By Doug Porter
It’s like a tale of two cities. The staff with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) have put together competing proposals for spending priorities in advance of a ballot measure for countywide half-cent sales tax increase, raising $18 billion over the next 40 years.
Two constituencies are targeted with these proposals: city politicians and environmentally conscious citizens. Both plans include construction of a new trolley line running from South Bay to Carmel Valley, a skyway system of gondolas connecting the first tier of mesas (Balboa Ave to PB, Sorrento Valley to UCSD) to the coast, along with various clean air and water projects.
One proposal offers up 40% of revenues for cash-strapped localities to be spent on infrastructure, 30% for transit projects and operations and 10% on highways. spending priorities. The other proposal offers up 50% of revenues for transit, 17% for highways and zero for infrastructure.
…SANDAG is trying to work out what’ll be part of the spending plan. But only one of the two plans has money for local infrastructure. It’s hard to see the one without that facet – the one with more transit projects – pleasing many people, since the public and the board have both expressed a desire for those projects.
To transit advocates, it feels a bit like asking the board to choose between one plan that’s full of ice cream and one that’s full of broccoli.
“It follows a pattern they’ve established where, anytime they offer a transit-friendly plan, they pair it with policies that are either unfeasible or political nonstarters,” said Colin Parent, policy counsel with transportation advocacy group Circulate San Diego. “It begs the question, why even present this option? What is the value of even considering this, if it’s something the board almost certainly wouldn’t be interested in adopting?”
These proposals have more to do with finding the shortest route to a two-thirds majority on election day than the actual projects included, as the board of SANDAG can amend (with a super-majority) and modify the implementation of (with a simple majority) spending priorities.
Tourism Bigwigs: Ooops. We Have No Plan B
Another big pile of money around town comes from a 2% surcharge on hotel bills. This amounts to roughly $30 million annually and funds 70% of the Tourism Authority’s budget. And it may be disappearing in the future.
At the Union Tribune, columnist Dan McSwain points out the questionable future for this funding stream as a lawsuit making its way through the courts claims it amounts to an illegal tax since it never went before voters.
Two years ago California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled that a similar hotelier-approved increase in room taxes to fund a convention center expansion was unconstitutional because it wasn’t put before voters.
Attorney Cory Briggs filed both lawsuits on behalf of San Diegans for Open Government. Having failed to derail the lawsuit on technical questions (and a not-so-coincidental series of unflattering news reports), the case is headed for a pretrial conference in March.
The hoteliers, as McSwain points out, are sticking their heads in the sand and have no plans for what to do should the lawsuit succeed.
The city has hedged its bets:
The city of San Diego is a co-defendant. If the court rules that the city has been collecting an illegal tax, the hotel industry could immediately demand a $30 million refund, because the law limits refunds of illegal taxes to one year, Briggs says.
This explains why the city has held $30 million of TMD collections in reserve against litigation, and perhaps why hoteliers refused to indemnify the city. Maybe Plan B for local hotels boils down to extracting money from the city.
Hoteliers could find the cash convenient. Their statute of limitations is four years. Some ambitious attorney could file class action lawsuits seeking refunds for every guest, from every hotel.
“If we win the case, not only does the city owe the money for one year, but the hoteliers also are on line for four years of the tax,” Briggs said last week.
Briggs was nice enough to offer a solution to this issue by circulating the Citizens’ Plan initiative, which would create a legal funding stream (among other things). The hoteliers and the city have been mostly silent on the subject because the new funding would go through entities with board structures offering more transparency and accountability. Those are two words they don’t like to see.
SDPD: Ooops. Plan B Isn’t Working
Plans for reforming the San Diego Police Department was something current Mayor Kevin Faulconer tackled even before he was sworn in.
The Police Executive Research Forum, paid for by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), conducted a voluntary review of management practices and made 40 recommendations back in March 2015.
At about the same time as the report and recommendations were being released, the UT broke a story about police department computers being used anonymously to go on Wikipedia and make changes showing the SDPD in a more favorable light.
Here’s a noted local attorney, quoted on NBC7, with his impressions of the DOJ funded review shortly after it was issued:
“It is garbage in, garbage out from the standpoint of, unless they’re looking at everything, then it’s really not a true audit, and it’s really just more lip service,” said attorney Dan Gilleon, who has represented SDPD officers in employments and injury cases.
Wouldn’t you know it? There’s a brand new lawsuit less than a year later, claiming the SDPD engaged in racial discrimination and retaliated against Matthew Francois officer when he complained.
From the Union-Tribune:
Francois had previously done training in the Southeastern and Mid City divisions, which have large minority populations. The population covered by the Northeastern division is 60 percent white, the suit says.
On his first day there, Francois said, he pulled over a white motorist and ran a routine records check. His field training officer criticized him, telling him it was “a waste of time and resources” to do checks on everyone pulled over in the division…
…Francois was told “citizens of Northeastern deserved to be treated better than citizens of Southeastern or Mid City,” the suit alleges. The supervisor went on to say citizens there “actually voted,” favored police and were influential “like City Council members.”
The Grammys: Black Music Matters
The haters were a hatin’ last night on the interwebs following a powerful performance by Compton rapper Lamar Kendricks at the Grammys.
From the Guardian:
The performance by Lamar, who was introduced by actor Don Cheadle as the author of “a hip-hop masterpiece”, was the night’s highlight. Walked onstage while shackled in chains with a prison-set performance of The Blacker the Berry, a celebration of black identity – “Everything black, I don’t want black / I want everything black, I ain’t need black / Some white some black, I ain’t mean black / I want everything black”, Lamar shifted to an African motif for a well-applauded rendition of Alright, joined by drummers and dancers in front of a bonfire the size of a house.
Lamar then debuted a new verse which alluded to the death of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old fatally shot by George Zimmerman in 2012; it included the line ““On February 26th I lost my life, too.” He ended the performance with an image of the outline of the African continent beamed high above the stage, with the word “COMPTON” written on it. At the time of his performance, Lamar had won best rap song, best rap performance, best rap/sung collaboration, best music video and best rap album.
FOX news writing up reports about Kendrick as we speak like “Thug Rapper Incites Hate Against Police” pic.twitter.com/3xu6gu0TM1
— JORDΛN (@ChefMabrie) February 16, 2016
Make no mistake about it. The Lamar’s song was, as Uproxx described it, “Beyonce’s Super Bowl 50 performance on steroids.” Speaking of Beyonce, the much-vaunted protest about her Super Bowl half time show failed to materialize in New York City.
Despite mentions in major news media, Carl DeMaio plugging it on twitter, and a sign-up page on Eventbrite, exactly two people showed up. There were, based on Vines I saw via the Grio, several dozen TV cameras and a bunch of Beyonce supporters.
UPDATE: A third protester showed, according to Vox.com
So much for the social media power of white dudes living in mommy’s basement.
On This Day: 1857 – The National Deaf Mute College was incorporated in Washington, DC. It was the first school in the world for advanced education of the deaf. The school was later renamed Gallaudet College. 1926 – Beginning of a 17-week general strike of 12,000 New York furriers, in which Jewish workers formed a coalition with Greek and African American workers and became the first union to win a 5-day, 40-hour week. 1959 – Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba after the overthrow of President Fulgencio Batista.
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