By Doug Porter
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s attempted to undercut Mayor Bob Filner’s questioning of the pending hotel tax-but-not-a-tax deal by staging a hastily called press conference yesterday afternoon. Things didn’t work out quite like Goldsmith hoped.
As Goldsmith stood before the assembled media questioning the legality of the Mayor’s proposals, Filner joined the audience, initially sitting in the back row.
After Goldsmith failed to answer a 10News reporter’s questions about whether the City Attorney had offered his legal advice to the Mayor, Filner hijacked the conference by answering “No”. The local media has played up the drama of the situation while largely ignoring (except for the Voice of San Diego) the real issues at stake.
Goldsmith’s intent was. I believe, part of a coordinated effort to bring pressure on Filner. Today’s UT-San Diego features an Op-Ed written by prominent local businessmen with ties to the tourism industry suggesting that holding up the deal made (but not signed off on) by former Mayor Sanders will negatively impact other tax collections. A ‘news’ story about the City Attorney’s opposition would have been a nice accompaniment, kind of like a baked potato with a steak.
Mayor Filner has questioned the legality of the 2% tax-but-not-a-tax being put in place for the next 39 years. From KBPS:
He wants four things: legal protection for the city if the hotel fee goes to court, a shorter tourism marketing district agreement, a requirement that downtown hotels pay their employees a living wage and a cut of the hotel fee for other city services.
So he’s not going to sign off. And the monies being collected will simply sit in a special account until a better deal can be made.
Follow the Money!
Goldsmith’s move was way more than simply a difference of opinion. It revealed his that his allegiances here are not with the City of San Diego, but rather with his campaign contributors. The City Attorney ran unopposed in his last campaign, but none-the-less raked in major cash from hoteliers and others with a large stake in this deal. From the SDReader:
In addition, registered city lobbyists on the payroll of California Strategies, the Sacramento-based influence peddling firm founded by the one-time top aide to GOP governor and mayor Pete Wilson Bob White, have given Goldsmith $3380. The wife of staffer Ben Haddad kicked in $500.
The firm’s Tom Blair, a former Union-Tribune columnist and ex-editor of San Diego Magazine, is now working for California Strategies and currently handling media for the Tourism Marketing District in its war with the mayor.
As reported here by Dorian Hargrove last month, Goldsmith has used cash from his campaign committee to help fund the GOP Lincoln Club ($15,900) and a Mitt Romney super PAC ($25,000), as well as for personal travel to Florida for last summer’s Republican convention, where he was an alternate Romney delegate, and to Las Vegas, Nevada.
Board members for the Tourism Marketing District, the legal entity set up to disperse the monies at stake here, are meeting Friday at the Bahia Hotel on Mission Bay, run by board member Bill Evans to organize and authorize a lawsuit against Filner and the City.
Mr. Goldsmith would normally be expected to defend the City of San Diego in this matter. His memo released at the press conference attacking the Mayor’s positions would seem to indicate a conflict of interest.
Something Stinks Here
Central to the attack on the Mayor’s contentions are the questions about whether the 2% surcharge is or is not a tax. The hoteliers (and Goldsmith) argue that since the monies collected are paid to the City’s Tourism Marketing District by hotels and that all the monies collected are spent to support tourism, this 2% is a fee.
This contention does not even begin to pass the sniff test. I’ll let VOSD’s Scott Lewis do the talking here, since it’s much more polite than anything I could say:
The very basic truth is that if your mom stays in a hotel room in San Diego and this stands, she will get a hotel bill that has all the taxes added on, including this 2 percent charge. The city attorney and hotels can tell her that she’s not actually paying it all they want. But she is.
Years ago, hotel industry representatives admitted that increasing this “fee” was effectively an increase to the hotel-room tax already in place and they discussed its potential effects on the market.
They decided consumers wouldn’t mind paying the tax.
And then they decided to claim that consumers actually weren’t the ones paying it.
Who’s the Bully Here?
Since the facts don’t seem to support their cause, the hoteliers and their friends down at the UT-San Diego have decided to focus on the drama in the case. Manchester’s minions on the UT editorial board have apparently decided that anytime anyone or anything stands up against the interests of their wealthy friends, the word ‘bully’ must be used. Hence the lede in today’s editorial:
The bullying, confrontational style of Mayor Bob Filner took center stage again Wednesday as he ramped up his running feud with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. The mayor’s conduct was beyond laughable. It is increasingly irresponsible and threatens to turn San Diego into a morass of dysfunction.
First, the term bully (normally used by the UT-SD to describe any contrary behavior by Unions) means, according to psychologists who study such things, a large disparity in power or strength. A big kid picking on a little kid. A group of kids harassing a lone child.
So we’re supposed to pity the poor little hotel lobby and their toady because the Mayor stood up to them? I don’t think so. It’s more like the Mayor representing us little people called the downtown bullies’ bluff.
Secondly, the City Attorney is subordinate to the Mayor, not the other way around. Goldsmith called his own press conference without consulting him, clearly an insubordinate move. Filner was 100% right to call him out.
Of course, the editors/owners at the UT-San Diego aren’t really so stupid that they don’t understand these things. They’re just so bitter over losing the last election that they’ll do just about anything to change the results.
I call it drumming up a Lynch mob. Pun intended.
Encinitas Parents Sue Over Yoga
The theocrats of the North County have parents whipped into a frenzy over a deal in the Encinitas School District whereby Yoga instruction has been, via private financing, replacing traditional physical education activities in schools.
Represented by the Escondido-based National Center for Law and Policy, a group of parents has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) seeking to end the Yoga program. From the suit:
“This is a civil rights action seeking relief against EUSD …for depriving petitioners and Plaintiffs J.S. and F.S. of establishedCalifornia constitutional and statutory rights by approving, implementing, expanding and refusing to suspend an inherently and pervasively religious Ashtanga Yoga curriculum to replace the majority of EUSD’s physical education program during the 2012-2013 school year. EUSD’s Ashtanga yoga program unlawfully promotes and advances religion, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and western metaphysics.”
Included among the heinous crimes involved in the school district’s brainwashing of children is teaching them the Lotus position “often used in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain meditation”.
This lawsuit is about more than a group of Christianist parents fighting against infidels. Indeed, as scholar Natalia Mehlman Petrzela points out in a recent essay, this isn’t simply a matter of the wrong deity; it’s part of an argument on the whole idea of wellness instruction.
As outside groups step in to fill curricular gaps and districts have fewer resources to shape these interventions, wellness programs are likely the next theater of battle in our ongoing but evolving educational culture wars…
Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, although the ultimate goal here seems to be dragging us back to the days when men were men and sheep were afraid.
Dolphins on Twitter? Not Yet
We might want to re-think the recent reports of large pods of dolphins being spotted off the California coast in light of new information. Maybe they’re trying to tell us something. Or organizing an attack. From Raw Story:
A study published Wednesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B explains that bottlenose dolphins have been observed calling one another by name, in a groundbreaking discovery that extends a behavior previously only seen in humans to a member of the animal kingdom.
Researchers have known for some time that dolphins have unique, individual whistles that identify themselves to fellow dolphins nearby, but what caught the ear of researcher Stephanie King, a research fellow at University of St. Andrews, was entirely new.
“Animals produced copies [of the unique whistles] when they were separated from a close associate and this supports our belief that dolphins copy another animal’s signature whistle when they want to reunite with that specific individual,” she told Discovery News.
A Fish Story That’s Not
A story in today’s Washington Post has bad news for seafood lovers. There’s a good chance you’re not getting what you paid for. And here in southern California it’s only a 50-50 proposition. From the Post:
If you order tuna at a D.C. restaurant, chances are half the time you’ll be getting another, less expensive fish in its place. But those odds are better than if you had wanted snapper. Testers nationwide found that 87 percent of the time, restaurants and grocery stores were selling something else under that label.
As much as one-third of seafood sold in restaurants and groceries is fraudulently labeled, according to a report the advocacy group Oceana released Thursday. The group sampled 674 retail outlets in the District and 20 states between 2010 and 2012, often finding cheaper, farmed fish being sold in place of wild-caught ones.
Ninety-five percent of the sushi restaurants, 52 percent of other restaurants and 27 percent of grocery stores surveyed sold mislabeled seafood. While academics, consumer groups and media outlets in the United States and elsewhere have scrutinized fish labeling before and found major errors, Oceana’s effort is one of the largest seafood investigations to date.
An accompanying chart showing regional results of the investigation indicates that 52% of the seafood being sold in Southern California is mis-labeled.
Why We Call Them Teahadists:
The ‘revelation’ in the conservative media alleging that Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel gave a paid speech to a group called “Friends of Hamas” came unraveled yesterday as a reporter for the New York Daily News explained how he inadvertently started the rumor while questioning a Republican aide:
In the process, I became part of an inadvertent demonstration of how quickly partisan agendas and the Internet can transform an obvious joke into a Washington talking point used by senators and presidential wannabes.
Hagel was in hot water for alleged hostility to Israel. So, I asked my source, had Hagel given a speech to, say, the “Junior League of Hezbollah, in France”? And: What about “Friends of Hamas”?
The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically. No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them.
So the deal on the right these days apparently is, if you can’t find a boogyman, just make one up. Smear, Rinse, Repeat. (And I don’t even like Hagel)
On This Day: 1958 – The first Flying V guitar, by Gibson, was shipped from a factory in Kalamazoo, MI. 1965 – Malcolm X was assassinated inNew York City at the age of 39 by assassins identified as Black Muslims. 1975 – Former U.S. Attorney General John N. Mitchell and former White House aides H.R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman were sentenced to 2 1/2 to 8 years in prison for their roles in the Watergate cover-up.
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.