City Council likely to amend resolution to nullify judge’s ruling
Last Friday Judge Timothy Taylor affirmed his tentative ruling in favor of Mayor Bob Filner in the Tourism Marketing District’s suit against him personally, determining that the Mayor was not in fact obligated to sign a contract negotiated by the City Council and previous mayor. The language in the resolution authorizing the city to enter into an operating agreement with the Tourism and Marketing Authority, Taylor found, allowed the Mayor to sign an agreement, but did not mandate that he sign this agreement.
There is one caveat, however: The judge will entertain another hearing should the City Council see fit to revise its resolution and close the loophole and instead require Filner to sign the contract in front of him. The City Council was due to take up the matter in closed session last week, but tabled it until after Friday’s court hearing. They are now slated to discuss it Tuesday.
Taylor’s ruling, in other words, is not the end of it. Instead of heading back to the negotiating table and perhaps considering Filner’s counteroffer or some other compromise position, we’re likely headed back to the courtroom.
This is not how city government is supposed to operate.
Shortly after the ruling was announced, I reached out to several members of the City Council to get their reaction, and to see if maybe it was possible to see the two sides work together for once. Of the five members contacted, only two responded.
Council President Todd Gloria’s spokeswoman Katie Keach sent along this terse reply: “The item has already been docketed for Tuesday, March 26. The Council President has no comment until then.”
So much for the spirit of cooperation. I mean, the voters did pretty overwhelmingly select Bob Filner as their mayor, so it stands to reason that they’d like to see the City Council at least try to work with him.
For her part, Marti Emerald is standing firm with Filner. “I think the Mayor is right on here. He is looking out for the best interests of the city,” she said in a phone interview, saying that the judge’s ruling was the right one. “It’s time to sit down with the Mayor and take him seriously.”
Emerald says that she supports the proposal that the Mayor has offered as an alternative. “It addresses some major concerns that we all have,” she said.
Chief among those is the issue of indemnification for the city, and members of the City Council. When the agreement was initially signed, protections for public officials were stripped out, leaving members of the City Council personally liable if the courts rule the levy called for in the TMD agreement an illegal tax, as the Mayor asserts it is. The city’s general fund would also be on the hook for restoring any expenditures by the TMD, since the hoteliers are shielded from liability even though they’re the ones spending the money.
The TMD, says Emerald, should be required to carry an insurance policy that would cover the costs in case of a ruling against them, as called for in the Mayor’s counteroffer.
Emerald also says she liked the requirement that the TMD be required to put $5 million toward the Balboa Park Centennial celebration, noting that it is an event that explicitly promotes tourism in San Diego, the chief function of the TMD. She says that she would also like to see the TMD contribute to the San Diego Film Commission to help promote more events, which again would also help promote tourism in the city.
Also at issue, she says, are the salaries being paid to TMA executives. “It is unconscionable that the head of the TMA is making almost $500,000 a year. They are gorging themselves at the public trough.”
Emerald said she has asked Council President Gloria to take the modified resolution off of the docket for Tuesday, saying that it’s a distraction from the business of the city and hoping to encourage the Council to work with the Mayor. She was the lone ‘no’ vote when the Council approved the contract in November.
“I can’t stand up and defend them on this. This contract would be bad for the city,” she said of the current agreement.
Frank Gormlie says
Thanks Andy for the update and keeping this issue alive. Nice goin’, Dems on City Council – they have forgotten apparently that the mayor was elected by the entire city.
John P. Falchi says
When is the San Diego City Council going to settle down and start taking the public interest more seriously. A $1.2 Billion dollar boondoggle in which the public’s representatives have no say about how the money is spent is not very far-sighted. Let’s go back to square one with the TMD and negotiate a more sensible deal.
Michael Russell says
“This is not how city government is supposed to operate.” – Actually, this is EXACTLY how a strong Mayor system is supposed to operate. No outside business interests should be able to dictate the terms of a contract with the city, especially when the tax revenue is to be used to promote the City of San Diego. The tourists who pay the tax need to be safe, they need to be informed, and but the hotel developers just want them to pay for advertising. The demands for a living wage for hotel workers, a sensible set of legal and financial indemnification for the City, and a few bucks for city services provided to tourists seems very reasonable. Why don’t the business interests choose to negotiate, because they think THEY own San Diego?
Jeri Dilno says
Not only did city-wide voters elect Mayor Filner, they also approved the strong mayor form of government. Thank you Councilmember Emerald, for taking the principled stand.
I find it disheartening, but not at all surprising, a City Council (which for the most part bought and paid for by special interests) will not discuss such major issues with its constituents or the press. Pay attention San Diego, you have met the enemy and it is you for voting in these corporate puppets.
So now our City Council also wants to be Mayor ?!
bob dorn says
A coalition of nasty corporations and smiley-faced elected representatives works to neuter a chief executive who was elected by a majority of the voters. All we lack here in this mirror image, is a cave-in on gun control (oops, we don’t even talk about THAT in Sandy Ego) and an austerity budget for pothole repairs. When did the definition of Democrat change to corporate intern?
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman says
Corporate interns don’t get paid: clowncilmembers get salaries that exceed the public’s return on investment. Good job, Andy, for asking the direct hard questions. Voters will remember.
I think Todd Gloria is lucky he is termed out after this reign. With complete disregard of what the majority of his constituents want, he is looking more and more like a reincarnation of Jerry Sanders, megalomania and disregard for all. I dread his move to State legislature, the coffers for which he is stuffing with lots of payola from the business folks. Closing thos pesky loopholes that make the City follow its own laws is a pain! It’s now clear why Todd so enthusiastically embraced downtown and the power-suits in redistricting!
Hey Todd, keep in mind that in your 100 day speech, you also said you would listen to residents of your district on the Plaza de Panama debacle too.