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City Council Delays Decision On Tourism Marketing Agreement

Because no consensus has been reached, the San Diego City Council voted today to continue discussion on a contract between the city and the Tourism Marketing District next week.

Today's meeting was meant to be a final resolution to the ongoing battle between Mayor Bob Filner and the Tourism Marketing District. Filner, the City Council and the TMD appeared to have come to an agreement last week. But today Filner said he was not satisfied with the language of the agreement.

"I put before you today what I thought we memorialized. We came up, I thought, with an agreement," Filner said. "I had signed that to show you I can sign things."


Three lawsuits filed against the city say a 2 percent fee on hotel rooms to fund the tourism district's marketing is illegal because it amounts to a tax, which must be approved by a public vote. If the courts agree, San Diego could have to refund money it paid to the tourism district.

Filner wants the area's biggest hotels to protect the city from any risk associated with the lawsuits.

The hotels had agreed only to be liable for the money they give to the marketing district.

Filner also cited a memo from City Attorney Jan Goldsmith that says the amendment "weakens protections" for the city. Goldsmith later clarified that "it's not that the amendments have less protection, it's that the amendments serve a different purpose."

A lawyer for the tourism agency said he disagreed with Filner's assessment of the legal protections.


"So much for the kumbaya moment,'' Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said.

Councilwoman Sherri Lightner compared the hold-up to the movie "Groundhog Day,'' in which a man keeps experiencing the same events over and over, or an episode of the television sitcom "Three's Company,'' in which the characters all remember things differently.

Because of the disparity between versions of the agreement, the matter was continued until Monday to give Filner, the TMD and the city attorney more time to come up with a consensus.

City Council President Todd Gloria said a vote on the issue will not extend past Monday.

In the meantime, Filner still has until Thursday to veto the City Council's decision last week to direct him to sign the TMD agreement.

The City Council re-authorized the district in November under former Mayor Jerry Sanders, but Mayor Bob Filner refused to sign off on the deal, which would start the flow of funding. The TMD is funded by a 2 percent surcharge on hotel rooms and uses the money to advertise San Diego as a tourist destination.

The standoff led to a failed lawsuit by the tourism district's board, the City Council passing a resolution requiring the mayor's signature and Filner accusing councilmembers and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith of being "bought out'' by the hotel industry.

The City Council also unanimously passed a resolution "supporting a reasonable and comprehensive approach to reforming the currently broken immigration system."