By Doug Porter
City Councilman Kevin Falconer called for public hearings yesterday to placate the City’s hotel industry, which is growing increasingly panicky over Mayor Bob Filner’s refusal to release funding generated by a hotel room surcharge of 2 percent to finance the Tourism Authority.
“Jobs”, “Police”, “Potholes” whined Falconer, desperate for a buzzword that would play well in the evening’s TV newscasts.
From this morning’s UT-San Diego:
“Every day that goes by San Diego is losing potential tourism tax revenue that we can use to fill potholes and hire more police officers,” Faulconer said in an interview. “Shutting off those funds will hurt one of our most important industries and cost us jobs. I want to ensure that all of the council and the public know the cost of the mayor’s inaction. There’s no excuse for this inaction.”
No excuse, Kevin? Really?
How about the probability that the two per cent tax funding this program will be declared illegal?
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s novel interpretations of the law have already failed the citizens of San Diego twice recently (Balboa Park & the Pension Reform mess). Is it really such a good idea to expose the City’s budget to the damage that could be caused by having to refund all the taxes collected?
There are already lawsuits making their way through the courts challenging the legality of the hotel surcharge, which was imposed using a questionable loophole to avoid voter input as required by law. Again, from this morning’s paper:
Attorney Cory Briggs, who is handling one of the lawsuits on behalf of San Diegans for Open Government, has written a letter to Filner urging him not to sign the agreement.
He argues that if he were to prevail in the lawsuit and the marketing district revenues had already been spent, the city would have to repay the hoteliers out of the general fund.
“By signing the contract now and allowing (the marketing district) to begin spending money before a judge has ruled in the lawsuits is an outrageous gamble with taxpayer resources,” Briggs said.
The long tradition of vested interests in San Diego being able to run roughshod over legal niceties appears to be coming to an end, thanks to Mayor Filner.
It can’t be easy. And I’ll wager that before the year is out these interests will seriously attempt to find a way to make recalling the Mayor an issue.
Me, I’m hoping for the Trifecta. I see the courts throwing this whole tax deal out.
If the hoteliers really need this money, let them collect voluntary contributions amongst themselves. This whole business of ‘dedicated’ taxes has turned into a boondoggle that benefits the few at the expense of the many.
The San Onofre Debacle Continues
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to release a report later today confirming charges made last month by Senator Boxer and Representative Markey that Southern California Edison was aware of serious problems prior to the installation of four generators made by Mitsubishi prior to their installation.
From Voice of OC:
As recently as last month, Edison officials told the NRC there was no advanced warning of those problems when the $15-billion utility giant analyzed the generators’ safety risks.
“The adverse condition that later resulted in a tube leak was a deficiency associated with the design and was not known at the time the 50.59 evaluation was performed,” Edison wrote in a Jan. 9 letter to federal regulators.
The utility was responding to a formal request submitted to the NRC’s Petition Review Board from the environmental group Friends of the Earth seeking a rigorous license amendment process before Edison can restart the plant.
The report, generated within Mitsubishi, has thus far been kept secret because of NRC claims that it contained proprietary information. The NRC has reversed an earlier position that there were no plans to make the information public, telling Mitsubshi to redact sensitive data by today.
Apparently there has been an “expansive investigation” quietly going on at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission since last September, leading to speculation that criminal charges may emerge.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will be holding a public hearing next Thursday (Feb. 21) in Costa Mesa as it considers whether electricity customers should continue paying more than $50 million per month for running the idled nuclear power plant.
The CPUC rejected a complaint yesterday by the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility alleging Southern California Edison misled investors and regulators by over-inflating the cost of replacement steam generators. The commission declined to rule on the matter, saying that it does not have jurisdiction over securities laws or complaints of false claims and unfair competition.
The Associated Press is reporting that the government is considering changing requirements set last year to restart the San Onofre plant, setting up yet another potential hurdle for returning the troubled plant to service.
And last, but not least, the UT-San Diego has this story up today:
… investment banking firm Jeffries downgraded its rating of Edison stock based on concerns that nuclear safety regulators may delay approval of a restart plan at the plant in northern San Diego County.
“We are downgrading Edison International … on concerns that the NRC will significantly delay the restart of San Onofre Unit 2 and may find (Edison) at fault in their investigation into the completeness and accuracy of information that (Edison) provided to the NRC regarding the San Onofre steam generators,” the Jeffries report said.
The developments “heighten the company’s exposure to regulatory disallowances” in a state investigation into whether utility customers deserve a bill reduction or rebate on plant costs, the firm said.
All in all, I’d say it’s not a good time to be associated with the San Onofre power plant.
Senator McGrumpy on the Nominee for Secretary of Defense
Here’s a little ditty about just how bad things are in Washington DC. From Jed Lewison:
Yesterday, Senate Republicans blocked a vote on former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be secretary of defense, marking the first time in American history that any nominee for defense secretary has been filibustered. But don’t worry, they had a very good reason to launch their historic act of destructive obstruction. Sen. John McCain, please take it away:
It goes back to there’s a lot of ill will towards Senator Hagel because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly and said he was the worst President since Herbert Hoover and said the surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War, which was nonsense. He was anti-his own party and people — people don’t forget that.
But wait! There’s more! Weren’t there questions about Benghazi the Senator claimed the White House had not answered? Why yes, there were. From Buzzfeed:
“I have not received the letter,” McCain told CNN Thursday morning. “They sent the letter to Sen. Levin. It was Sen Graham and I and Ayotte that asked for an answer. We haven’t received an answer.”
In the interview, he said the letter’s delay was a chief reason he was holding up a vote on Hagel’s nomination.
“I have to receive a letter, I have to receive a letter, see whether I receive a letter or not, and there are other questions that other senators have raised which are not answered as well,” McCain told CNN.
BUT… Back to Daily Kos:
So McCain said he was upset that Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) had received a letter with answers to his questions, but that he hadn’t received it. Fair enough, except the thing is, McCain actually had received the letter—the very same letter that had been sent to Sen. Levin. The only catch: McCain had been cc’d.
The White House responded to McCain’s concern by sending the exact same letter it had already sent to him, but this time it put him on the “To:” line and cc’d Levin. Problem solved, right? Sure, except by Thursday afternoon McCain had decided the reason Republicans were filibustering Hagel is that they are bitter about him saying they were wrong to support George W. Bush and Iraq.
Headline of the Day
The Sky Was Falling
Because there was no coverage in today’s LA Times or UT-San Diego of this, I feel obliged to post this compilation video of the meteor ‘event’ in Russia last night. Reports have as many 1000 people injured, mostly by flying glass caused by windows being shattered by a meteorite as it slammed into atmosphere at hypersonic speeds, breaking up at 32,000 feet. Fragments from the meteor did damage a building housing a ‘zinc factory’, whatever that is. And does everybody in Russia have a dashboard cam?
On This Day: 1898 – The USS Maine sank when it exploded in Havana Harbor for unknown reasons. More than 260 crew members were killed.1941 – Duke Ellington and his orchestra recorded “Take the “A” Train” for the first time. 1989 – After nine years of intervention, the Soviet Union announced that the remainder of its troops had left Afghanistan.
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