By Doug Porter
You don’t have to know anything about Attorney Cory Briggs’ “Pay Their Own Way” proposal allowing voters a say in tourism taxes to understand how it much it upsets the established order downtown.
Simply put, it exposes the ugly reality underlying San Diego politics by going after both the money and political mechanisms used by the tourism industry and its affiliated real estate interests to direct government institutions to do their bidding.
The ultimate reaction came from San Diego Chargers counsel Mark Fabiani, who is still reviewing the 28 page initiative: “As a general matter, anything that reduces the iron grip of the hotel lobby on our Mayor and some of our City Council is good for San Diego’s future, and Mr. Briggs’ initiative would go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.”
And he went even further during an interview on XTRA1360: “The people who are in charge of the city are nothing more than puppets to those who run the hotels.”
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez reacted to that quote when it appeared on twitter:
This Mayor’s (& some before him) obsession with pleasing hotel operators has been at the expense of low wage workers & community priorities.
— Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) October 23, 2015
Shock and Awe in Tourism Town
Reactions have ranged from speechless to confusion and even anger on the part of San Diego’s tourism cartel and its apologists.
Here’s Convention Center Corp. board chairman Steve Cushman in the Union-Tribune:
“This is horrible public policy,” said Cushman. “I have a serious concern that Cory is asking the voters of San Diego to opine that there cannot be a waterfront convention center, which is on port tidelands, administered by the Port of San Diego in conjunction with the state of California so he’s trying to usurp the jurisdiction of the port and the state.”
Cushman also questioned the wisdom of a proposal in the measure that would allow the city to transfer management of the center from the corporation to a private contractor, as long as the new operator would be responsible for all financial liabilities, including more than $40 million in deferred maintenance the center is facing.
The Union-Tribune editorial board’s reaction could best be described as shock and awe, with today’s homily questioning if it was too good to be true and/or too complicated for voters to understand.
…Which brings us to this: We dare – no, we double dare – legal minds out there to read the full 28-page initiative and confirm that it actually would do what Briggs says it would do and that the whole thing is legal. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith declined comment on whether it meets the “single issue” test for initatives. Chargers stadium point man Mark Fabiani reportedly declined comment too. Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office said that because of the measure’s complexity “it needs to be analyzed for flaws and issues” and whether it would help or hurt tourism and the stadium effort.
We look forward to learning more about this initiative as it moves along – if it moves along. If Briggs really intends to move forward with it, he must first have the full document published and provide proof of publication to City Clerk Liz Maland. She says she has yet to receive it.
Shepherding the Initiative…
Political consultant Tom Shepard, organizer of the political effort behind Petco park, has signed on to the campaign. Former councilwoman Donna Frye told the Union-Tribune she was on board, citing the potential for more open space in Mission Valley and the fact voters will finally have a say on tourism revenues.
Because the measure opens up the possibility of a downtown stadium location, the San Diego Stadium Coalition, with a mailing list of 20,000, has endorsed the Pay your Own Way initiative and committed to raising $50,000 toward the signature-gathering effort. The group is also seeking donors via its GoFundMe fundraising website, promising that any money raised will be matched by Briggs, his clients, and other interested parties.
Follow the Money, See the Contradictions
There’s more going here than meets the eye. I strongly recommend Cory Briggs’ The Use and Abuse of the Transient Occupancy Tax and Linda Perine’s Six False Premises for Convention Center Expansion if you want more background.
To make a long story short, San Diego’s larger and more established tourism entities pulled a fast one on taxpayers, using the city government’s powers to fund projects of their choice. Actually, it was several fast ones.
The problem with this –and it happens all the time, usually under some grand-sounding name, like public/private partnership– is that these guys got greedy. The city’s smaller tourism operations (who opposed some of this) were left out of the decision-making by linking the mechanism for funding to the size of the operation.
Thus, a handful of entities “decided” on a (not-a-tax!) surcharge on hotel rooms. This not-a-tax got thrown out in court, thanks to a lawsuit filed by Attorney Cory Briggs.
There are other interested parties who’ve been pushed aside by our hotelier’s cabal. Organized labor and advocates for the homeless are two of them. And then there’s the other people who happen to have business interests downtown.
Like the Moores family. (There are others)
From the Union-Tribune:
A likely financial backer of the initiative effort is former Padres owner John Moores, whose JMI Realty masterminded the downtown ballpark district. Moores is especially enamored of a provision in the initiative that would effectively set aside land on the 166-acre Qualcomm stadium site for university-related uses in the event the Chargers no longer play there, said Steve Peace, a special adviser to Moores. Moores, he said, is interested in seeing the area used as an expansion site for San Diego State, which is in need of more space.
“As it relates to John Moores and his interest in Mission Valley, categorically yes, he’s interested and more than likely to be supportive financially,” said Peace, adding there is much to like about the measure, including the possibility of settling the pending litigation over the city’s Tourism Marketing District.
JMI, which owns the downtown Omni hotel adjacent to Petco Park, could also stand to benefit financially from the initiative’s proposal to help pay for an off-site convention center annex with “self-assessments” from hotel owners. Such a facility would likely be sited near land owned by JMI on its Ballpark Village site. The company is weighing whether it wants to build housing there or a hotel, although Peace insists a residential development would be more financially lucrative.
So what we’re seeing is a conflict of (very valuable) real estate interests. Undoing the current rigged marketplace/government favoritism is what they need to get ahead. The better governance and other public benefits potential of this deal are simply collateral bonuses.
Cory Briggs will file the initiative with the city clerk on Friday, November 13th, a bad omen for the established order if there ever was one.
Signature gathering will begin shortly afterward.
On to other items…
The Benghazi II Disaster
The House Select Committee on Benghazi spent eleven hours grilling former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday.
The Republicans on the committee had hoped to score a big win that would make their case against Clinton in the 2016 elections. All they needed was one gaffe….one outburst…one contradictory tale…
And they failed. They underestimated Hillary.
Here’s Jamelle Bouie at Slate:
You don’t have to like Clinton to see that this is a coup for her campaign. Not only has she bolstered her image as a smart, competent policymaker, but she’s even defused her email controversy—or come close to it—by talking about the issue in a calm, nonadversarial way. Meanwhile, by the fifth hour, committee members like Roskam were hitting Clinton for having a skilled press team.
When this began, conventional wisdom was that Hillary had to survive the scrutiny. That at best, this would be a wash. Toward the end, however, that wisdom changed. “Unless something happens,” wrote conservative columnist Matt Lewis on Twitter, “it’s starting to look like Hillary Clinton won’t merely survive this hearing—she will have come out on top.”
A Pro-Minimum Wage Republican
A big part of Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s conservative credibility going into his anticipated campaign for Governor of California would be his opposition to increases in the minimum wage.
One of his would-be competitors for the Republican nomination, Silicon Valley venture capitalist and former state controller Steve Westly, told a meeting of the Young Professionals Organization (a group of San Joaquin Valley CEOs) he’d support an (unspecified) increase in the minimum wage.
Westly is touting his private sector experience in his quest for the GOP nomination, saying he’s the conservative alternative to Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom.
And, speaking of Republicans,–it’s bonus time for those of you who read this column closely– Matt Potter at the Reader thinks Faulconer’s backers have been doing some polling on Nathan Fletcher. And he might be right in his suspicions about a political comeback for the ex-Assemblyman. I’m told we’ll have to wait until January for a definitive answer.
One final note, from Politico’s California Playbook:
SIGS COLLECTED: Michael Borges of Lift Up CA, one of the state groups getting aid from the Fairness Project, said Wednesday that proponents have already collected 366,000 signatures, more than needed to qualify the November 2016 California ballot measure — which would would gradually increase the minimum wage by $1 per year until it reaches $15 in 2021, then index it to the cost of living. Now backers are aiming for 200,000 more signatures as a cushion, and have already gotten more than 100 key endorsements from labor, community groups and elected leaders like San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, he says.
Upcoming Events in San Diego
2015 San Diego County Democratic Convention
Democrats from all over Southern California will converge on Escondido to hear from statewide and local candidates and elected officials (including Atty Gen. Kamala Harris) … participate in stimulating trainings and panel discussions … and network/socialize.
Renowned linguist and messaging guru George Lakoff will be the featured speaker at the mid-day luncheon, discussing how Democrats can re-frame the debate based on fundamental progressive values.
Halloween @ SeaWorld’s Orca Factory
Saturday, October 31st 10am-1pm
Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
25905 Ingraham Street
Sign Up & Info
We are observing Halloween with a Picket Line in front of Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute, adjacent to SeaWorld and along the very busy Ingraham St, at a streetlight (Perez Cove Way). Home to the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Reproductive Research Center.
This will be a sharper focus on SeaWorld’s breeding program for marine animals and help get more info out to the media, on the heels of the CA Coastal Commission’s historic 10/8/15 decision to end the captive breeding and trafficking of orcas at SeaWorld San Diego as a condition of expanding the orca prison complex there.
Joe Hill 100 Roadshow San Diego Concert
Thursday, November 5th 6:30- 9:30pm
San Diego Education Association
10393 San Diego Mission Road
Sign Up & Info
A national concert tour of labor and folk songs honoring Joe Hill on the centenary of his execution. Featuring Chris Chandler, George Mann & David Rovics. Sliding Scale Donation $5-$15. Nobody turned away for lack of funds.
joe hill tour jpg
People for Bernie Sanders Enough is Enough Rally
Saturday, November 7th 11am
111 W Harbor Drive
Sign Up & Info
This is a Pro Bernie Sanders/Multi Issue rally, if you don’t support Bernie but support a majority of his platform this rally is for you also. We fight for the same things and a united left is needed to slow the advance of the right wing. Solidarity is needed if we want too see a positive change for the country. Are you ready for a Political Revolution!
What we stand for: We are the 99%, we believe in Black Lives Matter, we believe that Corporations are not people, we believe that we should not be kicking out 11.3 Million immigrants, we believe that money should stay out of politics, we believe in Peace and the right to earn a livable wage, we believe Healthcare is a right and not a privilege, we believe in free public school education, we believe in a Women’s right to choose, we believe in Gay rights and we believe Climate Change is a reality and not a myth! Join us in the Political Revolution!!!!
Rally for $15 and Political Power
Tuesday, November 10th 4:30pm
San Diego City Hall
202 C Street
Sign Up & Info
We are one year away from the next presidential election and we are the new electorate. We are the 42% of the population that make less than $15/hr, we are black and brown, we are the undocumented mothers and fathers of US citizens. We are not going to back down!
We call on corporate CEOs to raise pay and respect our right to for unions without retaliation.And we ‘ll call on our elected representatives to stop letting the wealthy and powerful write rules in their favor.
Together we can work to end racism and oppression, create a path to citizenship for immigrants, and fight for wages and work that strengthens our communities.
On This Day: 1902 – President Theodore Roosevelt established a fact-finding commission and suspended a nine-months-long strike by Western Pennsylvania coal miners fighting for better pay, shorter workdays and union recognition. The strikers ended up winning more pay for fewer hours, but failed to get union recognition. It was the first time that the federal government had intervened as a neutral arbitrator in a labor dispute. 1915 – Approximately 25,000 women demanded the right to vote with a march in New York City. 1962 – Steveland Morris Judkins, later known as Little Stevie Wonder, at the age of 12 recorded his first single. The song was “Thank you for Loving Me All the Way.”
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