Measure D – Nice Try, But No Cigar for The Citizens’ Plan

by on September 23, 2016 · 1 comment

in Election, Politics, San Diego, Sports

Downtown-Hotel-San-Diego-California-United-States-300x420By Doug Porter

A good metaphor for Measure D would be the guy who tries to break up a fight and ends up getting pummelled by both combatants.

Also known as the Citizens’ Plan, Cory Briggs Evil Plot, and Chargers Stadium Lite, the proposal is all-but-dead in the water.

The money spigot ran dry in May. The thoughtful discussion Measure D should have stimulated never happened, lost in the dread of yet another rich guy scheme, and the unintended consequences of its (mostly) good intentions.

Is it great legislation? Nope. Would any of its individual (good) parts have a chance as a standalone effort? Never in a million years. Has any naysayer made any suggestions for another way to put San Diego’s very messed up house in order? Nope.

A Lack of Trust

Measure D came about because, as Cory Briggs correctly points out, “local politicians and the well-heeled special interests controlling City Hall have been failing us on the issues covered by the initiative for nearly 15 years.”

It’s likely the current stand-off between competing factions of the local ruling class (developers vs hoteliers vs Dean Spanos) will continue.

The rest of us don’t have a seat at this table. Measure D, warts and all, would have at least let our elected officials in the room. That’s the real reason so many liberal-leaning politicians supported it.

I also get that many community activists don’t trust the City Council to do the right thing. Lord knows, activists do have history on their side. The Chargers need to leave town and maybe we can this try again.

The potential for a fruitful discussion about the future of San Diego’s tourism industry has also been stymied by the leftovers of a smear campaign orchestrated by insiders with the local tourism industry and (I believe) abetted by our City Attorney through strategic leaks to the media.

What this comes down to is that the lawyer who sues the City all the time (and gets paid for it), tries to do something proactive (even if he’s wrong) isn’t somehow credible even if he knows first-hand the nuances of what’s really going on.

I have to wonder what the conversation about Measure D would have been like if Briggs had somehow stayed anonymous, letting Donna Frye take the lead. I guess maybe then we’d be hearing condescending yammering about how she’s “out there.”

There were, obviously, financial interests–namely the Moores–vested in Measure D. Sadly, the fact is any proposal with financial losers and winners is going to have the support of the winners in the Citizens United era.

To reiterate: I think Measure D has faults, lots of them. I just hate that way questions about it have been raised discourage discussion of the underlying issues. Measure D will likely fail and we’ll mostly still have our heads stuck in the sand.

Coulda. shoulda. woulda. Let’s take a look at what voters are being asked to consider.

The Pros and Cons

Via the Citizens' Plan website

Via the Citizens Plan website

Here’s what the Yes for San Diego website says:

Yes on D replaces the current random, and often obscure, approach to promotion, management, maintenance and construction of tourism-related facilities and infrastructure.

The Plan is an integrated, incentive-based structure that encourages both private and public decision-makers to promote and manage a successful tourism industry that maximizes net revenues by sharing responsibility for protecting the health of, and access to, our most important visitor and resident attraction — the Pacific Ocean, and its harbors, bays, rivers and tributaries.

A great summary of issues surrounding and description of Measure D was published months ago at San Diego UrbDeZine. Legal beagles Bill Adams, Jimmy Gaffney and Rick Waltman took a long hard look back in days when the debate about D was centered on where or not it would even qualify as a ballot measure due to its complexity.

Adams also wrote a critique for the San Diego Free Press. Cory Briggs responded. Even though both are somewhat dated, I found them to be some of the best resources as I did research for this article.

(Some of) What’s Good

  1. Harbor-side contiguous Convention Center expansion rendering – banned under JMI-Briggs “Citizens Plan” – image from San Diego Convention Center Corp.

    Harbor-side contiguous Convention Center expansion rendering – banned under “Citizens Plan” – image from San Diego Convention Center Corp.

    It lets the public vote on hotel taxes. The City Council/Tourism Industry deal currently in place will likely cost San Diego more than a $100 million dollars once the class action suits (soon to come) are settled. The current deal, on which the potential penalties are still accumulating, would be repealed.

  2. It increases the occupancy tax rate to a competitive (15.5%) regional level, providing additional revenues to the city’s general fund.
  3. It mandates that future large-scale tourism and entertainment facilities be located away from the waterfront and San Diego river.
  4. Allows the City to transfer management of tourism marketing efforts (Including the Convention Center operations) to a unified private entity on the condition that taxpayers are relieved of massive deferred maintenance costs and other current and future liabilities.

(Some of) What’s Bad

  1. It creates a pathway for a professional sports stadium in either Mission Valley or within a defined downtown ‘Convention and Entertainment Overlay Zone’. Actually making such a thing happen requires a deal between the various (tourism/sports/developer) factions.
  2. The existing city/county plan to spend $350 million on a Mission Valley stadium remains untouched by Measure D.
  3. The attempt to fix the many moving parts of the City’s tourism industry is complex. As SDFP contributor Norma Damashek said:

Whatever good intentions it may once have had (and I don’t doubt they existed), the “Citizens’ Plan” detoured down a back alley and emerged out the other end as a grotesque, multi-headed hydra.

Now, I’ve read the “Citizens’ Plan.” Then I read it again… and again. But for the heck of me, I can’t figure it out. And I’m not the only one!

A Change of Heart

Former County Supervisor Pam-Slater Price got around to reading Measure D and wrote an op-ed for the Times of San Diego announcing a change of heart.

As election day draws near, I have started sharing my views on the various local ballot measures. I recently mentioned to a friend I was opposed to Measure D, also known as the Citizens’ Plan. “Why?” my friend asked. I gave my reasons; my friend responded, “but Measure D doesn’t do anything bad. Have you actually read it?” “Not the actual initiative,” I said, “I’ve just read about it.” My friend urged me to read it, and I promised I would.

I opened up Measure D and the supporting materials from the city’s independent budget analyst and city attorney. I read all of it with a very skeptical eye, not once but twice. Having done so, I have to admit that I was wrong. I am now enthusiastically supporting Measure D.

Why the change? After reading everything all the way through — twice — I could not find anything not to like about it. Measure D is fantastic because it puts the public first on all the big issues we face in our community.

Finally, there is some question as to whether Measure needs 50%+1 or a supermajority to be enacted. The answer to this question lies in the appellate courts. If, as many suspect, the ruling holds that citizen-driven initiatives are not subject to the supermajority threshold, both Measures C & D could pass with a simple majority.

Also, here’s the Citizens’ Plan answer to what happens if both the Chargers Plan Measure C and D pass.

If both pass and Measure C gets more votes, Measure D’s provisions for Mission valley could still go forward. If Measure D gets more votes, the hotel tax will be no more than 15.5% but the team will get no public subsidy; team’s initiative will have no effect.

For More Information

Measure D

Ballot Language – FACILITIES AND TOURISM TAX INITIATIVE. Should the measure be adopted to: among other provisions, increase San Diego’s hotel occupancy tax up to 5%; end Tourism Marketing District; allow hoteliers to create assessment districts and use hotel occupancy taxes for downtown convention center and not a stadium; prohibit contiguous expansion of existing convention center; create downtown overlay zone for convention and sports facilities; create environmental processes; and allow Qualcomm stadium property’s sale for educational and park uses?

For those readers with time on their hands, here’s a link to the complete text of Measure D.

Yes On D Website
Yes on D Facebook
Yes on D Twitter

No on D Links: There is no formal opposition.

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Notes: Our endorsements will be included in our General Election Progressive Voter Guide, published shortly after mail-in ballots are delivered in October.

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This is an excerpt from Doug Porter’s column at our associated San Diego Free Press.

 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

avatar Chuck Dee September 23, 2016 at 5:51 pm

The convention center expansion must be contiguous otherwise it’s a giant waste of money. The Annex or Convadium are idiotic ideas that conventions don’t want. I hope hope hope C & D get less than 50% so there is no legal challenge and we can send the Chargers to LA.

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