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Loyal readers know I’ve been following the question of who, if anybody, will take auto magnate Stephen Cushman’s place on the Port Commission.
Cushman’s allies have been working to get him appointed to an unprecedented third-consecutive term on the commission.
Getting on that commission, as we’ve said, is the most plum of all the political assignments one can pull. The San Diego City Council appoints three members of the board. Council policy limits the appointees to two four-year terms.
Without extraordinary measures, Cushman’s life on the board, it seems, will end when his second term expires this month.
The San Diego City Council appointed him in 1998 to the seven-member commission, but he is ineligible to serve a third four-year term because of a council policy that caps service on boards and commission at two terms.
That is unless the council votes to break that rule, an option Mayor Jerry Sanders strongly opposes.
“I just think two terms is the limit and that’s what I want to observe,” he said.
Sanders added, “I think there are a lot of qualified candidates. To say that there might be only one person in the city of San Diego that could help the port, I think, is a little ludicrous.”
That’s the toughest I’ve heard the mayor on the subject. I had only been getting the official line from Sanders’ aides that Cushman is great and all but the mayor merely wants the city to obey its policies.
This quote seems to say that even without a policy pushing Cushman out of the port, the mayor doesn’t necessarily think he’s the best representative for the city of San Diego.
On Election Day, I cornered Cushman for a minute to probe him about whether he was actively lobbying for a third term.
He said simply, “There are people working on that.”
There are. Cushman seems to have the support of a wide variety of people. It’s not often that Mark Fabiani, the special counsel to the Chargers, and City Councilwoman Donna Frye agree on specific measure. But on this one, they are united.
In fact, the quote Gustafson got from Fabiani about his support for a third Cushman term was startlingly emphatic. Fabiani and the Chargers are openly considering a site on port land in National City for a new football stadium – and there’s some attractive stadium-quality land down in Chula Vista, too.
Cushman’s participation in those talks as a representative of the Port Commission is apparently vital.
“If you are ever to make an exception to the term limit rule, this is the time to make it,” he said. “Why, when we’re finally starting to build some momentum . . . would you ask the Chargers to go back to square one and start over with someone brand new who may not have the same relationships with labor or waterfront businesses?”
Fabiani added, “I think the Chargers would have to look very hard whether it makes sense to continue down this path with port-related properties if we’re forced to go all the way back to the beginning of the road.”
In other words, if Cushman is not reappointed to a third term on the Port Commission, the Chargers may not even consider working to build a new stadium on port land. That means that the only remaining site for a new stadium would be in eastern Chula Vista.
So if there’s no Cushman, there may be no possible stadium by the bay.
For an explainer of the Chargers’ stadium hunt, click here.