Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

San Diego City Council Takes Up Hotel Tax Hike Revisions

San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey sits at the dais, Dec. 12, 2016.
Milan Kovacevic
San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey sits at the dais, Dec. 12, 2016.
San Diego City Council Takes Up Hotel Tax Hike Revisions
San Diego City Council Takes Up Hotel Tax Hike Revisions GUEST: Mark Kersey, councilman, City of San Diego

The San Diego city Council will be discussing the Mayers convention center expansion financing plan to date and whether it should be placed on this palette or next November's ballot or put before voters at all. The mayor is asking for a special election in November because he claims the expansion is needed as soon as possible and it will only increase the cost of construction. They will also soon decide if the proposed soccer city Mission Valley development should be placed before voters in November. The Council continues to work on this budget. Joining me is Mark Kersey. A recent report in that Union-Tribune describe the Council as sharply divided over the special election request for both the convention center and soccer city. Is that how you describe it? I think that is a fair assessment. If you look at the comments that my colleagues made for the upcoming fiscal year over the last few weeks, you did hear a lot of perspectives on both the projects themselves as well the timing of an election, which could be a special this fall or next year. Do you support both measures on the ballot? I support the need to expand the convention center. I've been a firm supporter of that project since before I got on the Council because their return on investment is quite high. Weather that goes into November or next year is going to be where the Council had to decide because my concern is just when can we get this thing passed. So if it looks like that can happen this November, then that is great. If it looks like we have better chances next year, that is something I'm open to as well. Have you made a decision on the soccer city plan? I have not. The proposal itself is a very interesting one. I like the idea of bringing the team here. My position has been this need to go to a public vote. My question now is do we do that in a special or wait until two special elections next year. I am on the fence about that. Is something that I can see arguments on both sides and I don't care for a professional sports franchise driving our decision-making process because we've been down that out before. This is something where I think we need to have on the Council. Do you think the mayor is lobbying hard enough to get the support even from the city Council. The reason I asked that is because the labor Council voted last week to oppose the current version of the Convention Ctr., Sebastian -- center expansion proposal. So is the mayor getting out there and really working for this considering that it would need two thirds vote to get approved which makes I think anytime you need a two thirds vote for anything is a heavy left. I've seen the mayor out there talking to groups around town about it. Is he doing enough? I don't know. I would tell you that a two thirds threshold is almost impossible. It was set up that way by the crafters of proposition 13. It is a situation where you really need to have a very broad and very diverse coalition of supporters and virtually no organizer funded opposition to make this thing happen. The independent budget analyst recommended that the city come up with the five-year plan to spend the tax money that would come in from the convention center expansion proposal that elevated TOT tax to spend that money for road repairs and homelessness and have a plan to do it. Does the city have those plans already and do you think a plan like that would help? I do think that a strategy for how we are going to really tackle homelessness is obviously something that I would support and I think a majority of my colleagues do as well. With road repair, I think we have a pretty good plan in place in terms of our multi-year infrastructure capital Outlook. If we had more money, we would be able to accelerate additional road repair. I think that would be basic enough.'s more challenging because you're dealing with much more complex issues. Mental health issues, substance abuse issues, a lot of issues that the county has much more jurisdiction than the city does. So it is a situation where you have a lot of various service providers, government agencies, advocacy groups, who are involved in this discussion about homelessness. So that is where the city is a part of that. The city is not necessarily the lead part of that because there are so many different sources of funding. Yes, I would say that if this money were to be coming in, we do need a plan for how we are going to spend it. We could bond against it. It is about $10 million a year and growing. We could bond against that to build homeless facilities and more permanent supportive housing or there are other options as well. I think the voters would want to see a plan for where that money is going to be spent. So the measure that you sponsored and won approval is supposed to take new revenues to use money from new revenues and use it towards infrastructure. There's some talk that because of the budget talks and deficit that should be suspended in any extra revenue could be used to fill the budget gaps this year. How do you feel about that? We are not going to be suspending the proposition. Especially the first year. Is a situation where we have such a backlog of need when it comes to the infrastructure. We are not going to go backwards on what the voters have clearly spoken very loudly as a top priority. Any proposals to sit to suspend the proposition would be repeating the mistakes of the past and funding got cut because it was it glamorous enough for it just wasn't as appealing that the city could spend money and that thinking got us into this situation we are in today within the deficit. So we will not be going back on that and be repeating the mistakes of the past. We will be moving full speed ahead with investing more in infrastructure and the fund that the voters created by passing the proposition will be spent on infrastructure as they desire. I've been speaking with Mark Kersey. Thank you so much. Thank you. Coming up are some of those mass-market genetic test where the money? It is 12:20 and you are listening to KPBS Midday Edition.

The San Diego City Council on Monday will consider Mayor Kevin Faulconer's revised plan to finance a San Diego Convention Center expansion through hotel tax increases and whether that plan should be placed on the November ballot.

Faulconer has proposed raising hotel taxes by up to 3 percent in some areas of the city to fund a $685 million Convention Center expansion. The measure would allocate 64 percent of the tax revenue toward the expansion, with 18 percent each going towards road repairs and homelessness programs. The tax, which is expected to generate $55 million in revenue its first year, would need at least two-thirds support from voters.

A report from the city's Independent Budget Analyst on Friday noted the measure had been updated after several council members asked for more homelessness funding last month. Now, if there is excess revenue from the Convention Center, the city can redirect that money toward street repairs or homelessness. But the IBA cautioned that is not likely to happen for at least 20 years.


The IBA also recommended that the mayor's office develop a five-year plan on how it plans to spend the street repair and homelessness funds for Council approval.

Faulconer said a special election this year is needed because delays will only increase construction costs. But some council members want to push the vote to next November due to the cost of a special election and a higher expected turnout in 2018.

Council President Pro Tem Mark Kersey joins KPBS Midday Edition to discuss his stance on the proposal and what infrastructure projects the measure could support.