By Doug Porter
Today’s column is about mathematics. We’ll start with the basics: five is a bigger number than four. 5-4 was the final vote tally at the City Council on Monday against holding a special election in November 2017.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer used addition and subtraction to punish the members of the City Council he felt were obstructing his plan to put convention center expansion and a proposal to redevelop valuable Mission Valley real estate before the voters.
The Mayor added $5 million to the city budget to pay for the special election that the council had removed. And he subtracted dollars destined for projects favored by the Democrats on the Council.
From Voice of San Diego:
He cut more than $300,000 in funding for District 1 (the La Jolla, Carmel Valley area), and more than $350,000 from District 3 (the downtown, Uptown, North Park area) as part of the cuts. The representatives for those areas, Councilwoman Barbary Bry and Councilman Chris Ward, respectively, oppose holding a special election. Faulconer also cut $66,000 for a staffer dedicated to a special committee on homelessness; Ward is the committee’s chairman.
He also cut $413,000 for a new roof for the Bay Bridge Community Center in Barrio Logan. The councilman for that area, David Alvarez, also opposes a special election.
He eliminated funding toward a community choice energy program, a Democratic priority intended to get the city to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. Funding for it was specifically proposed by Councilwoman Georgette Gomez, the representative for District 9 who also opposes holding a special election.
Any doubts about Faulconer’s intentions were negated by the fact of the $5 million restored to the budget by Faulconer coming from the Qualcomm Stadium Operations Fund, which apparently had more money than needed for the next few years. Go figure. Money from nothing. Maybe Mark Knopfler could write a song….
This was a ballsy move for Mayor Milquetoast and it blew up in his face. Perhaps he wanted to show his downtown allies that he could be tough. Maybe he got some bad advice. Whatever. This retributive move was just the latest in a series of miscalculations.
Instead of backing down, opponents to the Mayor’s proposal upped the ante. The $66,000 cut for a staffer or the Council’s Special Committee on the Homeless also stung Council President Myrtle Cole, who spearheaded the creation of the panel. Some thought Cole might be swayed because her other projects were left untouched.
Combined with last month’s resignation of Faulconer’s point person on homelessness, Stacie Spector, who –I’m told– left after realizing she was brought in as window dressing, the Mayor’s move energized homeless advocates.
Here’s Amikas’ Jeeni Criscenzo:
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!
Regardless of when (or if) the Mayor’s convention center proposal appears on the ballot, it’s now increasingly likely it will face a dueling measure proposing to allocate 100% of the Tourism Occupancy Tax funds to ending homelessness.
Homeless advocates point to a recent poll indicating overwhelming public support 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 annually until ended by voters, with independent annual audits and citizens’ oversight.
The Mayor’s political allies had their own set of mathematical arguments. Prior to the City Council vote to remove funding for a special election last week, an estimated $10 million annual in funding for homeless services bundled with the convention center expansion proposal magically turned into $150 million.
This feat of math wizardry was made possible by assuming all bonds sold for the expansion would be sold in the first of the fifteen-year lifespan of bond sales in the proposal.
What made this calculation especially suspicious was the absence of any blueprint for how these monies for homeless humans would be spent.
“The plan right now is to secure the funding, and then you bring in the service providers, the experts like Father Joe’s and Alpha Project, who are with the coalition and supporting this effort, and you let them figure out, OK, here’s the priority,” he said.
After losing the first round of voting in the City Council, the number grew even larger to ONE BILLION DOLLARS. This computation relied on projecting bonded revenues over a 40 year period. (Note: the $150 million was reduced by $10 million in this scenario.)
The “San Diego Tourism Coalition” sought to devalue the worth of the language we speak by conflating the Lodging Association, Tourism Authority, and Chamber of Commerce as the “public interest” as opposed to the “special interests” who were opposing the industry’s scheme.
I’m guessing the 66% of voters in the 2016 general election who supported Measure L didn’t realize they were becoming a special interest. The Tourism Coalition would like us to believe this argument is a ‘red herring,’ since there is an exception allowing measures for emergency circumstances. (Or that’s what we were told, anyway.)
However, even before Measure L was passed, there had never been a special election called for the sole purpose of putting a ballot measure before voters.
Union-Tribune columnist Dan McSwain had some more interesting math facts relevant to the convention center expansion in an article reminding us about the proposed $450 million, 831-room hotel tower, and 565-bed hostel currently slated for the site of Faulconer’s convention center expansion. There is, after all, the issue of the city no longer having control of the land needed for the project.
Operating San Diego’s money-losing convention center requires constant subsidy, even after officials spent $216 million in 2001 to double its size. Yet the mayor wants city government to borrow $865 million (sure to hit $1 billion in overruns) for a second expansion that he projects will generate $13 million a year in additional hotel taxes, citing a consultant.
In doing so, Faulconer would reject private capital for a hotel that, proponents say, would generate $10 million a year in hotel taxes — plus make perhaps $8 million in lease payments to the Port, pay $6 million or so in property taxes and provide 550 or more permanent jobs.
At the root of all this political failure on the Mayor’s part has been the strategy of moving forward on projects and policies with at best half-hearted attempts at building a consensus among the many elements of the community who might be impacted.
Ballot measures requiring two-thirds support demand buy-in from every major “special interest.” You’d think after seeing Measure A fail last fall, Faulconer would have learned that by now. Yet somehow he and his allies think they can make deals and exclude labor and community activist groups.
This stems from the presumption City Hall basing decisions on the net worth of its proponents as the best way forward. The citizenry is expected to believe a leader’s proclamations about trickle down effects somehow including them.
It’s the foundation of modern day Republicanism: which holds the role of government to be enhancing avarice rather than administering the commons for the benefit of all.
In other words, it’s RepubliMath™.
I’ll Have Some Bananas with My Republic
When you can’t rig the numbers, there’s always obstruction:
Republicans really DO want to hide from the fallout of their shit TrumpCare bill. https://t.co/cdnfG5flJS
— Markos Moulitsas (@markos) June 13, 2017
ALERT: Reporters at Capitol have been told they are not allow to film interviews with senators in hallways, contrary to years of precedent
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) June 13, 2017
Washington Post headline (with fact-checking): In 137 days, President Trump has made 623 false and misleading claims
Those damned hippies… Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to go after states offering protections to medical marijuana users. In a letter sent to congressional leaders last month, the AG wants to undo federal medical marijuana protections in place since 2014, because he blames them for the opioid crisis.
From the Washington Post:
In his letter, first obtained by Tom Angell of Massroots.com and verified independently by The Washington Post, Sessions argued that the amendment would “inhibit [the Justice Department’s] authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act.” He continues:
I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime. The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.
Sessions’s citing of a “historic drug epidemic” to justify a crackdown on medical marijuana is at odds with what researchers know about current drug use and abuse in the United States. The epidemic Sessions refers to involves deadly opiate drugs, not marijuana. A growing body of research (acknowledged by the National Institute on Drug Abuse) has shown that opiate deaths and overdoses actually decrease in states with medical marijuana laws on the books.
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