Last year, city of San Diego tax revenues grew more slowly than expenses despite pension reforms. Even as a Republican, Mayor Kevin Faulconer knows there is little or no fat left to cut in the city budget.
The revenue-expense gap is likely to continue for up to 30 years without new revenues. Unlike the federal government, cities aren’t allowed deficit budgets and they can’t print money. The choice we face is finding new revenue or cutting the bare bones services we suffer from in San Diego.
The mayor’s solution to this problem is a good one: a hotel tax increase to fund an expanded Convention Center while financing programs to ease homelessness and repair local roads.
In the spirit of transparency, I recently left my post as a commissioner for the Port of San Diego. Ethics rules bar me for a year from being paid to advance the Convention Center expansion, which sits on Port land. My business partner, Tony Manolatos, serves as the tourism coalition’s spokesman, but I do not advise or counsel on the project.
I urge the City Council to immediately reverse course and put the mayor’s measure on the ballot in a special election in 2017. They have a few more weeks to do it. The chances for victory are far better this year than in 2018, when a barrage of national and state political campaigns will drown out the importance of the mayor’s measure. Wasting another year is very bad news for our city.
The measure has hit some hurdles, all of which can still be overcome.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
PR man Nelson uses a fun rhetorical move in this piece.It’s called an apophasis: a spoken or written figure in which an assertion is made in the midst of a denial.
It’s in paragraph four where Nelson writes, “In the spirit of transparency…ethics rules bar me for a year from being paid to advance the Convention Center expansion…” Then he goes on for hundreds of words more advancing the convention center expansion!
I guess he thinks announcing he’s writing for free gives his argument more credibility.He’s pretty much saying, “See how much I care about San Diego people.I’m not even being paid to write this.”
Nelson’s is a perfectly acceptable attempt at persuading an audience, so common it has a name, but it begs the question, “Did he break the ethics rules he’s referring to?”
Maybe he wasn’t personally paid to write this piece, but as he says, his PR firm is getting paid to promote the expansion.So like Manolatos, and as a partner in the firm, isn’t Nelson also earning money in some way from what he calls “the tourism coalition project?”
I don't see the urgency to have the San Diego City Council put up a special ballot this fall for a tourist tax to fund the Convention Center expansion even if it is linked with allocating some funds for other infrastructure and affordable housing - for many of the reasons others have mentioned. In addition, the Port of San Diego is in the midst of developing its 30-year Master Plan Update (MPU), which could (should) markedly change the look and functionality of the bay shoreline, including downtown San Diego. That plan will likely be released later this year, and the Port should be working more closely with the City to integrate downtown and Port development opportunities, the "downtown mobility" plan, and creating a viable public transit system linking the airport, downtown/Convention Center (expanded or not), and the other four bay cities. A real bay transit system that integrates with the bay cities' transportation/circilation systems would immeasurably improve access to and enjoyment of the bay and would connect the increased park and open spaces the Port has proposed to create around the bay (aka the "Green Necklace").
As a Port Commissioner, Bob Nelson championed visionary thinking in the early phases of the MPU process and a number of very good ideas were incorporated into the Port's Vision Statement and Framework Plan that will be the basis for the Master Plan Update. I urge him - and the City/Mayor - to see the value in holding-off on the special ballot this November and wait until after the Port (with input from the City of SD as well as the other four bay cities) releases its draft master plan. At that point it should be clear if the sought-after expansion makes sense, if other expansion options would be more sensible, or if there is a real need to expand.
Bill, as usual you present cogent argument which I respect. Since 2014 I have championed a multi-agency response to San Diego waterfront and downtown mobility and parking challenges. Unfortunately, other than Robert Gleason and Todd Gloria no local officials have been willing to lean in and get out of their siloes to deal comprehensively with this pressing challenge. Todd has moved on to Sacramento, Robert is no longer Airport chair and now I have left the Port. It rests with a new generation of leaders to emerge and grapple with this issue. I hope they will be more effective than I was. I hope you will be among those who provide solutions.
You have omitted one very salient fact: the city allowed their option on the adjacent parcel of land to lapse in 2015. The city currently has no rights to this land! The current leaseholder is now proceeding with plans to build a hotel on that site. How much time and $$$ will it cost the city to negotiate and/or litigate this? There is no guarantee that they would succeed, and where do the costs for that come from? The tax increase revenues or another hit to the city's annual budget? While i am not opposed to the convention center expansion, I will never vote in favor of it until the land issue is resolved first.
The FAL issue and labor peace are the two greatest -- and totally solvable challenges. Resolving both of those rests with leadership of the City and one hopes they will rise to get it done. And there is no reason they cannot get it done in the next six weeks, enabling a vote this November. It may be, however, that we have met the enemy and they are us, to quote the sage Pogo.
Gotta shuffle downtown a bit... move the convention center & soccer city (or whatever the pro-sports-fixation du jour is) to the site of Lindbergh (660 acres is plenty for both and we can keep the quaint aerospace theme and the existing terminals as entry points to the new CC & Sports facilities).
Lindbergh moves north (or more centrally as it's known - yep, underutilized Miramar is still a mighty fine spot with only 2,400 eastern acres required of the 23,000 existing acres and still plenty of road access (dual use is perfect for a region like San Diego) and gets two whole 11,500' runways (one for big boys and one for big girls).
The former convention center becomes low income housing for many of the hospitality workers needed to support the "dynamic" tourism trade.
So we spend $1 BILLION to expand the convention center so that we can bring in an additional 30 conventions each year. Am I the only one befuddled by the claim that this would be a good use of our taxpayer dollars?
Bob wrote "Measure L, which passed last year and requires that voter-initiated measures appear on the general election ballot to ensure maximum voter participation"
Allow me to point out his use of the word "requires" in the sentence above.
Measure L said on the ballot: "Shall the Charter be amended to require qualified citizens’ initiative and referendum measures to be submitted to voters on the next November general election ballot and not at a June primary election, unless the Council chooses to submit the measure to voters prior to that election?"
I really hope I'm not the only one who sees this clear misrepresentation by Bob.
@Jeremy Hansen Thank you for caring and writing -- regardless of whether we agree on the issue at hand. 1. The proposed tourist tax increase would be a Council-initated measure. Measure L was intentionally flexible on election date to enable the Council to set it on an earlier ballot if they deem appropriate -- as in the current case of City revenues failing to keep up with the organic growth of expenses, threatening a budget deficit. 2. As you accurately cite, the Measure L Charter amendment requires that all Citizen-initiated measures appear on the General (November of even numbered years) ballot. 3. I am missing the "misrepresentation" to which you refer. Peace.
It says not June primary, and it says city council can call a special election. That's the "unless the council chooses" part. There is no requirement that it can only be on the general election, the general election is one of two options.
Don't know why Mr. Nelson is in such a rush. Putting any vote on a new city tax increase to fund yet another expansion of the convention center gives his PR firm an extra year to develop a pro-tax political campaign for the port and the mayors office, and an extra year of big paychecks.
@Don Wood -- for whom my admiration knows few limits -- has once again confused me with a person principally motivated by money. Don, you are spending too much time with the wrong kind of lawyers. But it does not make me respect you any less.
While the general public may have been surprised by the SoccerCity project, the mayor certainly was not. The promoters met with him many times. He was well aware of the "shiny object" that has overshadowed the convention center expansion. He has no one else to blame for sabotaging his own initiative.
Bob, why don't the unions fund the project? The expansion and associated work will no doubt include a union only Project Labor Agreement which denies local state approved non-union construction apprentices the opportunity to work so I ask you, why not have union labor invest their money to build?
Instead of purchasing politicians union dues money could be used to offset proposed taxes. When making secret backroom deals to special interest couldn't we at least reap some sort of benefit? Couldn't someone act on behalf of the tax payers and use union money to pay for their monopoly on public works projects while hotel tax money is spent on important items that affect everyone?
Bob, why aren't you mentioning the discriminatory labor deals as one of your "hurdles?" Why aren't you mentioning why union labor hiring halls in LA, Northern California and surrounding states will empty out to come and replace local workers on this project? Bob, some "hurdles" will no longer be "overcome," local state approved non-union apprentices and local non-union construction journeyman will not look the other way while they're considered a "hurdle."