Originally published March 18, 2013 at 3:46 p.m., updated March 18, 2013 at 5:24 p.m.
Mayor Bob Filner said today that a revised operating agreement he has proposed to San Diego's Tourism Marketing District would get funds released to the travel promotion agency faster.
Filner told reporters that he delivered his proposed revisions to the TMD last week and is awaiting a response.
The organization has sued the mayor for his refusal to sign off on a contract that releases administrative funds to the organization that promotes San Diego as a destination. A court hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Filner said his updated demands include stronger indemnification for the city in case judges later rule against the TMD's funding mechanism, which is being challenged in separate court actions. The TMD receives a 2 percent surcharge on hotel room rates.
The City Charter authorizes him to withhold funds that are subject to a legal challenge, the mayor said.
He has repeatedly said that indemnification in the contract he has refused to sign is not strong enough to protect the city.
If his version is approved by the TMD, indemnification would be strong enough to allow him to release funds needed to run the organization, the mayor said.
"My money gets money quicker to the tourism industry,'' Filner said.
The TMD was renewed by the City Council last November, but ex-Mayor Jerry Sanders wasn't able to sign all the necessary documents before he left office.
Filner said he believes the original deal was bad for taxpayers.
"When I became mayor and I looked at the contract, I did not like it,'' Filner said. He said he believes the tax collection is illegal.
He dropped his original demands that some funds be used for public safety and for hoteliers to pay employees a "living'' wage.
Instead, he wants the TMD to commit $6 million to planning the Balboa Park centennial celebration in 2015, and for the organization to encourage that a living wage be paid. Hotel union officials estimate a living wage to be around $14 an hour.
His revisions also would prohibit the TMD from funding organizations that pay annual salaries above $160,000.
The TMD board took up Filner's latest offer at its board meeting. Afterward TMD Chairman Terry Brown issued a statement saying “the Mayor’s proposal is not only contrary to all of the approvals last year by the San Diego City Council, but we also believe it is illegal.”
“The Charter does not grant power to the Mayor to enter into a new contract without City Council approval," the statement continued. "Further, the Charter and municipal law is clear that the Council is the only entity that can approve contracts and any contract entered into without their approval would be void. Although we believe this proposal is illegal, even if it could be accepted, it would irreparably damage the tourism economy and create even more instability for the over 160,000 San Diegans who work in tourism and hospitality services.
“As a result, we cannot accept this new contract and will look forward to the court's resolution of this matter. We are disappointed that we have to seek a court order to compel the Mayor to do something we and the City Council believe he is legally obligated to do. We believe this is in the best long term interest of the many thousands who work in the tourism industry and for all San Diego taxpayers who benefit from the hundreds of millions of dollars tourism generates in taxes and economic benefit for our city.”