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San Diego Mayor Announces Tax Proposal In State Of The City Address

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer delivers his State of the City address, Jan. 12, 2017.
Andrew Bowen
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer delivers his State of the City address, Jan. 12, 2017.
San Diego Mayor Announces Tax Proposal In State Of The City Address
San Diego Mayor Announces Tax Proposal In State Of The City Address GUEST:Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS

In his State of the city address Mayor Faulconer focused on the convention center expansion and homelessness. We hear the story of to send Diegans who are living the challenge of life without shelter. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Friday, January 13. Our top story and midday edition, Mayor Kevin Faulconer gave his annual state of the city speech after an historic and for many a Saturday in San Diego. The fact that the Chargers are leaving for Los Angeles was not a big part of his speech, the Mayor wants to move forward on the convention center expansion by proposing a new hotel tax. He put forward a new organized approach to tackle the issue of homeless man --. Joining me is Andrew Bowen. What did the Mayor say about the Chargers departure? Not a lot. He did not say what he wants to do with the Qualcomm Stadium site. He did repeat some lines that he first spoke, Dean Spanos was never a secure -- serious negotiating partner. The Chargers last San Diego. That was just about it on the Chargers. The headline coming from the speeches that this proposal for a hotel tax to pay for convention center expansion. Together we invest in helping the homeless and save taxpayers money. Together we will pave our roads and together we will finally expand San Diego's convention center. Is that a new idea from the mayor? It's only new in the sense that there was will find more than just the convention center, he said it will give money to road repair and homeless services. Last year we heard the Mayor in his state of the city speech say he was going to put a measure on the ballot, to fund a convention center expansion. In that sense, it's not a new idea. It didn't happen last year, at least it did not come from the Mayor's office. There were to measures that were put on by a signature campaigns in both failed. Was he specific, how much of attacks let's -- a tax. We heard rumors that could be 16%, he told the editorial board the amount is open for negotiation. When he is talking about a convention center expansion, is this the contiguous expansion that was being planned before the downtown Stadium idea? Yes. He did say it would be a convention center expansion on the waterfront. The city commissioned a study that found a contiguous expansion would be a better investments. We still have a lawsuit working its way through the courts and it's challenging the city's right to expand on the waterfront. The ruling could come this year, there could be an appeal. It's definitely up in the air. As part of it. People were expecting the Mayor to talk about a new initiative to solve the city's growing problems of homelessness. What did he say about that? He said he is going to propose consolidating homeless services, so the city doesn't double up the work the County is doing. Also, finding new space for emergencies shelter beds. The need for my beds and more so -- permanent housing. I think the mayor admitted that this problem isn't going to be solved overnight and it's not going to be solved with one hour measure. These are the first steps that are needed to even start trying to solve the problem. Going back to the speech last year, the Mayor announced a program which had a goal of housing 1000 homeless veterans in one year. The Mayor said in a speech that 750 people have received housing vouchers under this program. That is misleading, far fewer people, homeless veterans have gotten a landlord to accept the voucher and receive home -- as of last month the Mayor was half the way to the 1000 homeless veterans housed. He only has months to go. That speaks to the crux of the problem of the homeless. The Mayor also type this into the city's affordable housing crisis. Not just subsidized affordable housing but general, market rate small affordable housing that middle income families can afford. He said he was going to propose a package of reforms that will cut the processing time for new developments. I think we are going to have to wait and see what the details are. We have been talking about that for a long time. The mayor mentioned the looming budget deficit the city faces. Tell us about that? He said it would be a lean budget year. This is because San Diego is still dealing with the effect of underfunding of our pension system. He talked about this coupled -- of fiscal responsibility and did not say where any budget cuts would come from. That's not surprising. The speeches aren't meant for politically controversial or proposals that could alienate some people are anger some. In the next few months we will see memos from the nine city Council members listing their budget priorities and we will have to see if any of them have some real concrete ideas about where the city can actually cut spending. The day before the speech, the San Diego Union-Tribune had an editorial which urged the Mayor to tell the city he was not going to run for Governor. Did he do anything to squash those rumors? No. Not a word. Not a single word on his alleged bid to run for mayor. A few weeks ago, I don't know how long it was, there was an article in politico that spoke with a former mayor of Los Angeles who he said had been approached by Mayor Faulconer asking for endorsement for a run for Governor. This is all speculation. I don't think we will ever hear any confirmation from the Mayor's office that he is running for Governor until it comes public. Just talking in general about the mayor's potential run for Governor, it's going to be a tough fight for him. It's a heavily Democratic state. He's a Republican. Even if he is a moderate Republican, Gavin Newsom has declared his public intent and he is popular in the state. We will have to wait and see. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Andrew Bowen. Thank you.

San Diego Mayor Announces Tax Proposal In State Of The City Address
Mayor Kevin Faulconer Thursday night proposed increasing San Diego's hotel room tax to expand the convention center, pay for more road repair and fund programs to get the growing number of homeless off the city's streets.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer Thursday night proposed increasing San Diego's hotel room tax to expand the convention center, pay for more road repair and fund programs to get the growing number of homeless off the city's streets.

In his State of the City address at the Balboa Theatre, Faulconer made scant mention of the Chargers' announcement that the team will move to Los Angeles.

"At the end of the day, (team owner) Dean Spanos was truly never willing to work with us on a stadium solution, and demanded a lot more money than we could ever agree to," Faulconer said. "San Diego is a great city, and we will move forward."

Faulconer, who began his second term last month after being comfortably re-elected in June, then moved ahead to tout accomplishments like repairing 640 miles of roadways and fixing a dysfunctional emergency dispatch system. He also touted some 750 homeless veterans receiving housing vouchers under his "Housing Our Heroes" program. As of last month, however, only 450 had actually secured housing under the program — far fewer than his goal of housing 1,000 homeless veterans by March.

San Diego Mayor Announces Tax Proposal In State Of The City Address

The tax plan was revealed near the end of the 41-minute speech. Faulconer said he will present the City Council with a proposed ballot measure, to go before voters, that would raise the hotel room tax rate by an unspecified amount. The resulting revenue would pay for an expansion of the convention center that has been on the drawing board for around five years.

"This is the only legitimate plan that guarantees we can move forward with this critical project," Faulconer said. He added that revenue from the tax and economic boost from the bigger facility would also be shoveled into roads and solving the homeless issue.

The hotel room tax was last year's political football. Initiatives by the Chargers to fund a downtown stadium project and an attorney to pay for several programs both envisioned raising the rate from its current 10.5 percent. Voters rejected both by wide margins.

Going into more detail on homelessness, Faulconer added that a system that allows area social service agencies to work together, for instance — providing real-time information on available beds — is coming online this year.

"We must channel the fundamental decency into passionate and collective action," Faulconer said. "We must lift up the neediest among us and carry their burdens as our own. We must make reducing homelessness our region's number one social service priority."

Faulconer's speech last year made a similar promise to place a measure on the ballot to fund a convention center expansion. City Councilman David Alvarez said that was just one of several things he was still waiting for the mayor to act on.

"We need to just move forward with action now," Alvarez said. "I think he’s assuming we would approve this in 2018. We cannot wait until 2018 to take action on these things. The needs are today, and I think this year the council is really going to have to act."

Under California law, any tax increase that dedicates money to a specific use needs a two-thirds majority from voters to become law.

The mayor's plan comes as the city faces a $47 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The gap between projected revenue and planned expenses is a product of jump in the city's contribution to the employee pension system.

Faulconer conceded that this would be a "lean budget year" and called for the City Council to solve the city's new budget woes responsibly. He also waded into the national strife that has created divisions along political, racial and class lines. “We can't let that happen here, we won't,'' Faulconer said. “We'll keep working until no one is divided by race, class or ZIP code.''

Faulconer said the nearby international border causes some people to see division, but he saw "a cross-border culture, a cross-border economy and a cross-border spirit of cooperation that has my complete and unwavering support.''

The families of slain San Diego police Officer Jonathan "J.D." DeGuzman and his partner, Officer Wade Irwin, attended Thursday's address and received standing ovations from the audience. Irwin was seriously injured in the July shooting that took DeGuzman's life. DeGuzman's children, Jonathan and Amira, led the audience in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.