In June 2002, the L.A. Times’ Tony Perry wrote that San Diego seemed like it was “rising to the challenge of preventing the Chargers football team from moving to Los Angeles.”

The big development was that Mayor Dick Murphy had formed a task force “to ponder how the city can keep the NFL team without unduly raiding the civic treasury.”

Scott Lewis on Politics Logo

Perry might as well cut and paste the story this week.

Twelve years and a much-hyped first speech from Mayor Kevin Faulconer later, and that was the big news again: Faulconer is forming a new task force to, well, ponder how the city can keep the NFL team without unduly raiding the civic treasury.

Perry’s words work fine, no need to strain myself to come up with new ones.

Here are Faulconer’s:

“They will explore all possibilities to finance the project, with the clear direction that it must present a good and fair deal for San Diego taxpayers,” he said, according to his prepared remarks.  He said he would introduce the members of the Chargers task force in a couple weeks.

But there was an interesting turn when he described the decision it would make.

“They will study two different options: Building a stadium at the current Mission Valley location. Or building a stadium along with an expanded convention center downtown,” according to the prepared text.

That’s an interesting way to put it. “Along with an expanded convention center” doesn’t mean that the new stadium will be built with or part of the Convention Center. He’s left himself some room. The task force could decide to build a stadium and a convention center in that framing.

The Chargers were not impressed: “After 13 – now going on 14 – years of work by the Chargers, the speech contained no specifics, and so there is nothing for us to comment on,” said Mark Fabiani, the team’s special counsel, in a statement.

The old task force’s page on the city’s website is still live and filled with interesting, if aging, documents. I asked Geoff Patnoe, the former head of the Taxpayers Association and a member of that defunct committee, what he thought. Were we getting the band together again?

“It has been 12 years since the last public task force looked at this question and we have a very different civic and political environment today, so why not pull a new diverse panel together to help tackle this question?” Patnoe said.

It’s hard to see what insights they’re going to pull. Had Faulconer just said he was going to try to put something together that kept the team in San Diego while protecting taxpayers, which is what every mayor since Murphy has said, I’d have taken that as a simple message to the team to just leave.

But the task force gives him some room, I guess. It did take two task forces (and two National League championships) before the Padres got their park.

In six months, however, we’ll be back to where we are. The team threatening to leave. The city’s infrastructure still crumbling. Tax increases still requiring two-thirds of voters to support.

It’d be nice to see a new idea – a proposal of some kind. It’d also be refreshing to see a leader just be honest that he doesn’t want to give the Chargers what they’re demanding and so they should just leave.

When that last task force was formed, Perry described it like this in the Times:

In announcing that he will ask the City Council to form a 15-member Citizens Task Force on Chargers Issues, Murphy is following the political playbook of his mayoral role model: Pete Wilson, who was mayor from 1971 to 1983 and gave Murphy his start in local politics.

When faced with a controversial issue, Wilson often had the issue vetted by a committee or commission, whose chairman was invariably a close Wilson ally. Few recommendations were made by such groups that were at odds with what Wilson wanted.

Faulconer’s speech was a potpourri of things that had changed in San Diego over the last decade since Murphy resigned in disgrace.

But some things just don’t change.

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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