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How many people had the moxie a few months ago to predict that not only would the Kansas City Chiefs win the AFC West but that the San Diego Chargers would also not even make the playoffs? Well, at least one group got that Chiefs thing right.

That’s part of what has made the National Football League the dominant sports enterprise in the country: The socialistic economics of the league gives fans in most cities hope at the beginning of each year that their team might have a shot.

That system is in jeopardy and so is football in San Diego.

With the loss Sunday, it’s not entirely unrealistic to imagine that the Chargers have already played their last home game in San Diego.

The NFL may not play football next year because of a dispute between team owners and players and, as Liam Dillon reports, the very starting point for negotiations between the city and the team to build a new stadium is stalled indefinitely.

Although a new stadium has been discussed for many years, the city and team have not talked about an actual proposal since 2004. And even though they jumped over a major hurdle standing in the way, leaders aren’t sure the money is even there

The subtext of the article is that the mayor and City Council are arguing about whether to keep investing in downtown or use various vehicles to redirect that money back to the city’s ailing general fund. The U-T says this debate is “getting ugly.” It’s clearly become the central tension in the city.

Council members are in a tough spot. On the one hand, residents face the prospect of the most severe budget cuts yet.

On the other hand, the Chargers have not committed to playing in San Diego in 2012. If the NFL doesn’t play football next year, and no progress is made on a stadium plan here for a 2012 vote, the Chargers could play that season in place like LA under a new ownership makeup and awaiting a new stadium there.

Don’t expect them to have a new coach. The outcry of fury from fans provoked a “my goodness” from the U-T’s Nick Canepa.

Answer: Build a New City Hall?

The discussion about downtown redevelopment doesn’t just affect a new stadium. It also figures big in the idea to construct a new City Hall.  Remember the mayor and four City Council members had pledged to let residents vote on this idea.

That sparked sneers from downtown boosters and civic big shots like Malin Burnham, who said that city voters were not sophisticated enough to make a financial decision like that.

The U-T though points out they may not have to. One of the council members who wanted a vote — Donna Frye — is no longer in office. Her replacement, Lorie Zapf now appears open to buck her ally Carl DeMaio and support building the new City Hall without a public vote. Same goes for new Councilman David Alvarez.

It’d be the second time in just a week Zapf has explored a break with DeMaio on a downtown redevelopment issue.

DeMaio’s Roadmap

Last week, the Scott Lewis on Politics blog looked into the concept of deferred austerity and highlighted DeMaio’s idea to simply lower the salaries of city workers in order to lower the looming liability of their pension costs.

Pensions are determined using employees’ salaries. Officials calculate the deficit the city owes by assuming annual wage hikes. Just by freezing salaries, you cut the long-term burden significantly. If you’re able to lower the salaries, well, even more savings could be had.

DeMaio swore he had a legal opinion backing his idea to lower the salaries figured into pensions without lowering some employees’ actual take home pay. But he refused to provide that to us.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith logged a comment on our post saying there is nothing “inherently illegal” about it. But one city observer still thinks Goldsmith’s view is too nuanced to be seen as fully backing DeMaio’s idea.

A $400 Bottle of Wine

Last summer, we pointed out that San Diego County Office of Education employees weren’t disclosing the gifts they received sometimes from companies hoping to do business with the agency.

Now we’ve found that companies have hooked the office’s employees up with hotel stays, at least one $400 bottle of wine and more. But as you’ll notice, the office is still not excited about disclosing all of the gifts its employees receive.

A Portfolio of Partners

Finally, I wanted to take a minute to thank our media partners. We have forged formal partnerships with NBC 7/39, SanDiego.com and AM 600 KOGO. Now, heading into the New Year, we’re getting ready to announce a new and exciting one.

This coming month marks the year anniversary of our work with NBC on San Diego Explained and the San Diego Fact Check. And with Behind the Scene, and our daily cooperation on stories and ideas, we are exploring new ways we can work together to leverage our limited resources. Media organizations across the country are realizing that if they use different technologies and aren’t inherently competitive, they can do a lot more working together rather than duplicating efforts.

NBC San Diego’s leaders have had great vision on this front working with more partners than just us.

The point is: VOSD is not just a website. We’re leveraging the resources our members provide to distribute our work now via multiple sources online and over the airwaves. We use the web as one of many tools to engage people in discussions about public affairs, their quality of life and the future of San Diego.

If you know a newspaper, magazine, website or radio station that might like to work together on a project, drop me a line.

You can contact me directly at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!): twitter.com/vosdscott.

Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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