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Mayor Filner Weighs In On Sequestration And More

Evening Edition

Mayor Bob Filner talks to KPBS about sequestration, his ongoing dispute over tourism funding and his relationship with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.

Aired 3/4/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.


San Diego Mayor Bob Filner


San Diego Mayor Bob Filner answered questions from listeners on KPBS Midday Edition, addressing sequestration, his ongoing dispute over tourism funding and his relationship with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.

Filner has been making headlines recently by holding up money slated for the city of San Diego's tourism marketers.

On KPBS Midday, Filner said tourism is very important to San Diego's economy, but that the contract with the tourism marketing district is a bad deal for the city. He said it gives the TMD $30 million to do whatever they want.

"It's an illegal tax, it's not accountable, and if it's a private deal with hoteliers, why aren't we getting more?" he said.

Filner said he intends to speak up for the "vast majority" of people in San Diego to get a better deal. However, because the TMD's contract was already approved, there are legal questions about whether Filner can require it be renegotiated. Filner said the previous mayor and City Council rushed the deal through before he took office.

"They made one error in rushing it through, they didn't get the signature of the mayor on the final contract, so it comes to me for signature," he said. "So I have the authority under the charter under the strong mayor form of government to sign or not to sign contracts. I decided we needed a better deal. If I can negotiate a better deal it comes back obviously to City Council for approval of that. So I think I have the authority to sign or not sign contracts. That is given to me by the charter of the city of San Diego."

The tourism marketing district is suing the city over Filner's refusal to sign and said it is delaying a summer multimillion dollar marketing campaign for San Diego. But Filner called that "erroneous."

"They could market San Diego, advertising anytime they want," he said. "They don't need me, they don't need the government, they don't need anybody, they just do it. So to say that they need the government to do private marketing I think is absolutely ridiculous."

Filner said when the present agreement expires at the end of the month, he "would be happy to sign an agreement that has some modifications, say less of a term maybe one year at a time for example or that included more indemnification when the city does get sued. I want perhaps more money, but as a matter of fact, they are meeting today to consider what I asked for, which is not let's not go to court, let's continue to talk and let's get a much shorter term in which we can talk about these issues with some breathing space to do that."

Because of Filner's recent public dispute with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, a caller asked Filner if he thinks the mayor should maintain "a certain level of civility as a leadership figure in this community in order to be an agent of progress."

Filner said he does, but said "you also have to have a mayor who stands up for the people."

"I think you should ask the city attorney why he would read an article in the morning paper, decide I was doing something illegal and he calls a press conference rather than calling me up and saying, 'Bob, you are off on a limb here, let's talk about it, you are my client,'" he said.

Filner said Goldsmith may have had a "lower tone of voice" during the dispute, but said Goldsmith was being unethical and unprofessional.

Because of the city's change to strong mayor, Filner said all of the relationships between the mayor, City Council and city attorney will need to be renegotiated.

"Every city where there is an elected city attorney that I know about has these tensions because it is a built-in system of tension," he said. "Because then you have this case, you have three elected bodies as it were, each one with certain prerogatives and responsibilities and they intersect 100 different ways every day."

Filner has also proposed developing a new parking plan for Balboa Park that involves changing traffic patterns and removing parking spaces. The user TD posted on asking whether Filner's plan violates the same city municipal code that the Irwin Jacobs plan violated.

But Filner said unlike Jacobs, he is not asking for any major changes to the park.

"I'm just really restricting certain things, moving certain parking spaces, changing some of the signs and traffic patterns and I'm doing it on a temporary basis," he said.

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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Avatar for user 'Groovestar'

Groovestar | March 4, 2013 at 12:33 p.m. ― 4 years ago

It appears Mayor Filner wants to "shoot the golden goose." If there's no Tourism Marketing District (TMD) to market San Diego then that means fewer visitors staying in hotels that generate Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) -- essentially free money, $150 million a year for vital city services, police, fire, pot holes, etc.

How does the Mayor propose to market San Diego and fill those hotel rooms? Isn't he working against the City's best interest to keep those crucial hotel dollars coming into the City?

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Avatar for user 'laplayaheritage'

laplayaheritage | March 4, 2013 at 12:46 p.m. ― 4 years ago

The Tourist Marketing District, City Council, and City Attorney are not only destroying themselves, but also stopping a legal way to finance the needed Convention Center Expansion.

The easy legal way to pay for 2 % advertisement/promotion for the Hoteliers, and the 3 % Convention Center Expansion is to formally put a 5 percent TOT increase from 10.5 to a maximum of 15.5 on the next citywide ballot for 2/3 public approval. The Hoteliers and City Council have already pre-Approved a 15.5 percent Effective TOT though a private Hotelier-only vote.

Why would the Hoteliers, City Council, and City Attorney try to increase Hotel Taxes without a public vote as required by our State Constitution? What would they have to gain by their votes?

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Avatar for user 'middleincomehospitality'

middleincomehospitality | March 4, 2013 at 12:48 p.m. ― 4 years ago

The tourism economy employs over 160,000 people and positively benefits thousands more. You purport to be in support of tourism, but then attack the funding for tourism marketing that helps make sure these people stay employed. When are you going to stand up in support of these people?

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Avatar for user 'Kubota'

Kubota | March 4, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. ― 4 years ago

If you know your TOT history, then you know that in 1964 when the TOT was created, all of the money was supposed to be used for tourism promotion as a way to create jobs and economic growth. Today, 100% of the TOT funds collected from hotel guests goes to the City’s general fund to support lifeguards, roads, police, fire, etc. Tourism is the second largest traded economy in San Diego and employs 160,000 people. The TMD was created as a public-private partnership for the hotels to fund destination marketing which benefits the entire San Diego region and all San Diegans through employment and the City’s general fund. That’s why the TMD is supported by the City Council and the City Attorney. This is NOT a “sweetheart deal” for the hotels. With the looming sequestration, and our competitors like Las Vegas spending $90 million a year on destination marketing, holding the TMD money hostage is just creating another nail in the coffin for San Diego’s fragile economy.

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Avatar for user 'sdurban'

sdurban | March 4, 2013 at 3:55 p.m. ― 4 years ago

How is the TMD a public-private partnership when all board members are wealthy hotel owners? Let's have some public representation on our TMD, like other California TMD's such as Oceanside, Santa Cruz Co., and Napa Valley. Then I'd be more comfortable in how these folks spend public tax dollars for the next 40 years.

For some reason San Diego is always the exception to the common-sense rule (true public representation) on these matters, and it's because our elected officials are dependent on the good old boy network of business interests for campaign contributions. See: hotelier donations to city council, former Mayor Sanders' $300K+/yr job with the Chamber of Commerce, etc.

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Avatar for user 'roadrunner'

roadrunner | March 4, 2013 at 6:22 p.m. ― 4 years ago

I like that Mayor Filner is standing up to the tourism industry in San Diego. I worked for them for many years and so did many of my friends. The industry has, over the years, gotten way out of control, firing everybody and anybody who didn't serve their purpose of more more more. I am especially impressed that the Mayor wants to see the backbone of our tourism industry, the workers, receive a living wage. Also, that he would like more of the revenues to go to public services, like maybe fire protection that we desperately need. I don't claim to know all the particulars in this dispute, just my perspective coming from the San Diego tourism industry and all that I have seen and experienced first hand.

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Avatar for user 'Groovestar'

Groovestar | March 4, 2013 at 7:22 p.m. ― 4 years ago

The city currently uses 100% of TOT revenues, about $150 million to fill the general fund and go toward public services. Not a dime of TOT goes toward promoting the city and its tourism industry. Now the Mayor is making a money grab for the annual $30 million in TMD assessment collections to further fill the city coffers. But that TMD money can ONLY be used for tourism promotion. That's why the Tourism Marketing District was created to begin with: to market San Diego as a premier travel destination, fill hotel rooms and ensure that tourism remains strong as the #2 traded economy in San Diego. It's a win-win everyone. More heads on beds equals more TOT money for vital city services, police and fire protection, as well as a more money for the TMD's promotion of our fine city. We NEED to market San Diego to bring in more visitors.

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Avatar for user 'laplayaheritage'

laplayaheritage | March 4, 2013 at 8:33 p.m. ― 4 years ago

Hotel visitors do not pay the 8% Sales Tax for a Transient Room Rentals, instead in San Diego they pay 10.5 % TOT.

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