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Editorial Once and for all: Build the ballpark

The developments at San Diego City Hall last week could not have been more emphatic: It is time to get beyond the squabbling, bickering and petty political games and build the new Downtown ballpark.

Fresh with ambition from last year’s election, a revitalized San Diego City Council and new Mayor Dick Murphy resolved to get construction up and running again. Councilwoman Valerie Stallings has resigned, which goes a long way to unshackle the city in issuing bonds to pay for construction. It was a move long overdue by the 6th District councilwoman, who was the subject of an investigation for her dealings with Padres’ owner John Moores.

The probe, which started last spring after the allegations surfaced, killed any possibility that the Padres would begin playing in their new ballpark by Opening Day of 2002. Construction stopped last fall, and even the election of four new council members as well as the new mayor wasn’t going to get the ballpark back on track.

Stallings’ resignation, however, has put the wheels in motion.

Unfortunately, as the Stallings affair came to a close last week, the specter of frivolous lawsuits continues to stifle the ballpark construction and redevelopment of the 26-block surrounding East Village area. Led by Bruce Henderson, who has yet to win a case against the city in his attempt to stop the ballpark, city leaders now must deal with more extraneous issues.

Stallings’ misguided actions prohibited the city from moving the project ahead, but the numerous lawsuits filed after Proposition C was approved by 60 percent of the voters in 1998 kept the city from issuing its bonds. As it stands now, even with seven lawsuits pending, no financial institution on Wall Street will touch these bonds.

We can see nothing good that will come of these lawsuits. It’s obviously too much to ask of Henderson and his sidekicks to put faith in the new council and mayor to carefully cross every T and dot every I.

We also hope Padres officials will work more cooperatively with the newly seated council. To move the project along, perhaps they should pony up for construction costs until the bonds are issued, which we fully realize may not be until late this year.

We expect the new council to exhaustively dissect every aspect of the ballpark agreement. Whereas many of their predecessors bullied their way through the process, we believe our newly elected officials will not let the Padres , or Henderson for that matter , push them into making hasty or poor decisions.

To that point, it didn’t take Murphy long to receive his baptism under fire. He will have to react quickly and decisively on many hot-button issues in regards to the ballpark. In short, the honeymoon didn’t last long, Mr. Mayor.

While we urge city leaders to act swiftly and decisively to restart the ballpark project, we want to note for Mr. Henderson the scoreboard showing how the city is faring against him in lawsuits.

So far, the city is whitewashing Henderson, 17-0. It’s time for the city to bring in their ace and close the door on any more of his threats so the Padres can finally play ball in their new ballpark.

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