Stadium Watch: Citizens’ Plan in trouble

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — One plan to raise the hotel tax, the Briggs Citizens’ Plan, is running into stiff opposition that could clear the ballot for the Chargers stadium to be the only initiative to get the voters.

Monday, the city attorney raised serious legal issues about the Briggs plan, saying it puts taxpayers and the city at risk, but Briggs is having none of it.

Related Video: City Attorney’s Analysis of Citizens Plan

Briggs is pushing back, saying the city attorney is wrong and if anybody believes his plan is illegal they can either go to court or put it in front of voters.

It seems the pressure is building to act now to get Briggs to withdraw his Citizens’ Plan.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the Briggs plan has a poison pill, meaning if one provision of the plan is invalidated in court down the road, the entire plan collapses, including the tax increase that was collected.

"The tax goes away and the city may have to reimburse the taxpayers who paid it," Goldsmith said.

And that comes out of the general fund.

Goldsmith said he spoke with citizens initiative proponents three weeks ago to get these problems settled.

"I asked the lawyers give me some response maybe there’s something we’re missing, they didn’t give us a thing, the only thing they asked was, ‘Hey hold off on this, give us a chance,’ and I kind of figured maybe they’re gonna drop it," Goldsmith said.

They didn’t drop it. In fact, they’re promoting it.

"There’s nothing illegal about the Citizens’ Plan that’s the bottom line. If anybody believes otherwise, there’s a procedure to test it in court. What you do not do in a Democracy is write a memo that says what we really should not do is let the voters even weigh in at all," Briggs said.

"I’d really like them to work something out where they remove these illegal problems and try to work to the same result without putting the city at risk," Goldsmith said.

Seems that is not going to happen.

"Everything in the Citizens’ Plan is voluntary. We authorize things to happen, but people still have to take affirmative steps after the Citizens’ Plan passes in order for those things to come about," Briggs said.

Briggs said if you think his plan is illegal, lets have a lawsuit and let a court decide.

"That’s the best way to get this resolved. If the city wants to do that it’s fine with us," Briggs said.

Before the election, the city could do a validation lawsuit, which asks a court to determine if the plan is legal before a challenge is filed.

The city has done this before. 

"We rely on the city attorney to give us his best legal advice and obviously my job and council’s job is to make sure we’re looking out for San Diegans, taxpayers, and making sure we move in the right direction," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said.

The city attorney’s advice is crystal clear.

"Nobody in this initiative is looking out for the city, the city and the taxpayers are hanging out to dry," Goldsmith said.

The mayor could offer an opinion on the Briggs plan or simply do nothing, but in mid-July, the council has to take a vote on the plan before it goes to the ballot.

A third option is a third party could intervene and file a lawsuit to challenge the plan.

Categories: Local San Diego News