Faulconer’s Veto Likely Dooms the Convention Center Expansion
By Jeeni Criscenzo
June 5 to 9, 2017 will go down in San Diego’s history as the week Mayor Faulconer revealed the Trump wannabe lurking beneath his compassionate conservative disguise – tweets and all! From Monday to Friday, the San Diego mayor’s office went from sending out a press release declaring:
“Our homeless crisis is staggering and the struggles on our streets are growing as more people fall into homelessness. The time to act is now. Lives of so many men, women and children are on the line.”
….to vetoing the teeny line item to fund a half-time consultant to support the newly formed Select Committee on Homelessness.
What could account for such a complete reversal of perspective? Taken in context, the Monday Mayor and the Friday Mayor are not as incongruent as they might seem.
Measure L, passed by the voters last year by 66%, stipulated that a special election could only be called for an emergency.
So Monday, the Mayor’s buddy, Tony Manolatos of PR firm Manolatos Nelson Murphy, sent out an invite/press release that was cleverly and disingenuously crafted to imply there was a real crisis that justified spending $5 million on a special election this November. It wasn’t hard to find a crisis – you would have to be living in a monastery not to know that homelessness has reached epic levels in San Diego.
In what has to be one of the worst cases of exploitation of other people’s misery, Manolatos attached photos of homeless people to the email invite, suggesting that people print these out and bring them to the rally/press conference to be held just prior to the city council session that day where the budget, with a line item for the $5M the special election, was to be voted on.
As if blatant exploitation wasn’t bad enough, the email threw in an unhealthy dose of deceit, claiming that “the measure would generate $150 million for homeless services – in year one alone.”
I was at the city council meeting where the city’s independent budget analyst reported that the 18% of the TOT tax increase revenue allocated to homelessness would amount to about $10M.
The only way to get the $150M Manolatos flagrantly touted would be to issue bonds against the projected revenue stream over the next 40 years. So if you read that line as implying that $150M “in year one alone” meant that years two, three, four etc. would have similar revenue – you’d be wrong. It means that the $150M would be available in year one ONLY and revenue in subsequent years would be needed to pay off those bonds. So that’s it – $150M is all we would get for programs to end homelessness.
Not that we couldn’t use $150M for programs to end homelessness, but to put it in the context of reality, Fr. Joe’s is saying they will need $531M for their 5-year plan to build 2,000 permanent housing units. And yes, creating sufficient permanent housing is the ONLY way we will actually end homelessness.
Everything else, such as the emergency bridge housing communities Amikas is proposing, is to alleviate suffering during this humanitarian crisis that has been created by the very same puppet masters pulling Faulconer’s strings. It’s going to take a lot more than 2,000 units to end homelessness in San Diego, and in the five years it takes to build those units, the numbers will continue to grow. If you think there is a cap to how horrible the problem can get, just take a look at LA’s numbers, which rose 23% last year to a mind-boggling 58,000 homeless individuals.
So after we spend $150 million in the first year, where will we get the money for the second year?
You would think the Mayor would be delighted that Council President Cole has finally put together a special committee to come up with a plan. I was disappointed that there was only $66,000 allocated for a half-time staff person for this committee. Right off the bat, it didn’t show much oomph behind the effort. But it was a start, and those of us who advocate for the poorest among us were hopeful that finally something was going to happen.
Amikas had met with council members and explained our proposed emergency bridge housing communities using sleeping cabins to safely shelter people while we work on getting the permanent housing they need. Finally, it looked like we might actually have some support in city hall.
So there we were – thousands of human beings with no place to live, being shuffled around by our police officers who should really be doing something less soul-killing week after week, than throwing out the last few precious possessions of people who are destitute… victimized by criminals… demonized by housed folks… ostracized by legislators… And we were getting so close to finally doing something positive, with the Select Committee on Homelessness scheduled to meet for the first time in only 13 days.
Then the Mayor has a temper-tantrum and pulls the half-person salary that this committee needs to function successfully.
Why? For the same reason he pulled funding for programs in the districts of the council members who vocally opposed him during Monday’s budget vote and pulled the funds for his special election – which anyone with half a brain realized had nothing to do with helping homeless people. This was the get-even punch he could throw at Council President Cole, who had given birth to this committee.
The very same mayor who thought it was perfectly okay to parade photos of homeless humans at a press conference five days earlier, in order to justify his special election, suddenly doesn’t give a damn whether or not we get people housed. The plight of babies and grandmothers means nothing, as long as he gets even with anyone who dares to stop him from serving the interests of the special interests who own him. Let that be a lesson to the next councilperson who thinks they should do the right thing!
You don’t have to be a child to see that this emperor has no clothes. Underneath that toothy grin and the friendly handshake is the heart of a bully. But this latest stunt might just backfire.
We just need one Republican on the council brave enough to stand up to the bully and do what’s in the best interest of their constituents. And right now, finding a compassionate, practical and immediate solution to getting thousands of people safely housed and on the way to permanent housing is in the best interest of everyone. And voters know it. And they know the convention center expansion and Soccer City are not nearly as important.
According to a poll of 400 voters conducted from May 31 – June 4, 2017, there would be sufficient voter support (70% in a 2017 special election, 75% in 2018 election) for a ballot measure authorizing an ordinance to levy a two-percent transient occupancy tax, paid only by hotel/short-term rental guests, providing 60 million dollars annually until ended by voters, with independent annual audits and citizens’ oversight. The poll was commissioned by Michael McConnell, a longtime San Diego resident, small business owner and homeless advocate.
If Faulconer gets his $5M for a special election, we can make it the Faulconer Follies by making certain his ballot measures for the convention center expansion and Soccer City don’t get on the ballot or don’t pass.
Instead, let’s put through a dueling measure that will allocate 100% of the TOT funds to ending homelessness. We can work like hell to pass it, and then send a bazillion postcards to the mayor with one word: Checkmate!