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Yes, I understand that $500 million is a lot of money to steal in seven months. Or is it expropriate? Or legislate? Perambulate? Something like that. No matter, $500 million is the going rate for a new NFL stadium, and we must face up to that fact.

Mayor Jerry "We're Broke And I Don't Have The Time" Sanders admitted San Diego has so righteously fucked up its finances that the city can no longer afford the tribute that a second-tier NFL franchise commands. With that, Sanders gamely announced he would try to amend the city's agreement with the Chargers so that, between whenever the agreement is legally amended and December 31, 2006, any city in San Diego County would be permitted to enter into talks with the Chargers in hopes of relocating that treasure to their jurisdiction.

Pretty damn generous of Jerry Sanders to open the gates and let every San Diego County municipality in. Gentlemen, let the stampede begin.

As you would expect, I've called around and taken preliminary soundings. First up was Gary Brown, city manager of Imperial Beach, who told me, "No. Our city would not be one of those [cities negotiating with the Chargers]." An officious female at El Cajon's city offices ordered me to call back. Poway was not interested. Ditto San Marcos. Lemon Grove was not inclined, neither was La Mesa. Santee is out. Oceanside, Chula Vista, and National City will cough up $500 million as soon as gasoline hits 50 cents a gallon.

Just a damn minute, people! It's beginning to look like no city is interested. Where are the men of yesteryear, captains of industry, men willing to take their measure against skies of blue and fields of yellow and thundering surf of white and majestic mountain tops of purple?

Well, I know such a man. Robert Mitchell is his name. He bestrides Jacumba like a colossus.

Jacumba just about fits all the requirements needed to bid for the Chargers. There is no doubt that the village of 440 is in San Diego County. True, it's three miles from the Imperial County line, but that's still San Diego County, bucko. Ask any lawyer. Yes, Jacumba is on the border with Mexico, but not over the border in Mexico. Again, ask any lawyer. Jacumba, while not technically a city, does have a water district, and said water district does have elective officers. Mr. Robert Mitchell was once a member of that water board, vested with the responsibility of overseeing the people's business. And that's good enough when you're talking about free money and over-the-counter bribes.

I have Mitchell on the telephone. "Bob, I called to learn Jacumba's attitude toward the San Diego Chargers."

Mitchell says, "Seems to me, quite frankly, if San Diego wants to consider putting an airport out here, and they've been playing that up in such a large fashion, then it's most appropriate to put the stadium here, too."

Robert Mitchell arrived in Jacumba several decades past on a mission to buy the town. He's been making steady progress ever since. I mention the half-billion-dollar cost of a new football stadium and ask, "How are the folk of Jacumba going to finance this?"

"Like America was financed," Bob says, "with lotteries. We'll have a lottery."

Spot on, Robert. Hmm. I wonder what his civic responsibilities are nowadays. Mitchell tells me, "I'm the president emeritus or something and life standing board member of the arts council."

Perhaps, I better flesh that out. "What?"

"Jacumba Arts Council. I'm on the board of directors, past president, and founding member."

For those who came in late, Mr. Mitchell was also the founder and publisher of the late Jacumba Plain Speaker. Bob is president of Jacumba Hot Springs Spa and Cabana Club, Jacumba's sole hot spot, restaurant, bar, and hotel. Due to space considerations, I will not speak of the diamond business, commodities trading, international currencies, Mexican time shares, or any other of the several dozen perfectly legal businesses Mr. Mitchell has been associated with in the past.

Just brainstorming now, I offer, "I think an official invitation to the Chargers..."

Mitchell interrupts, "I think it's a wonderful idea. We have an Arts Council meeting coming up in a few days. I'm going to have the council send a letter to the Chargers, requesting them to come out here and begin discussions with us.

"Absolutely, we want them," Bob adds. "We have an Indian casino up the road, we've got our music festivals. We're refurbishing the town. Hell, we're the prime place. And the old Chargers training camp was just up the road. For 20 years they trained in Boulevard, had a big training camp at Rough Acres Ranch. So, it's perfectly natural they'd come home."

Jacumba, Bob Mitchell and the Arts Council are real and will host a big music and arts festival on June 10 and another one on June 21. Hie thee to www.jacumbaartscouncil.org for particulars.

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