By Doug Porter
There are cracks emerging in the GOP social issues bulwark over the issue of gay marriage. The New York Times is up with a story this morning about 75 prominent Republicans who have signed on to a legal brief arguing that gay people have a constitutional right to marry.
The Times calls this move “a position that amounts to a direct challenge to Speaker John A. Boehner and reflects the civil war in the party since the November election.”
The Supreme Court, which unexpectedly agreed to hear an appeal over California’s Proposition 8 and another case that challenges the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, is currently receiving briefs and rebuttals. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 26th, and a decision is expected in late June.
From the Times:
Legal analysts said the brief had the potential to sway conservative justices as much for the prominent names attached to it as for its legal arguments. The list of signers includes a string of Republican officials and influential thinkers — 75 as of Monday evening — who are not ordinarily associated with gay rights advocacy, including some who are speaking out for the first time and others who have changed their previous positions.
Among them are Meg Whitman, who supported Proposition 8 when she ran for California governor; Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Richard Hanna of New York; Stephen J. Hadley, a Bush national security adviser; Carlos Gutierrez, a commerce secretary to Mr. Bush; James B. Comey, a top Bush Justice Department official; David A. Stockman, President Ronald Reagan’s first budget director; and Deborah Pryce, a former member of the House Republican leadership from Ohio who is retired from Congress.
Ms. Pryce said Monday: “Like a lot of the country, my views have evolved on this from the first day I set foot in Congress. I think it’s just the right thing, and I think it’s on solid legal footing, too.”
It should be noted, however, that none of the most prominent Republican signatories are actually in office. The anti-gay National Organization for Marriage has vowed to oppose any elected Republican who supports marriage equality.
Filner Continues to Upset Local Applecarts
Reacting to an account in the UT-San Diego saying that SANDAG, the regional agency that directs transportation projects, is seeking bids that would entail spending up to $40 million with outside public relations firms, Mayor Bob Filner raised hell at last Friday’s board meeting.
Calling the proposals a disgrace and an embarrassment, the Mayor objected to the fact that the contracts were being approved by SANDAG staff, bypassing the board.
As has happened with other situations where Filner has challenged the status quo, senior board members at first tried to ignore the Mayor, then proceeded to try and belittle him when he refused to play nice. From the UT-San Diego account this morning:
The board took no action on Filner’s request for board intervention on the PR contracts — prompting Filner to say he was being ignored.
“What happens to my request?” he repeated several times. “Can I put this on an agenda?”
Lemon Grove Mayor Mary Sessom, noting her board service dating back to 1996, accused Filner of getting bogged down in minutia and referred him to the organization’s bylaws. “It will help you a lot,” Sessom said.
Filner said he appreciated the advice, but added, “These are not minutia. These are important policy issues. I don’t need to be patronized by someone who’s been here since 1996. I can tell you I’ve been in politics since 1979. I won’t patronize you that way. So do not call my issues minutia. Do not patronize me that I don’t know anything that’s going on here.”
So much status quo. So little time.
Lawsuits Promised Over Tourism Tax
The scene at the City Council yesterday was tumultuous as over 300 supporters and opponents of the 39 year tourism marketing funding deal between the City and the Hotel industry turned out for an ‘informational’ hearing.
The tourism industry, abetted by an “alert” from the San Diego County Taxpayer’s Association, turned out troops in support of its contention that Mayor Filner’s failure to approve the deal would lead to job losses.
They were very organized, showing the Council a power point presentation along with ads produced by tourism marketing outfits for Los Angeles and Las Vegas. These ads were portrayed along side a video screen full of static, representing what would happen if San Diego’s program doesn’t get funded.
The hotel people brought in a dozen or so employees in uniform, who met outside on the Concourse prior to the hearing so the half dozen assembled managers could tell them why they were brought down. It was pretty clear they were just pawns.
The anti-people weren’t nearly as organized. Their representative hotel employees were their before the leaders arrived. Nobody had to tell them why they were there. None-the-less Councilwoman Lori Zapf denounced them as pawns.
Brigette Browning, president of UNITE-HERE Local 30 appeared at a press conference prior to the Council meeting to announce a lawsuit asking the Superior Court to ‘immediately halt implementation of, and command the City to rescind, a resolution renewing the Tourism Marketing District (TMD) and the Tourism Marketing Tax.’
The suit argues that the 2% tax that funds the TMD is illegal because it was enacted without a vote of the people, in violation of the California Constitution and state law.
“The TMD tax is illegal, and it makes no sense,” said Browning, “What’s next? Will shoppers have to pay an extra tax to fund Walmart advertising because additional business for Walmart brings sales taxes and more poverty jobs to the city?”
Later on San Diegans for Open Government warned of additional lawsuits against the Tourism Marketing District’s board of directors personally to recoup any legal expenses accrued in its suit against Mayor Bob Filner and the City of San Diego.
The TMD group filed suit last week after the Mayor refused to sign off on releasing funds accrued under the terms of deal negotiated by his predecessor. Since the group is officially city-backed, the question of where it’s getting funding for this lawsuit is germane.
Attorney Cory Briggs letter on behalf of the Open Government group makes their case pretty clearly:
In short, the District has no legal authority to spend money it has received in connection with either plan to fund litigation concerning the assessment’s validity or Mayor Filner’s refusal to perpetuate the illegal taxing scheme. If my client learns that the District is so spending such money, please be prepared to defend yourself and repay the money to the City personally.” (h/t Dorian Hargrove, SD Reader)
The City Council is meeting in closed session today to discuss their legal options. City attorney Jan Goldsmith admitted yesterday that the tourism tax-that’s-not-a-tax is in a “grey area” legally. There are reports the Council may be seeking a way around Mayor Filner’s refusal to sign off on the deal. Anyway you cut it, the city’s Tourism Marketing District is proving to be an economic stimulus plan for lawyers locally.
Next Up in Sacramento: Reforming CEQA
Environmentalists and labor groups are concerned about proposals moving to center stage in Sacramento that will loosen restrictions imposed by California’s 43 year old Environmental Quality Act, better known as CEQA.
Legislation was introduced yesterday by state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, following state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento announcement on Friday on the framework of a reform that he backs.
Governor Brown is reportedly ready to take on some of his core supporters on this issue as he seeks to loosen the stringent requirements of CEQA. From today’s San Francisco Chronicle:
But some analysts and observers say they are trying to predict how radically Brown will change the environmental law. His positions on the environmental law have evolved during a political career that is slightly older than the law itself.
Brown was the infant law’s fierce defender during his first stint as governor from 1975 to 1983. He sought exemptions to it as mayor of Oakland from 1999 to 2007 and enforced it vigorously to enact climate change protections as state attorney general from 2007 to 2011.
In his third term as governor, the 74-year-old former seminarian calls reforming CEQA “the Lord’s work.”
About Those High Paying Tourism Jobs…
The local tourism cheering squad has been very vocal over the past week, spouting facts and figures they think makes their case about the good work their industry does for San Diego. Where do they get their figures, saying things like tipped employees making $29 and non-tipped employees $16 an hour? It turns out they’re using survey data from the local restaurant association.
If you look at the census data for the industry, the picture looks quite different. Let’s go back to an article posted in Voice of San Diego by economist Murtaza Baxamusa last year:
Yet since 1990, for every high-paid worker, the region has created 24 low-paid workers.
Needless to say, those jobs are mostly in the ‘hospitality’ industry. And from a different article (again VOSD, same author):
To compound the problem of lower wages, the cost of living in San Diego is quite high. The recession and subsequent downturn of housing prices has significantly lowered the relative cost of living in San Diego. Nevertheless, when adjusted for the cost of living, the average wage inSan Diego is the second lowest among 20 largest metropolitan regions in the nation.
The result of lower real wages is that San Diego has one of the lowest household incomes in the nation, when adjusted for the cost of living. The recession has further exacerbated economic hardship and spread poverty in neighborhoods throughout the region. The good news is that there is a strong competitiveness of the region in attracting professional, scientific, and technical service jobs, as well as management jobs. At the same time, there is a strong counter-current of low wage jobs in tourism and retail.
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: email@example.com
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: 1933 – A ground-breaking ceremony was held at Crissy Field for the Golden Gate Bridge. 1954 – A U.S. Congresswoman introduced a bill to prohibit the distribution of “obscene, lewd, lascivious or filthy” recordings. 1998 – A Texas jury rejected an $11 million lawsuit by cattlemen who blamed Oprah Winfrey for price drop after on-air comment about mad-cow disease.
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 toDougPorter@