City Council shows strong support for Tourism Marketing District

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – San Diego City Council members Monday expressed strong
support for the city's Tourism Marketing District and declined to offer
amendments to an operating agreement that is being held up by Mayor Bob Filner.

The mayor has refused to release funds needed to operate the TMD, and
since the agency is in limbo, a $5.3 million campaign promoting San Diego as a
vacation destination has been postponed. Filner opposes four areas of the deal
and says hoteliers could assess themselves without city involvement.

While Councilman David Alvarez expressed some concerns about the
legality of the district, neither he nor his colleagues took up council
President Todd Gloria's offer to introduce an amendment to the TMD deal.

The council extended the district for 40 years last fall.

“It's a disservice to San Diegans, and offensive to those who elected
the eight of us, not to honor the council's legislative intent,” City Council
President Todd Gloria said. “To shoot ourselves in the foot, by not marketing
our destination, only adds to our economic troubles.”

With no interest on the panel to amend the agreement or kill the TMD
outright, the council members will go into closed session on Tuesday to discuss
their third option, which would be to compel Filner to sign the operating
agreement.

Gloria said such an action would be to “litigate with themselves.”

Several lawsuits have been filed against the way the TMD funds itself —
a 2 percent addition to the city's 10.5 percent hotel room tax.

According to Filner, a clause in the deal that indemnifies the city
against any adverse court ruling is not strong enough. The mayor also wants
more of the revenue to go toward public safety, the length of the term
shortened to one or two years, and a provision that calls for hoteliers to pay
workers a “living” wage.

Brigette Browning, president of a union representing hotel workers, said
a living wage in San Diego would be around $14 an hour. She said many hotel
and restaurant employees make much less.

Browning's union filed a lawsuit against the district today. The TMD
itself sued the city Friday to force the mayor to sign the agreement.

Most TMD opponents contended that it benefits large hotel chains at the
expense of local employees.

TMD supporters said during a nearly three-hour public hearing that
spending by the district is a crucial part of selling the city as a vacation
destination in a competitive tourism marketplace. Las Vegas and Los Angeles are
in the midst of two large promotional campaigns, according to Joe Terzi of the
San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Terzi said the state of Colorado once eliminated its tourism marketing
program and ended up losing 30 percent of its business.

“We can't spend zero and commit economic suicide like Colorado did,”
Councilwoman Lori Zapf said.

Such an action would cause “a downward spiral” of less revenue, fewer
jobs and reduced city services, she said.

In his concluding remarks, Gloria reminded the audience that he was the
son of a hotel housekeeper, and was willing to take up a minimum wage increase
“directly,” but not in a way tied to the TMD.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the TMD wasn't empowered to impose a
minimum wage on hotels and restaurants, anyway.

Categories: KUSI