Compromises end TMD dispute with mayor

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Mayor Bob Filner, the City Council and the board of
the city of San Diego's Tourism Marketing District Thursday ended a heated dispute
over the promotion's agency's funding.

The City Council voted unanimously to accept terms of an amended
operating agreement, and asked the City Attorney's Office to return with an
appropriate resolution early next month.

The exact date has not been worked out.

The council re-authorized the district in November, but Filner refused
to sign an operating agreement, which would start the flow of funding. The TMD
is funded by a 2 percent charge on hotel rooms and uses the money to advertise
San Diego as a tourist destination.

The standoff led to a failed lawsuit by the tourism district's board,
the City Council passing a resolution requiring the mayor's signature, and
Filner accusing council members and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith of being
“bought out” by the hotel industry.

Unlike a raucous City Council meeting on Tuesday, there was no bickering
at a special gathering called to address the issue today.

The deal mediated by Councilman David Alvarez calls for 20-25 of the
largest hotels to indemnify the city in case it loses lawsuits that challenge
the agency's funding mechanism.

Money collected from major hotels that refuse to participate in the
indemnification program would go into a reserve fund to help pay for any
adverse judgments.

Also, the district will post salaries of employees of organizations that
receive funding, and will entertain a request by organizers of a yearlong
celebration of Balboa Park's 2015 centennial to get 10 percent of district
funding the next two years.

All three points were priorities for the mayor, who accepted milder
versions of the terms he sought. He chalked it up to “political give-and-

Alvarez, who was sick and missed Tuesday's contentious meeting, said he
reviewed tape of the discussion and decided the sides were close.

“The mayor's right, I called him really late last night and talked to
some folks from the TMD board and worked through this entire morning and I
think it just maybe needed perhaps a different perspective — it was already
there,” Alvarez said at a news conference.

The proposed amendments also include having the tourism district post
its meeting agendas, provide backup materials and annual reports, as well as a
performance reviews of groups that get public funds.

Filner had wanted to limit the salaries of officials receiving funding
from the tourism district to $160,000. He later asked for employment contracts
to be posted online.

He said the compromise of listing salaries provides the transparency he
was after.

He had also wanted $6 million annual funding for the Balboa Park
festival. However, tourism officials and Goldsmith said the district was
legally barred from “earmarking” specific amounts of money.

A $5.4 million advertising campaign had been put on hold as a result of
the dispute.

Tourism officials also issued 85 layoff notices to employees, in case
funding isn't received by mid-May.

Categories: KUSI