Showdown Set for 2pm Monday City Council Meeting
By Doug Porter
The San Diego County Taxpayers Association has found a tax they like.
They have issued a “Call to Action” for their supporters to show up at City Hall on Monday for a scheduled hearing of the City Council where the 2% tax-that’s-not-a-tax being collected by local hotels is going to be discussed. The Center for Policy Initiatives (CPI) is rallying their people to support the Mayor’s decision not to sign off on the tax.
Reading their flyer, you’d almost think the Taxpayers Association had somehow morphed into a Union. Now this tax is all about jobs, jobs, and jobs.
Rather than voluntarily pool their own resources to fund tourism marketing for San Diego, our City’s hoteliers got together and decided to use the taxation powers of government to collect their funding directly from the consumer. That way they’d have a steady cash flow for advertising that wouldn’t impact their bottom line.
There was only one problem with this deal. California law requires news taxes to be approved by the voters. The hoteliers took their proposal to the voters twice and lost both times, using the same arguments about jobs and economic impact the Taxpayers Association is now making to rally their supporters.
With the support of a compliant City Council and former Mayor Sanders, the tourism folks contrived a means to go around the voters, calling the 2% surcharge on hotel bills a “fee” rather than a tax. This maneuver is being challenged in court.
After a trial run with this surcharge, the hoteliers renegotiated with the City last year, setting up a 39 year deal and expanding the tax-that’s-not-a-tax to include smaller hotels and inns. The resulting funds are dispensed via a committee appointed by the industry for such things as underwriting football events and the Rock n’ Roll Marathon, along with tradition media campaigns.
The Mayor of San Diego was required to sign off on this deal and, as luck would have it, the paperwork wasn’t completed in time for Jerry Sanders to sign on his way out the door.
San Diego newly elected Mayor Bob Filner took one look at the proposed deal and said ‘no way’. Although Filner offered to extend the current arrangement for two years while a compromise was worked out, the city’s tourism moguls have refused. Instead they are suing.
Fine. Let the courts sort this out. I’m pretty sure the deal won’t stand any judicial sniff test. It’s a rotten deal that amounts to nothing more than corporate welfare.
That’s not good enough for our local corporate welfare queens. They’ve engaged their proxies (in case you had any doubt the Taxpayers Association was a corporate shill) to storm City Hall and are undertaking a public relations effort to create the impression that, unless they get their way right now, San Diego’s economy will suffer.
Unfortunately for the hoteliers and their friends, the City’s Independent Budget Analyst weighed in yesterday with a report saying the impact of the Tourism Marketing District on city of San Diego hotel room tax revenue is difficult to quantify. The bottom line here is that the so-called economic statistics being tossed around by the hoteliers are not supported by actual facts.
You can read more of our coverage about the tax here.
UPDATED: The Center for Policy Initiatives is organizing people to come and stand up against the Hotel Owners at the City Council Hearing on Monday:
The Tourism Marketing District has been invited to make their case to the City Council at 2 pm Monday, and they have a slick presentation ready.
Hotel workers and CPI will be there with the facts. The hotels are profiting from San Diego’s location and from their employees’ hard work, and they don’t help the local economy by paying wages too low for people to live self-sufficiently.
Please contact Normita Rodriguez, NRodriguez@onlineCPI.org, if you can join us at 2 pm at City Hall, or you have questions. (And watch Normita on Channel 17 discussing how hotels’ low wages contribute to poverty in the region.)
Help us spread the word and bring more people out to support livable wages.
And, to steal a line from the Taxpayer Association’s Flyer:
Attend the City Council hearing and contact the Mayor and City Council in advance to let them know how important tourism is to you and why they should
continue to NOT support the TMD!