San Diego City Council Resurrects Measure C – Defeated at the Ballot Box – in Order to Expand Convention Center, Long Sought by Establishment

by on April 7, 2021 · 9 comments

in Election, San Diego

On Tuesday, the San Diego City Council resurrected the local establishment’s long-sought expansion of the convention center, by declaring that Measure C – the hike to the city’s hotel tax to enlarge the center defeated by the voters of San Diego – actually was passed. The measure needed two-thirds of the vote but only garnered 65.24 per cent.

But, business writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune, Lori Weisberg, reflecting the general attitude of the council majority, said the measure only “technically failed.” Is that like saying ‘Joe Biden only technically won’? Tax hike measures need that two-thirds. Until now, it appears.  Weisberg explains:

… there have been three appellate court decisions concluding that simple majority approval is adequate when a tax hike is placed on the ballot by citizens, which was the case with Measure C. The state Supreme Court has so far denied review in two of those cases, which is seen as an encouraging sign for Measure C backers. A third case is awaiting the high court’s review.

Buoyed by those rulings, the council agreed Tuesday to officially declare that the ballot measure was approved in the March 3 election last year and to have City Attorney Mara Elliott’s office file what’s known as a validation lawsuit to legally confirm whether the measure did or did not pass. The council also approved a resolution authorizing the future issuance of bonds for the convention center expansion and homeless programs. No bonds, though, would be issued nor would any increased hotel taxes be collected until there is a favorable ruling in the city’s validation lawsuit.

Not everyone was happy with the council vote. At least one councilmember was highly critical of the decision and believes it’s sending the wrong message to the electorate by changing the voters’ decision when they were advised a year ago that if Measure C was going to pass, it needed two-thirds majority – which it did not receive. Newly-elected Councilmembr Elo-Rivera said:

“My vote today is about the integrity of our democratic process. Today’s vote is not about the merits of Measure C. It’s not about expanding the convention center, or creating good-paying jobs or funding homelessness and infrastructure. Those are attractive red herrings … For the city to certify that the measure passed despite not reaching a threshold we communicated to the voters is a disappointing and unnecessary loosening of our commitment to maintain the purity of the city’s democratic process.”

The council vote was voter manipulation, said Andrea Guerrero, executive director of Alliance San Diego.

“In elections, close enough is not good enough. The question before you is not about whether Measure C is a good measure or a bad measure but do you have the authority to act beyond your ministerial duty to change the outcome of the election, and you do not. Voters decide elections, not the City Council.”

Here is the link to Lori Weisberg’s article at the San Diego Union-Tribune from April 6, 2021.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar DrTom April 7, 2021 at 12:46 pm

At the time of the election, two-thirds majority was required and not attained. It does not seem fair that now the City Council changes the rules to suit themselves. This is just very obviously not fair and is a bad ruling.


Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie April 7, 2021 at 12:56 pm

Can’t disagree wit ya, Tom.


Avatar Geoff Page April 7, 2021 at 1:45 pm

I’ll go way beyond not fair, this is criminal. And our new mayor and Campbell both agreed with this. I hope to hell the courts put a boot up both their asses on this one.


Avatar DrTom April 8, 2021 at 3:25 pm

Yes Geoff, I agree with you, and wish I’d said what you said. Thanks.


Avatar Kevin Harris April 8, 2021 at 1:28 pm

A few years ago I was actually an employee there, if the good citizens of San Diego actually knew what I saw, they would collectively push the convention center into the bay. The number of employees collecting $100,000 salaries was beyond belief, and no one was accountable,
Hi, is X in today, oh, no sure, ok, is he off today or what, not sure, ok, will he be in tomorrow, not sure, multiple that by a dozen or two, I was at a high level meeting with a dozen of the higher-ups, and I suggested that in the main office an in/out board be posted with names so we knew who was there or not, total silence, I said its a little frustrating not knowing who is at work on a daily basis, and if they are coming in late, not coming in, sick, on vacation or what, no answer, ok, how many lay-offs of upper management occured over the last year with zero business there? Want to guess?
I hopped over to the Marriott next door, every morning, all department heads met at 8am sharp, you would not dare not show up on time, ever, if another dept head called you, you had 30 minutes to return the call, period,
If there was an all hands on deck meeting at the convention center, out of 25 people expected to attend 5 or 6 might show up,
Maybe it’s a private v. public job thing? not sure, but in a business meeting with the convention center management, we alway’s ate there lunch (or better yet, the taxpayers lunch)


Avatar kh April 8, 2021 at 2:11 pm

I voted in favor of measure C and still find this maneuver to be an insult to the democratic process.


Avatar Geoff Page April 8, 2021 at 2:49 pm

That should be the exact sentiment for people on both sides of Measure C. It’s a momentary high for the proponents of Measure C, with a miserable hangover. Everyone should speak out about this.


Avatar DrTom April 8, 2021 at 3:27 pm

This tells us a lot about our Major and City council. Impeach all of them, who voted for this.


Avatar Paul Webb April 11, 2021 at 12:23 pm

One other thing that has not been brought up, possibly because it is something of a digression, but the use of the convention center as a homeless shelter was a complete rip-off of public funds. By my calculations, the cost per person per day was $262 over the course of its use. Other homeless shelters run by non-profits run in the $60 to $75 a day range. True there were some additional services at the convention center, but, really? Four to five times the cost?

What we were seeing was not a humanitarian effort to house the homeless during the pandemic. It was a thinly veiled attempt to financially prop up the convention center corporation during a time of no conventions. It it were reported openly as such, I might not have as much of a problem, but I dislike the lack of candor on the part of the city. I know, silly me, expecting transparency from our city leaders!

By the way, does anybody know if the convention center is still pumping water from the foundations and discharging it into the bay?


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