U-T and Port: Bring in the Clowns

The notion of a bayside football stadium is “felony dumb.”

U-T San Diego is propagandizing for an entertainment center at the site of the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal. A subsidized waterfront football stadium would be located there. The battle over the newspaper’s ludicrous proposal is already providing entertainment, bordering on high comedy. The paper’s chief executive called the Unified Port of San Diego, which disagrees with the paper’s self-proclaimed vision, “one of the greatest scandals of our lifetime.” Pressuring and interfering with writers, he uses his organ to horsewhip the port.

John Lynch

John Lynch

The risk, however, is that U.S. media will once again find San Diego’s buffoonery entertaining. Publications such as the New York Times have already commented on the extreme right-wing, blindly pro-business, pro-military bias throughout the paper under owner “Papa Doug” Manchester and chief executive John Lynch.

Kelly Cunningham

Kelly Cunningham

“We already are the laughingstock,” says Steve Erie, political science professor at the University of California San Diego and director of the urban studies program. “Manchester and Lynch and their pathetic excuse for a paper are a joke and an embarrassment.”

Doug Manchester

Doug Manchester

A close friend of Erie describes San Diego as a “city of toadies and thugs.” The thugs use intimidation tactics to get subsidies for their downtown corporate-welfare schemes, and the toadies, including local politicians, slink along. “The idea of a football stadium at that terminal is felony dumb,” says Erie, noting that ports “have an enormous economic impact.” The multiplier effect, or the phenomenon of some economic activity starting a chain reaction generating more activity, is potent with ports. “They generate good jobs.”

Steve Erie

Steve Erie

And that’s the critical argument: middle-class jobs. San Diego’s economy, like the nation’s, is suffering from a withering middle class. Consumer spending is more than 70 percent of the economy, but the flattening of worker incomes — combined with the stark rise of higher incomes — has created an economy that is out of whack. The rich have entirely too much spending power, and the rest of the people have too little.

Corinne Wilson

Corinne Wilson

Supposedly, an entertainment district at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal will create jobs. Nonsense. Objective economists say there is little or no multiplier effect with sports stadiums. Workers at the football facility would simply move over from Qualcomm Stadium. Moreover, “these are low-paying jobs, only part-time,” says Kelly Cunningham, economist for the National University System Institute for Policy Research. An entertainment district might create a few restaurant, bar, and lodging jobs, but by eliminating that port location, San Diego “would be trading fairly good-paying jobs for low-paying jobs.”

I got current San Diego wage data from the California Employment Development Department. Here are some average annual wages in the bar and restaurant business: restaurant cooks, $25,698; dishwashers, $19,549; restaurant hosts and hostesses, $19,742; fast-food cooks, $20,253; waiters and waitresses, $20,063; and bartenders, $21,268. Tips can boost the incomes of some, but these are low earnings, and benefits are low or nonexistent.

And look at some annual remuneration in the lodging business: bellhops, $22,591; hotel and motel clerks, $24,287; and concierges, $28,140. Even managers of lodging establishments only average $56,248.

The average annual wage in San Diego County is $51,051. Generally, employees in the leisure and hospitality business are fortunate if they earn half the county average.

But consider the wages of port employees, as revealed on the port’s website. A maintenance mechanic makes $56,659 to $75,920 a year; a wharf operator, $58,344 to $78,187; a custodian, $32,968 to $44,179; and a maintenance worker, $37,981 to $50,898. Seven years ago, the average port salary was more than $59,000 a year. Benefits are generous.

Says Corinne Wilson, research and policy lead for the Center on Policy Initiatives, “We need a good mixture of industries in the region, and we have an overabundance of jobs in the tourism industry. That is shortsighted for many reasons: one is that the pay rates in the industry bring down the average for the entire region, and when there are economic downturns, it is not wise to have all your eggs in one basket.” She would like to see government-imposed wage and benefit standards for certain low-paying industries.

In San Diego County, 13.5 percent of jobs are in the low-paying leisure and hospitality industries; nationally, the figure is 10.5 percent.

Port detractors point out that business is declining and the facility is wee by comparison with those in Los Angeles and Long Beach. True, but there is a painfully slow recovery from a deep recession. Cunningham notes that the Tenth Avenue terminal is a rare deepwater facility that has a niche market for such things as bananas and cement.

There is talk that the U-T-touted entertainment area might generate hotel construction. But, as Jerry Morrison, La Jolla–based hotel consultant, points out, sports stadiums do not bring significant business to hotels, except at special events such as the Super Bowl.

Tourism has definitely picked up the past couple of years. Two years ago, Morrison was saying that any San Diego hotel built or refinanced in the previous five years was underwater. Although San Diego tourism has recovered, this year’s levels are not back to those of pre-recession 2007, says Morrison. The occupancy rate, revenue per available room, and average daily room rate thus far this year are all down from the same period five years ago. San Diego lags San Francisco, Anaheim, and Los Angeles in the recovery, and Morrison doesn’t know why. “Our demand just isn’t as high as some other places in California,” he says.

But the convention center expansion pushes on despite the stark overbuilding of American convention facilities, a drop-off of convention attendance, and the center’s widely recognized, deliberate bloating of its performance statistics. U-T San Diego plays the bully in its attempt to get a football stadium at a site now used as a port. The newspaper’s beloved mayoral candidate, Carl DeMaio, insists he does not favor the idea. But, says Norma Damashek, former president of the League of Women Voters, “We have a lot of liars around here.” ■

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So, given the outlandish figures being bandied about for a new stadium, one might assume that any new job linked to its construction could conceivably cost in the vicinity of two or three hundred thousand dollars to "create"? Who's zooming who?

Lou Dobbs analyzed some of the "job creation" claims the federal gov has given out-including Solyndra- and the costs were like $1 million to create a $50K job, the numbers are mind boggling....

Duhbya: A study was done in one metro area -- forgotten which.Each added job from a subsidized redevelopment project cost something like 50 times the per-job cost of other non-subsidized projects. Best, Don Bauder

SurfPup: I am not a bit surprised that the government-subsidized jobs cost so much more than other jobs. Of course, government money goes into port jobs, too, but nothing like a subsidized stadium suck up. Best, Don Bauder

The City faces a $2.8 billion pension deficit it can't pay. The San Diego City Schools want to float another $2.8 billion in bonds. Now Manchester and Lynch want the city to borrow $8 billion to convert the 10th Avenue Terminal into an entertainment complex. I don't see how the city's tax base can service this staggering amount of debt. These lunatics need to be stopped before they strip the city bare.

Burwell, a number of San Diegans have told me that these two guys have to be finished off. The good news is that they are well on their way to finishing themselves off. Best, Don Bauder

Great article! My feelings about any tax subsidized boondoggle.

I just cracked a rim on my car driving down Morena Blvd yesterday. How about the city spend our tax money on some infrastructure improvements.

jibaro: Trading high-paying blue collar jobs for very low-paying jobs to benefit the superrich sort of sums up the history of San Diego, doesn't it? Best, Don Bauder

spudboy: Mayor Sanders claimed he fixed the budget imbalance, but he appeared to do it by completely ignoring the infrastructure. One way the downtown stadium imbecility can be thwarted is by enough people screaming about the roads, sewers, waters, storm drains, etc. -- the things government is SUPPOSED to do, rather than subsidize pro sports billionaires. Best, Don Bauder

Tom Mallory, leave Debbi Baker alone!

Gorgor: That one went right over my head. Best, Don Bauder

Just ask the U-T homepage editor. Never forget.

Gorgor: I do remember Mallory but I don't know who Debbie Baker is; ergo, I still don't understand your message. It's my stupidity. Best, Don Bauder

If the Chargers want to buy property and build a stadium, the City should sell them the permits, charge them to hook up to utilities and make changes in roads and traffic control. NTC would have been a nice place to do that. Lots of short term jobs could be produced at no cost to the City, and the Chargers can do it their way and take all the risks.

But the NFL would never let the Chargers pay for a stadium with their own money. Spanos would be run out of the league. The NFL won't be satisfied unless taxpayers pay at least two-thirds. An owner who got less than that would be a pariah. Best, Don Bauder

Sorry Don, let me backtrack. Once upon a time, Mallory wrote me a white knight email out of the blue, accusing me of harrassing a U-T writer named Debbi Baker and then banned me from posting on Sign On San Diego. I had no idea who she was either. But I won't forget them. Nor forgive.

If you were sexually harassing the lass, then the letter was justified. If you were criticizing something she wrote in a tasteful way, then there would seem to be no excuse for what Mallory wrote to you. That's what we are here for: to be pounded, lacerated, beheaded -- metaphorically, of course. Best, Don Bauder

Hi Don :) I forgot to add that I'd never heard of her until he wrote me. I'd never heard of him until he wrote me.

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Trust not their presents, nor admit the horse.

On the international economic scene, beware of the consequences of Greeks receiving gifts. Best, Don Bauder

Gorgor: So Mallory, whom you had never heard of, wrote to castigate you for harassing Debbie Baker, whom you had never heard of. Hmmm. Best, Don Bauder

If Mallory wants to defend his actions, our forum is open for him to do so. Best, Don Bauder

Good luck with that one, Don. The guy has quaffed the Kool-Aid and will do or say whatever his corporate masters command — journalistic ethics be damned — as will the rest of the U-T San Diego staff who fear for their jobs.

Did you read this morning that Manchester is now saying that a $1 billion downtown Chargers stadium may not be necessary? He thinks it's possible that Qualcomm can be fixed. What is going on? My guess is that he is realizing that paid circulation (not the penny-a-paper kind) is declining, knows the paper is a laughingstock, and wonders if he made a mistake buying a paper as a propaganda organ. Best, Don Bauder

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