Special Election Opponents Are the Ones Doing Voters a Disservice | Voice of San Diego

Opinion

Special Election Opponents Are the Ones Doing Voters a Disservice

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.

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.

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.

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