San Diego Convention Center
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There are two particularly noisome kinds of welfare for the superrich: subsidization of pro sports facilities and subsidization of hotels. Leave it to San Diego to combine the two so taxpayers may have to cast only one vote in November to bestow big bucks on both kinds of billionaires.

This time, though, there is a difference: some members of the establishment — including hoteliers, the mayor, and Republicans — question the proposal.

Welfare for pro sports and hotel billionaires would be glued together into something called a “convadium” — a Chargers tax-supported football stadium attached to a tax-financed convention center. Disingenuously, this convadium is being called an “expansion” of the current center. It’s not, because it’s several blocks away from the existing center, so it can only be used for two separate conventions.

Urban centers total lodging tax rate ranking 2014

“Typically, when people are booking a convention, they like it all to be housed under one roof,” says Jerry Morrison, a San Diego hotel expert. Convention attendees “are dragging a bag around all day. They don’t want to take a cab or a bus five or six blocks to go to the next meeting.” Thus, hoteliers want a contiguous expansion of the current center. Republicans don’t like the convadium because the hotel tax would be boosted from 12.5 to 16.5 percent.

Because mainstream media hide the truth about convention center finances, you may not know about the hotel/convention center taxpayer fleece job. First, the construction of large hotels is often subsidized — say 15 percent of the cost.

Heywood Sanders

Then, year after year, convention centers are huge drains on local governments. Heywood Sanders, who accurately predicted the vast overbuilding of American centers back in 2005 for the Brookings Institution and in 2014 wrote an exhaustive book on the topic, Convention Center Follies, says, “Only a tiny handful of convention centers in the U.S. actually make an operating profit” — that is, bring in enough income to cover expenses. Fewer than 5 percent of U.S. centers have income topping expenses.

Chicago’s McCormick Place

“Some lose humongous amounts of money,” says Sanders, a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio. McCormick Place in Chicago, one of the best-known and largest centers, “lost $38.1 million in fiscal 2014. The center in Washington, D.C., routinely loses $20 million a year or more. San Diego runs an operating loss — something on the order of a million dollars a year.” The San Diego center, infamous for fiddling with the books, gets $3.5 million of city funds each year and counts it as income.

“No convention center pays anything whatever on its debt service,” says Sanders. The governmental entity subsidizing the center pays the debt service through hotel tax receipts.

Here’s how this scam works: a city’s establishment decides it must expand its convention center to stay ahead of competitors, who are also losing bundles of money on their centers. Taxes are imposed to build the addition. Then, as the expanded center begins operations, losses keep piling up, and they are covered by hotel taxes. Because there is massive overbuilding of convention centers, fees are slashed by 50 percent or more — sometimes down to zero, and sometimes below zero (the convention center pays an organization to use its center). San Diego has cut its prices in half for the customer that gets the most publicity: Comic-Con.

So this is a case of government subsidizing a project its politicians believe it desperately needs, then piling up huge losses while hotel tax receipts are eaten up to cover the deficits.

“The argument is always that this will create an economic boom” which will fill local coffers, says Sanders. Cities argue that there “will be a huge economic impact that will create jobs, create tax revenues, but the tax revenue will be siphoned off to pay for the convention center,” says Sanders. San Diego’s center, along with others, “puts out grand, glossy reports that make it sound like they are doing wonderfully. The reports do not say what it costs.”

The big winners are hotels and, to a lesser extent, restaurants. “It is a classic example of welfare for the rich,” says Sanders. But cities are willing to see their centers pile up huge losses to subsidize those establishments. And there is another big winner: the consulting firms that tell a city that if it enlarges its center, conventioneers will converge on the city en masse. Most of the time, attendance falls far short of the consultants’ predictions.

Municipalities try to recover some of their losses by raising their hotel taxes. At 12.5 percent, San Diego is down with Chula Vista, Orlando, and Tallahassee, according to figures from Chicago’s HVS Convention, Sports & Entertainment. If the rate rises to 16.5, San Diego will be a tiny bit ahead of Chicago and San Francisco but still cheaper than such beauty spots as Kansas City, St. Louis, Birmingham, Cleveland, El Paso, and Omaha.

Both Sanders and Morrison doubt that the increase in San Diego’s transit occupancy (hotel) tax will dent visitations. After all, says Sanders, “Convention planners are not paying those taxes. Attendees are.”

Says Morrison, “That type of rise in and of itself won’t affect occupancy.”

Ford Frick

The idea that cities should subsidize sports stadiums and convention centers arose in the 1950s. Because facilities such as Chicago’s Soldier Field and Los Angeles’s Coliseum were built with public money, about 30 percent of the cost of a stadium or arena came from public funds after World War II. But in 1951, Major League Baseball commissioner Ford Frick announced that cities would have to subsidize directly the construction of stadiums. The subsidies zoomed to around 70 percent of the total cost but now are receding somewhat. Objective economists almost unanimously agree that subsidizing a stadium is a waste of money. Urban development does not arise, as teams always claim.

Sanders says the same about convention centers. Cities build and expand them, but attendance does not rise significantly, and the centers pile up huge losses. San Diego can try the convadium, but it won’t result in much more convention business, he says.

Spending the money on San Diego’s real needs — repairing the infrastructure and tackling the homeless problem — would probably attract more tourists.

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Comments

MURPHYJUNK April 27, 2016 @ 7:39 a.m.

well, the money does not come out of the promoter's pockets, or others on the feeding chain

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Don Bauder April 28, 2016 @ 8:57 p.m.

Murphyjunk: That's a poignant point with corporate welfare. The money doesn't come out of the promoters' pockets. Best, Don Bauder

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Bob_Hudson April 27, 2016 @ 8:03 a.m.

"tackling the homeless problem — would probably attract more tourists"

Or at least scare fewer from returning to SD.

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Don Bauder April 27, 2016 @ 10:50 a.m.

Bob_Hudson: Good point. Why can't San Diego construct homeless centers and put up permanent tents for the homeless? And provide the homeless food? That would be hundreds of millions of dollars cheaper than building a stadium for a billionaire, and would do more for tourism. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill April 27, 2016 @ 11:46 a.m.

If an average person takes a walk downtown what thought is most likely to occur?

A. Downtown SD needs a better solution to it's homeless issue. B. Downtown SD needs a bigger convention center. C. Downtown SD needs a football stadium.

I'm guessing A would be the thought most likely to occur to an average tourist.

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Don Bauder April 27, 2016 @ 1:18 p.m.

ImJustABill: I think A would swamp B and C. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill April 27, 2016 @ 1:45 p.m.

Yes - it's just common sense. But B and C dominate the priorities of the public discussions.

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Don Bauder April 27, 2016 @ 9:15 p.m.

ImJustABill: Actually, fixing the infrastructure is the most important issue of all. Faulconer ran for mayor on an infrastructure platform, then has done nothing significant as he mulls how many political points he can rack up by backing a subsidized stadium for an out-of-town billionaire family. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill April 28, 2016 @ 9:47 a.m.

I have to give Faulconer some credit. At least he insisted on an election and he and Roberts drew the line for funding a Mission Valley stadium at 350M. And he's publicly asking many of the right questions http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/FaulconerSpanosQuestions.pdf

I don't know whether Faulconer and the city council have been lukewarm towards the Convadium because they actually care what's best for the city or because they are more interested in protecting the hotel owners.

But I would say Faulconer's lukewarm response to the convadium is a lot more appropriate for a senior elected official towards a proposed use of public funding for private gain than Susan Golding's rah-rah cheering for Petco Park was.

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Don Bauder April 28, 2016 @ 10:44 a.m.

ImJustABill: Yes, Faulconer's lukewarm response to the convadium is encouraging. His list of questions on it is excellent. Remember how Golding enthusiastically pushed the ballpark, as Moores and Lucchino cozied up to her? The ballpark was to pay for itself. It costs the city around $13 million a year in addition to the $300 million already put in, and the $1 billion worth of land given to Moores for almost nothing.

A grand jury showed that Golding's minions pushed bureaucrats to juggle their arithmetic so that it would appear the ballpark was paying for itself.

Unlike in the ballpark discussions, there are intelligent establishment members who question the convadium. But just wait until the money starts flying around. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill April 28, 2016 @ 2:58 p.m.

I think the interesting thing to see will be if the hotel industry pours in big bucks to defeat the measure. I don't know why the hotel industry wouldn't push hard against this proposal - it's a 4% TOT increase which will cause them to lose business and they get little in return.

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Don Bauder April 28, 2016 @ 9 p.m.

ImJustABill: I agree with you. The hoteliers will get little out of this, and may lose business. Boosting the TOT to 16.5 percent could dent the number of conventions and visitors, and the convadium will be of little value. Best, Don Bauder

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Matt101 April 27, 2016 @ 8:58 a.m.

In other words, the gist of the opposition of the giant-hotel owners to the "convadium" is that they want all those tax dollars to benefit them more directly by going into a convention center that is on their hotels' doorstep rather than a few blocks away.

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aardvark April 27, 2016 @ 10:24 a.m.

Actually, it really does make more sense to have a contiguous expansion of the convention center. Assuming it was necessary. Which it most certainly is not.

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Don Bauder April 27, 2016 @ 10:55 a.m.

aardvark: Yes, the only approach that makes sense is a contiguous expansion. However, convention centers are so overbuilt nationally, and prices are beng slashed so steeply, that now is not the time for a contiguous expansion. However, I agree that now is the time to repair the inside of the center. Best, Don Bauder

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MichaelValentine April 28, 2016 @ 12:51 p.m.

Say Don, wouldn't a 16% hotel tax be enough of a bump to chase convention business somewhere else?

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Don Bauder April 28, 2016 @ 9:03 p.m.

MichaelValentine: Both Heywood Sanders and Jerry Morrison, who are hotel/convention experts, don't think the big increase will dent tourism. I wish I were as confident as they are. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 27, 2016 @ 10:53 a.m.

Matt101: The gist of the owners' objection to a convadium is that conventioneers do not like to walk or take a taxi 5 or 6 blocks to go to a second convention center. The convadium would be a white elephant. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill April 27, 2016 @ 2:54 p.m.

I think during SDCC with the foot and car traffic it could easily take 30 min+ to get between the main convention center and the annex.

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Don Bauder April 27, 2016 @ 9:18 p.m.

ImJustABill: It would be a lie to consider the convadium an extension of the convention center. The only time it would be used is when there would be two conventions in town -- one for each center. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill April 27, 2016 @ 11:13 a.m.

I wouldn't have a problem with it if there was a TOT increase specifically for the 3 major hotels on Harbor in order to pay for a convention center expansion.

Those 3 hotels are the primary beneficiaries of convention center business so if they want to pay for a convention center expansion I'm fine with it.

Those 3 hotels should some private financing agreement between them (maybe Hyatt, Marriot, and Hilton kick in a total of about 500M private funding to expand the convention center). If it's worth 500M to those three hotels then they should spend the money.

I really question whether or not there is a great benefit to San Diego other than to the 3 hotels on Harbor.

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Don Bauder April 27, 2016 @ 1:22 p.m.

ImJustABill: Earlier, there was a proposal that hotels near the center would pay more than hotels and motels a distance away. The proposal died for other reasons. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 27, 2016 @ 9:21 p.m.

ImJustABill: There is no rational need for a convadium with its smaller center a long distance from the existing center. At some point a few years from now there will be a need for a contiguous addition. Not now. Best, Don Bauder

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Ponzi April 27, 2016 @ 7:48 p.m.

Many supporters of the hotel tax claim "it's coming from out of town visitors...." As if San Diego is not gouging its own. I find this to be a flawed argument. There are many locals who "staycation," family members, servicemen and others that come to San Diego and will be subject to those taxes. People visiting here for to visit family in the hospital, a funeral, a wedding are "family" that get gouged by those "taxes that are only on out-of-towners." Local companies that hold conferences here and bring employees from out of town get gouged. Is that making San Diego friendly for local business?

An increased tax will make a difference to event planners and families planning a vacation. Event planners can go to Anaheim, L.A. or Vegas. Families can get a better entertainment value by staying in L.A. and taking in DisneyLand and all the other entertainment giant parks.

If a convadium catastrophe is foisted on the uninformed voters, it could be the loss of Comic Con and other local and tourist visits. We are not the only city in Southern California with a zoo and beaches. I truthfully feel that Comic Con is more valuable to the economy than the Chargers. The quietness of Comic Con leaders on the convadium is curious.

San Diego has transformed into an expensive place to live with a lot of low-wage jobs. I feel we should take a page from Hawaii and copy their "Kamaʻāina" system where locals (residents) get a discount on most products and services. Just like Balboa Park has free Tuesday's for residents, a program to help locals that would mitigate some of the gouging of "our own" locals would be instantly popular.

In the meantime, our leaders are finding ways to hide our problems like homelessness, by pouring rocks under bridges.

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aardvark April 27, 2016 @ 8:20 p.m.

I was under the impression that ComicCon came out early and said they preferred contiguous expansion versus an annex. I think they have been quiet lately only because they haven't deviated from their original statement.

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Don Bauder April 27, 2016 @ 9:29 p.m.

aardvark: Correct. Comic Con early on said it favored a contiguous expansion. I have not heard that it has changed its mind, and I can't imagine why it would. For certain, visitors to Comic Con would not want to shuttle between two centers 5 or 6 blocks away. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 27, 2016 @ 9:26 p.m.

Ponzi: Of course Comic Con is more valuable to the economy than the Chargers. In fact, the Chargers really add very, very little, if anything, to the economy. Every objective economist who has studied the question of whether spending public money to subsidize a pro football team is a good investment comes up with the same answer: NO! Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill April 28, 2016 @ 3:07 p.m.

Here's the basic argument of the Chargers:

We're building an 800M stadium. The Chargers are paying 650M and out of town visitors are covering the rest. We're also building a convention center expansion which will help us keep comic-con

There are blatant flaws in those statements but people who want to believe will believe it.

And maybe the NFL will believe it after the measure is defeated and Spanos has to try to negotiate a better deal with Kroenke (he obviously has a bad deal now or he would be in LA). So maybe Spanos can go back to the NFL and say "see look I tried to get a stadium built in SD but they wouldn't approve it"

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Don Bauder April 28, 2016 @ 9:13 p.m.

ImJustABill: The Chargers are paying $650 million? Not so. The league will pick up $300 million and the team $350 million, supposedly. But that's not even close. The Chargers will count naming rights, ad rights, and other income as their contribution. This is a scam. The city should be able to count at least half of naming and ad rights as its contributions. Why should the team get credit for the naming and ad rights?

The Chargers are also counting on a big chunk of money from personal seat licenses. But until this came up, the Chargers have been saying that personal seat licenses won't work in San Diego. I can see this happening: the team will count on $100 million or so in personal seat licenses. When everybody realizes there won't be a penny in PSLs, the city will decide it will pick up the tab so there won't be an empty shell sitting there. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill April 29, 2016 @ 4:32 a.m.

There are numerous flaws in the arguments,

"We're building an 800M stadium. The Chargers are paying 650M and out of town visitors are covering the rest. We're also building a convention center expansion which will help us keep comic-con"

My point is that one has to do at least a little bit of critical thinking and research to understand the flaws. Chargers fans who really, really, really want to believe the argument aren't going to try to understand the flaws in the argument.

Love is blind.

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Don Bauder April 29, 2016 @ 6:59 a.m.

ImJustABill: The Chargers' argument is not only irrational, it is dishonest. For example, signature gatherers are saying the convadium will save Comic Con. It is exactly the reverse. Comic Con has come out for a contiguous expansion. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 27, 2016 @ 9:31 p.m.

Flapper: You have perfectly described what subsidies to pro stadiums are: welfare on steroids. In this case, welfare for billionaires who live out of town. Best, Don Bauder

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Flapper April 27, 2016 @ 9:23 p.m.

"Faulconer ran for mayor on an infrastructure platform, then has done nothing significant as he mulls how many political points he can rack up by backing a subsidized stadium for an out-of-town billionaire family." --Bauder

Wait for a well-timed bond issue to fix infrastructure neglected by the blatant farrago of mass manipulators.

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Don Bauder April 27, 2016 @ 9:33 p.m.

Flapper; There is supposed to be an infrastructure bond issue on the November ballot. But what will happen to it if it competes with welfare for the Chargers?

As I said before, the team should drop the name "Chargers" and be named the San Diego Panhandlers. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 27, 2016 @ 9:35 p.m.

Peter Peters: But public money does go into promotion of San Diego tourism now. Best, Don Bauder

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Flapper April 27, 2016 @ 10:36 p.m.

What will the Giant Sucking Sound generated by the hotel tax do to the pittance afforded to the museums?

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Don Bauder April 28, 2016 @ 10:52 a.m.

Flapper: I have been working on that. A number of cultural and art organizations get hotel tax revenue. This includes the museums, the opera and symphony, and many other groups.

I don't know yet whether they will suffer. I do know one thing: the Chargers and the corporate welfare mendicants will PROMISE that the arts and culture won't suffer, even if the welfare-for-the-rich cheerleaders know full well that they will suffer. Best, Don Bauder

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AlexClarke April 28, 2016 @ 6:58 a.m.

It amazes me that the TOT generates millions of dollars to lure tourists to hotels with high priced rooms and eat at over priced restaurants while the employees of those hotels and restaurants have to rely on taxpayer funded welfare to make ends meet.

1

Don Bauder April 28, 2016 @ 10:57 a.m.

AlexClarke: Yes, it is amazing. Hotel land restaurant employees are pitifully underpaid. They have to tap welfare such as food stamps. That comes out of the pockets of taxpayers.

The same is true with retailers such as Wal-Mart. They even show their pathetically underpaid employees how to file for government welfare benefits. Taxpayers pay for that, too. But people shop at Wal-Mart because they think the prices are low. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh April 28, 2016 @ 7:47 a.m.

Conventions and other large gatherings are in a secular decline. The world no longer depends upon the convention, usually a trade show, to disseminate knowledge. The social aspect of convention attendance just doesn't motivate people to travel hundreds or thousands of miles as it once did. There was a time when some of the larger trade shows, such as the hardware show in Chicago, brought them in by the thousands. The world is changing, consciousness is changing as communication changes, and air travel isn't any sort of treat now.

Whereas most conventions once had a productive purpose for an industry, religious faith, or fraternal organization, Comic-Con is pure frivolity. Not to say that it is improper, but it is only for fun. This continuing angst about losing it to some other city is overblown; it just would not be the same elsewhere. Moreover, it is known as a gathering of, if not poor folks, those who lack fat expense accounts, and many of whom are what we used to call cheapskates. So, for the overpriced sellers of rooms, meals, and attractions, there is a reduced level of economic fallout from Comic-Con. All the more reason to stop worrying about losing it.

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Ponzi April 28, 2016 @ 12:05 p.m.

"air travel isn't any sort of treat now" You got that right. I remember when I used to travel to COMDEX in Las Vegas. I would arrive at Lindbergh Field 15 - 20 minutes before flight departure. Business travel was hectic, but way more fun back then. With teleconferencing and other technologies there are less reasons to travel. I also feel that the millennials, with their penchant for 'not meeting face-to-face' will eventually disrupt the convention industry.

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Don Bauder April 28, 2016 @ 2:29 p.m.

Ponzi: Convention attendance has been flat for a decade. You are right. Technological advances such as teleconferencing, Skype, etc. make conventions less compelling. Best, Don Bauder

1

Don Bauder April 28, 2016 @ 2:25 p.m.

Visduh: You hit the nail on the head. Comic Con is already complaining about the high prices of San Diego hotels. Keep in mind that attendees to an industrial or tech convention are putting their hotel suites and meals on an expense account.

This isn't true of visitors to Comic Con. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 28, 2016 @ 6:48 p.m.

Visduh: Absolutely. Comic Con is all about fun. The visitors are not wealthy and, in general, can't afford high-priced San Diego hotels and restaurants. So Comic Con is not the big money maker that people tout it to be. But so what? It brings levity to the city. Best, Don Bauder

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Flapper April 28, 2016 @ 2:39 p.m.

". . . mendicants will PROMISE . . ." --Bauder

Then let them put up BONDS to ensure that they come true.

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Don Bauder April 28, 2016 @ 6:53 p.m.

Flapper: It's my understanding that the document San Diego will vote on doesn't even commit the team to remain in the city. I will have to read it again to be certain of that, but I have interviewed lawyers who say that is true -- no commitment. San Diegans could vote for it and the team could still vamoose.

I suspect the document reads that way because there is still a chance the team will be sold to a multi-billionaire who will get along with Kroenke and move the team to L.A. Best, Don Bauder

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Flapper April 28, 2016 @ 2:47 p.m.

". . . The social aspect of convention attendance just doesn't motivate people . . . "

They used to be "meat markets," places to kick up your heels far from home and live out some fantasies--in your dreams. With "social" media, you can virtually do that on-line now. How has Match.com's stock been doing?

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Don Bauder April 28, 2016 @ 6:55 p.m.

Flapper: Yes, conventions are often for intercourse -- 1. conversation and 2. that other kind of intercourse we don't talk about. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 28, 2016 @ 9:20 p.m.

Flapper: Not if the monitor doesn't catch you. Best, Don Bauder

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amorpheous April 28, 2016 @ 2:57 p.m.

I prefer to call this the Stadium-Con, because that's exactly what it is. A convoluted con job.

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Don Bauder April 28, 2016 @ 6:58 p.m.

amorpheous: You are absolutely right. San Diego is being fed a con job right now. But some who still believe in Santa Claus will never see that they are being hoodwinked. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill April 29, 2016 @ 2:04 p.m.

I'm curious to find out how much effort / money the hotel industry will put into opposing this initiative. Clearly the initiative is not in the hotel industry's best interests - but will they be forced somehow to play along? By the Chargers?

I don't see why the hotel industry wouldn't put a lot of money into blocking the initiative - it will cost them many millions annually in lost revenue.

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Don Bauder April 29, 2016 @ 8:05 p.m.

ImJustABill: I certainly hope the hotel industry intends to fight this. But pressure from the Chamber of Commerce, politicians, the Chargers, real estate nabobs such as John Moores, and corporate welfare power groups could be too much to fight. If the hotel industry gives up without a fight, it will suffer, because there will be no chance for the building of a contiguous expansion of the existing center. It is not needed now because of the overbuilding of centers, but it may be needed in five or ten years. Best, Don Bauder

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corybriggs April 30, 2016 @ 8:45 a.m.

There are some good points made in the article and comments. Those very concerns are why the Citizens' Plan (for the Responsible Management of Major Tourism and Entertainment Resources) takes the debt and obligations off the backs of residents and puts those burdens on the hotel/tourism industry. The Citizens' Plan gives the industry financial incentives to make good business decisions that benefit the public and taxpayers first and foremost. If the industry does not step up to the plate, then all new revenues (about $90 million per year at today's rate) under the Citizens' Plan will go into the general fund. Taxpayers and the public win either way. (N.B.: The "Citizens' Plan" should not be confused with the Chargers' similar-sounding "citizens' initiative.")

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Don Bauder April 30, 2016 @ 11:23 a.m.

corybriggs: Since you are the power behind the Citizens' Plan, we appreciate your input. You have said all along that public money will not go into a stadium. I suspect that is a major reason city attorney Goldsmith has found so many legal holes in the Citizens' Plan. (Of course, personal animus has no doubt played a role, too.)

It is essential that San Diegans understand that the Citizens' Plan involves no public money for a stadium. Will the Chargers be able to get taxpayer money through some loopholes?

Can you sue the Chargers for trying to lift the name of your initiative? Best, Don Bauder

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corybriggs May 1, 2016 @ 7:58 a.m.

High, Don. The language in the Citizens' Plan was done when it appeared the Chargers were laser-focused on moving to Los Angeles and was based on polling data showing 70-80% of the public against any public money for the team. So the compromise/fall-back was to authorize a downtown stadium as a land use but to prohibit subsidies and require the team to pay for the stadium. I'm obviously biased because I wrote the no-subsidy language. But even city attorney Jan Goldsmith has admitted that the Citizens' Plan gives no public money for the stadium.

As for suing on the team's name choice, we wouldn't do that even if we could (which we can't). All of these are technically "citizen initiatives." In our campaign, we distinguish between the Citizens' Plan and the Chargers' Plan and try as much as possible to help the public keep the names straight.

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Don Bauder May 1, 2016 @ 8:52 a.m.

corybriggs: I was just kidding when I said you should sue the Chargers for lifting the name of your initiative. Of course you can't do that.

I was hardly surprised when Goldsmith found so many legal problems with your initiative. As I said, personal animus is probably involved in that. I suspect Goldsmith, the Golden Girl of corporate welfare, will find no such problems with the Chargers' initiative. Best, Don Bauder

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Ponzi April 30, 2016 @ 9:46 p.m.

Mr. Briggs, how about "NO" initiative? Why not an initiative that addresses the backlog of infrastructure? Because this is not sexy and the lawyers can't make money on something that is obviously a service the city should be doing as part of its job. We don't want a stadium Mr. Briggs, and the voters are going to shout it in your ears in November. And we are going to ship you to Alaska... so dress warm.

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corybriggs May 1, 2016 @ 8:02 a.m.

Ponzi, the full 5% in additional funds goes into the general fund, where it can be used for infrastructure and other general government services. The incentives given to the hoteliers, if taken and by most estimates, will generate more TOT than the incentives, so it's a reasonable investment. If they don't take them, then the public at least has the 5%.

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Don Bauder May 1, 2016 @ 9:03 a.m.

corybriggs: You have me confused with that response to Ponzi. Sorry. Best, Don Bauder

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corybriggs May 1, 2016 @ 12:47 p.m.

In what way, Don? The Citizens' Plan would the TOT for the bigger hotels at 15.5%; now it's 10.5%. The full 5% would go into the general fund. Hoteliers would get a 2% incentive to build their own off-waterfront expansion, and another 2% to assume tourism-marketing responsibilities from the city. If the hoteliers don't avail themselves of the incentives, that money stays in the gen fund.

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Don Bauder May 1, 2016 @ 9:21 p.m.

corybriggs: How far would an off-waterfront expansion have to be from the current convention center? One of the major problems with the convadium proposal is that the center would be too far away (5 or 6 blocks) to be called an extension. People who know convention centers know that attendees don't want to go to another building. Best, Don Bauder

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corybriggs May 2, 2016 @ 7:07 a.m.

Don: When the last expansion was approved for the waterfront (the Phase 2 expansion), the city and port and convention-center boosters promised that the next expansion (the current Phase 3 expansion) would occur on Tailgate Park. To that end, the port built a bridge across Harbor Drive, south of the existing convention center, over to what is known today as Tailgate Park. The port also purchased Tailgate Park -- yes, the port owned it before the city did and sold it to the city to facilitate Petco Park -- to further demonstrate its commitment to no further expansions on the waterfront. CCDC (what is now Civic San Diego) and the convention center had committees evaluate the Phase 3 expansion back in the early 2000's, and those committees concluded that Tailgate Park would be the best location for the expansion. When my client opposed the current, contiguous proposal before the Coastal Commission in October 2013, we gave the commissioners copies of the committee documents -- the existence of which the port had conveniently been denying when staff at the Commission asked about them.

So when people claim that a non-contiguous expansion will not work, be sure to ask them: (1) why it would have worked in the minds of the city, the port, and the convention-center boosters until about 2004; (2) why those people spent roughly $27 million to build a bridge over to Tailgate Park; (3) why the port bought Tailgate Park, a piece of property outside its jurisdiction, in the 1990s if not to facilitate a non-contiguous expansion; and (4) why, given that their own expert said last year that the return on investment for contiguous vs. non-contiguous is about the same, taxpayers should support the more expensive contiguous expansion?

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Don Bauder May 2, 2016 @ 8:19 a.m.

corybriggs: I suspect that in 2004, convention centers may not yet have known the folly of building a non-contiguous expansion. Heywood Sanders's seminal paper on convention centers came out in 2005. Perhaps it touched on that topic, but maybe not. It was mainly about the massive overbuilding of convention centers.

Since 2005, convention centers have become far more overbuilt. Fees are being cut in half and in some cases dropped entirely. In some instances, convention centers are paying to be host of a convention. Talk about welfare for hotels!

Your argument seems to be that San Diego leaders erred in the early days, circa 2004, so that is an argument for a similar screw-up now.

In any case, the argument over a contiguous expansion of the convention center is not the primary argument against welfare for the Chargers. You believe that your initiative bars use of public money to build a Chargers stadium. My response: if there is a convadium, the Chargers and NFL will falsify the accounting to make it look like only private money went into the stadium. The NFL will not permit 100 percent private funding for a stadium in a small market. Best, Don Bauder

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aardvark May 2, 2016 @ 2:25 p.m.

The bridge you speak of does not reach all the way to Tailgate Park.

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Ponzi May 1, 2016 @ 7:29 p.m.

Mr. Briggs, I can be sarcastic at times. I do want to thank you for taking the time to share your position and information on this Reader story. It is much appreciated when the people behind the scenes come forward and speak directly to us. So, I respect your participation. Thank you.

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corybriggs May 2, 2016 @ 7:13 a.m.

It's my pleasure. But the real thanks go to people like you who take the time to get educated on what's happening and then ask questions so that everyone can be on the same page with the same info. More people need to understand the inaccuracy and lack of transparency among contiguous-expansion boosters.

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Don Bauder May 2, 2016 @ 8:26 a.m.

corybriggs: "Everyone can be on the same page with the same info." Dream on. The election will be decided by who spends the most money on advertising. That will be the Chargers....by far.

"Inaccuracy and lack of transparency." That is the history of the billionaire stadium scam -- and not just in San Diego. Everywhere. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 1, 2016 @ 9 a.m.

Ponzi: It's too bad the word "infrastructure" is so long and confusing to many, and may not fit on a bumper sticker. Infrastructure means roads, sewers, storm drains, streets. water - a host of essential things that government is supposed to provide. The best way to stop another stadium scam in San Diego is for people to keep shouting "Infrastructure!"

Faulconer was elected on that issue. He should stand up and say he does not favor the Chargers' corporate welfare ruse, and he will emphasize what he promised to favor: "Infrastructure!"

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Don Bauder May 1, 2016 @ 9:22 p.m.

Ponzi: That's two of us. Not enough. Best, Don Bauder

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Flapper April 30, 2016 @ 2:02 p.m.

Please correct me (with evidence) if I am wrong, but I believe that the bed tax originally went to support public institutions like museums that draw tourist to the hotels. That is a year 'round use of the money, but it has been shuffled off to other things over the years. The ballpark will be the ultimate "Giant Sucking Sound" that will dry up support for public institutions to the point of strangling them. Their only alternative will be to be even bigger "profit centers" than they already are, charging higher and higher entrance fees, effectively denying access to the very people (e.g. poor children) they were designed to educate.

No more sleight of hand, PLEASE!

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Don Bauder May 1, 2016 @ 9:10 a.m.

Flapper: The original use of TOT funds was to promote San Diego tourism, mainly through advertising in out-of-town media. Than came the payments to local arts and culture groups. Now downtown boosters want the loot to subsidize a stadium for an out-of-town billionaire family.

The cities that have refused to cough up welfare payments to pro sports teams are Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. San Diego would do itself proud if it refused to give any subsidies -- ever -- to pro sports teams. Best, Don Bauder

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corybriggs May 2, 2016 @ 6:58 a.m.

Flapper: The municipal code currently earmarks 4% of the 10.5% for "promoting the city." As Don points out, however, that money was raided long ago for other things and to this day is used for things tenuously connected to tourism but hardly related to marketing and advertising the city as a tourist destination; that is why the hoteliers and the politicians created the Tourism Marketing District tax, which my client is currently challenging in court because (like the illegal convention center tax from a few years go) the public was never given the opportunity to vote on it. The Citizens' Plan (not to be confused with the Chargers' proposal) eliminates that earmark because it is no longer honest for the city to say that the 4% is going toward promoting the city. That money is being used like general-fund money, so we eliminate the earmark to bring the municipal code into conformance with the actual budgeting practices for the last 20-plus years.

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Don Bauder May 2, 2016 @ 8:35 a.m.

corybriggs: Your desire to eliminate dishonesty in city government is admirable..... BUT. Best, Don Bauder

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Ponzi May 3, 2016 @ 4:47 p.m.

Thank you again for joining the conversation. The problem I have, and I think most people do here in San Diego, is trust. Over the years various city leaders make honestly bad decisions as well as the people behind the scenes throwing one dishonest scheme after another at us.

When citizens who will fight for the people, like Attorney Mike Aguirre get in office, the downtown establishment run them out. The city leaders squander the social trust and social capital of the community. Made even worse during the period a significant local developer owned the major daily news, we can't tell who is telling the truth and who is on the peoples side.

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Don Bauder May 3, 2016 @ 7:54 p.m.

Ponzi: Yes, Aguirre represented the people and was brutalized. The same was true of Bob Filner. The establishment was horrified when he won, because he had plans to cut back sharply on corporate welfare, particularly downtown, and put the money in neighborhoods and infrastructure.

A plot was conceived and carried out -- a lynching in broad daylight. And, shamefully, Democrats such as Donna Frye and Cory Briggs set the table for the corporate welfarists to finish the job. Look around: corporate welfare plans are popping up all over. Best, Don Bauder

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