An undated illustration of a proposed Chargers stadium in downtown San Diego. Photo courtesy of MANICA Architecture.
An undated illustration of a proposed Chargers stadium in downtown San Diego. Photo courtesy of MANICA Architecture.

I spent most of 2015 trying to keep the Chargers in San Diego. The Citizens’ Stadium Advisory Group gave Mayor Kevin Faulconer a framework for a new stadium in Mission Valley that would not raise taxes. The mayor and Supervisor Ron Roberts built a fair and workable plan from that framework.

At the time, Dean Spanos was pursuing Los Angeles. Meanwhile, his stadium point man, Mark Fabiani, was trying to sabotage stadium progress in San Diego to convince the National Football League and team owners that San Diego could not put together a stadium plan.

Spanos and Fabiani scoffed at the plan the mayor and Supervisor Roberts put together. In January, they went to the NFL owners meeting in Houston confident they would return as the Los Angeles Chargers. They lost. Badly. The owners voted 30-2 to move the St. Louis Rams back to Los Angeles.

Tony Manolatos

Back in San Diego, Spanos and Fabiani told the mayor and Supervisor Roberts they would move forward with their Mission Valley stadium plan if they added $200 million to the $350 on the table. The mayor and Supervisor Roberts did not blink. They noted $350 million ($200 million would have come from bonding against the millions the city spends subsidizing Qualcomm Stadium each year; $150 million would have come from the county) would be the largest public subsidy for a NFL stadium in California history.

Spanos and Fabiani responded by saying they were shifting their attention to a downtown stadium and partnering with Attorney Cory Briggs, the author of Measure D and a longtime City Hall nemesis. They soon realized D was a legally flawed mess. With pressure mounting and time running out to qualify a measure for the November ballot, Spanos and Fabiani slapped together their own half-baked downtown stadium initiative, Measure C.

Follow The Money

Comic-Con opposes C and D and so does the San Diego Union-Tribune. I should not have to say any more to earn your votes, but if you are still not convinced, please follow the money. The Chargers have spent more than $7 million on C. Briggs and a wealthy downtown developer who owns land next to the convention center annex D proposes pumped $1.4 million into their measure.

Compare that to the No on C coalition, which raised less than $100,000. The coalition is broad and diverse and includes Irwin Jacobs, Rob Quigley, Julie Meier Wright, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, tourism leaders, April Boling, Gil Cabrera, Steve Cushman, Phil Blair, Lani Lutar, Councilmembers Chris Cate, David Alvarez and Scott Sherman, and Councilmember-Elect Chris Ward.

There is no formal opposition to D because no one gave it much of a chance, but polls show it actually has a better shot at reaching a simple majority than C because so many San Diegans know little to nothing about it. The taxpayers association issued policy papers opposing C and D over the summer and recently launched ads against both tax measures.

Much of the $7 million the Chargers spent was on qualifying Measure C for the ballot, not on the actual Yes on C campaign. That has led some people close to this issue to believe the Chargers set C up to fail. They did run a terrible campaign and the theory says the team has planned all along to take a loss to the league and use it as leverage to extract more money for a new stadium in San Diego, or a better deal in Los Angeles.

Others believe the poor campaign Spanos & Company ran is just the latest in a long line of bad stadium decisions.

Dishonest with San Diego

What I know is Spanos and Fabiani have been dishonest with San Diego and their fans for a while, and they attack people who disagree with them. They also have tried to make this campaign about loyalty instead of public policy. I cannot stress this enough: Measure C is not a test about your love for the Chargers. It is about public policy, and this measure is bad public policy.

It is a bad deal for San Diego. It would raise taxes by more than $1 billion to build a rent-free stadium for Dean Spanos and his $2 billion corporation, and not one penny would pay for road repairs or neighborhood services. Any promises made by Dean Spanos are not legally binding. Only the ballot measure is legally binding and Measure C does not contain any taxpayer protections or safeguards from the team.

For months, Spanos and his surrogates worked to recruit new surrogates by assuring them C was not going to pass. It needs two-thirds support from voters, an impossible threshold. However, they said, getting as close to 50 percent as possible is personally important to Dean and would motivate him to return to the negotiating table.

The No on C coalition saw through this. We pointed out the only chance Spanos has to succeed on Election Day is to achieve a simple majority — not a two-thirds majority — and then take his chances in court, hoping a related state Supreme Court case breaks his way. Last week we found out we were right. The Chargers have filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing for a 50 percent voter threshold.

Vote and Spread The Word

What does all this mean to you? It means in order to save San Diego from wealthy special interests you need to vote no on C and D and encourage your friends and family to do the same.

Together, we can defeat C and D.

Tony Manolatos is spokesman for No on C. He held the same role with Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Citizens’ Stadium Advisory Group. This piece was edited from a longer email.