Roundtable On Briggs Initiative, San Diego Democrats, SeaWorld's Battles
Cory Briggs' initiative
Last week, Cory Briggs, the attorney for San Diegans for Open Government, launched an initiative planned for the June 2016 ballot. It will boost the city’s hotel tax from 10.5 to 15 percent.
The hike is part of a plan to finance a non-contiguous annex to the convention center in the downtown area. Originally, it included a back-up plan to finance a downtown football stadium. This week, the measure would ban all public money for a stadium anywhere in the city.
Funds for tourism marketing and infrastructure remain.
The tax on San Diego hotel rooms today is actually 12.5 percent, not 10.5 percent. Hoteliers voted an additional 2 percent to be added to the room tax to support tourism marketing. Briggs contends this move was illegal because the tax-increase was not voted on by the public. SanDOG is suing over that tax.
Former Padres owner John Moores was mentioned as a likely source of some of the $250,000 to $500,000 required to get the 75,000 signatures needed to get the original measure on the ballot.
The state of San Diego's left
But last Saturday, Gretchen Newsom, president of the Ocean Beach Town Council and former aspirant for Faulconer’s District Two City Council seat, decided to jump into the race on the spur of the moment.
Democrats currently have the edge in voter registration in the city, but the party tripped over itself in the race to replace ousted Mayor Bob Filner, opting for the arguably weaker David Alvarez over the more-moderate Nathan Fletcher in the primary. Alvarez lost.
San Diego Dems don't have a party-approved candidate for mayor at the moment, but that's not their only problem. Termed-out assembly Democrat Toni Atkins is now running for Democrat Marty Block’s state senate seat, which would be fine, except Block will not be termed-out of that seat until 2020.
Also causing angst is the city’s election rules. If any candidate gets a majority of the votes cast in the primary, he or she is automatically elected. This wrinkle could cause the Democrats to lose the city council District One seat where two Democrats are running against one Republican, and the city attorney race, where there are three Democrats versus one Republican.
SeaWorld and reproduction
The California Coastal Commission issued a surprising ruling this month. It said SeaWorld, which had asked to expand its Orca tanks, could do so — as long as the whales were prevented from breeding.
SeaWorld thought the commission had overstepped its authority, and the theme park announced this week it will fight the ruling. But some say that even should it win that fight, it will eventually lose.
The theme park has under-performed with audiences for years, but its troubles have worsened since the release of the 2013 film “Blackfish,” which slammed SeaWorld’s treatment of Orcas. Public opinion seems to be moving inexorably toward more freedom for wild animals.
Last year SeaWorld’s credit rating was downgraded from BB to BB-, or, essentially, junk bonds status.