By Raoul Lowery Contreras
“Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead!” ordered America’s first five-star admiral, David Farragut, when he led his Union flotilla into Mobile Bay under heavy Confederate fire in 1864.
Farragut, who was incidentally America’s first Hispanic war hero, was a true leader. San Diego could use such leadership today in the first days of the new decade.
This time the battle is for the city to obey the 56% of San Diego voters who cast their ballots last November to make a deal with San Diego State University to take over the former Qualcomm Stadium site. It was innocuously labeled “Measure G” on the ballot.
This was not a suggestion. It was an order by voters to the Mayor, City Council and City Attorney. Measure G countered the vastly inferior “Soccer City” measure put together by out-of-town developers to build thousands of condos and apartments.
As a radio talk show and television host, I began talking about the idea of a new baseball park in downtown San Diego two years before a site was chosen in a rundown warehouse district east of historic 5th Avenue.
The ballpark was ultimately favored by 60 percent of San Diego voters in 1998. Nonetheless, deep-seated opposition led by a weekly counterculture tabloid fueled opposition that led to 14 separate lawsuits against construction and financing of the ballpark.
Construction was halted at the midway point while numerous lawyers, including at least one Harvard Law graduate, relentlessly demanded construction be halted by the courts. They lost because the platoons of lawyers failed to convince dozens of judges to stop a voter-approved ballpark.
In the case of the Qualcomm site, lawyers again intervened. Taking the lead against Measure G was the newly elected San Diego City Attorney, who filed suit demanding a judge prohibit the citizens of San Diego from voting at all on the proposal to sell the stadium property either to SDSU or to private developers.
But Mara Elliot failed in her outrageous and anti-democratic effort to deny San Diegans their vote.
Many older San Diegans vividly remember public votes on the sale of “pueblo lands” that the city inherited from Mexico and later from the military. Ballot measures decided whether or not to sell such properties as what is now the campus of the the University of California at San Diego. In that case, the sale price was zero.
It’s SDSU’s turn now. The university is offering over $86 million for 132 acres in contrast to UCSD paying nothing for hundreds of acres in the early 1960s.
Elliot first announced there was no way her 100-plus attorneys could draft a negotiated agreement between the city and SDSU in the timeline requested.
She now says she can. But this shouldn’t be up to her. The City Council voted unanimously to proceed with a contract. It should now be “Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead!”
Raoul Lowery Contreras is a Marine Corps veteran, political consultant and author of the new book White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPS) & Mexicans. His work has appeared in the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.
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