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    Mayor Bob Filner is staking his latest battle with tourism officials on a flawed argument.

    U-T San Diego reported Thursday that the San Diego Tourism Authority may close its doors Monday if Filner doesn’t sign a check that would allow the marketing group to cover its payroll.

    In a Wednesday night interview with KUSI, Filner said he wants the Tourism Marketing District to commit to paying 5 percent of its income to the committee charged with planning the 2015 Centennial celebration in Balboa Park before he’ll release the funds.

    “I’m saying if you want the payment for the last four months, give the 5 percent that we agreed, right off the top, to the Balboa Park Centennial Committee,” Filner said.


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    But the Tourism Marketing District, which funds the Tourism Authority and marketing for some events that draw visitors, never committed to that arrangement.

    We explained this in an April post:

    The latest version of the Tourism Marketing District contract states that the district should expect an application from Centennial Celebration organizers seeking 5 percent of disbursable funds for the period between January and June of this year. The document notes the payout shouldn’t exceed $750,000.

    An application is far from a guarantee. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the same in an April memo.

    The city’s contract with its Tourism Marketing District only encourages the Centennial committee to apply for funds. That doesn’t mean the district is required to fork over cash, Goldsmith wrote.

    There’s a reason why that funding wasn’t promised: Proposition 26, a state law that complicated public officials’ ability to raise fees. It means officials have to demonstrate a specific benefit for the group or industry receiving extra money.

    The Tourism Marketing District’s budget is supported by a 2 percent fee on hotel stays, so any group that hopes to get cash from the district must prove their event will bring in additional hotel visitors. As a result, organizations seeking this money need to document the number of visitors they expect to draw and detail ways their group will encourage those stays. The groups put together applications and the Tourism Marketing District decides who should get cash, and how much.

    This set-up would also apply to the Centennial committee.

    It’s not clear how much money the group has requested, and how soon they expect it. A spokesman for the Centennial celebration could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday.

    The committee is set to present its application to the TMD board of directors on Friday morning.

    But despite the lack of guaranteed funding in the agreement, Filner appears prepared to continue demanding it.

    Here’s what the mayor told City News Service Thursday:

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      This article relates to: Balboa Park, Government, News, Parks, Share, Tourism Economy

      Written by Lisa Halverstadt

      Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

      32 comments
      Don Wood
      Don Wood

      How about getting the city out of the tourism advertising business altogether. Let the big hotel owners privatize the Tourism Authority and fund it out of their own profits by having the city repeal the 2% tax surcharge that currently funds the TMD. That is what would happen in a truly free market. The only down side for the big hotel owners is that they would no longer have the city to collect these funds as a tax on all hotels, and wouldn't be able to blame the city when tourists complain about their high hotel room rates. They are the ones who want the city involved, so they should play things straight with the city, instead of trying to play the mayor for a chump as they're doing here.

      Don Wood
      Don Wood subscriber

      How about getting the city out of the tourism advertising business altogether. Let the big hotel owners privatize the Tourism Authority and fund it out of their own profits by having the city repeal the 2% tax surcharge that currently funds the TMD. That is what would happen in a truly free market. The only down side for the big hotel owners is that they would no longer have the city to collect these funds as a tax on all hotels, and wouldn't be able to blame the city when tourists complain about their high hotel room rates. They are the ones who want the city involved, so they should play things straight with the city, instead of trying to play the mayor for a chump as they're doing here.

      Don Wood
      Don Wood

      The city doesn't need to versions of the UT. One is more than enough. So why does VOSD feel the need to attack the mayor every chance it gets? This piece isn't journalism, its an anti-Filner opinion piece.

      Don Wood
      Don Wood subscriber

      The city doesn't need to versions of the UT. One is more than enough. So why does VOSD feel the need to attack the mayor every chance it gets? This piece isn't journalism, its an anti-Filner opinion piece.

      John Gordon
      John Gordon

      Lisa: really ? You are a contract attorney that can opine on the meaning of contract language? Did you read the full contract? Jan Goldsmith's opinion isnt worth much, he's not the law. Get real, get another attorney.

      John Gordon
      John Gordon subscriber

      Lisa: really ? You are a contract attorney that can opine on the meaning of contract language? Did you read the full contract? Jan Goldsmith's opinion isnt worth much, he's not the law. Get real, get another attorney.

      Allen Hemphill
      Allen Hemphill

      The people voted for dysfunctional government when they voted for Filner, and now they have it. The voters had plenty of forewarning, so they knew what they were getting -- Mike Aguirre, without the personal charm.

      Allen Hemphill
      Allen Hemphill subscribermember

      The people voted for dysfunctional government when they voted for Filner, and now they have it. The voters had plenty of forewarning, so they knew what they were getting -- Mike Aguirre, without the personal charm.

      Katheryn Rhodes
      Katheryn Rhodes

      UPDATE: Filner's office has just released the following statement: "I have had enough of the whining and complaining from the wealthiest hotels in America. It was only days ago that they submitted at bill! We will issue their money when they hold up their end of the bargain, for example, approving payments to the Balboa Park Centennial. This idle and baseless threat is beneath them and I urge them to grow up and do business the right way. The City of San Diego will not be held hostage by such antics."

      La Playa Heritage
      La Playa Heritage subscribermember

      UPDATE: Filner's office has just released the following statement: "I have had enough of the whining and complaining from the wealthiest hotels in America. It was only days ago that they submitted at bill! We will issue their money when they hold up their end of the bargain, for example, approving payments to the Balboa Park Centennial. This idle and baseless threat is beneath them and I urge them to grow up and do business the right way. The City of San Diego will not be held hostage by such antics."

      Katheryn Rhodes
      Katheryn Rhodes

      Section 8 of the first Amendment to the Agreement states that the money for the Balboa Park Centennial "shall not be unreasonably denied." Why did the TMD deny the full 5% funding allocation for Balboa Park for January 1 to June 30, 2013? What was the reason given to ignore the signed contract? http://www.cbs8.com/story/22461496/tmd-faces-shutdown-monday-over-disagreement-with-mayor-filner ""They have told the centennial committee that they're going to be last on the list" of applicants for money and that there may not be much money left, Filner told City News Service. "I want that money to come off the top." He said the TMD gave the city an invoice for around $6 million only about a week ago, and it takes two or three weeks for the city to cut a check. The agency should give 5 percent, or $300,000, straight to the centennial committee before it provides for other needs, he said. "What they want to do is spend all the money on ConVis and the salaries, and then if there's any money left, they'll give 5 percent of that to the centennial committee," Filner said. "I'm not going to accept that. That's not what the agreement said, that's not what we talked about." He said he would give the TMD a check for 5 percent of its funding request, and when that goes to the centennial committee, the district will get the rest."

      La Playa Heritage
      La Playa Heritage subscribermember

      Section 8 of the first Amendment to the Agreement states that the money for the Balboa Park Centennial "shall not be unreasonably denied." Why did the TMD deny the full 5% funding allocation for Balboa Park for January 1 to June 30, 2013? What was the reason given to ignore the signed contract? http://www.cbs8.com/story/22461496/tmd-faces-shutdown-monday-over-disagreement-with-mayor-filner ""They have told the centennial committee that they're going to be last on the list" of applicants for money and that there may not be much money left, Filner told City News Service. "I want that money to come off the top." He said the TMD gave the city an invoice for around $6 million only about a week ago, and it takes two or three weeks for the city to cut a check. The agency should give 5 percent, or $300,000, straight to the centennial committee before it provides for other needs, he said. "What they want to do is spend all the money on ConVis and the salaries, and then if there's any money left, they'll give 5 percent of that to the centennial committee," Filner said. "I'm not going to accept that. That's not what the agreement said, that's not what we talked about." He said he would give the TMD a check for 5 percent of its funding request, and when that goes to the centennial committee, the district will get the rest."

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster

      As well, what of any good faith discussions that may have taken place as a part of this process and not fully encapsulated in the contract language? While contract language may trump good faith discussions, if Mr. Filner feels he was taken for a ride, he may be responding to a perception of bad faith. There may be reasons, alluded to in this article, that certain expectations were not made part of the contract, but were nonetheless promised. It appears to me that he feels a deal was reached and the TMD reneged, regardless of how one might parse the contract language.

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster subscribermember

      As well, what of any good faith discussions that may have taken place as a part of this process and not fully encapsulated in the contract language? While contract language may trump good faith discussions, if Mr. Filner feels he was taken for a ride, he may be responding to a perception of bad faith. There may be reasons, alluded to in this article, that certain expectations were not made part of the contract, but were nonetheless promised. It appears to me that he feels a deal was reached and the TMD reneged, regardless of how one might parse the contract language.

      Dagny Salas
      Dagny Salas

      Thanks Katheryn for adding this update.

      Dagny Salas
      Dagny Salas memberadministrator

      Thanks Katheryn for adding this update.

      Jim Jones
      Jim Jones

      It is fairly frivolous to "harness and focus the attention of the nation and the world press on Balboa Park", isn't it? Maybe I am missing something here, but what is this effort going to bring as an end result that isn't frivolous? It's just a party with a very thin veneer of drawing businesses that won't likely materialize, because frankly you'd have to be insane to pick San Diego as a place to headquarters a business from today.

      Keith Mautner
      Keith Mautner

      That's the first time I've seen anyone refer to the Balboa Park Centennial Committee as "frivolous." Perhaps this attitude is the same problem that the hoteliers have. What is the basis for saying this? I thought the point of the Centennial Committee was to harness and focus the attention of the nation and the world press on Balboa Park, and that the failure to fund it was crippling a priceless opportunity to promote tourism countywide. Obviously this project is not high on the TMD's list of priorities, or it would not even be an issue. Is this because the potential benefits to the hotel industry from a National Campaign about Balboa Park would not be focused on and therefore disproportionately inure to the benefit of the big downtown hotels? It appears to this spectator that the answer is yes.

      Jim Jones
      Jim Jones

      Chris, it is not about "being able to afford to be more generous", the city has a huge budget and could be equally as generous by not bullying the hotels for this money. It's not about the amount, we could cut 5% from a dozen city projects and it would only be twice someones salary. It's simply about a bully making demands for money he really has no right to. If Filner wants to decide how the TMD spends funds in the best interest of San Diego tourism, let him buy a hotel and join the TMD. Filner just "found" a bunch of cash for the budget that he controls, let him give 5% of it to the park party committee, for them to spend frivolously.

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster

      Joshua: Thanks. I agree that the mayor shouldn't dismiss or downplay their claims merely because they are wealthy people. However, I think the bigger point is that the money in question is collected from tourists by hoteliers, turned over to the city via a collections process, then turned over to the TMD to help promote tourism -- for the primary benefit of the profits of hoteliers, with trickle down benefits to those they employ. I think he is saying they are making a lot of money off of this and can afford to be more generous. Taking 5% of the salary of a hotel maid would be crippling. Taking 5% of the TMD's income, if I understand correctly, would amount to a little less than twice the annual salary of the individual running the organization.

      Joshua Brant
      Joshua Brant

      Chris, you make some valid points. However, I think the spirit of what Michael is saying is that the mayor shouldn't dismiss or downplay their claims because they are, as he calls it "wealthy" just as much as someone shouldn't dismiss or downplay someone's claims based upon them being poor, or black, or white, etc. If the contract obligates the TMD to give money to the Centennial project then they should do so. But calling someone a wealthy whiner doesn't seem necessary, and it seems to project animosity towards someone based on their financial standings.

      Michael Robertson
      Michael Robertson

      I don't understand why the wealth of the hoteliers is brought into the issue. People should be treated the same by government whether black/white, rich/poor. The rich should get no better or worse treatment than anyone else. Why is it OK to discriminate against those with money? If we condone discrimination against one group then we lose the right to disapprove of discrimination against another.

      Jim Jones
      Jim Jones subscriber

      It is fairly frivolous to "harness and focus the attention of the nation and the world press on Balboa Park", isn't it? Maybe I am missing something here, but what is this effort going to bring as an end result that isn't frivolous? It's just a party with a very thin veneer of drawing businesses that won't likely materialize, because frankly you'd have to be insane to pick San Diego as a place to headquarters a business from today.

      Keith Mautner
      Keith Mautner subscriber

      That's the first time I've seen anyone refer to the Balboa Park Centennial Committee as "frivolous." Perhaps this attitude is the same problem that the hoteliers have. What is the basis for saying this? I thought the point of the Centennial Committee was to harness and focus the attention of the nation and the world press on Balboa Park, and that the failure to fund it was crippling a priceless opportunity to promote tourism countywide. Obviously this project is not high on the TMD's list of priorities, or it would not even be an issue. Is this because the potential benefits to the hotel industry from a National Campaign about Balboa Park would not be focused on and therefore disproportionately inure to the benefit of the big downtown hotels? It appears to this spectator that the answer is yes.

      Jim Jones
      Jim Jones subscriber

      Chris, it is not about "being able to afford to be more generous", the city has a huge budget and could be equally as generous by not bullying the hotels for this money. It's not about the amount, we could cut 5% from a dozen city projects and it would only be twice someones salary. It's simply about a bully making demands for money he really has no right to. If Filner wants to decide how the TMD spends funds in the best interest of San Diego tourism, let him buy a hotel and join the TMD. Filner just "found" a bunch of cash for the budget that he controls, let him give 5% of it to the park party committee, for them to spend frivolously.

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster subscribermember

      Joshua: Thanks. I agree that the mayor shouldn't dismiss or downplay their claims merely because they are wealthy people. However, I think the bigger point is that the money in question is collected from tourists by hoteliers, turned over to the city via a collections process, then turned over to the TMD to help promote tourism -- for the primary benefit of the profits of hoteliers, with trickle down benefits to those they employ. I think he is saying they are making a lot of money off of this and can afford to be more generous. Taking 5% of the salary of a hotel maid would be crippling. Taking 5% of the TMD's income, if I understand correctly, would amount to a little less than twice the annual salary of the individual running the organization.

      Joshua Brant
      Joshua Brant subscriber

      Chris, you make some valid points. However, I think the spirit of what Michael is saying is that the mayor shouldn't dismiss or downplay their claims because they are, as he calls it "wealthy" just as much as someone shouldn't dismiss or downplay someone's claims based upon them being poor, or black, or white, etc. If the contract obligates the TMD to give money to the Centennial project then they should do so. But calling someone a wealthy whiner doesn't seem necessary, and it seems to project animosity towards someone based on their financial standings.

      Michael Robertson
      Michael Robertson subscribermember

      I don't understand why the wealth of the hoteliers is brought into the issue. People should be treated the same by government whether black/white, rich/poor. The rich should get no better or worse treatment than anyone else. Why is it OK to discriminate against those with money? If we condone discrimination against one group then we lose the right to disapprove of discrimination against another.

      Jim Jones
      Jim Jones

      Chris, you are right about arrogance, greed and power, but it's Filner's arrogance, greed and lust for power at work here. The Hoteliers come by their money honestly, Filner does stuff like hiring his wife as a consultant with money it would be illegal to put in his own pocket, and takes a lot of boondoggle trips, some on taxpayer money, some on money with ties to terrorist groups, some from who knows? Trying to paint Filner as having some higher moral ground is like trying to paint air. Aside from Filner's high flying lifestyle, the simple fact is that the TMD did not promise to give 5% to Filne'rs pet project, they only promised (under duress) that basically they would look at doing it. The TMD has been in business a long time, and only Filner seems to have issues with it, like he has had anger issues with many others who don't treat him like the emperor he thinks he is. Sounds like Filners problem.

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster

      In what way are they being discriminated against? It's a contract dispute. Clearly the hoteliers have the money to fund this cause, but prefer a showdown with the Mayor over 5% of the funds. This is about an arrogant power group in San Diego that has had its way for a long time and expects to be treated better than others. It's a group that shuns government intervention, but wants the government to collect these funds for them because the hotel owners don't trust each other to equitably contribute the funds they collect from tourists without government oversight. Meanwhile, the head of the TMD, with 85 employees, is being paid $450,000 per year out of these funds (about 4 times the Mayor's annual salary), but they refuse to come up with $750,000 (max) that was apparently discussed. Smart business would be to go along with the Mayor and move on. It's 5% of the total. Greed intervenes.

      Jim Jones
      Jim Jones subscriber

      Chris, you are right about arrogance, greed and power, but it's Filner's arrogance, greed and lust for power at work here. The Hoteliers come by their money honestly, Filner does stuff like hiring his wife as a consultant with money it would be illegal to put in his own pocket, and takes a lot of boondoggle trips, some on taxpayer money, some on money with ties to terrorist groups, some from who knows? Trying to paint Filner as having some higher moral ground is like trying to paint air. Aside from Filner's high flying lifestyle, the simple fact is that the TMD did not promise to give 5% to Filne'rs pet project, they only promised (under duress) that basically they would look at doing it. The TMD has been in business a long time, and only Filner seems to have issues with it, like he has had anger issues with many others who don't treat him like the emperor he thinks he is. Sounds like Filners problem.

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster subscribermember

      In what way are they being discriminated against? It's a contract dispute. Clearly the hoteliers have the money to fund this cause, but prefer a showdown with the Mayor over 5% of the funds. This is about an arrogant power group in San Diego that has had its way for a long time and expects to be treated better than others. It's a group that shuns government intervention, but wants the government to collect these funds for them because the hotel owners don't trust each other to equitably contribute the funds they collect from tourists without government oversight. Meanwhile, the head of the TMD, with 85 employees, is being paid $450,000 per year out of these funds (about 4 times the Mayor's annual salary), but they refuse to come up with $750,000 (max) that was apparently discussed. Smart business would be to go along with the Mayor and move on. It's 5% of the total. Greed intervenes.