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To grapple with feelings of hope that the NFL may return, it would help to remember a few simple things about why, exactly, the Chargers left. Plus: changes for some of the big political consultants in town, and what Dan McSwain’s exit from the Union-Tribune means for accountability journalism.
As the Chargers prepare for their first home game in Carson, there is a lot of buzz about how there are still tickets available.
Perhaps the best decision the team made in this whole mess was to move to StubHub Center while a permanent stadium is being built. The Coliseum or the Rose Bowl, had they been available, would have been an optical disaster.
They took a weakness (lack of support in L.A.) and turned it into a kind of asset (intimacy).
Not selling out immediately – for the opener – though, is shocking. It’s a 27,000-seat stadium, a little more than one-third the size of the venue formerly known as Qualcomm Stadium.
It has led people to think maybe, just maybe, things will go so poorly that the team’s owners will change their minds.
They won’t. This is a 20-year investment. They’re not going to bail the first day.
Although I guess I would put that call at 98 percent certainty. The optics of not being able to fill such a small stadium in such a populated place may be spurring some interesting conversations.
To grapple with feelings of hope that the NFL may return, it would help to remember a few simple things about why, exactly, the Chargers left.
It could have been built: San Diego could have built a stadium. There’s no doubt in my mind that the city (and maybe the county) of San Diego could have built a $700 million stadium with the help of the Chargers, the National Football League and local corporations and fans. They could have done this without a special tax increase. I’m not sure they should have, but politically it could have happened.
That’s not good enough: The NFL, and specifically the Chargers, were not and are not interested in that kind of stadium. Look at the palaces they’re building in Las Vegas and Inglewood. League owners think this is what they merit now. Dean Spanos offered San Diego the opportunity for a palace of his own, a $1.8 billion stadium he said we could use for conventions too. But it required a hefty tax increase and was not at all designed to win a political campaign.
There’s only one hindsight: The team had also offered Mayor Kevin Faulconer and County Supervisor Ron Roberts a $1.2 billion version for Mission Valley. Looking back, the mayor, if he was going to end up supporting the Chargers’ big plan for downtown, he should have just gone with this version. It might not have passed but it was far more viable than the downtown plan.
Still would’ve been real hard, though: Regardless, a special tax increase for a stadium would have been extremely hard to pass. Nevermind what a new Supreme Court ruling means or not.
Bottom line: Thus, the most basic, simple fact to come out of this whole experience is San Diego cannot afford what the NFL charges to host its teams now.
The rest is just a game of hot potato for who has to tell fans that.
One last point: There’s something deeply wrong with the NFL. I think the last place to pony up this kind of public money for a stadium is Las Vegas, and I think it’s Vegas for a reason. It’s the height of excess, of economic mania, of indulgence, of immorality.
• The NFL is not coming back until – and if – this corrects to something more rational.
Jason Roe has left the firm Revolvis. You might remember Roe from such campaigns as Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s special election and his Never Trump status that got him national attention.
Revolvis was the dominant firm in local politics for a couple years, though, and is still a big deal. But Roe is on his own now. He says he’ll still partner with Revolvis.
Roe is helping run Bonnie Dumanis’ campaign for county supervisor, and Summer Stephan’s campaign to replace Dumanis as the elected, not just appointed, district attorney.
For a long time, it seemed like San Diego’s political left was devoid of a similar infrastructure of professional campaign consultants. Not that there weren’t any but there certainly seemed to be more good-paying work on the right.
Not so much now.
One rising star is Dan Rottenstreich. He had two big wins last year. He ran the campaign for Mara Elliott for city attorney and Georgette Gomez’s campaign for City Council. Both Elliott and Gomez were considered unlikely to advance out of the primaries, let alone win. They did both.
Now Rottenstreich is running strategy for Nathan Fletcher, who’s in another battle with Dumanis, this time for that supervisor spot Ron Roberts is vacating.
And then there’s Tom Shepard. The longtime mayoral kingmaker, Shepard has had his share of ups and downs.
He also had some wins last year – in particular, he advised Democrat Barbara Bry, whose impressive campaign in last year’s City Council primary election was enough to persuade her opponent, Ray Ellis, to stand down.
But his career is best known for representing Republicans. He helped get Susan Golding and Jerry Sanders elected mayor, and worked with all five Republican county supervisors until the last cycle. (Republican Kristen Gaspar won a seat. She worked with Roe and Revolvis.)
San Diego County Republican Party Chairman Tony Krvaric has been on a crusade to get Republicans to stop working with Shepard and stop calling him a Republican. Here’s a recent public Facebook post from Krvaric:
All: For the record Thomas Shepard is NOT a “Republican” political consultant. Please stop referring to him that way. He has switched teams and now helps Democrats. He orchestrated the Nathan Fletcher party switch and consulted for disgraced Bob Filner. He is NOT a friend of Republicans or our principles.
I asked Shepard for a response. Here’s what he wrote:
The focus of our practice has always been on non-partisan local campaigns, and that continues to be the case. We work for the candidates we believe are best qualified for office, regardless of party affiliation. Krvaric’s gratuitous attacks continue to be very helpful to us in business development.
I was troubled to read U-T columnist Dan McSwain’s announcement that he was leaving the U-T and journalism. It was a very good column, if a bit troubling with whatever he was implying about his cognitive decline.
I don’t see the evidence for it. He’s one of the sharpest thinkers in town. I wish him the best.
What worries me is to see yet another important journalist holding leaders accountable in San Diego move on to something else. The cracks in our foundation are now just gaping caves. The stuff that will fall through keeps me awake at night.