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San Diego Ballot Measures Attract Big Money

An undated illustration of a proposed Chargers stadium in downtown San Diego.

Credit: San Diego Chargers

Above: An undated illustration of a proposed Chargers stadium in downtown San Diego.

Here's a quick look at who's spending what on local ballot measures.

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San Diegans will be voting on a slew of ballot measures on Nov. 8, and several are likely to attract significant cash. Four have already spawned committees dedicated to supporting, and in a couple of cases, opposing them. Here’s a quick look at those measures and who’s spending to pass and defeat them.

Measure C — Downtown Stadium and Convention Center

If voters approve Measure C — placed on the ballot after signature gatherers submitted more than 110,000 signatures to the city clerk in June — the city’s hotel room tax would be raised to pay for a joint Chargers stadium and convention center (what some have nicknamed “the convadium”) downtown.

The simply named Vote Yes on C (formerly known as Citizens for Sports, Entertainment and Tourism), a committee set up to fund the initial signature collection effort and shepherd the measure to passage, is virtually entirely funded by the Chargers to the tune of $4.4 million, according to the Office of the San Diego City Clerk.

In contrast, No Downtown Stadium - Jobs and Streets First!, a committee set up to oppose Measure C, has some catching up to do in the fundraising department. They’ve pulled in $6,000 — $5,000 of which came in the form of an Aug. 24 contribution from auto dealer Steve Cushman. Cushman, a board member of the San Diego Convention Center, is a major local donor, mainly to conservative causes.

Measure D — “The Citizens’ Plan”

If voters approve Measure D (what its supporters call "The Citizens’ Plan") — placed on the ballot after signature gatherers turned in more than 100,000 signatures to the city clerk — the city’s hotel room tax would increase with funds being deposited in the city's general fund. Additionally, hotels would have the option to establish special assessment districts to partially fund development of a downtown convention center with increased room taxes. Public funding for a downtown stadium would be prohibited, among other things.

The committee boosting the measure, Citizens for the Responsible Management of Major Tourism and Entertainment Resources, raised nearly $1.4 million, much of it in the form of loans. (It’s not unusual for supporters of ballot measures to loan committees funds at zero percent interest). Ballpark Village, LLC, a partnership between developers JMI Realty and Lennar Homes, pumped nearly $940,000 into the committee: $550,000 in cash, $50,000 worth of web and social media services and $340,000 in loans. JMI Realty owner John Moores threw in $45,000 in cash to go with a $200,000 loan. Attorney Cory Briggs, the author of the ballot measure, also loaned the committee $200,000.

No committee has popped up to oppose the ballot measure.

Measures K and L — November Runoffs and Ballot Measure Elections

If voters in the city of San Diego approve Measures K and L, then elections for mayor, city attorney and city council would require a November runoff regardless of whether a candidate receives a majority vote in June. It would also mean ballot measures could only be placed on the same general election ballot.

The city council placed the measure on the ballot last month on a 5-4 vote along party lines. That outraged Republicans, who accused the council’s Democratic majority of backing the measure for partisan gain.

Conventional wisdom says the electorate in November is more liberal than that in June, so forcing runoffs would boost the chances of Democrats winning.

An inewsource analysis of city voting data supported that contention.

With no less than the future of the city’s political power hanging in the balance, the measures have already attracted five-figure donations on both sides of the issue.

San Diegans for Full Voter Participation, a committee set up to back the measures, has collected at least $43,000. That was primed by a $35,000 contribution from real estate mogul Lawrence Hess on Aug. 30. Hess, the president of Lehbros Limited, is a major Democratic donor, having given money to dozens of liberal candidates and causes in recent years.

Citizens for Fair & Honest Elections is the committee opposing Measure K. The Lincoln Club and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce’s PAC provided the committee’s seed money, $50,000 each, on Sept. 8. Both the Lincoln Club and the Chamber of Commerce are big players in local politics. Both groups cut similarly conservative contribution profiles this cycle, supporting June’s infrastructure ballot measure, Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s re-election effort and the city council campaign of District 1 Republican candidate Ray Ellis.

With both proponents and opponents telling Voice of San Diego recently that the measures were among their top priorities, expect to see much more money coming into this race.

Measure I — San Diego High Lease

Measure I would allow the city council to extend San Diego High School’s lease with the city. Located on the edge of Balboa Park, the school is the only one in the city located in a park.

Save San Diego High, the committee supporting the proposition, has raised $7,500 from former California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins’ ballot measure committee and the union-funded San Diego Education Association PAC and $1,000 from a committee controlled by Democratic City Councilman David Alvarez.

The ballot measure has no organized opposition.

Correction: The description of Proposition D as originally published was incorrect. It has been amended.

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