Mayor Kevin Faulconer would like San Diego to believe that he is open to the Chargers downtown Convadium project which would combine a new stadium with a non-contiguous expansion of the Convention Center. He just needs more time to research the project’s viability and the overall economic impact it will have on San Diego and its taxpayers; time that takes him past next week’s primary election on June 7.
Faulconer and his handlers have taken the approach of avoiding controversy with hopes that he can be re-elected in the primary and not have to run in the general election in November.
Donald Trump, the Republican presumptive nominee, is one source of controversy that Faulconer is doing his best to avoid. Faulconer has repeatedly said he will not support Trump because he is divisive. Faulconer’s colleagues, however, believe this is just a pre-election position to appease the masses.
“Well you know in a matter of weeks we’re going to have a primary for many of our officials,” Darrell Issa, the Republican U.S. Representative for California’s 49th congressional district, told the Independent Voter Project. “They would like to get their 51% and end their races; that’s politics. The mayor has absolutely not had his election yet. I would expect him and the local establishment to come on board (support Donald Trump) in July.”
When a politician calls out another politician of the same party for just playing politics to gain support in an election, we should take note and heed it as a WARNING!
For over a year, I have publicly shared an unpopular belief that everything Mayor Faulconer has done on the stadium issue has been nothing more than theater designed to protect the interests of those that prefer a contiguous expansion of the Convention Center over non-contiguous, and to provide political cover for the mayor if the Chargers were to move to LA.
I was told repeatedly that a solution could be found if only the Chargers would come to the table. From the Chargers announcing their decision to focus on downtown, to publishing the language of their citizens initiative, to the official launch of the initiative, the Chargers have received persistent political blowback for their efforts.
Tony Manolatos, former spokesman of the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group (CSAG), District 1 city council candidate Ray Ellis, and accountant April Boling have been particularly outspoken.
Steve Cushman continues behind the scenes to apply political pressure. “If you were going to line up the people in San Diego who have done the most to block a new stadium over the years, there is no doubt that Steve Cushman would be near the head of that line,” Mark Fabiani told Chargers.com.
Let’s take a look at the interconnectivity of relationships that go back years between Faulconer and those that have been most outspoken against the Chargers plan to build a multi-use stadium that includes a non-contiguous expansion of the Convention Center.
By analyzing the actions of these individuals and their relationships to one another, it is clear that Faulconer’s stadium effort has been politically motivated, less than sincere, and most importantly it is unlikely he will ever be supportive of the Chargers downtown plans, even if he wins re-election.
Steve Cushman and Faulconer have worked together to expand the Convention Center since at least 2009. At that time, Cushman chaired the Mayor’s Citizen Task Force to expand the Convention Center and councilman Faulconer was included in the communications of the task force.
Cushman and April Boiling have collaborated on Convention Center issues involving Hoteliers since at least 2004. Both played critical roles to bring the Hilton hotel to the bay front. Cushman then served as the Commissioner of The Port Commission which granted a coastal development permit for the project. April Boling served as vice chairwoman of the Convention Center Corp. board, and she told commissioners that the hotel will play a “pivotal role in the success of the Convention Center.”
Cushman as outgoing Port Board Chairman in 2010 presented an award to Wayne Darbeau for efforts to “Foster a Constructive Port Culture.”
Darbeau was fired as the CEO of the Port in 2014, after a scandal broke that he used his power over people and influence to help get a job for his son. Manolatos was heavily involved in the issue as a consultant for the Port.
Manolatos worked as spokesman for councilman Faulconer until he resigned following an arrest for Domestic Violence and Vandalism in 2012 which came after the police were called to his house on multiple occasions.
Although charges were not brought, it may pay to have friends in high places, Manolatos as spokesman of CSAG shows a clear lack of leadership by Faulconer. It’s reprehensible that Manolatos spoke on behalf of San Diego for our attempt to get a new NFL stadium, especially considering the domestic violence is a huge issue in the NFL.
In 2013, Boling returned to the Faulconer campaign trail as the treasurer for not only the Faulconer campaign for mayor, but also as the treasurer for both Super PACs that supported his campaign.
This sounds legally dubious, as Fabiani might say. We are supposed to believe that there was no coordination between the campaign and the Super PACs to allow a substantial amount of money to flow into the campaign.
In October of 2013, the Coastal Commission ignored its own staff recommendation to not expand the Convention Center contiguously because it would further wall-off public access to the bay. The approval of a contiguous expansion was made under a false premise that contiguous is the only way for expansion. This allowed the Convention Corp and Coastal Commission to go back on previously made promises to the public.
The ruling appeared to kill the possibility of a non-contagious expansion and the Chargers preference of multi-use stadium downtown.
“The result is no surprise, given the influence of the powerful groups supporting the project,” Fabiani said in reaction to the approval. “Now attention will turn to an appeals court ruling on the legally dubious tax that was invented to pay for all of this.”
Cushman thought he had won his contiguous expansion and then appeared on KPBS and suggested the Chargers use the site at Tailgate Park for a stadium that was to be used for a non-contiguous expansion of the Convention Center. At this point, Cushman thought the possibility of including a Convention Center expansion with a stadium was off the table.
Cushman touted the benefits of a downtown stadium. “The advantage of downtown is there is already lots of infrastructure. The Trolley is there. There is lots of parking.”
Contrast that statement to all the public reasons given by the mayor and CSAG to not choose downtown for a stadium.
In March of 2014, Cushman and Manolatos served together on Faulconer’s transition team to mayor in which Cushman was the co-chair.
In August of 2014, Cory Briggs won a lawsuit throwing out the legally dubious tax that Fabiani had warned about. This halted the contiguous expansion of the Convention Center.
With no clear path to a Convention Center expansion available for the City, the Chargers privately engaged Faulconer and tried to revive the multi-purpose concept.
Instead of hashing out a deal that would have secured both the Chargers and Comic-Con to San Diego, it was Faulconer that walked away from the table and announced the creation of CSAG in his State of City Address.
It was clear from the beginning that the formation of CSAG was just political posturing and the Chargers organization did not support this. Fabiani quickly voiced concern that Cushman would be part of CSAG because Cushman had repeatedly been a roadblock to their downtown efforts.
Cushman was ultimately not appointed to CSAG, but Faulconer did re-appoint Cushman to the San Diego Convention Center Corporation (SDCCC) Board of Directors. This appointment allowed the two to continue their work together to achieve their goal of a contiguous expansion of the Convention Center. Work that had been ongoing while CSAG supposedly deliberated between downtown and Mission Valley for a stadium.
Days before CSAG announced Mission Valley, when faced with the question of what were the real obstacles to downtown, a CSAG representative explained to citizen stadium groups that it was the hoteliers.
When you have that knowledge and the fact that Faulconer and Cushman were continuing to work together for a contiguous expansion, the only intellectual conclusion you can reach is that CSAG’s choice between downtown and Mission Valley was nothing more than a political illusion.
At the Downtown San Diego Partnership’s dinner in 2015, Faulconer joked about the Chargers not wanting Cushman on CSAG. Falconer said he was creating a new stadium task force that would have everyone in the room “except for you, Cushman.”
Faulconer also promised to get the expansion of the San Diego Convention Center back on track. “We’re just going to build it wherever Cory Briggs promises not to sue us,” Faulconer said.
Faulconer, however, has yet to endorse the Chargers concept for a non-contiguous expansion which is supported by Briggs. It is clear it is just the opposite
Ellis recently received a $100,000 donation from the political PAC “Neighborhoods, Not Stadiums.” The phone number for this PAC is owned by Boling.
Manolatos is now the communication director for the Ellis campaign. Manolatos recently sent out a press release touting Ellis’ anti-stadium stance.
When you know the history, and connect the dots, it becomes crystal clear how vitally important this primary election is for the future of the Chargers in San Diego. Armed with knowledge, please refer to this voter guide when voting.
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Stadium advocacy groups Save Our Bolts and the San Diego Stadium Coalition have made unified political endorsements that best support development of a new stadium and convention center expansion downtown. These endorsements include both opponents to mayor Kevin Faulconer.
“In this primary there are three elections of critical importance to Chargers fans and the future of a downtown San Diego stadium and Convention Center,” said Chairman of the San Diego Stadium Coalition Jason Riggs. “Based on their voting records, public comments, action and/or inactions with respect to the Chargers, the following are the most ardent anti-Chargers officials in this election.
- NO – Mayor Kevin Faulconer
- NO – Councilman Scott Sherman
- NO – Candidate Ray Ellis”
While Faulconer hasn’t taken a position opposing the Chargers initiative or plans for downtown, it is clear where he stands by the actions of those closest to him and by what stadium groups are hearing from those that are engaged with the mayor.
District 1 city council candidate Ray Ellis and accountant April Boling have been two of the most outspoken voices opposing the Chargers’ downtown vision. Both have deep connections tying them to Faulconer.
Boling served as the treasurer for multiple Faulconer campaigns. When Faulconer ran for mayor, Boling was not just the treasurer of the campaign, but also treasurer both super PACs that supported the campaign.
Ellis recently received a $100,000 donation from the political PAC “Neighborhoods, Not Stadiums.” The phone number for this PAC is owned by Boling.
Tony Manolatos, former spokesman for the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group (CSAG), is the communication director for the Ellis campaign. Last week, Manolatos sent out a press release touting Ellis’ anti-stadium stance.
Faulconer’s allegiances clearly lie with the hoteliers. These same hoteliers are hosting a fundraiser for Faulconer this Thursday at Evans Garage, a venue owned by hotelier Bill Evans. It has become abundantly clear Faulconer’s stadium effort, which include CSAG, was designed to protect the interests of a select few hoteliers that favor a contiguous expansion of the Convention Center.
If Faulconer remains mayor, he will have many opportunities to block the Chargers plan from ever being realized. Hurdles to development would include failing to move the MTS bus yard or not acquiring Tailgate Park, for example.
In addition, sources at City Hall have been actively working to sabotage positive efforts to support a downtown stadium. On Friday, a contact at City Hall leaked a false story to NBC San Diego probably to create chaos among fan groups and delay the endorsements given today. The story indicated that the mayor and the Chargers struck a stadium deal in Mission Valley and was quickly shut down as reporters reached out to those in contact with the team. This serves as another example of purposeful deception targeted against the downtown effort.
The Chargers are currently circulating an initiative with hopes of getting it on the November ballot for the general election. The two pro-stadium organizations would ideally like to endorse candidates that have backed the Chargers plan, but no candidate for mayor has gone that far yet.
“No one has earned our vote,” said co-founder of Save Our Bolts David Agranoff. “Not one candidate has taken action or shown an understanding of what is needed to give San Diego the kind of effort needed in the years to come. Most importantly our fear is that a majority in the primary ends Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s need to campaign. We feel the issues facing the city whether it is downtown, 911 delayed response, the harassment of the homeless with inhumane policies need more discussion than a primary election allows. We are asking San Diegans to vote in the primary for Ed Harris or Lori Saldaña for the primary to ensure that we have more time to weigh the candidates. If in November you choose to change your vote we understand. The future of San Diego is too important to decide as early as June 7th.”
In addition to Harris and Saldaña, Save Our Bolts and the San Diego Stadium Coalition have endorsed councilman candidate Justin DeCesare. All three of these candidates have endorsed the Citizens’ Plan that provides a clear path for a stadium and Convention Center expansion downtown. All three of these candidates have indicated through their campaign management a willingness to implement the Chargers plan when it passes
Harris has promised to facilitate a downtown solution. “The days of Qualcomm are nearly over,” Harris said. “Now, we need to make a path for a downtown stadium, expanded Convention Center, and a public park along the San Diego river. As mayor, I will never stand on the sidelines when real leadership is required to tackle major issues.”
Saldaña echoes this solution-orientated message. “As a native San Diegan and a lifelong Charger fan, I am proud to have the support of my fellow Charger fans,” Saldaña said. “In the absence of leadership from the Mayor who called this his ‘number one issue in San Diego’ I am proud of my fellow San Diegans for taking up their cause and engaging in our political system to achieve what they believe is best for our City. As your Mayor, I will be committed to supporting your efforts and keeping the Chargers in San Diego.”
DeCesare is running against Scott Sherman in District 7. Sherman suggested the Chargers stadium plan is a con in a Voice of San Diego op-ed published on Monday. In a meeting with Riggs and myself, Sherman made it clear his stadium plan for Mission Valley is really a development plan. DeCesare opposes major development in Mission Valley. He favors the Chargers moving to downtown for the positive environmental impact that can be made with the Mission Valley land after the move.
“I’ve always thought that if a new stadium is to be built, downtown would be a far better location in order to protect the environmental concerns of the San Diego River and minimize the traffic impacts on the already overburdened residents of Mission Valley,” DeCesare said. “Once elected, one of my top priorities for the residents of District 7 will be protecting the Qualcomm site from condo development, and instead turning it into a major public park that can be enjoyed by all San Diegans while protecting SDSU’s football program.”
The June 7 primary election will have an impact on the future of the Chargers in San Diego. Its magnitude cannot be underestimated. “It is critically important that all Chargers fans vote. Fans must get their family and friends to vote as well,” Riggs said. “Abstaining in this election is actually casting a vote for the politicians who are trying to drive the Chargers out of San Diego.”
Full List of Save Our Bolts and San Diego Stadium Coalition endorsements for June 7th primary
Mayor: Ed Harris and Lori Saldaña
City Council, District 1: Barbara Bry
City Council District 7: Justin DeCesare
City Attorney: Bryan Pease