Sadly for San Diego, corporate mendicants appear back in the saddle
A news release came out last night from Mayor Bob Filner's office. The headline: "Mayor Bob Filner Welcomes Comic-Con to San Diego and Backs Convention Center Expansion!!!" (The mayor's office has a grotesque habit of putting exclamation marks in its headlines, but three may be a record.) This announcement, unfortunately, may tell it all. The corporate welfarists appear back in control, even though they lost the election. The $1 billion infrastructure deficit will probably remain and perhaps expand. Don't be surprised if there is a billion-dollar football stadium going up downtown, 80% financed by San Diego taxpayers. (And much of the 20% so-called private financing will be naming and advertising rights that ought to go to the City, not the team.) The governor is wisely getting rid of redevelopment, and tax increment financing appears dead, but the downtown boosters who seem to be back in power will find ways to pick taxpayer pockets.
There is no rational reason for the convention center expansion. Convention centers are vastly overbuilt in the U.S. and abroad; convention centers everywhere are cutting prices and losing money as supply zooms and demand shrinks, but cities keep building and expanding the white elephants. Expanding for just one event, Comic-Con, is the height of poor planning. San Diego's center is using phony statistics to claim it is successful. Neither a convention center expansion nor a subsidized football stadium will provide significant numbers of jobs to San Diegans. The incremental few that might arise will be extremely low-paying.
Bob Filner will probably remain as mayor for awhile unless there is a recall. But unfortunately, it now appears that it doesn't matter who is mayor. The puissance will remain with the power brokers who for decades have steered most of the money downtown for projects that should have been financed with private capital. Voters elected Filner because they wanted money to go to decaying neighborhoods and rundown infrastructure. But it looks like it's not to be.
Two local journalists, Scott Lewis and Tony Perry, have pointed out that Walt Ekard, the former County official who is now the City's chief operating officer, has assumed power over contracts, as well as staff and personnel decisions. Lewis pointed out that Kris Michell, chief executive of the Downtown Business Partnership, told her board members, "It would be great to send Walt an email thanking him for agreeing to take on these responsibilities." That, and the news release on Filner backing the convention center, are all you need to know.
Mike Aguirre, former city attorney who was smeared by the Union-Tribune and the establishment when he tried to pare back corporate welfare, could have told Filner that any official "not an establishment tool has to be letter perfect." But Filner never consulted Aguirre. Goodbye, water reclamation and the rebuilding of streets and roads. Hello taxpayer-financed projects that line the pockets of people who live in Rancho Santa Fe. Best, Don Bauder