Mayor Filner Withholding Tax Revenues

San Diego Tourism officials and hoteliers announced that they are planning to sue San Diego Mayor Bob Filner for refusing to sign a plan granting $30 million to the Tourism Marketing District, claiming that he is putting thousands of San Diego citizens’ jobs at risk.

The agreement waiting to be signed grants $30 million in annual tax revenue to be distributed to TMD and its marketing plans. Filner said he will not sign the deal to release money, despite the TMD’s mission to expand San Diego as a tourist destination across the nation and overseas; he considers the plan to be unfavorable towards taxpayers, which is who the money is collected from.

Terry Brown, TMD’s CEO, said in a letter to the mayor that Filner is legally obligated to sign the agreement. The group has said it is planning on taking legal action with Filner if he does not respond with his decision.
Filner, who took office in December, is currently trying to renegotiate terms to avoid a lawsuit after being visited by hoteliers. He and other taxpayer advocates hope to reanalyze and reduce the plan that renews a five-year-old contract with TMD for 39 years and six months to a relatively short-term project of one to two years.

Chairman Brown, along with many of the nine-member board, is a strong supporter of funding the Republican Party, as said by the San Diego Reader on Feb. 18. President of Bartell Hotels Richard Bartell also has a history of having many of his employees and executive staff support previous Republican mayors Jerry Sanders and Carl DeMaio. Filner, in contrast, is San Diego’s first Democratic mayor in decades.

According to Fox 5 News on Feb. 19, San Diego City Council members had already agreed on the funds in 2012 to expand San Diego’s tourism. However, without Filner’s signature, the city cannot go forth with allowing the TMD to distribute and handle the revenue from annual San Diego events, such as San Diego Beer Week, the Holiday and Poinsettia Bowls and the Rock and Roll Marathon, which all attract many visitors and tourists to hotels.

The TMD was created five years ago to market San Diego to all non-residents. Funds are generated from a two percent hotel room surcharge that is used for hosting the annual events in the city.

Although Filner cannot be forced into signing the agreement, San Diego City Councilman Kevin Faulconer said he hopes a public hearing will help change the mayor’s decision.

“There are thousands of jobs on the line,” San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria said. “This is what we’ve been doing for years and to change course now would mean that we’re not marketing San Diego — that means fewer visitors with less hotel tax revenue, which means less money in our city’s general fund.”