For the third successive Monday, soccer fans in San Diego crowded the chambers of City Council in the hope that their combined force of will could sway the elected representatives of the nine districts of the City of San Diego to rule in favor of the SoccerCity proposal. Despite support from the mayor and a whopping 68% of the public polled in the last week, for the third successive Monday, soccer fans left the halls of City Council beaten back by forces entirely out of their control.
The SoccerCity game plan was set in motion months ago when FS Investors kicked off a signature gathering campaign that saw 112,000 registered voters sign the Citizen’s Initiative that mandated City Council take action by either adopting the plan outright or scheduling the proposal for the next available public election. Initial intelligence indicated that with the next election not expected until 2018, FS Investors’ best chance of seeing their project succeed rested with City Council adopting the plan outright. (Major League Soccer’s expansion criteria outlined a timeline that aims to have completed the selection of expansion city candidates late in 2017).
When San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer stepped up and put forward a call for a special election in November of 2017 for a hike of the Transient Occupancy Tax to raise funds for a convention center expansion project as well as road and homeless services, SoccerCity’s tactics shifted to supporting the call for this new opportunity to give the public a chance to voice their views on the issue.
If only politics were as simple as soccer. The machinations of civic affairs are detailed in a number of pieces found here, but ultimately, it all boils down to decisions made by City Council.
On Monday June 5th, City Council stripped the funding allocated for a special election from the Mayor’s proposed budget. Faulconer exercised a little-known power of his office and vetoed the Council’s decision, restoring funding for the election and calling on City Council to schedule the thing when they met on June 12th. The Council denied the Mayor’s wishes in a close split that broke down party line, voting 5-4 to NOT schedule an election.
On Monday June 19th, the only options remaining to City Council were to either adopt the initiative or schedule it for 2018. Somehow we had arrived back where we began. By virtue of the 112,000+ signatures, the Council’s action was compulsory. Without enough support on the Council to directly adopt the proposal, the seemingly inevitable outcome was to slot SoccerCity into the 2018 mid term election.
Now the question becomes, when does MLS actually make it’s selections? Which cities are poised to get the nod and how quickly can San Diego’s SoccerCity project recover lost ground? One golden ray of hope that is shining through the gloom is the potential for City Council to reconvene and schedule a special election at some point before the MLS Expansion Committee makes its final decision.
In the aftermath of Monday’s City Council decision, members of FS Investors gathered at a local establishment across the street to commune and take heart in each other’s company. Nick Stone addressed the crowd at one point and acknowledged that while things are grim at the moment, this thing is long from over.