Downtown Doublecross Foiled – Mayor Filner Calls Out San Diego Hoteliers’ Attempt to Sabotage Tourism Deal

by on May 31, 2013 · 1 comment

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, History, Labor, Politics, San Diego

“The City of San Diego will not be held hostage”

By Doug Porter / San Diego Free Press

Once again we’re seeing headlines proclaiming Mayor Filner to be responsible for causing the San Diego Tourism Authority to close down.

We’re hearing about how people’s jobs will be affected by a “squabble”.

We’re being told via the Daily Fishwrap editorial about a “crippling blow to a major pillar of the San Diego economy.”


Mayor Filner has demanded that the tourism agency live up to its end of a bargain struck back in April that, among other things, directed 5 percent of Tourism Marketing District (TMD) revenue to the upcoming celebration of Balboa Park’s centennial. That deal came after several months of very public and ugly struggle.

The downtown spin machine ran at full speed for more three months trying to paint Mayor Bob Filner as a job killer. They failed.

From Matt Potter at the SD Reader:

…in February the city’s top three hotel moguls, C. Terry Brown, Bill Evans, and Richard Bartell teamed up with U-T San Diego publisher, fellow Republican, and luxury hotel magnate Douglas Manchester, to lead a charge against the Democratic mayor in the form of a lawsuit and media campaign to force Filner to sign a lucrative city funding deal negotiated by Republican ex-mayor Jerry Sanders, a major beneficiary of the hoteliers’ campaign money.

Besides U-T coverage and editorials, the moguls conducted their own well-funded lobbying effort,as well promoting a city council demonstration engineered by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, a downtown business lobbying group with close ties to Brown.

The city’s big hoteliers – who dominate the Tourism Marketing Authority – agreed to this deal to end the dispute over funding that was, in reality, proxy for a bigger struggle between a progressive Mayor and the downtown business interests that have traditionally had free reign at City Hall.

Having failed to win at that battle, the hoteliers came to the table back in April. Because of legal restrictions imposed by Proposition 26, which requires officials to demonstrate a specific benefit for the group or industry receiving extra money, the actual language of the deal was written in general terms.

From an April story at Voice of San Diego:

The latest version of the Tourism Marketing District contract states that the district should expect an application from Centennial Celebration organizers seeking 5 percent of disbursable funds for the period between January and June of this year. The document notes the payout shouldn’t exceed $750,000.

Thinking they’d pulled a fast one on the Mayor, the TMD told the Balboa Park centennial committee through back channels they probably couldn’t come up with any money after all.

From City News Service via Fox5San Diego:

“They have told the centennial committee that they’re going to be last on the list” of applicants for money and that there may not be much money left, Filner told City News Service. “I want that money to come off the top.”

He said the TMD gave the city an invoice for around $6 million only about a week ago, and it takes two or three weeks for the city to cut a check. The agency should give 5 percent, or $300,000, straight to the centennial committee before it provides for other needs, he said.

“What they want to do is spend all the money on ConVis and the salaries, and then if there’s any money left, they’ll give 5 percent of that to the centennial committee,” Filner said. “I’m not going to accept that. That’s not what the agreement said, that’s not what we talked about.”

So the Mayor has said “No Deal”. His office released the following statement last Thursday afternoon:

“I have had enough of the whining and complaining from the wealthiest hotels in America. It was only days ago that they submitted at bill! We will issue their money when they hold up their end of the bargain, for example, approving payments to the Balboa ParkCentennial. This idle and baseless threat is beneath them and I urge them to grow up and do business the right way. The City of San Diego will not be held hostage by such antics.”

As I’m writing this story the Tourism Marketing board is meeting in a closed session in the Aviary Room of the Catamaran Hotel. Word is they’re gonna take Filner to court. Again. They lost last time.

I suspect they’ll still prefer a showdown with the Mayor over 5% of the funds. It’s not about the money. It’s about the power.

As Chris Brewster said this morning, commenting on a VOSD article:

This is about an arrogant power group in San Diego that has had its way for a long time and expects to be treated better than others. It’s a group that shuns government intervention, but wants the government to collect these funds for them because the hotel owners don’t trust each other to equitably contribute the funds they collect from tourists without government oversight. Meanwhile, the head of the TMD, with 85 employees, is being paid $450,000 per year out of these funds (about 4 times the Mayor’s annual salary), but they refuse to come up with $750,000 (max) that was apparently discussed. Smart business would be to go along with the Mayor and move on. It’s 5% of the total. Greed intervenes.

This is developing story. Updates will posted as new information becomes available. Go here


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sean M June 2, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Seems the mayor could have disbursed 95% of the funds to the TMD and 5% of the funds to the centennial committee.

I am skeptical the TMD makes a difference at all. They just release press releases justifying their waste of public funds and try to drum up public support for their existence. They should not be entitled to a public pension either.


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