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Politics

San Diego City Council Kills Funding For SoccerCity, Convention Center Expansion Special Election

San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Bry speaks during a council meeting, Dec. 12, 2016.
Milan Kovacevic
San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Bry speaks during a council meeting, Dec. 12, 2016.

But mayor says he will veto the decision

San Diego City Council Kills Funding For SoccerCity, Convention Center Expansion Special Election
San Diego City Council Kills Funding For SoccerCity, Convention Center Expansion Special Election GUEST: Claire Trageser, investigative reporter, KPBS

Our top story on KPBS Midday Edition caber -- Mayor Kevin for said he will veto the budget. The city voted to quash the Mayor's proposal to allocate $5 million in the budget toward a special election this November. If there is no special election backers of the proposed soccer city development say their plan is finished. Without the special election this year the mayor says the proposed convex -- convention center expansion will be delayed and marks until then it should be. Joining me -- more expensive than it should be. Joining the is clear that was at the meeting. Councilman Scott Sherman was the only one to vote in favor of the special election. Is that overwhelming rejection a surprise? It was to me. Early on in the meeting Councilman Myrtle Cole released a statement saying this is not about the special election this is about passing the budget. To me that indicated that she was going to vote for passing the budget with this money included and then me people against the special election later on but by the end of the night everyone had somehow decided except Scott Sherman had voted against including the money in the budget When you come in and that Democrats were against the special election but then you heard from Myrtle Cole. What of the three Republicans say about the vote? Councilman Lorie Zapf said overall this is a good budget I support the special election but I want to get the budget past and she asked for some money to empty the trash more often in Mission Beach because she said they are having a flight problem so I think the idea was that Republican councilmembers wanted to get the budget past and then worry about it later on. The mayor said he will veto the budget that the Council approved. Did he say why he is taking that step? He released a statement very soon after the Council had voted and he said that he had since -- intends to use his veto authority. He said the city Council wants to make Sandy against wait for road repairs and bring back tourism jobs jeopardize the chance to get a sports franchise. Basically he is saying we cannot wait we need to have this election this year instead of in November. That is why he is going to veto. If you have a line item veto that would allow him to reconfigure the budget and at the $5 million special election back in? There was some confusion and it came up. They said the mayor can do whatever he wants. The mayor can add back $5 million. How long does the mayor have to veto it? He has until Tuesday and then the Council has five days after that to override the veto. How many councilmembers would it take to override the veto. It would take six. Is a clear that all the councilmembers that voted against the special election would put to override the mayor's veto. Already Republican Chris Cate released a statement that said I supported the budget but I also support the veto. That makes it pretty clear that he will not be voting to override the veto. I'm not sure that the Council will have the six votes that it needs to veto. Just to add another Lalo -- clear of confusion the Council has not voted on the center expansion or the soccer city proposal on the ballot. When you those votes on those specific issues take place? Those votes are still happening despite the lack of funding right now. It is the next two Mondays will be the boats on the two special elections. They are added one thing to the ballot and then the next thing to the ballot. I think a Republican said polish up your arguments because we will be doing this again. So could the mayor override five members of the Council if they decide not to put soccer city and the convention center on the ballot. This was another point of confusion that I was checking this morning and the mayor cannot veto the Council's decision. They have the authority to call the election. The Council can call the election and the mayor cannot veto that what we are talking about would really be a negative where the majority of the council would vote to say we do not want the special election in the mayor cannot veto something that the Council does not do. We could end up with $5 million for a special election. Yes. That's how it seems this morning happen very late last night so people are trying to figure out and it seems not everybody at the city is completely clear so things are getting sorted out how this all works. Thank you so much. Thank you.

The future looks grim for a new soccer stadium in Mission Valley and a convention center expansion. The San Diego City Council voted 8-1 Monday night to kill funding for a special election this November on both projects.

But, the election is not dead yet. Soon after the vote, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement he would veto the council's decision. The council would need six votes to override his veto.

"A City Council majority is supporting the unprecedented step of blocking a public election by stripping funding from the budget," his statement said. "This short-sighted move results in denying the public a vote and getting nothing accomplished for our city. The City Council majority wants to make San Diegans wait for more road repairs, wait to address the homeless crisis, wait to bring back tourism jobs, and jeopardize a chance to get a major league sports franchise."

The council will still vote on June 12 on whether to add the convention center expansion to a ballot this November, and then vote on June 19 on adding SoccerCity to the same ballot.

The majority of the council voted to remove $5 million for the special election from the fiscal 2018 budget, but offered different reasons for their decision. Four Democrats on the council, including Councilwoman Barbara Bry, said the money would be better spent on things like police overtime.

"I heard you say keep us safe and keep the arts, I heard you ask for more than what you got," she said. "I adhere to the law and the will of the voters and I endeavor to save the city $5 million."

Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said she supports holding a special election, but would vote for the budget without the funding because she overall supports the spending plan.

Only Councilman Scott Sherman wanted to keep the funding for the election in the budget. He said removing it went against the will of the people who signed a petition asking for the special election.

"By taking that $5 million off the table for a special election, you are directly denying the people their right to vote," he said. "And our job as council members once the public speaks is to implement the will of the voter and not our own will."

If the council votes later this month to not hold a special election, voters will likely weigh in on the projects in November 2018.

Nick Stone, the developer behind SoccerCity, said last month that delaying the vote until 2018 would kill the project because it removes the chance for the city to attract a soccer franchise. His company, La Jolla-based FS Investors, will not pursue its development plan if there is no Major League Soccer team.

In addition to the stadium, FS Investors wants to build homes, commercial space and a river park on the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium site.

Along with the soccer stadium proposal, council members were weighing a special election on the mayor's plan to raise San Diego's hotel room tax by up to 3 percent. The money would go towards funding an expansion of the convention center, as well as road repair projects and homeless programs.

The plan would need two-thirds of voters to approve it.

More than 200 people signed up to speak either for or against the special election, and before the council meeting supporters and opponents held dueling rallies.

On one side: a coalition of tourism groups and homeless service providers. On the other: the advocacy organization Alliance San Diego and union groups.

Tony Manolatos, a spokesman for the tourism coalition, said the tax increase would also go in part toward funding for the homeless.

"The plan right now is to secure the funding, and then you bring in the service providers, the experts like Father Joe’s and Alpha Project, who are with the coalition and supporting this effort, and you let them figure out, OK, here’s the priority," he said.

Opponents said a special election would fly in the face of Measure L passed by voters last year, which stated all city measures should be on November ballots when more people vote.

Jerry Butkiewicz with the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Union said the city’s growing homeless population is reason to slow down and wait for a general election.

"Right now, I think most of our citizens would say what we’re doing is not working real well," he said. "So let’s take a step back, being willing to dedicate time, and take a new look at this."

The budget will take effect July 1.

Corrected:
KPBS reporter Megan Burks contributed to this story.