July 06, 2001

EDITORIAL

City's Tactics to Finance PADRES Are Questioned

Ever since former Mayor Susan Golding and a former City Manager (now a PADRES management employee) crafted the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the PADRES organization, it has been mired in one lawsuit after another. From the very beginning, this secretly negotiated MOU has bothered citizens who believe that public officials are charged with protecting - not squandering - the public purse. There is no legal or constitutional right that allows for the use of public funds to finance private, for-profit enterprises.

It is not that we oppose the idea of building a ball field for the PADRES organization. We question whether the San Diego City government can use the public purse and its police powers to support one private enterprise over another.

The public purse is derived from taxes that we pay. What these funds can be used for is severely limited. In all instances they must be utilized in the interest of the public good, not to finance private enterprise. It is the responsibility of every elected official to spend these funds with this guideline in mind. The public good has many definitions, but nowhere does it say that our money is to be used to further the goals of private entrepreneurs, corporations or businesses. The public purse cannot be used to line the pockets of baseball teams or football teams, all of which are profit making.

It is ingenious for Mayor Dick Murphy and the current city council members to channel public money toward the development of the PADRES stadium. It is deceitful for our elected officials to funnel money to the PADRES using the City Redevelopment Agency (CRA), an agency which the City Council governs and controls, and ignore the fact that the CRA is funded with public tax dollars. It has no money of its own. By law, their monies cannot finance private enterprises! Worse of all, our elected officials use these front organizations to disguise the fact that these shell groups are actually raiding the treasury of the City.

To further mislead the public, the Redevelopment Agency (a.k.a. the Mayor & City Council) than add further bureaucratic layers to mask the fact that the City Treasury is being raided. The Center City Development Corp (CCDC), a sub-agency under the CITY Redevelopment Agency, has spent millions in public money to finance projects for private business, corporations and individuals who haven't paid a single penny back to the city! The Redevelopment Agency/CCDC owes the San Diego General Fund $100 million that they borrowed from you the taxpayers to build HORTON PLAZA! The City lent them the money, which was originally part of a federal grant to renovate the barrios and ghettos. It was to be used to rid the city of blight i.e., slum housing, fix the streets, light up the area, repair sewage lines and potholes, and to upgrade Logan Heights and Southeast San Diego - both areas that had been designated decayed slums by the Feds.

The Redevelopment Agency/CCDC has not paid a single penny of this money back to the General Fund! Nor have the private businesses, who have made millions off of the Horton Plaza complex.

It gets worse; the Redevelopment Agency/CCDC (a.k.a. the Mayor & City Council) has been given the power to sell bonds and to condemn property in support of the PADRES. CCDC has publicly stated they have the money to guarantee the bonds on the taxes the City has authorized them to collect. Some would say, perhaps, that they should pay the city the $100 million that they owe now!

Our Mayor & the City Council included $73 million in this year's budget that will be spent on the PADRES ball stadium! This is money from the General Fund! If you didn't notice this, it is because that budget item was made a "consent item" i.e., passed without any discussion! It was hidden in this year's budget under the budget title "Special." They also listed the PADRES give away with a "real public" item... the library!

Add it up, and the city has already committed to squandering $235 million under the MOU. Now add the $65 million already being spent by the city Redevelopment Agency, and throw in the $73 million that the CCDC has provided for the PADRES BALL FIELD fiasco. That's $373 million that has been taken from the GENERAL Fund to subsidize a private corporation! Perhaps it is time to challenge the legality of the City of San Diego's use of their Redevelopment Agency to finance the PADRES ball field in federal court.

In a recent federal court case (99 Cents Only vs. the Lancaster Redevelopment Agency - July 3, 2001) which was heard in Los Angeles, a new method was added to protect a person's right to limit government use of police powers to take the private property of one person for the benefit of another under the guise of redevelopment powers. What this means is that a private citizen can challenge the use of condemnation power by a local redevelopment agency in federal court! This may open the door for those people whose properties have been condemned by the San Diego Redevelopment Agency to assist the PADRES. They may have the right to challenge these actions in federal court.

This will probably make all those backroom deals between the city and the PADRES, such as the MOU and the condemnations by the San Diego Redevelopment Agency, illegal. If what the Lancaster Redevelopment Agency did was ruled unconstitutional, it would appear that what the San Diego Regional Development Corporation did in condemning all those properties is also unconstitutional, and the PADRES ballpark is dead on arrival.

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