Mayor Wants Plan For New Chargers Stadium By This Fall
Kevin Faulconer made the announcement in his first State of the City speech
Maureen Cavanaugh: Our top story on Midday Edition, Mayor Kevin Faulconer delivered his first ‘State of the City’ address last night. And he told the audience of citizens and civic leaders that San Diego had never been in a better position to address its future including some nagging issues such as crumbling infrastructure and the question of a new Chargers stadium. But critics say the speech was short on specifics about how to achieve those goals. Joining me to talk about Mayor Faulconer’s ‘State of the City’ address are my guests San Diego City Council President Sherri Lightner. Sherri welcome to the show. Sherri Lightner: Thank you very much for having me. Maureen Cavanaugh: And City Council member Mark Kersey. Mark, welcome. Mark Kersey: Thank you, Maureen. Good to be here. Maureen Cavanaugh: Now, the biggest headline coming out of the Mayor’s speech last night was his goal to build a new Chargers stadium. Mayor Faulconer made it clear how important he believes the Chargers are to San Diego. And I’m announcing tonight that I am assembling a group of civic leaders to recommend a location and develop a viable financing plan and they will be charged with studying two different options – building a stadium at the current Mission Valley location or building a stadium along with an expanded Convention Center in downtown San Diego. That was of course Mayor Kevin Faulconer. Let’s take one step back before we begin this conversation though. Do you agree Sherri Lightner with Mayor Faulconer that it should be a city priority to keep the Chargers in San Diego? Sherri Lightner: We all know how much we San Diegans appreciate the Chargers and what it means for equality of life. Just for example any Monday morning you can tell how the Chargers did the previous day. So it is very important to keep the Chargers here and yes we need to explore all the opportunities. Maureen Cavanaugh: And Mark, it’s a city priority? Mark Kersey: Well, I think it is a city priority, I think it’s a regional priority and I think this discussion should involve the county and perhaps some of the other cities as well but I think this is a priority for the city because they are part of our, the fabric of our local culture and certainly I believe it’s Sherri and my priority to keep the Chargers here. And really what we need to do is find a balance between keeping the team here but also protecting taxpayers at the same time. Maureen Cavanaugh: Now, Sherri Lightner, the Mayor says he is assembling a task force to figure out a plan for the stadium. Who would you like to see on that task force? Sherri Lightner: At this point in time I haven’t really even considered that. I will be looking forward to seeing who the Mayor is suggesting and I will be speaking with him offline about that. He has promised some people who know what they’re doing and I am looking forward to the results of the task force and that I just promise to come up with an answer sometime by November. Hopefully the answer will include all the options that we as a council and the people can consider for both sides, not just one answer. Maureen Cavanaugh: Mark anybody in particular that you might think of a good pick for a task force like this? Mark Kersey: Well, I don’t know that there’s specific individuals but we had a task for the ball park for Petco, and I think it’d be good to have at least a few of those people involved with this as well just because they were successful in that endeavor and it’d be good to have that I think historical expertise. Maureen Cavanaugh: It’s been pointed out in the reporting on this, Mark that isn’t the first task force that’s been assembled in the City of San Diego to try to figure out what to do about a new stadium. Why do we think that this is going to be any different from the, I guess the incomplete guidance that those task forces gave the city? Mark Kersey: Well, I think what the Mayor’s done here is giving them a very specific job and with the two proposals, the two locations rather, and the timeframe having a decision in terms of with the location as well as the plan of finance by the fall is pretty aggressive but I think having that deadline is important and I think that’s the kind of guidance we’re looking for. Maureen Cavanaugh: And Sherri Lightner whatever plan they come up within the fall the Mayor wants to eventually put this on the ballot, do you support that? Sherri Lightner: Absolutely, it should be a decision of the people and just commenting on what your previous question was times have changed as well because we weren’t considering a multi-purpose type situation either or downtown. I think this is a realistic assessment of some of the options that are available today and so it is important to have a new task force. Maureen Cavanaugh: Okay. And do you Mark Kersey support the idea of putting on the ballot whatever the plan is? Mark Kersey: I think that’s a good idea, I mean obviously we’ll have to see what the plan is but I think giving the voters some kind of [indiscernible] [00:04:43] is probably the right move here. Maureen Cavanaugh: Now the Chargers spokesman was unimpressed with this task force idea. He said in a statement basically that after 14 years of talk the speech contained no specifics about a stadium. Do the Chargers have a point, Mark? Mark Kersey: Well, I think the Mayor has put this group and Chargers coming up with the specifics and I think the key again is making it a very tight timeline under which they have to operate and I can certainly see from the team’s perspective they’re looking for a specific proposal, I think that’s what we all want to see. So I would look forward to what this group puts together and the fact that they’re not going to have a whole lot of time in which to do it. Maureen Cavanaugh: Having just not to belabor this issue Sherri Lightner having task force look at these various sites before you mentioned that there’s now this perhaps idea of combining a multi-use stadium perhaps with a Convention Center expansion although that remains somewhat unpopular idea with the Convention Center. Hasn’t this been looked at before though? Sherri Lightner: Well, it’s true it might have been looked at during my term on council and I think it is important to address this going forward we do know that there is an effort as well to look at the contiguous space Convention Center during this timeframe so that to have both those reports out at the same time it’s going to be very important, it will provide a good basis for us to make a decision on what we would like to put on the ballot and then it will be up to the people whether they support these initiatives or not. To say that we don’t have any specifics as yet I agree with Mark, that’s why we’re getting a task force together is to put together the specifics and look at the possible ramifications of the different locations and the different proposals for the sites. Maureen Cavanaugh: Well, speaking of a possible Convention Center expansion Mayor Faulconer told last night’s audience that San Diego will expand the Convention Center, but he didn’t say how. During this year of action my Convention Center expansion special advisor Steve Cushman will continue to lead on this effort. Were you surprised Sherri Lightner that the Mayor actually didn’t have more to say in his speech about the Convention Center? Sherri Lightner: I wasn’t surprised because there has been this sort of inference that there wasn’t enough detail in the Mayor’s speech but I think that if we’d had the detail then everyone seems to be implying they won’t we would still be there listening to the ‘State of the City’ speech. And I think it’s a very very terrific that the Mayor is looking to work with the council and the people of the city on bringing forward ideas on how to deal with the situations. And so the details will come from the public participation and the council collaboration with the Mayor’s office. Maureen Cavanaugh: And do you think therefore since you say the City Council is going to be part of this that the City Council will be collaborating with this task force and the members on it and trying to figure out whether there should be a multi-use stadium and where it should be? Sherri Lightner: We will probably not be interacting directly with the task force, it is something to consider with the Mayor’s office if he would like to have them report out to, for example the infrastructure committee on what sorts of options they’re looking for or to take some public input as to what types of options we would like to consider or the public would like to consider in evaluation. Maureen Cavanaugh: Well, you bring it up. Let’s move on to another major theme of the ‘State of the City’ address infrastructure. I’m very proud to announce that I am making street repair the city’s highest infrastructure priority. We will repair 1000 miles of streets. That’s again Mayor Faulconer. We cut out the applause but I’m sure that was an applause. The Mayor says that he’s going to bring $100 million to fixing San Diego’s streets from revenue growth, it’s going to fix the streets and the crumbling infrastructure but estimates are it will take up to $2 billion actually to make infrastructure repairs in San Diego. So Sherri where is the rest of the money coming from? Sherri Lightner: This is something that people had been trying to categorize the amount of money would take to fix our infrastructure and I know that’s something that Mark’s committee is working on. We’ll be having very shortly the report out on capital improvement projects five year plan. We know that we’ve used deferred capital bonds for a lot of the stuff we’ve done thus far and note that the IBI has provided us with some presentations on what some other jurisdictions have done with revenue growth and or just the property value growth in revenue for their jurisdictions, I can’t remember one was in Texas and one was in Arizona but very interesting concepts of five year infrastructure bonds going to the people. Maureen Cavanaugh: Right, going to the people instead of City Council approved a bond which got into a little trouble because it was taken there was a lawsuit that was brought against it and I think that’s currently up on appeal. Mark, you made as Sherri pointed out the survey of the infrastructure needs around town, your committee and you conducted that, you know this problem. Let me therefore ask you, is that $2 billion figure inflated or is that sort of where we are when it comes to the cost of fixing what needs to be fixed? Mark Kersey: Well, I think that’s what we’re going to determine next week, the first multi-year capital plan is going to come to the infrastructure committee that I chair next Wednesday. So we’re going to be able to tell what is our [indiscernible] [00:10:43] project, how much is the deferred maintenance, what are the new projects that need to be done. And that’s really something that the city has never done, it has put all that data into one spot and figure out okay, what is our strategy going forward to addressing all these capital needs? So right now I couldn’t tell you we’ve been using $2 billion, that’s kind of a rough guess but it’s just that and so that’s why it’s getting this plan out there the strategic plan is so important because we don’t even know right now the size of the problem that we’re trying to solve. And so before we could talk about how we’re going to spend money or how we’re going to get more money or whatever we need to know or even trying to get the money for and how much money do we even need. Maureen Cavanaugh: Right, but you’ve compiled that information, right? Mark Kersey: Well no, that’s what’s happening right now and I know our public works team is diligently working on finalizing that document and that will be released at my committee next Wednesday. Maureen Cavanaugh: Now, the Mayor in his speech said even if he had $2 billion he still needs time to figure out how to streamline the way the city manages its infrastructure projects and that kind of sounds like another delay. Are you telling us now that when we get that information Wednesday from the people working in the public works department that we’re going to know where this money should go and what project should be started? Mark Kersey: Absolutely, a big part of this is project prioritization. So we recognized that all projects are not created equally even though we want to do them all at some point some are more high priority than others and what we found when we first started our deferred capital bonding program a few years back was that it took us far longer than we expected to actually spend that money. And so that first $100 million that we had in bonds it took us almost three years to actually I think almost four years to spend that and that’s just too long. And part of that was due to the city’s own internal bureaucracy getting in the way of getting those projects out the door. So we really made an effort to streamline our own internal processes. There’s still some of that needs to be done but we’ve greatly made progress in that area. Maureen Cavanaugh: Now Sherri, Mayor Faulconer said in his speech that instead of raising the minimum wage for low skilled workers he would like to see San Diego have more highly skilled workers and better paying jobs. Can’t we have both? Sherri Lightner: Well, the minimum wage issue will be going to the ballot, we already know that. And with respect to the skilled workforce that’s something I’ve been working on since I took office recognizing the job skills gap and I’m very very excited about the partnership between Mark Cafferty, Mary Walsh-Cole and also a Constance Carroll to try and address some of these issues. It was something we conducted a roundtable about to discuss about the jobs skills gap and what we could do those close that. And a big part of it is getting people to talk to one another and I think this is a good start, this is getting the community college, the vocational training up to speed for we see growth in the advanced manufacturing, but we also need to make sure this is happening as well at the universities. So we are training up our workforce, we are as Mr. Faulconer mentioned last night we have the most patterns, this is very exciting we know we’re the innovation hub of the world, we need to capitalize upon that and grow all our tax sectors as much as possible. Maureen Cavanaugh: And Sherri Lightner do you still support that increased minimum wage for the City of San Diego? Sherri Lightner: Yes, I do. Maureen Cavanaugh: Okay. Did any other topics in the speech get your special attention last night, Sherri? Sherri Lightner: Like I said, I was very excited about the workforce development piece also the emphasis on STEM I have done quite a bit of work on FIRST Robotics and the Science and Engineering Festival both of which Mr. Faulconer has been very interested in, he is the [indiscernible] [00:14:35] careers program, the idea of internships and youth development and exposure to careers where they can actually improve their aspirations over the course of time. The idea of the library being used to facilitate this is great. We can do a lot more. Maureen Cavanaugh: And Mark, is anything that we didn’t cover in the speech so far jump out at you? Mark Kersey: I think we covered the big parts of it, and I think back on the studio, I missed you for one second, one thing that we’ve seen since the last taskforce was created on this issue there has been a lot more stadiums built around the country [indiscernible] [00:15:12] and I think we need to start looking at some of the ways in which those were constructed using things like ticket surcharges, parking surcharges, more user fees so the people who actually going to the games are the ones that are paying for the bulk of the stadium construction itself, personal seat license all those kinds of things. And some of that existed for a while and some of it is a little bit newer if you look at the stadiums that have been built in Dallas and San Francisco and New York, they’ve used some of these things that I just mentioned. So that’s what I would like to see and I believe that this group that’s being assembled is going to taking a look at. Maureen Cavanaugh: I’d like to ask a question about the City Charter Review Committee. I think it meets the first time this afternoon? Sherri Lightner: You bet, 2 o’clock, come on down. Maureen Cavanaugh: Now, you had the committee Sherri Lightener. Sherri Lightner: Yes, ma’am. Maureen Cavanaugh: The City Charter Review has kind of grown out of the outdated and conflicted rules that we found in the document during the Filner scandal. Just last week Councilman Todd Gloria proposed a charter change in regard to the referendum process. Will the committee consider making those changes? Sherri Lightner: The committee as it stands right now we will be probably by our March meeting looking at a matrix of what sorts of things we wish to change. The original intent of the committee was actually to do away with those that created the most problems for our city departments or City Attorney and the council noting some of the more spectacular ones were what we discovered about strong mayor and the fact that that isn’t throughout the charter plus we have no succession plan and or plans for incapacitation of conceivably the city attorney and the mayor’s office. So we will develop a prioritization of what we’re looking at and taking the input city departments, public, council members have all been invited, we’ve heard from the City Attorney the Ethics Commission, the Clerk’s Office is where I started with this a couple of years ago and the City Attorney’s Office and one of things is are we going to conceivably change to a plain talk charter similar to what the county has which is 18 pages compared to our over 150 pages. So it promises to be a very very busy year, it’s an aggressive schedule now that we have the rules component associated with this committee we will be able to make direct recommendations to council on ballot measures. So next year is going to be a very exiting year with all the ballot measures we could conceivably have from minimum wage to infrastructure to charter reform. Maureen Cavanaugh: Would the change in the referendum process be something like an issue that the charter committee would consider as it reviews the charter? Sherri Lightner: We will be considering all issues that are brought before the committee. Maureen Cavanaugh: Okay. And Mark, I know that there is a public component to this, you’re going to be asking the public about changes to the charter, aren’t you? Mark Kersey: Yeah, that’s right. I mean I think we would really like citizens to be engaged in this process. The charter is something that I think the IBI said it’s the third oldest charter in the city and it’s something that’s been amended so many times but a lot of this is piecemeal patchwork type amendments and sometimes it creates conflict with what’s already in there and people– Sherri Lightner: I’m done harmonizing, we’re singing anymore, we’re trying to get it to be plain talk, make sense right from the get go and we are trying to set up a direct button on the front page of the city’s website so that folks from the public can put their comments there, we’re working on a specific email address for additional comments and I was going to announce that today but hopefully it will done by the meeting today that we have. Maureen Cavanaugh: Okay, the email, you want to give us the email, the new email? Sherri Lightner: When we get it. Maureen Cavanaugh: Okay. All right then. Sherri Lightner: Not too soon, I don’t want people bouncing and complaining. So we will be– we’re working on that, we’ve been working on that for about a week, so we’ll see what happens. Maureen Cavanaugh: I want to thank you both so much. I’ve been speaking with San Diego City Council President Sherri Lightner and City Council Member Mark Kersey. Thank you again. Sherri Lightner: Thank you, Maureen. Mark Kersey: Thanks, Maureen. Maureen Cavanaugh: Coming up, moving from ‘Coast to Cactus’ all inside the San Diego Natural History Museum. It’s 12:24 you’re listening to KPBS Midday Edition.
Despite anticipation that Mayor Kevin Faulconer would reveal a plan to build a new stadium for the San Diego Chargers or an expansion to the Convention Center in his first State of the City speech, the mayor's only announcement Wednesday was that he is creating a task force to come up with a plan for a stadium by this fall.
The announcement came among other promises for improved street repairs, job creation programs and neighborhood development.
Faulconer said the stadium plan has not yet been created, but he is considering two options: build a stadium at the current location in Mission Valley or build a stadium in conjunction with a Convention Center expansion downtown. He announced he'll form a group of "civic leaders" to recommend a location and develop a financing plan. The members of the group will be revealed at the end of January.
"They will explore all possibilities to finance the project, with the clear direction that it must present a good and fair deal for San Diego taxpayers," Faulconer said.
"Most importantly, this plan will be completed and made public this fall," he added. "There’s been a lot of talk about a new stadium. This is my commitment: For the first time this year, we will have a real plan to consider on the Chargers' stadium. This is San Diego’s team and San Diegans have the final say with a public vote."
Other task forces have attempted to figure out a stadium plan with little results. A 2002 Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues recommended the Chargers pay for a new stadium, but that hasn't happened.
In 2006, then-Mayor Jerry Sanders also announced plans to build a new Chargers stadium during his inaugural State of the City address. The team worked to build support for a stadium in San Diego's East Village, which didn't materialize. So in 2011, another team of architects again proposed renovating Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.
It was rumored that Faulconer would also make an announcement about the San Diego Convention Center in his speech. After a judge's ruling last summer blocking a funding plan for the $520 million expansion, the project sits in limbo.
But the mayor made no commitments about the expansion, saying only that his Convention Center expansion special adviser, Steve Cushman, "will continue to lead on this effort during this year of action."
It was the Republican's first State of the City speech after taking office last year following a February special election to replace Democrat Bob Filner, who resigned in disgrace amid a sexual harassment scandal.
Faulconer used the address at the Balboa Theatre to outline other plans for the city, including creating more jobs for San Diegans.
"Our city is home to the most innovative businesses, providing thousands of high-paying jobs in engineering, science and technology," he said. "But many San Diegans don't currently have the training to fill these positions."
To help shrink the "skills gap," Faulconer said he's bringing together employers, innovators and members of San Diego's education community to develop solutions. Within six months, he said, the group will submit ideas to help San Diegans find more affordable options for higher learning and better-paying employment opportunities.
After highlighting the need for street repairs, Faulconer said he would bring to the City Council this spring a five-year plan to "double our street repair efforts." Faulconer did not say what that plan was but hinted it wouldn't involve increased funding for infrastructure.
"If you wrote a check for $2 billion and said, go fix all of our neighborhoods, the city couldn’t do it right now," he said. "We have to first fix how the city manages its projects and money. ... The city has hundreds of projects on the books, there’s no effective plan for coordinating them based on data and there are tens of millions of taxpayer dollars languishing in accounts for projects that are years away from being built."
The mayor did commit to continuing his campaign promise of dedicating half of all major revenue growth to infrastructure every year during his term.
"Over the next five years, that’s almost $100 million for our neighborhood," he said.
Faulconer also proposed updating the city's policies to move projects along more quickly.
"This year I will bring forward a series of reforms, through both executive action and City Council vote, to ensure the highest quality repairs are made as quickly as possible, and that our city is better prepared to take on our infrastructure backlog," he said.
Faulconer said his administration also is setting a course to build a permanent shelter and provide more services for homeless families and veterans.
“For years, San Diego has cared for our homeless citizens by putting up temporary tents in Barrio Logan and Midway during the winter months. That’s not good enough. Not even close,” he said.
His goal is to build a permanent shelter for 350 homeless people that is open every night, not just during the winter.
The mayor also announced the “Innovate San Diego Challenge,” a collaboration with U-T San Diego and Hero X, which will ask residents to submit plans to tackle housing, entrepreneurship and "creating a 21st century work force." The best solution will get private funding, he said.
Additionally, the mayor unveiled plans to triple broadband speeds in every library; use his Performance and Analytics Department to analyze the city's efficiency and "develop performance measures so the public can hold City Hall accountable;" "use tools like open data to make government more transparent;" and work with Code for America to revamp the city's website.
At two spots during the speech — first in his opening remarks and later in the address — he spoke to the audience in Spanish.
Tijuana Mayor Jorge Astiazaran was in the audience, and Faulconer called him a friend. Faulconer said San Diego and Tijuana will host regular meetings based on an agreement the two mayors signed in November to work together on economic development and environmental issues.
Faulconer also touched on the national debate over immigration.
"I will continue to support efforts to overhaul our broken immigration system and pass comprehensive immigration reform that will benefit San Diego," he said.
The mayor did not give specifics on which immigration efforts he supports.
After the speech, City Council President Sherri Lightner said the upcoming year "sounds very, very promising," and includes many ideas she has talked about in the past.
"The emphasis on public safety, infrastructure, workforce development, education, outreach — all things I've been talking about for a long time, and it's very exciting," Lightner said.
Councilman Todd Gloria said many of the themes echoed ones in his State of the City address last year, as he neared the end of his tenure as interim mayor.
"I think that the speech was light on details, specifically how do we repair every one of our neighborhoods," Gloria said. "He outlined a plan for $100 million for our neighborhoods when we all know the problem is in excess of $3 billion."
In regards to the Chargers stadium, he said San Diegans are tired of waiting for a plan. The city had a stadium task force 10 years ago, he said.