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It’s easy to see how power works in San Diego. The individuals, associations and the newspaper that exert the greatest influence for the most provident return are transparent.
They exert power through the narratives they create. These are often lopsided tales, designed to squeeze out opposing views which, when amplified by the Union-Tribune, frustrate debate.
This is evident in coverage of the taxpayer-funded football stadium. The narrative has focused on how to make it happen, not whether it’s a good idea. The mayor said, “We are now in talks with the Chargers about what it would take for them to decide to stay.” The U-T said, “Get it built.” Development is a must for property tax ratables.
But is a taxpayer-funded stadium a fair deal for the 70 percent of San Diegans who don’t follow the Chargers (based on average TV ratings) and who won’t get richer from their presence? We don’t know. No one has bothered to tell us.
So here’s another narrative, one that, as the mayor asked for in December, “finds common ground.” This one switches taxpayers to the winning side.
Government should use its own money to build the stadium. Borrow it from city and county pension funds, just as if borrowing from a 401k to finance the purchase of a home. The results will enrich rather than deplete municipal coffers because the region will repay itself. The idea is not new. Toronto did it. I did to finance a new car.
Second, in return for our vote, taxpayers should receive a commission if the team is ever sold. Thirty percent of the sale price seems right. The owner can consider it a future “thank you” for our current contribution; a quid pro quo for a vote that immediately makes him wealthier, while we assume debt, decades of loan payments and the hope that the team will perform and not leave town.
In 2007, Forbes Magazine estimated the Chargers were worth $826 million. Thirty percent equals $248 million. Who knows how high this number could go?
Differing narratives are essential to a healthy democracy, a citizen’s sense of self worth and public/private cooperation. This is especially true in a smaller city like San Diego where such a narrow group maintains control, often engendering mistrust.
By the way, my stadium idea forces the powerful to pick sides. After all, if they’re not willing to invest their money, why should we invest ours?
— BOB STEIN