This is classic.

You might remember months ago when I harassed the county supervisors — particularly Ron Roberts — for their benevolence toward local community groups that also happen to, conveniently, help enhance the public profiles of these politicians with elaborate expressions of gratitude.

Remember the mobile health clinic that travels around San Diego curing ills? On the side it reads “Ron Roberts.”

Roberts, of course, gave the operator of the clinic a grant out of his taxpayer-funded slush account at the county. So it was really taxpayers that provided the vehicle, not Roberts. But guess who gets the credit — along with a nice rolling billboard that can help campaigns of all kinds? Yep, Roberts.

Turns out San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and the City Council have a similar sort of patronage deal going.

Check out this month’s issue of Performances Magazine from the San Diego Opera — the program for the show “Il Trovatore” — and you’ll see a fawning tribute to Sanders and all the individual City Council members.

It’s a full-fledged smooch:

Last summer, the San Diego City Council approved the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture’s funding recommendation of $456,415 for San Diego Opera for the FY2007 Organizational Support Program. This dedicated group of leaders have shown that the arts are good for the economic, social and cultural health of our fine city.

Because of the extraordinary leadership and vision of our City Council and Commission, more than 70,000 San Diegans and visitors will enjoy our mainstage operas, 80,000 children and adults will take part in our 14 different education programs, and more than 300,000 local citizens will enjoy our award-winning radio and television broadcasts.

And the biggest salute, of course, is to the mayor:

The message: These nine people are responsible for this great thing, the opera.

Never mind that these are tax dollars. Specifically, the money for the opera and dozens of other similar organizations comes from taxes charged to visitors who stay in hotel rooms in San Diego.

My mom came to town to visit this weekend. She stayed at a hotel. People like her are the ones who ponied up the taxes. The opera should throw them a little bone: “Thanks to the taxpayers and tourists for giving us so much money.”

We could debate all day whether it’s worth it for the city to send $456,415 to the opera, but there’s no debate that Sanders and the City Council did little more than put another year’s rubber stamp on a surviving patronage program.

This “extraordinary leadership and vision” came, of course, during a time of extraordinary financial pressures.

It may very well be a worthy expenditure, but it’s one that all the hotel visitors paid for in the form of a tax. They deserve a thanks, it was their money — spending it is the easy part.

So, I have a challenge for readers:

Help me find more examples of this throughout San Diego. If you see an instance where elected officials — especially those running for reelection — are being personally saluted for handing out grants like this, send them in. Take a picture of a plaque saluting a county supervisor for supposedly building a library or something.

Grab a hold of a flyer from one of the dozens of groups that get these tourist tax dollars from the City Council. I’ll post them if they’re relevant. You can see the list of groups that get hotel tax funds here (page 53).


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