Thursday, June 14, 2007 | Can the Bunk Master Debunk?

The master of bunk, Mike Aguirre, is now promising to debunk something. Let’s see how he did.

Aguirre’s Ticket Guaranty Hallucinations Continue

Hallucination may seem like a strong word, but how else can you explain Aguirre’s continued insistence that the ticket guaranty has not been eliminated?

Since the guarantee went into effect in 1997, the city has paid the Chargers $36.4 million for unsold tickets. In that time, the team has paid the city $42.9 million in rent, netting the city about $6.5 million. That controversial part of the team’s lease agreement was recently eliminated.

The San Diego Union Tribune, September 20, 2004, underlined for emphasis.)

Apparently Mike Aguirre is so determined to poison the voting public against the Chargers that he will simply continue to make statements that have no basis whatsoever in fact.

Aguirre Contradicts Himself Willy Nilly

Mike Aguirre apparently believes he can contradict himself at will and that no one will notice.

Case in point: Aguirre has been the No. 1 defender of maintaining Qualcomm Stadium as is. At his Oct. 14, 2005 press conference Aguirre complained:

We have an agreement. We entered into it just last year. … Why can’t they live by the agreement? They made a deal. Let’s live by the deal.

— Transcript of Aguirre Press Conference, Oct. 14, 2005.

Now, Aguirre is complaining about the $15 million a year city subsidy to Qualcomm Stadium operations. (The Union Tribune reports that the actual number is $19 million. The San Diego Union Tribune, Oct. 9, 2005.)

You can’t have it both ways, Mike. You and your ally (and now employee) Bruce Henderson have relentlessly defended the status quo at the Qualcomm Stadium site. Now you are the ones who will have to explain to taxpayers why the current system — involving hundreds of millions of dollars of continuing taxpayer subsidies — is going to remain in place as long as Qualcomm Stadium remains standing.

Aguirre Misrepresents Key Facts about Chargers’ Proposal

Mike Aguirre has apparently been so busy holding press conferences and calling mayors and judges corrupt that he hasn’t paid attention to the much-discussed Charger stadium proposal. Aguirre writes that the Chargers have “yet to adequately explain who would be on the hook for the bonds sold to pay for the stadium.”

The public record seems clear on this point, if only Aguirre had taken the time to look: The Chargers offered to pay for the entire cost of both the new stadium and the related infrastructure improvements. I’m quoting here from a document prepared by the Chargers, dated October 19, 2005, and publicly distributed at various town halls and community forums to explain the team’s stadium proposal:

Here is what the Chargers propose to do:

  • The Chargers and a development partner will construct, completely at private expense, a state-of-the-art, Super Bowl-quality professional football stadium at the current Qualcomm site.
  • The Chargers will assume the risk of all cost overruns on the stadium’s construction.
  • The City of San Diego will own the stadium and the land that the stadium sits on, but the City will not have any financial obligations toward the facility. The Chargers will be responsible for all operation and maintenance costs.
  • The Chargers will pay off in full the existing bonded indebtedness on Qualcomm Stadium (nearly $60 million).
  • The Chargers will also assume responsibility for the necessary traffic and other infrastructure improvements necessary to develop the Qualcomm Stadium site. These infrastructure improvements, which could cost between $150 million and $175 million, would be paid for by the Chargers and a development partner; the team will not seek a redevelopment designation or other similar source of financing to pay for these improvements.
  • The Chargers will sign a new 25-year lease to play in the stadium, which is standard for NFL teams. The lease will have no “out” clauses and no ticket guaranty.
  • The Chargers will work with the NFL to guarantee as many Super Bowls as possible to the new stadium over the life of the lease.
  • The Chargers will devote and pay for approximately 30 acres of the site as green space and parkland, including the area along the San Diego River.
  • The development will generate property, sales, hotel, and other taxes, and the City of San Diego will be entitled to its full share of these new tax monies. The City could be entitled to an even larger share of these new revenues if the City succeeded in designating the site as a redevelopment district.

This seems pretty clear to me. But I guess most of us understand by now that Mike Aguirre never lets the facts get between him and the opportunity to launch an attack against someone.

Aguirre Begs for More Television and Radio Time

So Mike Aguirre wants the Chargers to “discuss” these stadium issues with him “on television or radio.” Imagine that: Mike Aguirre wanting to get more time in front of T.V. cameras and microphones! What Aguirre fails to mention is that he has spent much of his career, both as a plaintiff’s trial lawyer and as a rogue City Attorney, hurling personal insults against the Chargers organization and the team’s owners.

Why, under these circumstances, would anyone from the Chargers agree to give Aguirre what he wants most in life — more time on T.V.?

Aguirre’s Hypocritical Offer to “Discuss” Charger Issues

So Mike Aguirre says he has now decided — in June 2007 — he wants to “discuss” stadium issues with the Chargers on “television or radio.” Mr. Aguirre seems to have conveniently forgotten that more than two years ago — on February 7, 2005 — the San Diego City Council voted to terminate discussions with the Chargers. The San Diego Union Tribune, Feb. 8, 2005.

Since then the City has engaged in virtually no discussions with the Chargers, and Mr. Aguirre has done nothing in the meantime but continue to insult the Chargers and misrepresent the facts.

Aguirre Imagines Qualcomm Site Riches

It’s unfortunate, though not surprising, that Mike Aguirre continues to make statements that fit neatly into his version of reality but have very little to do with actual facts. He again repeats the bald assertion that the Qualcomm Stadium land is worth “hundreds of millions of dollars.” In some ideal world, Aguirre might be right.

But in the real world, the Qualcomm site is encumbered as a stadium and a parking lot at least through 2020 — and, given how long it takes to make decisions here in San Diego, for probably a lot longer than that.

All during that time the public is responsible for keeping up the site (at a total cost between now and 2020 of hundreds of millions of dollars). There is a toxic plume under the site, and congested roads in need of massive upgrades all around it. So the Qualcomm land, as currently utilized, isn’t worth much at all — in fact, it is a huge burden on city taxpayers.

Aguirre and Henderson Team Up on Anti-Charger Screed

Not only did Mike Aguirre put Bruce Henderson on the public payroll, he apparently is also allowing Bruce to write Aguirre’s anti-Charger diatribes. Aguirre again repeats the falsehood that the Charger stadium proposal would have required “the taxpayers … to give up” public land. Of course, the operative — and poisonous — word here is “give.” In fact, the Chargers proposal would have been a trade with the taxpayers, and the trade would have been more than fair.

In return for 60 acres of land, the Chargers would have delivered a privately financed but publicly-owned stadium, more than $200 million in road improvements, elimination of the city’s bond payments and $15 million yearly subsidy to the site, 30 acres of parkland, and tens of millions in new tax revenue. Only in the peculiar world of Aguirre and Henderson can this be characterized as a “give.”

In the End, Aguirre Proves that Masters of Bunk Aren’t Necessarily Good Debunkers

But Mike Aguirre and Bruce Henderson don’t have to worry about the Qualcomm land being “given” to anyone. Because of Aguirre’s obstructionism and the general chaos at San Diego City Hall, the Chargers have moved on and are now seeking solutions in San Diego County cities with fully functioning governments and fact-focused City Attorneys. And if Mike Aguirre’s latest rant against the Chargers is any indication, the statement I made in January 2006 has now hardened into a clear reality: If the Chargers are eventually forced out of the San Diego region, Mike Aguirre will be the biggest reason why.

Mark Fabiani is a special counselor to the Chargers football team.

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