San Diego Has the tide turned against the plan to build a baseball stadium downtown? Although approved by voters last November in a so-called "advisory" election, cracks have begun to appear, most of them due to blatant overreaching by stadium proponents. So far, the scheme still appears to be on track, having the backing of the mayor and eight city councilmembers, most of whom are widely expected to receive in return hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign contributions raised by Padres owners John Moores and Larry Lucchino. Next Tuesday, the council is expected to vote to condemn as many as 11 parcels within the footprint of the proposed stadium. But the effort by the Moores camp to force construction of a new downtown library across the street from the proposed stadium appears to have backfired. Exhibit number one is ex-Pardee honcho Mike Madigan, who as the city's stadium czar now makes $200,000 a year plus a 15 percent bonus, granted at the sole discretion of the city council. Madigan has been badly burned by his open attempt to lobby the library commission, which he chairs, on behalf of the stadium location. Moores and his friends own millions of dollars of property in the area immediately adjacent to the stadium and library sites and are set to realize a huge gain if the project goes forward. Although City Attorney Casey Gwinn and District Attorney Paul Pfingst have so far ignored the controversy (both have their eyes on higher office and, though Republicans, are expected to get Democrat Moores's financial backing), so much money is at stake and the pressure from the Moores camp is so intense, that some stadium opponents are trying to interest federal and state law-enforcement agencies in the case. That scenario is bolstered by word that downtown property owners outside the footprint of the so-called "ballpark district" will be systematically frozen out of development to allow Moores to build his own hotels and office towers first, leaving the dregs for others, a possible violation of federal fair trade and related conflict-of-interest laws. Many wonder whether Christine Kehoe, who received thousands of dollars from Moores and his friends in her near-miss congressional race against Brian Bilbray last year, may be feeling a bit of the heat. Although a big stadium backer, Kehoe has a reputation for flip-flops, first supporting, then opposing the notorious Chargers ticket guarantee, as well as backing, then turning her back on the city council's "toilet-to-tap" plan to turn treated sewage into drinking water. Kehoe is preparing to mount a high-profile run for the 76th Assembly District seat now held by fellow Democrat Susan Davis, and if Kehoe hangs tough with Moores, the smoldering stadium issue could provide potent ammunition for opponents.
Powerful state Democrats predicted it, and now it's come to pass: San Diego Mayor Susan Golding has come to the rescue of the ill-fated tall ships race that former governor Pete Wilson and Secretary of State Bill Jones once envisioned as the highlight of the state's sesquicentennial, or 150th birthday, celebration. When Jones cancelled the race earlier this year, claiming he had run out of money, Assembly Democrats accused the Republican of squandering $5 million of state and private money on everything from a Rose Bowl float to a lavish grand-opening party at the new state archives, run by Jones. Republicans claim it's all a hatchet job, and they were just victims of poor organization and fundraising. In any case, 6 of the 12 tall ships that were supposed to participate in the race are still on the high seas heading for San Diego. Last week Golding announced that the deep-pocketed San Diego Unified Port District had come up with an undisclosed amount of cash, and unidentified local donors will be asked to chip in another $120,000 more. Democrats look for Chargers owner Alex Spanos, a stalwart Republican, to make a substantial deposit. The mayor said that should be enough to keep captains and crews fed and watered for a mid-July week of mock battles in San Diego Bay. The fleet may then sail up the coast to San Francisco, but as one Sacramento Democrat put it, "That's Willie Brown's problem."
Contributor: Matt Potter