San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer pulled a page from former Mayor Dick Murphy’s playbook in his Jan. 14 State of the City address, saying he will form a group of civic leaders to study the Chargers stadium issue.
In 2003, Murphy’s Citizens Task Force issued a book of recommendations that detailed every aspect of the issue, along with a main recommendation that building a new stadium should not incur any general fund tax dollars.
Twelve years later, Faulconer said it’s time “to come together to decide the future of the Chargers in San Diego.”
The clock is clearly ticking following recent reports that Stan Kroenke, the owner of the St. Louis Rams, plans to build a new stadium in Inglewood without any support from taxpayers. The Chargers have said that move could seriously impact their revenue. Some say the team may consider a pre-emptive move north, which Faulconer acknowledged.
“At no point in San Diego’s history has the possibility of the Chargers moving to Los Angeles been more real,” he said.
The latest task force will now consider two options for a new football-only edifice: the current Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley, and a downtown site next to Petco Park the team has been advocating for several years.
He set a deadline of striking some definitive solution by the end of this year, with a plan completed and offered up by the fall.
“My goal is that when the (2015) season ends, we won’t be talking about whether the Chargers are moving,” he said. “We’ll be talking about the proposal to keep them here.”
Faulconer also committed to expanding the Convention Center, and left open the possibility of a combined stadium and center expansion (which the Chargers desire). But whatever plan is put forward, voters will have the final say, presumably in 2016.
Making his first major speech before a packed Balboa Theater audience of 1,300, Faulconer set an ambitious agenda on myriad issues, but put the priority on fixing the city’s many dilapidated streets.
“I am making street repair the city’s highest infrastructure priority. Period,” he said.
He promised to continue putting the city’s neighborhoods first in terms of improvements. Half of any revenue growth in the city’s budget will go to neighborhoods and infrastructure repairs, a goal that translates to an estimated $100 million over five years, and about 1,000 miles of repaired streets, he said.
On the business front, Faulconer said he wants to nurture the area’s startups and “create an environment where the companies that start here, stay here.”
He also vowed to bring developers and employers into Southeast San Diego “to plant the seeds of opportunity” and job creation.
Faulconer highlighted the tremendous gains in some of the area’s thriving industries, such as high tech, health care and defense, but noted that a skills gap is keeping many residents from qualifying for those jobs.
To address that gap, he’ll assemble a group of educators and career experts to develop an action plan aimed at helping those in the lower rung of the economic ladder to qualify for middle-class employment, and to encourage employers to hire locally.
The goal isn’t to increase the number of residents in slightly-better paying, low-wage jobs, but helping them obtain the skills they need to find a better job, he said.
As a concrete step towards making this happen, Faulconer said all the city’s libraries would be tripling their Internet downloading speeds. The city also plans to establish a new program to let residents earn a high school diploma and career certificates online.
During his hour-long speech, Faulconer noted his meetings with the mayor of Tijuana on issues of mutual concern, and briefly addressed that city’s contingent in Spanish, stating he would continue working together, “not as two cities but as one region.”
Faulconer, 47, was elected mayor in a special election in February 2014 to fill out the remainder of former Mayor Bob Filner’s term. Filner resigned in August 2013 after a series of sexual scandals.