The San Diego Chargers owners yesterday launched their “Vote Yes on C” campaign to try to get two-thirds of San Diego voters to approve spending $1.15 billion on a football stadium/convention center expansion, which, good luck with that. They also unveiled what’s likely to be their main arguments for the plan:
“A yes vote on C will allow for the creation of a new facility that could host world-class events and conventions such as Super Bowls, NCAA Final Fours, NCAA title games, professional soccer, concerts, the X Games and a host of other high-profile events. And no general funds will be used to build this new venue as it will be paid for by the Chargers and the NFL as well as tourists and business travelers staying in San Diego hotels.”
That’s all technically true — the money would all come from a whopping four percentage-point hike in hotel tax rates — but it’s also extremely misleading to make it sound like raising hotel taxes and giving the money to the Chargers doesn’t cost San Diegans anything. First off, as NBC Sports’ Mike Florio notes, “plenty of hotel and motel rooms are surely bought and paid for by San Diego residents.” More to the point, though, raising hotel taxes comes with both an opportunity cost — once you give the money to the Chargers, you can’t then raise hotel taxes for other spending purposes — and an economic cost — tourists may love San Diego, but some could learn to love other cities once they see how expensive their hotel bills are after all the taxes are added in. Think about it: If this weren’t the case, every city on earth should be raising hotel taxes as much as possible, and giving the cash to its citizens, because hey, free money!
The other interesting bit here is that by the happy coincidence of the Chargers stadium vote being Ballot Measure C, team execs get to use the same slogan the Padres owners successfully used back in 1998 to get their own stadium, which maybe will bring back happy memories of Tony Gwynn or something? Again, good luck with that.
Meanwhile, one of the first actions of the Yes on C campaign appears, weirdly, to be trying to get voters not to pull the lever for their ballot measure, but to oppose a city councilmember who’s been critical of the stadium plan but who isn’t even up for re-election for another two years:
The team … has come out swinging against a local political opponent, City Councilman Chris Cate, who says the team’s proposal to build a new stadium is a bad deal for taxpayers.
The team’s campaign committee recently has circulated paid advertisements on Facebook that sic the dogs on him.
“Why does Chris Cate want the Chargers to leave San Diego?” the ad says. “Please call and ask him.”
It then publishes his office phone number.
This is kind of a weird strategy, needless to say. San Diego State political science professor Brian Adams (don’t start) tells USA Today that this could be a warning shot to other elected officials not to oppose the stadium campaign, which is entirely possible. It’s also a way to tell voters “The Chargers will leave San Diego if you don’t vote for this” without actually coming out and saying it, in the hopes that no voters will realize that it’s Chargers owner Dean Spanos himself ultimately making this threat, getting mad at him, and thinking, “Go to West Virginia already.” Good luck with that.