Snag holds up final tourism marketing deal

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A tentative agreement to end a funding dispute between
Mayor Bob Filner and the city of San Diego's Tourism Marketing District has
run into a snag, forcing the City Council to postpone a ratification vote.

Filner told council members that amendments to an operating agreement
between the city and the district don't have strong enough protections for the
city government's general fund in case judges find the agency's funding
mechanism to be illegal.

Some pending lawsuits contend that a 2 percent charge on hotel room
rates to fund marketing activities amounts to an illegal tax. If judges agree,
the city might be ordered to refund money already paid out for advertising San
Diego as a vacation destination.

A lawyer for the tourism agency said he disagreed with Filner's
assessment of the legal protections.

The two sides had tentatively agreed March 28 on a deal to end a months-
long standoff over the issue.

“So much for the kumbaya moment,” Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said.

Councilwoman Sherri Lightner compared the hold-up to the movie
“Groundhog Day,” in which a man keeps experiencing the same events over and
over, or an episode of the television sitcom “Three's Company,” in which the
characters all remember things differently.

Filner wants the area's biggest hotels to protect the city from any risk
associated with the lawsuits.

The City Council renewed the TMD for 40 years last November, but the
mayor has refused to sign the initial five-year operating agreement, which
releases administrative funds to the agency.

Tourism officials say the lack of money has caused them to hold off on a
planned campaign to promote San Diego as a vacation spot this summer. The
tourism agency also provides financial backing to area activities which attract
tourists, like the Holiday Bowl and California State Games.

The council postponed ratification of an amended operating agreement
until Monday.

“Today was meant to reflect a consensus that isn't there at this
time,” Council President Todd Gloria said.

He ordered both sides to have a consensus agreement, or their own
versions, to his office by the close of business Thursday.

Terry Brown, the tourism district's chairman, said it was important to
wait and get the details right.

“We will make our best efforts to achieve a mutually acceptable
resolution,” Brown said. “We are thankful that the council continues to
express its support for the thousands of men and women who work in the tourism
economy, and for their efforts to release the TMD monies.”

Brown said layoffs could hit the tourism industry in a couple weeks if
the standoff continues.

Categories: KUSI