The day after a night of various moving stadium parts in San Diego and St. Louis, about the only certainty is that for all the activity not much really changed as it relates to the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams quests to relocate to Los Angeles.
For now, anyway.
In San Diego, Attorney Cory Briggs announced plans to begin circulating a wide-ranging initiative that would raise San Diego’s hotel room tax to 15.5 percent to potentially fund various city infrastructure projects, including the expansion of the convention center.
Although the initiative doesn’t include money for a stadium, its passage could pave the way for another vote, in 2017, on funding for a downtown stadium.
The initiative would raise the city’s Transient Occupancy Tax from 10.5 percent to 15.5 percent and eliminate a 2 percent fee on hotel-room bills already collected by the Tourism Marketing District.
Briggs will announce at a news conference Thursday the launching of a signature gathering drive, the goal being to get enough signatures to put the initiative on the ballot for a June 2016 vote.
Meanwhile, San Diego’s push to finalize new Chargers stadium plan in Mission Valley got a boost Wednesday when Gov. Jerry Brown certified the project for expedited environmental review.
The Governor’s action would expedite any potential lawsuits challenging the stadium EIR, which would could accelerate the stadium approval significantly.
While Wednesday’s moves certainly caught the eye of the NFL, the question is will it be enough to either slow down the league’s decision on who will relocate to Los Angeles or sway enough votes to prevent the Chargers move to Carson?
Nothing that happened Wednesday changes the Chargers position.
While Brown’s certification could address some of EIR concerns, the proposed financing plan by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer still requires approval by city voters. The uncertainty of that vote – and belief the EIR will be thrown out by the courts – leave the Chargers reluctant to sign off on the Mission Valley plan. The concern is they’d lose their position in Los Angeles and be stuck at square one in San Diego.
Meanwhile, Briggs’ initiative is at such an early stage – and the stadium phase remains so far down the road – the Chargers won’t jeopardize their Carson pursuit by jumping aboard.
Theoretically, the NFL could be swayed enough by the developments to delay a Chargers relocation to give San Diego more time to get a viable plan together. But expect the Chargers to protest vehemently.
They believe San Diego is a non starter, and will argue to the NFL any delay on a Los Angeles relocation will simply be delaying the inevitable. And in the meantime, jeopardize their efforts to market and connect to business partners and ticket buyers in Los Angeles.
The NFL is working toward a January vote to decide whether to approve the Rams Inglewood plan or the Chargers and Raiders Carson project. Any relocation approval will require 24 yes votes among the 32 owners.
Other options remain – such as the Rams and Chargers or Raiders being directed by the NFL to work a deal together in Los Angeles, with resources being diverted to the odd team out to help jump start a local stadium project.
But don’t expect any deal making to emerge until either Inglewood or Carson become the obvious preferred site.
Meanwhile, in Missouri a group of St. Louis Aldermen are introducing a bill at Friday’s board meeting that would require a public vote to decide whether the city can spend $150 million on a proposed $1 billion stadium intended to keep the Rams in St. Louis.
The bill would essentially overturn a ruling by Circuit Court Judge Thomas Frawley last August that nullified an existing city ordinance mandating a public vote for the expenditure.
And while St. Louis stadium task force head Dave Peacock said he welcomes a vote, the urgency is glaring. It seems unlikely a citywide vote can be done within the next month, and Peacock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch failure to achieve city approval beyond November “puts this project and retaining our team at risk.”
Would St. Louis leaders actually take that gamble by forcing a vote?
That’s difficult to say, but it seems clear there are a lot of people upset about the way the stadium plan has been handled in terms of avoiding a public vote and scrutiny – including Mayor Francis Slay continually delaying delivering all the details to the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.
Mary Ellen Ponder, chief of staff to Mayor Slay, told the Post-Dispatch the full financing plan will be introduced at the aldermanic meeting next week – at which point this all might be much to do about nothing if the financing details are acceptable to the alderman.
Still, the tactic seems clear: Delay all details until the last possible moment then create anxiety by saying the project will fail if you don’t fall in line quickly.
It’s also not difficult imagining city and state politicians seeing through the tactic – and realizing they have some leverage as a result – and trying to capitalize on the opportunity to bargain on behalf of their constituents and districts.
That creates a dangerous balancing act – especially with time of such an essence.
But then, the entire stadium effort is a balancing act.
How do you create a deal that makes sense for Missouri that also makes sense for the Rams?
That’s a question Missouri leaders are still struggling with.
And one the NFL must ponder when deciding whether to approve the Rams Los Angeles relocation bid.