Stadium funding not a city priority — Emerald

San Diego City Councilwoman Marti Emerald at Tifereth Israel Men's Club, July 1, 2015

San Diego City Councilwoman Marti Emerald at Tifereth Israel Men’s Club event, July 1, 2015

Story by David Ogul; photos by Michael Mantell

David Ogul

David Ogul

San Diego City Councilwoman Marti Emerald

San Diego City Councilwoman Marti Emerald

SAN DIEGO — This city does not have money for a new, publicly funded, $1.1-billion football stadium that backers hope will keep the Chargers from bolting to Los Angeles, City Councilmember Marti Emerald told several dozen people at a Tifereth Israel Synagogue Men’s Club dinner Wednesday night.

“They’re playing tough, and they’re hoping that we’ll roll, but I gotta tell you we don’t have money to invest in this stadium,” Emerald said. “Not the hundreds of millions of dollars it would take. And if we did, we’d need to put it in our infrastructure to make our roads safer, we need to make sure we have plenty of police and firefighters, and fire stations and all of it. We’re going to be under very strict new water regulations as of January first. We’re going to have to rebuild our entire storm water system.”

City and Chargers officials are negotiating an agreement aimed at keeping the team from making a run north as early as the 2016 season. Chargers officials say they have grown weary after years of stalling by the city; the city says it has done everything it could to satisfy the team’s demands, but was hamstrung by a pension crisis and the recent economic downturn. A stadium advisory group put together by Mayor Kevin Faulconer developed a financing plan that calls for public contributions of more than $600 million to pay for a new stadium, when diverted parking revenue and ticket taxes are added to the equation.

The Wednesday night program kicked off a long series of events that the Tifereth Israel Men’s Club is planning in the coming year, including an August `Brews and Blessings’ featuring tastings of San Diego craft beers.

Emerald, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, touched on a number of issues during her nearly hour-long talk and question-and-answer period, recounting a life that included driving a cab in Portland, starting a news service in Washington, D.C., and serving as KGTV’s `Troubleshooter’ consumer advocate reporter before her tenure on the City Council began in 2008. Emerald, who is in her sixth year as Chair of the Public Safety & Livable Neighborhoods Committee, has announced she will not seek re-election.

Among the topics she tackled:

Tikkun Olam: Emerald joked about being the only Jew on the Catholic Charities board of directors, but emphasized her faith has long guided her and continues to push her to look out for the underserved.

“I believe in the concept of healing the world and I was raised with that and my mother, who wasn’t particularly religious, always talked about leaving something better than you found it…I think we all have an obligation to heal the world when we see a problem.”

Why she’s not seeking re-election: “The breast cancer diagnosis and the treatment the last year have reminded me of what truly is important,” Emerald said. “I lost my last husband, who passed away in 2011 (and) just a couple years ago I met a wonderful gentleman and we were married this last year and I want to spend time with him. I want to be able to fix nice meals, and grow my garden, and take walks and enjoy my family. My daughter is at an age where she needs mom. And so I’m looking forward to the next phase. Turning that page in my life. To really dedicate myself to my family, to my community. And I want to become more involved in my faith community as well.”

Race relations: “San Diego doesn’t like to think that there’s racism here, but there is. And you’re still more likely to be stopped by a police officer over a broken tail light if you have dark skin than if you have light skin. Is it bias? Is it because people of lower income, people of color can’t afford to fix their taillights? It’s a judgment call here. I want to think that it’s improving. We’re not Ferguson. The things that have happened around the country, these horrible violent attacks on innocent people by and large haven’t happened here yet. And I hope it doesn’t happen.”

Emerald applauded the work of San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman (also a member of the Jewish community) and noted that of the 50 people enrolling in the new San Diego police academy, half are women or minorities.

The arts in San Diego: While Emerald noted San Diego has a “vibrant” arts community, she said there is still room for it to grow. “The city needs to look around and say, `what kind of arts community do we want here and what can we do….If we care about the arts, we need to make the investment.”

But the Chargers and funding for a new stadium took center stage. Emerald said she doubts the team will move, even though the team and the Raiders have unveiled plans for a joint stadium atop a former toxic waste dump in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson

“I believe the NFL is going to tell the Chargers, not this time around, because you got the Rams owner who’s got money and is going to build a new stadium in Los Angeles and bring the Rams back to Los Angeles, and that means only one more team can be there. I think that given the Raiders or the Chargers, the Raiders have a larger fan base, and that means there’s more in it for the NFL. And let’s face it. It is about the NFL.”

Ogul is a freelance writer based in San Diego.  You may comment to him at [email protected], or post your comment on this website provided that the comment is civil and that you identify yourself by full name and by your city and state of residence.


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