We’ve heard a lot of arguments against holding a special election this fall, but perhaps the most disingenuous among them is that holding a special election violates Measure L.

Measure L was never meant to undermine citizens’ initiatives and deny the rights of voters. Unfortunately, this is exactly what those who oppose holding a special election on the SoccerCity citizens’ initiative are proposing to do.

Commentary - in-story logoSoccerCity is a good deal for San Diego taxpayers and the quality of life in our city. This measure would create more than 25,000 permanent jobs, 42,000 construction jobs and tens of millions in new tax revenue to improve funding for roads, public safety and libraries.

Not to mention, it will create 60 acres of new parkland and commit $40 million to restore the vital ecosystem of the San Diego River. The proposal will commit $50 million to traffic improvements in Mission Valley and dedicate 35 acres of land to SDSU, along with a stadium that fits over 33,000 Aztec football fans and keeps the SDSU football program going strong.

I also understand, however, there are those who disagree with me — and I respect their opposition and their arguments. If the SoccerCity citizens’ initiative were to fail at the ballot box, I would be disappointed, but at least it would have been given a fair shot.

Unfortunately, a fair shot isn’t what the opponents of SoccerCity want. Their goal is to kill this project before San Diego voters ever have a chance to see it at the ballot box. I find this shameful.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

More than 112,000 San Diego voters signed the SoccerCity petition in a record-breaking 12 days. Not to mention those who wanted to sign but didn’t get a chance since signature-gathering happened so quickly. They deserve the right to vote on SoccerCity this year, when it counts. If a handful of members on the City Council do not allow a special election, they’ll take the decision away from thousands of San Diegans who said they wanted a chance to consider it — effectively killing the project with five votes. In my 50 years of living in this region, I cannot recall San Diegans ever being denied their right to vote on a citizens’ initiative. This would be a terrible precedent to set.

Those in opposition claim to be respecting the spirit of Measure L, but their argument is highly misleading. What is constantly omitted in this discussion is that special elections are in fact specifically allowed under Measure L — and for very good reason.

The common-sense reason special elections are allowed is because important policy issues do not always fit neatly into the timeline of regularly scheduled elections every two years. The SoccerCity citizens’ initiative is required to follow a tight deadline to bring a professional soccer team to San Diego. This fast-approaching deadline is a perfectly reasonable motive to hold a special election under Measure L language. Voters will have several months to vet the issues and hear opponents’ arguments against the project as well as competing ideas, if any come forward.

Concerns about cost are also misplaced, considering that we’re paying $12 million a year to maintain Qualcomm Stadium. Adding another year of $12 million maintenance to avoid spending $5 million to allow voters to consider this opportunity is just plain bad fiscal management.

I understand there are many residents and stakeholders who don’t support the SoccerCity proposal, and I respect that. But using Council maneuvers to deny citizens a meaningful opportunity to weigh in on a qualified citizens’ initiative — when it actually counts, not when it’s already dead — is just plain wrong.

The people of San Diego deserve to have their voices heard through a special election — the only election on this proposal that will matter.

Scott Sherman is the city councilman representing District 7.

    This article relates to: Opinion, Politics, SoccerCity

    Written by Opinion

    Op-eds and Letters to the Editor on the issues that matter in San Diego. Have something to say? Submit a commentary.

    Jennifer Spencer
    Jennifer Spencer subscriber

    Sherman rationalizes from a purely business point of view, without consideration of civic engagement. The whole idea of having the soccer city go up for a vote in the 2018 election is to have more people involved with their votes. Few come out for special elections...and he knows that.  Only those who want the Soccer City would be coming out to vote.   Also, the money for a special election is not coming out of his pocket...but ours! These are the kinds of decisions that have gotten San Diego in financial hot water before. I'd rattle off a few here, but think you get my point.

    Molly Cook
    Molly Cook

    San Diego puts the corruption of east coast cities to shame...We can do it way better than they can!

    craig Nelson
    craig Nelson

    Shameful is the giant pile of horse manure Scott Sherman shoveled into this article. A slick politician like Sherman knows very well that anyone with a big enough checkbook can get enough signatures to put something on the ballot. If the NYC corporate raiders from FS decided they wanted a ballot initiative that Scott Sherman were forevermore to be called Queen Elizabeth they could simply hire signature gatherers to stand outside of Von's and harass people into signing it. Save the Queen! sign here (and get paid $1per signature) ...they'd be done faster than you can say Mission Valley Condo. 

    Since you are selling off City assets , I'll give you the same $10,000 for Balboa park and your minor league soccer team can play there for free. Queen Elizabeth autographs however will be $1. 

    Jeremy Hansen
    Jeremy Hansen

    Thank you Scott for being a voice of reason here! Let all the facts to the proposal come out in the coming months, and let the people vote! We all know that if this project doesn't move forward, we can look forward to years of that property sitting there, without improvements, costings tens or hundreds of millions of $ to San Diego. And then costs will be so high, development will require double or triple the density of today to pen out. Anyone who has spent their life in San Diego know this story. Let's learn from the past and act quickly for a change.

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    @Jeremy Hansen  --Absolutely.  Let the people vote.  In 2018.

    Regarding density--it is already high to cover the losses from the soccer franchise (losses that have already been assumed by FSI).  Without the soccer, the density wouldn't have to be that high.

    Saul Teenuts
    Saul Teenuts

    Sherman is a disaster and needs to be removed from office along with his hotelier buddy Kevin Falconer.  Unreal.

    Christopher Wilson
    Christopher Wilson subscriber

    There are many assumptions being made about the folks who signed the Soccer City petition. It is wrong to assume that because a voter signed the petition that they are in support of the issue on said petition. By signing the petition they simply agreed that a decision should be made; either by City Council or by the voters. I have signed many petitions over my life as a voter in California for issues on which I fully planned to vote no. However, I felt it would be best if the issue was decided by voters. So, the 112K voters who signed the petition should not be construed as supporters of the Soccer City proposal.

    Second, the folks who signed the petition were not given a timeframe for when the issue would be put to the ballot. So, no one can honestly say how these voters would feel about the issue being placed on the November 2018 ballot...they were not asked! What we can say is that a poll by the Union-Tribune indicated that 60% of voters want to wait until November 2018 to vote on this. What we can say is that two-thirds of the voters in November 2016 said that local measures should be placed on the ballot when the most people vote, NOVEMBER GENERAL ELECTIONS!

    It is quite possible that some of the people who are against holding a special election have favorable feelings about the soccer city proposal. They may be against spending $5-10 million at a time when our city has a deficit of $81 million. They may oppose rushing a decision on land use and/or what could amount to the largest land giveaway in our city's history. Lastly, they may simply oppose a process that did not explore and produce the best proposal  the fine thinkers and builders of our city can create.

    Finally, claiming that voters will be disenfranchised and not scheduling a special election undermines Measure L is deceptive at best. Yes, Measure L does allow for special elections. The allowance was made for "good governance" exceptions. It was not included to give special interests a low participation election where they could sneak land grabs behind the backs of the voters. Deciding how to use the Qualcomm site is a decision that we will have to live with for at least 100 years. Shouldn't we take a little longer and have a better vetting process for something that important? 

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    What bunk. In his eagerness to shill for FS Investors, Sherman is misinterpreting Prop L. It does not take away citizen's right to vote or pursue initiatives, it simply amended the city charter to require that any new initiative has to be put on the ballot of the next regularly scheduled general election, which in this case takes place in November of 2018. The one trying to ignore the wishes of the voters is Mr. Sherman, who is trying to force the city to spend millions of dollars it doesn't have to fund a special election this November. If Mr. Sherman wants to be a shill for real estate developers, he should resign his council seat and get registered as a lobbyist. Otherwise he should be focusing on the needs of his constituents, not on his developer pals. Hopefully, voters in his district will figure things out and throw him out of office when he comes up for reelection.

    Robert Cohen
    Robert Cohen subscriber

    The problem, Mr. Councilman, is that a project that is a major real estate development, is being sold as a sports issue.  I am sure there are many people that would love a new soccer franchise in town and there are others who thought SDSU was going to get a nice new home.  That's what the promoters and signature gatherers were promoting even though SDSU is not on board and is openly hostile to the proposed plan.  But it's not a sports issue.  What we are being presented with is a massive real estate development affecting Mission Valley.  Thousands of residential units along with office space and hotels are really what this project is about.  Because of the huge size of this project it should be voted on by the greatest amount of voters possible.  Why folks don't vote in special elections is a mystery to me, but that is the case.  Measure L was passed, overwhelmingly, which is about the only thing in this town that has passed by such numbers in years.

    If Soccer City isn't a Measure L type election, I don't know what would be.

    I realize Mr. Councilman, that you want to get something going on the Qualcomm site as quickly as possible to make up for the loss of the Chargers. You were very prominent during the past couple of years in trying to get a deal with the Chargers and the NFL.  Upon their move, you were claiming that you would take the first plane to Jacksonville to convince the Jaquars that SD is the place to be.  How did that go?

    You are supposed to be the "conservative" on the council, yet you want to move ahead quickly to get a pet project through. You also are allowing yourself to be pushed around by an outside third party, the MLS, just like you were gushing after the NFL with rush EIR studies. Seems to me, if you truly are conservative, you should act like one, and take a cautious look at your current position and be truly for democracy and allow for higher voter participation on what will affect Mission Valley for many years to come.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    If only District 7 (one of nine San Diego city council districts) were allowed to vote on this measure, the city would save 89% on the cost of the special election.

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    @Derek Hofmann  --But since the property in question belongs to the city as a whole and not just District 7, the entire city should be able to vote on this.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @David Crossley Whatever is done with the land will have traffic and other impacts exclusive to District 7. Should District 7 be allowed to decide their own future, or should the other districts dictate how District 7 must grow?

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    @Derek Hofmann @David Crossley  --Being as that property belongs to the city, the city should decide--not just the 7th Council District.  And I live in the 7th district.

    Or is this just another one of your crusades to split San Diego into 9 separate cities?

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    What can I say, I'm just not a fan of big government. :-)

    Judith Swink
    Judith Swink subscriber

    So, Derek Hofmann, you contend that no one who comes to or drives through Mission Valley will be affected by the traffic or other impacts? How absurd. In any case, D7 residents don't own that property - it belongs to the citizens of San Diego. 

    Furthermore, the initiative measure - if passed - will enable a massive project to go forward without any environmental review of traffic and other impacts. Even if I believed in the SC proposal (which I don't), I'd vote No because it relieves the developer of environmental review under CEQA.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    Don't worry, the residents of Mission Valley don't want gridlock, either.

    lorisaldana subscriber

    I understand Councilmember Sherman's concerns over the costs of maintaining  the stadium (a public asset), and his desire to respect the opinions of people who provided an estimated 112,000 signatures. However: 112,000 signatures gathered by paid employees of private business interests should not be used to block the will of over 305,000 registered voters.

    It's a balancing act my colleagues and I often engaged with at the state level when  I served on the Elections and Redistricting Committee. There were a few times we were asked to consider the costs of holding special elections in cities and counties much smaller than San Diego, when unexpected problems forced a citizen referendum. 

    However, under current law- signature gathering is a process that has the potential for fraud, and willful deception.In San Diego there is no oversight by an independent body during the signing process. 

    This is in contrast to other states, such as Colorado, that have established a system with the Secretary of State to register people who collect signatures, manage petiton gathering, and enforce fairness and accuracy in the process. 

    Lacking that oversight: 112,000 signatures gathered by paid employees of private business interests should not be used to block the will of over 305,000 registered voters. These voters went to the polls and weighed in on Measure L last November, and 305,638 San Diegans supported placing future ballot measures  before the voters during General Elections, when more people take the time to cast their vote. 

    They agreed that, for many reasons- it makes sense to ask people to consider major policy issues when there is higher voter participation, more people studying the details, and (ideally) more people casting informed votes.

    It hardly seems democratic or in the interests of tax payers who pay for these elections to allow 112,000 people to overturn their votes. 

    Unless- Perhaps the proponents would like to reimburse the City for the cost of these elections?

    From the County Registrar of Voters: November 2016 General Election results (http://www.sdvote.com/content/dam/rov/en/archive/201611bull.pdf)

    Total Votes cast in city: 574620/716454 

    Representing 80.2% voter turnout overall


    Total Votes cast for Measure L:  

    464549/716454 = 65%- (so 110071 fewer than overall ballots cast)

    Of those votes:

    YES:  305638 65.79%

    NO 158911 34.21% 

    Jeremy Hansen
    Jeremy Hansen

    @lorisaldana You are arguing that the signature gathering was invalid? You should get out more. When I signed, people were practically rushing the table. The signature gatherer was doing nothing but chit-chatting with someone while voter after voter walked up and filled the petition. It was unlike anything I've ever seen.

    And yet.. you think only 9 people should decide the fate of the proposal, knowing full well it hinges on securing an expansion MLS team. I say 9 people should not be used to block the will of over 112,000 voters.

    If this dies due to Prop-L, it will be the poster child for an anti-L backlash. I hope it's worth it to you.

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    @Jeremy Hansen @lorisaldana  --9 people should decide when it will go on the ballot.  Being as the FSI/MLS timeline is quite fluid (see the Miami expansion fiasco as a prime example), there should be no issue putting the FSI proposal on the regular November 2018 ballot, saving the city $5 million.