Politics

What the Mayor Didn’t Say — Voice of San Diego

Mayor Todd Gloria gives his 2022 State of the City address at the San Diego Convention Center on January 12, 2022. / Photo by Adriana Hildes

During his state of the city’s election year address on Wednesday, Mayor Todd Gloria outlined his agenda for 2022, and at least for now it doesn’t include any of the tax actions aimed at the November ballot.

Gloria outlined the need for more money in the multiple policy areas where potential ballot measures are already in place: libraries and gardens, rainwater, and transit. In each case, though, Gloria shied away from stating whether he would lead these actions—or even if he would support them.

After the speech, Gloria spokeswoman Rachel Laing confirmed that it was on purpose. The mayor is not interfering with any of the potential voting procedures at this time.

Todd Gloria's case for the city
Mayor Todd Gloria and Deputy Chief of Staff Nick Serrano walk toward city employees after his State of the City address on January 12, 2022. / Photo by Adriana Hildes

“The mayor is not ahead of the curve on the various citizen initiatives that are still in the conceptual stage,” she said. “Every measure will be carefully evaluated once they have qualified for the ballot.”

However, potential ballot measures are key points on the agenda he set on Wednesday.

Gloria, for example, described the city’s responsibility for rainwater. The city estimated last year that there would be a $2.3 billion gap in the next five years between the money it expects to have, and all the infrastructure it needs to fix it. Stormwater – the city’s flood management system – accounts for $1.7 billion of that gap.

Wednesday, Gloria said the rainwater needs require a major overhaul, in the same way that the city is building a pure water system to provide an independent water source.

“This is the kind of hands-on deck approach we need to fix our rainwater infrastructure,” he said. “The fees we charge for maintenance of pipes, canals, drains, and processing facilities have not been updated for nearly 25 years, and as a result, we have fallen far behind in the improvements that are so much needed to protect our beaches and waterways.”

Todd Gloria's case for the city
City employees monitor Mayor Todd Gloria’s State of the City address on January 12, 2022, at the Convention Center. / Photo by Adriana Hildes

He did not say, however, whether he supported this year’s attempt to put an initiative on the ballot paper to pay for those “absolutely necessary improvements”. The House Environment Committee voted last year to work on a measure that could continue into the 2022 ballot. House Speaker Sean Elo Rivera told us last month that it remains in the House’s plans.

Proponents of parks and libraries announced last year their own initiative to increase funding for the city’s infrastructure, and while Gloria was promoting his goal of simplifying city funding for city projects from parks and libraries to roads and recreation centers, he did not mention conducting the ballot.

While he announced he would launch a “Cooperative Regional Working Group” of government agencies to bring the most money from the new federal infrastructure bill to San Diego, he did not mention the initiative, led by unions and environmentalists, to increase sales taxes to pay for regional transportation projects such as roads. Transit and highways.

This initiative has done the most to leave what Gloria calls the “conceptual stage”. It was endorsed by the San Diego County Democratic Party last month, and hired workers have been collecting signatures since shortly after Thanksgiving. They already have tens of thousands of signatures and are sure they will qualify by May 11 when they need to submit them, said Dan Rottenstrich, the consultant who runs the initiative.

“Democrats are excited about it, the business community is excited about it, and everyone knows we need to do something about infrastructure, transit and traffic in this city,” he said. “We can’t wait any longer. We have the resources we need to qualify for the poll and then some. I am confident we will qualify for the poll, and then we will win.”

Regional transportation will suffer a major setback if this does not happen. The county’s just-passed relocation plan that Gloria voted on in December depends on voter approval for next year’s ballot, bringing in more than $10 billion for new projects. He expects voters to go through another similar procedure in the 2024 ballot and another in the 2028 ballot.

Prior to Ms. Gloria’s approach to tax procedures this week, it was precisely his long-standing willingness to support revenue-raising efforts that Michael Zochet, president of the Municipal Employees Association, said has separated him from other local leaders. On election night in 2020, Zochet said he hopes Gloria will usher in a new era in which the city is so honest with residents that they can’t get a world-class city so cheaply.

“Something has to change radically in San Diego,” he said. “Citizens have been told a generation ago that they don’t have to pay for garbage collection, that they don’t have to charge the same taxes and fees as other cities, not just in California, but in San Diego County, we can do more with less. The fact of the matter is we can’t. “We want the best streets, the best parks, the best public safety, all at a discount. Something to give here. The city is not in great shape right now. There will be a fundamental decision, are we going to be the biggest city that Todd articulated, and we have to grow the pie with the projects that happen?” about them, or increase revenue, or reprioritize what we want to do as a city.”

Aguirre will sue the Chargers, the NFL

We’ve written and talked about St. Louis’ stunning legal victory over NFL owner Stan Kroenke and the Rams. The city, county, and sports complex of St. Louis sued the NFL and Kroenke and settled $790 million, with attorneys taking $275 million of it.

The NFL and Kroenke settled for a number of reasons, but faced enormous pressure after a judge allowed a St. Louis attorney to begin firing NFL owners and looking into their records.

The settlement should be, by far, the most significant achievement of any effort by any city to hold the NFL accountable for moving a team after the city expends public resources to try to retain or absorb them. And many of us here in San Diego have looked at it happily for our compatriots in St. Louis.

But it seemed like something only actual big cities could get their hands on. And the City of San Diego, unlike St. Louis, expressly agreed not to sue the shipper for leaving San Diego, in the 2004 revised lease agreement with the team.

One person thinks this is not a problem for the city. Mike Aguirre, a former San Diego attorney general, whose career revolves mostly around public interest issues like these and the potential settlements they present. He said he was inspired by the work of a St. Louis attorney.

Chargers Dolphins 46 3 e1502551410738
A fan raises a banner at the 2015 Chargers-Dolphins game at Qualcomm Stadium. Photo by Jimmy Scott Little

This week, Aguirre alerted the city that he plans to file a similar lawsuit on behalf of taxpayers on January 21. It’s not clear who the plaintiff would be in the case, specifically, but Aguirre offered the role to decide policy. We refused.

Aguirre had previously argued that the lease the city had with the Chargers was illegal and therefore void. But now he said the St. Louis case opened his eyes. The lease agreement has nothing to do with the purpose of the lawsuit here

“I wasn’t smart enough then to think about this,” he said.

St. Louis argued that for years the NFL had a de facto contract with the cities. They will no longer move teams out of cities at their unilateral discretion. They will make the process the city can take to keep the team clear. St. Louis followed the process and spent nearly $20 million trying to keep the team through the process. But then, the lawyers argued, they discovered that the NFL and the Rams had no intention of honoring the process.

The NFL argued that the team’s transfer policy was not a contract at all. The judge did not agree and set up a potentially massive trial where the city would attempt to prove that the Rams intended to leave the city no matter what, essentially misleading the city and violating NFL policy and its de facto contract with the cities. St. Louis wanted $4 billion.

Aguirre said that it didn’t matter that the city agreed to never sue the shipper, that same violation occurred here. That at some point, the shipper had no intention of staying here. The city’s lease may not have been violated but the one with San Diego as a whole has.

“We are a third party beneficiary. They have to act in good faith,” he said.

It is still inappropriate for the city to agree not to sue the Charger or the NFL if the team moves. The new contract was signed to keep them in San Diego for a minimum of three more years.

“The City hereby acknowledges and agrees that the NFL will not be liable to the City in connection with any such activities,” the lease reads.

Notes

Case rates may be at their peak: Christopher Longhurst, chief medical officer at UC San Diego Health I collected some graphs A Friday that seems to indicate “we’re sliding down the slope of the Omicron” — San Diego’s COVID-19 infection may have peaked.

fire: We very much hope that the fire at the home of County Superintendent Nathan Fletcher and former Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez was a random accident. Police say it is “suspicious”. Hopefully, the effects of arson are serious. No political system can be productive or just if leaders face assassination attempts. Even if the attacks are unsuccessful, they cause an intolerable shock to public life. If they succeed, the consequences will be horrific and destabilizing.

If you have any ideas or feedback about the Policy Report, send them to scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org.

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