By Doug Porter
So the Big Local News story today over at the UT-San Diego is that city’s hoteliers have decided to sue Mayor Bob Filner.
UPDATE: Mayor Filner vs City Attorney Goldsmith link here.
It seems as though our Mayor has decided not play nice with the hotels, refusing to sign off on a deal that would hand them more than $1 billion in tax revenues to do with as they see fit over the next four decades.
These ‘hospitality’ businesses decided to collect these taxes and allocate the money without involving local citizens. The logic behind this maneuver is that hotel taxes are paid by tourists, not locals, so voter approval is not required.
All this was done by our former mayor and a council scared to death of being labeled as ‘anti-business’. Our elected representatives don’t even get a say as to who sits on the board that doles out this money.
This marketing scheme was concocted to protect the tourism industry from the painful budget cuts faced by other government agencies in the wake of falling revenues triggered by the Great Recession brought on by the collapse of the real estate market. While city libraries cut back their hours and potholes went unfilled, the revenues collected via this little ‘extra’ room tax went untouched into the Great Snake Pit known as tourism marketing.
Should the grand wazoos of the grand hotels decide that floating a giant purple dildo-shaped airship over the harbor might encourage room nights, it will happen; taxpayer sensibilities be dammed. And never mind the mounting evidence that mass marketing plans of a more traditional nature are of minimal effectiveness.
The lure used to sell this grand idea was that old standby, ‘jobs’. Somehow tax monies handed back over to private developers generatedemployment, while tax dollars used to provide city services had no effect on the local economy other than to impose odious regulations like health inspections and building permits.
The reality is we’ve exchanged ‘jobs’. Higher paid government employment has declined while (mostly) low wage positions have been created. Mayor Filner realizes the genie is out of the bottle; government of necessity has become leaner. He’s asking for a little equity via a living wage guarantee for the people of San Diego.
And he’s asking for a fair deal, not one guaranteeing a marketing budget with no oversight for the next four decades. Think of it. That’s one hell of a deal. No executive in private industry would make that kind of budgetary promise to his own staff. But when it’s taxpayer dollars, the future is unlimited.
What this lawsuit plastered across the front of today’s newspaper amounts to -in a nutshell- is a ploy by the big players in the tourism industry figuratively saying, “We want our money. We stole it fair and square.”
The Anti-Obama Immigration Strategy
The howling from Republicans led by Sen. Rubio reacting to the leak of President Obama’s draft of immigration reform legislation has been near-deafening. And maybe they’re protesting just a little too much. That’s how Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post sees it, anyway:
The problem is that Republicans have spent years demonizing undocumented immigrants as a way of appealing to xenophobic, jingoistic sentiment. So how can members of Congress switch from “these people are a plague” to “these people are welcome to stay” without facing the ire of the party’s activist base?
Enter the president’s draft proposal, which administration officials described as a “backup” plan that Obama may put forward if Congress is not able to reach agreement.
So if the president really wants immigration reform to pass, one of the most helpful things he could do is put out his own plan as a decoy, to draw Republican fire, while the Senate works toward bipartisan consensus. Which looks suspiciously like what just happened.
On Freedom’s Front Line: Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement Speak Out
This coming Friday, February 22, the University of California San Diego Library will be hosting a panel discussion from Noon to 1:30pm including San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, a Freedom Rider, and other activists from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
This free public event is part of the UCSD Black History Month activities and will take place in the Seuss Room in Geisel Library on the UC San Diego campus. Seating is limited, so advance registration is requested: RSVP: http://bit.ly/
The panel discussion will be moderated by UC San Diego History Professor Daniel Widener and include:
James Garrett, an early activist in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, directed the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) offices in Watts and Hollywood (1965). As a student, he founded the first Black Student Union at San Francisco StateUniversity. A retired scholar and legal consultant who holds JD and PhD degrees, he continues to work in human rights organizing and advocacy.
Bob Filner, City of San Diego Mayor, was only an 18-year old student at Cornell University when he joined the Freedom Rides inNashville. In 1963, he was arrested in Mississippi on a Freedom Ride, and spent several weeks in the Mississippi State Penitentiary. After receiving his Ph.D. from Cornell in 1969, Filner moved to San Diego and embarked on a 20-year long teaching career at San Diego State University. Always the activist, he warned his students that their “grand” thoughts were futile unless they put them into action to help people and improve the world.
Dr. Carrol Waymon was the founder and first director of the Citizens Interracial Committee (CIC), San Diego’s first human relations agency. When Waymon came to San Diego in 1964, conditions in the city were so intolerant that he branded it the “Mississippi of the West.” Among his committee’s achievements: the removal of restricted covenants so that African Americans and other people of color could live anywhere they wanted in San Diego; and writing the first Equal Opportunity ordinances for the city and county, opening up opportunities for employment. In 2013, Waymon was named a San Diego Civil Rights Hero honoree.
The panel discussion coincides with the exhibit “Also There: Unsung Voices from the Crossroads of Freedom & Equality,” which is on display in the West Wing of Geisel Library through April 15. The exhibit celebrates the March on Washington and the stories of many of the organizers and participants in the Civil Rights Movement, many of whom aren’t always recognized in textbooks and in the dominant narratives about those turbulent times. (h/t UCSD News)
The War Over California’s Economy
The sore losers over at San Diego’s Lynchester news outlet continue to promulgate their view that the sky is falling. Today’s editorial, entitled “Does Brown really think California’s economy is ‘successful’?” stems from a comment made by a State official who had the audacity to say positive things about the Golden State to a UT-SD interviewer. Here’s the money quote:
So the Golden State has a “successful economy”? Really?
California is in its longest sustained stretch of high unemployment since the depression. Its jobless rate has been higher than 8 percent since September 2008. For 52 months, there have been at least 1.5 million people in this state actively seeking work who can’t find jobs. And those numbers don’t even reflect the “underemployed” – those with part-time jobs – and the hundreds of thousands of people who have given up looking for work. In January, the state’s unemployment rate was 9.8 percent, among the worst of any state and significantly higher than the national average of 7.9 percent.
Contrast this to a news story in the business section of today’s Washington Post, which includes multiple interviews with economists and experts. The article suggests that, despite the conventional wisdom about last fall’s tax increases stunting growth, the future is looking pretty good:
California has the largest state economy; if it were its own country, the state would rank among the world’s top 10. The state often fares worse in recessions than the rest of the nation, and the Great Recession fit the pattern. Housing prices collapsed in the Central Valley and Southern California’s Inland Empire, leaving hundreds of thousands of families in foreclosure and millions owing more on their mortgages than their homes were worth. The state lost more than a third of its construction jobs. Unemployment peaked above 12 percent.
Unemployment is still 9.8 percent in California, two percentage points above the national rate. But by all indications, the state economy has improved rapidly in the past year. California’s unemployment fell by 1.4 percentage points in 2012, compared with a 0.7-point drop for the country as a whole.
So either the State’s economic glass is half-empty or it’s half-full. What the Post article points out is that the threat to California’s economic engine could be increasing housing prices, an issue studiously ignored by our local newspaper that happens to be owned by a real estate developer.
The real motivation for UT-SD’s Brown-bashing is that the Governor took the aggressive step of ending redevelopment districts. The state’s Developer Welfare Queens are no longer given free lunch at a taxpayer funded all-you-can-eat buffet where they had been hogging up on funds that should have been spent on our school children. This has earned the current administration the lifelong enmity of the San Diego Real Estate Mafia. That, and the fact they’re Democrats. (h/t Wake Robin for the ‘Developer Queen’ moniker)
Why We Call Them Teahadists
As with many religions, political parties have a tendency to start as a movement, transform into a business, and finally degenerate into a racket designed to fleece the yokels. One organization which has gone out of its way to illustrate this evolution is the Republican Party. And it has done so with a national scope and fundraising apparatus that would have made Jimmy Swaggart or Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker mute with awe.
By “Republican Party” I mean both the formal party and its extended apparat: talk radio and the Fox News empire, pressure groups like the Family Research Council, allegedly “educational” 501(c)3 organizations like the Heritage Foundation, direct mail outfits descended from the original Richard Viguerie mother ship, polling firms like Rasmussen’s, and the Tea Party itself (the latter nevertheless asserts its non-affiliation with the GOP despite its having sponsored the Florida Republican presidential candidates’ debate in 2011).
True believers in this multi-faceted scam are usually careful to make a (false) distinction between the institutional GOP and the so-called conservative movement. The Republican Party and its grandees, according to this fable, are not “true conservatives.” By 2008, the operatives of the racket were already saying this about George W. Bush, but that assessment required them to perform the mental gymnastics of forgetting that only a few years earlier, they were eager to nominate Dubbya to the next available vacancy in the Trinity.
Sympathy for the Racist Baby Slapper
There’s a Reuters story in today’s paper that manages to turn an ugly incident on its head. Here’s the lede:
A lawyer for a man fired from his job after being accused of slapping a baby and using a racial slur on an airplane denied on Monday he was a racist and said she was getting hate mail over the assault case.
For those of you who need catching up on this story, a defense industry executive on an Delta Air Lines flight landing in Atlanta slapped a 19 month old black child who was crying, telling the mother to “shut that (N-word) baby up”.
Charges were filed against Joe Hundley, 60, in Federal Court charging him with assault. His company, ACG Aerospace & Defense, dismissed him from his position as a division president.
So now the “news” is that his lawyer got some angry mail. Duh, go figure.
You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up
From the Los Angeles Times:
A Senate Republican leader has proposed eliminating limits on campaign contributions to state candidates, arguing the restrictions are ineffective.
Sen. Ted Gaines, chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus, introduced legislation to repeal major portions of the Political Reform Act of 1974 that put a $4,100 limit on contributions by individuals to candidates for the legislature and a $27,000 limit on contributions to candidates for governor.
The measure would have to be acted on by the state voters.
As part of our ‘grassroots news’ mission here at the San Diego Free Press we’re going to start expanding our neighborhood coverage in the coming weeks. And all you hipsters in North Park are first in line as we launch this grand plan, so expect to see us in our SD Free Press tee shirts prowling around. (Other neighborhoods shouldn’t be jealous, we’re headed your way as the year moves along.) So if you live or work in North Park and would like to pen a neighborhood-centric essay, drop us a line. Contact@SanDiegoFreePress.org
On This Day: 1953 - The State of Georgia approved the first literature censorship board in the U.S. Newspapers were excluded from the new legislation. 1986 - The U.S. Senate approved a treaty outlawing genocide. The pact had been submitted 37 years earlier for ratification. 2003 - In West Warwick, RI, 99 people were killed when fire destroyed the nightclub The Station. The fire started with sparks from a pyrotechnic display being used by Great White. Ty Longley, guitarist for Great White, was one of the victims in the fire.
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