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San Diego Council Votes To Direct Filner To Sign TMD Agreement

The standoff between Mayor Bob Filner and the Tourism Marketing District continued today after the City Council voted 6 to 1 to specifically instruct Filner to sign an agreement with the TMD.

Aired 3/27/13 on KPBS News.

The San Diego City Council today approved a resolution requiring Mayor Bob Filner to sign a TMD agreement, even though a judge has ruled the mayor can withhold his signature.

Mayor Bob Filner speaks after crashing a press conference held by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.

In November, the City Council renewed the agreement for nearly 40 years with the TMD, which advertises San Diego as a vacation destination. Then-Mayor Jerry Sanders did not sign the agreement releasing administrative funds before he left office.

Filner has so far refused to sign the agreement because he says it's a bad deal for the city. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said Tuesday if the council wants Filner to sign, they must pass a resolution directing him to sign. The council passed that resolution, with Councilwoman Marti Emerald casting the lone "no" vote.

But Filner said he could veto the City Council resolution. The council could then override that veto with six votes. The 6 to 1 vote tally from today’s meeting suggests they may have enough.

"As you know, I can veto the resolution," Filner said. "You can override the veto. I can refuse to sign it. We can go back to court."

Filner added that he and TMD Chairman Terry Brown had been very close to reaching an agreement before Tuesday's council meeting.

Filner had issued a counter-offer to the TMD earlier this month, which included stronger indemnification in case a judge rules against the agency's funding mechanism, challenged in a separate court action. It also required the TMD to put money toward Balboa Park's 2015 centennial celebration. The agency rejected the demands and took the mayor to court.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor on Friday ruled that Filner had discretion to not sign an operating agreement with the TMD.

Goldsmith pointed out that Taylor's ruling stated if the council specifically directed Filner to sign, that would be a "complete game changer" in his decision.

"If passed, that resolution would make clear the current Mayor's obligation to forthwith sign the contract which was not signed by Mayor Sanders before he left office," Taylor's ruling said.

Goldsmith joked that "mayors do not like to be directed to do something." He went on to say that under Sanders' administration, council resolutions "authorized" the mayor to do something instead of "directing" him. "Authorizing" Sanders did not create a problem, Goldsmith said, "because it was a working relationship."

According to council's resolution passed Tuesday, the mayor's obligation to sign the agreement is a "ministerial duty'' and "he has no discretion to refuse to sign said Operating Agreement, and has no authority to further negotiate said Operating Agreement.''

The TMD receives a 2 percent surcharge on room rates. Money also goes to organizations that stage events that attract visitors. A $5.4 million campaign advertising San Diego as a vacation destination this summer has been put on hold.

Comments

Avatar for user 'theblooch'

theblooch | March 26, 2013 at 10:42 a.m. ― 1 year, 9 months ago

Unfortunately, our new mayor is quickly turning out to be as intransigent, self-serving, and uncooperative as our former City Attorney Mike Aguirre was.

We need a mayor who is for the city and the best interests of its people, not an obstructionist bent on throwing his weight around and trying to reform things that don't need reforming.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | March 26, 2013 at 12:13 p.m. ― 1 year, 9 months ago

Theblooch,

Intransigent, self-serving, and uncooperative. There's another word for that: Congressman.

I'm amazed Filner supporters were able to ignore that major flaw. Federal politicians do not make good local politicians. Truth be told, they don't make good anything.

I just wish Filner would have returned home to Pittsburgh after leaving Congress instead of extending his vacation in San Diego.

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Avatar for user 'puzzledreader'

puzzledreader | March 26, 2013 at 6:20 p.m. ― 1 year, 9 months ago

My question is this: Why do we in San Diego as a city want a 40 year agreement? That's half a life-time for most people. 5 years or 10 years I could see, but 40 years seems similar to the pension fund agreement that was okay for awhile but eventually became too constraining and led to the current financial situation in the city's budget where we have a crisis every year when it comes to allocating financial resources.

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Avatar for user 'susanb'

susanb | March 26, 2013 at 7 p.m. ― 1 year, 9 months ago

The agreement currently in question that the mayor is refusing to sign is a 5 year operating agreement between the city and TMD. You are asking the question because the mayor unfortunately continues to say 40 years inaccurately. The 40 year agreement is for the formation of the tourism marketing district itself and is aligned with the bonds that will be issued for the convention center expansion since the hotels will be funding much of it and TMD has to support the sales and marketing of the expanded convention center. The 40 year agreement is in place and all was signed at The City for that agreement. Sorry the mayor continues to state misinformation and confuse everyone. see www.sandiego.org/whytravelmatters there you will also find facts of the TOT and TMD fund which will help explain the financial reasons behind all of this.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | March 26, 2013 at 7:58 p.m. ― 1 year, 9 months ago

"As you know, I can veto the resolution," Filner said. "You can override the veto. I can refuse to sign it. We can go back to court."

===

When Filner refuses to respect the democratic process via resolutions of the City Council he is refusing to respect the citizens of San Diego.

Filner is becoming a true tyrant and I would not be surprised to hear calls for an effort to recall him soon.

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | March 27, 2013 at 8:15 a.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

I'm glad we have someone in power working for us. That's what he's there for. I only someone had had the *cojones* to stand up to the Chargers when they got their ticket guarantee deal from us. Remeber that?

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 27, 2013 at 9:54 a.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

Filner is doing something that is rare in politics today - standing up to special interests, even when some in his own politcal party are trying to battle him on it.

Stay strong mayor, and don't budge.

You are doing the right thing and the people of this city appreciate it.

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Avatar for user 'theblooch'

theblooch | March 27, 2013 at 10:05 a.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

Amen, CalDef!!!!

Congressmen and pig's boobs....WORTHLESS !!!!!!!

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Avatar for user 'theblooch'

theblooch | March 27, 2013 at 10:14 a.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

Peking Duck....You've had too much MSG in your food!!!!
Filner is the southern end of a north-bound horse!!!!!
He needs to go and not let the door hit him on the way out.
Nathan Fletcher or Carl DeMaio would have been a better choice for mayor
than this dillettante.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 27, 2013 at 10:20 a.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

theblooch, nice to see you care more about wealthy hotel developers than the tax paying citizens of San Diego.

You are right, considering the special interests you favor, Mr. DeMaio would have been better for you.

Mr. DeMaio most certainly would have been better for fat-cat city insiders, the good 'ol boys club, and wealthy developers like Manchester, but for the average tax paying citizen he would have been a nightmare.

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Avatar for user 'theblooch'

theblooch | March 27, 2013 at 10:42 a.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

Peking Duck- I am a TRUE native San Diegan and no one supports Joe San Diegan more than I do. That being said, by having the agreement with the TMD, the tax revenue is received from TOURISTS not our local tax payers!!! Educate yourself, Holmes!!! And last I checked, Hoteliers and developers are DIRECTLY responsible for bringing THOUSANDS OF JOBS to San Diego's workers. How many has Filner added to our economy?? two or three cushy "insider" positions within his staff. Nuthin' else.
WAKE UP and read your fortune cookie, Dude.

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | March 27, 2013 at 11:41 a.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

The service jobs created in the hotel industry tend to be so low paying that they look like the slave wages paid in Tijuana more than the middle class jobs that once made the USA great.

When my friends visit, I don't want them paying out the nose to finance some senior executive's next European vacation, or their kid's private school tuition, or the second or third home, etc., etc..

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Avatar for user 'theblooch'

theblooch | March 27, 2013 at 12:02 p.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

RC-
jobs are jobs...YOU may not like them, but other people are grateful to have them, rather than nothing at all. And last I checked, I would rather have Tourists,(your friends included), pay the 2% than us residents... Your Socialist viewpoint just doesn't work in the real world.

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Avatar for user 'AndyC'

AndyC | March 27, 2013 at 2:23 p.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

What the City Council and Council President Todd Gloria did yesterday was an enormous disservice to the taxpayers of the City of San Diego.

Contrary to the commentary at yesterday's City Council meeting, at no time has Mayor Filner EVER opposed the marketing of San Diego's tourism industry. Rather, his problem from the very beginning was with the particular structure of this 5 year operating agreement. Specifically, there are virtually no protections for the city's general fund.

There is a pending court case challenging the legality of the TMD funding mechanism; whether it amounts to an illegal tax under Prop 26, as clearly articulated in questioning by Councilwoman Marti Emerald. Mayor Filner has made it clear the he believes this "fee/assessment" is, in fact, an illegal tax.

Regardless, the Mayor was willing to allow the funding to be released in its entirety to the TMD to serve its marketing purposes if the Tourism Authority board members and City Council would agree to install adequate protections for the general fund, and thus the taxpayers of San Diego. City Attorney Goldsmith himself admitted that the city is exposed liability wise, and Filner merely sought to close that loophole by requiring the TMD to take out an insurance policy to protect the city in the case of a ruling against the funding.

The court case is not expected to be decided for a year or more.

In the meantime, the City Council has essentially authorized the release of up to $30 million per year to the TMD. Under the agreement as approved by the Council yesterday, the TMD is the "responsible party" should the courts rule against the funding. The money would then have to be repaid. But how? The TMD will have already spent that money. The hoteliers who will directly benefit from the campaign are completely shielded from any liability, and so any money that the TMD is unable to pay back will by necessity have to come out of the city's general fund.

This would not be a problem if the funds were collected as a part of the TOT, but they are not. Thus, there are no protections for the taxpayers, the City Council, or the Mayor himself.

The Mayor's concerns are perfectly reasonable, yet he was willing to go along with the plan so long as the city was protected.

The clear statement made by the City Council yesterday is a big 'ol "SCREW YOU" to the taxpayers. There was an easy solution to this problem that would have satisfied all parties involved, but instead the City Council chose to antagonize the Mayor and the taxpayers.

Once again it has become crystal clear that the members of the City Council do not represent the interests of the voters, and have once again acted irresponsibly. It was irresponsible actions on the part of the City Council that led us to the "Enron by the Sea" label, and it is irresponsible actions by the City Council that again threaten the finances of the City of San Diego.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | March 27, 2013 at 3:23 p.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

How is the city liable to repay funding collected by a private enterprise? I'm not saying AC is incorrect, it just seems odd to me. If a ruling is made against the TMD, why would the city be on the hook for it?

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Avatar for user 'AndyC'

AndyC | March 27, 2013 at 3:51 p.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

benz:

The funding is made possible through the contract with the City. Really, the TMD is only a quasi-private entity (the TMA touts it as a "public-private partnership," so really it's not a totally private entity). They've directly involved the local government in the collection of this "fee" and have placed it in a trust, which the City Council controls. The whole thing is rather murky, which is why it's working its way through the courts.

Bottom line, if the money is spent (and thus gone), and the funding is deemed an illegal tax, the City ultimately becomes the responsible entity. The City Attorney himself--who is a big supporter of the TMD contract as it stands--has admitted as much.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 27, 2013 at 5:01 p.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

I must say I am disappointed by Todd Gloria.

I usually agree with him, but he is stuck on this like a thorn.

KPBS - send you best out to investigate, he might be on the take from this tourism promotion scam.

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | March 28, 2013 at 7:02 a.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

Thank you AndyC for providing depth to the issue. It really is a cozy deal.

San Diego has a history of these Tijuana style back room deals, i.e., they benefit the select few negotiating the deals and leave the average Joe with the tab.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | March 28, 2013 at 7:54 a.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

Thanks, that does sound suspicious, why not just have the hotelliers handle this themselves?

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | March 28, 2013 at 2:11 p.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

"The TMD receives a 2 percent surcharge on room rates. Money also goes to organizations that stage events that attract visitors."

I can't quite find the logic where taxing current visitors to attract future visitors makes sense. I guess we can kiss repeat business goodbye. As someone who travels regularly, those taxes/fees stick-out like sore thumbs when reviewing receipts and travel expenses.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 28, 2013 at 2:26 p.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

DeLaRick, good point. I don't mind the taxes when I'm in a world hub like NYC, but San Diego? We don't even have good mass transit to take tourists who stay in our hotels to major attractions like Balboa Park.

Don't get me wrong, San Diego is a great city to live in AND visit, but I don't think we are at the calibur of destination where we can expect people to choose us over similar locals even if we levy high hotel tax rates.

Maybe in Paris, London, SF, Tokyo - not here.

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | March 28, 2013 at 6:34 p.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

I hope for more in-depth reporting by KPBS and others about where the money goes.

Another news organization interviewed the CEO of the Tourism Authority recently on this subject and concluded his answers to their questions about financial accountability were anything but reassuring. They politely called his answers "interesting." The Tourism Authority's CEO says their financial spending is publicly audited but their website says it is not. Pretty sketchy.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | March 29, 2013 at 10:17 a.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

Duck,

I agree. We don't want to dissuade visitors from returning or potential tourists from coming here. No one likes to be nickeled-and-dimed. By the way, how hard is it to market San Diego anyway? We receive more "marketing" from Charger home games broadcast nationally during Winter than anything the TMD could dream-up. (To your point: We're not marketing to The Met or MOMA crowd anyway.) Improvements in infrastructure are always a better bet.

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