The Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA) today became the second community organization to reject a proposal supporting convention center expansion in return for funding for affordable housing and homeless services.
Alliance San Diego issued a statement on Tuesday condemning the plan, saying “This crisis needs a dedicated response, not one tied to the fate of a major development as part of a ballot measure that may or may not win in an election.”
According to an article in the Voice of San Diego, organizations from a cross-section of political interests met last week for a discussion on possible emergency ballot measures proposed for the June 2018 primary ballot.
Proponents –described as San Diego’s powerbrokers–were seeking a path circumventing Measure L, which limits ballot propositions to general elections. The current hepatitis epidemic and the ever-growing downtown encampments would be used by the city council to justify an exception.
One ballot measure reportedly would raise hotel taxes for the Convention Center and homelessness. Another might involve a real estate transfer fee targeted at building low-income housing.
A California Supreme Court ruling some believe may have created a loophole for citizens’ groups to pass special purpose tax increases with a simple majority has created a potential opportunity for the hotel industry to get taxpayer support for convention center expansion.
So the Mayor’s office–wink, wink–was not officially part of these proceedings.
From Voice of San Diego:
Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s director of budget and finance policy, Jessica Lawrence, attended the meeting. A mayoral spokesman said Lawrence submitted leave time from work for Friday morning, so she was attending as a private citizen not as a representative of the mayor.
PANA, which was included in the initial discussion described in the VOSD article, is making it clear they want no part of any such deal.
The Mayor recently sent his representatives – one from his office, and others in the private sector acting at his behest – to negotiate with PANA and other community organizations to come up with a mutually agreeable “citizens’ initiative” for the June 2018 ballot. As they proposed it, the initiative would increase the transient occupancy tax (TOT) primarily for a convention center expansion, with not even one-third of the money set aside to address homelessness and the lack of affordable housing. The Mayor’s representatives promised that they and the Mayor would also support a separate “citizens’ initiative” focused on taxing home buyers and home owners in exchange for the community’s support for the June 2018 convention-center tax.
The Mayor and the tourism industry clearly understand that they need substantial community support for a new tax to expand the convention center. What they do not understand is that PANA will not sell out its members and constituents with half-baked promises and weak assurances of financial resources to address the real crisis. The loss of business from an un-expanded convention center – even if the Mayor and the tourism industry could prove and quantify the loss with any degree of certainty, which they cannot do – pales in comparison to the actual loss of life and the dire risk to public health that arises from our homelessness and affordable-housing crisis.
PANA went on to say they “will not be a party to any negotiations that use the human crisis created by the Mayor’s inaction and bad judgment to justify disenfranchising voters through early elections on non-emergency matters.”
The Mayor and his representatives have been trying to persuade PANA that there is a genuine “need” to vote on a new tax for the convention center in June 2018 instead of waiting for November in order to take advantage of a “loophole” created by a recent court ruling. PANA does not agree that there is a loophole the Mayor can exploit. But even if there were, PANA would never go along with a scheme to disenfranchise voters – especially when the only goal is to make it possible for politicians and special interests to bend the rules to their personal advantage.
If expanding the convention center is so important, the Mayor and the tourism industry should put it on the ballot as a stand-alone item when the most people will vote. That will be in November 2018.
Both PANA and Alliance San Diego have called upon the Mayor and the city to step up to the plate, both long-term and short-term.
There is only one true emergency that justifies the voters going to the polls before November 2018. That emergency is the lack of financial resources needed to pay for shelters, transitional and supportive housing, mental-health services, and public sanitation, health, and safety. It has become clear that the Mayor is not willing to be a “leader” on this issue, that he is only willing to be a “cheerleader” for the tourism industry.
The City Council should take the reins and schedule an emergency election that generates new revenues for the General Fund so that the City has the financial resources necessary to end the public safety and health crisis as quickly as possible. If the Mayor vetoes such an action and at least three members of the City Council support his view that kowtowing to the tourism industry is more important than keeping every member of the public safe, then they should have to own those votes and face the political consequences.
PANA is confident that the voters will never tolerate politicians exploiting a crisis – a genuine humanitarian crisis that has so far taken the lives of at least 16 people and has made San Diego the epicenter of America’s hepatitis A epidemic – in order to benefit special interests.
From Alliance San Diego:
We urge the Mayor Faulconer and the city to refocus attention and resources on the real emergency at hand, which is the homelessness crisis. This crisis needs a dedicated response, not one tied to the fate of a major development as part of a ballot measure that may or may not win in an election.
Mayor Faulconer has the power to act now. Today. He has the power to open up city-owned buildings to shelter the homeless, not wait for tents to be erected in December. He has the power to reallocate funds for a special election and direct them to proper sanitation, access to bathrooms, and vaccinations. Finally, he has the power to treat this as a public health crisis by expanding services to the homeless, not rounding them up in police sweeps and incarcerating them, which only exacerbates the hepatitis crisis.
Above all, addressing the homelessness crisis will take leadership. We call on Mayor Faulconer to lead. This is not the moment for political opportunism. This is the moment to bring about real change. We stand ready to partner with the city on real solutions to this crisis.
We should thank our lucky stars there are community groups not willing to play the same old game.
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.