the fact that the city is teetering on bankruptcy. No developer wants to push forward on an ambitious – and creative – project like this, investing millions, if there’s a strong possibility that a federal bankruptcy judge could swoop in and tell them the deal is off.

Secondly, of course, is what I think is the bigger reason why the proposal is a no-go: There is no room in this housing market for 6,000 more condominiums. The stock of condos downtown and in Mission Valley has soared. Even the most adamant analysts, who argue the housing market is strong, recognize that there are more condos for sale here than carne asada burritos. More supply will push condo prices down.

Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani admitted that homebuilders were scared off by the local housing market.

Yet there is the U-T Wednesday with an asinine editorial saying that the Mission Valley plan “remains the most promising approach to building a new stadium in San Diego.”

What a joke. How can it be “the most promising approach?”

It’s dead.

The people who might have made money off it don’t want to do it. Trust me, if they thought they could make money off it, they would keep pushing it.

Then, for good measure, they put in a pot shot on City Attorney Mike Aguirre, who has been critical of the Chargers.

Of course he has. That’s his deal. Say what you will about Mike, but he made his feelings known about the Chargers years ago. The U-T knew that no deal with the football team would ever get through his office without some bruises. Yet, here’s the funny part: They endorsed him and advised readers to vote for him for city attorney.

Finally, the paper argues that “What is needed is not a frenzied search for a another [sic] venue but rather strong leadership from Mayor Sanders and Chargers President Dean Spanos. At the moment such leadership is conspicuously lacking.”

What does that mean? What is leadership to these pompous wimps? Faced with a tough set of circumstances, Sanders decided he was not going to try to dream up another “creative” way to build a big stadium without any money. He didn’t work out any half-brained temporary solution to keep the team, and voters, happy. That’s a departure from past actions of city officials and that’s leadership. And the Chargers? They’re free to abandon their own idea if they want. They put as good of a proposal together as was imaginable and it didn’t work. I’d love to force them to stay but they have leverage and they want a new stadium.

If the U-T has a plan in mind to keep the team in Mission Valley, the paper has had plenty of time to roll it out.

No, members of the U-T editorial board live in a fantasy world – a ga-ga land where they never have to account for what they say. Otherwise how can you explain that they spent three years bemoaning the city’s financial crisis and yet now, with straight faces, they advocate the construction of a stadium and a new main library and who knows how many other goodies (but no taxes!)? In their world, you can be broke and still figure out a way to buy things. Exactly what creative solutions do they expect the mayor and the football team to find?

There already was a creative solution: To build thousands of new condos in horrid Mission Valley and make so much money that nobody – not the city’s taxpayers, not the Chargers, no one – had to pay for a new stadium. Turns out, the people who make their livings building homes didn’t think it would work so they passed on the opportunity. They probably know what they’re talking about.

In Union-Tribune land, however, real estate in San Diego is always a good bet; Mission Valley is beautiful and prime for 6,000 more condos; and budget crises don’t have to thwart costly new projects like big gorgeous libraries and shiny new stadiums. All you need is “leadership.”

This, of course, from the paper that in 1997 also advised residents to embrace the notorious ticket guarantee (it was “a good deal”), support Duke Cunningham and vote for former Mayor Dick Murphy – in the midst of a crisis for which the paper blamed Murphy.

How much better off would San Diego be if it stopped listening – or better yet – did the exact opposite of virtually everything the U-T’s editorial board advised? To that board, a true leader is one who can best articulate a nice fantasy.

And San Diego does not need any more of those.

Scott Lewis oversees voiceofsandiego.org’s commentary section. Please contact him directly at

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