Padres boosters threaten the Virginia alternative

John Moores and his wife gave $25,000 each to Gray Davis, and Moores lent Davis the use of his jet

John Moores and his San Diego Padres haven't yet said the "V" word out loud, but plenty of other locals, including sports writers and editorialists for the Union-Tribune, have been mouthing it. The word is Virginia, specifically northern Virginia. That's supposedly the team's final destination if taxpayers here don't ultimately ante up to build a new downtown baseball stadium. But if the Padres, or any other big-league team, move east, a sizable number of taxpayers in northern Virginia won't be greeting the team with open arms. According to a story in last Sunday's Washington Times, the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority has already spent $1.5 million since it was created in 1995, paying the salaries and travel expenses of two full-time employees. Plans call for the state of Virginia to pay for two-thirds, or $200 million, of the stadium, with the Virginia Baseball Club, a private group, supposedly coming up with the rest, another $100 million. The state is hoping that a new lottery game it is trying out this summer will generate $14 million to pick up its part of the annual tab for financing the deal. But groups like the Fairfax County Taxpayers Association and Citizens for Sensible Taxation are opposed to using any public money, including lottery funds, on the new stadium. "A lot of taxpayer money has gone to this Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority and they hired a high-priced executive, and what do they have to show for it?" Dawn Murphy, a stadium opponent, asked the Times. The Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, supports the deal because it will "create jobs and help the county's tax base." Despite the best efforts of Virginia baseball boosters, the Times reports, "so far, all that time and money have done is help other major-league teams swing sweetheart deals with their own hometowns." Besides the Houston Astros, the paper says, "the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants also used the threat of moving to northern Virginia to get better deals with their hometowns."

Self-funding prophecy

As if he didn't have his hands full courting the prickly members of the San Diego City Council, Padres owner John Moores has jumped into the thick of the national political giving season. Moores -- well known in Democratic political circles as a "heavy hitter" or contributor of large campaign dollars -- has written a $25,000 check to the campaign of Democratic congresswoman Jane Harmon, who is running for governor. Not that she particularly needed the money. Harmon, a multimillionaire herself, gave her campaign almost $4.25 million. Apparently hedging his bets, Moores and his wife had previously given $25,000 each to Lieutenant Governor Gray Davis, and Moores lent Davis the use of his private jet, worth another $10,000 ... Meanwhile, a televised gubernatorial debate in San Diego, sponsored by the state League of Women Voters in conjunction with the California Parent-Teacher Association's annual convention set for May 6, has yet to gel. So far, none of the major candidates, including Harmon, wealthy businessman Al Checchi, and Gray Davis, has agreed to attend. In fact, reports the Sacramento Bee, representatives of the candidates haven't even met to discuss whether they would participate in any debates at all. If they don't make the league date, another San Diego debate chance comes May 15 at a forum set to be hosted by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.

Look on the bright side

Computer giant Microsoft, known for its cutthroat squelching of smaller competitors, is preparing to give away a new kind of soon-to-be-introduced Internet software, mimicking a tactic used by San Diego's Qualcomm to distribute a similar kind of software product. But is Qualcomm worried? Not according to Qualcomm's Matt Parks, a senior product manager who last week told Computer Reseller News, "The fact that Qualcomm is on Microsoft's radar map so squarely speaks really well about us." ... Forty-six more San Diego-area restaurants got hit last week in an enforcement sweep by the state's Department of Industrial Relations. In a news release, the agency says that a total of $243,950 in fines were levied for everything from minimum-wage to child-labor violations.

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