At one point in my recent meeting with Cory Briggs, Donna Frye and two members of San Diegans for Open Government – Pedro Quiroz Jr. and Richard Lawrence – Briggs’ smart phone rang.
Mark Fabiani, the special counsel for the Chargers, was the name that came up on the screen. Briggs put his hand over it and put the phone away. We all laughed a bit.
On Nov. 20, Briggs will send out signature-gatherers to collect the 75,000 or so valid signatures they would need to get an initiative on the ballot for June. Their measure would remake downtown and the city’s hotel-room tax system unlike any proposal in the decade-plus since two proposals to increase the tax failed at the ballot box.
The proposal seems to have left San Diego’s elite tongue-tied.
Well, one part of the measure is innovative, if not genius. It’s the same part, though, that’s legally shaky. So far, only a fiery talk radio host is willing to say it’s illegal.
Help Us Raise $100k By the End of May
As much as I admire some of Corey Briggs' legal work on behalf of the environment and other public land use concerns, I do not admire his creating a Citizens' Plan for a stadium that is so complex not even the VOSD can sort it out in one article. Neither has this been done in the U-T. The Citizens' Plan is a 77-page document that is extremely complex and yet so vague in terms of what it can reasonably predict for repayment of an enormous City stadium debt over a long term in which financial downturns both nationally, statewide and locally can change the ability of hotels to compete for tourist dollars.
There is a simple understanding available to all of us who are facing the limits of our own budgets amid an unpredictable future. You don't go shopping for things you don't need when you can't pay for the things you do need. Perhaps Mr. Briggs has spent so much time staring at the "Venn diagrams" on his wall to see how the stadium could be built with public revenue that he forgot that simple premise by which all responsible fiscal decisions must be made.
This initiative was modified to allow both Mission Valley and Downtown to be considered as a site for the new stadium. But it prohibits expanding the convention linearly, thus favoring a disjoint convention center, presumably related to a downtown stadium. I believe we should not allow this initiative to bias the decision about the convention center and at the same time bias the decision about the stadium to be downtown. The decision about the convention center should be left to rational business analysis, not this political maneuvering. The prohibition of building the convention center contiguously should be deleted from this initiative.
Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of us want the Chargers to simply get out of town. The team and its owners demean this lovely city. Why not interview us?
I've never been a fan of Carl Demaio, but I have to give him credit here. He's giving Brigg's a taste of his own medicine - a cantankerous, irritating wedge squawking about suing and derailing a large city financing scheme. How many times has this been Brigg's role?
Who is paying for the signature gatherers? Briggs scurried away from here when he was caught lying about the contiguous CC expansion. He is definitely in someone's pocket, probably JMI.
KPBS reported JMI's namesake Mr. Moores has donated $45,000 to the signature gathering process. Briggs is every bit as dirty as the political elite downtown - he's tied to developers and has the Charger's lawyer Fabiani calling his cell phone. What I don't get is why Donna Frye has put her good name and reputation on the line for this scam. I'm losing a lot of respect for Donna.
AB-483 approved October 4, 2013 is a game changer for lawsuits involving Business Improvement Districts (BID) and Tourism Marketing Districts (TMD) statewide. AB-483 has never been analyzed by local media in San Diego. Government Code Section 53758 was added to clarify that BIDs and TMDs are Assessments, not Taxes, as they relate to our California Constitution. Therefore not subject to 2/3 public voter approval requirement for Special Taxes. If AB-483 is upheld by the courts on appeal.
The 2013 clarification law pushed by the California Travel Association, League of California Cities, and TMD attorney Michael Colantuono was made specifically to counter the multiple Briggs BID and TMD lawsuits statewide. The California Taxpayer Association opposed SB-483. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association was neutral on the bill.
The new law states "A “specific government service” may include, but is not limited to, maintenance, landscaping, marketing, events, and promotions."
Therefore, in theory, TMD fees can now be used to subsidize our Convention Center including paying for a new sails roof, instead of only just limited marketing and promotions.
Local Yes votes included Toni Atkins, Brian Maienschein, Ben Hueso, Marty Block, Shirley Weber, Brian Jones, Marie Waldron, and Rocky Chavez,
Local No votes included Lorena Gonzalez and Joel Anderson.
Ultimately the voters will decide so, ultimately I support this idea. Finagling to circumvent voters is costing the city (taxpayers) millions upon millions and is shady at best. Since the taxpayers are ultimately on the hook they should ultimately decide. Sadly millions will be poured into campaign marketing efforts to spin the story but, again - that will be on the voters to discern.
The tax payers don't win if this thing passes, Brigg's, Spanos and Morres/JMI Developers do. I agree the voters should decide on raising the hotel tax, but it should be a simple yes or no initiative and then let our elected representatives work out the details. This initiative has too many giveaways and complicated legal jargon tied to it. No voter will know precisely what the hell they are voting on. I'm firmly a no on this scam.
I don't care how clever or genius the plan is. WE DO NOT NEED to expand the convention center and WE DO NOT NEED a new stadium. All of this energy and focus would be better put elsewhere like, oh, say affordable housing, smooth roads, walkable sidewalks, new water mains... All of the studies on convention expansions show it is a folly and spending any time discussing a new stadium that brings practically nothing to the city or county GDP is a waste of air.
I agree we shouldn't spend a cent of public money on a stadium. If, however, the city decides differently then a new stadium in mission valley would be better than downtown. Putting another large sports stadium downtown would ruin San Diego's East Village. Briggs has long been in favor of a downtown stadium with a convention center annex tied to it. This is what the Chargers want as well. Briggs is - through this initiative - pandering to the Chargers worse than Faulconer is. I hope Carl DeMaio sues and wins if this scam passes.
I'm not smart enough to understand all the nuances like Bob Stein, but I've got a hunch it's too clever by at least half and the voters will reject it.
The news in this initiative is that puts the hotel industry in charge of the convention center.
In doing so it does two things San Diegans will love, once the consequences are made clear (if they can be in a city where the media speaks mostly Republican).
First, it puts financial responsibility for tourism where it should be, with the people and businesses that profit the most from it. In other words, it ends a form of welfare for rich guys.
Second, it severs the decade’s old, back-scratching relationship between hoteliers and Republicans in City Hall, which is why Faulconer will oppose it, if the hoteliers tell him to.
It does the first by putting the most obvious public costs of tourism onto tourists, instead of residents, using a small increase in the tourist tax that even the likes of Bill Evans will admit will have no effect on decreasing demand for rooms.
It does the second by removing the need for hoteliers to get resident taxpayers to pay for things that are essential to the success of their industry, like a convention center and tourism marketing budget. This changes the nature and purpose of campaign contributions and will reduce the cozy relationship between hoteliers and their politicians.
There something else you missed as well.
Why didn’t Faulconer come up with idea? Or for that matter the legions of Mr. San Diego’s, Stadium and Convention Center Committee members or Chamber of Commerce mooks perpetually congratulating each other for how smart they are about running San Diego?
The two most glaring answers are: they’re not smart or imaginative enough, and their frame of reference lies not with the people, but with lining their pockets at the public’s expense.
Or in the case of Faulconer, he’s just too weak and limited to figure out such a thing.
Whatever gets said about Briggs and his initiative, keep in mind you’re witnessing the actions of a strong mayor -- the big picture person with the will and the way to overcome impasses and get stuff done by reflecting the needs of the people.
Mr. Stein: Thank you for these key insights, which I was unable to glean from the story itself. If we can decouple the convention center costs from local taxpayer responsibility it will be a huge step forward in my view. Local taxpayers have been a piggy-bank for hoteliers under the vague and unproven assertion that our "investment" pays for itself. In fact, I imagine it is mostly corporate welfare, as you assert. If they must spend the money as if it is theirs I suspect all the hot air regarding the how essential a convention center expansion is will dissipate rather rapidly. And they might even decide to do some of the routine maintenance that has long been ignored.
@Chris Brewster Thanks. I interpreted this from listening to the VoSD podcast with Briggs and reading articles and editorials in the UT. Most address the shift in one way or another but don’t explicitly say so.
I’ve learned a lot about the stadium issue from your posts. Thanks for that. You’re one of my favorite regular posters.
As far as the initiative goes, I’m writing from the perspective of a retired advertising guy, which is what I am. In that context, motives are less important than how the benefits of an idea are sold to their respective audiences.
This initiative has a variety of benefits for a variety of audiences, which is probably its greatest electoral strength. Furthermore, it creates strange electoral bedfellows because it forces voters to make trade-offs, where they never have before.
The UT has already endorsed this line of reasoning for its readers. In a recent editorial they figuratively said it’s OK to vote yes for the initiative. All you have to do is say the devil made you do it.
We could go further…
·If the stadium is still an issue in June, rabid Chargers fans will vote yes, even though in San Diego this group is probably full of vehement anti-tax advocates.
·Old hippie coastal liberals will vote yes to save the waterfront, while at the same time most probably despise the violence and plantation metaphor of football.
·Hotel workers are another affinity group. A campus-based expansion of the convention center is good for their jobs. Their bosses will probably try to convince them otherwise.
·Mass transit advocates will be appalled at how the initiative further solidifies downtown as a tourist and entertainment venue instead of a major business and residential center, but the prospect of a huge park in Mission Valley may get them to vote yes.
You see where I’m going.
The problem with your post is it implies there is no back-scratching and developer giveaways in Brigg's initiative. There is. JMI is financing the signature gathering and stands to make millions if this passes. What you said about city hall is correct, but what you fail to comprehend is that Briggs is doing the same things they do. I'm a liberal, but I don't care if it's a Republican or Democrat trying to screw the city with giveaways I'm against it either way. Just because Briggs and Donna have a D after their name instead of an R doesn't mean a complicated intitiave designed to ruin downtown with another mega stadium and line the pockets of a mega developer is any better!
@Bob Stein It's a great idea to make the hoteliers financially liable for operating and the expansion of the convention center but with that said, the offsite expansion is a horrible idea. JMI's Convadium proposal is one of the most idiotic things I've ever seen, the scheduling conflict would make it unusable for conventions on Sundays for half of the year. It's right up there with some of San Diego's dumbest decisions in history like using Balboa Park as a landfill and turning down the Navy's $1 offer to move the airport to Miramar. Good thing the Chargers are leaving in a few months and we wont have to worry about it.
Briggs is dead wrong about the contiguous expansion's impact on public access to the waterfront. It's impossible to take him seriously as long as he sticks to that false narrative.
David Benz, agree 100%. I'm in favor of raising the hotel tax, but NOT with the stipulations Briggs is putting on it. While I like the environmental component for the SD river (is THAT why Donna is supporting this??) the stadium down/convention space is a horrid, horrid idea and I wouldn't vote for this thing in a million years.
@Bob Stein, I do see where you are going with this and perhaps you are right, but if I'm a "test case" you're wrong. I'm a liberal, long time supporter of Donna Frye, and I agree with the positive things the initiative has in it. But the negatives far outweigh the positives for me. Let our city council come up with environmentally friendly plans for the SD river as a stand alone measure, don't tie it to some horrible massive convention-stadium monstrosity downtown. As you note, one stadium is enough. Downtown needs to balance the tourism component with civic, transit, and jobs people can walk to. Again, I can't speak for every liberal voter in the city, but in my opinion this initiative does much more harm than good.
Let me get this straight. When he was on the city council, Carl DeMaio voted to create an illegal tax, which was shot down in court.
Briggs and friends have come up with a way the hotel owners could use transient tax money to promote tourism and build a new
convention center expansion downtown off the tidelands. And now DeMaio, is threatening to sue them if they comply with the law
by supporting the new initiative. Guess the only world Carl wants to live in is when where politicians and businessmen break the law. Go figure. Guess that's why he's been reduced to an AM radio shock jock these days.
We voted for a ball park (petco) and ended up being screwed. That screwing was done when all the "principals" (downtown interests, city council, public unions and SDCERS) all got on board with the scheme.
This proposal by Briggs should be held suspect by the voters. The monies going into the General fund doesn't guarantee any of the expressed virtues of the measure will be realized.
Appears to be nothing but a revenue grab to bolster city coffers