By Doug Porter
Nothing will be decided at today’s hearing before the San Diego City Council (2pm) about the Tourism Marketing District funding. And that’s somehow appropriate; given that the whole battle over Mayor Bob Filner’s refusal to sign off on authorization of a 39 year deal is really nothing more than a proxy battle for a much bigger conflict.
At the bottom of all this is the inability of the city’s ‘downtown crowd’ to live with last fall’s election of Filner, who’s proven true to his word thus far about not continuing to do business as usual in San Diego.
A highly placed source in the local political scene told me yesterday, “The decision has already been made. There will be a recall election in 2014.” As much as I’d like to characterize this as a partisan row, I can’t ignore the signs that this is more about economics than party loyalty. (More on this later, I promise.)
Leading the charge in the war against Filner, however, are the hyper-partisan advocates of economics interests over democracy at the UT-San Diego. In the slightly less than three months since inauguration day, that’s paper’s editorial board has penned no less than a dozen missives aimed at the Mayor, ranging from flippant to outraged in tenor.
This week’s addition to their arsenal is a much ballyhooed poll commissioned by their ‘news partners’ over Survey USA/Channel 10 claiming that 47 percent of the 500 adults polled said they disapprove of Filner’s performance thus far, while 40 percent approve. The survey was taken one day after a confrontation between the Mayor and City Attorney generated sensational news coverage more focused on the drama than the substance of the situation.
In the week following the dust-up between then-candidate Filner and challenger Carl DeMaio last August following acts of vandalism in Balboa Park a similar poll by the same outfit was reported by the paper, claiming that “Fifteen percent of respondents said they are switching their vote from Filner to City Councilman Carl DeMaio”. Later in the campaign, the paper went so far as to commission a poll (excluding City employees) that asserted DeMaio had a huge lead in the race for Mayor.
Today’s Proxy Battle Details
The San Diego County Taxpayer’s Association issued a “Call to Action” for their supporters to show up at City Hall over the weekend to support the downtown crowd’s efforts to get the City to act as collection agent for a 2% tax-that’s-not-a-tax ‘fee’ imposed on hotel room charges.
The San Diego Tourism Authority website has a page up that pretty much sums up the arguments that the “pro-fee” people will make today. It’s all about the jobs, they say.
They have some just amazing hospitality industry ‘facts’, like the claim that tipped employees average nearly $29 per hour in wages and non-tipped employees are pulling in $16.66 hourly. (Tell that to the maids at the DoubleTree who make $8 an hour). And—Sky is falling warning!—each household in San Diego will have to shell out more than an additional $1000 annually in taxes should the tourism industry go away. (h/t Susan Bruinzeel)
What the Mayor is talking about here is NOT the end of tourism in San Diego. He even offered to give the Tourism Marketing District a two-year extension on their current deal. Filner has been trying to negotiate with these folks since November, and they’ve taken the position that it’s all or nothing.
And, as to their facts, there’s the Friday Independent Budget Analyst office reporte that impact of the Tourism Marketing District on city of San Diego hotel room tax revenue is difficult to quantify, according to KPBS:
TMD supporters, including hoteliers and some City Council members, say it is a vital part of marketing to prospective tourists — and when more visitors come to the region, lodging houses and the city earn extra money.
But the IBA report said there is no way to account for how much the TMD accounts for the city’s room tax revenue, known in government parlance as the Transient Occupancy Tax, or TOT.
The Center for Policy Initiatives (CPI) is also organizing people. They sponsored a letter writing campaign (story here) is support of the Mayor and have emailed their supporters, urging them to show up at today’s hearing. From CPI:
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.
(I’ll be there at City Hall today and will update if anything interesting happens.)
A Majority of Hoteliers Actually Opposed the Fee
It would appear as though not even a majority of the hoteliers support the 2% tax-that’s-not-a-tax. Reporter Dorian Hargrove at the SD Readerwaded through 84 of the 87 pages in a document from the City Clerk’s office to discover that a majority of San Diego’s hotel operators voted against the fee:
According to a document from the City Clerk’s office, out of the 1,379 ballots sent out, only 355 were returned. Of those 355, 127 approved the two percent assessment on hotel guests while 218 voted against it. The contract was approved due to the fact that the vote is weighted by the size of the hotels. By that math, the vote passed 94 percent to six percent.
That’s the Golden Rule for you, isn’t it? As in ‘them that owns the gold makes the rules’.
Hotel Workers to File Lawsuit
Hotel workers and the union that represents them, UNITE-HERE Local 30, will announce a lawsuit against the City of San Diego challenging the legality of the Tourism Marketing District tax at a press conference outside City Hall just prior to today’s City Council hearing. From the press release, received just as I was getting ready to hit the ‘publish’ button:
The Center on Policy Initiatives also will discuss the risks to taxpayers and city residents of turning over $30 million a year in tax revenue to hotel owners, and of the hotels’ refusal to act as responsible employers. Tourism has the lowest median wages among major industries in San Diego County, creating a drain on the local economy, CPI research shows.
Study Offers Proof About Mediterranean Diet
While there’s been plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that a Mediterranean style diet might be healthier for our hearts, actual studies backing that assertion up have been in short supply. Today’s New York Times says the results of one large scale effort are encouraging:
About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study found.
Heart disease experts said the study was a triumph because it showed that a diet is powerful in reducing heart disease risk, and it did so using the most rigorous methods. Scientists randomly assigned 7,447 people in Spain who were overweight, were smokers, had diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease to follow the Mediterranean diet or a low-fat one.
Low-fat diets have not been shown in any rigorous way to be helpful, and they are also very hard for patients to maintain — a reality born out in the new study, said Dr. Steven E. Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
“Now along comes this group and does a gigantic study in Spain that says you can eat a nicely balanced diet with fruits and vegetables and olive oil and lower heart disease by 30 percent,” he said. “And you can actually enjoy life.”
California GOP Candidates (Desperately)Wanted
There was a column in the Los Angeles Times this weekend detailing the rather sad state of affairs of the Republican Party in California:
The Republican Party has become so pathetic in California that it can’t even find a candidate to run for governor next year.
Republicans will hold a state convention next weekend in Sacramento. Normally, there’d be a parade of gubernatorial wannabes fighting for the mike and opening up hospitality suites during the silly hours. But not this time.
This convention apparently will have all the excitement of a Saturday at the dump. The big event will be the election of a former Republican legislative leader, Jim Brulte, as the new state chairman.
But fear not. There is one Republican who has declared interest in the Governor’s race:
…Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of San Bernardino County. He’s a former Minuteman who rails against illegal immigration and was placed on probation for trying to bring a loaded firearm onto an airplane. He called it an “honest mistake.”
Why We Call Them Teahadists
On cue, wingnut heads exploded when First Lady Michelle Obama appeared live from the White House to present the Academy Award for Best Picture.
“Flotus Interruptus,” the headline at Breitbart cheekily announced, “Obamas Hijack the Oscars.” Yes, just like terrorists according to Breitbart, the Obamas hijacked the Oscars! Here, Christian Toto called the First Lady’s appearance “an unprecedented cultural power grab by the Obamas, almost daring conservative viewers to adore her as much as progressives already do.” Come on, conservative viewers – you know you want to!
The headline at Glenn Beck’s The Blaze screamed: “Oh My God: Yes — The Oscars Really Did Have Michelle Obama Present the Best Picture Honors.” Why, yes they really did!
Frustrated tweets from right-wingnuts across This Great Land of Ours may be enjoyed at The New Civil Rights Movement. “Are you still watching communist propaganda a.k.a. Oscars?” one person calling himself John Galt tweets, “Obama & his gang of parasites is about to merge with terrorists.”
SDFree Press Calendar Up and Running
Thanks to the efforts of Brent Beltrán, the San Diego Free Press now has an on-line calendar of events. You can see events in the arts, performances and political gatherings of every persuasion by clicking on the ‘Calendar’ Tab at the top of the page. To get your event listed, drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
Book Signing: Helvarg’s in Town
David Helvarg’s new book, ‘The Golden Shore – California‘s Love Affair with the Sea’ was released by St. Martin’s Press last week to glowing reviews. It is the story of how the Pacific defines California and how Californians have learned to live well with their ocean and coast. A one-time contributor on the local alt-press scene, David will be in San Diego this week where he’ll be stopping to give a talk on his book tour. It will take place at the Birch Aquarium this Tuesday, February 26 at 6 pm. (h/t Denny Doyle) Here’s a link to our interview with Helvarg last week.
North Park Alert!
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: 1793 – The department heads of the U.S. government met with President Washington for the first Cabinet meeting on record. 1913 – The 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. It authorized a graduated income tax. 1952 – The first musical choreography score was copyrighted. It was Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate”.
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