By Doug Porter
Union-Tribune columnist Logan Jenkins has produced an essay warning about the Citizens’ Plan for the Responsible Management of Major Tourism and Entertainment Resources, a proposed June 2016 ballot measure currently in the signature-gathering stage. It’s complicated, he says, begging for a re-write by Ernest Hemmingway.
Initiatives, we’re taught as an axiom, are supposed to be clear broth. This one is a bouillabaisse stocked with personal hobbyhorses.
The funny thing is, I don’t remember being taught that axiom. It certainly wasn’t in play when the city’s establishment lined up to back Carl DeMaio’s “solution” to San Diego’s pension problems.
So begins a sub rosa campaign to preserve the status quo in San Diego. I’m not saying Jenkins is part of any conspiracy. He’s merely parroting the best defense the downtown tourism cabal has been able to muster. They have a vested interest in maintaining what amounts to a local oligarchy.
The Citizen Initiative is complicated. (Read it here.) So is the byzantine labyrinth constituting the relationship between the hospitality industry and city government.
In short, the rules of the road for the collection and allocation of taxes regarding tourism are being re-written. Rather than fight the downtown oligarchs one item at a time, a package deal (with trade-offs) is being offered. (Here’s my take on parts of the package.)
Public Dollars, Private Profit
Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s latest missive to the National Football League regarding the future of the local football franchise, includes the suggestion that the Chargers should commit to opposing the Citizens Initiative.
The problem hizzoner’s addressing here is that nobody else is willing to public and oppose the proposal. Part of the complexity Jenkins grumbles about is that the obvious paths to opposition are blocked. If political/business interest “A” opposes the Citizens Initiative, then political/business interest “B” loses out.
The Dan McSwain story in the Union-Tribune about this communique with the NFL, spells out that, while the letter suggested this opposition might be a good idea, the mayor isn’t actually opposing the Citizens Initiative.
Last week’s letter from the mayor’s team firms up a few details, such as the number of parking spaces. Yet, by asserting his neutrality on the Briggs initiative, it allows him to again have it both ways.
This makes perfect political sense. Until the league closes the door to the lucrative L.A. market, the Chargers have little business incentive to seriously pursue a stadium deal in San Diego.
Faulconer knows this full well. Endorsing the Briggs initiative could speed stadium construction, but that would amount to taking sides on the convention center, and foreclose future development at the Qualcomm site. On the other hand, active opposition would favor developers over university students and parks.
Other Downtown Real Estate Interests
Attorney Cory Briggs and his cohorts proposal represent the convergence of a competing economic interest with a more reasoned–in terms of the environment and the public good–approach.
The competing economic interest, in this case, is represented by John Moores, who’s already donated $45,000 towards getting the measure on the ballot.
From the Union-Tribune:
A prominent development team with downtown real estate interests donated $200,000 on Tuesday to help qualify an initiative that would raise San Diego’s hotel tax to fund a variety of civic initiatives.
Ballpark Village LLC, a collaboration of JMI Realty, which was responsible for developing Petco Park, and Lennar Housing, had previously hinted it might back the initiative, which seeks to raise the tax on hotel stays to 15.5 percent and create a vehicle for funding tourism marketing, an expanded convention center off the waterfront and parkland in Mission Valley.
Let there be no doubt that all these entities stand to profit should the Citizens’ Initiative pass. Somebody always profits. It’s inherent in the system. (…that should be reformed or even done away with, but that’s not what’s on the ballot.)
Because the economic/political interests backing this concept are advocating a change, they’ve sweetened the pot with possibilities (but not certainties) like an expanded park in Mission Valley and increased revenues for the city.
The way I see it, what they (Moores, Briggs, etc) seek to do, in this process is to challenge the influence of the current crop of oligarchs over land use.
The only other path to opposing this measure involves demonizing Briggs personally. This certainly has been coming into play vis a vis the joined-at-the-hip effort by hoteliers and the City Attorney’s office as a strategy in trying to ward off lawsuits challenging the legality of various schemes, including the current fee-not-a-tax being collected to fund the Tourism Marketing District.
And it hasn’t worked. Lawyers calling other lawyers evil just doesn’t play that well with the public. We already knew. (Or think we do, anyway)
Despite my aversion to signing petitions foisted on me at supermarkets, I broke down and signed a petition to get the Citizens Initiative on the ballot at Sprouts earlier this week. I’m not sure I’ll actually vote ‘yes’ come June, but the chance to watch this unfold in a campaign setting is just too good to pass by.
In chaos, there is opportunity.
On This Day: 1949 – Gene Autry’s song “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” hit the record charts. 1954 – The U.S. Senate voted 65-22 to condemn Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisc.) for “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.” McCarthy was a rabid anti-Communist who falsely accused thousands of Americans, mostly people who supported labor, civil rights and other progressive causes, of being traitors. 2001 – Enron Corp. filed for Chapter 11 reorganization. The filing came five days after Dynegy walked away from a $8.4 billion buyout. It was the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
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bob dorn says
The initiative (can anyone remember its name?) is 77 pages long. The mayor won’t say whether he favors or opposes it. Doug Porter won’t say he’d vote for it if it qualifies for the ballot but he signed the petition to put it on the ballot because it might create open debate on the subject.
Meanwhile the initiative itself links two separate issues — a new stadium and a Convention Center expansion — just as all the professionals have already done. Not one but both we must eiter reject or accept.
The only person who makes sense on this issue is Fabiani. He’s been critical of the overnight EIR that okayed the existing site. He and the Chargers have been saying all along they’re leaving the city for LA, so that issue is nicely cooked already.
So what this comes down to is an expansion of the Convention Center with tax money. Are we supposed to sign this petition so that Sanders/Faulconer Inc. can have their Versailles on the Harbor?
How far do they want the public to bend over? Just a little farther, I suppose.
Doug Porter says
Oh, you nattering nabobs of negativism.
The measure is 34 pages long. Attached to it are pages of legal case references so the whiners get a clue about what they’re up against if they want to go to court. (Which is why it’s complicated; he tried to make it bulletproof)
Furthermore, the initiative does not ask voters to accept or reject a stadium/convention center. It does set up a procedure so that IF either are to be built there are rules to play by. The convention center, for instance, can’t tap into hotel tax monies (done as a tax credit, not a grant)unless the hotel operators help pay for it with their own cash– a much better deal than any I’ve seen offered.
A far as Sanders and Faulconer are concerned, this initiative is the worst idea ever. They and their financial backers can’t oppose it without exposing their true nature as greedy sob’s.
There’s gonna be a food fight, kids. Reserve your seats by signing the petition!
bob dorn says
Doug, here are the first words on the 77 pages (yes) you linked to:
“The City of San Diego’s most valuable resource for both tourists and residents is the City’s connection to the Pacific Ocean and its beaches, bays, harbors, rivers and tributaries.”
Here are the last words on page 77 of the same PDF:
“Requiring tourists and tourism businesses to pay their fair share, and reforming the City’s overall management of its tourism- and entertainment-related resources, is a sensible, unified way to manage our tourism and entertainment economy in a responsible manner.”
And, I may be a whiner but I’m sure as hell not a nabob, which, according to my dictionary is:
1 (historical) a Muslim official or governor under the Mogul empire.
2 a person of conspicuous wealth or high status.
• historical a person who returned from India to Europe with a fortune.”
My wife and I live just over the federal poverty definition, by a few hundred dollars. and have never been to India.
I am negative on Briggs and Moore’s impenetrable salad of maybe this and maybe that.
The “axiom” Jenkins refers to is the legal requirement that initiatives from the public (as opposed to legislative) deal with only a single issue. So, IF this gets to the ballot, and IF it is passed, I predict it WILL be tied-up in court challenges on this point alone.
Nina Deerfield says
Sometimes one is lucky enough to read something that reflects ones own inner voice. Doug did it again. Axiom indeed.
John Lawrence says
This whole initiative is much too complicated for the average person (including me) to understand. Yet they expect John Q Public to vote on it? I would be in favor of having whatever hotel taxes there are (and I would favor an increase) go to the city and not to the hoteliers. Then the city could decide on whatever advertising it wanted to do and not the hoteliers and how much of the hotel taxes they even wanted to spend on advertising the city. There are too many issues tangled up in one initiative. They should disentangle it and consider one at a time.
Mandy Barre says
Big mistake signing an initiative petition if you know you are going to VOTE AGAINST it…ask the folks who voted on Gregory Canyon because they believed the proper environmental studies would stop the dump in its tracks. 20 years later and it’s still going.