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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